Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: April 28, 2019

It's another Sanibel Sunday and, despite a little rain Friday, it's been a glorious week! I've walked every day, we got together with friends, attended an end-of-season reception, and had my FIL over for dinner twice. I even managed to squeeze in some reading time!

Finished this week//

by Oyinkan Braithwaite, narrated by Adepero Oduye

This audio production was unusual, engaging, and slightly disturbing. It's been described as "darkly comic", but I found it more dark than comic. Look for a book brief later this week.

Current reading//

The Past by Tessa Hadley
This is not fast-paced novel, but I am captivated! I should finish in a day or two.

I'm sick of "summaries" and other people telling me what is in the report. It may take some time, but I need to read this for myself. I'm still in the first section but, regardless of your political leanings, the Russian interference detailed here is alarming. I will continue to update my reading progress, but will refrain from political commentary.

Listening to//

by Beth Macy

This has been on my list since it was released last year and I snagged a copy last month during audible's BOGO sale. It's excellent so far, but guess what? Rudy Giuliani appears in this book, too.... and he's defending Purdue Pharma.

On the blog//

Current Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Book Review - Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice by Joan Biskupic

In the kitchen//

Not much happened in my kitchen this week. There was a lot of leftover Easter ham the first few days... including this Classic Split Pea Soup. I made it in the slow cooker with the ham bone. Prior to serving, I removed the bone and added bits of leftover ham. My cooking time was quite a but longer than what the recipe suggested. It was very good, but I won't share a photo. There's just no way to make split pea soup look attractive ;-)

The week ahead//

Things are winding down on the island. Winter tourists and snowbirds are mostly gone, but the summer vacation season has not arrived. Restaurants are quieter, traffic is lighter, and everything seems just a little more relaxed. We have a couple of social engagements, but I'm hoping for a quiet week.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is now hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice by Joan Biskupic

Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice
by Joan Biskupic,  narrated by Carrington MacDuffie
Tantor Audio, 2014
8 hours and 19 minutes

Source: downloaded from the library via hoopla

Motivation for listening:
I'm fascinated by the Supreme Court and was looking for Biskupic's new book, The Chief:
The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts.  That title was not available, so I checked this out instead.

Publisher's summary:
In Breaking In, veteran journalist Joan Biskupic tells the story of how two forces providentially merged-the large ambitions of a talented Puerto Rican girl raised in the projects in the Bronx and the increasing political presence of Hispanics, from California to Texas, from Florida to the Northeast-resulting in a historical appointment. And this is not just a tale about breaking barriers as a Puerto Rican. It's about breaking barriers as a justice.

As a Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor has shared her personal story to an unprecedented degree. And that story-of a Latina who emerged from tough times in the projects not only to prevail but also to rise to the top-has even become fabric for some of her most passionate comments on matters before the Court. But there is yet more to know about the rise of Sotomayor. Breaking In offers the larger, untold story of the woman who has been called "the people's justice."

My thoughts:

I'm on a Supreme Court reading kick again this year. It started with Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life  by Jane Sherron De Hart and, shortly after that, My Own Words  by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I'd hoped to continue with the new John Roberts biography, but when that wasn't available, Biskupic's book about Sonia Sotomayor was.

I've been interested in learning more about Sotomayor since her memoir, My Beloved World, was a favorite a few years ago. That narrative ends in 1991 when she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush. It does not cover any of her time on the bench.

Joan Biskupic has authored several biographies on Supreme Court justices, but Breaking In  seems to be a slight departure in that it is as much about the political climate surrounding Sotomayor's nomination process as Sotomayor herself.

It was dispiriting to read about how political the nomination process has become... and this book was published in 2014. Biskupic claims the politicization began during the Reagan years and it's plain to see how it has further intensified in the past five years - from the lack of action on Merrick Garland in 2016, to the 2018 Kavanaugh fiasco.

This book covers Sotomayor's early life, but obviously not in the same detail as her own memoir. I was particularly interested in reading about her first years on the Supreme Court, how life experiences may shape her interpretation of the law, and the general impact of her decisions.

Several of the cases discussed here were also mentioned in the RBG biography and I appreciated viewing them from a slightly different perspective.

A note on the  audio production: It's always a plus when I come across a Carrington MacDuffie narration. Her voice exudes measured calm, confidence, and intelligence... the perfect choice for a book like this. I'm glad I chose to go the audio route.

Bottom line:
If you are interested in Sonia Sotomayor's early life, I highly recommend My Beloved World. (The audio version read by Rita Moreno is excellent.)  Breaking In  also covers those years, but it primarily focuses on her judicial career and the behind-the-scenes maneuverings of the judicial nomination process. Combined, these two titles offer a complete study of the country's first Hispanic and Latina Justice.

My rating:

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Current Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer

Ayoola summons me with these words - Korede, I killed him.
I had hoped I would never hear those words again.

My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite

That is the entire first chapter of this novel. The book is unusual, to say the least, and I was surprised to find myself drawn into the story so quickly. The audio version is narrated by Adepero Oduye... I'm loving her Nigerian accent! Hope to finish later today or tomorrow.

Here is the goodreads summary:
When Korede's dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what's expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This'll be the third boyfriend Ayoola's dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede's long been in love with him, and isn't prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other... 
What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

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

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: Easter Edition 4/21/19

Happy Easter from Sanibel! It's been another busy week with a couple of social events, three  trips to the Apple store, and a hair appointment... in addition to my regular routine. The GOOD news is that my computer, a five-year-old MacBook Air, has been repaired and updated at no charge, but the BAD news is that I don't seem to be able to leave comments on blogger blogs! I'm signed into my blogger/google account, then I visit your blogs and try to comment, I'm prompted me to sign in again, but it won't let me. Very frustrating. Any suggestions?

Finished this week//

byJoan Biskupic, narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

I read (and loved!) Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World, a few years ago and found Breaking In to overlap quite a bit. However, the memoir ended as Sotomayor was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by George W. Bush in 1991. This book covers her judicial career (through its 2014 publication) as well as the politics surrounding appointments and advancement. The audio was well done and the book enhanced my understanding of the many behind-the-scenes maneuvers involved in judicial appointments. It's well worth a read. I'll post a Book Brief soon.

Current reading//

The Past by Tessa Hadley

I'm not making a lot of progress on this book, but really like it just the same. Tessa Hadley's writing is wonderful and the premise is right up my alley - an extended family gathers at their old country home/estate for what may be the last time before it's sold. The story is unfolding at a leisurely pace now, but I'm sure there will be plenty of secrets and maybe even a scandal or two ahead!

Listening to//

by Oyinkan Braithwaite, narrated by Adepero Oduye

This is one weird story!! I started listening on my walk yesterday evening and am not sure where this one is going. BUT... it's gotten positive reviews from trusted bloggers, I like the narration, and it's short. The audio is just over four hours, so I'm on board.

On the blog//

Book Brief: Burial Rites  by Hannah Kent

In the kitchen//

Nothing too exciting this week. We ate a lot of salads since many of the Publix kits were buy one, get one free. I bought a rotisserie chicken to add a little more protein.

For a midweek neighborhood gathering, I made these Ham and Cheese Pastry Pinwheels. They were good, maybe a little bland, but I was glad to try something different. They disappeared quickly.

My father-in-law is coming over for Easter dinner a little later. In addition to the traditional ham and side dishes, I'm going to try this Simple Sesame Asparagus. We're having Blueberry Crumble Pie for dessert.

The week ahead//

Our "season" is winding down and the island is getting a little quieter. We're having friends for cocktails one night, meeting another couple for dinner later in the week, and have one end-of-season reception to attend... a little more socializing than I'd like, but we won't see most of these people again until fall.

I'm starting to consider our route north... maybe stops in Savannah (or possibly Charleston) and then somewhere around DC. We'll see what my husband has planned.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

**4/23 Update:  I installed google chrome and the problem is solved... for now!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Book Brief: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites
by Hannah Kent
336 pages
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
source: personal copy (ebook and audiobook)

This book has been languishing on my kindle for quite some time. Thanks to an audible daily deal, I recently snapped up the audio version (skillfully narrated by  Morven Christie) and began a read/listen combination.

Burial Rites  is based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person to be executed in Iceland. She was convicted of the brutal 1828 murder of her former master, then sent to live on a remote farm while awaiting execution. As she forms a relationship with the family and a young minister, her story is gradually revealed.

Iceland itself is central to the story - the landscape, weather, light and darkness, and even its smells. Burial Rites  is a novel for the senses, and the audiobook adds to the overall experience. I loved the author's portrayal of the country and her characterization of Agnes. The gradual reveal of Agnes' story kept me reading... surprisingly skillful for a debut novelist. I have added Kent's second novel, The Good People, to my wish list.

My rating:

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: April 14, 2019

Good morning from Sanibel! It's mid-April and spring has seemingly given way to summer. As I type at 8:45AM, it is 78 degrees with a "feels like" temperature of 85 and 88% humidity. This is warmer than normal (whatever that is these days!) but there is talk of a cold front approaching. In the meantime, my beach walks are happening a little earlier.

Finished this week//

by Hannah Kent, narrated by Morven Christie

Popular a few years ago, this ebook had been languishing on my kindle for years. I recently snapped up the audio version when audible offered it as a daily deal. It was quite an experience as a  read/listen combination... and I mean that in a good way. Look for a book brief later this week.

Current reading//

by Tessa Hadley

A country home, a family gathering, and, yes, secrets! I read the first chapter of this novel last night and my hopes are high. I'll share more as I get into it this week.

Listening to//

by Joan Biskupic, narrated by Carrington MacDuffie

My Supreme Court kick continues. After finding a wait list for Biskupic's The Chief, her new book about John Roberts, I discovered her 2014 work about Sonia Sotomayor. I was impressed with Sotomayor's memoir My Beloved World  and, since reading it, I have wanted to learn more. Only 45 minutes in now, but will continue listening as I walk this week.

On the blog//

Scenes from the Naples Botanical Garden
Current reading: Burial Rites  by Hannah Kent
Recent Reading: Four Book Briefs

In the kitchen//

My SIL is gluten free, so I made this Strawberry Almond Flour Cake from King Arthur when she was here for dinner last week. Almond flour is pricey, but the cake was easy to make and delicious. I know she appreciated having a GF dessert.

I've been making coleslaw frequently this winter... my daughter and FIL can't seem to get enough. Publix periodically has bags of broccoli slaw in their salad section and I though that might be a more nutritious option. This recipe for Honey Mustard Broccoli Slaw is from the Skinny Kitchen website and was quite a hit. I did not have light mayo, so used the full fat version. It may not have been quite as skinny, but it sure was tasty!

The week ahead//

This is laptop week! Mine is dying a slow and painful death... we're off to the Apple store tomorrow! I also have a haircut scheduled and am looking forward to a midweek neighborhood gathering. We don't have any more visitors scheduled, so things will be a little more relaxed until we head north in late May or early June.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

Friday, April 12, 2019

Scenes from the Naples Botanical Garden

We recently spent a beautiful afternoon at the Naples Botanical Garden. My photos were taken with an iPhone 7... I'm due for an upgrade!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Current reading: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life away from me in a gray wreath of smoke. I will vanish into the air and the night. They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves. Where will I be then?
Burial Rites 
by Hannah Kent

This novel was very popular in the book blogging community a few years ago, but as often happens, I never got around to reading it. Thanks to a kindle daily deal last year and a recent audible daily deal, I am now midway through a read/listen combination. Despite the disconnect of listening to a novel set in 19th century Iceland as I walk along the beach, it's shaping up to be an excellent read!

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.  
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard. 
What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

Recent Reading: Four Book Briefs

Hello, again.. seems like it's been a while. Between a full house and computer issues, this blog has been sadly neglected over the past couple of weeks. On the bright side, it looks like I may end up with a new laptop before the end of the week and, thankfully, my reading has been a lot more satisfying.

Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman

There's nothing better than finding the right book at the right time and, after my recent encounter with Eudora Welty, Good Riddance  proved to be exactly what I needed. As always, Lipman's quirky characters, snappy dialog, and Manhattan setting spoke to me. And the premise... what could be more compelling than a high school yearbook, loaded with inscriptions and comments, retrieved from a dumpster? And what if that yearbook belonged to your mother and you were the one who, upon her death, threw it away? Then suppose it falls into the hands of a filmmaker neighbor what wants to turn it into a documentary? This was such a fun novel. Eleanor Lipman has done it again!

Lesson learned:  It's good to lighten things up periodically.

My rating:

by Durian Sukegawa,  translated byAlison Watts
"Sweet Bean Paste is a moving novel about the burden of the past and the redemptive power of friendship." 
This lovely novels focuses on the relationship between a young man and an old woman, both on the fringes of society. Sentaro has a criminal past and works in a small pastry shop selling dorayaki, a Japanese pancake filled with sweet bean paste. Tokue, an elderly woman with disfigured hands and a mysterious past, makes the most delicious sweet bean paste Sentaro has ever tasted. She talks him into hiring her and a friendship blossoms. At just over 200 pages, this short novel will touch your heart. A 2015 movie adaptation, Sweet Bean, is available from my library and I plan to watch it sometime this week.

My rating:

by James Baldwin, narrated by Bahni Turpin

"In this honest and stunning novel, James Baldwin has given America a moving story of love in the face of injustice. Told through the eyes of Tish, a 19-year-old girl in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin's story mixes the sweet and the sad."
Originally published in 1974, this achingly beautiful novel is still just as relevant today. It made me angry, it made me sad, and yet it touched my heart, too. Baldwin's writing is like nothing I've experienced and Bahni Turpin's brilliant narration made the story even more powerful.

Have you read James Baldwin? Can you recommend any of his other books? I'm adding this one to my favorites shelf.

My rating:

by Ann Hood
"From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal... Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few)."
Reminiscent of Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking, this is a compilation of essays focused around food and family, each featuring a recipe or two. Hood and I are of about the same vintage and many of her childhood experiences mirror my own... the large Italian-American family, Sunday dinners with copious amounts of sauce and meatballs, riding in the "way back" of the family station wagon, all the extended family, and all the food! We also used the same cookbooks as young adults and later as emerging cooks.

This is the second book by Ann Hood I've read this year and I enjoyed it almost as much as Morningstar: Growing Up With Books. I'd like to try Hood's fiction next. Where should I start?

My rating:

So that's my reading for the last couple of weeks. Have you discovered any great books?
I'll be back tomorrow to share what I'm reading now.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Current Reading: Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood

I grew up eating. A lot. As the great food writer M.F.K. Fisher said, "First we eat, then we do everything else." That describes my childhood home. In my mind, my Italian grandmother, Mama Rose, was always cooking. We lived with her in the house she moved to with her parents when they came from Conca Della Compania, a small, mountainous town an hour and a world away from Naples, Italy, to West Warwick, Rhode Island. When I was young, Mama Rose and her mother Nonna, kept an enormous garden in the backyard, and they would sit on summer afternoons and snap the ends off string beans (served cold with garlic and mint), press tomatoes into sauce, pickle red and green peppers for the Christmas antipasto. We had fruit trees - Seckel pear, cherry, apple, fig - and blueberry and raspberry bushes.  They raised rabbits and chickens too. More than once a beloved white bunny - Snowball, Snowflake, Snowy - disappeared from its cage only for us to have funny-tasting "chicken" that night at dinner.

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food
by Ann Hood

After discovering Ann Hood earlier this winter through her nonfiction book, Morningstar: Growing Up With Books, I couldn't wait to read her newest title... especially after several blogging friends rated it highly. My library hold finally arrived and I started reading last night. This is already shaping up to be another winner.

Here's the goodreads summary:
From her Italian American childhood through singlehood, raising and feeding a growing family, divorce, and a new marriage to food writer Michael Ruhlman, Ann Hood has long appreciated the power of a good meal. Growing up, she tasted love in her grandmother’s tomato sauce and dreamed of her mother’s special-occasion Fancy Lady Sandwiches. Later, the kitchen became the heart of Hood’s own home. She cooked pork roast to warm her first apartment, used two cups of dried basil for her first attempt at making pesto, taught her children how to make their favorite potatoes, found hope in her daughter’s omelet after a divorce, and fell in love again—with both her husband and his foolproof chicken stock. 
Hood tracks her lifelong journey in the kitchen with twenty-seven heartfelt essays, each accompanied by a recipe (or a few). In “Carbonara Quest,” searching for the perfect spaghetti helped her cope with lonely nights as a flight attendant. In the award-winning essay The Golden Silver Palate, she recounts the history of her fail-safe dinner party recipe for Chicken Marbella—and how it did fail her when she was falling in love. Hood’s simple, comforting recipes also include her mother’s famous meatballs, hearty Italian Beef Stew, classic Indiana Fried Chicken, the perfect grilled cheese, and a deliciously summery peach pie. 
With Hood’s signature humor and tenderness, Kitchen Yarns spills tales of loss and starting from scratch, family love and feasts with friends, and how the perfect meal is one that tastes like home.

What do you think? Are you tempted to continue?

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


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