Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Sunday Salon: A Summer Break

I suppose it was bound to happen... June was an outstanding reading month, especially in terms of quality, but now it's July and the dreaded reading slump has become a reality. Ugh. I've finished just one (sadly mediocre) book all month and set aside countless others. Nothing seems to suit my mood.

The busy 4th of July holiday is responsible for some of this, but we're also inching forward with other lifestyle changes and have a long family weekend on the Connecticut coast ahead. Our daughters will join us to help celebrate my birthday. We lived in CT back in the 80s, so I'm looking forward to visiting a few old haunts and exploring some new ones.

Books will be involved, of course. I can't wait to visit R.J. Julia Booksellers. A crop of new library holds has arrived, I've pulled a couple old favorites from my shelves, and my kindle is fully loaded. Something will break me out of this slump soon... I just know it!

What have you been reading lately? How do you deal with a reading slump?

I'll be on a blogging break for the rest of the month and will catch up with you again in August!

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Midyear Musings and Favorites

We're halfway through 2019 and so far it's been a great year for reading. My overall totals are up and I seem to be choosing better books.

In an unplanned development, 43% of those books have been nonfiction - a personal record. The Supreme Court is the subject that's come up most frequently. I've also read quite a few new releases. We'll see if these trends continue.

Unfortunately, the increase in nonfiction has been at the expense of classics. I've read only one(!) all year and am considering throwing the the towel for the Back to the Classics challenge.

Here are my midyear favorites in no particular order:


Quirky, funny, and probably not for everyone... I loved it. 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens 
I avoided this novel for a very long time (too much hype), but gave in when my book club decided to read it. I'm very glad they did!

As We Are Now by May Sarton
This is, without a doubt, both the most beautifully written and the most depressing novel I've read this year. At just 144 pages, it's also one of the shortest.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane (read/listen combination)

This was a solid 5-star read for me.  An all-consuming novel, I lived with these people for a week. Whenever I wasn't reading about them, I was thinking about them! The audio version, narrated by Molly Pope, is also excellent.

If Beale Street Could Talk (audio) by James Baldwin
This 1974 classic is even more wonderful with Bahni Turpin's moving narration.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (read/listen combination)

An "issue novel" about the AIDS crisis, specifically in 1980s Chicago. It triggered memories, both happy and sad, of lost friends and caused me to reflect on my time on the front lines, as a clinical pharmacist in a teaching hospital where research and drug trials were conducted. The audio version, narrated by Michael Crouch added much to my overall experience.

Normal People (audio)
by Sally Rooney, narrated by Aoife McMahon
Quiet and well-written, this is an interior, character-driven novel about relationships. I loved the narrator's Irish accent.


by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

Easily my favorite nonfiction this year. Dani Shapiro, a 50-something writer brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family in NYC, takes a DNA test on a whim and discovers that her father was not her biological father. Her history and identity seem to crumbles beneath her, but this is not what you might think. It's actually far more complicated and raises many complex questions. I think listening to Shapiro tell her own story is the best way to experience this book.

by Dani Shapiro, narrated by the author

Since I loved Inheritance so much, a dive into Shapiro's backlist was immediately necessary. This book examines the role of faith, prayer, and devotion in everyday life. Again, I found Shapiro's writing to be thoughtful, intelligent, and insightful.

by Ann Hood, narrated by Donna Postel
I can't resist books about books, so raced through this short audiobook in just a day and a half!


My interest in the Supreme Court goes back decades, but over the past few years I've felt a growing sense of urgency and need for more information and deeper understanding. To that end, I've read four very good books so far this year.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart (read/listen combination)
The audio version, narrated by Suzanne Toren, helped me get through the drier, more technical sections.

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (audio)
Listening to Linda Lavin's narration, along with several recordings of RBG delivering her own words, was wonderful!

Breaking in: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice by Joan Biskupic (audio)
After reading Sotomayor's memoir, My Beloved World, several years ago, this was the logical next step. Carrington McDuffie is an excellent narrator.

The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts by Joan Biskupic (read/listen combination)
It is now obvious that Roberts will play a pivotal role in close rulings. This book helped me understand his background and other factors which may influence his decision-making. The audio version is skillfully narrated by Jennywren Walker.

What are your favorite so far this year? Have you noticed any trends in your reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

This Weeks Read: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

New York City, April 2010 
I received a letter from his daughter the other day.
I'd thought about Angela many times over the years, but this was only our third interaction.
The first was when I'd made her wedding dress, back in 1971.
The second was when she'd written to tell me her father had died. That was 1977.
Now she was writing to let me know that her mother had just passed away. I'm not sure how Angela expected me to receive this news. She might have guessed it would throw me for a loop. That said, I don't suspect malice on her part. Angela is not constructed that way. She's a good person. More important, an interesting one.
I was awfully surprised, though, to hear that Angela's mother had lasted this long. I'd assumed the woman had died ages ago. God knows everyone else has. (But why should anyone's longevity surprise me, when I myself have clung to existence like a barnacle to a boat bottom? I can't be the only ancient woman tottering around New York City, absolutely refusing to abandon either her life or her real estate.)
It was the last line of Angela's letter, though, that impacted me the most.
"Vivian," Angela wrote, "given that my mother has passed away, I wonder if you might now feel comfortable telling me what you were to my father?"
Well, then.
What was I to her father?
Only he could have answered that question. And since he never chose to discuss me with his daughter, it's not my place to tell Angela what I was to him.
I can, however, tell her what he was to me.
City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert

I've only read the first three chapters of Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel, but have already fallen in love with Vivian's voice. That quip about NYC real estate had me laughing out loud! There's quite a bit of buzz and hype surrounding City of Girls, but I'm trying to keep my expectations in check. So far, it's a lot of fun and the pages are turning quickly.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves - and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.  
Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life - and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. "At some point in a woman's life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time," she muses. "After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is." Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other. 
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.


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