Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekly Update: August 14, 2016


Mid-August already... and it's hot! Humid, too. I'm so thankful our air conditioning woes are behind us. Most of my days have been spent working indoors or running errands, and then venturing outside in the early evening. I love that my kindle allows me to read by the lake even in the dark!


Books Finished//


After reading The Three Weissmanns of Westport, I was expecting something light and fun. Instead I found a more serious novel about the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. My full review is here.



Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo
Nowhere near as good as Nobody's Fool, but still an enjoyable read. I'll have more to say in a blog post soon.


Current Reading//


by Dee Brown, narrated by  Grover Gardner
After purchasing the book at Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana last summer and picking up the audio as a daily deal last month, I finally started reading yesterday. A read/listen combination is my favorite way to approach nonfiction these days.



Light Years by James Salter
I started this book yesterday, too, but am not fully invested yet. The writing is gorgeous, but I'm not quite sure where the story is going. I'll need something fast-paced and engaging this week while my mother has her surgery (more below). This may not be the right book, but it is one I will definitely come back to.


On the blog//

Four Reasons to Read Dear Committee Members
Tuesday Intro: The Gathering
Review: They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine


In the kitchen//


We had my family over for dinner last weekend and, since it was too hot to bake, I made Ina Garten's Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake for dessert. It was amazing! My sisters and my mother went home with the recipe... you'll want to try this one, too.

And as crazy as it sounds, I was craving soup toward the end of the week and tried Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup from Skinnytaste. It was simple to make and delicious, too. Another keeper.


The week ahead//

I'm anticipating a stressful week. My mother is having hip replacement surgery on Tuesday. When she is discharged on Wednesday,  she and my father will stay will us for several days. We have a bedroom and full bath on the first floor, so that will make things much easier for her.

The other big event is Twin A starting her new job tomorrow. She has settled into the NYC apartment with Daughter #1and is very excited but, as you would expect, a little anxious about beginning her first "adult" job. I'm sure we'll be talking frequently this week.

So if I disappear for a few days, you'll know why :)

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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four Reasons to Read Dear Committee Members


Just before our recent train trip upstate from NYC, I was perusing my overdrive wish list... specifically, books the library listed as available now. Occasionally, I like to choose one on a whim. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher was such a choice, and it turned out to be a winner.

Here are four reasons why:

  1. Academic setting.  A big plus for me, possibly dating back to my childhood obsession with The Secret Language. This novel is set at Payne University, a small liberal arts college in the midwest.
  2. Epistolary format.  Even more appealing than usual thanks to the blurb description, putting the "pissed" back into "epistolary". Our letter writer here is Jason Fitger, a professor of creative writing and literature. 
  3. Humor.  The novel is very funny... in a passive-aggressive kind of way.
  4. It's short.  Under 200 pages, which turns out to be the perfect length for this type of humor. 

If you decide to give Dear Committee Members a try, I guarantee it will change the way you think about Letters of Recommendation.

My rating:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Intro: The Gathering

I would like to write down what happened in my grandmother's house the summer I was eight or nine, but I am not sure if it really did happen. I need to bear witness to an uncertain event. I feel it roaring inside me - this thing that may not have taken place. I don't even know what name to put on it. I think you might call it a crime of the flesh, but the flesh is long fallen away and I am not sure what hurt may linger in the bones.
The Gathering 
by Anne Enright

I need to choose a book today. My plan was to begin The Gathering... and I do love that intro. It's ready to go on my kindle and I've enjoyed one or two of Enright's other novels. My only hesitation is that reviews of this particular book, despite winning the Mann Booker Prize in 2007, are somewhat mixed.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars. 
Option #2 is Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo, a book I have been listening to for the past couple of weeks, but am still less than halfway through. My library ebook hold is available, so I could make it a read/listen combination and finish in a week. Otherwise, it may take the rest of the month.

Decisions, decisions...

Which would you choose?


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Monday, August 8, 2016

They May Not Mean To , But They Do by Cathleen Schine


They May Not Mean To, But They Do
by Cathleen Schine
Sarah Crichton Books, 2016
304 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Summary (from Goodreads):
From one of America’s greatest comic novelists, a hilarious new novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love

The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids.

My thoughts:

If you pick up this book, as I did,  looking for a fun summer romp like Schine's previous novel, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, you're going to be surprised. Instead you will find a true-to-life story (maybe too true for some) about the relationship between adult children and their aging parents. And while there are plenty of novels dealing with that subject, this one struck me as unique in that I was able to understand and sympathize with everyone - the daughter in LA making periodic trips to NYC to help her parents, the son living just downtown juggling the demands of his own family and career, and the parents trying to preserve their independence and dignity. There were no overbearing, demanding parents or selfish, uncaring children in this novel.

Obviously Schine has been there. She is able to convey, with great tenderness, the vastly different needs, desires, and expectations of all concerned. They May Not Mean To, But They Do turned out to be an unexpectedly beautiful and poignant novel.

A few quotes:

"She was a useless, selfish daughter, dragging her father out into the cold against his will so that she could get some fresh air, so that she could breathe, so that she could escape when she knew he could never escape what was happening to him, not if she made him stumble behind his red walker as far as the North Pole."

"It was hard for her [Daniel's sister], being so far away. It was hard for him [Daniel], too, being so close."

"Her children lived in some other world, one that she could see but had left behind, like the wake of a ship. Their lives foamed and splashed while she hurtled forward, away from them, but toward nothing. Well, toward something, and they all knew what that something was."

"It wasn't that Joy expected her daughter, and certainly not her son, to come live with her. They had their own lives, just as she had once had her own life. She did expect something from them, though, something they were not providing, she couldn't put her finger on it. Danny was coming once a week for dinner now, Molly planned a trip to New York in the near future, and Joy waited eagerly for their visits. But visits predicted their own end, and an end to a visit meant she would be alone again."

My rating:

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tuesday Intro: They May Not Mean To, But They Do

Molly Bergman moved to California, and it broke her mother's heart. There are daughters who spend their lives trying to escape their mothers, who move to their particular California the minute they're able to, who never stop moving to California. Molly was decidedly not one of those daughters. It was a painful move even before her parents got, so suddenly, so old.
They May Not Mean To, But They Do
by Cathleen Schine

This novel is at the top of my very modest library stack. It came in just before we left on vacation, but I didn't want to take a library hardcover along on the trip. Now it's due on Saturday. I plan to finish Dear Committee Members  today, and hopefully get started on this tonight.

Schine's earlier novel, The Three Weissman's of Wesport (a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility) was just plain fun and I requested this book from the library immediately after reading Audrey's review. I have a feeling it will strike a chord with me, as well.

Here's the Goodreads summary:
The Bergman clan has always stuck together, growing as it incorporated in-laws, ex-in-laws, and same-sex spouses. But families don’t just grow, they grow old, and the clan’s matriarch, Joy, is not slipping into old age with the quiet grace her children, Molly and Daniel, would have wished. When Joy’s beloved husband dies, Molly and Daniel have no shortage of solutions for their mother’s loneliness and despair, but there is one challenge they did not count on: the reappearance of an ardent suitor from Joy’s college days. And they didn’t count on Joy herself, a mother suddenly as willful and rebellious as their own kids. 
The New York Times–bestselling author Cathleen Schine has been called “full of invention, wit, and wisdom that can bear comparison to [ Jane] Austen’s own” (The New York Review of Books), and she is at her best in this intensely human, profound, and honest novel about the intrusion of old age into the relationships of one loving but complicated family. They May Not Mean To, But They Do is a radiantly compassionate look at three generations, all coming of age together.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?


Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Sunday Salon: We're Home!


Hello, friends. It sure has been a while! We had a wonderful vacation... Santa Fe, a family wedding in Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park, Steamboat Springs, and a quick visit with our daughters in NYC. Now I'm exhausted, but happy. And as always, I didn't read as much as I'd hoped.

Finished on vacation//


by Alexandra Fuller, narrated by Lisette Lecat

My book club will discuss this book at the end of August, but I finished listening on our first flight. I first picked it up several years ago and never got into it, so decided to try listening this time - definitely the right move! Lisette Lecat is a familiar voice (she narrates The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series) and I ended up enjoying it enough to add Fuller's next book, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, to my audio wish list. Look for my review after the meeting.



by Isabel Vincent
This was an impulse purchase from an indie bookstore (Off the Beaten Path) in Steamboat Springs, CO. A feel-good nonfiction title about life, love, and friendship... with a foodie twist. I finished reading it on the flight from Denver to NYC and will post a book brief soon.



Current reading//


                                 Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

I started this on the train home from NYC yesterday... downloaded from my library just prior to boarding. An academic setting is always appealing and I couldn't resist the blurb: Finally a novel that puts the "pissed" back into "epistolary."  At the 60% mark, I'm finding it pretty entertaining.


Current listening//

by Richard Russo, narrated by Mark Bramhall

I loved Nobody's Fool  and wanted to keep the momentum going by continuing the series while characters and events are still fresh in my mind. So far it's another excellent novel by Russo... and another wonderful audio production, too.


Coming up//


I'm still trying to catch up with all that happened in blogland while I was away, but Care thoughtfully alerted me (via twitter) about an upcoming readalong. It sounds like a group read of Germinal by Emile Zola will begin in September. As many of you know, I'm already a Zola fan and have been wanting to read this book, often referred to as his masterpiece, for  long time. You can check twitter for the hashtag #GerminalAlong, but I'll pass along details here as they become available. Sounds like another good opportunity for a read/listen combination to me :)


What's new with you? Did you read any good books while I was away?

I'm off to tackle that mountain of vacation laundry...


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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book Brief: Drop What You're Doing and Read SHELTER!


Shelter
by Jung Yun
Picador, March 2016
336 pages
source: borrowed from the library

Summary (from Goodreads):
Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter  veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.

Quick thoughts:

Definitely on the dark side! Domestic abuse, a violent crime, family dysfunction, and culture clash... this book was a real page-turner that surprised me several times. I especially loved the ending. Recently long-listed for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, I hope it wins.

My rating:

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