Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Back to Connecticut

Hello again from Connecticut! After last weekend's evacuation from hurricane/tropical storm Henri, we returned midweek to find things pretty much as we left them. The area received quite a bit of wind and rain but, fortunately, never lost power. We enjoyed our visit with my parents, spent some time with my siblings, and got caught up on the latest central NY happenings. I also finished the book I was reading and read an extended short story.

 Recent reading//

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

This family story made for a satisfying summer read. I enjoyed the characters, their relationships to one another, the family dynamics, and, of course, the secrets. There was nothing too graphic, heavy, or traumatic. (I can't handle another Paper Palace  just yet.) Enjoyable and entertaining, I was comfortable passing this one along to my mother. She's loving it. 

The Sixth Wedding by Elin Hilderbrand

This extended short story (approximately 80 pages) is a sequel to Hilderbrand's novel, 28 Summers. It takes place a couple of years after that 28th summer. Basically it's a check-in  with the main characters, or a "where are they now?" follow up. It was fine, but nothing special. I'm being generous with a three-star rating. 

Current reading//

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

I'm about 20% into this coming-of-age story set in 1970s Baltimore. It's wonderful so far!

Later today I'll pick out my next audiobook. I'm leaning toward  nonfiction... possibly The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. Have you read this one? 

On the blog//

Book Brief: The Street by Ann Petry

That's it for my week. How was yours? 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.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Book Brief: The Street by Ann Petry

The Street
by Ann Petry

The Street, originally published in 1946, is a lesser-known classic of the Harlem Renaissance. I'd never heard of it until Now Read This (the PBS News Hour book club) selected it as their May 2020 read. It's also the first novel written by a black American woman to sell more than a million copies. 

The main character is Lutie Johnson, a beautiful, young, black single mother. The story, set in Harlem, revolves around Lutie's daily struggles and frustrations as she strives to make a better life for herself and her son... while trying to protect them both from the dangers of "the street." 

I never got to this book in 2020, but knew I would eventually. This summer we are renting a house in Old Saybrook, CT. While researching the town, I found Ann Petry listed among notable residents. Petry's father, a pharmacist, opened the first pharmacy is Old Saybrook. Ann also became a pharmacist. In 1938 Petry left Old Saybrook to pursue a literary career in New York, published her novel in 1946, and, in an effort to shun publicity, returned to Old Saybrook in 1947. 

As many of you know, I am a retired hospital pharmacist so that connection, along with the location, made this the perfect time to finally read the book.

Even though The Street  was written in 1946, it has a surprisingly contemporary feel. The challenges Lutie  faces, especially the overt racism, seem insurmountable. As a result, a sense of frustration and hopelessness pervades the work. There is also anger. In fact, I've never read a novel that expresses anger at white people so directly. It's not surprising that this book hasn't been widely read over the years... perhaps it should be.

  but inching closer to 5 stars as I continue to think about it

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Stormy Weather


Suddenly it's late August and we're back in central New York, at least temporarily... thanks to Hurricane/ Tropical Storm Henri. We watched as tropical storm warnings turned into hurricane warnings. Prolonged power outages seem to be a foregone conclusion (all the neighbors have generators) regardless of the ultimate storm track or intensity. Then the town issued a voluntary evacuation order. Since the house we are renting is on a narrow peninsula, we decided this might be a good time to visit my parents. We got here late yesterday evening and plan to stay until power is restored.

On to the books...

Recent reading//

The Street by Ann Petry

I really loved this lesser-known classic of the Harlem Renaissance and am so glad I chose to read it in the author's hometown of  Old Saybrook, CT. Look for a review post later this week.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tenessee Williams

I listened to this classic play, available free for audible plus members. It must have been assigned reading at some point, but I had very little recollection of the story. The program is a live recording of a production from the Williamstown Theater Festival. While I enjoyed it, I felt like I was missing something. If I had been reading  the play, the stage directions would have added to my overall understanding. By listening, I missed everything I would have seen  had I been watching the production. Sigh.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

I was planning to listen to this novel but, after purchasing it from audible, I discovered the audio production was abridged - very disappointing! Thankfully audible has excellent customer service and quickly refunded the charge to my credit card. My library had the ebook available and I reread the first "story" to see what I missed and continued happily to the end. 

The Women of Brewster Place, published in 1982, is a novel told in stories. They center around the women who live in the eponymous housing project and their struggles of daily life. It's a touching and beautifully written book. Oprah Winfrey produced a television miniseries in 1989, which I don't recall watching at the time. I plan to now.

Earlier this year I listened to a short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw, which now feels like an homage to this work by Gloria Naylor.

Current reading//

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

My daughter brought me her copy of this book last weekend and, since I already had the audio version, it's currently a read/listen combo. Just over a third in and I am enjoying this family drama so far.

The week ahead//

It's full of uncertainty. As I type, Henri has made landfall just over the border in Rhode Island. There are reports of power outages in the area where we were staying, but we haven't heard from the neighbors yet. For now we stay put until we know there is power...

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, August 8, 2021

July Wrap-Up and August Reading Plans

Now that we're a week into August, I'm finally getting around to wrapping up July. We spent the first two weeks of the month with my parents in central NY, then moved to the rental house in coastal Connecticut where we will stay for the rest of the summer. One of our Manhattan daughters visited the first week we were here, then the other came with her boyfriend for the rest of the month. I'm surprised I managed to read anything at all, let alone five books. Best of all, I closed out the month with back-to-back five star reads. Definitely a first for me!

Books Read in July//

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin - 4/5, contemporary fiction, goodreads giveaway
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller - 4/5, debut fiction
My Place at the Table by Alexander Lobrano - 4/5, audio memoir, Paris in July
Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard - 5/5, literary fiction, read/listen combination
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout - 5/5, literary fiction, read/listen combination

Favorite July Books// 

July bonus//
I discovered two new authors last month, Joyce Maynard and Joshua Henkin. Both have extensive backlists  to explore.

August Reading Possibilities//
The Street by Ann Petry - classic, currently reading
We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange - debut fiction, borrowed from my daughter
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams - audio, classic play
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor - 1982 fiction, National Book Award  Winner for First Novel
Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann - debut fiction, recent indie bookstore purchase
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe - nonfiction, audio
A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio - fiction, in translation

My new summer reading spot

What was your favorite July book? What are you planning to read this month?

Thursday, August 5, 2021

On My Walk: Shoreline Edition

 I talk a lot about my morning walks with an audiobook... always a highlight of my day. Besides the obvious benefit of exercise, I love time spent outdoors. It's even better if a water view and birds are involved! 

We are renting a house near the shore in Old Saybrook, Connecticut this summer. It's on a peninsula bordered on the south by the Long Island Sound and the north by a cove. I've tried several new walking routes and really like one that involves two completely different water views, as well as quiet tree-lined neighborhood streets. Inspired by Kay, I invite you to come along with me...

Love this wide walkway!

Calm waters in the sound

Quiet neighborhood streets

First glimpse of the cove

Another peak at the cove

So green and peaceful...

A different walk takes me past the lighthouses, across a bridge, and over to Saybrook Point.  I'll share those photos next time. To make this at least a little bookish, my current audiobook is The Street by Ann Petry. "The classic urban tale of a young Black woman's struggle to raise her son alone amid the violence, poverty, and racial dissonance of 1940s Harlem."  I'm almost halfway through and it's a sad story, but very good.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Two Five-Star Reads

It's been a lovely summer week in coastal CT... just a little rain, warm days, and slightly cooler nights. We've been enjoying the company of our oldest daughter and her boyfriend, had a couple of dinners by the shore, and visited a local brewery. I settled on a new walking route last week, too, and, inspired by Kay, will share photos this week.

It's also been an excellent week on the reading front with two  five-star reads, one from a new (to me) author and the other from an old favorite. I can't even remember the last time that happened - a perfect way to end July!

Recent reading//

Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard
William Morrow, 2021
464 pages

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021
narrated by the author
15 hours and 16 minutes

This could end up being my favorite novel of the year! It's about family, marriage, parenthood, divorce, love, forgiveness... and much more. The characters are so relatable, the writing is excellent, and you know how I'm draw to family dramas. My library hold for the audiobook arrived while I was reading, so it became a read/listen combo. Maynard did a good job narrating, but I had to increase the speed slightly.

 Joyce Maynard has written several novels and memoirs, but this is the first one I've read. I'll certainly look for more. Have you read Maynard? Which one should I pick up next?

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
Random House, 2019
289 pages

Random House Audio, 2019
narrated by Kimberly Farr
12 hours and 14 minutes

Elizabeth Strout has been a favorite author for years and Olive Kitteridge  is one of my favorite books ever. I cannot believe it has taken this long to get to Olive, Again, but here we are. This book has been reviewed so widely and there's not much more I can to add. Let's just say I loved everything about it... and was delighted by the appearance of characters from Strout's previous novels.

I'm looking forward to the release of Oh William!  in October.

Current reading//

The Street by Ann Petry

I became aware of this lesser-known classic from the Harlem Renaissance when it was selected for the PBS New Hour Book Club last year and purchased it as a kindle daily deal shortly after. I later added the audio during an audible BOGO sale. I recently learned that Ann Petry was born in Old Saybrook, CT, where we are renting a house for the summer. It finally seems like the right time and place to get started! I'm on the second chapter now and will share my first impressions soon.

The week ahead//

We'll take our daughter and her boyfriend to the train station late this afternoon , then head to a nearby town for a concert on the green. If I get my act together, we'll even have a picnic dinner.

It's back to just three of us for the week ahead. I'm planning to cook at home more often... probably grilling and simpler meals. The kitchen here is pretty well-equipped, but I'd rather not buy a lot of seasonings or special ingredients.

We also plan to explore the Mystic area this week... the seaport, aquarium, and more.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.


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