Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Sunday Salon: After the Rain


What a week - rain rain, and more rain. The sun came out, at last, on Thursday... and again Friday and Saturday. Three days in a row - what a treat! Finally, we got the lawn mowed, the first of the flowers planted, and the garage cleaned. Today we'll celebrate with the first boat ride of the season!

Finished this week//


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One YA novel every year or two is generally enough for me, and rave reviews from blogging friends convinced me this should be it. I also needed a complete change of pace after reading Elizabeth Strout's latest book. The Hate U Give is about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer. The main character, Starr Carter, is the only witness. As she navigates life in two worlds - her poor, increasingly dangerous neighborhood, and the prep school she attends in an affluent suburb - she must figure out how to give her account of the tragic event. Riveting, timely, and discussable... give it a try!
My rating:




A short, light audio was just what I needed this week and Funny in Farsi delivered! I met this author several years ago when she was "in conversation" with her friend Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) at a literary event. She was interesting and entertaining, and I made a mental note to read her book one day. A few weeks ago audible.com offered this audio, narrated by the author, as a daily deal... and 'one day' was here. I've added her follow-up, Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad, to my wish list.
My rating:



Current reading//


Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope
Book #2 of the Palliser Series was off to a slow start but, after yesterday's encouraging twitter conversation, I read several chapters without distraction and finally feel like I'm making some headway... although I still don't care much about our hero. My approach to Trollope has always been as a read/listen combination, and always with Simon Vance narrating. Unfortunately, there is no Simon Vance version of Phineas Finn and I ended up with Timothy West. West's narration, while perfectly fine, seemed slightly off to me. I suppose I've grown too comfortable with Vance as the voice of Trollope.

At any rate, I'm on chapter 11 now and have finally settled in. I look forward to another chapter or two today. Follow (or join in) our conversation with #PalliserParty.



I just started this memoir by The Daily Show host  Trevor Noah on audio (narrated by the author) and love it already! Ratings on both goodreads and audible are very high... I suspect mine will be too.



Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
My library hold came in on Friday and I had time to read just a handful of pages that evening. This appears to be beautifully written novel, with a powerful opening. I can't wait to read more!
In a single year, my father left us twice. The first time, to end his marriage, and the second, when he took his own life. That year, 1989, my mother flew to Hong Kong and laid my father to rest in a cemetery near the Chinese border. Afterwards, distraught, she rushed home to Vancouver where I had been alone. I was ten years old.

In the kitchen//


Mediterranean was the word of the week... two new recipes, both variations on that theme. Mediterranean Baked Halibut with Vegetables from The Mediterranean Dish was actually a sheet pan supper... so easy, so good, and very little clean-up. I shopped a little earlier than usual and Wegmans halibut hadn't arrived yet, so I substituted cod. We all enjoyed this dish and I can see trying it again with scallop or swordfish, as well as halibut. In case you're wondering, the photo is from the website ;-)

Last night I tried Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Breasts from Served from Scratch - only my chicken breasts were actually thighs. I followed the recipe exactly as written. It says to marinate the chicken for 20 minutes up to two days. After 6 or 7 hours, the chicken was a little too lemony for my taste, but my husband and Twin B loved it. There were no leftovers. Next time, I'll only let it marinate for an hour or two.

The week ahead//
It's going to be busy...  a lot of activities early in the the week, then we're off to NYC Thursday night or Friday morning. We'll return on Sunday in time for a Father's Day dinner with my dad.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Sunday Salon: It's June?


Greetings from chilly, rainy central New York. I'm sitting here sipping a cup of hot coffee, wearing SmartWool socks, and contemplating the previous week. It was in the low 40s and downright cold this morning... can it really be June? I had plenty of reading time last week thanks to all the rain, cool temperatures, and a traveling husband.


Finished this week//


Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
This book cemented Elizabeth Strout's position as my favorite author. Anything is Possible is a series of connected stories featuring minor characters from My Name is Lucy Barton, and Lucy herself also makes an appearance. Strout reportedly worked on both books simultaneously and I'm quite certain my recent reread of Lucy Barton made this one even more enjoyable. Anything is Possible was an amazing read - easily a favorite this year. In fact, I found it even more satisfying than My Name is Lucy Barton. Coincidentally, my daughter finished reading the same day and we had a great discussion that evening. I think a reread of Olive Kitteridge is on the horizon.

Strout's gorgeous and insightful prose makes Anything is Possible the kind of book that makes it hard to pick up anything else. It spoils you, or gives you a "reading hangover." To avoid this problem, I decided to change gears completely and begin my annual YA (young adult) read.
My rating:



by David M. Oshinsky
What an interesting read... the combination of history and medicine gets me every time. Oshinsky's history of NYC's most famous public hospital begins before the Civil War and takes us through AIDS, Superstorm Sandy, and the ebola virus. That is a lot of history and a lot of medicine! It's almost unfathomable to contemplate an era before anesthesia and antiseptic procedures. This book was completely fascinating, but the amount of information presented is vast and, at times, dense. Alternating between the print and audio versions was helpful.
My rating:



Current reading//


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This YA novel is about the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a police officer. The main character, Starr Carter, is the only witness. As she navigates life in two worlds - her poor, increasingly dangerous neighborhood, and the prep school she attends in an affluent suburb - she must figure out how to give her account of the tragic event. The story is timely, emotionally gripping and, hard to put down. I'd planned to listen to this book (narrated by Bahni Turpin), but the ebook became available through my library so I went that route. I'm not much of a YA reader, but The Hate U Give has been getting rave reviews from the book blogging community.




I purchased this book, a recent audible daily deal, because the author was part of a Rosamond Gifford Lecture several years ago. She was "in conversation" with her friend and fellow author Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner). Although the focus was clearly on Hosseini, she was interesting and engaging. A couple members of my book club went on to read and enjoy her book. The audiobook is fairly short (just over 5 hours) with brief, anecdotal chapters, and is narrated by the author. I'm about an hour into this one.


Coming up//


Our #PalliserParty resumes... 
I started Phineas Finn yesterday and after one chapter, I'm ready for more. It's the second book in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series and opens with a brief introduction of our hero. From there, it quickly moves to politics. I know very little about British political history, but remain confident in Trollope's ability to tell a good story.  Audrey and I invite you to read along with us.




The Jane Austen Read All A-long
James is reading all six of Jane's novels, one per month and in order of publication, from July through December. Join him for one book or all of them, the choice is yours. I've read all six, but hope to reread Sense and Sensibility (July) and Persuasion (December)... and maybe Mansfield Park (September), too. The details are here.


In the kitchen//
It's been a quiet week. With my husband away, I prepared meals he's not wild about, but Twin B and I enjoy... another batch of red lentil soup, chicken and avocado burritos (quick and easy with rotisserie chicken), and, our favorite, Spiralized Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quesadillas from Cookie and Kate.


The week ahead//
No big plans... Angus the greyhound is here for another week, I have a couple of appointments, and we may take a day trip to visit my SIL next weekend. It might warm up a little after midweek, but it doesn't look like the rain will stop any time soon. We're still waiting for that first boat ride of the season....

How was your week? What are you reading?
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sunday Salon: Memorial Day Weekend


It's Memorial Day weekend and summer is unofficially here. The sun is even shining and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a rain-free day... it's been a while! The docks are in but, the boat is not. Maybe by next weekend...

Finished this week//


The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
A somewhat predictable, yet thoroughly enjoyable story that kept me reading well into the night. Two brothers, their wives, and children live together in a two-family house in Brooklyn in the late 1940s - one family with all daughters, the other with all sons. The wives become pregnant, and both deliver at home during a blizzard, unable to reach the hospital, while their husbands are out of town on business. From there, things get complicated. The story is told through multiple viewpoints in short chapters. A very good debut novel.
My rating:




My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
This was a reread for me and I loved it just as much the second time around. I started to read Strout's new book Anything is Possible and, while the character in the first story was familiar, I couldn't remember any details. Since Lucy Barton is so short and still on my kindle, I decided to reread it. Five stars, again!



Current reading//




Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors. I started her latest novel, which is really a series of stories about characters mentioned in My Name is Lucy Barton, yesterday afternoon and ended up reading almost half of it before bedtime. So good!




by David M. Oshinsky
This book is fairly dense, but it gets more interesting with each chapter. This week I read about Nellie Bly's adventures (my thoughts on Ten Day in a Mad-House are here), the beginnings of germ theory and antiseptic procedures, and the early days of professional nursing. I'm hoping to finish this week.

Up next//


Audrey and I are almost ready to resume our #PalliserParty. The plan is to begin Book 2, Phineas Finn, in early June. Want to read along with us?


In the kitchen//


This week's new recipe...  Sun-Dried Tomato, Spinach and Quinoa Salad from Cookie and Kate was a  delicious accompaniment to the turkey burgers we had for dinner. The leftovers made a perfect lunch, too.

Last night we enjoyed a favorite, Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious. I discovered this recipe last winter and have made it several times... always a treat.


Going to the dogs//


As Zelda approaches her tenth birthday, she celebrated her 7th Anniversary - or "Gotcha Day"- with us last week. Her muzzle is now mostly white, but that's the only visible evidence of time passing. We will be "grey-b-sitting" Angus again for the next week or two. He's four, and Zelda has no problem keeping up with him, or his antics. They seem to enjoy each other's company... should be an interesting couple of weeks.


How was your week? What are you reading this long holiday weekend?
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Sunday Salon: May 21, 2017


Sunday already? Another week has flown past... Twin A returned to NYC on Monday after a long weekend at home, I took my sister for her MS treatments on Tuesday and Thursday, and managed to cross the last winter catch-up appointments off my calendar. Summer-like weather descended for two days midweek before ending abruptly with violent storms. We spent all day yesterday on outdoor chores. The lawn, patio, and gardens look so much better, but I was in bed with a book before 9 PM, exhausted!

Finished this week//


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Gay has been on my radar for several years, but this was the first time I've read her. The essays here range from the personal to larger issues of gender, politics, and race. Some were deeply thought-provoking, while others were thoroughly entertaining (apparently there is such a thing as competitive Scrabble). All are well-written, logically structured, and interesting. Bahni Turpin's narration further added to my enjoyment.  I'd like to read more of Gay's nonfiction. Any recommendations?
My rating:



Current reading//


My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
I always love Strout's writing, and this was a favorite a couple of years ago. It's also so short that I impulsively decided to reread it before beginning her new book, Anything is Possible. I'm finding it every bit as beautiful the second time around, and should finish later today.



The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman
The plot summary of this novel caught my eye when it was released last year. My sister gave me her paperback copy last weekend saying she thought I would love it. After 50 pages, I suspect she's right... I'll let you know for sure next week.


On audio//


by David M. Oshinsky
You knew there had to be at least one non-fiction in progress, right? I'm listening to this one, but also have a print copy from the library. Anything medical usually appeals to me and, after 100 pages, I'm thoroughly invested in this interesting history.



In the kitchen//


This Slow Cooker Banana Nut Oatmeal from The Lemon Bowl  was delicious, and it kept me full until lunch. I've made it twice so far and will be having the last of the leftovers this morning. The recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but that made it too salty for our taste, so I cut it to a scant 1/4 teaspoon. It's such treat to wake up to a warm breakfast!


Later today//
It's Dock Day here on the lake. My family is coming over to help us put in our heavy old wooden docks (we really need to upgrade), then we'll have our first cookout of the season. The lake is high this year, and temperatures will only be in the 60s, so it might be tough work... glad the nephews will be here to help. Fingers crossed the weather holds.

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day


Good morning and happy Mother's Day! The sun is peeking though the clouds now, but it's been a cold and rainy week. The meteorologists are already making comparisons to coldest Mays on record. Seems we're in second place now, a dubious distinction for sure... I just want to wear sandals again!

There hasn't been much time for reading this week. I spent a couple of days driving a family member to treatments, and we're still trying to catch up after a winter away. Our patio, landscaping, and flower beds/pots are screaming for attention... if only the weather would cooperate.

Finished this week//



The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, this book was compelling, dark, and disturbing - certainly not an "enjoyable" read. I'm glad I read it and would love to sit in on a book club discussion, but will not recommend this one to my group.



Current reading//


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay 
My current reading has been almost exclusively on audio. I continue to enjoy Gay's essay collection and have already recommended this to my daughters.


Up next//

I hesitate to add this heading, but my library hold of Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout arrived. I had been planning to read Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, but will probably go with Strout instead. Final decision later tonight...


On the blog//
Book Brief: My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead


In the kitchen//
After a winter in my tiny Florida kitchen, it's a treat to return to a double oven, gas burners, and comparatively abundant counter space... not to mention all the kitchen gadgets and pans. I had two new recipes successes last week:


This Blueberry Cake from Simply Recipes was a hit at dinner last Sunday. It calls for an 8 or 9 inch springform pan and I found baking time needs to be at the low end of the range if you opt for a 9" pan... and maybe even less time than stated.


The Red Lentil Soup with Lemon from the New York Times was so good, I've already made it twice!



I have a relaxing morning planned today... coffee, reading, and perusing blogs before my husband makes breakfast. If the weather holds, we'll take Zelda on a long walk. Later we'll join my parents and siblings for Mother's Day dinner.

How was your week? What are you planning today?
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Brief: My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead


My Life in Middlemarch
by Rebecca Mead
narrated by Kate Reading
Blackstone Audio, 2014
9 hours and 37 minutes
source: purchased

One-sentence summary: (from publisher)
A New Yorker  writer revisits the seminal book of her youth - Middlemarch - and fashions a singular, involving story of how a passionate attachment to a great work of literature can shape our lives and help us to read our own histories.

My thoughts:
When I first read Middlemarch in 2014, my intention was to immediately follow up with My Life in Middlemarch. Now here I am, three years later, finally getting to it... and if not for audible's recent BOGO sale, it might have taken even longer .

Mead's book is an interesting blend of memoir, biography, and literary criticism. And the writing is excellent, too. Learning a little about George Eliot's life was an unexpected bonus that's left me wanting to read more. It's also probably time to revisit Middlemarch.

The audio version is masterfully read by Kate Reading, a veteran narrator with hundreds of credits to her name. I've enjoyed several over years and it was a pleasure to spend my morning beach walks listening to this book.

A few favorite lines:
"Only a child believes a grown-up has stopped growing." 
"A book may not tell us exactly how to live our own lives, but our  lives can teach us how to read a book." 
"Middlemarch permits the reader to imagine other possible directions its characters might take, leading to entirely different futures, and as so often in life, love is the crossroads."
Bottom line:
My Life in Middlemarch is a wonderful book, despite its arguably narrow appeal. If you've read Middlemarch, you really owe it to yourself to read (or listen to) Mead's book.

My rating:

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Sunday Salon: We're Home!


Good morning from chilly, cloudy, rainy central New York. We haven't seen the sun since we pulled in our driveway, and snow is in forecast later today and tomorrow. Maybe next year we'll stay in Florida until Memorial Day!


Our road trip home was shorter and more direct than usual (traveling with a greyhound limits options), but we did spend an extra day in Charlottesville, VA. We visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and took the scenic route (Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park) out of town the next morning. We'll definitely be back.


The books//


As you'd expect, there wasn't much progress on the reading front this week. I'm 75% done with The Vegetarian by Han Kang... a very strange book, yet so compelling. I plan to finish it today and will probably end up recommending with caution.



On audio, I started Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, a recent audible daily deal.  This is my first experience with Gay and her essays seem to be a nice mix of serious and lighter topics. (Who knew competitive scrabble was a thing?) Plus, it's always a treat to listen to Bahni Turpin.


The week ahead//

I've missed Sunday dinners with my family and look forward to celebrating my brother-in-law's birthday later today. It will be a busy week... so many appointments and lots of catching up around the house, inside and out, after a long winter away.

On the blogging front, it's time to get back to some sort of routine. I have a backlog of books to talk about, so let's see if I can make some progress there... and hopefully squeeze in some reading time, too!

How was your week? What are you reading today?


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