Sunday, April 14, 2024

The Sunday Salon: April 14, 2024

Hello, friends! It's another sunny Sunday in SWFL. Add in a nice breeze with low humidity and it just doesn't get much better than this. We hit a milestone with post-hurricane repairs this week- our upstairs main living area, interior stairwell, and lower level foyer are completely done! At last. The lower level guest area is coming into the home stretch, too. What a relief!

Highlights last week included an amazing dinner out with old friends, the 52% solar eclipse (so cool, but why didn't we join my brother and SIL in Little Rock for totality?), plus some beach and reading time. 

Recent Reading//

Even though I certainly read this book back in junior high or high school, large sections felt unfamiliar. I didn't like it much in my early teens and, all these years later, reading about Huck's adventures was still a bit of a slog. Switching to a read/listen combination made it a little easier. Elijah Wood’s narration (available free with an audible plus membership) was excellent. I don’t read abridged editions, but it might have been a better option in this case.

James by Percival Everett

As you probably already know, this book is a reimagining of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  told from Jim's point of view... though he actually prefer the name James. And it is brilliant! It's also thrilling, subversive, and, at times, difficult to read. The author took some interesting liberties with the story in the second half and the conclusion literally took my breath away. 

This was another read/listen combination for me and the audio version narrated Dominic Hoffman was excellent. I'm curious to read more of Everett's work, possibly The Trees  next. Have you read it?

I should also mention that rereading Huck Finn certainly added to my appreciation of James, though a reread is not absolutely necessary. I would, however, recommend at least skimming an abridged edition. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Current reading//

Ladies' Lunch by Lore Segal

This short story collection by New Yorker  writer Lore Segal features 16 stories about a group of elderly women who have regularly met for lunch for more than 40 years. The stories deal with aging, loss, etc. and, as you might expect, the overall tone is somewhat melancholy. I'm glad it such a slim book.

About to start//

Girls and their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier

This is the May selection at MMD book club - an unusual choice for them and for me. I have the ebook on my kindle. We'll see how it goes.

Later today// 
My plan is to spend some time on the beach this afternoon... walking, shelling, and reading. 

The week ahead// 
It should be a relatively quiet week ahead. Other than the expected delivery of the downstairs bathroom vanity, we don't have anything special planned... at least not yet. It should be a blissfully 'routine' week.😊

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Sunday, April 7, 2024

March Reading Wrap-Up and Plans for April

Now that we've finished the first week of April, it's time to post a March reading wrap-up. Overall, I had a great reading month! After the last of our guest left early in the month, I have been at home more than usual as work continued on our house. And that translated into more reading time.

I ended up reading eight (!) books in March, which may be getting close to a personal record. Some were pretty short though. I started my Vietnam project, read a couple of works by Toni Morrison, and, thanks to MMD book club, I was introduced to Ada Calhoun and read a couple of her nonfiction titles, too.

Books Read in March

Recitatif by Toni Morrison, forward by Zadie Smith (short story) - 5 stars
We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange  - 4 stars
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai - 5 stars
House Love by Patric Richardson (nonfiction) - 3 stars
Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun (nonfiction, memoir) - 4.5 stars
Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel (nonfiction) - 4 stars
The Quiet American by Graham Greene (fiction, classic) - 4 stars
Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (nonfiction) - 4 stars

 Favorite March Book

Looking ahead to April...

I'd like to continue reading about Vietnam, read the May selection for MMD, reread Huck Finn  in preparation for Percival Everett's James, and maybe even snag a copy of Amor Towles' new book. (I wonder if I should reread Rules of Civility first...)

April Reading Possibilities

James by Percival Everett
Girls and their Horses by Eliza Jane Brazier
Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara (audio)
Absolution by Alice McDermott

We'll see how it goes.... 

What was your favorite March book? What do you have planned for April?

Sunday, March 31, 2024

An Easter Sunday Salon: March 31, 2024

Hello, friends. It's been a beautiful Easter Sunday in Sanibel... probably the best beach day we've had all year! Traditionally Easter marks the end of our 'high season', but since it's so early this year, that may not be the case. The beaches and restaurants are the busiest I've seen them since before Hurricane Ian. And speaking of Ian, this past week marked the 18 month anniversary of the storm that devastated our island. Though there is still a long road to recovery, it's really amazing to see how far we have come. 

Repairs continue on our home, too. The driveway project was completed last week, and now we're looking ahead to landscaping. The painters were here most of last week. I think they'll need another day or two, but then our upstairs (main) living area be back to the way it was before the storm! With any luck the downstairs will be finished before we head north, too.

Recent Reading//

Also A Poet by Ada Calhoun

This is the May selection for the MMD book club. I can say with certainty that I never would have picked this book up on my own, but ended up really enjoying it! ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel

As a life-long overthinker, this has been on my list since it was released several years ago. I found it on my library's shelf last week and was pleased to find several very useful strategies to break the cycle. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Quiet American by Graham Greene

My Vietnam reading continues. I plan to start Absolution by Alice McDermott next month and understand that it has a "narrative impact that recalls Graham Greene’s The Quiet American" so I decided to read this first. There is much I don't understand about America's role in Southeast Asia and it was interesting to read this take by a British author. I can see why it is considered a classic.

Current reading//

by Ada Calhoun, narrated by the author

I enjoyed Calhoun's voice so much in Also A Poet, I turned to this audiobook inspired by her "wildly popular" New York Times essay "The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give"... really good so far.

I plan to read James by Percival Everett soon and thought it might be a good idea to refresh my memory of Huck Finn.

It's hard to believe tomorrow is April.... I'll try to post a monthly reading wrap-up later this week.
How was your week? hat have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

A St. Patrick's Day Sunday Salon!

Hello, friends and Happy St. Patrick's Day! We are at home and alone this weekend... our first solo weekend in about six weeks. That's not at all a complaint, but I sure am enjoying the peace and quiet!

Work inside our house has come to a halt again... it's probably time to start nagging. The paver order came in though and work on the driveway is supposed to begin this week. In the meantime, I've finished several books since I checked in a couple of weeks ago.

Recent reading//

We Are the Brennans by Tracey Lange

This is the March selection at Modern Mrs. Darcy book club and was an enjoyable summer read for me back in 2021. I wasn't initially planning a reread, but there are quite a few characters and the details had become too fuzzy for me to enjoy the discussion and author chat. As it turned out, this book was even better the second time around! It's your typical messy family drama with lots of secrets and complicated relationships. In addition, the Brennan family owns a neighborhood Irish pub near Westchester county, NY which makes things even more interesting. The audio, narrated by Barrie Kreinik, is excellent. 

Recitatif by Toni Morrison

This is probably the most thought-provoking short story I've ever read! It's about two eight-year-old girls who spend several months as roommates at a shelter - one because her mother is sick and the other because her mother "dances all night." They randomly meet again several times over the years and the meetings cause both girls to question their memories and perceptions. One girl is black, the other is white, and Morrison chooses not to let the reader know which is which. 

Morrison herself described this story as "an experiment in the removal of all racial codes from a narrative about two characters of different races for whom racial identity is crucial." 

First published in 1983, it was reissued in 2022 with a discussion/introduction by Zadie Smith. I'm glad I heeded the advice to read the story BEFORE Smith's commentary. After reading both the story and then commentary, I went back and listened to the story again.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Loosely based on experiences of the author's relatives, this is a multigenerational story that follows one North Vietnamese family through the turbulence of the 20th century, including the Communist Land Reform, Great Hunger, and the Vietnam War. It was an absorbing, sobering read which caused me to think about Vietnam from a perspective I had not previously considered. 

I chose a read/listen combination and the audio, narrated by Quyen Ngo, enhanced my overall reading experience. I appreciated hearing correct pronunciations of names and places, and enjoyed the reader's melodious delivery of Vietnamese proverbs and poems. (The audiobook is available through hoopla.)

Highly recommended. Four and a half stars for now, but may increase as I continue to think about it. 

House Love by Patric Richardson

Richardson's previous book, Laundry Love,  was a hit for me in 2022 and he has developed quite a following since its publication. This book is an attempt to expand on that successful format by offering both decorating ideas and cleaning plans for every space in your house. 

Where Laundry Love was both entertaining and taught me a few things, this one was entertaining enough, but felt a little lighter on information. I should note that I listened to Laundry Love, narrated by the author, and am certain his delivery added to my enjoyment. It probably would have been a better  choice to listen to this one, too. 

Current reading//

Also A Poet by Ada Calhoun

I just started this memoir earlier today. It's the April selection at MMD and is pretty interesting so far. 

The week ahead//

This week will be more about socializing than appointments - hooray! We have some old friends arriving in their small RV tomorrow for a quick overnight, friends from Wisconsin coming for dinner on Tuesday, and a neighborhood party on Friday. Should be a fun week! 

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

The Sunday Salon: March is Here!

Hello friends and happy March?! February has pretty much been a blur. It's high season around here and we've had a full house all month! Both daughters with their partners, my sister and BIL, and now my SIL have all visited. It been great spending time with everyone, but didn't leave much time for reading.

On the renovation front, we finally made it to the top of the painter's list. They were here most of last week and our downstairs is starting to look livable again! They should finish this week, then the electricians will be back, with cabinets/vanity after that. 

Recent reading//

by Alexandra Lapierre, translated by Tina Kover

I purchased this book months ago with a birthday gift card and was excited when MMD book club chose it as a February "flight pick" to go with The Personal Librarian. This book was longer, more literary, and more detailed. After reading the author's notes, bibliography, etc, I think it is the more accurate portrayal. Plus there were photos! The Morgan Library & Museum has an upcoming exhibition on Belle Greene's life. I'm hoping to read this biography before visiting.

Sula by Toni Morrison

I've only read a couple of Toni Morrison's novels and wanted to squeeze in one more before the end of the month. Sula  is short, just under 200 pages. It tells the story of two close childhood friends and how their relationship devolves over the course of a lifetime, even as an inexplicable bond remains.

Current reading//

We Are the Brennans by Tracy Lange

This is the March pick of the MMD book club. I enjoyed it back in the summer of 2021... enough to do a quick reread prior to discussion. I'll finish within the next couple of days.

Up next//

Recitatif by Toni Morrison

I brought this tiny hardcover home from the library last week and will set aside some time to read the short story today. Zadie Smith's introduction/discussion is actually longer than the story. I've been advised to read  the story first!

The week ahead//

My sister-in-law will be here for another week. There is talk of a short trip to Key West, but I will likely stick around here while the repairs continue. That means that I'll finally  get some time to read!

How was your week? What have you been reading lately?

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 11, 2024

A Super Bowl Sunday Salon: February 11, 2024

Hello friends! It's a sunny Super Bowl Sunday on Sanibel and, while I don't really care about the game this year, it's still fun to watch the commercials and halftime show. 

It's good to check in here again after a busy couple of weeks. We got to spend time with our daughter/her fiancé and celebrate her birthday over their long weekend visit. The painters finally finished the outside work, then promptly disappeared before moving on to interior repairs. But I'm told we're still on "the list." The rest of the landscape clean-up is done and we're expecting a load of gravel tomorrow. Our pavers have been ordered, but delivery is ten weeks out. Baby steps... 

Recent reading//

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray 

Collaborating on a novel must be incredibly difficult and, for me, the result was a great story with less than memorable writing. I really loved learning about Belle Greene, J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, and the time period. Now I plan to dig a little deeper into Belle's life and accomplishments. The Morgan Library and Museum in NYC has an upcoming exhibition about her life and legacy opening in late October and I'm already planning my visit.

Marie Benedict spoke at our library last week and I was lucky enough to "win" a ticket in the lottery. However a multi-vehicle crash blocked traffic which resulted in hours of gridlock on much of the island, including my routes to the library. I was unable to get there. My only consolation is that both authors will join a zoom chat with MMD book club later this month! ⭐⭐⭐⭐

by Jill Ciment, narrated by Hillary Huber

So far this year I've stuck with planned reading, but this book was entirely an impulse pick. Ann Patchett talked about it during her most recent Friday "New to You" instagram video segment. I was intrigued, found the audiobook (read by a favorite narrator) available on Libby, and then listened into the wee hours of the night when I should have been sleeping!

This short novel (under 5 1/2 hours) is about a high-profile murder trial where a teenaged girl is accused of killing her toddler brother. Two jurors, sequestered for the entirety of the trial, begin a covert affair. After the trial, juror C2 returns home to her elderly husband and the affair leads to "profoundly personal and moral consequences." Dark, tense, and tightly written, I could not stop listening!

Current reading//

Belle Greene by Alexandra Lapierre, translated by Tina Kover 

I'm almost 30% into this 500+ page novel, another work of historical fiction about Belle Greene. It's the February "flight pick" for MMD and so interesting to compare/contrast with The Personal Librarian in terms of both substance and style. At this point I think it is the superior novel. Both the ebook and audiobook are available on hoopla.

In the kitchen//

I'm back to trying at least one new recipe each week. My latest offering came from a recent Publix ad - Key Lime-Peanut Grilled Chicken Skewers  Except for cutting back on the pepper, I followed the recipe exactly as written. This is a "flavor profile" we all like, so I had a feeling it would be a hit. This will stay in our grilling season dinner rotation!

The week ahead//

Besides the delivery and spreading of new gravel, we're also looking forward to a Taco Tuesday party at a neighbor's, an afternoon with old college friends, and my sister and BIL's arrival next weekend. I'm hoping for plenty of reading time and a few sunsets at the beach, too!

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, January 28, 2024

Sanibel Sunday: January 28, 2024

Hello, from Sanibel Island. It's a cloudy Sunday afternoon and I'm looking forward to a lazy day of reading, blogging, watching football, and maybe a little time at the beach if the rain holds off.

We seem to be at a standstill on our hurricane reconstruction project. Evidently the painter is weeks behind schedule, so I'll be pleasantly surprised if they get to us before March! That's been frustrating, but the good news is that our landscape and driveway work should begin soon.

Recent reading//

Coming Home by Roasmunde Pilcher

My first book of 2024, Rosamunde Pilcher's chunky WWII novel proved to be the perfect kickoff for the new year. Buddy reading with Tina added to the fun and our daily email exchange was the best! I've been a Pilcher fan for decades, but had never read this 1995 gem. As always, I loved her characters and descriptions but, for such a long novel, this was a real page-turner, too. After over 950 pages, I still wasn't ready to leave the world Pilcher created and couldn't bring myself to pick up another book for days. Coming Home  has earned a spot on my favorites shelf and will certainly appear on my Best of 2024 list.

Currently reading//

by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
audio edition narrated by Robin Miles

My current read is the February selection for both the MMD book club and our library's book discussion group. In addition, Marie Benedict is the next speaker in Sanibel Public Library's Author Series and I was luck enough to get a ticket in the lottery! I'm at the halfway point now and enjoying this as a read/listen combination.

Up next//

I plan to pick up Belle Greene by Alexandra Lapierre, translated by Tina Kover next. This book is the MMD flight pick for February. I think it will be interesting to compare these two works of historical fiction about the same person - J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene.

In the kitchen//

Salmon regularly appears in our dinner rotation, mostly because it's so good for you. But, in all honesty, I don't like it all that much. Last week I tried this Baked Pineapple Salmon  from Chef Jar and it's a game-changer. I prefer my salmon cooked more thoroughly than is often recommended, so set the temperature to 400 degrees rather than 375 and gave it a few extra minutes in the oven. I've already shared this recipe with my daughter and sister...  it's now my favorite way to prepare salmon!

The week ahead//

Our oldest daughter and her fiancé will visit for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. It's been a year since their last trip to FL, so I'll be curious to hear their assessment of the island's progress since Hurricane Ian. I think they'll be surprised at how far we've come. Can't wait to see them! 

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, January 14, 2024

My Year in Books: 2023 Reading Reflections and 2024 Intentions

Before we get too much deeper into January, I'd like to share my 2023 reading reflections and lay out some intentions for the year ahead.

Overall, 2023 proved to be a better year for us than 2022. We began to recover from Hurricane Ian, spent a lot of time with family, celebrated one daughter's wedding (and have another to look forward to in 2024), and gained a wonderful son-in-law. On the reading front, it was a very satisfying year.

By the numbers:

48 books read - lower than my usual one book per week 
79% fiction, 21% nonfiction  - the downward trend for nonfiction continues
69% female authors, 31% male
67% new-to-me authors, 33% repeat authors 

rereads: 8%, much higher than usual
in translation: 8%
classics: 13%
"big books" over 400 pages: 23%
average rating: 4.2

58% read/listen combination 
27% print
15% audio  

42% own 
31% library
27% own + library (for read/listen combos) 

Shortest book / Longest book
The Shortest Day by Colm Toibin, 31 pages
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry 964 pages


Read/listen combinations:  These continue to account for the majority of my reading and I tried to get an audio copy of every book I read. I primarily read one book at a time and love listening to my current read while walking. Total listening time, however, was down this year due to recurrent knee injuries.

Reading big books: Setting a lower goodreads goal in 2023 allowed me the freedom to read long books without worrying about overall numbers. Nearly 25% of the books I read were over 400 pages.

A loose monthly reading plan: This was my second year of using a loose monthly reading plan. Having a list of "possibilities" worked well, and I gave myself permission to stray from it occasionally.

Joining the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club: I joined MMD in May for the summer reading guide, then decided to stick around. I've enjoyed most of the selections (a couple ended up on my list of favorites), along with the author chats, book discussion forums, and events. The Lonesome Dove community/buddy read was a highlight of the year.


Opt out of the goodreads challenge... at least for now. 

Lean into big books: 2023 reminded me how much I love getting lost in sprawling novels, so my first book of 2024, and still my current read, is the 977-page Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. It's excellent!

Make a priority TBR list: My goodreads tbr (to be read) list is ridiculously long. I've decided to keep a much shorter, fluid "priority" list to consult as I plan monthly reading possibilities.

I look forward to sharing another year of books and reading with you. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

My Year in Books: 2023 Favorites

We're well into 2024 and I'm finally getting to my 2023 wrap-up posts. I'll list my favorite books today, then look at statistics, reflections, and resolutions over the weekend.

Overall, 2023 was a very good reading year. I was slightly off my usual pace of one book per week, but that was mostly due to reading some really long books. (I'm looking at you, Lonesome Dove!) I did not consider rereads when choosing my favorites, but Pride and Prejudice would certainly be here otherwise. 


Tom Lake by Ann Patchett
(read/listen combination)

The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
(read/listen combination)

Trust by Hernan Diaz
(read/listen combination)

Chorus by Rebecca Kauffman
(read/listen combination)

by Anne Berest, translated by Tina Kover
(read/listen combination)

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
(read/listen combination)

The Road To Dalton by Shannon Bowring
(print only)

Day by Michael Cunningham
(print only)

Honorable Mention
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
Pete and Alice in Maine by Caitlin Shetterly


Nine Black Robes by Joan Biskupic
(read/listen combination)

by Jake Bittle
(read/listen combination)


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