Monday, October 16, 2017

October 16: It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, and it's great to be reading again! My reading slump is finally over... now let's see if I can resurrect the blog.

Finished last week//

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
This 800 page tome is the third of Trollope's six Palliser novels and the first novel I have read since August. As usual, I approached it as a read/listen combination. Reading Trollope is always a treat, and I posted briefly about the book here.

The Eustace Diamonds is also my 50th classic since joining The Classics Club, so I have achieved my 50 classics in 5 years goal.  Technically it's closer to five and a half years, but still quite a milestone.

This probably deserves a separate post and I will do that within the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I need to decide whether to start on a new list... it's not like I'm going to stop reading classics ;-)

Current reading//

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

At last.  I enjoyed Rebecca  many years ago and have wanted to read more Du Maurier ever since. I'll see the new film version of My Cousin Rachel as soon as I'm finished. Very good so far.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Here's a book I felt compelled to purchase the day it was released, yet a year later am drawn to the audio version instead. Read by Nicholas Guy Smith, a new-to-me narrator, it is elegant, atmospheric, and seems perfectly suited to my mood. Towles earlier novel, Rules of Civility, was a favorite and he will be speaking at my Florida library in January. Fingers crossed I "win" seats in the ticket lottery!

 New to the TBR pile//

We visited our daughters earlier this month and no trip to NYC is complete without a visit to Book Culture, my new favorite indie bookstore. This time I selected two relatively short novels:

Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante - The four books in the Neapolitan series set me off on a mission to read Ferrante's entire backlist. Plus, I just love Europa Editions.

Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki -  The Makioka Sisters is one of my favorite Classics Club discoveries, but have I have never come across any of Tanizaki's other novels in a bookstore... until now. Very excited about this find.

On the blog//
The Sunday Salon: I Finally Finished a Novel!

Coming soon//

Nonfiction November, one of my favorite blogging events of the year, is just around the corner. Get all the details here, then go mark your calendar and start selecting your books!

What are you reading this week?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Sunday Salon: I Finally Finished a Novel!

It's mid-October, the leaves are changing, and I'm finally reading again!

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope is the first novel I've read since August and I loved every page! My reading slump is finally over. The 800 pages never dragged, and I was always happy to pick up my kindle or pop in my earbuds. Trollope's characters and multiple plot lines kept me thoroughly entertained, as always.

Three-sentence summary (from goodreads):
Following the death of her husband Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover Lord Fawn states that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie's truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate acts. 
The third of the Palliser novels, "The Eustace Diamonds bears all the hallmarks of his later works, blending dark cynicism with humour and a keen perception of human nature." Politics doesn't play as large a role here as in the first two books... which was a plus for me. I think this novel would work as a stand-alone and might also be a good, though somewhat long, introduction to Trollope.

Thank you, Audrey, for being my #PalliserParty reading companion once again... sorry to race ahead toward the end, but I just couldn't put this one down!

My rating:

Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Monday, and I'm FINALLY reading!

It's Monday, September 25... and I haven't finished a book all month. This has never happened. The number of novels I've abandoned lately is shocking. And they've been set aside after 100, 200, or more pages. Nothing has held my interest. But today, I am cautiously optimistic.

Last week I picked up The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope. As you know, Trollope has become a favorite in recent years. I adored his Barsetshire Chronicles, and now Audrey and I are leisurely reading the Palliser series.

The Eustace Diamonds is the third of the six novels. Trollope drew me in with his introduction of Lizzie Greystock Eustace, and I haven't wanted to put the book down since. My kindle says I'm at 41% now... and enjoying every single page.

So, the good news is that I'm reading again. But at 800+pages, there's still no guarantee I'll finish a book this month... and I'm fine with that.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

August in Review

Many of the posts I read, and certainly every post I write lately, begin with the words "where has the time gone?" Well, now it's early September and we've already experienced two record cold days. I'm afraid summer is over...

Our first month of retirement was a resounding success! There are still loose ends to tie up at the office, but the 9 to 5 routine is over. Instead, we've tackled home and garden projects, enjoyed leisurely lunches out, taken several day trips (inspired by Robin's Wandering Wednesdays), hung out on the lake, gone on walks, dined with friends, seen a movie or two, and experimented with several new recipes.

 I'm also reading... almost exclusively nonfiction in August. Fiction doesn't seem to hold my attention right now. Strange.

Books Read in August

by Pamela Paul

I've included the after-the-colon portion of the title here so you don't think, as I initially did, that this book is a relationship memoir. Bob is actually Pamela Paul's (editor of The New York Times Book Review) Book of Books, or reading journal. I thought My Life with Bob was a terrific read, and if you're into books about books, I bet you will, too.

by Sebastian Junger

Tribe, narrated by the author and just 3 hours long, provided plenty of food for thought about community, belonging, and why people work better together in times of war or natural disasters. I listened prior to Hurricane Harvey, but this book might be especially interesting and relevant in its aftermath.

by Michael Ruhlman 

I am a food fanatic. I want to know where and how the meat, fish, produce, and dairy I purchase are produced. I need to know exactly what is in the center aisle staples we consume. Grocery stores are endlessly interesting to me. You already know I'm Wegmans #1 fan, but how do they manage to do it all so well?  Heinen's is a smaller regional chain based in Cleveland, Ohio, with a mission seemingly similar to Wegmans - to provide its customers with the finest high-quality, healthful products. In Grocery, Rhulman examines the American grocery store from every angle using Heinen's as his model, and his findings are fascinating.

This was a read/listen combination for me. The audiobook, just over 11 hours long, is narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross. I was riveted every time I picked up the book or put in my earbuds. If you're at all interested in grocery stores and how they operate, this is the book for you.

by Barry Estabrook

Ever wonder why those perfectly red, round tomatoes you see in the grocery store, especially during the winter months, have no taste? Or how about the tomatoes on your fast food burgers and subs? Chances are they were grown in Florida, picked green, and gas ripened. This book is an eye-opening look at the tomato industry, especially in Florida. Another read/listen combination for me, the audio is skillfully narrated by Pete Larkin and runs 7 hours and 16 minutes.

by Charlie Lovett
This book is a literary mystery with a love story in the background, but I picked it up because it's set in Anthony Trollope's Barchester... and those references were great fun!  It's not necessary to be familiar with Trollope to enjoy this tale, but a familiarity (or at least an interest in) Arthurian legend might be helpful.

What was the best book you read in August?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

And just like that, it's the end of July...

July 30th... already. In a couple of days it will be August and here I am posting for the first time in weeks. I didn't mean to disappear for so long, but it's been quite a month: our 4th of July celebration, helping a family member with a medical issue, a trip to Sanibel for my father-in-law's 90th birthday, and my husband's retirement last week. There's been no time to blog, but I have been reading.

For book club//

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Had it not been a book club selection, I might have abandoned this audiobook. I'm glad I persevered (with increased narration speed) because around the 40% mark, it finally started to grow on me (pun intended) and I ended up enjoying it - especially the life of a scientist/academic aspect. Jahren's personal story was not quite as interesting to me.

My book club's reaction was positive overall, but it's interesting to note that the two of us who listened both struggled. This got me thinking about the unavoidable subjectivity of audiobook ratings. With nearly 1500 ratings, Lab Girl (narrated by the author) averages 4.4 stars... I am clearly out of step. Perhaps I might have enjoyed this more in print.

For Paris in July//

The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern

An unexpected treasure! The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain was going to be my only book for Paris in July, but goodreads suggested I might enjoy this "dark yet touching drama which deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love."

Once I picked up the book, I could not put it down. In it, a young woman seeks information about the mother she can barely remember (she died in an accident when her daughter was very young) and about whom her father and stepmother have never spoken.This debut novel, translated from French and winner of multiple literary awards, is mostly epistolary. It consists of letters and emails between two intelligent and extreme articulate people, along with several detailed descriptions of photographs.
"I asked myself what it is that forms the truth of a person, what happens when you grow up without memories, who were those people who had known me and of whom I knew nothing, whether some part of them - a word, an image, a smell - had stayed with me."
This will surely be a favorite of 2017.

Nagasaki by Éric Faye

Translated from French, winner of the 2010 Académie Française award, set in modern-day Japan, and based on a true story, I decided to take a chance on another goodreads recommendation. Publisher's summary:
In a house on a suburban street in Nagasaki, meteorologist Shimura Kobo lives quietly on his own. Or so he believes. Food begins to go missing. Perturbed by this threat to his orderly life, Shimura sets up a webcam to monitor his home.
But though eager to identify his intruder, is Shimura really prepared for what the camera will reveal?
Skillfully narrated by David Timson and Anna Bentinck, this was a short (just over 2 hours), slightly out of the ordinary, listening experience.

For the Jane Austen Read All-a-long//

Sense and Sensibilty by Jane Austen

What can I say? Jane Austen is a favorite and Sense and Sensibility is every bit as wonderful the second (or third, or fourth...) time around. Rereading Jane is always a treat.

Just because//

The Beach House by Mary Alice Monroe

It can't be summer without a beach book, right? This one had everything I was looking for... family secrets, drama, love, a beach house, a hurricane, a South Carolina island setting, and even loggerhead turtles. It's the first in a series of four "Beach House" novels, but (thankfully) does not end with a cliff-hanger. And the kindle version is only $1.99! I'll pick up the next installment, Swimming Lessons, when it's time for another low country vacation.

Current reading//

Today I'm listening to Christodora by Tim Murphy, a novel that has been compared to The Nix and City on Fire.  The first three chapters have captured my interest and I may make it a read/listen combination.

Or I might start something else in print...we'll see.

How did July treat you? What have you been reading?


Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Sunday Salon: July 9, 2017

Reading, but not writing... that's where I am now. Does it happen to you, too? I finish a book, reflect for a while, rate it on goodreads, and then I'm ready to dive into another. Here is my modest attempt to keep up.


Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

It took a month, but last week I finished the second book in Trollope's Palliser series, Phineas Finn ... 750+ pages and I was sorry to reach the end. Over the past two and a half years, I've read eight of Trollope's novels and don't plan to stop any time soon. There's nothing like catching a glimpse into Victorian England through his eyes. Trollope was a keen observer of society and his characters allow the reader to enter that world.

The political aspect of the Palliser series initially worried me. Would it be overwhelming or just plain dull? The answer, fortunately, is no. As the church and ecclesiastical life were to The Barsetshire Chronicles, politics is to the Pallisers. It provides a foundation for the lives of men... while women's lives are centered around men - their occupations, finances, and ambition. If a woman is lucky enough to possess money of her own, she may have some degree of power.

For me, the main draw of a Trollope novel is always his characters... and in particular, the women. While I eventually warmed to Phineas Finn, it was Lady Laura Standish, Violet Effingham, and Madame Max Goesler who kept me turning the pages. By the end of the book I was not ready to let any of the characters go. Trollope returns to Phineas in book 4, Phineas Redux, but The Eustace Diamonds is up next.

Thank you Audrey and Lisa for reading with me... should we do this again in the fall?

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

It's time for Paris in July again and I decided to begin with this short, sweet, romantic novel. It involves a mugging, a designer handbag, a red moleskin notebook, a Modiano novel, a bookseller, and a bit of a mystery... all set in Paris, of course. At 160 pages, it was a pure delight to read. I highly recommend it.

Have you noticed the emails goodreads sends after finishing a book? Initially I thought they were silly, but after completing The Red Notebook this morning, they suggested I might like The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern. Winner of fifteen literary awards, this "dark yet touching drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love." The debut novel will be my next stop for Paris in July.  It should be available at the library by next weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Current reading//

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I'm reading this with James and friends for his Jane Austen Read All A-long. It's been two years since I last read Jane Austen and over a decade for this novel in particular. Last night I read the first chapter and fell in love with Jane's writing and story all over again.

Listening to//

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren 

This book seemed to be everyone's favorite during Nonfiction November last year, so I was glad my book club decided to read it. About halfway through, I'm feeling completely out of sync with popular opinion... it's just okay. The author's narration isn't grabbing me either, despite the overall 4.4 rating on audible. Maybe the second half will be better?

I'll leave you with this photo of Zelda enjoying a cruise around the lake. That's my daughter off to the right... she always brings a book on the boat. What have you been been reading these past couple of weeks?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

2017 Favorites: Midyear Edition

My overall numbers may be down, but the quality and personal enjoyment from books I've read this year is up. It wasn't hard come up with a list of 10 favorite from the first half of 2017... but it is hard to believe the year is half over!


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The Mothers by Brit Bennett 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

The Nix by Nathan Hill
(read/listen combo)

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
(be sure to read My Name is Lucy Barton first)

Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
(read/listen combo)


My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

(read/listen combo)

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Have you made a list of midyear favorites?
Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.


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