Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

Suddenly, it’s July – the heat is here, as are the occasional summer thunderstorms. Nine days to Walk for Music; a couple weeks until a getaway I’m looking forward to. As we close out June, here’s what I have been reading:

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, Nina Totenberg
Totenberg, a longtime NPR reporter, met Ruth Bader Ginsburg early(ish) in both their careers. Her memoir traces their five-decade friendship, but it’s also a broader meditation on friendship, community, Washington insider politics and the challenges of being a woman in Washington’s highly rarefied environment. Thoughtful and insightful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 13).

In a New York Minute, Kate Spencer
Franny Doyle is having a terrible day: she got laid off, then her dress ripped in the subway door. Then a handsome guy offered her his suit jacket and their “love story” went viral. But is there maybe a spark there after all? I loved this sweet, sassy rom-com that’s also a love letter to NYC and a tribute to stalwart friendships (for both main characters). So much fun. Recommended by Annie.

The Last Mapmaker, Christina Soontornvat
Sai has spent her life (so far) struggling to rise above her family’s low-class background. When she gets a chance to join an exploratory voyage as a mapmaker’s assistant, she jumps at it. But on board ship, she discovers that so many things – including the voyage itself – are more complicated than they seem. A Thai-inspired adventure that asks some interesting questions; dragged in the middle but ultimately was really fun. Recommended by Karina Yan Glaser, whose books I adore.

My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
I admire Sotomayor, but didn’t know much about her before reading this wonderful memoir of her early life and career. She tells a compelling, warmhearted story of her early life in the Bronx, her Puerto Rican family, her journey to Princeton and Yale and her career as a lawyer and judge. Thoughtful, insightful and fascinating. Recommended by my friend Allison, who also loved it.

Portrait of a Thief, Grace D. Li
I loved this Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist novel that follows five Chinese-American college students as they attempt to steal back several priceless bronze pieces that Western museums have looted from China. I liked the characters, the fast pace and especially the questions about ethics, colonialism and who gets to decide where certain treasures belong. Fun and thought-provoking. Recommended by Anne.

So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix, Bethany Morrow
It’s 1863 and the March women are building a life for themselves in the freedpeople’s colony of Roanoke Island, Virginia. I loved this thoughtful remix of a beloved story; the sisters are recognizably themselves, but also distinct from Alcott’s characters. The warmth of family love and the past trauma of enslavement are strong, and I appreciated the questions Morrow’s characters ask about equality and freedom. Excellent. Also recommended by Anne.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?


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wreath tree NYC Christmas

It’s no secret that I love New York City: in the fall, in the spring, even in a sweltering summer heat wave. But I’d never seen the city decked out for Christmas, and I’d always wanted to. So, when my husband told me he had a work conference in Chicago, I made plans for a quick solo trip: 48 hours to wander on my own. It was, as you might expect, glorious.

Every time I go to New York I fall in love. This time, it was with crisp Snapdragon apples and pumpkin cookies at the tiny farmers’ market in Abingdon Square; with the stands of freshly cut Christmas trees on so many corners, tunnels of prickly green. I even fell in love a little bit with the tree-seller who called “Merry Christmas!” and actually tipped his hat.

high line view NYC blue sky

I fell in love with running on the High Line: bold blue skies and views across the Hudson, public art and the sharp angles of skyscrapers and the pounding of my own feet. After my run, I stopped at the Hudson Cafe for oatmeal and a cup of strong Earl Grey, and fell in love with a little dog named Stella. Her owner invited me to sit down and chat, and we talked public transit and city life and unexpected career moves. “How long have you lived in the neighborhood?” I asked her. She grinned, a little wickedly. “A hundred and fifty years!”

Cornelia street cafe awning NYC

I fell in love with the cheery red-striped awnings at the Cornelia Street Cafe just off Bleecker, and with their excellent eggs Florentine (oh my). I fell in love with the stunning array of artisans in the maker space at Chelsea Market, and with the quiet, unpretentious Epiphany Library branch on East 23rd Street. I ended up there when I needed a place to rest my feet and charge my phone (because Hermione is right: when in doubt, go to the library).

red decor west village

I bought a rush ticket to Saturday night’s Live from Here with Chris Thile at the Town Hall. And while I knew I loved Thile’s mandolin music (I’m a Nickel Creek fan from way back), I fell completely in love with his warmth and charm onstage. When he invited the audience to sing along with a few lines from a John Denver song about home, it felt both magical and holy. I’ve been humming those lines ever since.

Some trips to New York are full of new discoveries, and some are about revisiting old favorites. The best are a bit of both, and this was no exception: I made sure to pop into Three Lives for a browsing session and a bit of eavesdropping on the friendly booksellers. I visited Pink Olive and refueled later with Earl Grey at Joe. I went back to Bar Six, back to the Strand, back to the Bryant Park holiday market at the main NYPL branch. I went back, most of all, to the city whose streets I find endlessly fascinating.

I didn’t make it to Rockefeller Center or walk down 5th Avenue to see all the decked-out department stores. But I did get a little of that holiday sparkle. And I did my favorite thing to do in New York: wander to my heart’s content. It was, as always, exhausting and lovely.

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read bbf ya panel Boston public library

November. Already. How did that happen?

The second half of October was a wild ride. Here’s what I’ve been reading on commutes, before bed and whenever else I can squeeze in a few pages:

Nothing Happened, Molly Booth
I heard Booth speak on a YA panel at the Boston Book Festival (she’s second from left, above). Her second novel is a modern-day retelling of Much Ado About Nothing set at a Maine summer camp. Lots of mixed signals, crossed wires, teenage drama and a whole range of gender identities. So much fun.

In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It, Lauren Graham
Does a commencement speech count as a book? I don’t know, but this one was lighthearted, fun and wise, as you might expect from Lorelai Gilmore. I’m trying to take her titular advice. Short and sweet – recommended for drama nerds and Gilmore Girls fans.

The Law of Finders Keepers, Sheila Turnage
Mo LoBeau and her Desperado Detectives are back, trying to locate both Blackbeard’s treasure and Mo’s long-lost birth mother. A sleazy treasure hunter, unexpected snow and several mysterious objects keep them plenty busy. This middle-grade series has so much heart, and I loved this fourth installment.

Joy Enough, Sarah McColl
Sarah used to write the wonderful blog Pink of Perfection, and I was excited to read her debut memoir. It is slim and tense and poignant: it is about her mother, love, grief and womanhood. Some luminous lines and some sections I really struggled with: beauty and frustration, like life. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 15).

Annelies, David R. Gillham
What if Anne Frank had survived? That is the question Gillham addresses in his new novel, as Anne tries to adjust to life in Amsterdam after the camps. Reunited with her father, but deeply traumatized, Anne struggles to make peace with her wartime experiences and move forward. This was a hard read: well done, but heavy, as you might expect. Anne did seem real to me, and Gillham renders postwar Amsterdam in vivid detail. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 15).

Saving Hamlet, Molly Booth
Emma Allen is looking forward to sophomore year and her school’s production of Hamlet. But everything starts going horribly wrong – and that’s before Emma falls through a (literal) unauthorized trapdoor and lands in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, circa 1600, where everyone thinks she’s a boy. Time travel, Shakespeare, snarky friendships and budding romance – what’s not to love? I liked this even better than Nothing Happened.

Seafire, Natalie C. Parker
Caledonia Styx runs a tight ship: her female-only crew is fast, cohesive and skilled at staying alive. As they navigate the dangerous seas, Caledonia receives word that the brother she’d given up for dead may still be alive out there. A fast-paced beginning to a badass adventure trilogy. Recommended by Liberty.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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devereux beach marblehead

On Fridays in the summer, we like to take day trips.

Since my husband is usually done early on Fridays (he’s a therapist and his schedule ebbs and flows with the school year and vacations), and I’m freelancing/job hunting, we are continuing our summer tradition of exploring the Boston area. A few weeks ago, we decided to revisit Marblehead, a little town on the North Shore that we’d visited a long while back.

It was a hot, humid afternoon, but it was – in a word – glorious.

striped petunias window box flowers

We drove up after a busy morning: sessions for him, yoga and errands and some writing work at the library for me. After a freak thunderstorm, the skies had (mostly) cleared, and we nosed our way into the pretty downtown area, and spent a couple of hours wandering.

I found a sweet blue dress at a boutique called She, and we poked in and out of several other shops. I was disappointed to find that Authors and Artists, a great old used bookstore, had closed (or at least moved?). But the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore, several streets over, is thriving. Of course we had to go for a browse.

spirit of 76 bookstore interior

We also found a garden shop overflowing with flowers, and Bella, one of the resident spaniels, sprawled out in the doorway.

garden shop flowers dog spaniel bella

We headed, with our books, over to Devereux Beach, where J settled down on my yoga mat (necessity being the mother of invention) and I waded into the waves, then walked up and down the beach for a while. I love the feel of sand under my feet, of wind and waves and sky. Eventually I stretched out next to J and read a bit of Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places, which felt fitting even though we were only a mile from town.

katie devereux beach selfie marblehead

When we got hungry, we headed back in and decided to try the local taqueria, Howling Wolf, which – glory be – was delicious. We took the leftover salsa home and snacked on it for days.

All in all, a delightful return to Marblehead. I’m sure we’ll be back (again).

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central park yellow flowers nyc

On a Wednesday morning earlier this month, I boarded a train from Boston to New York City. My husband was headed to a work conference in Texas, and I had decided to take a solo adventure while he was away.

When I told people about my plans, their initial response was always the same: “By yourself?”

My mother was doubtful, my sister surprised, my friend Abigail wistful. “You’re so brave,” she said. I’m fairly certain they all expected me to be nervous about spending three days in the city alone. But I could hardly keep the glee out of my voice.

I’m an introvert by nature, a small-town girl by upbringing and heritage. I’m the granddaughter, on both sides, of farmers who raised cattle and alfalfa hay on quiet green acres bordered by forests. I’m a West Texan, and I admit to loving the solitude and freedom of those wide open spaces: long gray ribbons of highway stretching to the horizon, the silhouettes of tall pump jacks and mesquite scrub against so much sky.

sunset sky west texas

I’ve come to cherish a different kind of solitude in recent years, though: the experience of being alone in a city.

I’m back at the Art House America blog today, sharing my love of being alone in the big city. Please join me over there to read the rest of my essay.

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I do. (It makes me want to buy school supplies.)

J and I spent a long weekend in NYC recently with our friends Allison and Duncan, who hosted us in their wee apartment (though the air mattress took up most of their living room). Three days is only long enough to taste the glories of New York, but we savored every moment (and several delicious meals).

Saturday was summer-warm, so we strolled through Central Park:

central park lake manhattan new york

central park bridge new york

central park ramble paths walk new york

After lunch, we spent the afternoon wandering the West Village, browsing funky shops with adorable window displays:

swedish candy shop west village nyc

purple pumpkin window west village nyc

We sniffed and browsed teas at DavidsTea (I bought a tin of delicious pumpkin chai), tried on cloches at a gorgeous hatmaker’s shop (I felt like Maisie), listened to jazz in Washington Square Park, and finally headed to Victory Garden for goat’s milk ice cream:

(Allison had chocolate and salted caramel, swirled. I had salted caramel, with “choco-crunch” topping. Heavenly.)

We ate dinner that night at Arriba Arriba – the first good Mexican restaurant I’ve been to in New England. It wasn’t quite like home, but it was pretty darn close (and delicious). And then we saw The Fantasticks, which is a delightful, magical little piece of musical theatre. So much fun.

Sunday was rainy, but J and I braved the weather for another Central Park walk:

We visited the Frick Collection and then met our friends for chai at a hip little cafe on the Upper East Side:

sicaffe window photo nyc

That afternoon, we visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum – a fascinating, well-researched museum detailing the lives of immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’re interested in NYC’s history and/or the history of immigrants in this country, I highly recommend it.

I can’t go to NYC (or really anywhere) without visiting a few bookstores, and the group let me stop at Shakespeare & Co. on Lexington as we headed for Thai food and the Tenement Museum. And later on Sunday afternoon, Allison took me to Books of Wonder:

books of wonder nyc interior children's books

It is truly wonderful – a bookstore dedicated to children’s literature, with a gorgeous section of old and rare books at the back. I bought a copy of a story I loved as a child, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

We ate a cozy dinner at Quaint that night, followed by Scattergories, ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s, of course) and tea in the cozy apartment. And the next day, we played Ping-Pong in midtown before catching the bus back to Boston.

New York is where I go to do things I can’t do anywhere else – often several of them in the same weekend – and also to do the New York versions of things I love to do all the time, like browsing bookshops and drinking tea. It can be gritty and overwhelming, but it’s also dazzling, and exciting, and fun.

I’ve been to New York four times now, and my trips there are always chock-full of magical moments, which make me believe again in the New York I know from so many books and films. Mostly, I keep going back for a taste of that magic. And the city always delivers.

If you’ve been to New York, what are your favorite things to do there?

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Living in New England, I’m (still) constantly amazed by how close together everything is. Drive a few hours from Boston and you could be in any one of six states. We drove to Maine for the day last month, just because we could. (I grew up in west central Texas, where we routinely drove two hours one way to play district high school football games.)

We’ve got plans to explore all the New England states, but I also love taking off for an adventure closer to home, when we didn’t plan ahead but want to discover a new place, and get back in time to make soup for dinner and watch a little Castle. So on Saturday, we hopped in the car and let Agatha, our trusty GPS, point us toward Marblehead.

I admit I had an ulterior motive: I’d heard about the Spirit of ’76 bookstore. And yes, we went, and it was lovely. But before we hit the bookstore, we found some other gems, such as these autumn leaves:

Marblehead has a charming little downtown area, lined with quaint old buildings, and we spent a couple of hours browsing the shops, picking up a few treasures. We bought a wee Christmas-tree-shaped ornament made of shells (with a tiny starfish on top), and I dragged J into Artists + Authors, where I found a lovely old edition of Eight Cousins for $10. (And so many other books I wanted to buy. But I’ll be back.)

I could have snapped dozens of photos of the signage (I love unusual signs), but this one was a favorite:

(The toy store itself was also fabulous – crammed with cool toys, puzzles and games.)

It was one of those crisp autumn afternoons, a little chilly in the shade but perfect in the sunshine, with trees gently waving their vivid leaves and the sun making us squint and smile at the same time. Especially when we found a street called Darling:

(That’s my darling. On Darling Street. All together now: Awww.)

We bought chai lattes from a little cafe and sipped them as we walked to the Spirit of ’76. J employed his usual bookstore technique, which is to pick out a book, curl up in a chair and read while I browse to my heart’s content:

I love simple adventures like this one – exploring a town, getting a feel for its streets and its vibe, and then hopping back in the car and heading home. I love weekends away and long vacations too, but it’s fun to make new discoveries by traveling literally over the next hill. (As Woody Allen famously noted, the trick with this kind of voyage is “to avoid the pitfalls, seize the opportunities, and get back home by six o’clock.”)

What little adventures have you had lately?

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Since Jen posted this song on her blog about a month ago, I’ve been listening to it over and over. Not that I’m about to pack up and move to Brooklyn (though sometimes I wish I could). But it stirs something in me – the act of taking a huge, definite step; the quiet, growing excitement of a big adventure; the admission that sometimes the most vital things are the hardest to say. It also speaks to me in ways I can’t articulate. I hope that, perhaps, it will also move you.

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