Monday, December 30, 2019

My Favorite Books of the Decade: Fiction

2010: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese  (my review)

2011: The Easter Parade by Richard Yates

2012: The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (my review)

2013: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (my review)

2014: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

2015: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (my review)

2016: The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud (my review)

2017: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

2018: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (my review)

2019: ... coming soon!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Sunday Salon: A Mid-December Update

Mid-December. How is that even possible? The last six months have been a blur - selling and buying homes, packing and moving, and beginning a home renovation. We celebrated Thanksgiving with a two-week trip to central New York and are now back in Florida. We're counting down the days until our NYC daughters arrive... this will be our first Christmas with palm trees!

Recent Reading//

by Ruth Reichl, narrated by the author

I loved everything about this audiobook. The combination of food with the changing world of magazine publishing made for fascinating listening. Reich's narration also added to my enjoyment.

by Ann Patchett
narrated by Tom Hanks

Ann Patchett has long been a favorite author, so my expectations were high. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. What started as a read/listen combination quickly became an audio experience as Tom Hanks's outstanding narration practically forced me to set my kindle aside.

The Dutch House  is a novel about an extraordinarily strong sibling relationship. After a mother abandons her family, the older sister assumes the role of nurturing parent to her younger brother. The distant father remarries, introducing an evil stepmother with two young daughters into the mix. They all live (unhappily) together in the castle (the Dutch House) until a dramatic event alters the course of their lives. The story is told from the point-of-view of the younger brother and looks back over decades. Brilliantly narrated by Tom Hanks, I highly recommend listening to this novel. Easily a 2019 favorite.

by Dorothea Benton Frank

A departure from my usual fare and a new-to-me author, I read this for the library book group which will meet on Wednesday. It was a quick, light, entertaining read with some interesting facts about honey bees. Probably a good choice for the busy month of December, but I hope it can sustain an interesting discussion.

Current listening//

by Ruth Reichl, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Because I wanted more Ruth Reichl, I borrowed this older memoir about her time as  restaurant critic for The New York Times. After getting over my initial disappointment that Reich herself is not the narrator, I'm enjoying it almost as much as Save Me the Plums.

Home Renovation Progress//

The demolition phase is just about over. We're finalizing kitchen cabinet selection this week. I already feel like we're behind schedule, but better to slow down and make sure it's done right!

The week ahead//

My SIL is moving to SWFL! Her closing was last week, but she arrives tomorrow... just in time for the holidays. Our daughters will fly in on Thursday and Saturday. This will be a completely new Christmas experience, but I'm happy we'll all be together. Many traditions will carry over, but I'm sure new ones are about to begin... we will embrace the change!

Look for my yearly wrap-up and favorites at the end of the month. In the meantime, I wish you all peace and joy this holiday season!

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Another Blogging Break

I thought this might happen. Life is busy, and about to get busier...

We traveled to Key West and the Everglades for my husband's birthday, are in the midst of major decision-making on the remodeling project, will fly to NY this weekend for a two-week Thanksgiving visit, and then drive our other car to Florida. By the time we get back, Christmas preparations will be in high gear. And then there's the day-to-day political drama... I feel compelled to keep up with every twist as it unfolds.

My reading time has evaporated. Nonfiction November, my absolute favorite blogging event of the year, is happening without me. It's time to hit the pause button for a few weeks.

I'll catch up with you sometime next month. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to my friends here in the United States!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

This Week's Read: Save Me the Plums


I was eight years old when I first found the magazine, sitting on the dusty wooden floor of a used-book store. My father was a book designer who enjoyed the company of ancient volumes, and he often took me on book-hunting expeditions around New York, leaving me with a pile of vintage magazines while he went off to prowl among the dark and crowded shelves. That day I picked up a tattered old issue of Gourmet, enchanted by the cover drawing of a majestic swordfish leaping joyfully from the water. This looked nothing like the ladies' magazines my mother favored, with their recipes for turkey divan made with cans of mushroom soup, or pot roast topped with ketchup, and I opened it to find the pages filled with tales of food in faraway places. A story called "Night of Lobster" caught my eye, and as I began to read, the walls faded, the shop around me vanishing until I was sprawled on the sands of a small island off the coast of Maine. It was deep night, the sky like velvet, spangled with stars.
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
by Ruth Reichl

This week's read is actually an audiobook. Ruth Reichl narrates her own story and I am enthralled! Save Me the Plums  is unlike other food memoirs I've read. The magazine/publishing angle is unusual and so interesting. I started listening on Sunday and am halfway through already.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America's oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone's boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet  since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
What do you think? Would you continue reading?

First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intro is hosted by Vicki at I'd Rather Be At The Beach.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday Salon: Gulfside Musing is Here!

Hello, friends. I hope you're enjoying a relaxing weekend. Here in southwest Florida, the first hint of fall has arrived... and by that I mean it cooled down to around 70 degrees last night and the high today is expected to hit 84. It feels so much comfortable with lower humidity. I hope it lasts.

The blog name change I've been contemplating is official -  Lakeside Musing is now Gulfside Musing! You'll also notice that the old wooden dock in my profile pic has been replaced by a palm tree. My twitter and instagram handles have been adjusted as well.

Finished this week//

by Colson Whitehead
narrated by JD Jackson

What an amazing book! I finished  yesterday and can't stop thinking about it.... that ending! The Nickel Boys  is even more powerful knowing it's based on a real reform school, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, which operated in the Florida panhandle until 2011. I plan to attend a book discussion at the library later this month and maybe even write a review. You'll surely see it on my year-end list of favorites. In the meantime, I've added Colson Whitehead's entire backlist to my tbr.

Current reading//

by Ruth Reichl, narrated by the author

I'm starting Nonfiction November with Ruth Reichl's foodie memoir about her time as editor of Gourmet  magazine. It's just the 'something completely different' I need to follow The Nickel Boys.  I started listening on my walk this morning. The ebook is also available from the library... this might turn into a read/listen combination!

On the blog//
Nonfiction November, Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

In the kitchen//

Lots of baking! Last weekend I mentioned this Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake from pinch of yum.  I made it on Sunday and it was delicious! I used two large Honeycrisp apples and real buttermilk rather than the milk/vinegar alternative. Everyone loved it! Since I had more buttermilk to use, the next day I made a second one for my FIL's freezer.

We had dinner guests again on Wednesday and there was still  more buttermilk left, so the search was on for another cake recipe. I decided on a  Farmhouse Buttermilk Cake, a moist cake with a super-sweet pecan topping. Our guests loved it, but the topping was a little too sweet for my husband.
P.S.  The buttermilk is finally gone ;-)

Renovation update//

The building permit for our remodel has been filed. The project will begin once it's approved... hopefully within the next week or so. Last week we selected the roof.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nonfiction November, Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is here! This annual event, an entire month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction, is always a favorite. Our hosts this year are:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Julz at JulzReads
Rennie at What's Nonfiction
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Leann of Shelf Aware


2019 has been another year of change for my family. We sold our lake home in upstate NY and moved to an island on Florida's gulf coast. Earlier this week I changed my blog name to reflect our new location and am now Gulfside Musing!

With the move, my overall reading numbers are down, but the proportion of nonfiction is at an all-time high. In 2019, 42% of my reading has been nonfiction!

Preferred format//
I read nonfiction of course, but I also love listening to it. Having both  the audiobook and a print copy is ideal. That way, I never miss out on photographs, maps, charts, etc. With a read/listen combination, I listen on my morning walk, then read outside in the late afternoon or curl up in my favorite reading chair in the evening.

Topics of interest//
I've read on a wide variety of subjects this year, most notably...




I've also read about the opioid crisis, moving, and psychotherapy.


by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author
(along with Devotion, also by Dani Shapiro)

Runners up

by Lori Gottlieb
narrated by Brittany Pressley

by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams
narrated by Linda Lavin

My goal for Nonfiction November//
 It's simple. I want to hear about all the great nonfiction you have been reading this year...and, ideally, I'd like to read them all before next year's event. My best recommendations always come from book bloggers!

For links to other "My Year in Nonfiction" posts, visit Julz at Julz Reads.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Sunday Salon: October 27, 2019

Hello, friends. It's Sunday again and I'm happy to report that on Friday we closed on our new home! The process was smooth and relatively painless. We also signed the renovation contract. Tomorrow the contractor will file necessary permits and, hopefully, our project will be underway soon. My head is still spinning over how quickly this has all unfolded... guess it's time to take the official "before" photos.

With our location change, the blog name Lakeside Musing no longer applies. I've decided to become Gulfside Musing! Yesterday I changed my profile photo - a palm tree seems more appropriate than the dock now. The next task is a new header photo with the new name... ideally before Nonfiction November begins.

Finished this week//

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

This character-driven debut novel is beautifully written and thoughtful... but it was also painfully slow at times. The second half of Part 1 seemed to drag and I even considered putting it aside... but I'm very glad I did not! Things picked up again in Part 2 and I read Part 3 in one sitting.

The book has been compared to Crossing to Safety  by Wallace Stegner, an all-time favorite, and I acknowledge the similarities. Both novels center around a long-term relationship between two couples, but in this novel the husbands are ministers rather than academics. I liked Stegner's characters more but very much appreciate the way Wall developed the relationship between the wives.

This novel will certainly not satisfy every reader, but I ended up loving it.

Current reading//

by Colson Whitehead
narrated by  JD Jackson

This is my first time reading Colson Whitehead and so far I'm impressed. The novel tells a story of two boys sentenced to a "hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida." The school is modeled after the real Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys,  which finally closed in 2011. At one time, it was the largest juvenile reform institution in the US.

I started listening to the audiobook on my walk a couple of days ago. A book group at the local library will discuss it next month, and I plan to attend. I miss my NY book club...

Coming soon//

Nonfiction November starts tomorrow! I'm so excited about this event and will get my first post up later in the week. All the details are here.

In the kitchen//
Not much happened in my kitchen last week, but I plan to make this Cinnamon Sugar Apple Cake this afternoon. My FIL and SIL are coming for dinner today... I'll let you know how it turns out.

How was your week? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Sunday Salon: October 20, 2019

Hello, friends. This has been a monumental week for our family, so let's get right to the news. We have officially sold our lake home... the closing happened Thursday. We were not present for the bittersweet event (documents all signed beforehand) but it certainly marks the end of era. If all goes smoothly, we will close on our new house later this week.

Finished this week//

by Lori Gottlieb
narrated by Brittany Pressley

I've been raving about this book for the past week or so and was truly sorry to reach the end. Lori Gottlieb is a therapist and in this book she tells the story of five therapies - four patients, plus her own. [She begins therapy with "Wendell" after being blindsided by a breakup with her long-term boyfriend.] I  thought it was fascinating to observe the process play out from both sides of the couch!

Each story pulled me in right away and I looked forward to popping in my earbuds each morning before heading out on a walk. Flashes of insight occurred throughout the listening experience... insight into my own feelings, motivations, and interactions with those closest to me, as well as with casual acquaintances.

The audio production was excellent and I highly recommend listening.  It was well worth the audible credit!  Brittany Pressley has narrated hundreds of audiobooks, but this was my first time listening to her. It will not be the last.

Current reading//

by Cara Wall

This book was on display with the new fiction at the library. I'd added it to my wish list last summer after several reviewers compared it to Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety, an all-time favorite. I couldn't just leave it there! Very good so far... more soon.

On the blogging horizon//

Nonfiction November is my favorite blogging event of the year -  five weeks, five topics, five hosts, and an Instagram photo challenge, too. The details are here... it all starts next week.

In the kitchen//

It doesn't feel like fall here, but I decided to try a couple of fall-like recipes anyway. Both were keepers. Stuffed Delicata Squash with Sausage-Mushroom Stuffing from skinnytaste  was so good! The Italian chicken sausage and savory mushrooms perfectly complemented the sweet flavor of the squash.

I also made Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad (minus the quinoa) from pinch of yum for lunches last week. Basically, I roasted sweet potatoes and chick peas, and added walnuts coated with maple syrup for the last five minutes. We ate it over baby spinach, sprinkled a few dried cranberries on top, and drizzled a simple Asian vinaigrette. Delicious!

The week ahead//

We're finally going to see the Downton Abbey  movie this afternoon and maybe grab an early dinner afterward.

The closing on our new (to us) house here is scheduled for Friday. We have meetings with the insurance agent and contractor scheduled early in the week. Keeping our fingers crossed it all goes smoothly!  I also desperately need to schedule a hair appointment this week.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


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