Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: May 19, 2019

Sunday morning in Sanibel... sunny, 77 degrees, a gentle breeze, a peaceful beach. Most of our neighbors have returned to their northern homes. In another week, it'll be our turn.


by Sally Rooney, narrated by Aoife McMahon

After a year of praise from abroad, this interior, character-driven novel about relationships was finally released in the U.S. last month. I placed pre-release library holds on both the ebook and audio, with the audio arriving first. When the ebook became available just a couple of days later, I was already fully invested in the voice - a lovely Irish accent - and  chose to keep on listening. (The lack of quotation marks may have impacted that decision, too.)

Quiet and well-written (longlisted for the Mann Booker Prize) the novel also deals with class, family violence, and, to a lesser extent, mental health. I've added Rooney's first novel, Conversations with Friends, to my list.

Finally! I finished this tome Monday, then perused the appendices. Trump's written answers to Mueller's questions were laughable, at best... how many times can one person say I can't recall?? This report is deeply disturbing, but the vast majority of Americans (and sadly, most members of Congress) will not read it in its entirety. The American people need to hear from Robert Mueller!

by Delia Owens, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Oh my goodness! My plan was to skip this book. I mean, how can anything live up to that amount of hype? Plans changed when my book club announced it as our June selection.

Initially, I chose to listen. Cassandra Campbell is a favorite narrator, but the pace seemed to drag. Increasing the speed left me concerned about missing the full impact of Owen's beautiful writing. Finally, I decided to add the print version and make it a read/listen combination. It was perfection.

Reviews are everywhere, so I won't add one more... but this is my favorite book so far this year and the best book I've read since Pachinko(my #1 book last year)


by Joan Biskupic, narrated by Jennywren Walker

I can't seem to get enough of the Supreme Court this year. I listened to the first forty minutes of The Chief  yesterday and, since I'm next on the ebook hold list, it will become a read/listen combo soon.


Book Brief: Cape May  by Chip Creek
Current Reading: Where the Crawdads Sing


This is our last full week in Sanibel... and I definitely have mixed feelings about leaving. There's still a lot to do, so I may not blog until we're back in New York.

How was your week? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is now hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Brief: Cape May by Chip Creek

Cape May
by Chip Creek
256 pages
Celadon Books, 2019

source: borrowed from thelibrary

Publisher's summary//

Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.

Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage.

 Opening lines//
The beach houses were empty, the stores were closed, and after sunset, all the houses on New Hampshire Avenue stood dark. For months, Effie had been telling him about this place and the many things they would do here, but she had only known it in the summer, and this was the end of September. She had not understood what "off-season" meant. They had come up from Georgia on the overnight train. They were supposed to spend two weeks here, for their honeymoon.
My thoughts//

Very readable, but with a few problems...

On the plus side:
- Creek's writing evokes time, place, and youthful innocence.
- I enjoy the "rich people behaving badly" trope.
- An engrossing read... despite unlikable characters, it was easy to keep turning the pages.

The cons:
- The characters, especially Henry, seemed more like caricatures.
- Sexual content was more graphic than necessary... and obviously written by a man.
- The ending felt rushed.

Bottom line//
This was a quick read, but I don't feel comfortable recommending it to friends.

My rating//

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Current Reading: Where the Crawdads Sing

Marsh is not a swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace - as though not built to fly - against the roar of a thousand snow geese.

Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I wasn't planning to read this book. At least, not yet. It's almost too popular and there's so much hype... but my book club in NY will discuss it in early June. The meeting is just days after we get back. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again, so I started listening last night.

As you can tell from the quote above, the writing is lyrical, evocative of place, and quite beautiful. It almost feels like I'm missing some of that by listening. I'm wondering about downloading the ebook as well...

Here's the goodreads summary:
For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens. 
Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
What do you think? Would you continue reading? Or have you already read this one?

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: Mother's Day Edition

Happy Mother's Day from Sanibel! The sun is shining and it's already a warm, muggy day. There's a nice breeze, but I'm going to wait until sunset to go out for my walk. It's been a good week here... highlights include a visit to the Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg, finding early morning turtle tracks on the beach (it's sea turtle nesting season) and finishing two books.

 Recent reading//

Cape May by Chip Creek

This debut novel "explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites." I found it very readable, but with a few problems. Look for a review later this week.

by Beth Macy, narrated by the author

This book provides an overview of of the country's opioid epidemic. Once you start reading (or listening, in my case) it's almost impossible to look away. Macy explains how and why this all began in central Appalachia. She tells stories of many victims and their families. And she introduces us to those trying to help.

 Dopesick  brought tears to my eyes, yet made me angry at the same time. It shows how addiction can happen to virtually anyone and how it effects all of us. There is not a consensus on the best treatment methods, and even combating the crisis has become a political minefield. Is this a law enforcement issue or a public health crisis? I highly recommend this important book.
My rating:

Current reading//

I'll finish this within the next day or two. My main thought at this point is how Barr's early spin on the report was unconscionable. His "summary" was a gross misrepresentation of Mueller's findings... and the American people now need to hear from Robert Mueller himself.

by Sally Rooney, narrated by Aoife McMahon

This is a wonderful novel and the audio production is excellent, too. It's on track to be a favorite of the year... should I add Sally Rooney's first novel, Conversations with Friends, to my list now?

On the blog//

Book Brief: The Past  by Tessa Hadley

In the kitchen//

I tried one new recipe this week. Baked Sticky Apricot Salmon from Simply Delicious was exactly the quick and easy recipe I was looking for, but it turned out to be a little too sweet for my taste. The recipe calls for apricot jam/preserves, but I'd recommend a no-sugar-added fruit spread instead.

Last night I made an old favorite - Trish's Molasses Glazed Chicken Thighs. She posted this on her blog years ago (remember her Pin It and Do It Challenges?) and I still make it once or twice a year.

The week ahead//

With just two weeks left here, there is still a lot to do. My three main projects include a thorough spring cleaning, more cooking to stock my FIL's freezer, and, of course, packing.  We're having dinner with friends one night, and are wondering if we can fit in an overnight to Key West before heading north...

How was your week? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is now hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Book Brief: The Past by Tessa Hadley

The Past 
by Tessa Hadley
320 pages
Harper, 2016

source: borrowed from the library

Motivation for reading: 
I've never read Hadley and wanted to try her current novel (Late in the Day) but the hold list was very long. A blogging friend (thank you, Judith!) suggested this one while I wait.

Publisher's summary:
Three sisters, a brother, and their children assemble at their country house one last time before it is sold. The house is filled with memories of their shared past, yet beneath the idyllic surface, hidden passions, devastating secrets, and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them. Sophisticated and sleek, Roland's new wife arouses his sister's jealousies. Passion erupts where it's least expected, shattering the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister. Over the course of this summer holiday, the family's stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of life - bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican - winds down to its inevitable end.

Notable quotes:
"...the sisters stood hesitating on the brink of the interior for a moment, preparing themselves, recognising what they had forgotten while they were away from it -- the under-earth smell of imprisoned air, something plaintive in the thin light of the hall with its grey and white tiled floor and thin old rugs faded to red-mud colour. There was always a moment of adjustment as the shabby, needy actuality of the place settled over their too-hopeful idea of it." 
"... the past of the place enfolded them as soon as they arrived, they fell back inside its patterns and repetitions, absorbed into what had been done there before." 
"Both sisters managed to be offended. They sulked for five minutes and couldn't forgive each other, until they forgot about it and went back to their gossip, which circled eternally. All the siblings felt sometimes, as the days of their holiday passed, the sheer irritation and perplexity of family coexistence: how it fretted away at the love and attachment which were nonetheless intense and enduring when they were apart. They knew one another so well, all too well, and yet they were all continually surprised by the forgotten difficult twists and turns of one another's personalities, so familiar as soon as they appeared." 
"But part of the oddity of marriage, she thought, was in how unwise it was to attend too intently to the other person. This was the opposite to what she had naively imagined, as a girl. To the unmarried, it seemed that a couple must be intimately, perpetually exposed to each other - but actually, that wasn't bearable. In order for love to survive, you had to close yourself off to a certain extent."

My thoughts:

The first thing to know about The Past  is that it's slow-moving. Reading it seemed to take forever... but looking back, the more I think about it, the more I like it. Plot development is leisurely and it takes a long time to get to know the characters. Hadley is obviously in no hurry here.

Second, the writing is beautiful... evocative of time and place. Character development is thorough and Hadley delves deeply into family dynamics. She also chooses to use dashes instead of quotation marks. (Why do so many writers eschew quotation marks?)

Finally, everything happens in the third section. BUT...  all you've come to understand in first two sections makes the climax and resolution sheer perfection.

The patient reader is richly rewarded!

My rating:

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Sanibel Sunday: May 5, 2019

It's another Sunday morning  in Sanibel... 80 degrees at 8:15 AM,  90% humidity, and a 'feels like' temperature of 88. This is the warmest early morning yet and a sure sign the we're heading into summer. Despite these temperature, it's still surprisingly comfortable in the shade and on the beach. But it's also easier to justify a little quiet time in the middle of the day for reading!

Finished this week//

The Past by Tessa Hadley

This book was slow, but wonderful. In fact, the more I think about it, the more  I like it. I'll definitely read more of Tessa Hadley's work. Look for a book brief later this week.

Currently reading//

Cape May by Chip Cheek

This is debut novel, set in 1957 Cape May, features a newlywed couple from Georgia honeymooning in the deserted New Jersey resort town during the off-season. I was expecting something like On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (which I loved) but that's not the case at all. I've passed the 50% mark and don't think this is going to end well...

And speaking of not ending well, I'm also still reading The Mueller Report and it's riveting!

Nearing the end of Volume I, I continue to be amazed/alarmed by the many points of contact between Russia and the Trump Campaign, Trump business world, and Trump transition team.

Despite all the interactions, Russians frequently encountered bumbling ineptness (ineptitude?)  from team Trump. An email from Cohen was never received because Cohen mistyped one letter in the email address. As Putin, through the Russian Embassy, tried to congratulate Trump for his election victory, Hope Hicks forwarded the message to Kushner for evaluation because we  ”Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!" And there is much more.

Fascinating stuff here, folks...

Listening to//

by Beth Macy

This book provides a sobering overview of the opioid crisis in America today and how we got here. I've got a little over an hour left in the audio and should finish today or tomorrow.

On the blog//

Book Brief: My Sister, the Serial Killer  by Oyinkan Braithwaite

A question about comments//

Do you allow anonymous comments?

I currently have the 'who can comment?' setting on anyone. This includes anonymous comments. Although I moderate comments on posts more than a few days old, there has been a surprising increase in the number of spam comments.

The more restrictive setting is "user with Google account"... is that the setting most of you use?

Does anyone who comments here NOT have a google account?

Despite using the least restrictive setting, I know some readers still have trouble commenting. When using an Apple product, I am only able to comment on other blogger blogs if I use the Google Chrome  browser. Safari doesn't work. It's all very frustrating.

The week ahead//

As our time here winds down, we don't have an awful lot planned this week. The air conditioner is getting serviced, I need to pick the paint color for a bedroom, get the handyman here for a few odd jobs, and start cooking to fill my father-in-law's freezer for the summer months. I would also like to take a trip up to St. Petersburg to visit the Chihuly Collection and possibly The Dali Museum.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Book Brief: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
narrated by Adepero Oduye
Random House Audio, 2018
4 hours and 19 minutes

Source: library download

Publisher's 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...

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

I was going to skip this book, but circumstances aligned to alter my plans. First, My Sister, the Serial Killer  won the Morning News Tournament of Books, then several trusted bloggers rated it highly, and finally, the audio version was immediately available from my library. The fact that it's so short helped, too!

My Sister, the Serial Killer  is unusual, engaging, and slightly disturbing. It's billed as darkly comic, but I found it more satirical than humorous. The writing is economical and sharp. I enjoyed the exploration of Ayoola and Korede's sibling relationship, loyalty gone awry, and family dysfunction, as well as the commentary on social media.

The audio edition is very well done, with Adepero Oduye's Nigerian accent enriching the overall experience. Listening was definitely the right choice for me.

If you're at all curious, I urge you to give this short novel a try.

My rating:


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