January 31, 2023

Love & Saffron


2022 G. P. Putnam's Sons
Finished on January 23, 2023
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

The #1 Indie Next Pick, in the vein of the classic 84, Charing Cross Road and Meet Me at the Museum, this witty and tender novel follows two women in 1960s America as they discover that food really does connect us all, and that friendship and laughter are the best medicine.

When twenty-seven-year-old Joan Bergstrom sends a fan letter--as well as a gift of saffron--to fifty-nine-year-old Imogen Fortier, a life-changing friendship begins. Joan lives in Los Angeles and is just starting out as a writer for the newspaper food pages. Imogen lives on Camano Island outside Seattle, writing a monthly column for a Pacific Northwest magazine, and while she can hunt elk and dig for clams, she's never tasted fresh garlic--exotic fare in the Northwest of the sixties. As the two women commune through their letters, they build a closeness that sustains them through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the unexpected in their own lives.

Food and a good life--they can't be separated. It is a discovery the women share, not only with each other, but with the men in their lives. Because of her correspondence with Joan, Imogen's decades-long marriage blossoms into something new and exciting, and in turn, Joan learns that true love does not always come in the form we expect it to. Into this beautiful, intimate world comes the ultimate test of Joan and Imogen's friendship--a test that summons their unconditional trust in each other.

A brief respite from our chaotic world, Love & Saffron is a gem of a novel, a reminder that food and friendship are the antidote to most any heartache, and that human connection will always be worth creating.

Wow. Three 5-star reads in the first month of the year! I'm on a roll, thanks to all the great recommendations from fellow book lovers. There are so many wonderful things about living on the Oregon coast, but we are in dire need of a good bookstore, so unless we're on a road trip in the RV, I never get the opportunity to wander around and admire the new releases, or pick up a book based solely on its attractive cover art. I've grown to depend on bloggers, Instagrammers, Goodread's friends, and Ann Patchett's laydown diaries (on Parnassus Books' Instagram feed). I'm pretty sure that I heard about Love & Saffron from more than one of these platforms. 

Easily read in a single sitting, I forced myself to slowly savor the book, reading it over the course of two evenings. Going into the story cold, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it's comprised entirely of letters between the two main characters. (No, I didn't even read the book blurb, which would have revealed this fact.) I'm a huge fan of epistolary novels, and as I read, I envisioned scenes from 84, Charing Cross Road (starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins). Like those two characters from Helene Hanff's marvelous book, Joan and Imogen not only exchange letters, but gifts of unique food items and recipes. Spanning the years between 1962 and 1966, the historical details are an added bonus (although I momentarily felt that Fay was working from a mental checklist--almost to the point of distraction--including the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy's assassination, the Beatles, a new TV show called The French Chef, starring Julia Child, etc.), as are the women's comments about their current reading material. In addition to 84, Charing Cross Road, Love & Saffron brings to mind the correspondences and friendship between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. (Coincidentally, Imogen's husband discovers the joy of cooking and purchased a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.)

There is so much to enjoy about this book (which I had to remind myself is fiction and not a culinary memoir). My love of the Pacific Northwest, and familiarity with Seattle and the surrounding area, is just one aspect of the story I relished. The sweet friendship between the two women reminded me of the importance of the special friends in my own life, and how one comes to cherish those kindred spirits.

Love & Saffron will enchant fans of Laurie Colwin, Ann Hood, Helene Hanff, and Erica Bauermeister. Highly recommend!

January 29, 2023

Evenings at Five


Illustrations by Frances Halsband
2003 Ballantine Books
Finished on January 18, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Every evening at five o'clock, Christina and Rudy stopped work and began the ritual commonly known as Happy Hour. Rudy mixed Christina's drink with loving precision, the cavalier slosh of Bombay Sapphire over ice shards, before settling across from her in his Stickley chair with his glass of Scotch. They shared a love of language and music (she is an author, he a composer, after all), a delight in intense conversation, a fascination with popes, and nearly thirty years of life together.

What did I think, that we had forever? muses Christina, seven months after Rudy's unexpected death. While coming to terms with her loss, with the space that Rudy once inhabited, Christina reflects on their vibrant bond - with all its quirks, habits, and unguarded moments - as well as her passionate sorrow and her attempts to reposition herself and her new place in the very real world they shared.

In this literary jewel, a bittersweet novella of absence and presence and the mysterious gap between them, Gail Godwin has performed a small miracle. In essence, Evenings at Five is a grief sonata for solo instrument transposed into words. Interwoven with meditations and movements, full of aching truths and a wicked sense of humor, it exquisitely captures the cyclical nature of commitment - and the eternal quality of a romance completed.

A dear friend gifted me this lovely book fifteen years ago, and while I know I read it sometime in early 2008, I didn't have any memory of the story when I picked it up again last week. Having just finished two exceptionally long novels (Coming Home and A Fine Balance), I was ready to read something not quite so long. I began with Foster by Claire Keegan, and was so pleased with that novella, that I searched my shelves for something else that I could read in one evening. Evenings at Five was just the ticket. Like Foster, the book is roughly 5x7, fitting neatly in one hand. With a mere 114 pages (many of which include lovely line drawings, spanning across the spread of two pages), this was a perfect choice for a quick, yet thoughtful, read. 

I'm not sure if it's due to my more mature age (I was 47 rather than 61 when I first read Evenings at Five), but the characters and their lives resonated with me much more this time around. My husband and I are now both retired and have a similar "happy hour" ritual each evening at five. This tender story could easily be overwhelmingly depressing, but I found it lyrical and filled with love, and one which I will return to in the future.

January 27, 2023

Looking Back - The Blind Side of the Heart

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

1999 Harper
Finished on August 18, 2001
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From the author of the critically acclaimed novel A Brother's Blood, comes a haunting story about an Irish housekeeper who must discover the truth when her friend, the parish priest, is accused of horrible crimes.

Maggie Quinn has had her share of misfortune: Having grown up poor and fatherless in Galway, she was forced to quit school early and find work to support her ailing mother and her own child. But when a tragedy of her own making strikes, it is too much for her to bear. Plagued by feelings of guilt and sorrow and by losing her faith in God, she runs from her past; first by fleeing Ireland for America and later by drowning her sorrows with the bottle. Maggie hits rock bottom when she makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt. While recuperating in a hospital bed, she meets the remarkable Father Jack Devlin. With his compassion and love, Maggie once more finds her faith and a reason to live.

For the past eighteen years, Maggie has devoted herself to the man who saved her life. But now Father Jack, the beloved if controversial priest in the small town of Hebron Falls, Massachusetts, is accused of having done terrible things to altar boys many years before. At first Maggie is convinced that the accusations are only lies brought out by Father Jack's enemies. Yet as she sifts through the memories of her life with Father Jack, doubts begin to emerge: Could she have been blind to a darker side of her friend all these years? And when new information surfaces regarding the unsolved murder of a young altar boy with possible links to Father Jack, her faith is once again put to the test. Maggie must search her memory and her heart to help her decide what to believe. The Blind Side of the Heart poignantly captures one woman's struggle to remain loyal to a friend while at the same time she is forced to examine her conscience to arrive at the truth.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

I can't believe it took me so long to finish reading this book, but I had a lot of distractions in the first week or so, and I didn't devote a lot of time to reading. Once I got further into the story, I didn't want to put it down. It's quite a page-turner. I was a little disappointed with the ending, though. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Good mystery! I'm eager to read more by this author.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember enjoying this mystery, but never did go on to read more by the author. Since I enjoy historical novels set during WWII, I've added A Brother's Blood to my library list.

January 26, 2023


2022 Grove Press (first published in 2010)
Finished on January 17, 2023
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

Publisher's Blurb:

An international bestseller and one of The Times' "Top 50 Novels Published in the 21st Century," Claire Keegan's piercing contemporary classic Foster is a heartbreaking story of childhood, loss, and love; now released as a standalone book for the first time ever in the US.

It is a hot summer in rural Ireland. A child is taken by her father to live with relatives on a farm, not knowing when or if she will be brought home again. In the Kinsellas' house, she finds an affection and warmth she has not known and slowly, in their care, begins to blossom. But there is something unspoken in this new household--where everything is so well tended to--and this summer must soon come to an end.

Winner of the prestigious Davy Byrnes Prize and first published in the New Yorker, Claire Keegan's Foster has sold over 120,000 copies in the UK and Ireland, where it is also required reading in schools. A story of astonishing emotional depth now expanded and newly revised in a standalone edition, Foster showcases Claire Keegan's great talent and cements her reputation as one of our most important and prodigious storytellers.

Typically, I don't care for short stories, preferring to immerse myself in a novel and become fully acquainted with the cast of characters. However, Claire Keegan's brilliant novella pulled me in from the opening lines and I didn't stop reading until the final page, at which I flipped back to the beginning and re-read the first chapter. Keegan's spare prose and tender relationships bring to mind Kent Haruf's beloved Plainsong; I can see how Foster garnered tremendous popularity in 2022. 

Foster is deeply moving and a treasure of a book. I can hardly wait to get a copy of Small Things Like These, which has been equally popular among readers. Thank you, Ann Patchett, for bringing Keegan's books to my attention on Parnassus' Friday stories ("If You Haven't Read These Books, They're New to You") on Instagram. My to-be-read list keeps growing thanks to these recommendations!

“She is able to tell a story in a paragraph, or to compress a novel into a few thousand words,” said Deborah Treisman, the fiction editor at The New Yorker, which published an abridged version of “Foster” in 2010. “There’s such a precision to what she notices.”

January 24, 2023

A Fine Balance

1995 Vintage Books
Finished on January 16, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
Original Rating: 5/5 (Excellent)

Publisher's Blurb:

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India.

The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

Twenty-five years ago, I read A Fine Balance with an online book group. I remember falling in love with the story and characters, losing myself for hours in Mistry's evocative narrative. I gave the book a 5-star rating and went on to make it one of my favorite recommendations while working at Barnes & Noble. When we moved to Oregon, one of the members in my book group mentioned how much she enjoyed the book, and I encouraged her to nominate it for one of our selections last year. I wasn't able to attend the discussion, but I started reading the novel in September, only to set it aside for a few months. I picked it up again in December and couldn't put it down. Dina, Ishvar, Omprakash (Om, for short), and Maneck, who are so well-drawn and memorable, each worked their way into my heart, warts and all.

After all these years, I'd forgotten so much about the plot and was stunned by the turn of events as the conclusion drew near. I love a big book that pulls me in, invading my thoughts when I'm not reading, but unlike my recent read (Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher), this chunkster did not leave me feeling happy and hopeful. A Fine Balance is a heartbreaking story of four individuals who grow to care for one another, creating a non-traditional family within the confines of their small abode, struggling to survive during India's State of Emergency in the 70s. I didn't love this literary novel quite as much as the first time I read it, but it's an enlightening work, worthy of all the accolades and awards.

Highly recommend.

January 22, 2023

The Fixed Stars

Nonfiction - Memoir
2020 Dreamscape Media
Narrated by Erin Mallon
Finished on January 15, 2023
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

From a bestselling writer, an intense and moving memoir about changing identity, complex sexuality, and enduring family relationships.

At age 36, while serving on a jury, author Molly Wizenberg found herself drawn to a female attorney. Married to a man for nearly a decade and mother to a toddler, Wizenberg tried to return to her life as she knew it, but she felt that something inside her had changed irrevocably. Instead, she would discover that the trajectory of our lives is rarely as smooth or as logical as we’d like to believe.

Like many of us, Wizenberg had long understood sexual orientation as a stable part of ourselves: we’re “born this way.” Suddenly she realized that her story was more complicated. Who was she, she wondered, if something at her very core could change so radically? The Fixed Stars is a taut, electrifying memoir exploring timely and timeless questions about desire, identity, and the limits and possibilities of family. In honest and searing prose, Wizenberg forges a new path: through the murk of separation and divorce, coming out to family and friends, learning to co-parent a young child, and realizing a new vision of love. The result is a frank and moving story about letting go of rigid definitions and ideals that no longer fit, and learning instead who we really are.

Unlike Molly Wizenberg's previous memoirs,  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table and Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage (both of which I read in December 2021), The Fixed Stars is more about sexuality and identity rather than a foodie memoir filled with recipes and life as a restaurant entrepreneur. Wizenberg (whose books are articulate and highly readable) weaves her story with anecdotes from her earlier life as a wife and mother with that of her new family (also as a wife and a mother). The memoir is not simply a navel-gazing tell-all, but an honest and intimate examination of one woman's experience, interspersed with beautiful metaphors, quotes from poets & authors, and multiple references to studies on sexuality and gender. All of these not only add validity and truth to Wizenberg's experience, but also give voice to that of others in similar situations. 

So many of my favorite blogs are now defunct, including Molly's blog (Orangette), which has now been replaced with I've Got a Feeling (a Substack newsletter). I've recently subscribed and discovered that there's at least a year's worth of articles to peruse. I'm hoping that some will include recipes, which Orangette was so well known for.

I listened to the audio version of the book and Erin Mallon does an outstanding job narrating Wizenberg's story. Had I not known that Mallon was the reader, I would have bet the author was reading her own work; her honesty and emotions ring true.

Thank you Libro.fm for the complimentary copy.

“Wizenberg writes with a remarkable openness about being true to herself and to others, and gives those looking to understand the complicated issue of sexuality a compassionate example of the many forms that love takes. This honest and moving memoir will enlighten and educate those seeking to understand their true selves.” — Publishers Weekly

January 20, 2023

Looking Back - Girl with A Pearl Earring

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

2001 Penguin Books (first published in 1999)
Finished on July 31, 2001
Rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer's extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries—and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier's second novel of the same title.

Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer's prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel's quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant—and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

Historical fiction. Very readable. Engrossing! Sexual tension. Emotionally charged. Wonderful characterization. I read it with an article full of Vermeer's paintings beside me. Very enlightening about the actual thought process of a painter and the mechanics involved in painting. Would read again.

My Current Thoughts: 

I don't know if I read it a second time, nor do I remember if I watched the movie. 

January 18, 2023

Coming Home

2017 Thomas Dunne Books (first published in 1995)
Finished on January 15, 2023
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)

Publisher's Blurb:

Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman's coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home...

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula's, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage...and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.

Since the late 1980s, I've read and reread most of Rosamunde Pilcher's novels, and several of her novellas. Coming Home has been on my shelves for many years, and I have started it on more than one occasion, but never got very far. The small print in the mass market made it difficult for me to read at night, so I eventually bought the trade paperback and vowed to try again. I began reading the book in December and it took me a little over three weeks to complete. I am now mourning the end of this great reading experience.

As always, I went into the book completely cold, with no knowledge of its timeline, which spans a full decade (1935-1945), taking place in the years prior to, during, and shortly after World War II. This is one of my favorite time periods for historical fiction, and Pilcher's attention to detail suggests well-researched knowledge and care for the accuracy of the war efforts. In addition to the usual historical points (the invasion of Poland, the Battle of Britain, air raids & blackout curtains, the evacuation of Dunkirk, etc.), we learn about the role of the WRNS, the POW camp in Changi (Singapore), and the construction of the Bangkok-Burma Railway (also known as the Death Railway), to name just a few.

In addition to this particular period, I am a big fan of epistolary works, and while this book isn't specifically an epistolary novel, it's filled with letters from Judith to her parents, assorted relatives, and close friends, giving the reader a more intimate view of Judith's thoughts and feelings toward those she loves. In addition to Judith's point-of-view, Pilcher shifts voice to other characters, allowing the reader further access to the relationships between friends and lovers. We watch Judith grow from a young girl of fourteen into a self-assured and independent young adult of twenty-four. (An aside: I always laugh when I read a Pilcher novel and an adult of fifty is considered, if not elderly, at least old. Ha!) 

Pilcher's characterizations and settings are so well done and descriptive that I felt like I not only knew her characters, caring deeply about their situations, but would also recognize the villages and various locations in which they reside. 

While some might consider Pilcher's novel a romance (and, at one time, she did write romance novels under the name Jane Fraser), I would argue that life is full of love and loss, and while Coming Home includes romantic themes, it also touches on more serious topics, such as sexual assault, PTSD, and the casualties and destruction of war. 

Published in 1995, politically incorrect labeling of an Asian's face coloring, and an off-hand comment about a summer tan, ("It will feel funny having yellow Chinese faces around you, instead of black Tamil faces" and "go home black as a little Indian," respectively) was jarring to read. Reflective of the times during the 1930s, perhaps Pilcher was attempting to portray society's attitudes to the world at large, but I found that it didn't enhance the narrative, and was unnecessary.

That solitary quibble aside, I loved this book. There were moments in which I had to will myself to not skip ahead and sneak a peek to see what was about to happen; the suspense was building, and I wanted to make sure all was alright with the involved characters. There were also moments in which I was certain of the outcome, only to be taken by surprise (and on an occasion, filled with relief). 

I first came across The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher's beloved book (which is also set in Cornwall), in the late 1980s. This evocative novel became one of my all-time favorite reads. I reread it last year and it lived up to my original reaction. Having now read Coming Home, I must say that I loved it even more than The Shell Seekers. While not necessarily lyrical, the lush detail of domestic life, and the countryside setting of Cornwall, makes for one of those delightful stories that will stay with me for years to come. If you are put off by the size of this book, don't be. If it weren't for the busy holiday season, I could have read it much more quickly. My only regret is that it wasn't any longer; I would have been happy to read another thousand pages! 

Highly recommend.

January 14, 2023

BIG Books

“Many people have lost the ability to really immerse themselves,” she said. “We have developed a cognitive impatience about our reading.” (Dr. Maryanne Wolf, New York Times)

2023 is the year I will read more from my stack of BIG books (aka "chunksters"). I don't know why I avoid them; so many of my favorites fall into this category. The books in the photo are all over 500 pages, and while some may take weeks to read, I have a feeling that I'll zip through a few of them. I'm already on a roll, as I'm currently reading Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher (936 pages). I'm also rereading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (603 pages). Both stories are holding my interest and I know that I'll be sorry to say goodbye to the main characters once I finish. Now to decide which one to read next. I'm leaning toward Stones from the River since it's been in my bookcase the longest.

January 13, 2023

Looking Back - The Honey Thief

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

1999 Harcourt
Finished on July 26, 2001
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Elizabeth Graver's first novel, Unravelling, was hailed on publication as "exceptional" (The New York Times Book Review), "a pleasure" (The New Yorker), and "exquisitely poignant and sensual" (The Boston Globe). Now, in her second novel, she proves herself to be a major voice in American fiction.

The summer that eleven-year-old Eva is caught shoplifting (for the fourth time), her mother, Miriam, decides the only solution is to move out of the city to a quiet town in upstate New York. There, she hopes, they can have the normal life she longs for. But Miriam is bound by a past she is trying to forget, and tensions escalate. It is only when Eva meets a reclusive beekeeper that she-and her mother-can find their way back to each other, and can begin life with renewed promise. A haunting novel of memory and desire, The Honey Thief reveals the healing power of friendship and the ineradicable bonds of mother and child.

My Original Thoughts (2001):

I enjoyed this book, but it's easily forgettable. Don't think it's the type that I'd highly recommend or would want to read a second time. Entertaining, but not great.

My Current Thoughts:

I was accurate with my original assessment; I have no recollection of this book!

January 7, 2023

2022 Year End Survey and Top Picks List

Another year, another list. I am so pleased with my year of reading, but can you tell I have a difficult time narrowing my favorites down to a Top Ten list? I decided to include the 4.5-star reads since they are so close to perfection.

While I didn't reach my Goodreads goal of 75 books, averaging more than one book a week is pretty good for me. With travel and my husband's health scare, it's a wonder I got that many read. 

Here are the fun stats:

Total Books Read: 60

Print Books: 43
ebooks: 1
Audio Books: 16

Female Authors: 47
Male Authors: 13
New-To-Me-Authors: 23

Fiction: 49
Nonfiction: 11

General Fiction: 28
Classics: 1
Poetry: 1
Historical Fiction: 7
Horror: 2
Travel/Food: 2
Science Fiction/Fantasy: 1
Mystery/Thrillers: 10
Childrens: 1
Memoir: 8

Rereads: 5

ARCs: 6
Borrowed: 4
Gift: 1
From My Stacks: 49

Total Pages Read: 14,460
Total Hours Listened: 180 hours and 11 minutes


5 stars: 10 
4.5 stars: 10
4 stars: 15
3.5 stars: 5
3 stars: 16
2 stars: 4

Top Picks of 2022 (in no particular order):

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5)

Taste by Stanley Tucci (5/5)

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (5/5)

The Absolutist by John Boyne (5/5)

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5)

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (5/5)

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (5/5)

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (5/5)

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (5/5)

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (5/5)

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (4.5/5)

Water Like Stone by Deborah Crombie (4.5/5)

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George (4.5/5)

Monogamy by Sue Miller (4.5/5)

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson (4.5/5)

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (4.5/5)

Sailing by Starlight by Rod Scher (4.5/5)

House Lessons: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister (4.5/5)

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)

My plans for 2023 include reading several of the "chunksters" on my shelves, as well as taking part in my favorite reading challenges (20 Books of Summer & Nonfiction November). I have acquired quite a few new books this past year, many of which were on several bloggers' "Best Of" lists for 2021 & 2022. We'll see just how many I can get to!

Find my complete 2022 list (with links to all reviews) here.

Find my previous Year End Surveys and Top Pick lists here.

January 6, 2023

Books Read in 2022

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5) - Reread

One Two Three by Laurie Frankel (3/5)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (3/5) - Reread

Now You May Weep by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (5/5)

The Outsider by Stephen King (4/5)

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (4/5)

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell (5/5)

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (4/5) - Reread

In a Dark House by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam (3/5)

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (3/5)

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve (4.5/5)

The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington (4/5)

Moira's Crossing by Christina Shea (4/5)

Water Like a Stone by Deborah Crombie (4.5/5)

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George (4.5/5)

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller (3/5)

The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell (3/5)

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (3/5) - Reread

Monogamy by Sue Miller (4.5/5)

The Absolutist by John Boyne (5/5)

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (3/5)

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (5/5)

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (3.5/5)

Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie (3/5)

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (5/5)

The People We Keep by Allison Larkin (3/5)

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland (4/5)

Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida (2/5)

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult (4.5/5)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zaunder (3/5) 

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Yongson (4/5)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2/5)

Summer of '69 by Elin Hilderbrand (4/5)

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard (3/5)

No Mark Upon Her by Deborah Crombie (3.5/5)

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan (3.5/5)

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (3.5/5)

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson (4.5/5)

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (4.5/5)

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (5/5)

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff (2/5)

Book Lovers by Emily Henry (3/5)

Sailing by Starlight by Rod Scher (4.5/5)

To Dwell in Darkness by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (5/5)

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (5/5)

House Lessons: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister (4.5/5)

The Guncle by Steven Rowley (4/5)

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (5/5)

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin (3.5/5)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (3/5)

January 5, 2023

New Books!

I rarely buy books for myself, unless we're traveling. Whenever we're on a road trip, I love to seek out new-to-me independent bookstores and buy at least one or two books that have been on my list. I love to support those stores! With that said, I rarely receive books for my birthday or Christmas, probably because people don't know what I've read, or what's on my TBR list. This year, I lucked out! My mom not only gave me three books, but she also gave me a gift card. Rather than let that money sit and possibly get spent on other things, I immediately ordered six books on my list. I now have this lovely stack to add to my already-toppling stack of books to read this year. How lucky am I?! Now to decide which to begin with once I finish my current reads.

Thanks, Mom! 💖

January 3, 2023

A Month in Summary - December 2022

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
December 2022

Well, that was a busy, yet fun month! We started off with Rod's book launch party, which was so much fun. The following weekend, we attended our neighborhood Christmas party. After two years of cancellations due to Covid, it was great to celebrate the season with friends & neighbors. The celebrating continued the following week when I turned 61 (!) and had a lovely dinner at a favorite restaurant with Rod and some good friends. Later in the week, we hosted a small cocktail party, and everyone brought either an appetizer or dessert, which is my kind of entertaining. :) We attended a Christmas chorale concert and then had another birthday dinner out with my mom. None of our family came out for Christmas, so we invited some friends to join us for Christmas Eve dinner. It was a lovely evening and the following day we opened our gifts, then relaxed for the remainder of the day, watching movies, eating popcorn, and sipping hot cocoa. The weather (ice & snow in the valley) wasn't the best for travel, so I'm glad nobody tried to come out to spend the holidays with us! Plus, we had a couple of power outages (one day it was out for over 6 hours), which is always annoying and stressful. We wrapped up the month by joining our friends for a New Year's Eve party, which began at 8pm. Yes, we actually stayed up until after Midnight (PST). Haven't done that in decades!

With all the happenings and excitement, I still managed to finish six books. I loved two, enjoyed two, and liked two. I'm in the middle of a 900+page saga, so January may be pretty light in the way of book news. I may start posting travel essays from our Glacier NP trip in order to keep things active on the blog. 

Books Read (click on the title for my review):

The Guncle by Steve Rowley (4/5)

Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (5/5)

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin (3.5/5)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (3/5)

Movies & TV Series:

Three Pines - Lots to love about this series! It's definitely an adaptation of Louse Penny's books, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, and hope for a second season.

Knives Out - We rewatched this one on Christmas Day. It was just as good as the first viewing!

The Glass Onion - After watching Knives Out, we watched this one, which really isn't a sequel. I might have liked it even more than Knives Out. The cast is marvelous, but I especially like Daniel Craig.

Slow Horses (Season 2) - This is a wonderful series, but I got so confused trying to keep the bad guys straight. We were happy to hear that there is going to be at least one, if not two, more seasons. 

Blue Murder (Season 3 & 4) - This series is pretty light as far as detective series go, but I still enjoy it.


Holiday Party:

Prepping the risotto cakes. So good!

The table before everyone arrived and added their goodies.

Stormy Weather:

Love our Rocksolar Power Station!

High winds (75-80mph) on the
 Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport, Oregon

Power outage snacks!

I'm working on my Best of 2022 list and should have it posted in the next few days. 

Thanks for reading this far and for all your comments. I love hearing from everyone! Happy New Year!