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Posts Tagged ‘Cape Cod’

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I’ve blown through half a dozen books recently – which feels good after a stretch of not reading quite as much. Here’s what I have been reading lately:

Heart of Barkness, Spencer Quinn
Chet the dog and his pal Bernie Little, P.I., are back. Their ninth adventure finds them investigating a couple of suspicious deaths involving an elderly country singer. It was slow to start, but I love Chet’s entertaining narrative voice, and the mystery plot was satisfying.

The Bookshop on the Shore, Jenny Colgan
Single mother Zoe is desperate to get out of London, and when she lands two part-time gigs in Scotland, it seems like a good idea. I like Colgan’s fiction and this had more depth than usual, with the motherless children Zoe cares for and the challenges facing her young son. Nina (from The Bookshop on the Corner) features too, but I grew irritated with her. I gobbled this up in two days.

Death in a Desert Land, Andrew Wilson
After her divorce, Agatha Christie heads to Baghdad and Ur to visit an archaeological dig and do some spying for the British government. But she soon finds herself investigating a murder. Wilson’s third mystery featuring Christie as amateur detective (the first one I’ve read) was fast-paced (after a slow start) and engaging.

The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue, Karina Yan Glaser
The five Vanderbeeker kids have all kinds of plans for spring break – which do not include accidentally ruining their mother’s baking business. But they band together to outwit a grumpy inspector, build a tree house and deal with mysterious pets (chickens!) guinea pigs!) that keep appearing on their doorstep. I love this middle-grade series and this third entry was so much fun.

Land’s End: A Walk in Provincetown, Michael Cunningham
Set at the very end of Cape Cod, Provincetown has a unique character and mythology. I have several friends who love it there, and Cunningham’s memoir/history is evocative, fascinating and melancholy. I found this at Three Lives in NYC; the manager, whose taste I trust, waxed lyrical about it. Lovely.

How to Love a Country, Richard Blanco
Blanco, who served as President Obama’s inaugural poet, is back with a fierce, vivid, haunting collection exploring what it is to be an immigrant, to live between two worlds, to be gay in this country, to mourn various national tragedies (the Pulse shooting, the Boston Marathon bombings). These poems pull no punches and they’re also beautiful.

A Dangerous Engagement, Ashley Weaver
Amory Ames and her husband, Milo, sail to New York for the wedding of Amory’s childhood friend. But when one of the groomsmen is found murdered, Amory and Milo begin investigating. I love this stylish, well-plotted mystery series and this was a delightful entry.

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

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alchemists-daughter-book-tea

We’re halfway through October, and the library holds are piling up, to my delight. Here’s what I have been reading:

An Irish Country Family, Patrick Taylor
I’ve read and enjoyed several earlier books in this gentle, amusing series set in 1960s Ulster, in the village of Ballybucklebo. Book 14 picks up the story of Dr. Barry Laverty when he was a medical student, and also as he’s trying to start a family with his wife, Sue. The plot also involves the usual small-town drama: births, deaths, local politics, love. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 12).

Dating is Murder, Harley Jane Kozak
An impulse grab at the library – the second mystery featuring greeting-card artist and amateur sleuth Wollstonecraft “Wollie” Shelley. When her friend Annika, a young au pair, disappears, Wollie tries to find her while juggling her part-time jobs (including reality TV). Wacky, fun, sometimes confusing, but enjoyable.

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, Ada Calhoun
It’s no secret that women are under stress–but Generation X women are particularly so, in every area of their lives. Calhoun takes on work, parenting, marriage and relationships, ambition, physical challenges and more from a witty, honest, thought-provoking perspective. I loved her previous book, Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, and her O Magazine essay, “The New Midlife Crisis for Women.” This book builds on the latter. I’m either a really young Gen Xer or an old Gen Y/Millennial, but so many of these concerns rang true for me. I will be handing this to so many friends. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 7).

The Bonniest Companie, Kathleen Jamie
I was looking for Jamie’s essays at the Strand (on Roxani’s advice) and found these poems instead. They are luminous and odd with occasional flashes of hope and loveliness, and lots of rugged Scottish landscapes.

The Second Home, Christina Clancy
The Gordon family has spent countless summers in Wellfleet, Cape Cod – but one summer when their kids were teenagers changed everything. As the family’s two grown daughters prepare to sell the house after their parents’ deaths, they must reckon with the long-term effects of that summer. Absorbing, heartbreaking and human; richly evocative. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 2, 2020).

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Theodora Goss
I spotted this series at the Booksmith and decided to start at the beginning. Mary Jekyll is investigating some mysterious documents after her father’s death and finds more than she bargained for, including Diana, daughter of Edward Hyde, and a whole lot of mad-scientist craziness. This mystery-fantasy-girl-power-narrative (which also pulls in Holmes and Watson) was so much fun. I’ll definitely read the sequels.

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

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owls mantel painting

Despite living so close to Cape Cod (we’re only an hour – maybe less – from the two bridges that provide a way in), we don’t get out there very often.

But when some friends who were traveling offered us the use of their house on a recent weekend, we looked at each other and said: yes. We badly needed to get out of town, and also the offer of a free, lovely place to stay – during high season! – is nothing to sneeze at.

So we spent a weekend in Falmouth. And it was lovely.

cape sun porch house

Our friends’ house is cozy and airy, with a sun porch (above), a lovely living room, a sweet little kitchen and a resident gray-and-white cat, Percy. I didn’t get any photos of him, but he did eventually jump up on the couch for a snuggle or two.

Friday was the only sunny day, but we made the most of it, heading down to the beach in the late afternoon. Half the town was also there, it seemed, but we sprawled on the sand and read for a while.

k j falmouth beach

We ate dinner that night at Epic Oyster, which lived up to its name – the local Cape oysters were perfection. (The crab cakes were also quite good.) They brought us chocolate chip cookies with the check, and we headed home full and happy.

epic oyster sign falmouth

Saturday was grey and cloudy, but we spent part of it wandering in town, which of course included a trip to Eight Cousins, the local bookstore. I had to get a photo in this wonderful alphabet chair outside.

katie abc chair

After a tasty lunch at the Bean & Cod, we took a long afternoon walk along the Shining Sea Bike Trail, which winds through woods and cranberry bogs. We could hear the music from a wedding starting up across the fields, and ran into plenty of cyclists and dog walkers.

We ate dinner in Woods Hole that night, sampling appetizers and (more) oysters at Water Street Kitchen. (We though the wait would take ages, but we were seated quickly at the bar, which was fine by us.) The atmosphere was lovely and twinkly, and the gin cocktails were wonderful.

water street kitchen bar glasses lights

The next day, we had a lazy, cloudy morning – I spent part of it on the sun porch reading the paper – before grabbing brunch and then ice cream on our way out of town.

holy cow ice cream falmouth ma eat sign

All in all, a delicious weekend. We will (I hope) be back.

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island books newport ri

More (more!) summer reading, as the calendar slides toward fall. Here’s my latest crop of reads:

Fall of a Philanderer, Carola Dunn
A seaside holiday means first relaxation and then a murder investigation for Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher and her policeman husband. A fun, twisty mystery full of entertaining minor characters. This one reminded me somehow of a Miss Marple case.

Second Chance Summer, Morgan Matson
When Taylor Edwards’ father is diagnosed with cancer, her family heads back to their lake house for one last summer together. But Taylor has to face the consequences of a mistake she made five years ago. A wonderful, poignant, rich story of first love, teenage summer, deep grief and – yes – second chances.

The House on Nauset Marsh: A Cape Cod Memoir, Wyman Richardson
Richardson, a Boston doctor who kept a house on the Cape for many years, writes with keen observation and humor about the birds, fish, seasons and rhythms of life there. Lovely and often lyrical; reminded me of One Man’s Meat. Found at the Concord Bookshop last month.

How to Speak Brit: The Quintessential Guide to the King’s English, Cockney Slang, and Other Flummoxing British Phrases, Christopher J. Moore
A quirky, fun “glossary” of common British phrases, with some interesting historical tidbits. Catnip for an Anglophile like me (though I knew lots of the terms already). Found at Raven Used Books.

Grounded: Finding God in the World: A Spiritual Revolution, Diana Butler Bass
Church attendance continues to decline in the West, but increasingly, people of all religious stripes are practicing their faith out in the world. Bass examines the “new” spirituality through the lens of several natural elements (ground, water, sky) and social structures (home, neighborhood, community). Thoughtful, though a bit long-winded at times. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 6).

Pagan Spring, G.M. Malliet
Father Max Tudor, former MI5 spy turned priest, finds himself trying to solve the murder of a man no one particularly liked, while dealing with parish duties and his love life. Not my favorite entry in this series, but the village writing group scenes were hilarious.

Recipes for Love and Murder, Sally Andrew
Tannie (“Auntie”) Maria van Harten writes a recipe-and-advice column for the newspaper in her small South African town. When an abused woman who has written to her ends up murdered, Tannie Maria and her colleagues get mixed up in the police investigation. A satisfying mystery with charm, heart and recipes. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 3).

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

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the bookstore lenox ma

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam
I reread this one after reading Vanderkam’s three short productivity guides. Vanderkam is practical, insightful and no-nonsense: she believes everyone has time to create a life they love. I’m rethinking my routines and hoping to make some good changes.

Goodnight June, Sarah Jio
June Andersen has built a successful career as a New York banker. But when her great-aunt Ruby dies and leaves June the children’s bookstore she owned in Seattle, June must return home and face her painful past. Sifting through Ruby’s papers, June finds a stack of letters exchanged by Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown – the genesis of Goodnight Moon? A sweet, bookish story with surprising depth. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

May B., Caroline Starr Rose
Thanks to Serenity’s enthusiastic rec, I picked this one up and read it in one sitting. It’s a spare, lovely tale of a pioneer girl hired out to work in western Kansas, then stranded alone when her employers disappear. Written in verse, but reminiscent of my beloved Little House series.

Restoring Grace, Katie Fforde
Grace, a lonely divorcée scrambling to restore her huge, dilapidated house near Bath, meets Ellie, a struggling (pregnant) artist, and the two join forces. Romance, art restoration and tangled family relationships all play a role here. Fforde’s writing is light and fun – just the ticket during a crazy week.

Cress, Marissa Meyer
An action-packed sequel to Cinder and Scarlet. Cinder and her band of fellow outlaws attempt to rescue Cress, a young hacker imprisoned on a Lunar satellite. But the rescue misfires and the group is separated, scrambling to reunite as the planet hurtles toward war. Confusing at times – too many characters and plotlines – but entertaining. Now to wait for Winter, Book 4, which comes out in 2015…

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
An irascible, widowed bookstore owner adopts a toddler who was left in his store, and gradually opens up to life (and love) again. A charming tribute to book lovers, bookselling and the ways books shape our lives. The characters are great (I especially loved the non-reading cop who becomes a book nut), but I wanted the author to explore them more deeply.

Mrs. Hemingway, Naomi Wood
“Each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.” Naomi Wood deftly portrays each of Ernest Hemingway’s four marriages – each one’s beginning tied up with the previous one’s end. Ernest is a central figure, of course, but this story belongs to the women: Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. Gorgeously written, elegiac, deeply melancholy. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

The Gilly Salt Sisters, Tiffany Baker
In their isolated Cape Cod village, the Gilly women have farmed salt for generations. Sisters Jo and Claire each struggle to come to terms with their family’s destiny, especially after a fire leaves Jo badly scarred and Claire’s marriage later falls apart. I could not put this one down. Haunting and gripping.

The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton
A friend brought me this pocket-sized collection several years ago and I finally picked it up. Father Brown is quietly clever – a mix of Father Tim Kavanagh and Miss Marple. Gentle, ingenious, entertaining detective stories.

Highland Fling, Katie Fforde
When Jenny Porter gets sent to assess a failing Scottish woolen mill, she never expects to make friends with the locals – or fall in love with the man who could foreclose the whole business. Light, entertaining chick lit. I especially loved Meggie, the outspoken but kind daughter-in-law.

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

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To celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, J and I hopped in the car for a long weekend on Cape Cod. The weather was mostly grey and rainy, but we managed to have a wonderful time anyway.

We stayed at the beautiful Ashley Manor in Barnstable:

ashley manor front

ashley manor living room

Our hosts, Vince and Pat, were so friendly and helpful (and they cook a delicious gourmet breakfast). Pat even showed us the house’s secret passage, which was used to hide Tory sympathizers during the American Revolution. (The original house was built in 1699.)

We spent Friday afternoon and evening wandering around Hyannis (kitschy but fun), catching a movie (Monsters University – we loved it), then enjoying seafood at the Black Cat. (Yum.)

black cat clam chowder hyannis ma

We wandered around Barnstable Village on Saturday morning, stopping for chai at Nirvana when it started raining:

nirvana coffee co barnstable ma

Of course, we visited several bookstores: Tim’s Used Books in Hyannis, Mary’s Bookstore in East Sandwich (where we chatted with Mary, who is adorable); Titcomb’s Bookshop farther along the same road; and Parnassus Book Service in Yamourthport. So many wonderful books.

parnassus book service cape cod

There was miniature golf on Saturday afternoon:

jer mini golf

And some delicious Italian food at Alberto’s on Saturday night. This is zebra striped lobster ravioli:

zebra striped ravioli

We finished it off with ice cream at Katie’s:

katies ice cream hyannis ma

Sunday morning found us on a marshy beach in Yarmouth:

grays beach marshes

We watched people fish for tiny crabs (with pieces of raw chicken tied to strings) and enjoyed the, ah, ocean breezes.

k & j grays beach

We ended our trip with lunch – and scones – at the Optimist Cafe in Yarmouthport:

optimist cafe scones yarmouthport ma

All in all, a perfect getaway with the man I love.

k & j ashley manor

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Last weekend, J and I hopped in my car and took off for a third anniversary weekend getaway on the Cape – which we’ve been meaning to visit since we moved here. And, well, it wasn’t quite what we expected.

First of all, we got a super late start on Friday, due to too many errands left undone till the last minute. Planning to leave mid-morning and not getting off till 1:30 does not make my clock-watching husband a happy traveler. (Even if, as I reminded him several times, we are not on a schedule.)

Second, as we drove, the weather threatened rain – gray, misty, grim skies – and kept threatening until mid-afternoon Saturday (when it finally decided to shape up and clear up).

Third, who knew you had to pay to go to the beach at Cape Cod? (Clearly we didn’t.) Since it wasn’t beach weather (see above), we didn’t want to shell out $15 for a day pass, so we didn’t actually set foot on a beach the whole weekend.

However, here’s what we did do:

-watched the Orleans Firebirds play baseball on Friday night (on the mistiest field I’ve ever seen)


-ate delicious pizza at Zia’s in East Orleans


-browsed at the delightful Main Street Books in Orleans


-drank hot chocolate at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow


-fell asleep in a little peach-colored room tucked up under the eaves at the lovely Inn at the Oaks, and played Frisbee in the backyard


-toured the Cape Cod Light, and gazed openmouthed at the views of beach and hill and ocean


-quizzed each other on Trivial Pursuit questions and drew on the butcher-paper tablecloth with crayons, while waiting for our dinner at the Saltwater Grille


-played miniature golf at the Gift Barn


-enjoyed exploring and laughing and being together – and rolling with it when a few doses of the unexpected came our way. Because that’s really what marriage is about, isn’t it?

Happy Love Thursday, all. May you have an adventure this week with someone you love.

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