Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

by Yaa Gyasi
Knopf, 2016
305 pages
source: purchased

My literary year began on a high note when I selected Homegoing as my First Book of 2017. The novel appeared on year-end 'best of' lists from the New York Times to trusted blogging friends and was the 2016 release I most regret not reading before the year ended.

Set in 18th-century Africa, the novel opens with the story of two half-sisters separated by circumstances beyond control. One is sold into slavery, while the other is married off to a British slave dealer. As Homegoing unfolds, the chapters move forward generation by generation to the present day, with each focusing on one descendant. A family tree at the beginning proved extremely helpful!

As you would expect, the contrast between the two branches of the family is dramatic.

Homegoing is a very moving novel... Gyasi made me FEEL. I was fully invested in nearly all of her characters - quite a feat considering the sheer number of them. In fact, most are deserving of their own novel.

My sole complaint is that when each chapter ended and the narrative moved on to the next generation, I was left wanting more. 

Yaa Gyasi is a debut author to watch. She will be awarded the John Leonard Prize, recognizing an outstanding first book in any genre, at the National Book Critics Circle Awards in March. I can't wait to see what she writes next.

My rating:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sanibel Sunday: 1/15/17

Good morning from sunny Sanibel, Florida! Illness and winter storms delayed our departure for several days, but we finally arrived late Thursday afternoon. The road trip was mostly uneventful... traveling with our daughter and the dog meant sticking to familiar routes and pet-friendy hotels, and that was fine. I just wanted to get here and wasn't as concerned with seeing new things along the way.

Friday was spent cleaning, unpacking, and grocery shopping, and then my father-in-law took us all out to dinner. My first beach walk was Saturday morning. I found sand dollars... lots of them! I rinsed and bleached them, and now they're soaking up the sun. Hopefully, they'll bleach out ever more over time. Sand dollars are my favorite, but have proved to be surprisingly elusive over the past few years. Last night we grilled pesto turkey burgers (the best turkey burgers ever) and ate outside. I'm so happy to be back!

This week's reading//

It's finally time to face the fact that we don't listen to audiobooks in the car. We tried but are constantly pausing them to talk, or forgetting to pause and then trying to figure out where we left off. It's just too frustrating.  I'll save the audiobooks for when I'm alone in the car or walking on the beach. I didn't finish any books in print this week either.

Right now I'm reading...

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Such a beautifully written novel! I want to read it slowly and savor every page. My frustration with the characters and their bad choices seems to be increasing, but so far it's an excellent book.

This for a readalong hosted by Rachel. Part 1 discussion is coming up January 23. I borrowed the audio from the library, but have since purchased the kindle edition, too. I've read nearly 25% and am finding it very interesting.

Today and the week ahead//

We're off to the farmers market this morning. Our Sunday "Farmers Market Dinners"with my father-in-law have become a tradition. We buy whatever produce, meat, fish, or bread looks appealing (and almost always some homemade guacamole, too) then try to come up with an interesting and delicious way to put it all together.

There are several projects to be completed over the next few months, but mostly I'm eager to settle into a relaxed winter routine. My sister-in-law arrives on Tuesday and wants to explore the area. We're even considering an overnight trip to Key West. I haven't been there in a few years...

How was your week? What are you reading today?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Sunday Salon: The Best Laid Plans...

Good morning, friends. I had hoped we'd be well on our way to Florida today, but illness and winter storm Helena forced a change of plans. As the same flu-like bug I'm recovering from struck Twin B and the weather forecast took an ominous turn, we made the decision to delay. So here is one more weekly update from the Great White North...

Finished this week//

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I finished this wonderful debut novel last night... and now that we're here for another day or two, I might even write a review. Gyasi is an author to watch!

Set aside for now//

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
I have listened to nearly 40% of this audiobook. The author's narration is excellent and the story is good... but I'm just not listening enough and progress is too slow. This needs to be a read/listen combination. I put the ebook on hold at two libraries and will pick up where I left off when it becomes available, or when I can walk and listen again in Florida... whichever comes first.

Current reading//

This book sounds interesting, relevant, and timely. I downloaded the audio version from my library after putting LaRose aside and am happy to report that it is instantly engaging. Rachel at Hibernator's Library is hosting a January/February read-along. Click here for her intro post.

I'll probably start another novel today, too.

The week ahead//
Plans are uncertain now. As soon as our daughter is feeling better, we'll head south.

How was your week? What are you reading?

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

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Years Update: 1/2/17

It's the end of a long New Years weekend, and we are thankful for an extra day... everyone is sick or recovering. One of our daughters got sick over Christmas, then my sister and parents all got the flu (despite the shot!), and now my husband and I have bad colds. Needless to say, there were no festivities to ring in the New Year. My big accomplishment yesterday was taking the ornaments off the Christmas tree. Beyond that, it was a quiet day on the couch with tea, my laptop, and a book.

Current reading//

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
I'm listening to this... the author's narration is perfect! 

Finished last week//

Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand (Winter #1)
Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand (Winter #2)
Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand (Winter #3)

After nearly ten days of not being able to focus, I decided to give some lighter women's fiction a try. Regular readers know that's rarely my genre of choice, but it turned out to be just what I needed during this busy season. I started Winter Street  on the 23rd and had read all three books by the 28th. My time with the lovably dysfunctional Quinn clan (so much drama in a single family!) in their Nantucket inn at Christmastime was a wonderfully relaxing escape from my own hectic holiday schedule. I was a little disappointed with some loose ends at the end of book three, but have since learned that there will be a fourth book coming in October of 2017. It will surely be on my holiday reading list!

Send in the Clowns (Country Club Murders #4) by Julie Mulhern
This cozy mystery was another bit of escapist reading during a busy week.  I borrowed it from my library via Hoopla and enjoyed the trip back to the 1970s... it's always fun to spend a few hours with Ellison and company.

On the blog//

First Book of the Year: 2017
2016 Wrap-up: Stats and thoughts
My Favorite Books of 2016
Year-end Book Briefs: Fiction Edition

The week ahead//
This week will be all about packing, cleaning, and tying up loose ends. We're leaving for Florida on Friday or Saturday, so I may disappear for a week while we drive down and settle in. My next update will be a Sanibel Sunday!

What have you been reading during this holiday week?

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

Sunday, January 1, 2017

First Book of the Year: 2017

Happy New Year!! For the fourth year, Sheila at Book Journey is hosting the First Book of the Year event. The idea is simple - just share a photo of you and your first book. Sheila says:
Yes.  YES!   We are totally doing this again.  This is the fourth year that I am thrilled to host the First Book Of The Year.  As always, I hope you will join in this fun event. I absolutely LOVE seeing the pictures from all over the world of all of you with your first books. 
So what is First Book of the year? 
The First Book is a book that maybe you have been wanting to read for a while but have not had time for, a coveted book, an old favorite re-read – whatever you want.  The point is that this is the book that will kick off the year for you.  What will it be?
This year I selected Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi... the book I most regret not reading in 2016. I borrowed it from the library, read the first chapter and thought it was wonderful, but the loan expired and the ebook disappeared from my kindle. As rave reviews continued to multiply, I decided to purchase my own copy and start the new year off right!
Here we go...

Have you chosen your First Book of the Year?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Wrap-up: Stats and thoughts

It's a wrap... 

2016 has not been my most productive year in terms of reading or blogging, but it certainly has been fun. I tried to remove pressure and stress from my hobby  this year and, for the most part, succeeded:

  • I accepted my last review book ten months ago and have remained commitment-free ever since. 
  • I didn't join any challenges in 2016, not even the goodreads challenge. No more avoiding long books!
  • I joined fewer events and readalongs, carefully selecting those that truly interested me.
  • I wrote fewer book reviews, opting instead for shorter 'book briefs'.
  • I mostly read what I wanted, when I wanted... free-range reading!

Number Of Books Read
51 - one book per week is a comfortable pace

70% / 30%
Nonfiction is down slightly from last year, but I'm still happy with 30%.

Female/Male authors 
66% / 34%

New authors/ tried-and-true authors
26 / 22

In translation
5 - down 50% from last year

7 - not as many as last year, but I have read 46/50 from my Classics Club list

22 - 8 as audio only, 14 were read/listen combinations

Shortest & longest book:
Ten Days in a Mad House by Nellie Bly - 101 pages
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg - 944 pages

Most popular & least popular book: 
(based on number of goodreads ratings)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hanna  - 521,084 ratings
Kings of Queens: Life Beyond Baseball with the '86 Mets by Erik Sherman - 19 ratings

Favorite Books Read In 2016:
Fiction: The Emperor's Children  by Claire Messud
Classic: Germinal by Emile Zola
Nonfiction: Just Mercy  by Bryan Stevenson
(my full list of 2016 favorites is here)

Most surprising book (in a good way):
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
My first, and longest, book of 2016... I waded through 900+ pages/nearly 24 hours of audio of this debut novel, only to be disappointed by the non-ending. Now, nearly a year later,  I'm still thinking about the characters and excellent writing. (my review)

2016 bookish highlights:
Germinal readalong
Nonfiction November
The Classics Club/Classics Club Spins
Litsy... have you joined yet?

Plans for 2017:
I don't anticipate any major changes at Lakeside Musing... more free-range reading, readalongs with friends, blogging events, and continued bookish chatter.

Thank you for reading and talking about books with me this year.
Happy 2017!


Friday, December 30, 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

It's finally time to say good-bye to 2016... and I am more than ready to move on! As for reading, it's been a fairly average year in both quantity and quality. There were no stand-out reading experiences like last year's "Trolloping with friends" through the Chronicles of Barsetshire, though there were plenty of great books and a few memorable readalongs.

Here are my favorite books read in 2016. Of course, they were not all published this year. An asterisk denotes a read/listen combination. You know how much I love alternating between print and audio, especially with nonfiction.


The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
my favorite novel read in 2016

Shelter by Jung Yun
my favorite 2016 debut novel

*Germinal by Emile Zola
my favorite classic and most memorable readalong of 2016

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
most beautifully written novel and top author discovery of 2016

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
my favorite Quindlen novel in twenty years

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
another top author discovery

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett keeps getting better and better!


my favorite nonfiction read in 2016

I went on a "Supreme Women" reading spree this year...

by Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
RBG is my hero.

*When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
the saddest book I read this year

Infuriating, but important..


Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo
narrated by Ron McLarty

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
narrated by Tavia Gilbert


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