Sunday, March 26, 2023

One Last March Sunday Salon

Hello, friends. It's been another busy week here with several appointments and a couple of construction developments. On the plus side, we finally have an installation date for the new garage door (our old one collapsed due to storm surge) and the window we've been waiting on for months arrived Friday. No word yet on when that  may be installed. 

Now for the questionable development... Although our wind insurance claim has already been paid, the company is now sending out a structural engineer to inspect the damage. Since overall damage on the island has been so severe, they say it's precautionary. But we have visible interior cracks and I'm a little concerned...

Finally, another milestone was announced Friday. Six months after Hurricane Ian, mail delivery will resume on Monday. This is a huge step forward!!  Fingers crossed all goes smoothly tomorrow.

Recent reading//

I finished this book, a read listen combination, the other night and, after loving The Great Believers, my feelings here are complicated. Yes, I enjoyed I Have Some Questions for You, but have a lot more to say. Look for a review later in the week.

audio edition narrated by the author

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to read this book! Maya Angelou's classic first autobiography, covering her early childhood and teen years, is every bit as wonderful and moving as you have heard - and maybe even more so if you choose to listen to the author read her own words. Thank you, Laurie, for your well-timed reminder. This was a perfect choice for Women's History Month. I highly recommend I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  and have added Angelou's other works, beginning with Autobiography #2 Gather Together in My Name, to my reading list.


Current reading//
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

I picked this up yesterday, read the first two or three chapters, and love it already! At nearly 550 pages, it's another chunkster. The audio has received rave reviews, so I'll likely use an audible credit and make this a read/listen combination.

by Sy Montgomery, narrated by the author

Last year I read Montgomery's The Soul of an Octopus, and only discovered this title while browsing hoopla. The audio version is short (under 4 hours) and so far, it is excellent!

In the kitchen//

These Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps from skinnytaste made for a quick and tasty low-carb dinner. My husband wasn't thrilled with idea of a lettuce wraps so I made rice for him. This will make a repeat appearance in our dinner rotation sometime soon.

We has steak on the grill midweek (yum!) and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make Katie Workman's (The Mom 100) Polenta with Sautéed Mushrooms, a recipe I saved ages ago. Although it looks fancy, it was fairly easy. The recipe sounded like it might be a little bland, so I added thyme to the mushrooms. It still could have used a bit more flavor, so maybe next time I'll cook the mushrooms in sherry or marsala...

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, March 19, 2023

A Mid-March Sunday Salon

Hello, friends. It's a cool, breezy Sunday on Sanibel and another week of hurricane recovery is behind us. Since the FEMA deadline has passed, there is noticeably less debris along the streets. Most residents and businesses have cleaned out and carted trash to the curb, and the haulers have worked diligently on a final pass. At the moment, the island seems to be a giant construction zone - full of building, demolition, and vegetation contractors. 

Meanwhile, the red tide situation has improved enough for us to enjoy several sunsets on the beach.... and that makes it all worthwhile!

Current reading//

It occurs to me that I've been reading longer books this year. That hasn't been a conscious decision, but many books on my TBR pile are well over 400 pages. Maybe that's why I haven't finished anything this past week?

I'm just over halfway through this recently released 450 page novel. So far, it is very different from The Great Believers, a favorite in 2019, but the pages turn pretty quickly.

by Maya Angelou, narrated by the author

Why has it taken me so long to pick this up?  I have both the ebook and audio but am mostly listening... Angelou's narration is wonderful!

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

I've been making a lot of crustless quiches lately using this basic skinnytaste recipe. Instead of the ham and broccoli, I substitute whatever veggies or meat/veggie combo I have on hand. My current favorite is spinach and mushroom.

Gimme Some Oven  has been a trusted recipe source for a while and this week I tried her Lemony Tortellini Soup... which seemed perfect for spring. It was good, but got even better by the second day.

The week ahead//

We have several appointments on the schedule... lawyers, insurance, etc. I also need to book a mani/pedi. I'm looking forward to an evening get-together with friends,  a few sunsets at the beach, and since it's March, more college basketball!🏀🏀🏀

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.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Thoughts on THE LATECOMER by Jean Hanff Korelitz


by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Celadon Books, 2022
439 pages

Audiobook narrated by Julia Whelan
Macmillan Audio, 2022
16 hours and 19 minutes

Publisher's summary:

The Latecomer follows the story of the wealthy, New York City-based Oppenheimer family, from the first meeting of parents Salo and Johanna, under tragic circumstances, to their triplets born during the early days of IVF. As children, the three siblings--Harrison, Lewyn, and Sally--feel no strong familial bond and cannot wait to go their separate ways, even as their father becomes more distanced and their mother more desperate. When the triplets leave for college, Johanna, faced with being truly alone, makes the decision to have a fourth child. What role will the “latecomer” play in this fractured family?

A complex novel that builds slowly and deliberately, The Latecomer touches on the topics of grief and guilt, generational trauma, privilege and race, traditions and religion, and family dynamics. It is a profound and witty family story from an accomplished author, known for the depth of her character studies, expertly woven storylines, and plot twists.

My thoughts:

This novel checked so many boxes for me, and I think the best way to "review" it is to list them.

Let's start with the writing. I've long appreciated this author's smart, sharp style. Here, it is evident from the opening paragraph, which I actually read with a sense of awe:
The Oppenheimer triplets - who were thought of by not a single person who knew them as "the Oppenheimer triplets" - had been in full flight from one another as far back as their ancestral petri dish. Not one of the three - Harrison (the smart one), Lewyn (the weird one), or Sally (the girl) - had a speck of genuine affection for either of the others, or had ever once thought of a sister or a brother with anything resembling a sibling bond, let alone as counterparts in a tender and eternal family relationship.

Plot. You all know I love a good family drama and, beginning with the premise, this is unlike anything I've come across. Its complexity and gradually unfolding storyline made for a thoroughly absorbing reading experience. As secrets (which everyone seems to have) and past events come to light, the reader slowly pieces together what makes each character tick. Unexpected twists and developments kept me thinking about the story even when I wasn't reading!

These characters were all so interesting! While none of the the main characters are especially likable, neither are they horrible... well, maybe just one of them is. The parents were fascinating, either hiding or denying reality. But I really enjoyed the triplets... watching them grow up, evolve, and try to forge adult lives. I marveled at the utter dysfunction of every single family relationship. I was especially intrigued by the role and character of the "latecomer." Through sheer determination, she was instrumental in helping them all face and then attempt to come to terms with the past. Even the minor, more peripheral, characters were extremely well-drawn and served an important role in advancing the story.

The setting, too, was right up my alley. I do love a good New York City novel, but this had additional draws. Two of the triplets, following in their father's footsteps, go to Cornell, so we had multiple chapters set in Ithaca, NY. And finally, the annual end-of-summer triple birthday gatherings took place at the family's summer home on Martha's Vineyard.

All of these factors would have been enough for me to easily rate this novel 4.5 stars...

...but I decided to make it a read/listen combination. The audio production, narrated by Julia Whelan, added even more to my experience. Over the past couple of years Whelan has become a favorite. Her crisp, sharp, and (dare I say?) slightly snarky delivery was just perfect for this story. It elevated The Latecomer to a 5-star read for me!

Monday, March 13, 2023

A Monday Reading Update

Hello, friends. It's Monday... and I completely ran out of blogging time over the weekend. We did lose an hour though, right? Today I've just got a very quick reading update, then next weekend I'll be back with a regular Sunday Salon.

Recent reading//

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I really enjoyed this unusual family drama and am planning to write a review post this week. For now I'll just tell you it was a 4.5 star read for me, but Julia Whelan's narration bumped my rating up to 5 stars!

Current reading//

by Maya Angelou, narrated by the author

This is a slow read/listen combination for me ... just a chapter or two a day.

by Rebecca Makkai

My library ebook hold arrived yesterday, so I just started this book... and it's probably the reason you didn't see a post from me yesterday!

That's my abbreviated reading update. What are you reading this week?

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Weekly Update: Our Light Shines Again!

The light is on! Five months to the day after Hurricane Ian slammed into the island, our beloved lighthouse is shining once again. It was relit in a pre-dawn ceremony on February 28. Even with the buildings gone and a temporary leg supporting its weight, the light is an important symbol of hope and recovery for our community. Wish I could give credit for this wonderful photo, but it's been circulated so widely I can't find the original source.

 Recent Reading//

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
audio edition narrated by Robin Miles

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

Jacqueline Woodson's prose is so poetic that I always want the audio edition to be part of my reading experience and, once again, I was not disappointed. This short (200 pages/under 3 hours) book chronicles a powerful friendship between four black girls in 1970s Brooklyn, which eventually fades as they approach adulthood. The story is both tender and heartbreaking... and I loved it. I only wish it could have been even longer.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Refreshing, unusual, and like a breath of fresh air, I really enjoyed this memoir of ordinary life. It's been on my "to read" list for years and after seeing a recent review from another blogger (thank you, Anne!) I finally picked up a copy from the library. Formatted like an encyclopedia, I think this book may be better enjoyed as a slower read. I raced through it in just a few sittings, but would love a copy for my shelves to be reread in smaller segments.

Current Reading//

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I bought this novel last summer with a birthday gift card and am finally getting around to reading it. From the first couple of pages I knew I was going to enjoy this family story. Triplets, conceived in the early days of IVF,  are born to the Oppenheimer family. Feeling no strong bond to the family or each other, they cannot wait to head off to college and go their separate ways. After eighteen years their mother makes a decision to have a fourth child - the remaining embryo, which has been frozen for nearly two decades. Isn't that wild? I'm about 30% now and can't wait to pick it up again.

In the kitchen//

There is still not an awful lot happening in my kitchen, but I did make this Grilled Red Snapper from Slender Kitchen with fresh seafood from the farmer's market. It's just a simple rub with blackening seasonings, then some time on the grill. You can add as much or a little of the rub as you like. Served with lemon wedges, it was delicious. 

The week ahead//

As recovery and rebuilding take center stage on the island, it's been a very quiet season as far as visitors and social events go. This week we have a city council election plus a program about 'emerging from the hurricane', but I'm especially looking forward to seeing some old friends who live in Naples. They had major damage from the hurricane and are currently in temporary housing as their condo is being repaired. It will be both fun and therapeutic to catch up!

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 26, 2023

The Sunday Salon: February 26, 2023


Hello, friends. It's been a couple of weeks since my last update and, overall, the island is still slowly recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Ian. A couple more businesses have opened, FEMA debris haulers are everywhere, and there seems to be an uptick in building demolitions. 

This past week my sister and BIL were over on the east coast, so we decided to take a break from the destruction and drive across Alligator Alley to join them. A couple nights at a hotel on the beach with warm weather, cool breezes, and lush vegetation was just what we needed! The photo above is an east coast sunrise.

Recent reading//

by Anonymous
narrated by Gabra Zackman, Lyle Lovett, J. Smith-Cameron

Part memoir and part joyful romp through the fields of imagination, the story behind a beloved pseudonymous Twitter account reveals how a writer deep in grief rebuilt a life worth living.

Do you follow Duchess Goldblatt on twitter? This is a lovely memoir, but one which would have been even more enjoyable if I'd been a DG follower from the very beginning. In case you're unfamiliar with her, this New York Times article will bring you up to speed. I listened to this one and Lyle Lovett narrating his own texts, letters, and conversation was an added bonus.

A Brother's Blood by Michael C. White

In the final days of World War II, Dieter Kallick, one of 200 German prisoners of war pressed into service at a Maine logging village, escaped into the woods. His body would later be found washed up on the shore of Moosehead Lake. Decades later, Wolfgang Kallick arrives in this same rural town, hoping to unravel the mystery of his brother's death. His questions trigger disturbing, long-dormant memories in Libby, a flinty Yankee store owner, and she is drawn inexorably into the drama when she realizes that her own family is involved in the case. Then Libby's own brother is killed. Suspecting that the two deaths, though nearly a half-century apart, are somehow linked, she undertakes her own investigation, not realizing that behind the sullen silence of her close-knit town lies a festering secret darker than she ever imagined.

This WWII historical fiction with a mystery is not my typical fare, but I decided to pick it up after meeting the author and his wife. We all had an enjoyable dinner and, naturally, talked a lot about books. At one point, the conversation turned to WWII POW camps in Maine... something I'd only learned about through reading  Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout. Turns out a Maine POW camp figures prominently in Micheal's first novel (published in 1996) so I decided to give it a try.

I've spent time in that part of Maine, so particularly enjoyed the setting. I also appreciated gradually coming to understand the characters and their motivations, the building suspense, and finally, the unexpected resolution. 

Current reading//

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

This author's books are often mentioned during Nonfiction November, and last night I discovered this ebook on my library's website. Just 15% in, but I can already see why so many bloggers love her work.

by Patrick Bringly, narrated by the author

A fascinating, revelatory portrait of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and its treasures by a former New Yorker staffer who spent a decade as a museum guard.

I love the Met and just used an audible credit for this new release. Not sure whether I'll get started now or wait until my library hold of the print edition is available...

The week ahead//

We don't have any big plans this week, just a couple of meetings and appointments. Maybe that means I'll be able to finish another book before the end of the month... fingers crossed!

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 12, 2023

A Super Bowl Sunday Salon

 Hello, friends and Happy Super Bowl Sunday! It almost seems like a national holiday, doesn't it? We'll have the game on, at least through halftime, but it will be more about the food and ads than who's winning or losing. Will you be watching?

Here on Sanibel, the slow return to normal continues. Last week our post office moved back to the island - there are now FEMA trailers in the parking lot where we can pick up our mail. No word yet on when home delivery may begin, but this is still a HUGE improvement. The island school welcomed students back last week  and a handful of our favorite restaurants have reopened, too. Since the arrival of our friends from Canada, we are no longer the sole inhabitants of our neighborhood. We're also hoping another couple may be able to move back into their home later this month.

In other news, our oldest daughter and her fiancé visited for her long birthday weekend. They were shocked by the overall condition of the island, but it was so good to have them here! Life became a little less complicated last week as we finally replaced my husband's car that was lost in the hurricane. He's pretty happy to have a new one!

Recent reading//

by Victoria Mas, translated by Frank Wynne

The Salpetriere Asylum: Paris, 1885. Dr. Charcot holds all of Paris in thrall with his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad and cast out from society. But the truth is much more complicated—these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives, those who have lost something precious, wayward daughters, or girls born from adulterous relationships. For Parisian society, the highlight of the year is the Lenten ball—the Madwomen’s Ball—when the great and good come to gawk at the patients of the Salpetriere dressed up in their finery for one night only. For the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope.

I recently heard about this 2019 novel on The Book Cougars podcast... the premise sounded appealing and suggested a similarity to The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell. This novel, translated from the original French, was set a century earlier than O'Farrell's novel and told in a more linear fashion. It was a quick, entertaining read. The 2021 film, in French with English subtitles, is available on amazon prime video. I plan to watch it sometime this week.

Current reading//

by anonymous, narrated by Gabra Zackman, Lyle Lovett, J. Smith-Cameron

According to the publisher, "Becoming Duchess Goldblatt  is two stories: that of the reclusive real-life writer who created a fictional character out of loneliness and thin air, and that of the magical Duchess Goldblatt herself, a bright light in the darkness of social media. Fans around the world are drawn to Her Grace's voice, her wit, her life-affirming love for all humanity, and the fun and friendship of the community that's sprung up around her." 

Have you seen Duchess Goldblatt on twitter? I'm enjoying this one mostly on audio... just hit the 40% mark. 

In the kitchen//

Another example of life returning to normal is that I've started to cook again... and have even been interested in trying some new recipes! Last week I made Chicken Chow Mein, Grilled Lemon Pepper SalmonPork Tenderloin Diane (will cut back on the lemon pepper next time), and Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats from skinnytaste, twice.

The week ahead//

Nothing major this week... I have an appointments with the dermatologist and dentist, my husband will get together with his college roommates, and we're planning a quiet Valentine's dinner at home.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

A beach surprise!

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: 2022 Author Discoveries


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Since today is a "freebie" week, we get to choose our own topic. I'd like to highlight my favorite author discoveries of 2022. This was actually last week's prompt but you know how that goes. It seems like I've been behind all month...

Favorite Author Discoveries of 2022

John Boyne - The Absolutist

Kim Fay - Love & Saffron

Damon Galgut - The Promise

Maggie ShipsteadSeating Arrangements

Steven RowleyThe Guncle

Claire Keegan - Foster and Small Things Like These 

Lydia Millet - Dinosaurs

Have you read any of these authors? What were your favorite author discoveries of 2022?


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