Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls
by David Sedaris
Read by David Sedaris
6 Hours 26 Minutes
Published April 2013 by Little, Brown and Company

Publisher's Summary: 
From here the story could take many turns. When this guy is David Sedaris, the possibilities are endless, but the result is always the same: he will both delight you with twists of humor and intelligence and leave you deeply moved. 

Sedaris remembers his father's dinnertime attire (shirtsleeves and underpants), his first colonoscopy (remarkably pleasant), and the time he considered buying the skeleton of a murdered Pygmy.

Publisher's Summary: 
Every time my husband and I are planning a trip, I start thinking about what I'll read while he's driving. I'm the navigator but when you're traveling roads that you're familiar with, that should leave plenty of time for reading. It doesn't. My husband doesn't mind doing the driving but he likes to be entertained while he's doing it - well, maybe not entertained exactly, but talking will be involved. Some years back, after my parents were talking about the most recent book they'd listened to while traveling, I decide that would solve two problems. I'd get to "read" a book and my husband would have someone talking to him. There turned out to be two problems with this idea. Number one, when you reach an area that requires more of the driver's attention, I had to turn off the book. Number two, my husband still talked. Right over the book he was supposed to be listening to at the time. 

This time I felt like I had the perfect solution. I purposely looked for a book that would only take up about half of our driving time, leaving plenty of time for navigational periods and areas that required his concentration. Then I looked for an author I knew he enjoyed and something that could be broken up easily. Bingo - anything by David Sedaris would work. My hubby seemed very amenable to the idea. 

In a total of twelve and a half hours of driving, we listened to two and a half hours. To be fair, we took new routes both to and home from our destination - we had to pay attention to what we were doing. Still, I'm throwing in the towel on audiobooks on road trips. We'd no sooner start the book, then my husband would want to know what how much longer I wanted to go before we stopped for a bathroom break or to talk about the time he ate in a great little place in a town we were driving by. He cannot focus on stories while driving. Not even for David Sedaris. 

In his defense, I'm sure he expected, as I did, that the book would be hilarious. Nobody tells a funny story quite like David Sedaris. But this book is not all about being funny. There are some downright tough to listen to stories in this book. But it's hard to listen to a man tell a story about how hard his dad was on him, how he belittled him and embarrassed him, and made him feel worthless. Nobody tells those stories better than David Sedaris, either. 

So, even though I won't bring any more Sedaris on car rides, I'm nowhere near done reading his books. 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Life: It Goes On - May 29

Happy Sunday! It's the unofficial start of summer this weekend but it feels like we never even got a spring. 

Still, we were able to entertain on the patio last night and it was so fun to have everything finally put in place and to be able to enjoy my happy place. Of course, there are still things I want to get done out there - is there ever an end of projects to be done? 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Emily Henry's People We Meet On Vacation, which is a nice light listen but I'm regretting choosing it for my book club's August read. I don't think there's enough here to hold a discussion. May need to make a quick change. 

Watched: For the past couple of years, my family has been discussing Yellowstone and encouraging us to watch it. We never have because I knew we should start back at the beginning and that requires a commitment. Or, as it turns out, Paramount to run a Yellowstone marathon this weekend. We haven't perched ourselves in front of the television all weekend but we're catching enough to get to know the characters, the relationships, and the conflicts. I'm sure we'll be among those watching when season 5 starts soon. 

Read: Finally got to Emily St. John Mandel's latest, Sea of Tranquility. If you're a fan of her work, you're going to enjoy this one. There are a lot of ties to things in previous books but you don't need to have read those books. I'm always impressed with her storylines and this one was full of surprises. 

Made: S'mores last night. Ok, I didn't actually make them; everyone made their own. But we were finally able to sit outside and make them. 

Enjoyed: We had dinner with three other couples on Friday night at one of their homes and it was just perfect. All of my Tier Ones and their hubbies, who I adore; yummy food; boozy shakes; and so many laughs!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: A trip to Dallas. 

Thinking About: Have you noticed lately that my posts have some thing in common every week? I didn't plan that initially but now I'm looking for ways to do that each week. I'm stretching it this week - both books have a bird in the title. 

Feeling: So much better. My doctor finally put me on the right meds to ease my pain. Now I can start doing some exercises to try to heal. And just get the everyday tasks accomplished that have been ignored for too long. 

Looking forward to: Seeing my brother and sister-in-law this evening. There will be another fire and more s'mores!

Question of the week: Are you lucky enough to have a three-day weekend? If so, what are you doing with your extra day? 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Lit: Uniquely Portable Magic

In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I'm coming to you (albeit late), with some reading recommendations for you about the Asian, Pacific Islander and Asian Pacific American experience. 

First up is a list from Oprahdaily.com of 10 Must Read Books for AAPI Heritage Month. A little embarrassed to admit that not only have I never read any of these, but I also haven't even heard of most of them. 

I didn't fare much better with this list from the New York Public Library, or this list from the Los Angeles Public Library, or this list from NPR. I did slightly better with this list from Lithub, having read four of the books. 

Over the past few years, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to read more diversely; I've read books about Native Americans, books set in the Middle East and Africa, read a lot about the African American experience. I thought I was doing a similarly decent job at reading Asian works but I began to worry that I haven't read very many. So I came here to look over the books I've actually read and I felt a little better. 

I've read four of Jamie Ford's books, one set in Burma, three set in Vietnam, two set in Korea, three in Japan, and eight in China. Not as many as I maybe should have but that's only the Pacific side of Asia. I've read quite a lot more set in or about the immigrants of the western Asian countries. Still...

To make sure I'm including Asian work in my diverse reading, I've begun going through my books (physical and electronic) to see what I already own. As it turns out, I have a few and my plan is to begin to work them into my regular reading. It shouldn't be too tough - there are humorous books, graphic novels, fiction, essays - something for every mood. First up, I think, will be rachel Khong's Goodbye, Vitamin

How about you? Have you read many of these? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

The Daughters of Afong Moy
by Jamie Ford
384 Pages
Published August 2022 by Atria Books

Publisher's Summary: 
Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living.

As Washington’s former poet laureate, that’s how she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Fearing that her child is predestined to endure the same debilitating depression that has marked her own life, Dorothy seeks radical help.

Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family: Faye Moy, a nurse in China serving with the Flying Tigers; Zoe Moy, a student in England at a famous school with no rules; Lai King Moy, a girl quarantined in San Francisco during a plague epidemic; Greta Moy, a tech executive with a unique dating app; and Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman to set foot in America.

As painful recollections affect her present life, Dorothy discovers that trauma isn’t the only thing she’s inherited. A stranger is searching for her in each time period. A stranger who’s loved her through all of her genetic memories. Dorothy endeavors to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price.

My Thoughts: 
I'm a big fan of Ford - from his first book, Hotel On The Corner of Bitter And Sweet to Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Hoiping, China to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the western name Ford. I admire that Ford's books always pay homage to his family history, exploring the Chinese American experience. 

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy pulls together generations of those experiences as it explores the idea of epigenetic, or intergenerational trauma (to learn more about inherited trauma, check out this article from the BBC). Ford launches his exploration of epigenetic with the fictionalized account of Afong Moy, who was the first known female emigrant to the United States from China in 1834. While she did achieve fame, she achieved it as a curiosity. Ford's book imagines what her life must have been like, from the reason she ended up in America to what indignities and abuse she might have endured. 

In Ford's telling of her life, Afong Moy becomes pregnant through rape and the trauma she has endured is passed down through her subsequent generations, each generation adding their own traumas. 

Dorothy is living in a future Seattle, where hurricanes now regularly affect the Pacific Northwest, a landscape that reflects Dorothy's inherited trauma and tumultuous relationship. When Dorothy begins treatment to deal with what the past has wrought, Ford is given the chance to explore the lives of the women who came before Dorothy. 

Each of these women has an interesting story in their own right and each is incredibly sad, making this an emotionally difficult book to read (which is not unusual for Ford's books). While there does appear to be treatment for inherited treatment, the treatment that Ford imagines allows Dorothy to find herself in her ancestors' lives. This was a bit problematic for me. While I believe there is enough evidence of inherited trauma, I can't imagine that the trauma imprints itself in such a way as to allow later generations to fully envision it. Still that approach also allows Ford a way to heal Dorothy, which was satisfying as it also allowed a way for him to heal the women who came before Dorothy. 

Although this is a much different book for Ford, he once again explores our need for love in our lives through his memorable characters set in books that tell stories we haven't read before. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Life: It Goes On - May 22

Happy Sunday! How weird has this spring been? While I'm worried, last night, about whether or not I need to cover my plants to protect them from frost, I was looking at posts from Colorado where people were dealing with up to a foot of snow fall in the past few days. In late May. My lilacs are finally starting to bloom but I can't open the windows to let the scent into the house because it's been too chilly. I have yet to put out the cushions and the rug on the patio. I'm not a fan of my outdoor season being shortened! 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I'm still bouncing between a number of books at once. This week I came across the book An Education, written by Lynn Barber, which was adapted into a movie of the same name by Nick Hornby. I finished David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls. Now I'm going back to Susan Cain's Quiet. 

 Last night we went to Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. I don't even know how to explain it to you, other than to say that in the end, a bad mother had to figure out how to express her love to her daughter before the multiverse was destroyed by that same very angry daughter. As if mothers didn't already feel guilty enough!

Read: Hey, I finally finished The School For Good Mothers! I also started Kate Folk's Out There and Maud Newton's Ancestor Trouble. But I'm going to have to put both of those on hold because I have to return Emily St. John Mandel's Sea of Tranquility soon. 

Made: The usual not much. But I am going to make my first batch of strawberry shortcake of the season today, so there's that. 

Enjoyed: Friday we went to the high school graduation party of a great-niece (which always makes me feel so old AND to wonder why we skip the "grand" part when we talk about aunts and uncles - I'd much rather be a grand-aunt than a great-aunt!). When she was just a baby, I babysat her once a week for two years, until I returned to work full-time. My kids adored having a baby to play with and she was showered with attention and love when she was here. So proud of the beautiful, smart young woman she's become! 

Oh, and getting a video Thursday morning from Ms. S of a moose walking down the street in front of her house! This is their life in Alaska and I'm thoroughly enjoying living it vicariously. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Because of my back/leg issue, I've fallen behind on so many things, including finding new homes for the things we brought home last weekend. This week will be about catching up on some of those things and decorating for summer. 

Thinking About: What it means to be married. We're headed to a wedding in a couple of weeks and there is so much advice I think those of us who've been married for decades could impart to the young couple. Like when you're working on a blog post and your husband kindly brings you a cup of hot coffee, you don't complain that he's made it the way he likes it and not the way you do. As I'm doing right now!

Feeling: I don't want to jinx anything but I'm starting to believe my sciatic issue is finally on the mend. I was able, albeit very slowly, to vacuum and rearrange some furniture yesterday. I'm beginning to doubt that I need to have an MRI on Thursday. If that were a relatively inexpensive thing to have done, I'd still do it, just to have answers. But dang - I don't want to spend the kind of money that's going to cost me if I don't need to!

Looking forward to: Finally getting some patio time this coming week. 

Question of the week: Everything, Everywhere, All At Once is one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. What's the strangest movie you've ever seen? Do you like to go see movies that are out of your comfort zone? 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The Girls In The Garden by Lisa Jewell

The Girls In The Garden
by Lisa Jewell
Read by Colleen Prendergast
9 Hours 21 Minutes
320 pages 
Published Atria June 2016 

Publisher's Summary: 
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people's houses. You've known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? 

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her 13-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

My Thoughts: 
The book opens with Pip caring for her mother, Clare, who has had well too much to drink at a neighborhood party in the garden square behind their flat. That done, she ventures out into the garden to look for her sister. Now, if you didn't fully read the publisher's summary, you'll read Pip's discovery of Grace and know that Grace has been raped and murdered. So I hope you didn't fully read the publisher's summary. Because part of what I liked about this book is that assumption I made early on - it certainly colored how I read the book from there on out. Especially when it's revealed that thirty years ago, a young woman was found in the garden square, dead of an apparent drug overdose. But questions have always lingered and now they come back to the forefront, in no small part because that girl's then-boyfriend and her sister still leave on the garden square. 

Clare has moved her girls to the flat (for reasons that will later be revealed) and we learn through Pip's letters to her dad (who is where, we wonder) that Clare is less worried about what might happen to them on the garden square than the danger they might face from their father. But gradually we learn that some of the denizens of the homes surrounding the garden might be a threat. Could Leo, the father of a trio of sisters Grace befriends, have a thing for young girls? Could his father, Gordon, who has come to stay while he recovers from surgery, be a dangerous pervert? Even Leo's wife, Adele, begins to worry about the attentions Leo pays to one of the neighbor girls, especially when she learns that he had a sort fling with the dead girl's then 13-year-old sister. 

Jewell opens with the discovery of Grace and then we travel back to "Before," when Clare and the girls first arrive in the neighborhood, up to the discovery of Grace's body. After that we leap to "After" and the investigation into what happened to Grace. It's a long, slow reveal, which could have felt like it went on too long but never did, as Jewell gradually reveals additional details and how those details affect the families involved. 

My book club read this one for May and it was a hit that resulted in a good conversation. There are the red herrings, there are the differences between the ways that Adele and Clare mother their daughters, there is the side piece of Grace's and Pip's dad, there is a lot to unravel about how the past affects the future, and there is the moral piece of how the attacker(s?) were dealt with. 

This is no police procedural, no story of a serial killer being tracked down, race to find a killer before it's too late. Instead it's a mystery/thriller about the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives. And isn't that just about the scariest thing there is? 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Life: It Goes On - May 17

Happy Tuesday! Happy late Tuesday, actually. 

We went out of town this weekend. Sometimes I schedule these posts before we leave, sometimes I have them mostly ready so that I just need to add a couple of things on Sunday evenings after we get home. This weekend, I clearly did neither of those things. And then last night I was finishing this month's book club selection. But I know how much you all live for these posts (😂), so here we go!

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I've actually been listening to three books this week. My book club book this month (The Girls In The Garden) was a read/listen combo, The Big Guy and I listened to some of David Sedaris's Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, and I've been listening to Susan Cain's Quiet during my commute. 

Watched: We had such a nice weekend with BG's brother and sister-in-law, nice and relaxing. We spent a lot of time watching movies and streaming shows while we chatted. My sister-in-law and I watched Motherhood, starring Felicity Huffman, Patricia Arquette, and Angela Bassett. Then she got me hooked on Inventing Anna. The four of us watched a couple of episodes of Alpha House, starring John Goodman, and Operation Mincemeat, starring Colin Firth. And, of course, I been watching the final episodes of This Is Us...with tears pouring down my face. 

Read: As I mentioned, I've also been reading The Girls In the Garden and I'm still trying to finish The School for Good Mothers. 

Made: Seriously - I might as well take this category off these posts. 

 One last trip to Decorah. BG's brother and his wife will be moving to Lincoln in a few weeks and we'll love having them close but they have a lovely home in a wonderful little town and it's always a pleasure to spend time there with them. Plus, this visit we were the beneficiaries of some things that they won't have room for in their new home, including a table that was the guy's great-grandmother, another table that their dad made in high school, and a wonderful collection of BG's brother's paintings. We are honored to be the new wards of all of these treasures. 
Yes, there are two chairs in 
there; and no, we could
not see out of the rear view

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On finding new homes for all of our new pieces. And deciding which of the two tables will be my first project of the season. Great-grandma's table doesn't need much so I'll probably start with that. 

Thinking About: Everything we'd have to get rid of if we were downsizing so dramatically. Makes me even more determined to purge the unused, the unneeded, and the things it's time to let go of. 

Feeling: Frustrated with my continuing sciatic/back issue; happy to have gotten to spend time with my book club friends tonight; brokenhearted by the death of man I've known for over fifty years who succumbed to his mental illness this week, leaving his sister bereft. This is one of those weeks when I really am feeling all of the things. 

Looking forward to: My dining room is half full of things that need to go to Mini-him's place (including that rocking chair you can see in the pic above and some of the art). I can't wait to get everything out of my house and see it all in its new home. 

Question of the week: By now you've all figured out that, rather than go to thrift stores, most of my previously loved pieces have come from friends and family. I love having all of these reminders of people in my house. What about you? Do you like old pieces or are you someone that prefers new things? 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Read by Barbara Rosenblat, John Franklyn-Robbins, Jill Tanner
1 Hour 55 Minutes

Publisher's Summary: 
When Helene Hanff makes an innocent inquiry about the possibility of purchasing hard-to-find books through Marks and Co., Booksellers, she begins a twenty-year love affair with Frank Doel, the proper English bookseller who answers her letter and sends along her first order in the fall of 1949. 

They are two very unlikely correspondents: she a cranky Jewish New Yorker who writes TV scripts and lives in a messy apartment on East 95th Street; he a determinedly courteous middle-class Englishman who sends her beautifully bound and often obscure antiquarian books from the shop he manages on Charing Cross Road in London. 

The letters, written between 1949 and 1969, capture the period and pay tribute to the special kind of reader who treasures a well-worn classic.

My Thoughts:
84, Charing Cross Road is one of those books I've been meaning to read for years. But I didn't own it, couldn't find it from my library book on audiobook and always had so many other books that popped up ahead of it. And then the other day I was looking for audiobooks that would be good for the hubby and me to listen to on road trips and there it was, 84, Charing Cross Road, not only available but also less than 2 hours long. Fewer than 24 hours later, I was finished with it. And now I'm a little sad that I can never "read" it again for the first time. 

Helene Hanff is a no-nonsense writer living in a studio apartment with a penchant for obscure, mostly nonfiction books. When her first request to Marks and Co booksellers in London is a success, the store quickly becomes her go-to for book acquisitions. She can't be bothered to go out into New York to search for the books and she can't be bothered to convert the pounds into dollars and she often complains about the books that are sent to her. But it is equally clear that she is, at least partially, teasing and soon such a deep affection grows between Frank and Helene that others in the store begin writing to Helene as well. Getting to know them, Helene begins sending packages of foodstuffs to the store employees, knowing, as she does that so many things are in such low supply in London and finding the cost to herself to be quite reasonable. Soon Helene is also carrying on a correspondence with Frank's wife, a neighbor, and, eventually Frank's daughter. 

Helene is witty and fun; I adored the way Helene described things. Frank is ceaselessly patient and warm. I so wanted Helene to make it across the ocean so that they could meet. I so wanted to meet each of them. The best part was knowing that these people were real, that these letters were real. And those letters provide a marvelous glimpse of what life was like as a writer in New York and for the people of England following the war. It almost seems trite to call this book "charming" or "delightful;" but it is, it really is both of those things. It is also moving and thoughtful and makes me want to run to my nearest used book store. 

Helene proclaims that she doesn't like to read a book for the first time, far preferring to read books that bring her comfort. I don't reread often; but, for 84, Charing Cross Road, I will gladly channel Helene. This may be the book I read every year. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Bloomsbury Girls
by Natalie Jenner
Read by Juliet Stevenson 
12 Hours 29 Minutes
Published May 2022 by St. Martin's Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Austenprose PR, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary: 
Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances--most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she's been working to support the family following her husband's breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she's working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time--Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others--these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

My Thoughts: 
Two years ago, I took a chance on Natalie Jenner's The Jane Austen Society and thoroughly enjoyed it. Timing helped - it was the right book at the right time. When I was offered the opportunity to read her latest, I didn't hesitate. These days I'm looking for exactly the kind of writing I found in The Jane Austen Society, the sweetness, the fun characters, a little bit of predictability. I'm happy to say that I found it in Bloomsbury Girls. 

I was happy to see Evie Stone reappear in this book (read below how Evie wouldn't leave Jenner); this time she's older (but still so very young) and wiser but every bit as determined as she was in The Jane Austen Society. She is not the only strong female in this book, which is filled with strong females both in the lead and as secondary characters. Evie, Grace, and Vivien are each trying to find their way in a world where men make the rules. The feminist in me was delighted to find the three of them fighting back when men took what was rightly theirs. 

The battle between the sexes is the main theme of this novel, but Jenner also touches on immigration, racism, mental health, morals, and the aftereffects of war. The time period and setting allow for all of those well known people mentioned above to make and appearance which lead to even more tension between the men and the women. That touch of predictability I mentioned before? It's here. You expect that things will be resolved a certain way and for the most part, they are. You expect that there may be some things that are more easily resolved than they would be in real life, and there are. I'm fine with that. I wanted that, in fact; it's one of the reasons I wanted to read this book now. 

One of my quibbles with Jenner's first book was the reader (he did a fine job, just didn't have the range to voice so many women). Juliet Stevenson, on the other hand, is terrific and I highly recommend the audiobook version of this book. 

Thanks to Laurel Ann, of AustenProse PR, for including me on this tour. 

Message From Author Natalie Jenner: 
Dear readers, I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it. Warmest regards, Natalie

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Life: It Goes On - May 8

Happy Sunday and Happy Mother's Day! This morning is overcast and we're expecting more rain but the sun is supposed to come out later. It's sort of how our past week has gone - a fair amount of rain and grey with just enough rain to make this girl happy. Things are green, I've been able to get out and get most of my pots planted and vegetables and more herbs will go into the garden later. The patio is almost ready and you know I can't wait for the perfect evening to pull out the cushions, plug in the lights, and enjoy all of it. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner, which I'll be reviewing tomorrow. Loving the reading of this one!

Watched: The Big Guy called the cable company to lower our bill this week and ended up adding HBO. We've been watching a ridiculous amount of television, consequently, a habit we'll need to break. Friday night we caught Al Pacino and Annette Bening in a movie we'd never heard of but thoroughly enjoyed, Danny Collins

 I'm still working on The School For Good Mothers; not really sure why I'm having such a hard time making myself sit down and read it because it is interesting. 

Made: Guys, I made something this week! Friday night I made lasagna. Well, sort of. Turns out I didn't have enough cheese so I substituted in more cottage cheese (an ingredient my mom's recipe calls for that always surprises people). Thursday BG made "fried" potatoes in the air fryer. While they aren't as good as the ones he makes on the stovetop with a stick of butter, they weren't too bad so we may be able to enjoy fried potatoes again, which is pretty exciting for two people who would eat them once a week. 

Enjoyed: We went into Lincoln yesterday so that BG could help his brother with moving something (his brother and his wife are moving full-time to Lincoln the end of June) then the three of us and BG's sister and brother-in-law went out to dinner to a new-to-us pizza place. We were all really impressed and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to leftovers today!

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On finishing up the patio and gardens getting somethings put together around here. With my sciatic issue, I've fallen behind on quite a bit but I'm starting to have more good days (and, mercifully, much better nights so I'm sleeping again), so I'm hoping to have the ability to catch up. 

Thinking About:
Our moms and missing them both so much today. 

Feeling: Like curling up with a book in a corner of my new sofa, which was delivered Friday, over a month ahead of scheduled delivery. It's a good day to break in a new sofa!

Looking forward to: A couple of trips we have coming up - one to visit BG's brother and sister-in-law one last time before they move from the lovely little town they've been living in for over 20 years and one to Dallas for a wedding. 

Question of the week: How will you be observing today?

Thursday, May 5, 2022

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

A Slow Fire Burning
by Paula Hawkins
9 hours, 19 minutes
Read by Rosamund Pike
Published August 2021 by Penguin Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

My Thoughts: 
Seven years ago I read Paula Hawkins' debut, The Girl On The Train, and I was one of the people who raced through it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was perfectly willing to suspend disbelief, loved the alternating chapters by nearly equally unreliable narrators, and did not see the ending coming at all (ok, well, that last bit isn't all that surprising - you know I rarely do!). Then, as I am wont to do, I didn't pick up her next book. That's not entirely true, I do own Into The Water, I just haven't read it yet after reading some less than glowing reviews. 

This time I didn't bother with the reviews. I was looking for a new audiobook and this one was available so I snatched it up with high hopes. 

Hawkins has returned her to what, I assume, has become her formula - a story told from the point of view of three unreliable (and not in the least likable) women. The women initially appear to have nothing in common but we soon find out that their lives have intertwined in various ways. All of the men in the book are detestable. And we jump back and forth in time, often getting a part of the story from more than one point of view. Which makes it mighty interesting that perhaps the only person in the book who's likable, Irene, wonders this about the book within a book that appears here: "Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" This book is one time where I kind of wondered the same thing myself. 

Somewhere I read that readers would never see the end coming, never figure out who the killer was. To which I, of all people, disagree. I knew about half way through the book who the killer was and if I can figure it out, I'm pretty sure you'll see it coming as well. There are some rather icky things that pop up in the book, none of which made this book any better for me. I'm sorry to say that I was really disappointed by this one. It could have been better. 

Guys, Maureen Corrigan really, really did not like this book (her review in The Washington Post). I have never read a Maureen Corrigan book review that I recall being so scathing. Still, I'm happy to know I wasn't the only person who felt this way about this one. 

THE saving grace of this one, for me, was Rosamunde Pike's reading. She is superb and I hope to get to listen to her reading again soon, hopefully something that deserves her skills better.  

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

April in Spain by John Banville

April In Spain
by John Banville
320 pages
Published October 2021 by Hanover Square Press

Publisher's Summary: 
Don't disturb the dead…

On the idyllic coast of San Sebastian, Spain, Dublin pathologist Quirke is struggling to relax, despite the beaches, cafés and the company of his disarmingly lovely wife. When he glimpses a familiar face in the twilight at Las Acadas bar, it's hard at first to tell whether his imagination is just running away with him.

Because this young woman can't be April Latimer. She was murdered by her brother, years ago—the conclusion to an unspeakable scandal that shook one of Ireland's foremost political dynasties.

Unable to ignore his instincts, Quirke makes a call back home to Ireland and soon Detective St. John Strafford is dispatched to Spain. But he's not the only one en route. A relentless hit man is on the hunt for his latest prey, and the next victim might be Quirke himself.

My Thoughts:
I've long been meaning to ready something by John Banville (his name is always popping up on lists of great authors). So I didn't even read what this book is about before I reserved it at the library and, no surprise, I didn't read the summary before I jumped in. Even though I knew nothing about the book and should have been ready for anything, I was still surprised to read this opening: 
"Terry Tice liked killing people. It was as simple as that. Maybe "liked" wasn't the right word. Nowadays he was paid to do it, and well paid. But money was never the motive, not really."
Woah now. What kind of book have I picked up? As it turns out, quite a good one, filled with truly interesting and unusual characters, a lot of darkness, and a little humor starting with the play on words in the title. There are a number of storylines going on at the same time here, which flit in and out of each other, not coming fully together until nearly the end of the book which isn't, as it so often, distracting, but instead pulls readers through the book. As good as the story is, it's Banville's writing that really made this book work for me, as in this passage where the always cranky Quirke is complaining about vacationing: 
"The conspiracy begins the moment you arrive, as he pointed out to Evelyn, who was knitting, and wasn't listening. There's the grinning doorman who yanks open the door of your taxi and gabbles a greeting in pidgin English. There's the beaming girl in black behind the reception desk who exclaims, in her bouncy way, that it is a pleasure to welcome you back, even though you've never stayed here before. There is the porter, lean and stopped, with a melancholy eye and a mustache that might have been drawn on with an eyebrow pencil, who festoons himself with your suitcases and staggers away with them, to arrive at the door of your room a mysterious twenty minutes later - was he off in some cubbyhole in the meantime, going through your things? - and, having shown you how the light switches work anyhow to open and close the curtains, loiters expectantly on the threshold, with his fake, ingratiating smile, waiting for his tip."
Doesn't that draw a vivid picture even as it tells you so much about who Quirke is? Another vivid picture, one that might feel excessive in a such a slim novel but doesn't. 
"His keenest, secret enthusiasm was the lift. It ran, or joggled, rather, up and down through the very heart of the building. It was ancient and creaky, with a folding iron gate that shuddered shut with a satisfying clatter. Inside, it was lined with red plush, and attached to the back wall, below a framed mirror, was a little wooden seat hardly deeper than a bookshelf, covered with a raggedy piece of carpet held in place by round-headed nails worn to a shine over the years by the well-upholstered posteriors of countless well-heeled guests."
Throughout the book Banville reveals things that appear to indicate that this is not the first book that features Quirke, that there may be things that first time readers don't know. But the book is so well done that it comes off feeling more like Banville has just dropped readers into a life and you're going to have to accept that there will be some things that you don't know about the characters and their pasts. It was only after I finished the book that I found out that Banville has written a number of books featuring Quirke. So now I need to find more books by Banville and books about Quirke. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Life: It Goes On - May 1

Happy Sunday! Oh my gosh, can you believe it's May already?! For so many years of my life, today has been about creating and delivering May baskets. Although it's been many years since I've done that, it still seems odd not to do them. After a stormy Friday and cold windy Saturday, we finally had a day that was sunny enough to be warm enough to sit outside this afternoon and to eat dinner on the patio. Then eating on the patio made me decide that it was time to get the furniture set up for enjoying the patio even more. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Music Is History by Questlove (of The Roots). My loan is going to expire this evening with me only half way through the book. To be honest, I will probably not place another hold on it to finish it. It's interesting enough (Questlove certainly knows his music!) but it's a tough one to listen to, even though he reads it. In my opinion, this one would be better "read" in print than audio, where you could read a chapter at a time and absorb that chapter before you moved on. 
My dad and The Big Guy 
soaking up some rays today

Watched: The NFL draft. 

Read: The Tilted World by spouses Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly for book club and The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan. 

Made: I've barely cooked all week. I made broccoli cheese soup last Sunday that we ate two days and I grilled burgers that we ate for two meals but that's the extent of my actual cooking. I bought a roasted chicken at Costco on Thursday and that made three meals and we ate out. One day I'll cook again but with summer coming, it might not be for a while yet!

Enjoyed: We went out to dinner last night with my Tier Ones and their spouses (who we love equally!) then to our house for dessert and drinks afterward. We can, and do, talk for hours every time we get together. Love this group - I am so comfortable with them. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On going to the nurseries for this season's gardens. I usually have things planted by now, especially in my pots; but it's been so cold this year. I definitely want to get shopping before Mother's Day so I have a better pick of flowers. 

Thinking About: My health. When my sciatic pain flared up a couple of months ago, I assumed it would gradually get better. It hasn't. In a way, that's a good thing. It has forced me to finally find a doctor. I'm happy to say that I really liked the doctor I chose and he is being really proactive. I finally feel like a real grown up! 

Feeling: Blue. I mentioned another time that one of my Tier One friends is moving. We've talked about it a lot, I've been to her house and seen how much she was purging and giving away. I've been lucky enough to have been bequeathed a number of vintage table linens and a number of other things that she was getting rid of and wanted to go to a home where she'd know they were appreciated. But it wasn't until I walked into her house today and saw it without most of the things that made it their house, that it really hit me that she'll be gone in a few weeks. 

Looking forward to: My golly, I haven't even turned the calendar page yet today to see what's on the agenda this week!

Question of the week: It's about grilling season. What's your favorite thing to grill?