Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Sunday Salon: June 30, 2019

June 30, halfway through 2019 already. Time is flying... Summer is here and the weather has been perfect for outdoor activities. We temporarily caught up with garden chores and took a midweek walk along the Old Erie Canal trail. In addition to the photo above, I posted several others on Instagram.

Finished reading//

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Talk about all-consuming. Whenever I wasn't reading this novel, I was thinking about it. It begins in the 1970s with two families - Irish immigrants, rookie NYC cops, next door neighbors - living in the Long Island suburbs. A life-altering event tears the families apart. We see how it shapes the lives of the two couples and their children over the next forty years... always in the background, inexplicably binding them together.  Ask Again, Yes  has everything I look for in a novel: good writing, well-developed characters, and a great story. I often avoid novels which involve mental illness, but am glad I didn't skip this one. It was excellent!
My rating:

Current reading//

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert 

Choosing a follow-up to a 5-star read can be tricky. In this case, the library did it for me. I picked up City of Girls  yesterday afternoon and immediately fell in love with Vivian's voice... the playful, self-deprecating humor of an older woman looking back on her youthful experiences. I can't wait to continue.

Listening to//

by John Carreyrou, narrated by Will Damron

I borrowed this audiobook from the library and haven't started it yet, but only have a few days left until it expires! Now I'm trying to decide whether to start it anyway (and maybe use an audible credit it I'm hopelessly hooked) or pick up something else and get back on the hold list. Decisions, decisions...

On the blog//
This Week's Read: Ask Again, Yes  by Mary Beth Keane

In the kitchen//

We're going to my sister's for dinner and I have this Chocolate Yogurt Cake in the oven as I type. It was simple to make... I'll let you know how it turns out.

After trying many variations over the years (and probably sharing one or two here) I've settled on the perfect Miso Maple Glazed Salmon recipe. This one is from Allrecipes and I made just one simple substitution... use sesame oil instead of vegetable oil. It was delicious.

The week ahead//

The 4th of July falls on Thursday and we've got a busy holiday week coming up. Daughter #1 will take the train up from NYC on Tuesday, lots of cooking and set-up on Wednesday, then a family party on Thursday. Our small town goes all out for the 4th... after the road race, parade, concert, and fireworks, other events and activities continue through the weekend.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

This Week's Read: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane


July 1973
Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman's uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct. A pair of pantyhose had been hung to dry on a fourth floor fire escape near 167th, and while he waited for another rookie, a cop named Stanhope, Francis noted the perfect stillness of the gossamer legs, the delicate curve where the heel was meant to be. Another building had burned the night before and Francis figured it was now like so many others in the Forty-One: nothing left but a hollowed-out shell and a blackened staircase within. The neighborhood kids had all watched it burn from the roofs and fire escapes where they'd dragged their mattresses on that first truly hot day in June. Now, from a block away, Francis could hear them begging the firemen to leave just one hydrant open. He could imagine them hopping back and forth as the pavement grew hot again under their feet.
Ask Again, Yes
by Mary Beth Keane

June has been an unusually good reading month for me and it looks like it might end it on a high note. I started reading Ask Again, Yes  Saturday evening, am about a third of the way through now, and it's excellent! Within just a few pages, I was fully invested in this story of two rookie NYC policemen and their families.

Here's the goodreads summary:
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis's wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian's wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come. 
Ask Again, Yes  is a deeply affecting exploration of the lifelong friendship and love that blossoms between Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope, born six months apart. One shocking night their loyalties are divided, and their bond will be tested again and again over the next 40 years. Luminous, heartbreaking, and redemptive, Ask Again, Yes  reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood—villains lose their menace and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story, while haunted by echoes from the past, is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Sunday Salon: Summer is Here!

At last. It's summertime here on the lake and we're having gorgeous weather  for an entire weekend! A ridiculous amount of rain fell earlier this week, including 3.5" in just one morning. The sump pump was working overtime and our lawn is still a spongy, squishy mess, but the sun is finally shining.

Finished reading//

by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

This is Shapiro's short (just under 4 hours) memoir about marriage... mostly her own, but with a couple of side-trips into her parents and in-laws marriages, too. It reads like a meditation, reflective and  philosophical. She talks about how marriage changes over time and the effects of hardship, tragedy, and joy.
“I've become convinced that our lives are shaped less by the mistakes we make than when we make them. There is less elasticity now. Less time to bounce back. And so I heed the urgent whisper and move with greater and greater deliberation.” 
I appreciated the openness, immediacy and intensity of this work and picked up another of her memoirs as soon as I finished.

by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

This is the third memoir by Dani Shapiro I've read in as many weeks... I'm officially a fan! This book examines the ways faith, prayer, and devotion affect everyday life. Again, I found Shapiro's writing to be thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful. Her narration not only added feeling, it increased my understanding and overall appreciation of the work. I highly recommend listening, but also plan to purchase a print copy. There are several passages I want to reread and many quotes I'd like to share.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

This book is beautifully written, packed with nostalgia, and gives the reader plenty to think about. It's a coming-of-age story with a murder mystery component. I solved the mystery fairly early on, something I never do, but that's not really the point of the book anyway. With a variety of themes for discussion, we should have an excellent book club meeting in a couple of weeks.

Current Reading//

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

I started this book last night, but am already drawn in to the story of two young, rookie cops in 1970's New York City. This novel was on many summer reading recommendation lists and I understand it will follow the lives of the two families over the next forty years.

On the blog//
Out of Control: The Current State of My Library Hold List
This Week's Read: Devotion  by Dani Shapiro

In the kitchen//

Early last week at Scallions in Saratoga Springs, NY, I had the most delicious burger - a crispy quinoa burger. Served with lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and a dollop of mashed avocado, it was amazing! When we got home I googled quinoa burgers and was surprised to find so many recipes... I'd never even heard of them before.

I chose to try a recipe for Stellar Quinoa Burgers from Bon Appetit (the above photo is from their website) Let's just say that it required a fair amount of effort and the results were disappointing. A day or two later I discovered frozen quinoa patties at Wegmans, which I purchased but have not tried yet.

Have you ever eaten a quinoa burger? Do you have a recipe to share?

The week ahead//

Nothing major, but several little things this week... car service (we may need to replace the windshield if they can't fix the chip),  appliance repair call, more gardening, a couple of meetings. We ordered new carpet for the bedrooms and I'm hoping they can install it toward the end of the week. Otherwise, it may interfere with our 4th of July visitors and plans. Fingers crossed!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Out of Control: The Current State of My Library Hold List

I was afraid this might happen...

As you know, I divide my time between Florida and Central New York. You also know how much I love my libraries, both here in NY and our newly-remodeled island library. My bookish needs are usually fulfilled between the two. This past winter, I obtained a third  library card. This time to our Florida county library system... and it changed my reading life! I use it exclusively for ebook and audiobook downloads, and almost everything I've searched for has been available. However, the hold lists tend to be longer and this is where I get into trouble.

During most of the spring, I added ebook titles to the county hold list. They allow ten per patron and I seem to be consistently at or near the limit. I use the other two libraries when I reach the limit or if the hold list is significantly shorter. I also use the other two libraries for physical books and movies.

Anyway, the holds began arriving. Naturally, all at the same time. Now I'm nearing the top of the list for most of the other titles, too. "Out of control" is officially a crisis. Maybe just writing it all down will help. Here we go...


by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author
I'm loving this audiobook and have about an hour left.

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
This is our July book club selection. I'm almost halfway through and fully invested. 
The loan expires today... hello, airplane mode!


The Overstory by Richard Powers
I read the kindle sample of this 500+ page Pulitzer Prize winner. The writing is excellent!

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
This 400+ page book seems to be on every list of summer reading recommendations.

The Altruists by Andrew Ridker
Wish I could remember who reviewed this book. The premise sounds appealing.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko 
 I borrowed this on impulse after seeing a friend's goodreads review... sounds like an emotionally charged story.


I'm at the top of this list for this nonfiction audiobook. Maybe it will become available today... 

So many books! What's a reader to do??

 If I keep my kindle on airplane mode, they won't disappear before I at least get a chance to sample them. Can I/ will I read them all? And what about all the other titles still on hold? I've taken the drastic measure of suspending all holds for one month.

Just for fun, I'll go ahead and share my suspended holds, too.


City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand 

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Milkman by Anna Burns

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo


by Mary Pipher

by Timothy P. Carney

by Lori Gottlieb

And there you have it... my library hold list. Writing it all down was helpful. Several titles have lost their appeal and I cancelled those holds. Wish me luck with the rest!

What's at the top of your library hold list?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

This Week's Read: Devotion by Dani Shapiro

A woman named Sandra was cradling my head in her hands. We were in a small room - just the two of us - and it was so quiet I could hear the ticking of her watch. The air smelled faintly of eucalyptus. A high window overlooked a parking lot, and beyond the parking lot, mountains. I tried to relax - that was the point, wasn't it? - but I wasn't relaxed at all. I had signed up for something called Master Level Energy Work, thinking it would be like a massage. But this was no massage. For one thing, she was sighing a lot.
Devotion: A Memoir
by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

Here I am reading my third Dani Shapiro memoir in as many weeks... I'm officially a fan! It seems like I'm making my way through her life backwards, reading her books in reverse order, but that's fine. Yesterday I had a couple of hours alone in the car and began listening to Shapiro narrate her memoir about faith. So far it's another winner.

According to goodreads, Devotion is:
... a searching and timeless new memoir that examines the fundamental questions that wake women in the middle of the night, and grapples with the ways faith, prayer, and devotion affect everyday life. Devotion is sure to appeal to all those dealing with the trials and tribulations of what Carl Jung called “the afternoon of life.” 
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, June 16, 2019

The Sunday Salon: June 16, 2019

It's Sunday, it's Father's Day, and it's raining...again! In fact, it's been dreary all week. I don't even have a lake photo to share today. Nevertheless, we've had several happy days thanks to a visit from my sister-in-law and Twin B coming home for the weekend. Later today we'll have a Father's Day dinner with my parents and siblings.

Finished reading//

by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

This book! It's my favorite nonfiction so far this year... I absolutely loved it! Dani Shapiro, a 50-something writer brought up in an Orthodox Jewish community in NYC, takes a DNA test on a whim and discovers that her father was not her biological father. Her entire history and identity seemingly crumbles beneath her. However, it's not what you might think. There is no infidelity involved... it's actually far more complicated and raises many complex questions.

The audio version read by the author is outstanding. I think listening to Shapiro tell her own story is the best way to experience this book, but I got a print copy for my mother (who tore through it in a day) and her reaction was much the same as mine. Read or listen, but do not miss Inheritance!

Current reading//

by William Kent Krueger

This is our next book club selection, but I only managed to read 20% last week. The writing is very good and I'm interested in the story, but it's not unputdownable yet. The goodreads ratings are very high and the blogging community has also embraced it. The beginning may be a little slower than expected, but my hopes are still high.

Listening to//

By: Dani Shapiro

After finishing Inheritance, I immediately downloaded one of Shapiro's earlier memoirs. This short (under 4 hours) audio is described as "an inquiry into how marriage is transformed by time - abraded, strengthened, shaped in miraculous and sometimes terrifying ways by accident and experience." It's another winner and I may go right on to Devotion when I'm done.

On the blog//

This Week's Read: Ordinary Grace  by William Kent Krueger

The week ahead//

My husband will be traveling most of the week, so I hope to catch up on all the blog posts I've been meaning to write - reviews, a summer reading list, and maybe even the impossible state of my library hold list. We're hoping to get new carpet installed and, if there is more than one rain-free day, I'll finish planting the flowers. (I won't hold my breath!)

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

This Week's Read: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

All the dying that summer began with the death of a child, a boy with golden hair and thick glasses, killed on the railroad tracks outside New Bremen, Minnesota, sliced into pieces by a thousand tons of steel speeding across the prairie toward South Dakota. His name was Bobby Cole. He was a sweet-looking kid and by that I mean he had eyes that seemed full of dreaming and he wore a half smile as if he was just about to understand something you'd spent an hour trying to explain. I should have known him better, been a better friend. He lived not far from my house and we were the same age. But he was two years behind me in school and might have been held back even more except for the kindness of certain teachers. He was a small kid, a simple child, no match at all for the diesel-fed drive of a Union Pacific locomotive.
Ordinary Grace
by William Kent Krueger

I added this title to my goodreads list in 2014 on the recommendation of several trusted blogging friends. Five years later I'm finally  going to read it, thanks to my book club. I borrowed the ebook from the library, but also seem to remember praise for the audio version. If that's the case, I may see if that's available, too. Either way, I'm looking forward to starting this book!

Here is the goodreads summary:
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.  
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family— which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother— he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.

What do you think? Would you continue reading? Have you already read this book?

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

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Sunday Salon: June 9, 2019

A gorgeous weekend at the lake...and, believe it or not, the first time this area has enjoyed three consecutive precipitation-free days since September! No wonder parts of our lawn are still  too soggy to mow. The past week has been devoted to outdoor chores and the place is now nearly ready for summer. I still need to get more flowers and my family will come over to help get the docks in this afternoon. It was a good week for reading and listening, too.

Finished this week//

by Mary Laura Philpott, narrated by the author

This memoir in essays reminded me of Kelly Corrigan, Ann Patchett, and Anna Quindlen. The latter are among my favorites and Corrigan isn't far behind. These writers all get women, their lives, the myriad issues impacting us daily, as well as "big picture" concerns. Philpott, though younger and less seasoned than the others, has a style just as engaging and appealing.

I generally prefer listening to memoirs, especially when narrated by the author. Philpott has a pleasing voice which, I felt, added more feeling to her written words.
My rating:

by Joan Biskupic

This biography, the third of a current Supreme Court justice I've read this year, was both interesting and informative. It also unsettled me in ways I'm still trying to understand. Look for a review once I've worked it out.

Current reading//

by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

Drop what you're doing and get on your library's hold list for this book now! If you have an audible credit, go ahead and use it. I'm hoping to finish today or tomorrow and am certain this will end up on my list of favorites at the end of the year.

Book club meeting//

Ten of us met for brunch last week to discuss Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I loved the book and so did nearly all of the others. Some found specific plot elements unbelievable, but overall we were willing to suspend disbelief and make adjustments for time/place. We marveled at Owens' writing and are hoping she chooses to write another novel.

Up next is Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, an author I have wanted to read for years! Several of you have recommended his work and I seem to remember reviews recommending the audio version of this novel. Have you read Krueger?

In the kitchen//

I missed my big kitchen! It's a pleasure to cook dinner again and I did that every night last week, mostly family favorites. Last night I tried something new - Grilled Balsamic Caprese Chicken from Joyful Healthy Eats. It was delicious! I followed the recipe exactly as written, except marinated the chicken for a few hours instead of fifteen minutes.

The week ahead//

My visit to the hair salon can't come soon enough! Though I finally found a good hairdresser (that sounds old-fashioned... are they called stylists now?) in Florida, I am overdue for a cut and color. I'll also get the rest of the flowers in this week, and hopefully we'll put the boat in the water, too. My sister-in-law is planning to visitThursday and Twin B will come home Friday for Father's Day weekend.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


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