Sunday, February 20, 2022

Weekly Update: Real Estate Again... But Reading, Too!

Another week in sunny, and finally warmer, Florida has flown by. The condo closing here went off as planned and worries of last-minute glitches evaporated. We also made progress on the condo closing in CT - signing up with gas and electric companies, working on insurance, and researching cable/internet providers. We're getting there.

We made time for fun last week, too. I walked most days, went out to lunch with my SIL, enjoyed a neighborhood happy hour, and made it to the beach for a couple of sunsets. Overall, a very good week!

Recent reading//

by Gilbert King

What an intense read! It took me a couple of weeks to get through my Black History Month book, but it ended up being a 5-star read/listen combination. Hopefully I'll get a review up by the end of the week.

Current reading//

By Sarah M. Broom, narrated by Bahni Turpin

I picked up this 2019 National Book Award winner during audible's latest 2-for-1 sale. It's described as "A brilliant, haunting and unforgettable memoir from a stunning new talent about the inexorable pull of home and family, set in a shotgun house in New Orleans East." Bahni Turpin, as always, does an amazing job with the narration. It's very good so far.

I picked up a couple of print books from the library yesterday and have a few more from my shelves set aside. Later this afternoon, I'll read the beginnings of each and decide which one to continue in print.

In the kitchen//

I mostly stuck to familiar recipes last week... Thai Basil Beef from Half Baked Harvest Super Simple cookbook (a favorite lately), Crispy Onion Chicken, and Blueberry Baked Oatmeal Bars. I did try a new recipe for Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup from allrecipes magazine, but none of the recipes matched up when I looked for it online. This one was the closest. 

The week ahead//

The winter "season" is officially here! My sister and BIL arrive tomorrow for the week and I'm so excited to spend time with them... it's been a while. Twin B and her boyfriend fly in Saturday for two weeks. They will be working remotely while here, but it will be good to have them around!

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, February 13, 2022

A Big Week for Real Estate, But Not Much Reading

On Friday evening, we sat on the beach to watch the sunset and reflect on the whirlwind that had been our week... at least as it related to real estate. The short story is that the closing for our condo here is scheduled for early this week and the buyers have completed their final walk through. The other BIG news is that we have found a condo/townhouse in Connecticut, where we will spend summers, and are set to close on that in early March. Of course, none of this happened without drama... especially given the state of today's real estate market, but I'll spare you the details!

Recent reading//

The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami

As much as I love this cover, I won't go out of my way to recommend the book. My review is here.

Current reading//

Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King

With all the excitement last week, there was not a lot of reading. My Black History Month book is still in progress. Devil in the Grove is intense and sometimes difficult to read, but fascinating. I'm learning a lot about Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP, and the criminal justice system of the Jim Crow south. It's mind-boggling to realize that this case occurred right here in Florida. I expect to finish this read/listen combination later in the week.

I may add in another book today, too. As much as I'm enjoying this one, there are times when I'd prefer a lighter alternative.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

I did try a couple of new recipes last week, with varying degrees of success. First I made this Creamy Red Pepper Pasta with Blistered Tomatoes from Pinch of Yum. I realized afterward that the creamy, yet creamless sauce is actually vegan and quite nutritious. The sauce is made in a food processor with a roasted red pepper (from a jar), cashews, olive oil, and water. It has an unusual but, my daughter and I thought, delicious taste. My husband said it was "weird." I will make this again on a night he won't be home for dinner.

Later in the week I made Skillet Chicken Bulgogi from Allrecipes. It tasty, easy, and, best of all, quick. Dinner was on the table in 30 minutes! I cut the cayenne way down, increased the sauce by 50%, and cooked some fresh broccoli in the microwave to add near the end. Next time I will consider adding either shredded carrots or red pepper, too.

The week ahead//

Tonight we're having my SIL over for dinner, but the Super Bowl is unlikely to figure into our afternoon/ evening plans. Later in the week there's a neighborhood gathering, which is always a good time. Other than that it's pretty much business as usual around here... just how I like it!

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.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Book Brief: The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami

by Hiromi Kawakami,  translated by Allison Markin Powell
Europa Editions ebook 2019, originally published 2003
240 pages
source: purchased (kindle daily deal)

Publisher's summary:
Best-selling and beloved Japanese author Hiromi Kawakami (The Nakano Thrift Shop) tells the story of an enigmatic man through the voices of ten remarkable women who have loved him.  

Each woman has succumbed, even if only for an hour, to that seductive, imprudent, and furtively feline man who drifted so naturally into their lives. Still clinging to the vivid memory of his warm breath and his indecipherable sentences, ten women tell their stories as they attempt to recreate the image of the unfathomable Nishino.
Like a modern Decameron, this humorous, sensual, and touching novel by one of Japan’s best-selling and most beloved writers is a powerful and embracing portrait of the human comedy in ten voices. Driven by desires that are at once unique and common, the women in this book are modern, familiar to us, and still mysterious. A little like Nishino himself.

My thoughts:

Unfortunately, my favorite thing about The Ten Loves if Nishino  was the cover and, if I'm completely honest, that's what attracted me to the book in the first place.

This is a collection of short stories, each highlighting a woman and her relationship, whether brief or longer term, with Nishino. From the stories, the reader is meant to piece together a portrait of the man...  a prospect which sounded intriguing. 

The writing/translation was fine, the stories were interesting enough, but the overall effect somehow fell short. They just didn't add up to much - at least for me. I doubt I'll remember much about this book in a week or two. 

I own another novel by the author, The Nakano Thrift Shop (also courtesy of a daily deal), and still plan to read it. If you're curious about this one, go ahead and give it a try - it's short. 

My rating:

Sunday, February 6, 2022

January Wrap-Up and February Reading Plans

January was one long month around here. It started off on a pleasant note with holiday visitors remaining though the first week, but went downhill after that as my father-in-law's health deteriorated dramatically, resulting in his death a week later. The rest of the month seems like a blur. 

Surprisingly, I still managed to read four books. 

Books read in January:

1.  The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
     - read/listen combination 
     - literary fiction
      - 4/5 stars (my review)

2. A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
    - read/listen combination
    - nonfiction
    - 3/5 stars (my review)

3. A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson
    - ebook
    - literary fiction, longlisted for 2021 Booker Prize
    - 5/5 stars (my review)

4. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
    - audiobook
    - nonfiction, essays
    - 4/5 stars (my review)

My favorite book of the month:

February is a short month but, since moving to Florida, it has become one of the busiest. This is the beginning of 'high season' around here... lots of visitors, social engagements,  and seasonal programming and fundraisers for many organizations. The pandemic curtailed much of it over the past two years, but we are cautiously optimistic this year. 

My daughter and her boyfriend are here this weekend for her birthday celebration, my sister and BIL will visit over her February break, and we'll also welcome a friend from NY for a few days at the end of the month. Most of our activities and all dining will still be outdoors, but that's progress!

February reading possibilities:

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

The small starfish in the photo above was discovered on a recent evening walk. Since it was alive,  I scooped it up for a quick photo and placed it gently back into the gulf.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Book Brief: The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green


by John Green, narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, 2021
10 hours and 3 minutes
source: borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary:

The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, best-selling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale - from the QWERTY keyboard and sunsets to Canada geese and Penguins of Madagascar.

Funny, complex, and rich with detail, the reviews chart the contradictions of contemporary humanity. As a species, we are both far too powerful and not nearly powerful enough, a paradox that came into sharp focus as we faced a global pandemic that both separated us and bound us together.

John Green’s gift for storytelling shines throughout this masterful collection. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a open-hearted exploration of the paths we forge and an unironic celebration of falling in love with the world.

My thoughts:

I had never read John Green, never seen the word "anthropocene," and would never  have considered reading this book without the recommendation of several book bloggers during Nonfiction November. 

Working with the premise "everyone is a critic these days" Green (who at one time was  a book reviewer at Bookmarks magazine) writes essays about all sorts of everyday objects, events and phenomenon. At the conclusion of each piece, he rates the subject using a 5-star scale. The essays are interesting, quirky, and cover a vast range of topics... like sunsets, Haley's comet, and even Diet Dr. Pepper. I'd be hard pressed to name a favorite. Getting to know John Green was an added bonus.

While I really loved listening to the author read his own words, these essays would be enjoyable in print, too. I highly recommend this eclectic collection to just about everyone.

My rating:

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Book Brief: A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

 A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson
Vintage Digital, 2021
302 pages
ebook, borrowed from the library

My first 5-star book of 2022, A Town Called Solace  was a classic case of the right book at the right time. I've been aware of Canadian author Mary Lawson for a long time - probably since Crow Lake  was published twenty (!) years ago - but had never read her. After hearing Anne Bogel recommend Lawson's latest novel to a guest on her What Should I Read Next?  podcast, I looked into it and decided to give it a try myself.

Set in Canada's northern reaches, the novel is told from the alternating perspectives of three very different characters, each in the midst of a crisis. First is Clara, an 8-year-old whose sister has run away. She spends hours looking out the living room window awaiting her return. What she sees instead is a stranger, a man in this 30s, carrying boxes into her elderly neighbor's home. The neighbor is in the hospital and Clara is taking care of her cat. 

Liam, the stranger, had known the elderly neighbor (Mrs. Orchard) when he was a young child. After leaving his wife and quitting his job, he is currently at loose ends.

Finally we hear from Mrs. Orchard. While in the hospital, she speaks to her dead husband and recalls events from the distant past which involved Liam. 

I absolutely loved this book! The narrative voice of each character is spot on and the chapters flow seamlessly one into the next. As the novel unfolds, the reader gradually pieces the story together. Lawson's beautiful writing makes for an even richer reading experience. 

A Town Called Solace has earned a spot on my goodreads favorites shelf and I added all of Lawson's previous novels to my wish list. Since my mother's library does not own a copy, I ordered one and had it delivered to her. She read it immediately and loved it, too. My sister will read it next.

If you enjoy character-driven novels, this one has my highest recommendation.

My rating:


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