Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Salon: Summer of King

 Good Sunday morning friends.  Well it's been one of those weeks.  I don't know how else to put it.  Not the worst week, but one that could certainly not repeat itself if I had my druthers.

On a good note, my dad returned from Africa.  He had an excellent experience this time around, and didn't harm himself, get Ebola or get shot down by terrorists.

My daughter started school on Tuesday.  She is a high school Junior so it is old hat by now, but there is already no shortage of stress going on.  She gets up at 4:40am for cross country practice, has three AP classes and is taking an SAT exam prep course.  She's going to have a most shitty first three months of school.  I plan to stay out of her way, except to provide food and the occasional pedicure.

My son starts high school tomorrow.  Gah!  So this week we ran around trying to get the information we needed to, you know, be prepared, and it isn't easy.  I did attend a Freshman Mom Mixer and orientation, BUT.  This is our first foray in public school, and they do not hold your hand like the private schools do.  It is like a scavenger hunt to figure things out, dependent on your wily and creative skills.  He is going from a class size of 40 to 600, from a school he has attended since he was 2 1/2, and I know he is worried about fitting in and finding his place in this sea of humanity.  Pray for us tomorrow!

We had a doctor appointment to follow up on his endoscopy from a couple weeks ago.  Esophagus is awesome, and they pulled him off one med.  But he has lost a lot of weight since April and doesn't have much of an appetite, so more tests.  So I guess several weeks into the new year we will miss a whole day of school.

The Robin Williams thing.  I'm worn out over that.  It pretty much devastated me, not only because he was a beacon of light, but because of his suffering.  If I hear one more person that says he was selfish, I'm going to lose my shit.

Books, then, kept me settled this week.  I finished Karen White's "Return to Tradd Street", the latest in that series.  As I have said before, the male and female protagonists in these stories drive me crazy.  They adore each other but they take part in a ridiculous game of self-denial and pride.  But praise the Lord, things are finally looking up, and I did enjoy this installment much more because of that.  (Small digression:  The funniest thing in this book was when Melanie's secretary, an avid golfer, becomes one of Tiger's flings and moves to Florida to be closer to him.  LOLOLOL).

Then I decided it was finally time to institute Tina's "Summer of King", never mind that summer is almost over.  I needed this.  So I started "Duma Key" on audio, something I've had loaded on my iPod for EVER.  And it is so good.  Not an action-packed novel, but classic King storytelling on a fictional Florida key two islands south of where we just vacationed.  I also just started "Joyland" in print.  King is good stuff, and not necessarily horror.  He gets a bad rap for that, and people don't read him because they think it will be terrifying.  Some of his stuff IS terrifying ("It" or "Pet Semetary" come to mind), but some is very subtle and more about the journey, on which you will be totally sucked in.  I'd match some of his work up against any author of highbrow literary fiction.  It is that good.  There is a reason why a gazillion people love him.

Besides running my daughter up to her SAT class today, I'm not really sure what is on the agenda.  I'm hoping to keep it low key but these things are often not in my control.  Hope everyone gets their day of rest today.  


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Salon: The calm before...

 Yes, so I'm popping in here a little later than I normally do.  We had a late night last night.  We attended (I think for the third of fourth year in a row) the monstrously-sized "Taste of the Nation" fundraiser with some folks from my husband's company.  Food stations, wine stations, and silent know the drill.  Usually we walk away winning something, and I was doing my best...a Big Lebowski bowling pin signed by Jeff Bridges, an Aveda gift basket, Erasure concert tickets, a golf package.  But apparently the economic downturn is over in Orlando.  We walked out with nothing.

The last time I checked in we were at the beach.  We swam in the ocean (water was 90 degrees, I kid you not), burrowed under our beach umbrellas and napped and/or read, we ate at some great restaurants.  We went and saw "Guardians of the Galaxy" and loved it.  But on Tuesday morning, we grumpily drove back home to reality.  Haven't seen my daughter much since then.  She has an insane amount of work still left to do before school starts this Tuesday.  Haven't seen much of my son either.  He has, you know, video games to play and stuff.  His school starts the following Monday, so he has a little bit more freedom left.  The week was pretty low key.  A couple doctor appointments and that was it.

It has been oppressively hot and humid.  It is hard to want to go outside frankly.  There is the pool, but you are guaranteed a storm in the afternoon so you have to make it quick.

I plowed through Liane Moriarty's "Big Little Lies" at the beach.  It was a pretty quick 458 pages, which is an accomplishment for me.  I loved that book.  She has got such a way with portraying life as a woman today.  I'm going to highly recommend it to everyone I see.  I read a couple more "Saga" graphic novels (I've gotten through three so far) and I am hooked.  I'm now about halfway through Karen White's fourth Tradd Street book "Return to Tradd Street".  It is a bit of a mystery why I continue to read these.  I love the Southernness of it all, but the behavior of the two protagonists drive me MAD.  I do like to finish what I start though.

On audio I finished "The Silkworm", which I adored.  This second installment is much darker than the first, a little more complex of a mystery.  For me the icing on the cake is the narration of Robert Glenister, which is genius.  I then blew through "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry", something I should not have put off as long as I did.  Narrated by Scott Brick, this is the sweetest, most touching story.  Something I'll carry around with me for a long time, and it is a love story to books.  So all around, I've had some amazing reading lately.

Not much planned for the day.  We went for almost a two hour walk this morning, so the exercise is done.  Maybe a trip to Target, maybe some PGA on TV this afternoon.  Good Sunday activities.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Salon: Happiness found

 Good morning friends!  So last week I was whining about everything, having just arrived home from two weeks at the farm.  I buzzed around and got my stuff done, called my newly beloved yard man and asked if he would help with my backyard vine problem, got my trees trimmed, and things started feeling better.

My daughter had three driving classes with the Florida Safety Council this week.  These are hired professionals that use THEIR car to teach them to drive on the insane interstates, and I get a discount on our insurance once she gets their license.  She did well, but there was some nausea going on with me while I was waiting it out.

My son also got a repeat Endoscopy this week to determine the status of his esophagus and stomach, after the identification of his dairy allergy back in April.  Things are looking good, but will get some hard data at an appointment in a couple of weeks after the biopsies are analyzed.

So apparently my dad arrived safely in Africa (ebola-free praise Jesus) and is happily enjoying his safari.  His endurance and capacity for discomfort aren't what they used to be, so I'll be happy when he gets home.

My husband came home early this week and declared he needed beach, and he needed it NOW.  So he found a place to rent on Siesta Key for three nights...these are actual Hyatt residences, so it is more like large condo, which works better than two hotel rooms when you have vampire-like teenagers that hide.  We've got access to bikes, kayaks, beach boys that will set up your umbrella.  I'm all over this.  After I finish up with this post, my butt is headed out there with my book, a cooler, and sunscreen.  This is exactly what we needed to get us through to the start of school.

Sunrise on our morning walk

Lightning storm off our balcony last night

On the reading front, I did read the graphic novels "Saga" and "Snowpiercer" pretty quickly.  I liked was strange but good enough to prompt me to order the next two installments from the library.  Snowpiercer was a disappointment however, after seeing that movie.  I also read "Vengeance is Mine" by Reavis Wortham.  This is a mystery series I've been following since I met the author at a mystery writer's conference several years ago.  It is set in the '60's in Texas, and is something special...part coming of age, part nostalgia for that time period, and part messy gritty crimes.  I have started Liane Moriarty's "Big Little Lies" and will accompany me on the beach for the next few days.  I just LOVE her.  She gets women's dynamics like no other.  And this is not chick lit.  It is something much more than that.

On audio I'm still listening to "The Silkworm".  I keep saying this, and I probably won't stop any time soon...I love these audios, and I love the storytelling.  Listening to them are just pure delight.  That is all.  I also posted my Goodreads review of Ned Hayes' "Sinful Folk" audio, if you want a little more detail.  It is definitely going to be in my top listens for the year.

Well time is ticking, and the beach is calling.  Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Salon: The search for happiness

 Good morning all!  The Nawrot family is now officially all back in Florida.  Vacation over.  It is always good to get back to your own bed and your cats, but you know there are always things you face that aren't so great.  A yard overgrown with vines (all it takes is two weeks down here), a problematic pool, a smashed wall that still isn't fixed and an insurance company that is being uncooperative, awful neighbors that won't leave me alone, kids getting ready for school and all the drama that goes with it, a dirty house, a cat with a urinary tract infection...on and on it goes.  My eyelid is twitching again.

I'm also deeply troubled by the sudden eruption of total chaos all over the world.  Normally you hear the news and keep moving, but it is hard to ignore two passenger planes going down, gunfire between Israel and Palestine, explosions in Libya causing evacuations of all Americans, and freaking Putin with a God complex and an arsenal.  It's really scary.  If I were traveling ANYWHERE overseas right now, I would not go.

So for that reason, I thought Michele Jacobsen (Reader's Respite) had a wonderful idea on Facebook the other day.  She is paying it forward, offering to do something nice for five people sometime over the next year.  Could be an encouraging note, a ticket, a book, something homegrown, sent unannounced.  In return, those five people do the same thing to five other people.  Like a chain letter of happiness.  We can all use a little more of that.

So I don't want to be all doom and gloom.  We had book club this week and that is always nice.  We discussed "We Were Liars" this time around with mixed emotions.  Some loved it (me included) and some were not impressed.  But there was wine, food and desert and that is good.  Next month we are reading "The Three" by Sarah Lotz.

I'm back to working out at Andre's, and the hubby and I played a (very sweaty) round of golf yesterday.

Reading always brings happiness too, right?  When you have time for it.  In print I finished "The Strain" by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro (review coming sometime today on Goodreads), and I enjoyed it.  Leave it to Mr. del Toro to come up with some nasty version of a vampire...that man is DARK.  It is fun to watch the book come to life with the series on FX.  Now I am plunging into a little graphic novel fun today with "Saga" and "Snowpiercer".

On audio I finished "Sinful Folk" by Ned Hayes, complements of the author and TLC Book Tours.  I said this on Facebook, and I'll say it here...this is one awesome historical fiction book.  It takes place in Medieval England and is narrated by an ex-nun who is hiding incognito as a man.  Five boys have been burned to death and a group of the villagers (including the nun/man) take their dead children on a journey to the king for justice.  There are secrets, including who killed the boys, including the history of the nun, that are slowly revealed.  Highly recommended...Goodreads review coming soon.  I'm now four discs into "The Silkworm"!!! WOOT!

Hope your Sunday is filled with reading and happiness!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Salon: Vacation lazies

 Good morning, I mean afternoon!  I'm moving really slow today, as my last few days of vacation roll out in front of me.  We return to hot Florida on Tuesday, where I can look forward to a variety of enjoyable tasks.  In the 95 degree heat and 95% humidity.

The week has been very laid-back, in comparison to our normal pace.  I don't think I've been up before 7:30 or 8:00am, which is not normally how I roll.  But I have walked every morning, and the weather here has been GORGEOUS.  Usually when we are here, they have record-breaking heat so we are loving this.
We have watched a couple of movies this week.  "Lone Survivor", which I really enjoyed, and "The Monuments Men", which I did not.  That was a huge waste of premise and talent.  Also watched the first installment of "The Strain" on FX which was pretty cool.

My daughter, husband and I took a very in-depth tour of Purdue University, one of her potentials.  (It is only about 20 minutes from my parents' house in West Lafayette.) We took a general tour, and had meetings with the departments of Engineering, Chemistry and Pharmacy.  Pharmacy seems to be what interests her the most, and this is only the beginning of the search process.  It is pretty exciting.

My daughter and I "helped" my mom go to the animal shelter here in town and find a kitty to adopt.  My parents have outside cats, but they are (sort of) willing to try an indoor one, assuming it doesn't have any fatal flaws like peeing all over everything.  We chose Mimi, a 3 year old who is a little...curvy.  But very sweet and calm.  My daughter and I love her, and hope it works out.

Mimi, airing out her belly

I had my 30 year high school reunion last night (OMG I am old) and had a good time.  It was a small group, and most of them I've stayed in touch with and have seen over the last year or two.  We were all cracking ourselves up over our conversations (the pros and cons of menopause, aching bones, and who were the hot grandmas, LOL), and all felt we were still 25 in our hearts.

Reading has been slow.  I always have such expectations when I go on vacation, but realistically when I am here, I am busy doing other things.  On my walks, I usually have a kid with me, so very little audio progress.  I started "Sinful Folk" for TLC, a historic murder mystery type of thing set in the 1300's, and is great so far.  I will definitely breeze through this once I'm home.  I'm itching to start "The Silkworm"!

In print, I finished "The Three" by Sarah Lotz for my book club.  It was pretty creepy in the best way, and clever.  What I liked was that the whole plot didn't fizzle like many apocalyptic stories do, and Lotz leaves some things unexplained and open for interpretation.  I really look forward to what the other book club members think.  I am now about 75 pages into "The Strain"...I know, a little late since the series has started, but I'm hoping to get caught up.  Like "The Three", this one starts out with trauma on an airplane also.  Haha!

We are looking forward to visiting the local county fair today to see the animals and ride the suspiciously rickety carnival rides.  That is probably all we will manage to do, at the pace we are keeping.  I will leave you all with a picture I took one morning (before going back to sleep) out the back door overlooking the pond.   

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Salon: The Smell of Corn

 Today I'm joining you on a rainy morning in Indiana.  The kids and I flew up Tuesday...our annual pilgrimage...and will be here two weeks.  The second I stepped outside at the Indianapolis airport, I took a deep breath and appreciated that smell.  It's the smell of corn, and it is intoxicating to me.  You don't get smells like that in Florida.  (Down there you get the stench of plant decay and sweaty bodies!)  Ahhhh!

The weather has been absolutely heavenly all week.  I've been waking up to low 60's...that is winter temps in Florida!  It begs for long walks, which is exactly what I've been doing.

Just as soon as we got up here, my dad had to have a procedure to remove some blockage in his heart.  He came out of that feeling pretty good, and I'm thankful.  You never know, those things are scary.

This weekend was "girls weekend", something that I do with a couple of my high school friends each year.  Only one of them got sick and couldn't come, so it was just two of us.  But we were not going to be denied.  I look forward to this every year.  We get a hotel room in Lafayette and we eat and shop and act stupid.  This time around of course we hit the Barnes & Noble (like I need more books), hit our favorite restaurants, saw "22 Jump Street" which was hilarious, and got together with other high school friends on each night for dinner.  Fun stuff.

So I finished "Devil's Knot" in print, and WOW.  Incredible story, and really some of the best true crime I've ever read.  What makes it even more immersive is that HBO did three documentaries on this case called "Paradise Lost" that makes it all the more real, to the point where it is creeping into my dreams.  Seriously, even if you don't read the book, look up these documentaries if you have access to HBO on demand.  You won't be able to tear yourself away from them.

I'm now about halfway through "The Three" by Sara Lotz, which I'm reading for book club on the Kindle.  So far I'm really liking it, but am holding out on opinions until I can see how they wrap this up (but it's a trilogy isn't it?).  Just for grins I started reading it on my flight up here, to see if I could freak myself out with all the plane crash stuff.  Ironically, I also brought along "The Strain" in print for those minutes when you have to turn off your electronics.  This book is going to be a TV series on FX soon, and I've been wanting to get to it.  Anyway, it is apocalyptic as well and the story begins on an airplane.  Synchronicity!

On audio I just finished up "The Farm" by Tom Rob Smith (haven't written it up yet on Goodreads, but I will do that today).  It was...good.  Intriguing.  A little sad and twisted.  Way way different than anything else he has written.  Not mind-blowing but definitely worth reading I think, and the narration was solid.  I'm about to start "Sinful Folk" for a TLC tour on audio today.

Today back at my parents' house, we will be having a big party with a bunch of German food to celebrate the final World Cup game.  We have really had a good time with this World Cup.  Crazy good games, so much drama (Brazil - WTF?).

Hope everyone has a great Sunday.  Let me know if you have big plans, or if you are reading something that I need to know about!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Salon: Dead White and Blue

 I'm a little fuzzy here.  I woke up at 4am to use the bathroom (a sign that I'm old I think) and figured why not just stay up and write my post.  We will undoubtedly go to early church, and have a list of things to do today, so no time like the present.  Who needs sleep anyway?

That has been the theme for the 4th of July weekend for sure.  AMC has been running a "Dead White and Blue" Walking Dead marathon since 9am Friday morning.  All seasons back to back.  My daughter has been obsessing over this for weeks, even though she has seen every episode at least twice.  We've not watched every second, but we have watched A LOT.  The binge ends tonight with a Talking Dead that sneak peeks the next season, which is over 3 months away.  An eternity.

And of course we've hopped over and watched the World Cup games as well.  Even though the US is out of the running (we never really had a chance, let's face it) it is still fun to follow.

This is why I get nothing read.

The week was filled with getting multiple estimates for tree trimming, doctor appointments, workouts with Andre, and some long walks with my husband.  My son arrived home from the beach (and proceeded to hole up in his room - typical).  The first hurricane of the season developed and headed north, giving us some rain but of course all the news stations lose their shit.  And the kids and I are preparing to head to Indiana on Tuesday for our annual two week vacation up there.

I always have such aspirations for "summer reading" but there is no such thing.  Even audio is slow-going, since the kids are almost always in the car with me, and I rarely take walks by myself.  I did finish up Michael Koryta's "Those Who Wish Me Dead" which was good...a nail-biter with lots of action, but a fairly predictable plot and resolution.  I've now started "The Farm", the new one by Tom Rob Smith.  No opinions yet, I'm too early into it.  But I'm intrigued, and have no idea where it's going.  I'm anxious to get through it though, as I just received "The Silkworm" on audio from the library.  VERY excited about that one!

In print I'm still reading "Devil's Knot", a true crime story that is enough to chill your blood.  It just defies imagination that in this country, in recent history, three kids could be sentenced to life in prison and/or death with no evidence against them except that they wear black t-shirts and listen to Metallica.  That the police and judge could be THAT crooked.  That a jury's judgement could be THAT clouded.  I hope to have this one finished before I leave on Tuesday.  Next up will be "The Three" by Sarah Lotz, for book club and to make my flight to Indiana more exciting.

Today I hope to see "Snowpiercer", an apocalyptic sci-fi movie based on a graphic novel.  Also planning on taking in some more Walking Dead, and getting things wrapped up here (pool maintenance, cat maintenance, bills, etc.) for my two week absence.  So here's to an end to a great three-day weekend.  Anyone have exciting plans?