Sunday, December 12, 2021

A Mid-December Sunday Salon: December 12, 2021

Hello from sunny Florida! We've had a week full of  holiday preparation, last-minute remodel issues, and shopping. It looks like the new space will be usable in time for Christmas visitors, but the glass shower door may or, more likely, may not get delivered and installed. It will be fine either way. Still, I was beyond shocked when the painters showed up at 7:30 this morning... a Sunday!

Recent Reading//

by Anderson Cooper, narrated by the author

This was a follow-up to The Last Castle, a history of the Biltmore Estate, which I read during Nonfiction November. I enjoyed this book even more thanks, in large part, to Anderson Cooper's narration. Still, even after two books about the Vanderbilts, I find the names (so many variations of the same ones!) and relationships somewhat confusing. I should have downloaded that family tree...

It was interesting to listen to a sweeping history of the Vanderbilt family from Cooper's perspective. Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as "The Commodore", built the famous shipping and railroad empire and accumulated enormous wealth, only to have it later squandered by his descendants. Along the way we encounter the sinking of the Lusitania (with a Vanderbilt aboard), a detailed account of an America's Cup Race (a Vanderbilt was sailing), and quite a bit about Truman Capote (friend of Gloria). This was certainly a wide-ranging history.

Cooper's mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, was always reluctant to talk about her family, but began to open up toward the end of her life. I am tempted to pick up his earlier book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes. It sounds like Cooper finally got to know and understand his mother as she shared these details about her life.

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel
narrated by Amanda Carlin, Matthew Lloyd Davies, Gibson Frazier, Jackie Sanders, Carly Robins, Fred Sanders

After consuming so much nonfiction, I needed a complete change of pace. Annie Jones, of From the Front Porch podcast, has mention this title many times as a delightful, lighter read. Last summer I purchased a paperback copy to save for just the right time... and this was definitely it. 

The opening sentence made me laugh. I quickly slipped into the adventures of a host of flawed, but likable characters. Set mostly in rural Connecticut, with brief forays into Manhattan, this book has been described as  a "hilarious and heartfelt novel about a perfectly imperfect summer of love, secrets, and second chances." Most of the main characters are musicians (as the title implies) and that made the whole thing even more fun.

When I discovered a multi-narrator audio production available at the library, I downloaded that, too, to make it a read/listen combination. I love multiple narrators and haven't listened to a production like this in a long time. It doesn't disappoint.

Up next//

 by Eli Saslow

This book was already on my wishlist, but last week Susie from Novel Visits listed it as one of her favorite audios of 2021. With one audible credit about to expire, that was just the nudge I needed! I'm planning to start on my walk tomorrow.

I'll also start a book in print... probably more lighter fiction. Under consideration are The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson  or Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.

On the blog//

The week ahead//
The family starts arriving on Friday. I'm not sure how much I'll be around the next couple of weeks, but will certainly be back with a yearly wrap-up and  2021 favorites. Happy Holidays to all!

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.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Nonfiction November: It's a Wrap!

Nonfiction November, my favorite blogging event of the year, has come to a close. Overall, it was a great month. I managed to participate in three of the five weekly prompts and read six books, including five nonfiction. Not only is this better than I've done in recent years, it's much better than I was expecting to do this year as life begins to approach normal. 

Nonfiction November Blog Posts

Books Read for Nonfiction November

by Stanley Tucci, narrated by the author  
5 stars (my thoughts)

Book Love by Debbie Tung 
5 stars (brief thoughts)

3.5 stars (my thoughts)

5 stars (my thoughts)

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett 
4.5 stars (my thoughts)

I would be hard-pressed to select a favorite from this group. So, let me say that Taste  was my favorite memoir, Book Love  the best graphic work, How the Word is Passed  my favorite history, and These Precious Days  my favorite essay collection. I don't think I've ever read so many great books in a single month.

Thanks, once again, to all five of our hosts. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Sunday Salon: And Now It's December

Hello and Happy Sunday... hard to believe we've moved on to December, isn't it? I missed checking in last weekend. After Twin A and her new boyfriend (a great guy!) left on Sunday, I collapsed on the couch for the rest of the day. Thanksgiving week was wonderful, but exhausting! The festive activities continued into Monday with a birthday party for my sister-in-law and, on Tuesday, we celebrated our 36th anniversary. By the time December rolled around on Wednesday, I was more than ready for a quiet couple of days.

Recent reading//


This book, which I learned about and read during Nonfiction November, was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2021 by the New York Times. It reads almost like a travelogue as Clint Smith tours several sites central to the history and legacy of slavery, beginning with Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. He shares personal reflections, but also interviews tourists, guides, and activists encountered along the way. Smith  "holds up a mirror to America’s fraught relationship with its past, capturing a potent mixture of good intentions, earnest corrective, willful ignorance and blatant distortion." This is a must read!

by Ann Patchett, narrated by the author

Ann Patchett is a long-time favorite author and I'm pretty sure I've read every book she's written, fiction and nonfiction. Her novels, it seems, keep getting better and better, but she's always at the top of her game with nonfiction. In this collection of essays, the title essay being the longest,  I feel like I got to know Ann personally. There are essays here about her three fathers, knitting, and her pandemic experience... I pretty much loved them all. The audio added to the experience and it felt like I was listening to an old friend.

Current reading//
by Anderson Cooper, narrated by the author

My current read, a read/listen combination, is a holdover from Nonfiction November. I read The Last Castle  by Denise Kiernan, about the Biltmore Estate, last month and wanted to learn more about the Vanderbilt family. This fits the bill nicely, and I'm enjoying listening to Anderson Cooper on my morning walks. 

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

It's been on the cool side here in southwest Florida, so I tried this Slow Cooker Italian Wedding Soup from Greens & Chocolate. It was delicious, but I wasn't thrilled with the brand of frozen meatballs I bought. Next time I'll probably just make my own. Do you ever buy frozen meatballs? Is there a brand you'd recommend?

Slow cooker meals were appealing to me last week, so I also tried Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin from Betsy Life. It was very flavorful, a bit labor intensive up front, but a satisfying meal. I served it over egg noodles, but next time I would add small potatoes to the slow cooker instead. I'd also thicken the sauce a bit before serving.

The week ahead//

Our downstairs remodel is moving along. The office, family room, and guest room are basically finished. We had a setback with the bathroom and it looks like the shower doors will be the rate-limiting step. The bathroom will be ready by Christmas, but the shower may not. Oh, well...

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.


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