Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Memorial Day Weekend

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon in Florida and we're in the middle of a long Memorial Day weekend. Life is feeling more normal again as most people we know have been vaccinated. Yesterday we had lunch (outdoors) with friends visiting from CT. Today we'll take dinner over to my FIL, and tomorrow will be a "day off" set aside for reading and relaxing.

I missed checking in last weekend when we took our first overnight trip in what felt like forever. We went to Key Largo, the northernmost Key... absolutely gorgeous! The photo above was taken from the hotel balcony. 

 Recent reading//

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

Last week I decided to change things up with some fun contemporary fiction. Like her earlier novel, Standard Deviation, Heiny’s characters are quirky and immensely likable. Chapters are titled by year and jump ahead 1-3 years from 2002 to 2019. It took a little longer than I would have liked to get into the story and fully appreciate the characters (close to 30%) but then I devoured the rest of the novel in an afternoon. I also loved the slightly offbeat humor and laughed out loud several times.

 I've gravitated toward books written by doctors and therapists for as long as I can remember... books like Maybe You Should Talk to Someone  by Lori Gottlieb, which was an audio favorite a couple of years ago. To be clear,  Good Morning, Monster  is a much heavier read. Therapist Catherine Gildiner chronicles her treatment of five patients with remarkable and inspirational recovery stories.

 Their stories are tragic, and reading about such abuse and neglect is grueling. It's difficult to imagine how any child could endure so much, but all five patients had already demonstrated extraordinary strength by the time they arrive at therapy. It was interesting to see how treatment by a skilled therapist enabled these adults to come to terms with their trauma and move toward living happier lives. 

This may not be a good choice for more sensitive readers, but I thought it was excellent.

Current reading//

I don't read much poetry, but really like this slim collection and will continue reading a few poems each day.

Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

I started this novel on audio yesterday, but then decided to borrow the ebook as well. Lahiri's writing is, as always, beautiful. Whereabouts, written in Italian and translated by the author, is a series of short chapters or vignettes told in the first person by an unnamed woman. So far I am entranced...

About to start//

Good Company by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney 

This author's debut novel, The Nest,  was a solid 4-star read for me back in 2016. I have high hopes for this one, too.

That's my reading update for the past couple of weeks. 

How are things with you? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Mid-May Sunday Salon

Hello, friends. It's Sunday again and time for another weekly update. Life continues to move slowly toward normalcy. Last week I went into a store and tried on clothes! It seems so strange to think of that as being a big deal, but it sure felt like one to me. I also walked into the grocery store yesterday for just a few things... rather than with a detailed list for a week's worth of carefully planned meals. Finally, we ate at restaurants (outdoors) twice. Those little things all made me ridiculously happy.

As I'm sure you're well aware, the CDC dropped their mask recommendation for vaccinated people... though there is no way to verify who is actually vaccinated. Our governor even took preemptive action to make it illegal to ask for proof of vaccination. BUT, I was heartened to see nearly everyone still masked in the grocery stores, clothing stores, and restaurants I visited. Either next to nobody has been vaccinated or, more likely, they do not feel comfortable with the new guidelines. These are strange times...

Read last week//

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

My second historical fiction this month was a coming-of-age story set in post WWII Japan. It follows Noriko, the illegitimate child of a Japanese aristocrat and an African-American soldier, for decades as she comes to terms with her heritage and tries to find her place in the world. 

I enjoy reading about this time period in Japan and quickly found myself immersed in Nori's story. I flew through this 450-page debut novel in just a few days and will be passing it along to my mother and sister. A solid 4-star read! 

by Deesha Philyaw, narrated by Janina Edwards

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.

I heard about this collection of stories from the Novel Pairings podcast. They strongly recommended listening and that was definitely the right choice. The narration was fabulous and made the stories feel even more real and often raw. I liked this four hour listen, but not quite as much as most other reviewers. I borrowed it from the library via hoopla. 

Sampled but wasn't feeling//

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

This month's Shelf Subscription... I read the first three chapters/essays of this memoir, including the wonderful title essay. It's not what I feel like reading right now, but I do plan to read it later.

Current listening//

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner, narrated by Deborah Burgess

Purchased recently as an audible daily deal, I finally started listening today on my morning walk. Just as I'd hoped, it immediately reminded me of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb... a favorite from 2019.

Ready to start//

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

I picked up this library hold yesterday just moments before closing. Heiny's last novel, Standard Deviation, was such an enjoyable read and my hopes for her latest are high. I'll get started later tonight or tomorrow.


I watched season one (three episodes) of The Bletchley Circle on amazon prime video last week.  It's about a group of friends who worked at Bletchley Park breaking code during WWII and reunite in the early 1950s to track down a serial killer. I plan to continue with season two.

In the kitchen//

It's been pretty warm lately... the time of year I start thinking about salads for dinner. Last week we had Katie Workman's Chinese Chicken Salad. I used romaine lettuce instead of Napa cabbage, left out the red onion, and opted for the convenience of a rotisserie chicken. The homemade Soy Sesame dressing was really good and we had leftovers for a couple of lunches. Tip: toss only the salad you will use right away with dressing and add the crunchy lo mein noodles prior to serving.

We're taking dinner over to my FIL later this afternoon. For dessert I made Taste of Home's   Jumbleberry Crumble. Loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, it was an early pandemic favorite. We haven't had it since our daughters from NYC were with us last spring.summer. I hope he likes it, too!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day Edition

It's Mother's Day and as we wrap up another beautiful week in southwest Florida, it's starting to feel more like summer. Daytime highs are flirting with 90 degrees and we had two nights with an overnight low  of 80! On the mainland temperatures did creep into the 90s with lows in the 70s, but it's more temperate on the islands... and there's almost always a nice breeze!

Recent reading//

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This is a book I finished at the end of April, but never talked about here. Two things  to know- it really packs a punch and it's difficult to read at times. [Trigger warning for sexual abuse] Infinite Country  is a short, impactful read about one family's immigration experience... their struggles and hardships in both the U.S. and Colombia, and the separations that result. 

This slim novel does much more than simply tell a good story. It caused me to think more deeply about the issue of immigration and to look at it from a different perspective. And to me, that's the difference between a good book and great book.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I don't read much historical fiction these days, but really enjoyed this story. It's about three very different women who form an unlikely friendship while working at Bletchley Park during WWII. I did a read/listen combination and was always eager to return to their story. I still can't believe it was over 600 pages long! The Rose Code  was a perfect follow-up to my recent nonfiction reading of The Splendid and the Vile  and Code Girls.

Today I learned about a television show on Amazon Prime called The Bletchley Circle.... hope to watch the first episode this evening.

Current reading//

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

My current read is a book I picked up on Independent Bookstore Day. Goodreads describes this debut novel as "a sweeping, heartrending coming-of-age novel about a young woman's quest for acceptance in post–World War II Japan."  It's another long-ish book (450 pages), but the pages turn quickly. I started it Friday evening and am halfway through already... enjoying it very much!

In the kitchen//

It was all about simplicity this week.... I wasn't particularly motivated or inspired. For Cinco de Mayo we had a Chicken Taco Casserole from Easy Family Recipes. I used a rotisserie chicken and it took literally 10 minutes to prepare. Publix had Rancho de Gloria Margarita Wine Cocktail on BOGO sale (who knew there was such a thing?) so it really was a celebration!

Last night we had an old favorite, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange Marmalade Glaze, for the first time in ages. I used a low-sugar orange marmalade and marinated it for just under two hours.

The kitchen is closed today for Mother's Day. We're taking dinner over to my FIL a little later and he has requested pizza... hooray!

A technical question//

Last week I removed the "subscribe by email" gadget from my blog. Blogger will end this option next month and I'm not quite sure how to handle it. Blogger friends, what will you do with email subscribers? 

From my camera//

Walking back from the beach last night, just a few minutes past sunset, a couple of birds swooped down close to our heads then quickly retreated to a branch above. I was surprised to discover two Eastern Screech Owls... you have to look closely for the second one. It's on the same branch, lower right. Very cool!

How was your week? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Monday, May 3, 2021

April Reading Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to May

After a very long March, April seemed to fly. We finally took a few small steps toward normalcy, and I read some really good books... only four, but all were four stars or better.

April highlights include//
  • getting my second vaccine and reaching full immunity!
  • several visits from fully-vaccinated family members
  • haircut and highlights... at last
  • a trip to the bookstore
  • a meal outdoors at a restaurant
  • an end-of-season neighborhood gathering
  • sunsets at the beach and the Pink Supermoon

Books Read in April//

I read three of the four books from my tentative April list. Instead of the April Shelf Subscription, which turned out to be Libertie  by Kaitlyn Greenidge, I opted for a library hold. 

My favorite April book//

May Reading Possibilities//

historical fiction: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (in progress)

classic: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (for T Book Club in June)

nonfiction: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (unless I need a break from this time period)

new fiction: the May Shelf Subscription selection... it ships tomorrow!

How did your April reading go? What was your favorite book last month?

Pink Supermoon
April 26, 2021


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