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Posts Tagged ‘road trips’

I know we’re only a week into February, but I’ve already read a slew of great books (including on a snow day and a cross-country flight). Here’s what I have been reading:

Love, Lists and Fancy Ships, Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Jo Walker, yacht stewardess, has struggled to keep going since the death of her young nephew. But the surprise arrival of her two teenage nieces for the summer – plus a kind, handsome new neighbor/coworker and his daughter – forces her to get out and knock a few items off her 30-before-30 bucket list. Loved this funny, sweet novel.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee
We tend to think of joy as an intangible, elusive emotion – but it can be enhanced, even engendered, by physical objects and patterns in the physical world. A fun, informative look at 10 different aesthetics of joy – natural and human-made. Recommended by Anne and others.

Some of It Was Real, Nan Fischer
Sylvie is a psychic on the brink of stardom who isn’t quite sure she believes in her own abilities. Thomas is a journalist who’s determined to expose her as a fraud. As they go on a road trip to delve into Sylvie’s past, they both are forced to examine some serious grief and other emotions, including how they feel about each other. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 22).

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Kate O’Shaughnessy
Maybelle Lane dreams of a singing career – and when she finds out the daddy she’s never met is judging a singing contest, she schemes her way to Nashville, in the company of a no-nonsense neighbor woman and her maybe-friend, the boy next door. A sweet middle-grade story about loneliness and how you choose to build a family.

Just the Two of Us, Jo Wilde
Julie and Michael have been married for nearly 35 years – but their relationship has gone seriously sour. When they’re forced to isolate together in their home in March 2020, they start to wonder if they can find their way back to each other. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a “light” pandemic novel, but this was a lovely exploration of family and the ups and downs of a long marriage. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 12).

Shoutin’ in the Fire, Dante Stewart
I follow Stewart on Twitter and Instagram – he writes powerfully about being Black, Christian and American. This memoir delves deeper into his own experiences and how he has grappled with anti-Blackness in various contexts (including in himself). He’s a force and this is a message we all need.

The Wicked Widow, Beatriz Williams
I love Williams’ lush, compelling historical fiction. This novel is the third featuring Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a scrappy redhead who gets caught up with a major bootlegging racket during Prohibition, and her connection to the blue-blooded Schuyler family. Heartbreaking and juicy and so good.

A Place to Hang the Moon, Kate Albus
William always tells his younger siblings that their mum thought they “hung the moon.” But when the children – long since orphaned – are forced to evacuate during World War II, clinging to those memories becomes tougher. A sweet (if often sad) story about family, love and the power of good stories.

Every Living Thing, James Herriot
It’s no secret I love Herriot’s books and the new PBS adaptation based closely on them. I found this later volume at the wonderful Dogtown Books in Gloucester (a happy surprise!) and have been savoring it slowly. Funny and vivid and comforting.

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

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December has been rushing past, and between work craziness (so many thank-you letters!) and trips to the post office, I’ve been reading. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Man Who Died Twice, Richard Osman
The Thursday Murder Club is back on the case! An ex of Elizabeth’s shows up, spinning an interesting tale (he does that) involving stolen diamonds and international intrigue. People start dying, naturally, but this crew of elderly folks (plus their police compatriots) are on it. A really fun second outing for these characters, and so very British.

God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana is preparing for her first Christmas as a married woman when she’s summoned to Sandringham by the queen. With family in tow, Georgie and her husband Darcy spend Christmas with Darcy’s eccentric aunt and an odd mix of guests – and of course there are a few murders. I love this series and this was a jolly Christmas entry.

The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles
I loved Towles’ two previous novels so I was excited about this one. It follows several young men (and one younger boy) on a road trip gone sideways. I enjoyed the characters and some pieces of the story, but didn’t really feel like the whole of it came together.

The People We Keep, Allison Larkin
I’ve enjoyed Larkin’s previous novels and loved this one, about a young woman who scrapes together a career as a singer-songwriter in 1990s New York. The details (especially the coffeehouse where she works) felt so real, and many of the characters were so well drawn. Heartbreaking sometimes, but ultimately hopeful, and lovely.

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
I love this Mitford Christmas story – it’s sweet and funny and makes me cry every year. This year I had some extra sympathy for Father Tim and the overwhelm of the season. A lovely December reread.

The Bright Side Running Club, Josie Lloyd
Keira is feeling pretty good about her life: happily married, mother of three, owner of a thriving small business. But then she’s diagnosed with breast cancer and things begin to spin out of control. Keira joins a running group made up of women dealing with cancer, and her new friends – not surprisingly – help her get through not only treatment, but some other struggles. Heartwarming and witty despite the heavy subject matter. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 8).

It’s a Wonderful Woof, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie are back just in time for Christmas – with a tricky case involving a fellow private eye, a deconsecrated church and the painter Caravaggio. Not to mention a little romantic trouble for Bernie, and plenty of treats for Chet. This series is so much fun and this was a great installment.

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

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Between my new job, summer events and crazy weather, July is flying by. My brain is full as I adjust to life at ZUMIX, but when I get a chance, here’s what I have been reading:

These Unlucky Stars, Gillian McDunn
Annie has felt like the odd one out since her mom left – her dad and brother are just so predictable. But a summer where she makes some new friends, including a cranky elderly woman and her dog, changes Annie’s perspective. A sweet, realistic middle-grade novel.

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the French Solution, Michael Bond
Summoned home to Paris from a work trip, food critic Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound Pommes Frites are faced with sabotage at work. This mystery was confusing at times but highly entertaining. Part of a series; I found it at Manchester by the Book.

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, Suleika Jaouad
After a cancer diagnosis in her early 20s, Jaouad chronicled her experience in a column for The New York Times. After entering remission, she took a cross-country road trip to connect with readers, strangers and friends. This memoir is unstinting in its portrayal of illness, loss and grief – but wow, what gorgeous writing and unflinching honesty. And finally, at the end, some hope. So good.

The Island Home, Libby Page
Lorna fled the small Scottish island where she was born as a teenager, and she’s never been back. But now she and her own teenage daughter, Ella, are returning for a family funeral. Page’s third novel is a warm, insightful, poignant look at family and community and facing up to our old fears. I ordered it from my beloved Blackwells.

The Road Trip, Beth O’Leary
Addie and Dylan haven’t spoken since they broke up two years ago. But when Dylan’s car collides with Addie’s on the way to a mutual friend’s wedding, they end up crammed into a Mini Cooper with Addie’s sister, Dylan’s best friend and a random guy who needed a ride. Parts of this were sweet and funny – I loved Kevin the truck driver – but many of the “past” parts were painful to read, and many of the characters are very self-absorbed.

Ways to Grow Love, Renee Watson
Ryan Hart is struggling to adjust to a very different summer. Between her mom’s pregnancy and going to church camp for the first time, there’s a lot of change – but Ryan and her friends meet the challenges with spunk and compassion. Sweet and funny.

Amari and the Night Brothers, B.B. Alston
Amari Peters has been struggling since her big brother Quinton went missing. When a summons arrives from the Bureau of Supernatural Investigations – a highly unusual summer camp that might give Amari some answers – she plunges into a world of magic and secrets. Super fun middle-grade fantasy with some sharp commentary on race and prejudice. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Most links are to Trident, a perennial local fave. Shop indie!

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One of the things I’ve missed the most in these pandemic times is travel.

I love my little nest in Eastie, but I also love hitting the road or jumping on a plane or train, to see somewhere new or revisit familiar, favorite places. Like so many folks I know, I have mourned multiple canceled trips this spring and summer. My guy and I have ridden our bikes all over Boston, and it’s been fun, but I’ve barely been out of the city for months.

Last week, though, I decided to get out of town – at least for the afternoon – and head down to Falmouth, near the base of Cape Cod. My friend Hannah had invited me for lunch and a walk, so I rented a Zipcar and drove down in the late morning. By some miracle I escaped the weekend traffic (in both directions), and the afternoon was just what my soul needed.

Hannah and I met at a writing workshop years ago, and we love talking about books and faith and catching up on our lives. I sat on her sun porch and sipped tea while she made lunch for us, and we ate at a square blue table in her front yard, trading stories while the skies gradually cleared.

After lunch, we slipped on our sneakers and went for a long, rambling walk, past a local farm where someone had nailed a small box to a fence post and written “Enjoy!” on the side. It held a few cherry tomatoes, so I helped myself. And the dahlias nearby were stunning.

We walked down the bike path, through a sedate neighborhood filled with late-summer trees and flowers, over to Little Island and the beach there, which you reach by walking through the woods. There was a rotting pilot whale carcass on the beach (so smelly!) but there was also sweet autumn clematis, blooming away, and the first red leaves. We perched on the rocks and talked for a while, and then we walked back and I hopped in my rental car to make the drive home.

It was only a few hours, but I’d forgotten how refreshing it could be to see different views, explore a new path, breathe (slightly) different air. Not to mention the nourishing company of a dear friend. In these strange, anxious months, making the effort to get away often feels overwhelming. But I’m here to tell you: it is entirely worth it.

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kissing in america book striped skirt

“I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well.”

Since her dad died in a plane crash, Eva Roth has found solace in romance novels – 118 of them over two years, to be exact. Her mother, a professor of women’s studies, is dismayed by what she calls her daughter’s “ultimate rebellion.” But Eva isn’t reading romances to upset her mom: she’s reading them as an escape, seeking a little stability and a few happy endings in a world that no longer makes sense without her dad.

Margo Rabb’s young adult novel Kissing in America is the story of Eva’s journey, literal and figurative, to come to terms with her grief and learn a few things about love.

I adore a good YA novel, and I don’t mind that a lot of YA novels are fairly typical boy-meets-girl stories. But Eva’s story doesn’t fit that mold, despite her addiction to steamy novels with lurid covers and dashing heroes. Instead, it’s a story about all kinds of love: friendship, love altered by grief, and the tight, complex bond between mothers and daughters.

It’s my turn again at Great New Books today, and I chose Kissing in America as my latest pick. (I read it on my trip to NYC last month and loved it.) Please join me over at the GNB site to read the rest of my review.

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“The sea was angry that day, my friends…”*

Or life was angry, or something like that. Starting last night, it’s been one interesting return to Abilene.

First we stopped three times to go to the bathroom (on a less-than-four-hour drive!) between San Antonio and Abilene. This was funny, but after a while I just wanted to get off the road. Betsy’s small bladder has been a family joke for years…but it made the trip seem LONG yesterday.

Then Leigh Anne and I almost set the kitchen on fire trying to make pasta for dinner. (This was after she had accidentally poured a whole batch of noodles into the sink, rendering them inedible. And after we discovered that we did NOT have useable mozzarella cheese, as we thought. Sad day.)

Then it hit all of us (Leigh Anne, Bethany and me) that this is our last week of living together. Bethany moves to Nashville in less than two weeks. Leigh Anne starts her senior year of college very soon. And me? I still have NO IDEA what I’m going to do – so I’m freaking out. Big time.

Things did brighten up a bit with an ice cream session (Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food, Haagen-Dazs Mayan Chocolate, and Godiva Chocolate Raspberry Truffle)…YUM. Unfortunately, even rich chocolatey ice cream cannot heal all ills. After ranting to my patient J for at least the fourth time that day, I fell into bed, exhausted.

This morning, it was a three-chocolate day by 10:30 a.m. (read: stressful morning). Dropped bagel on the ground, trouble locating the photo CD I needed at work, more anxiety about the future, etc. etc. And such a long to-do list for the week that my head aches just looking at it.

Fortunately, I’ve gotten lots of good email today. And applied for four jobs. And hoped desperately that something will happen for me. Because right now it seems that I’m the only clueless one. No job, no permanent home, no idea about what’s going to happen. And that is not a fun place to be.

Apologies for the whining, dear friends. I’ll post about something fun soon. I promise.

*George Costanza – a random Seinfeld episode

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