Monday, August 10, 2020

Covid Positivity


In this day and age, it's so easy to think that 2020 has just been a kick in the balls. And in some ways, it absolutely has. We've had the Covid, killer hornets from outer space, asteroids, earthquakes and Joe Exotic (you're either Team Carol or a traitor). But there has honestly been some positivity here right? Right?! Who is with me?!

This weekend was, for me, one of those positive moments.  I took my children tenting for the first time on my own.  A few summers ago, we had rented an RV but this year, tenting seemed the better option for us. We stayed at The KOA Twin Mountain/Mt Washington on a tent site and it was wonderful (although I highly recommend bringing pads to sleep on otherwise you'll be in pain and also good instant coffee!).  While there, we visited below:

I took that picture of Echo Lake Beach in Franconia Notch State Park. The kids and I spent most of the afternoon there.  We love swimming and paddle boating here.  We also managed to visit Littleton, NH
where we visited the candy counter (shoutout to Chutters for keeping everyone safe during the visit!), got some coffee (for mom and blueberry lemonade for the kids) and stopped in the bookstore.  The weather was perfect and my son even taught me how to cook sausage and green peppers in aluminum foil on coals!  Sweet!  We're headed back in September for a weekend and the kids have requested to go back next year for a longer period of time.  I have a KOA membership, and we have talked about RV'ing/camping through the country next summer, so we may end up doing that. 

Another positive thing is that tenting normalizes my weird circadian rhythm of waking up at 5 as the light is starting to get gray and light.  The red squirrels were REALLY loud and chittery too.  We had one that regularly visited us and spent some time by our fire with us on Saturday night.  Also, reading! I finished a book on Ted Bundy (maybe not the best choice for reading on a camping trip but whatever). I will review it shortly.

Anyways, lots of positive things.  I'm looking for suggestions for things to do with the kids this weekend. I already have on the list: hike, beach (Rye or York), blueberry picking, biking.  The things must be outdoors and we must be able to socially distance or safely wear masks.


Thursday, July 30, 2020

Defending Jacob by William Landay

This novel by lawyer and novelist William Landay was a re-read for me.  I read it for the first time a few years ago I think.  And I enjoyed it then, but wanted to read it again to see if there was anything new I could learn from it. It's also a series now so if I was ever going to watch it, I should probably re-read it - I'm a purist (or snob?) like that.

In this book, the story is told from Andy Barber's perspective.  He is a First Assistant DA (not the DA, but the one that manages the office) and he is married to Laurie. They have a 14 year old son named Jacob. One day, their son's classmate, Ben Rivkin, is found murdered in the park along a popularly traveled path - one that most of the neighborhood kids take to school. Jacob is arrested for it and goes to trial. 

I loved the issues that were dealt with in this book - everything from love for your child that blinds you, to the stressors that are placed on a marriage and what families do for each other. I still really enjoyed it. And even though I read the book in the past, I honestly didn't remember the last part of the book and I was still shocked and surprised. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

What I've Been Reading Lately

So I haven't been posting a whole lot but I'm reading I promise!!!

I've currently got a couple of books that I'm actively reading:

1. Defending Jacob by William Landay. This is a re-read for me - it's been a few years since I read it but I'm interested in seeing Chris Evans in the series so I wanted to re-read.

2. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I grew to love him after reading The Shadow of the Wind and I'm just continuing on.  Any book that combines mystery with bookstores is all right with me.

3. The Teenage Brain because you know, soon I will have a teenager - what the hell?!

I've also been obsessed with new podcasts and new (to me) shows.  THe positive of Quarantining is that you can totally catch up and get into new things.  Here's what I'm listening to and watching:

1. Schitt's Creek  - this is literally a family affair with Eugene Levy and his two hilarious children getting inovled in this along with an amazing cast.  The episodes are bite sized - twenty minutes - so you can get two in right before bed.

2. Twin Peaks - not to be confused with New Hampshire's Twin Mountain. I'm gearing up to watch the third season on Starz but needed to get reacquainted with everyone.

3. Dirty John - the Betty Broderick story - Amanda Peet and Christian Slater.  Need I say more?!  So good. Amanda Peet nails it.

4. Slow Burn - this podcast season is about David Duke - yes THAT David Duke. The first season was about Watergate. 

5. Women and Crime - combines two of my interests - true crime and how women experience it differently.

What are you listening, reading or watching?!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

So, I've been really making an effort to read novels by or about women of color because I realized that my reading experience has actually been somewhat limited.  And this particular novel seemed really interesting when I read a synopsis of it, so I picked it up.

Ruby King is a young woman of color living in Chicago whose mother is found murdered in their South Side home. While the police just dismiss it as another act of senseless violence, Ruby knows that it will mean she's forced to live now with her violent father. The only one that seems to understand her is her best friend, Layla, who she has been friends with for her entire life. They are more like sisters, than friends.  When Layla;s father, the pastor, tells Layla to stay away, she becomes determined to help her friend no matter what. In the course of helping, she learns about murky loyalties that have run between families between generations and begins to see how trauma can be shared amongst families as well as communities.

I was very surprised to learn that this was West's first novel because it was so magnificently well written and takes on a number of important themes that are particularly relevant to today's world including racism, abuse, love, trust, faith and friendship. West effectively uses shifting first person and shifting time narratives to connect the reader to the characters. I may not have really liked the characters themselves or their choices but I felt like I was connected with them. This is an important book that is timely and relevant to the issues that our country is still experiencing to this date.  Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

What I've been reading lately and some of my favorite links

It's been a while since I posted and for that I'm sorry - although Rodham was wonderful, I have yet to complete a reviewable book (I've read the third book in a series and in my humble opinion, it's hard to review a book within a series because it has built upon the books that came before!).  That being said, I'm finishing up the fourth of the series of books written by Elena Ferrante. She is the talented (and anonymous!) author of the Neapolitan Novels, a quartet of books written in Italian about two young women that come of age in Naples and how their lives progress through adulthood.  I'm just about done in English.  My mom got me the first one in Italian, so I will likely read a chapter a night in Italian starting when I'm done.  

I'm also currently reading The Teenage Brain and Masterminds and Wingmen in the hopes that they will give me a better understanding of what the hell is going on in my (almost) teenager's brain. I mean, how do I have an almost thirteen year old!


The last few weeks have been increasingly intense as far as the social fabric of our country. We are at a turning point insofar as race relations and public health stuff.  I'm not blind to it.  I've accumulated some of my favorite links related to not just reading and books but about the things that are going on in the world today that hopefully can give everyone some insight.  Please be kind to each other!

  1.  What Does it Mean to be an Ally?
  2. The Hate U Give is now streaming. For Free.  Go Watch.
  3. Start here to begin the process of listening and understanding - it's a start only.  
  4. The Talk.
  5. The King of Staten Island and the Pain of Moving On from the Atlantic,
  6. Behind the Scenes of the Shining.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, a review

I stumbled upon this book almost by accident. I had been talking to a friend about books that we enjoyed reading and found out that it was coming out - Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my most favorite authors and I re-read her novel, Prep, often.  So when I heard that she was coming out with a retelling of Hill's life, I was all in!

This book literally imagines what Hillary Rodham Clinton's life would have been like if she had never married Bill Clinton. This book is, in a single word: mesmerizing.

So, Hillary at Wellesley (full disclosure:  I graduated from Wellesley in 2001) is still the same, down to the Commencement address she gave in 1969 - she was the first student commencement speaker at a graduation in Wellesley history. She goes to Yale Law, meets Bill and travels some with him, but instead of marrying him, she leaves him and goes back to Chicago. What is brilliant about this novel is that it's a a fictional re-telling of Hillary's Living History.

I found myself experiencing a lot of emotions here - I found myself charmed by the early romance and then horrified in turn at how Bill acted, but I still couldn't tear myself away. I felt uncomfortable with some of the compromises that were made by Hillary - particularly when it came to Donald Trump (who plays an interesting role here). I felt a little squeamish reading about the fictional Hillary talking about sex and other bodily functions, much as I would any other person talking about that - I'm sure Hillary is reading it - can you imagine HER reaction?!

And yet, in spite of this, (or maybe because of it), I couldn't put the book down. It's the most technically perfect book I've read in a very long time and I was absolutely enthralled and mesmerized by it.  Definitely recommended. 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Origin by Dan Brown - a review

It has been such a long time since I posted a review in large part because it has been so hard to just read during this public health crisis. My life has been turned upside down quite frankly - what with working remotely, my actual job undergoing some changes and my children remotely learning for the rest of this year.  I don't even know if I will get to see my family in Connecticut or New York this summer.  It's been very stressful and difficult for me to deal with.  I've since gotten back to reading because I'm trying to get some self care in and reading has always been that for me, so here I am.

Dan Brown is high on my list of readable authors - I love mysteries, steeped in history and religion and he hits all of those marks.  The fact that he is from New Hampshire is an added benefit - I can say I'm supporting a local author other than John Irving. I have loved Dan Brown since my mom handed me a copy of The Da Vinci Code and insisted I read it (thanks mom!).

For those of you that have read other Dan Brown books, specifically Inferno, don't worry - this is a standalone. This should also appease all of the people that haven't read a Dan Brown book too - go ahead and pick this one up to start. Origin is the Fifth in the Langdon series - although you don't need to have read the previous books in order to appreciate and love this book. THis book is set in Spain with Langdon's former student and Elon Musk wannabe Edmond Kirsch giving a talk that is probably going to really, really piss off the religious folk - because all of these books are about pissing off the religious folk. As Kirsch is giving the talk, an assassin shoots him and Langdon and his female companion (who always changes, James Bond style) have to get the talk out!

At the time that I was reading this book - right when our lives were changing in massive ways - this book was exactly what I needed.  The chapters were short to match my overanxiously short attention span and I didn't have to really "think" or concentrate in my sometimes preoccupied and sometimes down state.  It took me away when I needed to be taken away and provided entertainment.  I enjoyed it, even though it was somewhat predictable.  It was fun and earnest and I loved it. It transported me to Spain and into lives and places that I had never been to before and if that's not the mark of a good book, then I don't know what is.

Covid Positivity

  In this day and age, it's so easy to think that 2020 has just been a kick in the balls. And in some ways, it absolutely has. We've...