Sunday, April 30, 2023

April Reading Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to May

Hello, friends. It's a stormy morning in SWFL... lots of lightning, strong winds, and heavy rain. It woke me up before six, so I watched it blow through while sipping my coffee. There's another line of storms coming, but those should be a little less intense!

As we close in on the end of the month, my SIL has made good progress in preparing for her move. She'll be here with us for another week and a half before flying home to NY. It's also time to take a look at my April reading.

Finished last week//

A goodreads giveaway, this delightful family story opens with the most unusual funeral scene I've ever come across! Look for my review of later in the week.

Current reading//

Nine Black Robes: Inside the Supreme Court's Drive to the Right and Its Historic Consequences by Joan Biskupic

This fascinating book chronicles the last several years in the judicial branch of the US government, including significant cases, personalities, and behind-the scenes activities. There is a lot here to absorb so I've slowed my pace to around a chapter a day. 

Books completed in April//

May reading possibilities//

In the kitchen//

The only new recipe we tried this week was Honey-Hoisin Salmon from Katie Workman of The Mom 100. It's simple to mix up this flavorful marinade. I left it in the refrigerator for 2 hours before grilling and served it with a seaweed salad and rice. We'll use this one again!

From my photo folder//

My daughter sent a cute photo of the grandpup, Winnie the Whippet, and it occurred to me that I've never shared a photo of her here! Winnie is now 8 months old and growing quickly. They're taking her to obedience classes, but lately she seems to have developed some separation anxiety. Working through that is the top priority right now. Can't wait to see her when we're back in CT!

That's it for my week. How was yours? 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, April 23, 2023

The Sunday Salon: April 23, 2023

 Hello, friends. It's another sunny Sunday on Sanibel. We're going to try and make it to the Farmers Market before it ends, so this will be a pretty quick post.

I didn't finish any books last week but we've been enjoying my SIL's visit, preparing some special dinners, and heading to the beach every evening for sunset. No complaints here!

Current reading//

What a timely read! Only 25% in now, but I'm finding it to be a fascinating, well-researched book.

This is a goodreads giveaway win and it opens with the most original, amusing funeral scene ever! I'm about 30% in and finding it very entertaining. Hope I have more time to read in the upcoming week...

On the blog//

In the kitchen//

We love coconut shrimp around here. (It's my favorite air fryer recipe!)  I recently came across Tieghan Gerard's recipe for Coconut Chicken Fingers with Bang Bang Sauce on her website, Half-Baked Harvest. This recipe bakes in the oven and was a crowd favorite last week. I can't wait to make it again!

The week ahead//

This week we'll really get down to business sorting my SIL's stuff, figuring out what to move north, and what she no longer needs. She's extended her stay here... I think it's going to take a while to get this all figured out.

We also have a couple of appointments scheduled. Plus, there's an outside chance they'll start the remaining remediation necessary before the downstairs sheetrock installation. You never know...

That's a quick look at my week. How was your? 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, April 22, 2023

Three Overdue Reviews: How to Be a Good Creature, Demon Copperhead, and Chorus

by Sy Montgomery narrated by the author
HighBridge Audio, 2018
3 hours and 42 minutes

Last year Sy Montgomery's book, The Soul of an Octopus, fed my newly acquired interest in pacific octopuses, so I was happy to discover this title while browsing audiobooks on hoopla. The short memoir tells a story of Montgomery's life through her experiences with animals she has owned or observed/studied over the years - from her childhood puppy, to a pet pig, group of emus and a Pacific octopus. This is an animal lover's delight!

I listened to the audiobook, but also borrowed a print copy from the library. With many cute illustrations and a photo section, it is a beautiful little book!

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper, 2022
546 pages

audio edition narrated by Charlie Thurston
Harper Audio, 2022
21 hours and 3 minutes

Barbara Kingsolver has done it again! As you probably already know, this novel was inspired by David Copperfield  by Charles Dickens and includes many clever twists on names and plot points. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy born to a substance-abusing teen mother in rural Appalachia. It tells of poverty, drug abuse, the foster care system, and resulting trauma. The novel is compelling, the characters are memorable, and it's so well-written. However, I found parts of it difficult to read. Though there are positive relationships and some good times, Demon experiences much hardship, abuse, and tragedy. I'm happy Kingsolver chose to leave readers with a hopeful ending. 

Also of note, for a novel of this length it reads very quickly. This was a read/listen combination for me and the audio production was excellent. I'm hoping to read David Copperfield within the next few months.

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman
Counterpoint, 2022
272 pages

For readers of Alice Munro, Elizabeth Strout, and Claire Lombardo, Chorus shepherds seven siblings through two life-altering events—their mother's untimely death, and a shocking teenage pregnancy—that ultimately follow them through their lives as individuals and as a family.... Chorus is a hopeful story of family, of loss and recovery, of complicated relationships forged between brothers and sisters as they move through life together, and of the unlikely forces that first drive them away and then ultimately back home.

This book is an under-the-radar gem! I don't remember seeing much buzz about it, but decided to give Chorus  a try anyway because I loved Kauffman's earlier novel, The Gunners. This novel, set in the 1920s-1950s, is filled with interesting characters and complex family relationships. The entire family (two parents and seven siblings) is introduced up front, so I found it helpful to make a cheat sheet listing all the kids, oldest to youngest. They quickly became clear and distinct individuals in my mind. The writing here is gorgeous and I appreciated Kauffman's ability to delve into all those relationships. The siblings' genuine warmth toward each other was palpable, along with a variety of other emotions. I absolutely loved this book!

Sunday, April 16, 2023

A Mid-April Sunday Salon

Hello, friends! It's a sunny Sunday on Sanibel Island and I cannot believe we're halfway through April. I didn't get a chance to check in last week, but we had a quiet, peaceful Easter. There were no visitors this year, so I had plenty of time to read and relax.

Hurricane repairs are progressing. The garage door was installed last week and, now that the electricians have finished their work on the lower level, we can use it! It seems we need more cleaning/remediation downstairs before the sheetrock goes up, so we're keeping our fingers crossed that it happens this week.

Recent reading//

I finished three books since my last post. Instead of adding the reviews here, I'll do a mini-review roundup late this week. All three were between 4 and 5 stars, so some really good reading so far this month.

by Sy Montgomery

by Barbara Kingsolver

by Rebecca Kauffman

Current reading//

by Joan Biskupic

Since reading Joan Biskupic's biographies of Chief Justice John Roberts and Sonia Sotomayor, I've come to admire her work. The focus here is on the court as a whole, rather than one specific justice. I'm only 10% in now, so this may take awhile. She has also written biographies of Sandra Day O'Connor and Antonin Scalia that I'd like to read one day. Have I mentioned that I am a Supreme Court junkie?

by Cat Shook

I opened my email this morning and discovered I'd won a goodreads kindle giveaway! This book will be released on Tuesday and is described as being for fans of We Are the Brennans  by Tracey Lange and All Adults Here by Emma Straub. Both of those books were solid 4-star reads for me. Since the Supreme Court book is on the heavy side, I need to lighten things up and plan to start this today.

On the blog//

The week ahead//

My sister-in-law is coming to stay with us for a couple of weeks. She has a place in Ft. Myers that needed post-hurricane renovation. Rather than moving back in now, she has decided to move on. There's work to be done sorting, packing, and shipping what's important back to NY. We'll help her with that process and are looking forward to spending some time with her.

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.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Book Review: I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOU by Rebecca Makkai

by Rebecca Makkai
Viking, 2023
448 pages

audio edition narrated by Julia Whelan
Penguin Audio, 2023
14 hours and 4 minutes

Motivation for reading:
I loved Makkai's earlier novel, The Great Believers, and have been eagerly awaiting her next offering.

Source:   ebook and digital audio borrowed from the library

Publisher's summary:
A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past—the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school, and the murder of her former roommate, Thalia Keith, in the spring of their senior year. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are hotly debated online, Bodie prefers—needs—to let sleeping dogs lie.

But when the Granby School invites her back to teach a course, Bodie is inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought—if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.

My thoughts:

If I had not read and loved The Great Believers, I probably would not have picked up this book based on the plot description. Additionally, if loving The Great Believers, was my sole motivation for choosing I Have Some Questions for You, I would have been sorely disappointed. Luckily, I had been forewarned that the two novels were completely different... and decided to read it anyway.

At it's heart, I Have Some Questions for you is a literary murder mystery, and a really good one! Makkai's writing is crisp, fresh, and pulled me right into the story. I'm always down for a good boarding school novel. Plus, I enjoyed the reminiscences of the 90s and the aspect of high school memories and re-examination of those experiences as an adult. I also loved the legal drama aspect. (Note to self: read this type of book more often.)  

What surprised me though, was everything else I found in the novel - a #MeToo movement storyline, the social justice aspect, and even some feminist rage. There is a lot here and Makkai does it very well. I found this to be an enjoyable page turner from a talented author.

A note on the audio production:  Like most of my reading lately, I Have Some Questions for You  was a read/listen combination. Over the past few years, Julia Whelan has become a favorite narrator. Her voice has a slight edge, maybe even barb, to it and that really suits this story perfectly. I'm glad I added the audio to my reading experience.

Bottom line: This IS NOT The Great Believers, but if you're open to something totally different from a proven talent, I Have Some Questions for You  could be just the thing!

My rating: 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

March Wrap-Up and April Reading Possibilities

March is over, and it sure was a long month! As we marked the six month anniversary of Hurricane Ian's devastating blow, we also noted signs of progress and hope. Mail delivery resumed, a couple of island restaurants reopened, and nearly all of the large debris piles are gone. We try not to focus on the ravaged  vegetation, and opt to plant native trees and ground covers in its place. As island landmarks and homes are demolished, we imagine what is to come. 

At our house, a window ordered months ago has arrived (will it be installed in April?), we have a garage door installation date, and a contractor showed up to measure for sheetrock last week. Baby steps. 

March was a good reading month, too.
  • 6 - books completed
  • 3 - fiction
  • 3 - nonfiction
  • 2 - 5-star reads
  • 2 - reviews pending

March Books

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson - 4.5 stars
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal - 4 stars
The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz - 5 stars
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - 5 stars
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai - 4 stars 

They're Going to Love You by Meg Howrey - read 10% before library clawed back ebook, will eventually request again

March Favorites

April Reading Possibilities

Demon Copperhead  by Barbara Kingsolver - 546 pages (in progress)
David Copperfield  by Charles Dickens - 882 pages

Given the length of those two books, I'll end the list there. I've read many Dickens novels and have had David Copperfield  next on the list for a while. Will this be the month?

How was your March? What was your favorite book of the month?


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