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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The Bitchy Audience Member

Posted on 2 Apr 2017 In: Thinking

A few years ago, after a couple of needlessly tedious airline passenger interactions, I wrote The Bitchy Traveler.  Thankfully, it’s been a few years since I’ve felt the need to  rant about poor behavior, but this afternoon at The Fox to see The Bodyguard (which was wonderful, by the way), has warranted a post.

It’s really simple, folks. And these things should go without saying, but clearly, many people have missed the memo, so here goes.

First, BE ON TIME.  I know a bridge collapsed but that was four days ago and has been on the news pretty much 24-7 since then, so it really isn’t an excuse today.  When you buy your tickets, you are choosing a date and time to attend. This is even conveniently printed on your tickets, so you can double or even triple check.  You live in Atlanta. You know to plan for the unexpected. You can google ways to get to the Fox and where to park.  There really isn’t an excuse for being thirty or more minutes late to a show. When all the rest of us have managed to make it on time, it’s really distracting to us to have to accommodate you finding your seat in the dark after we’ve become engrossed in what is happening on stage.  It’s rude.

Second, TURN OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE.  This is not a new thing, people. TURN IT OFF. I heard at least six mobiles trill during the show. You know how many I should have heard? One.  The one on stage that was part of the plot. You know this. Put it on silent, vibrate mode, airplane mode, or just plain off. And this includes texting. I don’t care how discreet you think you are being,  it is distracting to people around you, takes away from their experience, and is, again, just plain rude.  If you absolutely MUST check texts because you are on call or afraid it is the babysitter, then find a way to do it unobtrusively (I suggest an inexpensive smart watch if that is in your budget).  I did not pay for my tickets to be distracted by the light of your phone, and I respect you too much to distract you with mine.  Also?  Don’t take pictures and video of the shows. Note to the guy directly in front of  me and the guy three rows ahead of me. You were more obvious than you thought, and I cheered to myself when the green laser got you to put away your phone.

Third, DON’T GET UP TO LEAVE AT THE CRITICAL MOMENT OF THE SHOW.  The show today closed with an emotional, wonderful song. And the lady four seats down (and a few people from a few rows ahead of us) just HAD to get a jump start on the exit procedures and get up during this part of the show.  It was an inconvenience and distraction to all of us trying to enjoy these last few minutes of the show and be in this emotional moment.  And, it is RUDE.  Stay to the end. Respect the performers enough to do that.

Look, we’ve all paid good money for these seats. And things happen- I get it, there are one-off cases. But a lot of this is self-centered behavior where you are thinking only of yourself and not of anyone around you.  It’s a case of bad manners and it can be avoided.  Be more respectful to your fellow audience members and the performers. If you can’t do that, find a video and watch it at home.

The Royal We

Posted on 30 Mar 2017 In: Reading

My friend Karen lent The Royal We to me to read, so I expected to enjoy it because she had liked it. What I didn’t expect was to be drawn in and have such an emotional connection to the story.

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy-tales. Her twin sister Lacey was always the romantic, the one who daydreamed of being a princess. But it’s adventure-seeking Bex who goes to Oxford and meets dreamy Nick across the hall – and thus Bex who accidentally finds herself in love with the eventual heir to the British throne. Nick is everything she could have imagined, but Prince Nicholas has unimaginable baggage: grasping friends, a thorny family, hysterical tabloids tracking his every move, and a public that expected its future king to marry a native. On the eve of the most talked-about wedding of the century, Bex reflects on what she’s sacrificed for love — and exactly whose heart she may yet have to break.”

This is no schmaltzy romance novel. It has a surprising depth to it. One thing that I really liked about it is that Bex and Nick’s relationship progressed in an authentic manner. They started out as friends and it took them both a long time to admit deeper feelings.

I imagine most readers will think of Catherine and William as they read The Royal We and I imagine there are some similarities.  Cocks and Morgan capture well, I think, the pressure of someone born the heir must experience. Their life is to a large extent predestined.  There’s no asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?” because there is o only one answer, Monarch, whether or not you actually want it.

And then imagine someone not at all accustomed to the public eye, whose every move becomes a subject of intense scrutiny. You’re marrying the person, yes, but you are also marrying the institution of the Monarchy.

Throw into that a deep love for the other person.  That is, I think, what struck me most with this story.  I believe Bex and Nick were deeply, irrevocably, in love with each other. They were each other’s person.   And that is the premise of The Royal We. And we get to read their story.  We get to see the high points and the low points. We get a heartbreaking moment. We get WTF moments. We get “Girl, what are you THINKING?!” moments.

I enjoyed reading The Royal We.  I teared up more than once.  I laughed out loud.  I felt the characters were authentic and relatable, even the person behind the title.

My only real complaint with the book is that the ending is ambiguous.  I know what I want to happen. I know what I think might be more likely to happen.  I’m wondering if it is a set up for a potential sequel some day?

If  you like chick lit or  romance, I think this is one you should definitely put in  your to-read queue, especially with spring break and summer vacations coming up.

Never Let You Go

Posted on 23 Mar 2017 In: Reading

Well, this is disappointing. I went to check my links to my review of other Chevy Stevens’ books, and I realized I’ve failed to review a few of them!  But you can see from my reviews of  Still Missing  and Never Knowing  that I am a big fan of Stevens. In fact, she has become my favorite thriller author, and she’s back with another winner in Never Let You Go: A Novel.

“Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life.

Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed. Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

With Never Let You Go, Chevy Stevens delivers a chilling, twisting thriller that crackles with suspense as it explores the darkest heart of love and obsession.”

There is always some delicious twist in Stevens’ novels, and this one is no exception.  Lindsey has made a new life for herself, but it is hard to escape the demons of the past. Andrew’s release from prison throws all that is good in Lindsey’s world into question.

Stevens gives us a number of characters with slightly creepy aspects, or hints of an unsavory backstory, that when the twist hits, it hits hard.  I actually stopped reading at that point and tweeted out a “WOW!” about it.

I won’t say any more than that plot-wise,  because I don’t want to spoil anyone. This is one book that keep you turning the page, wondering what will happen next, and if there is going to be a truly happy ending.   There are times the tension and suspense practically leap from the book. I read this one fast, because I just had to know how things turned out. And one of the most satisfying things in thrillers for me is not seeing everything coming.  If you like this genre, this, like all of Chevy Stevens’ books,  is a MUST READ.

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.
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.
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.
 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.