Posts Tagged ‘humor’

We made it, friends – the end of 2022 is nigh. As we wrap up the year and I recover from Christmas travel, here’s what I have been reading:

The Sweet Spot, Amy Poeppel
I flew through Poeppel’s warm, witty, hilarious latest, which involves four different women (an artist, her buttoned-up mother, a divorcee bent on revenge and a young woman caught in the crossfire) taking care of a baby who belongs to none of them. I laughed out loud several times. Bonus: it’s set in my favorite tangle of streets in Greenwich Village. I also loved Poeppel’s Musical Chairs. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31, 2023).

Inciting Joy: Essays, Ross Gay
I adored Gay’s The Book of Delights (and did a Q&A with him, itself a delight). This new collection explores joy as it’s intertwined with sorrow, grief and desire – and it’s fantastic. I love Gay’s rambling style (though the footnotes occasionally get out of control), and his warm, wise, human voice. So good.

Of Manners and Murder, Anastasia Hastings
Violet Manville is astonished to discover her aunt Adelia is behind the popular Dear Miss Hermione column – and even more shocked to be handed the reins when Aunt Adelia leaves town. Soon Violet has a real mystery on her hands: the suspicious death of a young bride named Ivy. A fun British mystery with a spunky bluestocking heroine. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31).

Healer and Witch, Nancy Werlin
Sylvie, her mother and her grand-mere are revered as healers in their village. But when Grand-mere dies and Sylvie makes a terrible mistake, she sets out in search of help. A sweet, thoughtful middle-grade novel set in medieval France, with a few surprising twists and some insights about vocation and calling.

Love in the Time of Serial Killers, Alicia Thompson
Phoebe has reluctantly moved to Florida for the summer to clear out her dad’s house and try to finish her dissertation on true crime. But she keeps getting distracted by the (literal) guy next door: is he really as nice as he seems, or is he a killer? A snarky, hilarious mystery with a great main character; I also adored Phoebe’s sweet golden-retriever younger brother.

The Mushroom Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
The Allies have won the war in Europe, but things are still grim for Chen Su Lin and her compatriots in Singapore. When a young aide is found dead, Su Lin becomes a suspect – and between caring for a blind professor, supervising the houseboys, trying to decipher news of the atomic bomb and prove her innocence, she’s very busy. A gripping entry in this wonderful series.

Travel as a Political Act, Rick Steves
I loved this thoughtful memoir by Steves – a guidebook author and TV personality – about how travel has shaped and expanded his worldview. He tackles drug policy, autocrats, poverty and other political issues, but also writes engagingly about simply encountering other humans. My favorite line: “Understanding people and their lives is what travel is about, no matter where you go.” Amen.

Kantika, Elizabeth Graver

I flew through this epic novel based on the life of Rebecca Cohen Baruch Levy (the author’s grandmother), a Sephardic Jew whose early 20th-century life takes her from Istanbul to Spain to Cuba and eventually to New York. Richly detailed, full of family drama and rich insights on womanhood and the complexities of love. So so good. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 18, 2023).

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I adore this gentle novel set in Scotland at Christmastime, which follows five loosely connected people who end up spending the holiday together. It proves transformative for all of them. I loved revisiting it, as always.

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

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out soon. Sign up here to get on the list!


Read Full Post »

(Image via PopSugar)

My family has a deep love for 1990s romantic comedies – from While You Were Sleeping to French Kiss to the Nora Ephron classics. When my sister was unpacking my DVDs recently, she exclaimed, “You have all the good ones!”

One of my faves in this category is Runaway Bride, which I love for its brilliant supporting cast (including Rita Wilson and Hector Elizondo); its quirky small-town details (a hair salon called Curl Up & Dye!), and its best friend, the salon owner, played by Joan Cusack. (“Peggy Flemming–not the ice skater.”)

At one point in the film, Peggy and Maggie (Cusack and Roberts) are at the town softball game when Maggie spots Ike (Gere’s journalist character) approaching. “I will handle this,” Peggy says, in true best-friend fashion. Maggie snaps: “Don’t move your lips!” (They’ve already figured Ike can probably read lips.)

“I will handle this!” Peggy exclaims, through clenched teeth. “I won’t say anything.”

Lately, this is how I often feel. Whether it’s setting up utilities or hanging pictures, writing book reviews or sorting out divorce paperwork, I find myself thinking, “I will handle this!” while worrying I’m not handling it at all.

To be clear, I’ve had lots of help: my mom, my sister, several stalwart friends. But a lot of these responsibilities fall solely to me, and that can be exhausting. And the never-ending list(s) of tasks can make me feel like I’m failing at all of it.

And yet: my little apartment, full of light and books and my favorite things, is coming together. The book reviews are (mostly) getting turned in (relatively) on time. I have gas and electricity and enough food to eat. And not every decision has to be made today.

“There is nothing you’re not handling,” my therapist said the other day, her gentle eyes full of kindness, as they always are. In the midst of such massive transition, it’s worth cultivating a little self-compassion – or, sometimes, channeling my inner Peggy Flemming. (Not the ice skater.)

Read Full Post »

daffodils succulents florist

After the first week the girls of Patty’s Place settled down to a steady grind of study; for this was their last year at Redmond and graduation honors must be fought for persistently. Anne devoted herself to English, Priscilla pored over classics, and Philippa pounded away at Mathematics. Sometimes they grew tired, sometimes they felt discouraged, sometimes nothing seemed worth the struggle for it. In one such mood Stella wandered up to the blue room one rainy November evening. Anne sat on the floor in a little circle of light cast by the lamp beside her, amid a surrounding snow of crumpled manuscript.

“What in the world are you doing?”

“Just looking over some old Story Club yarns. I wanted something to cheer and inebriate. I’d studied until the world seemed azure. So I came up here and dug these out of my trunk. They are so drenched in tears and tragedy that they are excruciatingly funny.”

“I’m blue and discouraged myself,” said Stella, throwing herself on the couch. “Nothing seems worthwhile. My very thoughts are old. I’ve thought them all before. What is the use of living after all, Anne?”

Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery

I turned back to this exchange between Anne and Stella recently, while slogging through a stretch of cold, grey days. I’m fighting a head cold (as Anne does elsewhere), and my very thoughts, like Stella’s, have felt old. It might not be November around here, but biting winds and swirling snow in early April are just as depressing as a cold fall rain.

Despite my gloom, I smiled as I read Anne’s reply to Stella: “Honey, it’s just brain fag that makes us feel that way, and the weather. A pouring rainy night like this, coming after a hard day’s grind, would squelch any one but a Mark Tapley. You know it is worthwhile to live.”

I know in my bones that Anne is right: this life, with its myriad frustrations and joys, is entirely worth living. It’s full of things to savor and enjoy. But I’ve still been feeling more like Stella: “Oh, my mind agrees with you, Anne. But my soul remains doleful and uninspired.”

I’m falling back on all my tried-and-true lifesavers: daffodils for my desk, daily trips to Darwin’s for chai and chitchat, sweet clementines peeled and eaten mid-afternoon while I take a break from work email to catch up on blogs. But I’m also remembering what Stella says a few lines later: “I begin to feel that life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”

For that laughter, I’m relying on my people: my snarky coworkers, my goofy husband, the silliness that ensues when we gather around a friend’s table on Sunday nights. (Full disclosure: I’m also cracking up at James Corden’s Crosswalk musical videos and the occasional episode of Modern Family.)

When the skies are grey and the to-do list is long, I’m trying to remember: life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it. That laughter – even if sometimes it comes perilously close to crying – is what’s saving my life these days.

What’s making you laugh in these early spring days? (And when will the sunshine come back?)

Read Full Post »

Labor Day weekend is the official end of summer, so I let myself enjoy some fun, lighthearted reads this weekend. Here’s my stack:

labor day weekend books reading

Lucky Bunny, Jill Dawson
Queenie Dove, expert thief, has been stealing since she was a child – she even stole her first name. Born into poverty in London’s East End, she learns to shoplift and lie, and even escapes from a girls’ reform school. Becoming a mother finally makes her go straight, but when she’s offered one last (big) job, will she be able to resist? Queenie’s voice is scrappy, matter-of-fact, unrepentant. She wonders sometimes if she could have had a different life, but is mostly accepting of the one she’s made for herself. Not my usual fare, but an utterly compelling story. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 30).

13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope, Maureen Johnson
(I’m lumping these together because I read them one after another.) In the first book, Ginny’s Aunt Peg, recently deceased, leaves Ginny an envelope full of money and 13 smaller (blue) envelopes, each with a different instruction. Ginny travels to Europe alone, following the instructions and meeting a number of people who either knew her aunt, help her on her journey, or both. She’s a bit passive at the beginning, but gains some confidence and is able to grieve Aunt Peg’s passing by the end. However, the thirteenth little blue envelope goes missing when Ginny’s backpack gets stolen in Greece – hence the sequel’s name. When she gets an email from an English guy who now has her backpack and the letter, Ginny returns to London in pursuit of Aunt Peg’s last words to her. They end up traveling all over Europe together with two other friends of Ginny’s, and while the story is still interesting, I found it less engaging than the original. Ginny is likable but still so naive, and I really wanted her to speak her mind more often. Still a fun ride.

Keeping the Castle, Patrice Kindl
This story is a delightful cross between I Capture the Castle and Pride and Prejudice. Althea, daughter of a formerly wealthy family, must marry well to provide for herself, her widowed mother and their small brother (her stepsisters support the family grudgingly with their income). They live in a crooked, run-down castle in Yorkshire, and when Lord Boring (ha!) moves into the neighborhood, Althea sets her cap for him. But Lord Boring’s cousin and business manager Mr. Fredericks (and Althea’s stepsisters) have other ideas. A fun, zesty comedy of manners.

Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, Lisa Scottoline & Francesca Serritella
In their third book of essays, mystery novelist Lisa and her daughter Francesca discuss dating, clothes, life in the country with pets (Lisa) and in tiny New York apartments (Francesca), and the ins and outs of their loving but complicated relationship. (Lisa’s mother Mary also makes frequent appearances; she’s over 80, feisty, half deaf and hilarious.) Some essays are funnier than others, but they’re all entertaining, and I found myself laughing at the mother-daughter moments. Love, guilt and crazy humor, with a healthy dose of Italian food. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 13).

The Epicurious Cookbook, Tanya Steel & the editors of Epicurious.com
I haven’t read every word of this cookbook yet, but I have already made the peach sorbet and it is delicious. And my husband and I sat on the couch and paged through the entire thing, salivating over at least two-thirds of the recipes. I think it’s a keeper. Organized by season and then by course (starters, mains, desserts, etc.), with helpful tips and variations from Epicurious members on many recipes. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 30).

What did you read over the long weekend?

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

Read Full Post »

“I intend to get up extra early tomorrow morning, for I’ve ever so much to do,” said Anne virtuously. “For one thing, I’m going to shift the feathers from my old bedtick to the new one. I ought to have done it long ago but I’ve just kept putting it off…it’s such a detestable task. It’s a very bad habit to put off disagreeable things, and I never mean to again, or else I can’t comfortably tell my pupils not to do it. That would be inconsistent. Then I want to make a cake for Mr. Harrison and finish my paper on gardens for the A.V.I.S., and write Stella, and wash and starch my muslin dress, and make Dora’s new apron.”

“You won’t get half done,” said Marilla pessimistically. ‘I never yet planned to do a lot of things but something happened to prevent me.’

Anne of Avonlea, L.M. Montgomery

For once, Marilla’s gloomy prediction comes true – as her readers know, Anne’s planned productive day turned out quite differently than she imagined (though it was certainly memorable).

In the middle of my constant to-do lists at work and at home (which never do seem to get done), it comforts me to know my red-headed heroine didn’t have it all together, either.

Read Full Post »

brown socks

Jeremiah, last night, lying in bed, apropos of nothing in particular: “I need some more brown socks.”

Me (having just washed a load of darks which included at least five pairs of his socks, several of them brown): “How many pairs do you have?”

Him: “Two.”

Me: “You mean the only two pairs of brown socks you have are the ones with the gold toes that I just washed?” (Thinking: At least one of those has a hole in the toe. And I could swear he also owns other, darker brown socks.)

Him: “Well, I have several pairs of chocolate brown socks.”

Me, bursting into uncontrollable laughter: “Is there a difference?” (Thinking: This is the man who once didn’t bat an eye at wearing brown socks with black trousers and shoes. And can’t you wear chocolate brown socks and brown socks with the same outfits, theoretically?)

Him: “Yes. The difference is important.”

Me, still laughing: “What about those brown striped socks I bought you that you never wear?”

Him: “Well…I don’t really like them.”

Me: “But they’re brown!”

Him: “Yeah…but…”

Me, breaking into laughter again, “You are picky, my love. But I will buy you some more brown socks.”

Ah, wedded bliss. It’s a whole new way of living.

Read Full Post »