Tuesday, May 31, 2022

May Wrap-Up and Plans for June

It's the end of May and we're nearly halfway through 2022. I say this every month, but it seems like time is passing so quickly! This was our month to relax and enjoy Florida life before traveling north for the summer. My sister and BIL visited for a few days, we spent lots of time with local friends and neighbors, went for morning walks/runs, and got to the beach for sunset as often as we could.

May was also an excellent reading month for me. I finished six books... half from my planned reading list and half impulse reads or library holds. Two of those books were 5-star reads and I rated two more 4.5 stars, so this turned out to be the highest quality reading month I've had in a very long time!

June Reading Possibilities//

Other June Plans//

We'll spend the first few days of June driving north, then settle in for the summer. My husband's college reunion is coming up, as well as our niece's graduation party, and Father's Day. Both NYC daughters have also made plans to visit in June. With Covid transmission levels rising, we're still being cautious and hope these events all take place as planned.

How was your month? What was your favorite May book?

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Three Mini-Reviews: South to America by Imani Perry, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, The Promise by Damon Galgut

by Imani Perry, narrated by the author
Ecco, January 2022
410 pages
source: library ebook, audible audiobook

This is a hard book to categorize, rate, and review. It reads like a combination memoir/travelogue with plenty of history for background and context. Perry, a black woman raised in Alabama, travels around the south to re-experience its culture, food, and arts. Along the way, she meets with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Perry examines each area's history in an attempt to help the reader better understand the region as a whole and how it has shaped the American identity. 

Perry's writing is beautiful, the histories are informative, and and several of the deep dives were fascinating. However, it just didn't come together as I'd hoped and I had a hard time following through to the big picture.

My rating:


by Emily Henry
Berkley, May 2022
398 pages
source: ebook borrowed from the library

I loved this book! I rarely read romance, but was immediately engaged and even laughing out loud by the end of the first chapter. 

The plot follows an enemies-to-lovers trope and involves a cutthroat NYC literary agent, a handsome brooding editor, a struggling bookstore in a bucolic small town, and a lovely relationship between sisters. I don't want to say much more, but this story is fun, cozy, and very funny. I think it's Henry's best book yet, so be sure to tuck it into your beach bag this summer!

My rating:

The Promise by Damon Galgut
Europa Editions, 2021
269 pages

audiobook narrated by Peter Noble
9 hours and 37 minutes
source: purchased hardcover, audio borrowed from library via hoopla

The Promise, set in post-Apartheid South Africa, documents the downfall of a white family living on a farm outside of Pretoria. The promise in question was allegedly made by the father to the mother on her deathbed and is overheard by their youngest daughter. The dying woman wanted her black servant, who has been with the family for years, to be given the small house on the farm property in which she resides. This promise is not immediately kept. There are three subsequent chapters, each occurring at roughly ten year intervals and chronicling another family death and funeral.

The Promise  won the 2021 Booker Prize and is the most literary novel I've read in a while. Though the overall mood is depressing, the structure is effective and engaging, and the writing is excellent. The story offers an interesting look at race relations in South Africa during this turbulent period, as well as the relationships within one specific family. If you're up for a more sobering read, I definitely recommend this book. I'd like to read more by Damon Galgut.

My rating: 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Sunday Salon: Rainy Season is Here

Do you see that sliver of a sunset? It seems that "rainy season" has arrived in southwest Florida and, after a week of gorgeous sunsets, this was all we got on Friday evening. The humidity is oppressively high and it was already 80 degrees when I went for my walk early this morning. Good thing I've found a mostly shaded route!  I think I'll be ready to head north at the end of the month... although it looks like it might be just as warm there!

Finished  last week//

This was a read/listen combination, but I primarily listened on my morning walks. An interesting combination of memoir and travelogue with plenty of history for background and context, I'll have a short review later this week.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

My second five-star read of the month, this was just so much fun! Get on your library's hold list now and keep an eye out for my thoughts later in the week.

Current reading//

The Promise by Damon Galgut

This is the 2021 Booker Prize winner and my current read/listen combination. It's much more literary than the last couple of novels I read and a welcome change of pace. I purchased the book in NYC last month and downloaded the audio, narrated by Peter Noble, from my library via hoopla. I'm about halfway through it now.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

The focus of my meal-planning last week was on emptying the freezer and I made good progress. I'm trying to use up pantry staples, too. Since I stuck with recipes from the regular rotation, there aren't any new ones to share.

But, we did enjoy splitting this delicious margarita flight for our TGIF lunch at 400 Rabbits. That was definitely a highlight of the week!

The week ahead//

We will focus on packing and prepping for our trip north this week. I also have a checkup with my dermatologist, then lunch with my SIL as a reward. It's hard to believe we are closing in on Memorial Day weekend. Our plan is to hang out here and enjoy one final weekend at the beach. Do you have special plans?

That's it for me...how was your week? What are you reading today?

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

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Book Brief: Love & Saffron by Kim Fay


by Kim Fay
Penguin Publishing Group, February 2022
kindle edition 192 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Motivation for reading: Catherine from The Gilmore Guide to Books talked about this on the podcast Sarah's Bookshelves Live and it sounded like a book I'd love.

A portion of the goodreads summary:

The #1 Indie Next Pick, in the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road  and Meet Me at the Museum, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine. 

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter--as well as a gift of saffron--to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she's never tasted fresh garlic--exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.

My thoughts:

This book is a gem! I love an epistolary novel, and this one has been compared to an all-time favorite 84, Charing Cross Road.  Turns out that comparison is spot on. The main difference here (aside from the fact that this is fiction and 84, Charing Cross Road is nonfiction) is that the friendship - between two women of different generations in the 1960s - is forged over food rather than books. It begins with a fan letter and a gift of saffron and ends up a most extraordinary friendship.

I loved this little book and was sorry to reach the end. It will surely appear on my list of favorites in December. I plan to purchase a hard copy for myself and will likely gift a copy or two at Christmas. Don't miss it!

My rating: 

Book Brief: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press, May 2022
256 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary (from goodreads):

The prequel to We Were Liars takes readers back to the story of another summer, another generation, and the secrets that will haunt them for decades to come.

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts. 
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy. 
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.

Welcome back to the Sinclair family. 
They were always liars.

My thoughts:

This book checked so many boxes for me: family drama, a New England island setting, the 1980s, and of course, secrets and lies... lots  of secrets and lies.

I rarely read YA (young adult) fiction, but devoured this author's earlier book We Were Liars  over a summer weekend back in 2014. This prequel, which I didn't know existed until I spied it on my library's new fiction shelf, transports the reader to another fateful summer on that same island compound one generation earlier. Once again, I spent a delightful weekend reading about the Sinclair sisters... only this time they were teenagers. I was quickly caught up in their story and thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience.

Judging from my own imperfect recollection of We Were Liars, you don't really need to read that book in order to appreciate this one. The sisters were vaguely familiar to me, as was the island with its various "cottages," and a memory that something traumatic happened there ... but that didn't add much to my enjoyment of this earlier story.

Bottom line, this was a quick, entertaining summer read.

My rating: 

Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Mid-May Sunday Salon

Mid-May. Hard to believe, but here we are. Thanks to a welcome break from the recent heat and humidity, it's been a perfect week here in southwest Florida. We even had our windows open for a few nights - heavenly!

We had a wonderful visit with my sister and BIL... catching up, sharing great meals, and, of course, taking in the spectacular sunsets. Early in the week we hosted a neighborhood gathering and last night we were invited to another patio party. It's been a few years since we've socialized this much... I've missed it!

My daughter and I also had appointments at a new dental office last week. We were impressed with both the dentist and the hygienist. My husband may even switch to this practice.

It was also a great week for reading...

Finished last week//

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a prequel to the 2014 YA hit We Were Liars and I devoured it last weekend! A perfect change of pace following The Absolutist  by John Boyne, look for a review post later this week.

This short, epistolary novel was a delight! I'm sure it will be among my favorites this year. More in this week's review post.

Current reading// 

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

A chapter or two in, this is shaping up to be a light, fun read. I've already laughed out loud a couple of times.

by Imani Perry, narrated by the author

I am mostly listening to this book. It reads like combination memoir/travelogue with plenty of history for background and context. I should finish in another day or two.

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

Between the two parties and meals out with my sister and BIL, the only dinner I prepared all week was Balsamic Caprese Chicken on the grill. I think I've shared this one before, but it's so delicious and elegant that it deserves another mention. I add a drizzle of balsamic glaze over the tomato and mozzarella.

The week ahead//

Tonight we'll have my SIL over for dinner, then later we'll watch Stanley Tucci's "Searching for Italy." This week should be relatively quiet... no visitors or parties, just the usual activities. That's fine with me!

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Book Brief: The Absolutist by John Boyne


The Absolutist by John Boyne
Doubleday, 2011
309 pages

Motivation for reading:
John Boyne has been on my radar for years, but Les's recent review convinced me the time had come to try one of his novels.

Source: ebook borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary (from goodreads):
It is September 1919: twenty-one-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a package of letters to the sister of Will Bancroft, the man he fought alongside during the Great War. 

But the letters are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He can no longer keep a secret and has finally found the courage to unburden himself of it. As Tristan recounts the horrific details of what to him became a senseless war, he also speaks of his friendship with Will - from their first meeting on the training grounds at Aldershot to their farewell in the trenches of northern France. The intensity of their bond brought Tristan happiness and self-discovery as well as confusion and unbearable pain. 

The Absolutist  is a masterful tale of passion, jealousy, heroism, and betrayal set in one of the most gruesome trenches of France during World War I. This novel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until its most extraordinary and unexpected conclusion, and will stay with them long after they've turned the last page.

My thoughts:

The stars aligned for a great reading experience last week. It started with Les's review, which appeared just as I was about to select my next book. Then, consulting goodreads, I found several other trusted blogging friends loved it, too. And finally, the ebook was available for immediate download from my library.

Choosing this book was a bit of a departure for me -  I do not read war books. Novels focused on life back home or women at Bletchley Park, for example, are fine, but I prefer not to go to the front. The Absolutist  took me right into the trenches. In addition to the actual fighting, descriptive details of lice infestation, unrelenting mud, and physical hardship made for tough reading at times... but it was all relevant, even necessary, to the story.

The writing itself was excellent and the character development superb. I loved getting to know Tristan and Will and also appreciated the way Boyne portrayed minor characters. The ending literally took my breath away.

I know many of you have read John Boyne and I will definitely seek out more of his work. Are they all this intense? What do you suggest I read next?

My rating:

Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day Edition

Hello, friends and Happy Mother's Day! The end-of-season push is on here in SWFL... lots of routine appointments and friends gatherings before we wrap things up for the summer. A few neighbors have already made their way north, while others leave around Memorial Day. Our local farmers market ends in a few weeks and other businesses and attractions are shifting to summer hours. It's funny how the seasonal rhythm here is the opposite of what I've been used to for my entire life!

Recent reading//

The Absolutist by John Boyne

I don't generally read "war books" but Les's review convinced me to give this one a try... and it was excellent! Look for a review post later this week.

Current reading//

by Imani Perry, narrated by the author 

In this book, the author "shows that the meaning of American is inextricably linked with the South, and that our understanding of its history and culture is the key to understanding the nation as a whole." 
It's a read/listen combination for me (mostly listening) and, at the 20% mark, I'm finding it very interesting... and have been sharing all sort of interesting tidbits and facts with my husband.

Family of Liars by E. Lockhart

This is a prequel to the the popular YA novel We Were Liars, which I tore through back in 2014. It wasn't even on my radar, but I happened to be in the library as it hit the shelves. I read the first 75 pages last night...

On the blog//

In the kitchen// 

After being away for weeks, it feels good to have a fully-equipped kitchen again! Last week we had this Napa Chicken Salad with Sesame Dressing from Pinch of Yum for a few lunches. The dressing was delicious and I loved the combination of flavors and textures. I used Veggie Slaw instead of Napa cabbage.

We had my sister-in-law over for dinner last night and I made a dessert for the first time in a months. Mixed Berry Crisp was a huge hit. I used a combination of fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries - yum!

The week ahead//

Tonight the second episode of Stanley Tucci's new season of Searching for Italy is on CNN - we love it!  

Later this week we're hosting an end-of-season neighborhood gathering, I'll be getting my teeth cleaned, and my sister and BIL will spend a couple nights with us. And, hopefully, it won't get too hot!

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, May 6, 2022

Catching up: April Micro-Reviews

I read very little in April and spent even less time blogging. The books I did  manage to read are quickly fading from memory and gathering my thoughts has become a race against time. This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt, "One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read", inspired me to take a micro approach, too.


by R.C. Sherriff, narrated by Jilly Bond

Reading this book was like spending time relaxing by the sea... leisurely pace, lovely descriptions, and  very little action. Originally published in 1931, it was exactly the right book at the right time for me. However, it put my mother to sleep. 
Reader, know thyself!

by Patric Richardson, narrated by the author

A book about laundry?? Yes, but there's more. I also loved listening to the author talk about his southern family, his love of textiles, and the notion that caring for loved ones' clothing is an act of love. Richardson also offers some excellent laundry tips. I plan to try several, but need to buy a hard copy for reference. 

by Anna Quindlen, narrated by the author

If Anna Quindlen writes it, I will read it. Or in this case, listen. Here Anna talks about how important it is, especially in times like these, to "stop and record what we are thinking and feeling." She cites examples from Anne Frank and WPA slave narratives to the Freedom Writers.  History is our story.. those who write it, own it. 

by Natasha Brown, narrated by Pippa Bennett-Warner

One word review: interior
This very short (2 hour) audio consists of the inner musings about work, life, success, class, racism, and  sexism of a Black British woman as she prepares for an extravagant garden party at the country home of her boyfriend's parents. It's been described as Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway  meets Claudia Rankine's Citizen. I think the audio production added to my overall experience. 

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Sunday, May 1, 2022

April Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to May

Old Saybrook, CT town beach on a chilly April evening

Hello, friends... it's been a while! April was an incredibly busy, but very productive month for us. We left Florida on the third and spent four days driving to Connecticut. Our first stop was Jeckyll Island, GA, a beautiful state-owned island with minimal development, lots of nature (including the GA sea turtle center), and a lovely historic district. I wish we'd planned more than a quick overnight, but we'll  be back!

Once in Connecticut, I finally got to see the condo. My husband had seen it, but it was unnerving purchasing real estate I'd not personally inspected. Luckily, the virtual tour proved accurate - such a relief! We spent a couple more nights in a hotel as we awaited delivery of mattresses, then officially moved in. Two weeks later we were mostly organized and ready for the summer... though there's still plenty of work to do when we get back.

Another April highlight was a visit to central NY to see my parents and siblings for Easter. It was the first time we'd all been together since 2019... and it was wonderful! (despite the snow😬)

Last weekend we were in NYC. Both daughters had moved since the beginning of the pandemic and we finally  got to see their new places. We also spent hours walking around the city. It's been years since we've experienced a NY spring! And the restaurants... oh, so good! [The photo below was taken in Washington Square, the other two are Central Park.]

April Reading//

Surprisingly, I managed to read four books in April. Two were quite short and all were audiobooks or read/listen combinations. I'll post mini-reviews post later this week. 

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

Write For Your Life by Anna Quindlen

Assembly by Natasha Brown

May Reading Possibilities//

The Absolutist  by John Boyne (currently reading)

And now May is here and we're back in Florida. It's noticeably quieter on the island as snowbirds and tourists return home. I love this time of year... and am hoping for a peaceful, low-key month ahead. Fingers crossed!

How was your month? What was your favorite April read?


Related Posts with Thumbnails