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.


Saturday, October 21, 2023

Quick Reviews of Two Great Maine Novels: THE ROAD TO DALTON and PETE AND ALICE IN MAINE

by Shannon Bowring
Europa Editions, 2023
250 pages

Summary (from goodreads):

In most small towns, the private is also public. In the town of Dalton, one local makes an unthinkable decision that leaves the community reeling. In the aftermath, their problems, both small and large, reveal a deeper understanding of the lives of their neighbors, and remind us all that no one is exactly who we think they are....

The Road to Dalton offers valuable understandings of what it means to be alive in the world—of pain and joy, conflict and love, and the endurance that comes from living.

My thoughts:

 If you find character-driven novels about small town life appealing, this is your book! Set in the northernmost reaches of Maine, the locals touched my heart and their stories will stick with me for a very long time.

This is a beautifully written debut  novel and I will happily read whatever Shannon Bowring chooses to write next. According to her website a sequel to Dalton, entitled Where the Forest Meets the River, is forthcoming from Europa Editions. Hooray!

by Caitlin Shetterly
Harper, 2023
256 pages 

Summary (from goodreads):

A powerful and beautifully written debut novel set against the backdrop of the chaotic spring of 2020 that intimately explores a fractured marriage and the struggles of modern parenthood. Reeling from a painful betrayal in her marriage as the Covid pandemic takes hold in New York City, Alice packs up her family and flees to their vacation home in Maine. She hopes to find sanctuary—from the uncertainties of the exploding pandemic and her faltering marriage. Putting distance between herself and the stresses and troubles of the city, Alice begins to feel safe and relieved. But the locals are far from friendly. Trapped and forced into quarantine by hostile neighbors, Alice sees the imprisoning structure of her life in his new predicament. Stripped down to the bare essentials of survival and tending to the needs of her two children, she can no longer ignore all the ways in which she feels limited and lost—lost in the big city, lost as a wife, lost as a mother, lost as a daughter and lost as a person. As the world shifts around her and the balance in her marriage tilts, Alice and her husband, Pete, are left to consider if what keeps their family safe is the same thing as what keeps their family together.

My thoughts:

This is a pandemic novel. The virus is an ever-present force, and the novel ends before the vaccine is introduced.

I find family dramas irresistible and this  one is really well done. But be aware of potential triggers - besides the pandemic itself, there is a marriage in crisis, and a flashback to a premature birth and resulting trauma.

The author sets this novel in her home state of Maine. Naturally, tension between Mainers and the covid escapees is palpable. Shetterly skillfully navigates a variety of difficult subjects, and the result is a propulsive, tight debut novel which I could not put down.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


by Michiko Aoyama, translated by Alison Watts
Hanover Square Press, 2023
304 pages

Harlequin Audio, 2023
narrated by  Hanako Footman, Susan Momoko Hingley, 
Kenichiro Thomson, Winson Ting, Shiro Kawai
7 hours ad 19 minutes

Summary (from goodreads):

What are you looking for?
This is the famous question routinely asked by Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. Like most librarians, Komachi has read every book lining her shelves—but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of her library guests. For anyone who walks through her door, Komachi can sense exactly what they’re looking for in life and provide just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.

Each visitor comes to her library from a different juncture in their careers and dreams, from the restless sales attendant who feels stuck at her job to the struggling working mother who longs to be a magazine editor. The conversation that they have with Sayuri Komachi—and the surprise book she lends each of them—will have life-altering consequences.

With heartwarming charm and wisdom, What You Are Looking For Is in the Library  is a paean to the magic of libraries, friendship and community, perfect for anyone who has ever found themselves at an impasse in their life and in need of a little inspiration.

My thoughts:

This is one of those books that keeps getting better the more I think about it!

Like No Two Persons  by Erica Bauermeister, it's told in a series of connected stories - a format which continues to grow on me. Instead of focusing on each character's relationship with a book as No Two Persons, the stories in What You Are Looking For Is in the Library are told from the viewpoint of various library patrons contemplating a new path forward in life. The common denominator is Ms. Komachi, a reference librarian with an uncanny ability to perceive what each patron is truly searching for. Along with a list of books pertaining to their specific query, she also recommends one seemingly off-beat selection which ultimately provides direction and clarity. 

In addition to Ms. Komachi, other characters also appear in multiple stories. This helps tie the novel together and also provides the reader with slightly different perspectives. I really enjoyed my time spent with this short novel.

The audio, available on hoopla, is very well done and has a a different narrator for each story. It added to both the atmosphere of the novel and my overall reading experience.

Highly recommended   

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Thoughts on THE COVENANT OF WATER by Abraham Verghese

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Grove Press, kindle edition 2023
775 pages

audio edition narrated by the author
Recorded Books, 2023
31 hours and 16 minutes

Summary (from goodreads):
A stunning and magisterial new epic of love, faith, and medicine, set in Kerala and following three generations of a family seeking the answers to a strange secret.

Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water  is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life. All of Verghese’s great gifts are on display in this new work: there are astonishing scenes of medical ingenuity, fantastic moments of humor, a surprising and deeply moving story, and characters imbued with the essence of life.

A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water  is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.

My thoughts:
This is a tough book to review because my feelings are complicated.

The Covenant of Water  is a beautifully written, all-encompassing family saga. It delves into culture, class, medicine, art, faith, politics, and more. There are scores of characters, multiple storylines, complicated relationships, deep secrets, and somehow this talented author manages to weave them all together to culminate in one of the most remarkable endings I've ever experienced. What an amazing feat! 

But there is a downside. It took 775 pages (in my kindle edition) and over 31 hours on audio to get to that mind-blowing ending. I got bogged down a few times along the way, and even considered giving up at one point. Instead I decided to take a break - twice. And each time the characters called me back. I could not get them out of my mind! 

Ultimately, the ending made reading all 775 pages worth it! And yet even with the stunning ending, gorgeous writing, and unforgettable characters, I hesitate to recommend this book to other readers.

A note on the audio production:
Abraham Verghese is a man of many talents. In addition to being a physician and an extraordinary writer, he has been blessed with a melodic voice and the ability to use it to further elevate the words he has written. The author's narration enhanced my overall reading experience. I highly recommend a read/listen combination.

My rating:
The ending elevated what might have been a 4-star read to 4.5 stars.

Bottom line:
The Covenant of Water  is a wonderful read, but it requires a huge time commitment plus the mental space to keep up with all the characters/threads. It’s one of those books where you really have to choose your reading time wisely!

Sunday, October 8, 2023

The Sunday Salon: An Entire Week at Home!

Hello, friends. It's a beautiful Sunday morning on the Connecticut coast. We were finally at home for an entire week and it was glorious! I went for a walk every morning, got caught up on chores around the house, cooked dinners that were actually planned ahead of time, and  managed to finish three books. 

Also this week we took a short drive up the coast to the Watch Hill area of Westerly, RI... which was gorgeous. From there we continued on to an oyster bar further up the coast for a late lunch. It was a perfect early fall day!

Recent reading//

This was a delightful book. I'll have a review soon.

When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash
This is the October selection of the MMD book club and there will be a live chat with the author later this month. I liked this book and rated it 3.5 stars.

by Henry Hoke, narrated by Pete Cross 
This was one unusual audiobook! It's just under 2 hours long, available for immediate download via hoopla,  and I really enjoyed it.

Current reading//

The Road to Dalton by Shannon Dalton

I purchased this book over the summer, finally sat down to read it last night, and love it already! Told from a variety of perspectives, it's about life and the people inhabiting a small town in "The County" - Aroostook County, Maine's northernmost reaches. There's even a blurb from Richard Russo on the cover, which seems a like a perfect fit to me.

by Sandra Cisneros, narrated by the author

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I started listening to this short classic on my walk this morning. The author's note at the beginning perfectly framed the novel for me, and her narration is great.

The week ahead//
This week I need to catch up on book reviews! In addition to the three books I finished last week, I still want to share my thoughts on The Covenant of Water  by Abraham Verghese.

We are also driving back up to central New York later this week. Besides spending time my parents, I need to get my hair cut and highlighted one last time before the wedding at the end of the month. It'll be here before we know 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.


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