Thursday, December 21, 2023

A Quick Update Before the Holidays Begin

Hello, friends. The holidays are about to begin and before things get too crazy, I wanted to post a quick update. Last weekend our daughter and her fiancé were here for an early Christmas celebration. We had a wonderful weekend which included a drive to see the Lobster Trap Christmas Tree in Stonington, CT. It was such an unusual and beautiful sight!

I'm also happy to report that the bathroom remodel was indeed completed on time. It looks beautiful, but this was a little too close for comfort. We literally had just a few hours to spare! 

Later today our daughter and son-in-law, along with Winnie the whippet, arrive for an extra long weekend. Then my SIL will be here tomorrow. Here we go...

Recent Reading//

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

This is the January selection of the MMD book club, but overall not an especially memorable or impactful read for me. ⭐⭐⭐

This book is the January "flight selection" at MMD. It's a short, quick nonfiction read and I did find some valuable takeaways. Most people seem to love this one, but I'm probably not the target audience.

Current Reading//

by Jonathan Escoffery, narrated by Torian Brackett

This book was nominated for most of the 2022-2023 prizes, but it was Sam's review that convinced me to give it a try... and I'm so glad I did!  It's a read/listen combination and the audio is definitely adding to my overall experience. (It's available on hoopla.) I'm hoping to finish later today and will end up rating it at least 4 stars.

The week ahead//
We'll relax for a couple of days after Christmas before finally heading back to Florida! I'll be back here in early January with my yearly wrap-up post and list of favorites... and I'm already looking forward to reading yours.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season and a happy, healthy 2024!


Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Sunday Salon: Reading and Remodeling

Hello, friends! It's a rainy day in CT. We're expecting very heavy rain, strong winds, and possible coastal flooding later this afternoon and into tomorrow. I'm keeping a close eye on the timing since we were hoping to go to New Haven for a performance of Handel's Messiah later on. We'll see...

The bathroom remodel is moving right along and we're very happy with the progress. They have been working six days a week (surprisingly labor intensive for such a small space) and we expect to be finished on Thursday. 

Anyway, more time at home with contractors has meant more reading time. I'll have to worry about finishing my shopping later...

Recent reading//

by Colm Toibin, narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds

This short story, set in Ireland, is based on an actual mystical occurrence. Each year on the morning of the winter solstice, the ancient burial chamber at Newgrange briefly fills with light. Toibin has written a slightly magical tale based on local lore. It can be listened to in about an hour and is available free in the audible plus catalog

Day by Michael Cunningham

"The only problem with Michael Cunningham’s prose is that it ruins you for mere mortals’ work. He is the most elegant writer in America." 

Those are the opening lines of Ron Charles' Washington Post  book reviewand I think he nailed it. Cunningham's writing is remarkable! In fact, I started this book as a read /listen combination and almost immediately returned the audio. I wanted to savor Cunningham's words on the page. And the story and characters are every bit as good as the writing. If you're up for a pandemic novel, check it out. I rated this 4.5 stars and hope to write a more complete review later this week.

Current Reading//

Joan is Okay by Weike Wang

This is the January selection for the MMD book club. I'm nearly halfway through, but don't have much to say about it yet.

On the blog//

The Week Ahead//
should  spend a day or two finishing Christmas shopping, but instead I'll be home waiting for the countertop install, painter, electrician, and plumber. Looks like it'll be quick dinners and some evening shopping instead... but I may finish a book or two!

Assuming we finish the bathroom on schedule, we'll celebrate an early Christmas with our daughter and her fiancé next weekend.

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, December 9, 2023

Thoughts on LILLIAN BOXFISH TAKES A WALK by Kathleen Rooney

I reread Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk last week. It was just as good the second time around. Here is my original review from April 2017.

by Kathleen Rooney
St. Martin's Press, 2017
287 pages

Summary: (from goodreads)
It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

My thoughts:

Meandering, thoughtful, light on plot. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, a novel about a woman and the city she cherishes, is truly a delightful read.

I opened the book, discovered endpapers imprinted with a map of Manhattan detailing Lillian's journey, and instantly fell in love.

On New Year's Eve in 1984, 85-year-old  Lillian Boxfish takes a long walk around Manhattan. From her Murray Hill apartment, to Battery Park, St. Vincent's Hospital, and eventually Macy's in Herald Square, with stops at restaurants, a bodega, a house party in Chelsea, and Penn Station, the walk chronicles her interactions with old friends and random strangers, as well as her ruminations on life and the city she loves.

Not all that much actually happens in this novel, but Lillian's interactions with clerks, restaurant patrons, and would-be muggers will make you laugh and may even bring a tear to your eye. I especially enjoyed her reflections on career (she was a Macy's advertising executive in the 1930s), love, marriage, and motherhood.

By the way, Lillian Boxfish is loosely based on the life of Margaret Fishback. Don't miss the author's note at the end.

Pearls of wisdom from Lillian:

“No one survives the future.” 

“Time only goes in that one direction.” 

“Any day you walk down a street and find nothing new but nothing missing counts as a good day in a city you love.” 

“Here’s some free advice: Make an honest assessment of the choices you’ve made before you look askance at somebody else’s.” 

“The point of living in the world is just to stay interested.” 

“If you love something, know that it will leave on a day you are far from ready.” 

“... my true religion is actually civility. Please note that I do not call my faith “politeness.” That’s part of it, yes, but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity— one’s own and others’— but only to the extent that that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.”

My rating:


Sunday, December 3, 2023

November Reading Wrap-up and Possibilities for December

Hello friends, and Happy December! Time seems to be moving even more quickly now and 2024 will be here before we know it. But November did leave us with happy memories. Highlights include my husband's birthday celebration, our nephew's wedding, a long Thanksgiving weekend with the family, and a 38th anniversary dinner at our favorite restaurant. 

November was a good reading month, too. I managed to finish four books... but that was only because two were novellas!

Books Read in November//

⭐⭐⭐⭐   novella

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
⭐⭐⭐💫   literary fiction, coming-of-age

We the Animals by Justin Torres
⭐⭐⭐⭐  novella, literary fiction, backlist

⭐⭐⭐⭐  nonfiction, audiobook 

Favorite November Read
Why Fathers Cry at Night by Kwame Alexander

December Reading Possibilities
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney - reread, finished 12/2
Day by Michael Cunningham - currently reading
Eastbound by Maylis De Kerangal - NYTimes 2023 Top 10, audio on hoopla
Faking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey - if I feel like a holiday romance 
Horse by Geraldine Brooks - on my TBR shelf
Joan is Okay by Weike Wang - MMD January selection
Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher - Pilcher is perfect for the holidays

Also in December
Our upstairs bathroom remodel is underway, but should be finished within the next week and a half. Fingers crossed - we'll certainly need it by the 20th, but that gives us a week to spare. We also have the usual decorating, shopping (which we'll keep to a minimum) and baking ahead, plus a few other holiday activities. At the end of the month we'll visit my parents ... and then it will be time to head south!!

How are you doing? What was your favorite November book?

See you soon, Sanibel!😎



Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Thoughts on THE IDIOT by Elif Batuman

The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Penguin Press, 2017
423 pages

Motivation for reading:
This is a book I pulled off the library shelf nearly a year ago during my inaugural "book sampling hour." Sitting in a comfy chair at our pleasantly cool library on a spring afternoon, I read 15-20 pages of several books, including The Idiot. I ended up choosing another book, but continued to think about this one and knew I would come back to it eventually.

Opening lines:
I didn't know what email was until I got to college. I had heard of email and knew that in some sense I would "have" it. "You'll be so fancy," said my mother's sister, who's married to a computer scientist, "sending your e, mails." She emphasized the "e" and paused before "mail."
My thoughts:

The Idiot  is a coming-of-age story about the daughter of Turkish immigrants as she begins her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. It's a literary novel, cerebral and full of ideas... exactly what you might expect with a Harvard freshman protagonist.

It turned out to be an unusual reading experience for me. Far from a page-turner, this book required more than my average amount of concentration. I was not especially drawn to the main character, didn't fully understand her, and yet was curious to see how her year would unfold. Additionally, I was never in a hurry to get back to this novel, but was happy to continue whenever I did. 

This was a read/listen combination for me, listening on my walks and reading at home. The audiobook is read by the author. Her narration was adequate, though not memorable.

The Idiot is very well written and said to be autobiographical. It was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize and Women's Prize for Fiction in 2018. Batuman has written other books, both fiction and memoir, and is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

A sequel to The Idiot, entitled Either/Or, picks up as the main character enters her sophomore year. In a smart marketing move, a sample is included at the end of the paperback edition. After reading it, I think I'll tag along for another year at Harvard.

My rating:


Sunday, November 19, 2023

A Pre-Thanksgiving Sunday Salon

Hello, friends and welcome to a pre-Thanksgiving edition of The Sunday Salon. It really doesn't seem possible that we are here already, does it? Do you have big plans for the holiday or are you looking forward to a quieter weekend? Our house will begin filling up on Tuesday and reach maximum capacity by Wednesday night when both NYC daughters with husbands/fiancés, our grandpup Winnie the Whippet, and a guest pup, Miss Moonshine, AKA Moonie, will all be in residence. My SIL has (wisely) opted for a nearby hotel!

We are at home this weekend and resting up. Friday we went out to dinner in New Haven and to the combined Yale-Harvard Glee Club Concert. We did not attend "The Game" yesterday afternoon, but I did go to my fist post-pandemic library book sale. That was almost as good... plus I picked up five books!

Today we are having brunch with friends, then attending a pre-holiday wine tasting at a local wine shop. On the reading front, I finished three books, including two novellas.

Recent reading//

An enjoyable novella (short story?) to read in a single sitting, this little book contains sparse prose, an intriguing storyline with a gentle mystery, and even a bit of humor. I first learned about it from The Book Club Review  podcast, then Ann Patchett mentioned it in her “New to You” Friday Instagram videos. I was happy to find the ebook available through my library! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

I plan to write a review post about this litereary novel. I think that will help in sorting out my thoughts. In short, it's a coming-of-age story about the daughter of Turkish immigrants as she begins her freshman year at Harvard in 1995. It was nominated for the Pulitzer and Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2018. Look for a post in a week or so. 

We The Animals by Justin Torres
audiobook narrated by Frankie J. Alvarez

Justin Torres won the National Book Award last week for his new novel Blackouts. That was not available from any of my libraries, but his 2011 semi-autobiographical debut novel was. The audio was also available in the audible plus catalog. At under 130 pages, it qualifies for Novellas in November which I seem to be unofficially participating in.

This novel is beautifully written and quite sad. It's one I'll continue to think about about, and I have a feeling my rating will increase over time. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Current Reading//

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This was a 5-star read for me back in 2017 and now it's the December selection of the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I just started my reread yesterday and, so far, it is every bit as good as I remembered.

by  Kwame Alexander, narrated by the author

I learned about this memoir from author and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander through the MMD Summer Reading Guide. A month or so ago I picked it up as a daily deal from Audible. I started listening to it on my walk yesterday. Very good, so far.

On the blog//

The Week Ahead//
... will likely be a busy one. I'd like to wish all of you a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.

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


Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Nonfiction November Week 3: Book Pairings

Nonfiction November continues this week with Book Pairings. Our host is Liz at Adventures in reading, running and working from home and this is the prompt:
This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. Maybe it’s a historical novel and the real history in a nonfiction version, or a memoir and a novel, or a fiction book you’ve read and you would like recommendations for background reading. You can be as creative as you like! You can feel free to use books you’ve read any time in this last year or whenever.

My book pairing this year deals with Climate Change... a topic that became a reality in my life on September 28, 2022 when Hurricane Ian devastated Sanibel Island, Florida.

by Jake Bittle

This nonfiction title was a 5-star read for me and will easily make my list of favorite books of 2023. My review is here.

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Cli Fi seems to be a popular micro-genre at the moment, but I can't quite summon the courage to read this novel... yet. It is a nominee for the 2023 Goodreads Choice Award in the Science Fiction category and comes highly recommend by my friend Les. You can read her review here. I'm planning to read it next year, after a little more time has passed.

Last Week's Nonfiction November post:


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Nonfiction November: My Year in Nonfiction


Nonfiction November is back and already underway! We're into Week 2 now, but I'm late to the party and this is the Week 1 prompt.  The host was Heather from Based on a True Story.


Overall, my nonfiction numbers are down this year. After hitting an all-time high of 42% nonfiction in 2019, it has been decreasing steadily. For the past several years, nonfiction has accounted for 30-35% of my reading. This year it has only been 22%. 

Preferred reading format//

I read nonfiction, of course, but I also love listening to it. Memoirs narrated by the author are the best! Having both an audiobook and a print copy is ideal. That way, I never miss out on photographs, maps, charts, or recipes. With a read/listen combination, I usually listen on my morning walks and read in the late afternoon or evening. Occasionally I'll even read and listen at the same time.

What I'm reading about this year//

I've read mostly memoirs this year, but also a couple of books about the Supreme Court and one on climate change. Noticeably absent this year are books about social justice, race relations, history, and biographies.

My Book List

Becoming Duchess Goldblatt: A Memoir by Duchess Goldblatt/ Anonymous
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen (reread)

(listed in the order I read them)

Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic

by Jake Bittle

My goal for Nonfiction November//
This year, like every other year, my goal is to learn about interesting nonfiction titles I may have missed.

What are your nonfiction favorites of 2023?

Sunday, November 5, 2023

October Reading Wrap- Up and Plans for November

Hello from Connecticut, where fall colors are fading fast and leaves continue to fall from the trees. October ended on such a high note, and now November is here. Our daughter's wedding last weekend was positively magical! We should have photos to share soon... we're waiting on the official proofs and our phone photos have yet to be approved. This weekend we are recharging at home before the November flurry of activity begins.

Surprisingly, October turned out to be a great month on the reading front, too. I read a total of seven books (unusually high for me) two of which were very short audios.

Books Read in October//

⭐⭐⭐⭐  fiction in translation, read/listen combination

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash  
⭐⭐⭐💫  fiction/mystery, MMD book club 

Open Throat by Henry Hoke, narrated by Pete Cross
⭐⭐⭐⭐  fiction/fantasy, audio

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ debut fiction

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, narrated by the author
⭐⭐⭐💫  classic, YA fiction, audio

Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly
⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 literary fiction (pandemic novel)

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel
⭐⭐⭐💫 fiction, MMD book club, read/listen combination

Favorite book read in October

November Reading Possibilities//

The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt (novella, completed)
The Idiot by Elif Batuman ( current read/listen)
Somebody's Fool by Richard Russo
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (reread)

Also in November//

Today we're meeting family in Rhode Island for brunch, midweek we travel to central New York for my nephew's wedding, then it's back home to celebrate my husband's birthday. We're looking forward to a houseful of family to help him blow out the candles, and a slightly larger contingent over the extra-long Thanksgiving weekend. Our upstairs bathroom renovation is set to begin immediately afterwards. Fingers crossed it's finished well before Christmas, otherwise we're in big trouble! At this point it looks like we may not get back to Florida until early 2024...

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

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sunday Update: Fall in CT and Wedding Week is Here!

Hello, friends. After nearly two months of rainy weekends, we finally got one that is at least mostly dry! The photo above was taken yesterday at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT and, as you can see, it's definitely fall! Today we'll visit Mystic Seaport, wander around some shops in the village, including a new favorite indie bookstore, and find a spot for a late lunch. There may even be an apple festival nearby.

Recent reading//
My two most recent print books are both set in Maine. That wasn't exactly planned, but I love Maine and cannot resist that setting. Both were great reads!

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Bowring

Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly

Recent listening//

by Sandra Cisneros, narrated by the author

This 1984 classic is just under 2 1/2 hours on audio. It's told as a series of vignettes featuring a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, growing up in Chicago. The author's narration adds to the impact and beauty of these stories. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Current reading//

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

This is the November selection for the MMD Book Club. I'm just past the halfway mark and enjoying it very much as a read/listen combination.

On the blog//

The week ahead//
Wedding week is here and we are all so excited! Our daughter is getting married in NYC on Saturday, so there won't be much time for reading or blogging. I'll check in again in early November with a monthly wrap-up. See you then...

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.



Related Posts with Thumbnails