Monday, March 19, 2018

March 19, 2018: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday... and I'm reading again! I finished two books this week and started two more.

Today is also the last day of winter. Relatively cool temperatures moderated by midweek, and we had perfect beach weather for the weekend. The island is at full capacity now and will be through Easter when "high season" ends. It will gradually get quieter until schools let out, then summer season begins. We'll stay until Memorial Day.

Finished this week//

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

I loved reading this novel a second time but, once again, was frustrated by Isabel's decision at the end. This time, I focused on her motives... mulling over several which I won't go into here. James, notorious for ambiguity, is always open to interpretation. This is where John Banville comes in ...

Banville picks up Isabel's story in his new novel Mrs. Osmond. I'm hoping he takes us through her decision, making us privy to the thought process, and then imagining how her life plays out. My library hold should arrive soon.

I'm embarrassingly late finishing our February read-along and have learned that in the future, it might be best not to schedule reading events during winter guest season ;-)

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak 

This was a perfect post-Henry James recovery book! I enjoyed everything about this family quarantined at Christmastime novel - the characters, the setting, their secrets, the short chapters told from alternating viewpoints, and the resolution. Reading it on the beach certainly added to the experience.

Current reading//

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
I read the first 25 pages of Lippman's new psychological thriller yesterday afternoon and can already tell it will be a page turner. Can't wait to pick it up again later today!

Listening to//

by Jennifer Wright, narrated by Gabra Zackman
This book was recommended by several of my most trusted audio sources. Books about medicine tend to appeal to me anyway, but I'm especially enjoying this author's voice and style... very Mary Roach-like.

The National Parks series was sidelined in favor of March Madness (Go 'Cuse!) We'll try to watch a couple more episodes before the games continue on Thursday.

In the kitchen//
Ever since my mother mentioned gingerbread last week, I've been craving it. Yesterday I made Laurie Colwin’s Gingerbread. The recipe is from the New York Times (as is the photo), but I'm sure it appears in her books as well. My father-in-law asked for seconds... it was delicious!

The week ahead//
With no company on the horizon, this feels almost like a vacation week! We're back to our normal routine... I might even finish another another book.

How was your week? What are you reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sanibel Saturday: March 10, 2018

It's March?? February certainly got away from me, and so far March is just as crazy. It was not a great month for reading, but we entertained lots of visitors, spent time with old friends, and enjoyed all the outdoor activities our island has to offer. After our daughters left early last month, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit. Next to arrive were my college roommate and her husband. While she was here, we drove up to the Tampa area to visit more old college pals. My brother and his girlfriend flew into Tampa yesterday to catch a couple of baseball spring training games, and they'll drive down here tomorrow. Twin B will be back at the end of the month for Easter and an early birthday celebration. Busy is an understatement, but I'm loving every minute!

Southwest Florida basked in record warmth throughout the month of February, while the northeast has been pounded by one storm after another. The first nor'easter (Riley?) dropped 29" of snow at our home in central NY, though Quinn barely grazed the area. I miss my family and friends - and Wegmans, of course - but am happy to be out of the snow belt!

Current reading//

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Remember my February read-along with Bellezza, Audrey, and a few others? I'm still plodding along,  now around the 75% mark. This was supposed to be a read/listen combination for me but, with all our recent company, I  hardly remember my last solitary beach walk. I'm mostly reading on my kindle now, and find myself stumbling over James' long sentences at times. Too many distractions? Possibly.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

This book has been on my wish list since before its release. The publisher's summary reminded me of This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, which I loved and still consider to be one of the funniest books ever.  I spied Hornak's novel on the library shelf the other day and the first 50 pages are entertaining. So much for reading from my shelves this winter...


We started this six-part PBS series by Ken Burns last week as we contemplate another great western adventure... possibly in September or early October. Author Wallace Stegner referred to the nationals parks as "America's best idea" - what a great subtitle.

In the kitchen//

The Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie I mentioned in my last post was a big hit. Served with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, it is very rich, so cut small pieces! It also freezes well.

These are really glorified chicken tenders from the kids menu of your favorite restaurant, but so tasty! Serve with a little marinara sauce on the side for dipping. They're easy to prepare and cleanup is minimal.

I'll be serving up these Blackened Shrimp Tacos from Budget Bytes again. The same seasoning blend could be used two make fish tacos, too. I might us a little less next time - we're not big on spicy.  I've already made the coleslaw three times!

Looking forward to//

- spending time with my brother
- kayaking and biking at the wildlife refuge
- finishing a book ;-)

That's about all the news here. What's happening in your corner of the world? Have you read any good books lately?


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: February 11, 2018

Good morning, friends. I didn't post last weekend when our daughters were visiting, so this is a two week catch up. The weather has been just about perfect here. Southwest Florida is basking in record warmth... I'll take it over windchill any day!

We celebrated one daughter's birthday on Monday, went shopping and lunching with my SIL, made four (!) trips to the airport, and, for the first time this winter, relaxed  and read  on the beach!

Recent reading//

Nonfiction always has a greater impact on me when personal stories are included, and Timothy Egan did an excellent job piecing together multiple accounts of life on the plains during the Dust Bowl. I enjoyed this book and learned a lot. Especially surprising was the fact that east coast cities experienced some of the more severe "dusters" too. This book made me want to reread The Grapes of Wrath, and the mention of Red Cloud, Nebraska reminded me that it's been a while since I last read Willa Cather.

The Worst Hard Time was a read/listen combination for me. The audio version, narrated by Patrick Lawlor, was well-done, but I always checked the print version for photos and maps after my walks.

Finally, without getting political, this man-made natural disaster should serve is an important reminder that our government must consider the environmental impact of its policies.
My rating:

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Wow... what a complex and emotional novel! It started slowly, but I loved how the story gradually unfolded. Chapters alternate between the present (featuring an aging man and his two daughters) and letters written to him by his wife who disappeared years ago, and is presumed drowned. The "truth" of their marriage is revealed piecemeal through the letters. Unique structure.
My rating:

Sisters by Lily Tuck

"First and second wives are like sisters."
-Christopher Nicholson (Winter)

Wife #2, our unnamed narrator, refers to Wife #1 as She. The short chapters (some just a sentence or two) read like vignettes, but reveal so much! I liked the spare writing... you can read this little book in one sitting. Thanks for the recommendation, Diane.
My rating:

Current reading//

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
"I don't wish to be a mere sheep in the flock; I wish to choose my fate and know something of human affairs beyond what other people think it compatible with propriety to tell me."
The read-along continues, but I didn't make much progress last week. At the 30% mark, I've settled into James' style and am enjoying the reread... but surprised at how much I've forgotten! We plan to discuss the book at the end of the month.

Instead of starting another novel in print, I'll focus on this one all week... at least until our next guests arrive over the weekend.

Beyond the books//

As they say on the island, "season" is here. The restaurants are always busy, there are lots of people on the beach, it requires more effort to navigate the bike paths, and don't even try to drive off island between 3 and 6! We've gotten used to it over the years, and plan accordingly.

My sister and brother-in-law arrive this weekend... lots of activities planned for their visit.

Have you discovered the new Instagram account dogs_infood? I'm slightly obsessed...

My FIL is coming for dinner today. We're having grilled salmon and I'm making this Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie for dessert.

How was your week? What are you reading?


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: January 28, 2018

Hello, friends. Zelda and I were on the beach early this morning to watch the sun rise. We may have some rain later, but I'd say the day is off to a  beautiful start!

Finished last week//

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

Two thirds - we're making progress! Audrey and I have been slowly reading Trollope's Palliser series, and this is book 4 of 6. It was much more exciting than Phineas Finn (book 2), thanks in part to a murder trial, but not quite as enjoyable as Can You Forgive Her? or  The Eustace Diamonds. At this point, my preference is for the ecclesiastical Barsetshire novels. Perhaps, given the current state of affairs in the US, I'm not appreciating politics in fiction as much as I might during normal times. We'll see where the next two novels take us.

I approached Phineas Redus as a read/listen combination, as usual - listening for an hour or so on my morning walk, then reading the ebook in the evening. Simon Vance has become the voice of classic British Literature for me.  The Prime Minister  is next... maybe sometime this spring/summer?

My rating:

Set aside//

It was not an easy decision to bail on my First Book of the Year. I chose to begin 2018 with the book I most regret not  reading in 2017. The writing was wonderful and the story was instantly engaging... until it wasn't. I hadn't fully invested in Cyril, so as the narrative shifted away from Catherine, his mother, I found my interest waning. After 200 + pages, I looked to twitter for advice and my blogging friends came through. Ultimately, I would have finished a book of 'normal' length, but wasn't able to justify reading another 400 pages of this chunkster. Most readers loved The Heart's Invisible Furies  and many named it their favorite book of 2017, so I wouldn't cross it off your list based on my experience.

Current reading//

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan

I tend to enjoy a good "man against the elements" story and this one is fascinating, in terms of both survivors' experiences and the history. The book was brought to my attention during Nonfiction November a couple of years ago. I picked up the ebook as a daily deal shortly afterward, then grabbed the audiobook (narrated by Patrick Lawlor) a couple months ago during an audible 2-for-1 sale. Hope to finish this week.

Up next//

I loved this book when I read it many years ago and was excited to hear about John Banville's new sequel - of course I would read it! As I began to think about James' novel, my recollection of plot details were fuzzy at best... should I reread it in order to really appreciate Mrs. Osmond?  My decision was made, then Bellezza posted this photo on Instagram. As other readers began commenting on her photo, a readalong was born.

As is my habit for long classics, this will be a read/listen combination. I've selected Juliet Stevenson's narration - there are so many! The audiobook is nearly 27 hours and I think the book must be over 600 pages. We plan to read at our own pace and discuss at the end of February. Would you like to join us?

Beyond the books//
It was nice all week, so I got in a beach walk or bike ride every day. Yesterday we hiked at the local wildlife refuge.

My FIL and SIL are joining us for dinner today. I'll be serving Roast Chicken Proven├žal, a family favorite from the NY Times.

The Post is still selling out daily at the small island cinema, so we haven't seen it yet. We could buy tickets a day in advance, but never seem to think about it that far ahead.

We're looking forward to Thursday when our daughters arrive for a long weekend.

How was your week? What are you reading?


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: January 14, 2018

Hello, friends. It's another sunny Sunday on Sanibel, although with a chilly breeze we'll struggle to get much above 60 today. That's well below normal for this time of year, but it's still perfect weather for a long bike ride or beach walk... or spending a couple of hours on the couch watching football and reading ;-)

Current reading//
The same books as last week - January tends to be a slow reading month for me, but two chunksters make it seem more pronounced this year.

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope

Our #PalliserParty continues. Book #4 of the series opens with the return of our hero from Book #2, Phineas Finn. Unlike the second novel, this one is completely engaging from the start and I'm enjoying the visit with old friends very much.

The audiobook (read by Simon Vance) is over 23 hours long, but I'm racing through it thanks, in part, to my new wireless earbuds! Have you tried them? They are truly a game changer! I don't know why I waited this long...

"Men will love to the last, but they love what is fresh and new. A woman's love can live on the recollection of the past, and cling to what is old and ugly." 
"Mr. Maule hated to be unhappy or uncomfortable, and therefore never allowed any aspiration to proceed to such length as to be inconvenient to his feelings should it not be gratified." 
"The double pleasure of pulling down an opponent, and of raising oneself, is the charm of a politician's life."

Very little reading time translates to a woeful lack of progress on my print book this week. It's very good but, at nearly 600 pages, I'm still less than a third done. I'm hoping for a day to read on the beach this week.

Beyond the books//

My father-in-law is coming over for dinner tonight. This Venetian Chicken Ragu is simmering in the crockpot (thanks to Patty) and the house smells so good! I'll let you know how it turns out. Maybe there will even be a Weekend Cooking post next week...

The Post  is playing at our small island cinema and was sold out all weekend. I'm hoping to see it sometime this week.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: Back at Last!

Good morning from sunny, but cool, Sanibel. Thanks to winter storm Grayson, our trip back took longer than expected. We spent an extra night in Fredericksburg, VA  before setting out again Thursday morning. Our winter driving skills were really put to the test... the area around Richmond was especially treacherous! We canceled a visit to Savannah, opting instead for a quick overnight in snow-free but freezing Jacksonville, FL and finally got home late Friday afternoon.

As you might expect, I haven't picked up a book or audiobook for most of the week. I did, however, finish a couple of short books just before the beginning of the year.

Finished last week//

Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2016, this book has been on my kindle for a while... probably purchased as a daily deal somewhere long the way. I have a weakness for big prize contenders and the plot sounded intriguing. Hot Milk  turned out to be the kind of quiet, interior novel I tend to enjoy. The setting and narrative imparted a vague sense of unease palpable throughout, though the pace was somewhat slow. Overall I liked the book, but didn't love it.

I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels or memoirs, but try to read one or two a year. Roz Chast is a favorite and I'd been hoping to get Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York from the library before the end of the year. When it became obvious that wouldn't happen, I looked for other possibilities. Described as "an intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam" this book has received praise from the book blogging community and was also available for immediate download from my library via hoopla. It was a quick, interesting reading, though I was only lukewarm on the artwork. (image source)

Current reading//

My First Book of the Year, and unfortunately I have not picked it up since New Years Day. Now that we're back and settled, there will be progress this week.

About to begin//

Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope
The  #PalliserParty continues! I plan to start the audio version of Book 4 (narrated by Simon Vance, of course) on my walk later today. Audrey and I have been slowly making our way through the six book series. You're welcome to join us!

How was your week? What are you reading today?


Monday, January 1, 2018

First Book of the Year: 2018

Happy New Year! For the fifth year, Sheila at Book Journey is hosting the First Book of the Year event. The idea is simple - just share a photo of you and your first book. Sheila says:
Fifth year.  I LOVE First book so much.  This tradition for me goes further back than the 5 years I have opened up to the reading world here on Book Journey.  I am THRILLED to be doing it again and thank you to those who have messaged me to ask.
The answer is…
Of course we are doing it. 
Here is what First Book is.  The first book of the New Year should be:
A.  A coveted book that you have wanted to read but have just not found the time.
B.  A delicious favorite… one you have read before, but crave to read again.
C.  Really whatever you want it to – it is after all YOUR First Book Of the year.
Make it AWESOME.

This year I selected The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne. Like last year, I decided to begin 2018 with the 2017 release I most regret not reading before the year ended... and even treated myself to a new hardcover edition. The book begins:
Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.
How's that for an opening line?!  I'm hooked already and plan to spend the rest of the day reading.

Have you chosen your First Book of the Year?


Related Posts with Thumbnails