Sunday, July 31, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 31

Happy Sunday! We have enjoyed a really lovely weekend here - a break between one heat wave the next. I'm heading out shortly to get the windows washed outside before it's so hot again that they dry to fast. Then, even though I have way too much that needs to be done today, I may just get out all of the patio cushions and enjoy some time out there before it's too hot to do it again for a while. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: I finished The Girl In His Shadow and started Erica Bauermeister's the Scent Keeper. I've enjoyed her books before but 25% through this one, I'm not so sure about it.

Watched: Nightmare Alley, Les Miserable (again!), and a couple of episodes of Inventing Anna

Read: I returned Nightcrawling without finishing it. It was just too hard a read for me right now. So now I'm reading Ruth Ware's latest, The It Girl and Marisa Renee Lee's Grief Is Love (my sister is reading this with me). 

Made: We've been back to salads this week and tacos with the super low calorie tortillas. They're ok but I miss real flour tortillas!

Great-grandpa charming one of the little princes and 
Hardwood Dash at Deer Springs Winery
 Yesterday we went into Lincoln to see family. My niece and her family were staying part of the day and overnight with my dad so we enjoyed dinner with them (and especially time with my great-nephews!). Then we went to a winery where we met The Big Guy's brother and his wife and got to hear the band that TBG used to play with (he and they have been friends for 45 years!). It was a lovely evening sitting outside and we are so happy to have TBG's brother and his wife living in Lincoln now so we can see more of them. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My dad and I will be visiting a couple of independent living places here in town. He's sad to think about leaving the home he's lived in for over 50 years but ready to be somewhere he won't be alone come winter. Me, too. 

Thinking About: Healing. I was feeling so much better but have regressed some in the past couple of weeks. So I'm working hard this weekend to move forward again. I'm tired of having to work around this - making sure I'm sitting in the right kind of chair, making sure I can get up and move often enough, taking care to move just right.

Feeling: Happy. My kitty, who was so sick last Sunday that we ended up with her in the urgent pet care for 18 hours and who we could hardly get to get anything for several days afterward, is finally getting back to herself. 

Looking forward to: Having my dad with us overnight on Tuesday and hopefully, finally getting to have Mini-him's birthday dinner. 

Question of the week: We haven't been able to get in a real vacation this summer. Have you? Tell me all about it if you have - I want to live vicariously through your trips!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain
352 pages
Read by Kathe Mazur
10 hours, 39 minutes
Published January 2012 by Crown Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary:
At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society.

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, impeccably researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

My Thoughts:
It was my intention, two days ago, to sit down and knock this review out quickly. Time has been short this week; and, since it's been a couple of weeks and books since I finished listening to this book, my memory of the details was growing faint. But the problem with that plan is that I (finally!) found my print copy. Because of that, I felt the need to look up some of the things that really resonated with me. Which was a lot, what with being an introvert. 

In the introduction to the book, there is a bit of a quiz to determine whether a person is merely shy or an introvert. The more "yes" answers to the question, the more introvert you probably are, says Cain. It wasn't much of a surprise to me to find that I had I answered "yes" to almost all of the questions. What was a surprise was to have Cain say that "shy" is not necessarily the same thing as being introverted. An extrovert can be shy. Introversion, she says, "is a preference for environments that are not overwhelming. Yep, that's me. Shyness "is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation. Yep, also me. 

It gets pretty depressing as Cain describes how extroversion has become the ideal. The ideal that those who become leaders are those who are charismatic or who speak up on groups. It's irrelevant whether or not their ideas are particularly great and they may overwhelm those who may have better ideas but who won't speak up. 

But Cain, of course, doesn't leave introverts without hope. She introduces us to introverts who have risen to the top. You may have heard of an introvert named Warren Buffet. Yep, the guy who is one of the richest people in the country and who annually gets up in front of thousands of stockholders to lead a discussion. Cain also introduces us to former Harvard University Professor Brian Little, a professor who was so effusive and dynamic in the classroom that his courses were always oversubscribed. But Professor Little had a secret; while he was able to occasionally break into song and dance during class, he needed quiet time afterward to recharge his batteries. Professor Little is also an introvert. And just how do these men manage to pull these shows off? They've learned how to be extroverted when they are passionate about what they are talking about and when it's what's required of them. Folks, I'm going to be re-reading this section of the book again soon to really absorb what that will entail. 

I would certainly highly recommend this book for parents of children, young children in particular, who are raising introverts. I so wish I had had this kind of advice when I was raising my introvert. The problem, though, for me, was that I am not raising an introverted child any more; while I could see where a lot of what Cain has to say would have been helpful, it was no longer relevant to me. Had I been reading, rather than listening, I probably would have skimmed over this chapter. But again - if you have an introverted child, this book is worth the price for that chapter alone.

And then there's the chapter about a couple - he's an extrovert, she's an introvert. Yep, that sound familiar. They had been fighting about his desire to have work-related people over every weekend. She preferred the idea of that never happening. Not only did they not understand the other person's desire, they didn't understand the way each other fought. That's a battle my husband and I have been fighting for four decades. These days, we've worked it out pretty well. I've learned that I'll probably enjoy myself once I'm out as long as we're doing something I'm interested in doing so I agree to doing those things. Other things, my husband may attend alone or with a friend. Years ago, it made me angry when he wouldn't just stay home when I didn't want to go somewhere; now I appreciate that I get time to myself and he gets what recharges his batteries. Which is not to say that we have it entirely worked out so this is another chapter I'll be referring back to again. 

I've been meaning to read this book for years. I've had it on my bookshelf for several of those. Why did I put off reading a book that could help me understand myself better and give me tips to make it easier to live and succeed as an introvert? I have no idea but I'm certainly happy that I finally picked it up. I highly recommend it. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 24

Happy Sunday! We have just had a wonderful weekend which is ending on a down note. I hope you've had an equally great weekend (and that a cold front has moved in where you live, as it has here, finally providing much needed relief), without the down note to end it. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: Still listening to The Girl In His Shadow. I keep thinking how much my mom would like this one - it's really her kind of book. 

Watched: A little of this, a little of that. Nothing too exciting. 

Read: I really thought I would break out of my actually reading slump if I picked up the physical book to read but that doesn't seem to be helping. I'm reading maybe 15 pages a day. I don't know if I just don't have the books that are right for me right now or if I'm needing a break from reading so much right now. 

Made: Hello, my name is Lisa and I made actual food this weekend! We had my dad in Friday and invited some friends to join us for dinner so I made a new recipe, Linguine Carbonara, and homemade ice cream with homemade chocolate syrup. Never mind that I forgot the salad and the watermelon in the fridge. Clearly I need to get back to entertaining more often. 

 Time with my dad, time with friends, and a quick trip to Kansas City to spend time with Miss H and her roomie. For those of you who know KC, we ate dinner at Grinders and picked up breakfast from a favorite place, McLain's Market. Plus - Miss H's roomie, who makes jewelry, gave us a private bracelet making class (ok, Miss H already knew how to make them so the class was really just for me) and I made three new bracelets. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Things are fluid right now. We came home to a sick cat this afternoon and are headed off to the emergency vet as soon as they can get her in. 

Thinking About: My dad and I visited some independent living homes Friday and we're now spending a lot of time thinking about what might work for him and when he might want to make that move. 

Feeling: Sad. It's hard to see my kitty girl sick. She's getting up in years so I'm worried that they may tell me it's time to say goodbye and I'm not ready for that. The emergency vet can fit her in shortly so I'm hopeful that she will just need some iv fluids and some meds. 

Looking forward to: Hard to say at the moment. 

Question of the week: My back was terrible on Tuesday so I missed going with my book club to see Where The Crawdads Sing. They enjoyed it. Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown
368 pages
Published July 2022 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
Though they look like any other family, they aren’t one—not quite. They are three sets of parents who find themselves intertwined after adopting four biological siblings, having committed to keeping the children as connected as possible.

At the heart of the family, the adoptive mothers grapple to define themselves and their new roles. Tabitha, who adopted the twins, crowns herself planner of the group, responsible for endless playdates and holidays, determined to create a perfect happy family. Quiet and steady Ginger, single mother to the eldest daughter, is wary of the way these complicated not-fully-family relationships test her long held boundaries. And Elizabeth, still reeling from rounds of failed IVF, is terrified that her unhappiness after adopting a newborn means she was not meant to be a mother at all.

As they set out on their first family vacation, all three are pushed into uncomfortably close quarters. And when they receive a call from their children’s birth mother announcing she is pregnant again, the delicate bonds the women are struggling to form threaten to collapse as they each must consider how a family is found and formed.

My Thoughts:
This is the third book I've read by Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters and The Light of Paris) and, once again, here she is exploring family in all of its loving, messy, complicated ways. This seems to be her most personal book; she and her husband adopted their son four years ago, she tells us in the Author's Note. She writes: 
"As we have gone through the process of adopting and developing our open adoptive family, we are regularly surprised by how our reality differs from many people's ideas about adoption." 
In reading this book, I certainly found that to be true and the stories of the different families experiences eye-opening. And while I found the idea that one couple would be pregnant four times and each time give up their child for adoption, in reading Brown's notes, I found myself rethinking what an adoptive family might be. 

With both of Brown's previous books, I wrote that, while there were not real surprises, being exactly what I expected, in the end, was exactly what I wanted in the book. This time that's less true. While I figured that the women would resolve their differences by the end of the book (I'd call that a spoiler but I think you'll have figured that out in reading the summary - you know it's going to be that kind of book), the ending was not entirely what I expected and I so appreciated that this time. 

This book is a good reminder that even a family, albeit a completely new kind of family, often has secrets and feelings the others in the family know nothing about. This group of adults has chosen to form their family and, on the surface, it would appear that it's working really well. But each of these women is harboring secrets, resentments, and feelings. When thrown together for two weeks, with the unexpected news that their family may be changing (and some other complications), those issues gradually percolate to the top and boil over. It's only when they do that the women can resolve those issues and become the family they've thought they already were. 

As with the other of Brown's books that I've read, I think Any Other Family would make a good book club selection. It would, of course, be even more interesting if one of the members had their own adoption story to share. Oh wait - that would be my book club! As I think I've already decided on next year's theme (You Learn Something New Every Month), this might just make the cut. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Tracy Flick Can't Win by Tom Perrota

Tracy Flick Can't Win
by Tom Perrota
272 pages
Published June 2022 by Scribner

Publisher's Summary:

Tracy Flick is a hardworking assistant principal at a public high school in suburban New Jersey. Still ambitious but feeling a little stuck and underappreciated in midlife, Tracy gets a jolt of good news when the longtime principal, Jack Weede, abruptly announces his retirement, creating a rare opportunity for Tracy to ascend to the top job.

Energized by the prospect of her long-overdue promotion, Tracy throws herself into her work with renewed zeal, determined to prove her worth to the students, faculty, and School Board, while also managing her personal life—a ten-year-old daughter, a needy doctor boyfriend, and a burgeoning meditation practice. But nothing ever comes easily to Tracy Flick, no matter how diligent or qualified she happens to be.

Among her many other responsibilities, Tracy is enlisted to serve on the Selection Committee for the brand-new Green Meadow High School Hall of Fame. Her male colleagues’ determination to honor Vito Falcone—a star quarterback of dubious character who had a brief, undistinguished career in the NFL—triggers bad memories for Tracy, and leads her to troubling reflections about the trajectory of her own life and the forces that have left her feeling thwarted and disappointed, unable to fulfill her true potential.

As she broods on the past, Tracy becomes aware of storm clouds brewing in the present. Is she really a shoo-in for the Principal job? Is the Superintendent plotting against her? Why is the School Board President’s wife trying so hard to be her friend? And why can’t she ever get what she deserves?

In classic Perrotta style, Tracy Flick Can’t Win is a sharp, darkly comic, and pitch-perfect reflection on our current moment. Flick fans and newcomers alike will love this compelling novel chronicling the second act of one of the most memorable characters of our time.

My Thoughts:
Confession: I never read the prequel to this book, Election. But I did see the movie adaptation. Which, now that I read it sort of sounds like saying "I'm not a doctor but I play one on tv." Anyway, I was a huge fan of that movie (in no small part due to the fact that it was filmed in the greater Omaha area by native son Alexander Payne. Also, if you haven't seen that movie but like dark humor, I highly recommend it). And again, anyway, I can't speak to how good of an adaptation it was but I knew when I saw this one that I wanted to give it a shot.

It does not disappoint. Tracy Flick is every bit the same person she was in Election but also she isn't. Life has worn her down. Whereas once upon a time, she was convinced that if she wanted something enough, it could be hers if she worked hard. Time has shown her otherwise. She did not become the lawyer (and eventual President of the United States) she expected to be. She's not even at the top of her school's hierarchy. She's never recovered from the loss of her mother and she's been disappointed to learn that she's not the mother her mother was. 

Now it appears that her luck has changed at last. The principal of the school has announced his resignation at the end of the school year and Tracy has already proved her mettle when she stood in for him following a heart attack. The president of the school board also seems to be on her side...provided she play along with his plan to create a Hall of Fame in the school and to declare the school's former star quarterback the first inductee. The Hall of Fame seems like a vanity project Tracy is sure won't survive the full school board's scrutiny and Tracy would prefer to see more academic standouts inducted if it does, but she goes along because she wants to make sure she finally rises to the top. 

But, as the title says, Tracy Flick can't win. 

Perrota moves us through the story through a chapters narrated by several characters as he explores the new world Tracy finds herself in - a world where she at long last has come to recognize that she can say "me too" because of events that happened to her when she was in high school,  a world where female ambition is still derided. It is, as one reviewer rightly pointed out, a tragicomedy which moves into more tragedy. And then, as we so often see following tragedies, everyone moves on with their lives as if nothing has happened. Count me know as a huge fan of Perrota and his ability to subtly point out our failures even has he makes us laugh. 

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 17

Happy Sunday! I'm so slow getting this posted today and I can only beg off with the laziness of a Sunday morning that kept me from getting right to it before we got busy spending time with family. 

I had two more sessions of physical therapy this week. I leave there and head straight to the office...dripping sweat. Scheduling appointments first thing in the morning was not my smartest decision! I'm happy to report that I'm getting a lot of relief from the sessions and home exercises. My goal before I finish going to therapy is to get my therapist to say "butt." Every time I talk about how I'm feeling the most pain in my butt, he says "buttocks." Sir, I'm giving you permission to say "butt!" 

Last Week I: 

Listened To:
 I finished Susan Cain's Quiet and immediately wished I had it in print. And then remembered that I do. I just don't remember which bookshelf it's on because it's not on my nonfiction shelf. Next up I'll be listening to The Girl in His Shadow, by Audrey Blake, which is the Big Library Read. Big Library Read is hosted by Overdrive and says it's the first global ebook club. But then I'm not reading it on an ebook which just goes to prove that my rebel side is still alive (yep, this is how you rebel in your 60's!).

Watched: Parts of the first two seasons of Game of Thrones, which HBO is airing leading up to the premier of the prequel House of the Dragon.

Read: Ancestor Trouble by Maud Newton and Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley, Oprah's latest book club pick. 

 It's been easy summer fare this week, so, again, lots of salads. Tonight we did a Tex-Mex with roasted corn and I was so happy because I love, love roasted corn which we always make with leftover corn on the cob. I also made blonde brownies for sundaes. I was disappointed in the recipe I found for the brownies - my mom made such good blonde brownies and I can't find her recipe. 

Enjoyed: We did happy hour with a friend Friday evening at a new place. Let's just say it was an experience and will give us a lot to laugh about for some time to come. Including how one of us (hint: it wasn't me or The Big Guy) ordered another round after we thought we were finished which amped up our fun but made all of us totally useless the rest of the evening. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: My dad is coming to town Friday for a couple of appointments so he and I will have the afternoon together and then he will spend the night. So I'll be getting some projects down before he arrives to clean things up around here. 

Thinking About: A possible quick solo road trip to Kansas City for a girl's night with my daughter and her roomie. 

Feeling: I was bequeathed a small tinsel Christmas tree by my sister-in-law today and now I'm feeling like pulling out my Shiny Brite ornaments to see how they are going to look on it. Is it too soon for a Christmas tree or can I just go with the Christmas In July thing? 

Looking forward to: Going to see Where The Crawdads Sing Tuesday with my book club. 

Question of the week: My doctor upped my dose of one of my meds a couple of weeks ago and it's making me so tired. I'm supposed to start getting used to it and then that will go away but it hasn't so far. What are your best tips for overcoming sleepiness during the day? 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender
Read by Aimee Bender
8 hours, 53 minutes
Published June 2010 by Doubleday

Publisher's Summary:
On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents' attention, bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother's emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother - her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother-tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose.

The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden-her mother's life outside the home, her father's detachment, her brother's clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.

My Thoughts:
This book has been on my TBR for probably almost since it was published in 2010. At the time it was all over Goodreads so on to the TBR it went. To be honest, I had no recollection what it was about when I found that my library had it on audiobook. To be honest, since 2010, I've developed a much better idea of the kind of books I like and the kinds that don't work for me. Books with things like a magical gift of tasting emotion in food would likely have steered me away from this book had I read the summary before I started listening to the book. 

You know how sometimes I tell you that I'm happy I didn't read the summary of a book and get scared off by it or how I'm happy that I pushed myself to read something that's outside of what I normally pick up? I'm sorry to say that this was not one of those times. It's an interesting premise. I just wish it would have gone in a different direction, been more about how Rose was able to use her gift. Instead it's much more about how she learns to stifle it and also much more about Rose's brother, Joseph, the golden child who descends into the unknown. It's an unknown only Rose is first aware of and it will, eventually, tie into Rose's own gift. That felt like it's own story to me. 

But let's go back to 2010, when this book was published and Goodreads was all aflutter about it. They weren't alone. Jane Ciabattari, writing for NPR, was impressed with what Bender crafted, as was Susan Salter Reynold, writing for the L. A. Times. So maybe I should have read that summary, passed on the book, and spare you my opinion of this one. Clearly it wasn't for me (at least not at this time) but it certainly has worked for so many others. Perhaps you'd be one of them. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The Descendents
by Kaui Hart Hemings
Read by Jonathan Davis 
9 hrs, 13 mins
Published May 2007 by Random House

Publisher's Summary: 
Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive-one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state's largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control-10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support. The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them-and spurs them into surprising actions.

My Thoughts: 
Like so many movies I've seen, I wasn't aware, when I watched the movie adaptation of this book (which starred George Clooney, Matthew Lillard, and Shailene Woodley and which was directed by Alexander Payne) that it was a book adaptation. In fact, I only realized much later when I came across the book in the store and picked it up for my husband. He has never read it. Neither have I. Not because we didn't both enjoy the movie; we did. But it just got buried. So when I found it in audio at my library, I grabbed it up. 

First up: I'm sure Jonathan Davis does a fine job of narrating this book. I mean, he does do a fine job of narrating this book. It's just that I so badly wanted George Clooney, who played Matt King in the movie and narrated the movie, to also be narrating the book. I have no idea what it would have cost to have had him do that but it would have been worth every penny. Well, at least I think so. 

As for the adaptation of the book: it's an exceedingly good adaptation of a book. All of the characters in the book appear in the movie, very much as they appear in the book, although they are, understandably more fleshed out in the book. It's a good movie and I highly recommend it. But watch the movie first and then read the book; because, well, you know if you've ever read the book before you see the movie, it's never exactly what you expect. 

Now, as for the book itself: I'm a new fan of Hemmings. This book is a marvelous combination of humor and sadness. The humor is often dark but sometimes it's just plain funny. Watching Matt King come to terms with his failures as a father and a husband is a lesson in how character development should be done. Hemmings covers a range of subjects, as you can tell from the summary: marriage, infidelity, drug abuse, parenting, family dynamics, dying and death. Into all of that, she's also managed to craft the tale of the descendants of the last Hawaiian princess as they navigate what should be done with the land they have inherited, land most of them are eager to sell, particularly in light of the amount of money being thrown at them. Matthew is all for it, the decision is just which buyer will he recommend to his family. But life sometimes throws things our way which make us rethink everything. 

Now that I've finally "read" this one, I'm ready for a rewatch of the movie. And to find more of Hemmings writings! 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 10

Happy Sunday and happy birthday to my great-nephew, who I used to call The Little Prince except now we have three little princes on my side of the family!

Last night The Big Guy and I did the stupidest thing. Well, maybe not the stupidest thing (I'm sure we've done stupider things - like buying a mauve sofa in 1984); but this was right up there. Mini-him gave us a give us a gift certificate to a nice (read expensive) steakhouse so off we headed to finally use that gift. Sometime after we'd ordered, we realized that neither of us had remembered to bring the gift certificate. Always nice to spend $100 more than you were planning on spending! Where's that slapping hand over face emoji when I need it?! I'd like to say this is the first time we've ever done this but it's not. 

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I finished and I got back to Quiet by Susan Cain, which is making me feel much better about my introversion. 

Watched: My doc has me on a higher does of the med for my nerve pain and it's making me so sleepy that every time I sit down to watch tv, I fall asleep! 

Read: Eleanor Brown's latest, Any Other Family. Speaking of reading, I say on CBS Sunday Morning, a piece about Delia Owens, who wrote Where The Crawdads Sing. Did you know she is now 73 and that it took her 10 years to write that book? Maybe there's still time for me to become the writer I dreamed about being for so many years!

Made: Strawberry rhubarb crisp, two kinds of flatbread pizzas, and, of course, salads.

Whiskey and Bone on the left

 Last night we went to a grand opening of a salon where they had invited a number of vendors to help them celebrate, including Miss H's roommate who owns the incredible Whiskey and Bone. BG might tell you I have a little problem with spending money with Whiskey and Bone - I now own 17 of her stackers and I'm not even sure how many pairs of earrings. But I would just call it doing my bit to support small business! 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: On finishing a project I started yesterday - spray painting a baker's rack my friend gave me that lives on my patio. So excited to finally be working on "projects" again! 

Thinking About: Tomorrow will the 17 months since my mom died and I have been thinking about her so much lately. She loved the Fourth of July - the breakfast, the fireworks and watching her grandchildren enjoy them, the history, the gatherings. 

Feeling: So much better! I started physical therapy Wednesday and while I'm not yet ready to call my therapist a miracle worker, that might just be what he is. 

Looking forward to: Continuing to see improvement with my back so that I can also look forward to getting another project knocked out next weekend. I have a table that was BG's great-grandmothers that I think won't take too much work (although I can't tell you how often I've thought that before and been so wrong!). 

Question of the week: Ok, this is a weird one. Last night we walked from the celebration to the restaurant (a walk, I might add, I was not planning on making and had not dressed accordingly for, given the heat). By the time we got there, my hair was sopping with sweat and it was rolling down my face. Am I the only one whose head sweats so much more than the rest of my body?! Please tell me I'm not alone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The Children On The Hill by Jennifer McMahon

The Children On The Hill
by Jennifer McMahon
352 pages
Published April 2022 by Gallery/Scout Press
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

Publisher's Summary:
1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she’s home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

My Thoughts:
In 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, essentially creating a new genre and making her readers rethink what the word "monster" really means. This year, Jennifer McMahon, who always manages to keep me on the edge of my seat and is one of the only horror writers I will read, puts her own spin on that idea. 

In The Children On The Hill, we're introduced to Lizzy Shelley, a modern day monster hunter, the kind you'd find in shows on the Travel channel. She doesn't entirely believe in the kind of monsters that she's hunting but she does believe in monsters because she's seen them in action. As we meet her, Lizzy is off on another chase to research a legendary monster who her sister may be using as the foil for her own monstrous acts. 

Throughout the book, we move back and forth in time, between the children's search for the truth about Iris's past and Lizzy's search for her sister. McMahon also weaves in pieces from the children's Book of Monsters, excerpts from a book called The True Story of the Hillside Inn, and the voice of the monster, herself. Throughout, McMahon keeps building the tension, as she slowly reveals the truth about what happened in 1978 and the truth about the monster. All of it builds to first one big surprise and then a final twist I never saw coming. I know, I know, you're thinking that it's not the least bit unusual for me not to see the twists coming. But I promise you that you won't see that final one coming, either. 

It's been a long time since I've read one of McMahon's books, although I've been meaning to pick them up again for years. This book did not disappoint and has been more eager than ever to pick up more of McMahon's books. They are just the kind of horror stories I can handle - loads of tension but not a lot of gore and always plenty to make readers think. But even if you're not a wimp like I am, I think you'll enjoy this one. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Life: It Goes On - July 3

Happy Sunday! I hope you all are getting to enjoy a 3-day weekend! What are your plans for the Fourth? We are going to have friends for dinner tonight and then will watch the fireworks display our neighbor puts on every year. It's really impressive. In the morning we'll head into Lincoln to watch my dad give his annual talk at his neighborhood's 47th annual Fourth of July breakfast. This I'm celebrating revolting against tyranny.

Last Week I: 

 Listened To: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which has been on my TBR for years. Sadly, I'm not loving it but I'm not yet half way through it so I'll see if it can change my mind. 

Watched: College World Series baseball, some HGTV, and last night, with Miss H, we watched Dear Evan Hansen, which she had not seen yet. 

Read: Eleanor Brown's Any Other Family. The jury's still out on this one, too. It has promise and there's a lot to like about it. 

Made: Um, yeah, not much again. Tonight I'm going to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp and we're going to try making watermelon gin and tonics with rhubarb bitters. 

Enjoyed: The Big Guy's brother and sister-in-law made the move from their home in Iowa to the condominium they've owned in Lincoln for several years so we went in to offer them encouragement and a little help. His kids had come in to help so we were excited to see them and Miss H and Mini-him came with us so it was a big old reunion as the "kids" hadn't seen each other in quite a while. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Surprise, surprise - we came home from Lincoln yesterday with some new things so I'm planning on a little rearranging around here. Miss H actually grabbed an end table that was destined for the Goodwill because she saw potential in it and has a plan. Which means that we have to store it until she has time to work on it and room for it. But I'm pretty proud that she's inherited my eye for how to remake things into pieces you can use and love. 

Thinking About: Work. More on that next week. 

Feeling: Happy. I got a weekend with my girl, including pedicures, we got to see lots of family, and I got to have dinner with my Tier Ones last week. 

Looking forward to: Starting physical therapy this week. 

Question of the week: