Sunday, July 30, 2017

And just like that, it's the end of July...

July 30th... already. In a couple of days it will be August and here I am posting for the first time in weeks. I didn't mean to disappear for so long, but it's been quite a month: our 4th of July celebration, helping a family member with a medical issue, a trip to Sanibel for my father-in-law's 90th birthday, and my husband's retirement last week. There's been no time to blog, but I have been reading.

For book club//

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Had it not been a book club selection, I might have abandoned this audiobook. I'm glad I persevered (with increased narration speed) because around the 40% mark, it finally started to grow on me (pun intended) and I ended up enjoying it - especially the life of a scientist/academic aspect. Jahren's personal story was not quite as interesting to me.

My book club's reaction was positive overall, but it's interesting to note that the two of us who listened both struggled. This got me thinking about the unavoidable subjectivity of audiobook ratings. With nearly 1500 ratings, Lab Girl (narrated by the author) averages 4.4 stars... I am clearly out of step. Perhaps I might have enjoyed this more in print.

For Paris in July//

The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern

An unexpected treasure! The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain was going to be my only book for Paris in July, but goodreads suggested I might enjoy this "dark yet touching drama which deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love."

Once I picked up the book, I could not put it down. In it, a young woman seeks information about the mother she can barely remember (she died in an accident when her daughter was very young) and about whom her father and stepmother have never spoken.This debut novel, translated from French and winner of multiple literary awards, is mostly epistolary. It consists of letters and emails between two intelligent and extreme articulate people, along with several detailed descriptions of photographs.
"I asked myself what it is that forms the truth of a person, what happens when you grow up without memories, who were those people who had known me and of whom I knew nothing, whether some part of them - a word, an image, a smell - had stayed with me."
This will surely be a favorite of 2017.

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

Translated from French, winner of the 2010 Académie Française award, set in modern-day Japan, and based on a true story, I decided to take a chance on another goodreads recommendation. Publisher's summary:
In a house on a suburban street in Nagasaki, meteorologist Shimura Kobo lives quietly on his own. Or so he believes. Food begins to go missing. Perturbed by this threat to his orderly life, Shimura sets up a webcam to monitor his home.
But though eager to identify his intruder, is Shimura really prepared for what the camera will reveal?
Skillfully narrated by David Timson and Anna Bentinck, this was a short (just over 2 hours), slightly out of the ordinary, listening experience.

For the Jane Austen Read All-a-long//

Sense and Sensibilty by Jane Austen

What can I say? Jane Austen is a favorite and Sense and Sensibility is every bit as wonderful the second (or third, or fourth...) time around. Rereading Jane is always a treat.

Just because//

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe

It can't be summer without a beach book, right? This one had everything I was looking for... family secrets, drama, love, a beach house, a hurricane, a South Carolina island setting, and even loggerhead turtles. It's the first in a series of four "Beach House" novels, but (thankfully) does not end with a cliff-hanger. And the kindle version is only $1.99! I'll pick up the next installment, Swimming Lessons, when it's time for another low country vacation.

Current reading//

Today I'm listening to Christodora by Tim Murphy, a novel that has been compared to The Nix and City on Fire.  The first three chapters have captured my interest and I may make it a read/listen combination.

Or I might start something else in print...we'll see.

How did July treat you? What have you been reading?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sunday Salon: July 9, 2017

Reading, but not writing... that's where I am now. Does it happen to you, too? I finish a book, reflect for a while, rate it on goodreads, and then I'm ready to dive into another. Here is my modest attempt to keep up.


Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

It took a month, but last week I finished the second book in Trollope's Palliser series, Phineas Finn ... 750+ pages and I was sorry to reach the end. Over the past two and a half years, I've read eight of Trollope's novels and don't plan to stop any time soon. There's nothing like catching a glimpse into Victorian England through his eyes. Trollope was a keen observer of society and his characters allow the reader to enter that world.

The political aspect of the Palliser series initially worried me. Would it be overwhelming or just plain dull? The answer, fortunately, is no. As the church and ecclesiastical life were to The Barsetshire Chronicles, politics is to the Pallisers. It provides a foundation for the lives of men... while women's lives are centered around men - their occupations, finances, and ambition. If a woman is lucky enough to possess money of her own, she may have some degree of power.

For me, the main draw of a Trollope novel is always his characters... and in particular, the women. While I eventually warmed to Phineas Finn, it was Lady Laura Standish, Violet Effingham, and Madame Max Goesler who kept me turning the pages. By the end of the book I was not ready to let any of the characters go. Trollope returns to Phineas in book 4, Phineas Redux, but The Eustace Diamonds is up next.

Thank you Audrey and Lisa for reading with me... should we do this again in the fall?

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

It's time for Paris in July again and I decided to begin with this short, sweet, romantic novel. It involves a mugging, a designer handbag, a red moleskin notebook, a Modiano novel, a bookseller, and a bit of a mystery... all set in Paris, of course. At 160 pages, it was a pure delight to read. I highly recommend it.

Have you noticed the emails goodreads sends after finishing a book? Initially I thought they were silly, but after completing The Red Notebook this morning, they suggested I might like The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern. Winner of fifteen literary awards, this "dark yet touching drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love." The debut novel will be my next stop for Paris in July.  It should be available at the library by next weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Current reading//

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I'm reading this with James and friends for his Jane Austen Read All A-long. It's been two years since I last read Jane Austen and over a decade for this novel in particular. Last night I read the first chapter and fell in love with Jane's writing and story all over again.

Listening to//

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren 

This book seemed to be everyone's favorite during Nonfiction November last year, so I was glad my book club decided to read it. About halfway through, I'm feeling completely out of sync with popular opinion... it's just okay. The author's narration isn't grabbing me either, despite the overall 4.4 rating on audible. Maybe the second half will be better?

I'll leave you with this photo of Zelda enjoying a cruise around the lake. That's my daughter off to the right... she always brings a book on the boat. What have you been been reading these past couple of weeks?


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