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I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm scoping deals for a professional services company, hanging out with friends, or seeing some live theater.

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Will’s Red Coat

Posted on 15 Mar 2017 In: Reading

When I was reading my ARC Will’s Red Coat, this is what I posted on my Facebook page:

That feeling when you’re reading a book you simultaneously want to savor and tear through; when you know your heart’s going to break and burst wide open at the same time. When it makes you want to be more present, see more, love more, laugh more. That’s a book.”

A part of me wants to just leave the review at that, but it wouldn’t really be fair, or enough. Will’s Red Coat, being released on April 25, 2017, is the much-anticipated second book from Tom Ryan, author of the best-selling (and 2011 personal favorite read), Following Atticus.

Inevitably, readers and fans of Following Atticus will compare it to Will’s Red Coat.   But just as Will and Atticus are two different dogs, these are two different books, and should be read and appreciated for their uniqueness.
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First things first: this is no “who rescued who?” story. Tom will be quick to tell you that if Will was rescued, he did it himself.  Tom just gave Will a home and tried to surround him with things that pleased him.  Will was the one who chose to take advantage of that. Followers of Tom’s blog, and/or the Following Atticus Facebook page, know the high points of this story.  Tom agreed to take Will into his home with Atticus.  Will was an old dog, surrendered by owners too old and feeble to care for him any longer. A rescue group was looking for someone willing to foster Will and give him a place to die with dignity.  Tom said yes, and was greeted by a brittle, scared, angry Will. What was supposed to be just a few months of giving an old dog comfort in his final days turned into two years of wonder and life.  Will’s Red Coat takes us deeper in this story.   Tom tells the story of a little dog who was abandoned, mostly blind, deaf, and in all likelihood, terrified of being away from the only surroundings he knew.  He chose to find beauty in the smell of fresh flowers and in the vibration of music, and eventually in his companions. This is a book about living as much as it is about dying.  Dying well- surrounded by love and with dignity- is a privilege.  It is just as much a privilege to be a part of someone’s death.  This is something that can be appreciated by reading about it, and is one  beautiful part of this book.
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I said at the beginning of this review that like Atticus and Will, Following Atticus and Will’s Red Coat are different books.   Their stories are different, and Tom’s relationship with each of them is different. So Will’s Red Coat is not Following Atticus: The Sequel.   While “Onward, by all means” was a major part of Following Atticus, I think readers of Will’s Red Coat will find Tom’s Aunt Marijane’s words the inspiration in this book.  People who read Following Atticus may feel they  “know” Atticus better than Will, but keep in mind Tom and Atticus  had a longer friendship than did Will and Tom.
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 I ugly cried in this book. But it’s crying from the simultaneous heart breaking and bursting open that I mentioned. Yes, it was sad,  but it was also beautiful. And I think that is the magic, the appeal, of Tom’s writing.  Tom lives an authentic life.  He is true to himself and this comes through in his writing.   It’s what makes me, when I read his books, think about my own life, helping me be more authentic and focus on the activities and people that bring me joy.  It’s also Tom’s approach to others in his life- both human and animal.  He lets them be who they are, and it is something I take away from the books.  The beauty of the mundane comes through in Tom’s books, and that is one of the things I like most about them.

Appalachian Odyssey

Posted on 6 Mar 2017 In: Reading

I like wandering through the woods and doing some light hiking, but I have absolutely no desire to camp out anywhere that doesn’t involve a cabin, a bed, and a hot shower. So it may surprise people that I thoroughly enjoyed a memoir about hiking the Appalachian Trail. But I did!

Appalachian Odyssey is the memoir of Jeffrey Ryan who, with his friend, Wayne,   section hiked the Appalachian Trail over the course of 28  years. For those unfamiliar,  the AT  is a total of about 2500 miles and stretches from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. While Ryan had previously through-hiked (completing the trail in one effort over several months) the Pacific Crest Trail, he and Wayne took long weekends and a few weeks at a time to hike the AT in sections.

Each phase of the book correlates to the section of trail hiked, with maps showing the ascent and descent and camp sites, and I found that interesting because it provided a good perspective on how important planning the number of miles per day would be.  There are plenty of pictures of the scenery, but what I enjoyed most was the clear enthusiasm Ryan has for hiking and  being out in nature.  Even at the frustrating times, when the weather was atrocious and his body was rebelling and his mind was telling him to give up the trail, Ryan’s love of the trail comes through.

Not everything goes smoothly on the trail. The weather doesn’t always cooperate, and sometimes nature gets the better of you (I learned how destructive porcupines can be to vehicles in this book) but sometimes, everything goes just right.  It’s the authenticity of the good and the bad that made me enjoy the book. And unlike WildI have respect for Ryan and  his story. He takes care to talk about the importance of being prepared for a big hike, with the right equipment and  preparation. This isn’t something you just “wing” and hope that strangers will help you out when you need it.  He’s a life-long hiker who  plans  to have the right gear, food, and supplies. Sure things don’t work out perfectly all the time, but it isn’t due to carelessness.

At the same time, when Ryan wrote about the scenery he encountered, the  restorative, simple times he and Wayne just hung out at a camp site, or the euphoria he felt on the trail, I felt it, too. Because of this book, I have a new appreciation for hikers/campers.   I understand more about the pace on the trail and the respect of your companions and the trails themselves. I learned some new pieces of trail etiquette, and a lot about the importance of the right equipment.  I can certainly begin to understand how something like hiking the AT appeals to some people.

While Appalachian Odyssey didn’t make me want to take up section hiking the Appalachian Trail, it did make me want to get out and explore more in day hikes.  To take more time to remember how restorative time in nature can be, and to take time out to appreciate this glorious world around us.

I hope you’ll do yourself a favor and check out this one.

Meredith Schorr Re-Release: How Do You Know

Posted on 16 Feb 2017 In: Reading

Today in the Meredith Schorr re-release, we are celebrating How Do You Know?

My review and your buying options are below. Enjoy!

I like some Chick Lit, or lighter women’s fiction. It’s usually an entertaining read, and sometimes you gain some insight from the story. In my experience, though, once you pass a certain age, a lot of this genre begins to lose it’s appeal because you’ve been through the twenty-something angst and your issues and concerns are different now. Or you’ve figured out that you’re not like all the chick lit heroines who find their perfect guy by the time they are thirty, or even thirty five. You just want to read about someone more like YOU and it’s harder to find in the genre than the younger heroines. That’s why, for me, Meredith Schorr’s new release, How Do You Know? is a fitting read.

From the publisher’s summary:

What if you were approaching the end of your thirties and all of the life milestones you took for granted in your youth suddenly seemed out of reach? On the eve of her 39th birthday, Maggie Piper doesn’t look, act, or feel much different than she did at 29, but with her 40th birthday speeding towards her like a freight train, she wonders if she should. The fear of a slowing metabolism, wrinkling of her skin, and the ticking of her biological clock leaves Maggie torn between a desire to settle down like most of her similarly-aged peers and concern that all is not perfect in her existing relationship. When a spontaneous request for a temporary “break” from her live-in boyfriend results in a “break-up”, Maggie finds herself single once again and only twelve months from the big 4.0. In the profound yet bumpy year that follows, Maggie will learn, sometimes painfully, that life doesn’t always happen on a schedule, there are no deadlines in love, and age really is just a number.

One of the most frequent conversations my girl friends and I have about relationships is about the “spark”. We all recognize that the initial electricity fades a bit, or morphs into something more solid and stronger as a real relationship grows. But we’re all so inundated with drama from the Real Housewives of insert-city-here, and Sex and the City re-runs, and The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and every romantic comedy ever that sometimes it’s hard to believe that a lack of drama is not a lack of passion. It’s that very dilemma that sets up How Do You Know?.

What Schorr does really well in this story is show how no relationship is perfect. No one ever really knows what is going on behind closed doors. That sometimes, a fear of rejection can be paralyzing in moving forward in a relationship- or even starting to move forward at all. That indeed, the grass is not always greener anywhere else.

Schorr also provides dynamic characters who do what the best of friends are supposed to do: Support you, but challenge you, too. Maggie’s friends are able to hold a mirror to her, force her to answer some tough questions about her perceptions and decisions.

But the thing I LOVED about this book is Schorr’s premise that age really is just a number. It’s something I’m trying to remind myself of as I choke on saying my age out loud. Because the premise of the book hits close to home. I always thought my life was going to turn out a particular way. I’d get married at a certain age, have kids at a certain age. And it hasn’t happened. My life is so very different from many of my peers, and it is sometimes a challenge being completely content in what is, overall, a pretty awesome life, even if it doesn’t conform to what nearly every pop culture and societal conception says it should be at this age.

Real characters, real emotions, real dilemmas. Schorr continues to deliver authenticity while at the same time telling an entertaining story.

Here’s how you can get your own copy of How Do You Know?

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

Meredith Schorr Re-Release: A State of Jane

Posted on 15 Feb 2017 In: Reading

Today, in celebration of the re-release of Meredith Schorr’s books, I’m pleased to share A State of Jane. You can read my review and see links to get the book yourself at the bottom of this post.

Enjoy!

Meet Jane Frank. It’s been a year since her last (and only) long term relationship, and with reality looming large in the form of the LSAT, Jane decides it’s been far too long since she’s been kissed and that she’s ready to meet the man of her dreams. Meredith Schorr’s A State of Jane takes us through Jane’s adventures in dating. As she grows more frustrated with the online dating scene and the way men tend to flake out for no reason, Jane decides to take her friend Andrew’s advice about dating, and this is where our story really takes off.

Much the way she did in Just Friends With Benefits, Meredith Schorr gives us an all-too-recognizable heroine. OK, I’ve never gotten up to some of Jane’s antics, but there have been times when I’ve certainly wanted to. Certainly, navigating the dating terrain is not easy, and Schorr captures that feeling of “I don’t know why it went wrong” so perfectly. Of course, as interested but objective observers in Jane’s life, we can see the mistakes she’s making… which makes an interesting point about not being able to discern our own dating foibles, but I digress.

I confess that at times I got really frustrated with Jane. I can’t explain too much of why here, or else it would spoil the story, so I’ll say this about it: I didn’t like the way Jane treated people sometimes. For a few pages there, I frankly didn’t like Jane. However, Jane’s behavior is an integral part of her journey and she had to go through this stage to grow into her true self. That being said, I still wanted to shake her, and which made me again appreciate the authenticity of the friendships Meredith includes in her stories.

We tell our friends we want them to be honest with us. But sometimes, when they are, no matter how lovingly the message is delivered, we just don’t want to hear it. So in A State of Jane I thought the confrontations between Jane and her friends and the conflicts in their relationships were portrayed authentically. It is often the people we love the most who are also the people we hurt the most.

And the final thing I really liked about A State of Jane is the way that it ends. No spoilers here, but I felt the ending was perfect.

Chick lit fans- and fans of Just Friends With Benefits– will really enjoy A State of Jane.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Get your copy:

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

 

Marching

Posted on 23 Jan 2017 In: Doing

I marched in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I was part of the more than one million  people who marched around the world on Saturday.  That March that left me speechless and exhausted on Saturday, and full of emotion and gratitude that I had been a part of it on Sunday.

The March that wasn’t about  protesting or being a sore loser, but instead being a citizen concerned about the agenda of  the new administration.

I have been told the march is stupid, that the President says America belongs to the people and I shouldn’t be protesting; that because the President is calling for unity, I am being divisive by disagreeing with him and voicing that disagreement. That it is only people not in agreement with the President who are causing a divide…but you’ll still pray for me.

I marched because I watched the man who is now President mock a disabled man on television- and who is trying to gaslight me into thinking I didn’t see him do it.  A man who has never apologized for making fun of someone.

I marched because I heard the man who is now President boast about “grabbing women by the pussy” – that is sexual assault.

I marched because too many people are more upset that women have taken back the word pussy than they are that the man who is now President boasted about grabbing women by the pussy, and dismissed it as  “locker room talk.”

I marched because the man who is now President deflects from real issues by tweeting nonsense and snark every time he gets his feelings hurt.

I marched because the man who is now President actually wants us to believe in “alternative facts”.  Alternative facts, my friends, are LIES.

I marched because calling for unity as you’re crowing that walls will be built and whole groups of people may be forced to register, is lip service, and not a true call for unity.

I marched because the man who is now President does not believe in science, does not believe in Climate Change.

I marched because the man who is now President brags more about Russia, where the march wasn’t even legal, than he does his own country.

I marched because the man who is now President questioned the legitimacy of the previous President for years, yet refuses to acknowledge that Russia attempted to influence our election.

I marched because I question the motivations of the people the man who is now President is appointing.

I marched because Black Lives Matter.

I marched because I don’t believe that immigrants and LBGTQ people are second class citizens.

I marched because the last time people were registered in large measure, millions of people died and the  United States put our own people in camps.  I refuse to allow that to happen again.

I’ve read that  by marching, we’ve destroyed everything that women have worked for. That we are marching to be noticed, and not for women’s rights.  That we’re vulgar, nasty, two-faced bigots because we use the President’s words to criticize him.

I marched because too many other women are missing the point.

I marched because I believe my doctors and I are best qualified to decide what happens to my body.

I marched because accessible and affordable healthcare are women’s rights, and human rights.  So, yes, women are concerned when our government wants to defund Planned Parenthood- which provides low cost health care to innumerable women each year.  For women who live in areas where traditional medical care is not easily accessible, Planned Parenthood may be their only real option.

I marched because when the new 115th Congress began working on Day 1 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they did so with no plan to replace it.  Despite me being employed full time, I am not eligible for insurance through my employer- the ACA is the best place for me to see Healthcare options and get coverage. And now I’m very concerned what happens if I get sick, or get into an accident.  This is for me, this is for the MILLIONS who will be uninsured with the repeal of the ACA.  When uninsured people get a little sick, going to the doctor isn’t always financially feasible. And sometimes that “little sickness” turns into a bigger, more expensive illness. And with no insurance, everyone else bears the burden of the cost.

Of course, we want to criticize Trump for his words.

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”

“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

We tell our children their bodies are their own and no one has the right to touch them without their consent, then we elect a man who brags about it. That’s is what is vulgar about this.

The ultimate definition of privilege is thinking a problem doesn’t exist because it doesn’t affect you.  This isn’t wanting attention, this is wanting the status to be quo for everyone regardless of gender, geography, or economics when it comes to body autonomy and healthcare.

I marched because the only way I could have more privilege is if I were male, and it’s my duty to work to help others have the same opportunities and privilege I do.

I marched because I’m a citizen of this country, and I have the right to make my voice heard.  I marched because the current administration is pushing an agenda at odds with my beliefs, and I can sit down and watch it happen, or I can stand up and say “this is not OK”.  It’s easy to be complacent. It’s right to speak out.

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I’ve read the comments where you call marchers “feminazis” who are  a disgrace to intelligent women.

Gloria Steinem, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Smith College; a Doctorate of Human Justice from Simmons College.  She’s a feminist, sure, but she’s not unintelligent.She spoke and inspired at the Women’s March in DC.

Cecile Richards, a graduate of Brown University. A Feminist, but not unintelligent.

Van Jones, who spoke so eloquently of love- a Feminist, and not unintelligent.

Michael Moore, brilliant at inspiring people to action. A Feminist, and not unintelligent. He gave us concrete steps to take to continue to make our voices heard.

Angela Davis, multiple degrees, most definitely a Feminist, and not unintelligent.

Sophie Cruz, only six years old and a far more eloquent speaker than most people I know.  A young  Feminist, indeed. But not unintelligent.

All of these speakers and more gave positive, inspiring speeches to the crowds. Crowds that stretched from 3rd to 17th along Independence and down side streets, swelling far further than anticipated in DC and around the world.

I know artists, attorneys, nannies, teachers, writers, doctors, homemakers, executives, grant writers, lobbyists,  office workers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, friends, partners,  spouses, and single people who marched in different cities all over the US.  All Feminists. All intelligent people.  All exercising their rights, even their duties as concerned citizens.  And there is  absolutely no disgrace in that.

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