Thursday, October 30, 2014

A NYC Day: Rockefeller, Aladdin, Magnolia and Grand Central


Bam! The next morning we walked around the corner to a delicious little bodega called Cafe Nova for a NYC bagel breakfast. By the time we came back to the hotel, Sarah was there, fresh off her red-eye flight and soon we were all ready to head out for the city. Our girls trip was complete!

 

Sarah encouraged us to get a MetroCard so that we could hop on and off the subway at will. It worked perfectly, and after about 20 rides, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it.  Sarah would tell us which train to get on and then I would follow them. The subway is not my favorite thing - I kept begging for taxis and was promptly refused. I just find it so icky and claustrophobic and weird. Some subways were nicer than others, something Liz confirmed ("You rode the 1??".)  Even if I just wanted to claw my way to the surface, with it's clean-ish air and sky, it's good to have friends that shove you through a turnsile lovingly encourage you to do the things that are outside of your comfort zone, even if you do have to do them again and again.


To be honest we did so many things that day that remembering all of them is almost impossible. Everywhere we turned, there was something to see.  Upper East Side to Downtown, there is no place in the city that doesn't have a staggering view of what truly may be the center of the universe.


First we started out waiting for a cupcake walking tour that we had bought over Groupon that ended up being cancelled and no one told us. So that was stupid. Luckily, there was a pretty farmers market going on in Union Square, so we took that in and moved on, after cursing our lost cupcake tour and buying some stuff at Forever21, which we totally have in Colorado.

 
  From there we decided from there to head over to Rockefeller Center, which has the world's largest subway entrance, approximately the size of a Colorado mall. I love 30Rock, both the location and the show.  I was crossing my fingers that I would run into Liz Lemon and we would become forever best friends, but it didn't happen.   I could have watched the ice skaters falling down all day, but from there we had another destination - St. Patrick's Cathedral, right across the street. 


Unfortunately, it's under construction, so a lot of it's magnificent beauty was covered by scaffolding. Still, the awe and size of it wasn't lost on us, and I lit a candle in the sanctuary to thank God for all our incredible blessings this year, mostly for one little guy who I was already missing. There were hymns being played on the gigantic organ and we all hummed right along.  

A little bit of spirit, right there in the city. I loved it.


After that we had a sad, expensive lunch at a depressing restaurant that was across the street from the Carnegie Deli, which had a tremendous line. Silly Midwest girls fell right into that trap and paid the price for it - 20 bucks for a miserable turkey sandwich.  After that, we headed to Grand Central Station, which is always guarnteed to take your breath away and unlike our lunch, didn't disappoint. 


The statue on top of Grand Central is my favorite. It's so iconic.


 Inside of Grand Central, we found the famous Magnolia Bakery, which was one of the stops on our cancelled cupcake tour, so we went ahead and had one. Sadly, Liz was right. It was totally overrated and actually not very good at all! And it's a cupcake, for crying out loud!   I'll take Katie's or my sisters cupcakes over those ones any day.

Also, I may have dropped it on my sleeve, so it didn't look very appealing for the picture. Bleh.


From there, it was on to the NYC Public Library, one my favorite places in NYC, complete with a Guttenberg Bible! (Ryan would have lost his mind.)



The ceiling there is divine - books and biblical art, all in one place? I'll stay forever. 


Outside of Grand Central - did I mention we did A LOT?


After the library, we decided to head back downtown to get ready for our Broadway show, which was Aladdin.  We put on our NYC dresses and headed out: mine was a thrift store find for five bucks, a first for me. Katie did my hair in a cute up-do and we headed out for our girls night on the town.

 (This picture was taken in our hotel elevator, which was cotton candy pink, constantly pumping with house music and smelled like a Victoria's Secret exploded.)


    I've now seen three Disney Broadway musicals and I can say that they rank in this order: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and then the Lion King. They were all spectacular.  Aladdin was exactly like the movie: big, cheesy, beautiful and exploding with color and sparkles. I can't even convey the sparkle factor of this musical. It's like a Swarovski crystal threw up on the stage for every single costume and musical number. "A Whole New World" was absolutely dazzling, with a magic carpet ride against a sea of stars and a big white moon. I didn't take this picture, but shows you how beautiful the scenery was. Every scene in the palace had these gorgeous lattice backgrounds that just took my breath away.


The man who played the genie was incredible, and his insatiable energy took the show to new heights. On the other hand, when he was gone from the stage, the show seemed to deflate a bit.  Jasmine on the other hand, well, at least she was pretty. After the show, we headed out into Times Square which was bursting at the seams with tourists. This, more than anything other than Ground Zero, had changed the most since I had seen it last.  It's bigger, it's brighter and it's actually cleaner than I remembered it. It was also totally nuts.


I took this picture of Katie taking it all in - her face conveys the wonder and the insanity of it all.  However, the best part of this picture, unnoticed by me until Karen pointed it out is the TOTALLY RANDOM MARIO in the background.  

Why is he there? What is he doing? I love that he's just chilling.  

That sums up Times Square pretty well.


We ended the night at Junior's, known for the best cheesecake in New York (as I am reading this, I see that a lot of this blog has been pastry related. Lest you judge, may I tell you that we walked like 20 miles a day and that should even things out. Hopefully.). The sign didn't lie. I'm not a cheesecake person and even I could taste that it was the BEST EVER.

And that wrapped up our New York night. I've never been happier to fall into a bed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

NYC: Chicken&Waffles&Serendipity

New York City!

Let's jump right to it then!. I haven't been back to NYC for about 8 years, not since our vicarage in Connecticut. When Katie floated the idea of taking a girls trip to NYC (after a proposed couples trip, to which our husbands responded "meh"), I jumped at the chance. I would love to see NYC again! It was the glory of my college youthful days: darting about the city (by taxi), taking pictures on a disposal camera, seeing every Broadway show under the sun, being amazed at the endless labyrinth of streets and stone.

I was ready to do all that again, minus the camera and this time with a bit more cash and less desperation.  We took a morning flight out, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure.

(I wish I took a picture of us on the way back - we did not look like this.)

The flight was bumpy but quick (thank you Xanax!) and afterwards we were met at the airport with impeccable timing by Liz, who was SO AMAZING on this trip.  We threw our bags into her car and we were off for a "Liz-Tour" of NYC, which started with Harlem. Liz is very familiar with Harlem having worked there for years as a teacher. You know those inspirational but cheesy movies where teachers fight the system and the school is the worst and at the end you are drowning in tears and your own complete uselessness when compared to these amazing teachers who are making a difference in the world? Yeah, that's Liz.

 She took us first to Melba's, which was a beautiful little corner restaurant, not too big, but bursting with life and easy elegance on a late Thursday night. She took us there to eat, because their food is...well, it's probably one of the top ten meals of my entire life. I had chicken and waffles, which I've never had before and I'm so glad I waited for the RIGHT chicken and waffles to come along before diving in because they were exquisite. It was worth the wait. If I could wear a ring to signify my devotion to this chicken and waffles, I would.



 I also ordered a side of mac and cheese off Liz's recommendation and if the meal could be a sound it would be mmrrpppphhh...that's me, drowning in goodness. Also, we were starving, having just eaten breakfast that day and by the time we ate it was like 8:30pm, so it all tasted like heaven itself.

After Melba's, we took a short walk around the neighborhood, with Liz pointing out her school and running into a teacher that she knew - here's the thing about Liz, it doesn't matter where you are, you will run into someone she knows. If you were on the moon, you would run into someone she knows. It's a fact, it will happen.  It was a lovely fall evening, and as Katie put it "My body was craving cool weather"  It's been unseasonably warm here, and it was so fun to break out the scarves and boots and have them be out for an actual reason. Leaves blew around us, I saw a rat.

After our little Harlem tour, Liz drove us over to Serendipity, THAT Serendipity (ugh, typing this word repeatedly is the WORST) and along the way provided some fantastic tour guide commentary about Bloomberg, NYC education, charter schools and parking problems.



We found a parking space not far from the famous Serendipity and headed that way.  Liz ran into another person that she knew and screamed like she was being murdered. Katie was alarmed. I was like, "She's fine."  We were seated right away (I'm told this never happens) at an adorable table in the whimsical world that is Serendipity.





 We ordered our Frozen Hot Chocolates and Liz ordered something delicious looking with caramel and apples that made us all salivate. The Frozen Hot Chocolate was divine, especially the real whipped cream on the top.



  It was pretty spectacular. Great conversation, great people - a great New York night all around.




After that, she dropped us at the W Downtown hotel, complete with dazzling lobby and snotty receptionist.  The hotel was both impressive and dizzying and we collapsed into our beds with utter joy.



I don't remember sleeping, but when I woke up, I did feel like I had slept a long, long time.  It was a good, solid sleep. Waking up to the city was pretty great and that morning we had our first NYC bagel.

The trip was just beginning and then Sarah arrived. Things moved fast after that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Fall Explosion of Happy Pumpkin-ness


Not to copy directly from Erika's post at Something Beautiful, but I was so inspired by her blog about visiting a pumpkin patch that I practically salivated Pumpkin Spice Latte and warm leather boots.  I immediately started Googling pumpkin patches.  Apparently, the universe was also telling me to go to a pumpkin patch: that same day, two people at work (oh yes, I have a very part-time job at a spa now!) told me about an awesome pumpkin patch nearby called Anderson Farms.  I talked my Dad and stepmom into joining us and early Saturday morning we were off! They love spending time with their grandson.




I tried to coordinate outfits until Ryan gave me "the look", the look that means "We aren't doing that" and so we didn't match completely, but I would be lying if I said that this picture of three of us didn't bother me in the slightest because I am wearing a red scarf, while my two guys are dressed in blues.  I'll still frame it though. :)


We arrived at Anderson Farms, greeted by an absolutely gigantic pumpkin atop a large silo. The pumpkin looked real, I mean, of course it wasn't - right?  Right? I definitely kept looking at it, even though I knew it couldn't be real. Of course not. That would be silly.  


Immediately inside the farm were approximately 1,000 cute places to take pictures of your children. All around us were parents snapping away adorable shots of their little ones by mums, by pumpkins, by corn and fall leaves.  They were so lame, those parents, but we are nothing if not lame parents, overly excited by everything about parenting and so we jumped in with both feet and promptly put our little one on top of a wagon bursting with pumpkins.


  He was understandably thrilled and I took a shot of all three parental units all manuerving for the one perfect shot, which we didn't get, because LittleM decided he hated the whole thing.

"You see this pumpkin?  It's mine. All these are mine.  Now get the heck out."



After that fiasco, we decided to do the tractor pull, which was sort of like a hayride, but only lower. LittleM loved it and when we got off, he definitely cried. More and more I am reminded that he is edging right into toddler without our express permission.  It's amazing, it's wonderful, it's sad. It's all those things.   After the little hayride, we headed over for the disgusting really interesting farm animals.  I really wish I could like goats, but I just don't. As you may have guessed, farming is not the life for me.  LittleM loved them, and we fed them their stinky pellets for what seemed like hours. I petted a llama, but then it raised it's lip at me like it wanted to kill me and so that was that. No more llamas, unless they are pretty alpacas and wandering in a field of wildflowers and not hovering over me while some nasty goat slobbers on my kid.

Yuck.

After we all scrubbed our hands, we headed over to the corn maze. Confession: I have never been in a corn maze. Ever.  Ryan and I went to a corn maze over in a weird part of town a few years ago, and I was so turned off by the whole place that we didn't even try.  This corn maze was everything I thought a corn maze should be: tall, lush and sort of like a portal to another dimension.  I kept thinking of the movie Signs, which is such a great film because it scares the crap out of me without terrifying me, and Joaquim Phoenix is pretty much perfection in it.



I don't know what LittleM thought of the corn maze (he was very into his Apple Pear Sweet Potato Puree Pouch), but his stroller thought it was VERY STUPID.



 Turns out strollers are not made for corn mazes with muddy holes. We took turns navigating it over the many bumps and grooves in the corn and he giggled as we went, no doubt thinking "Ah, these stupid people and their outings. Gotta love them."   There was a little tower in the corn maze that looked down onto the maze and I couldn't believe how far out the corn went. It was like being in Nebraska!



It was pretty much a perfect sort of morning. I can't believe how big my little baby is getting. He so longs to be one of the big kids, and I want to wrap him up in a time capsule to preserve these precious days where he is still sort of a baby.



It was fun to be all together, although we did miss my sister, who is gallivanting around Europe taking ridiculous pictures of rainbows and magic cattle.


We debated eating BBQ ribs on a stick, but in interest of time and our stomachs, we decided against it and had soup at home instead.  I am so glad that we left (and arrived) when we did: the line to get in when we left was about a quarter mile long.


At night, Anderson Farms turns into a horror festival, where you can run around the corn field being chased by chainsaw wielding psychos and shoot zombies with paintball guns from a hayride.  Yeah, I'll pass on screaming for my life in a corn maze. That sounded fun, um, never.

*All I had to say was paintball and zombies and Ryan's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas. He might go back.*

We headed home to enjoy some homemade apple crisp and an epic-record setting nap for LittleM.



All in all, a pretty perfect pumpkin-themed day. 




Friday, October 10, 2014

Marshmallows and Manuscripts: A Campfire Chat with Author Lisa Ann O'Kane





Hello! Welcome back to Marshmallows and Manuscripts! Gather around our metaphorical campfire and snuggle up with our interview featuring Lisa Ann O'Kane and her debut novel, Essence!

I had the pleasure of being on a YA panel with Lisa this September, and I remembering thinking that I couldn't wait to get my hands on her book.  She was charming and sweet, and I'm so glad that I had a chance to hear a bit more about her writing inspirations.

Please enjoy our chat and make sure you pick up Essence at one of the links below!
 (Love that cover!)





Tell us about your most recent novel. Why should a reader pick it off the shelf? (Or download
it, as is probably the case.)


ESSENCE is the story of a sixteen year-old girl who escapes from a controlling cult in San Francisco only to end up accidentally joining another cult in the abandoned ruins of Yosemite National Park. It features adrenaline junkies, shooting stars, adventures and plenty of swoony romance. A little something for everyone.

At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a writer, and at what point in your life did you actually become a writer?

My mother would tell you I have been ‘writing’ since before I could even read: scrawling complicated picture books and reciting them verbatim to anyone and everyone who would listen. I wrote recreationally through elementary and middle school, but I put writing on the back burner until I completed college. In the meantime, I pursued many other interests, including zoo-keeping and environmental education. When I finally came up with the concept for my first (shelved) novel in 2009—a YA paranormal with a serious nature bent—I realized I had figured out a way to combine everything I love into one passion.-
 
What is your favorite quote about writing?  

 “The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. Yet still, they began their journeys.” -Mike Dooley
I’m obsessed with this one. Have it displayed in my house, actually.

What is the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to you about your books?

One reader actually thought I had a bias against tall, blonde girls, because ESSENCE’s main character Autumn is jealous of one. Ironically, I based the blonde girl on my sister, and I am tall and blonde myself. My sister and I definitely had a laugh about that one!



How did you end up publishing the way you did?  

I always knew I wanted to pursue the traditional publishing route with ESSENCE, and I am very grateful to my agent Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates for going to bat for me and finding a home for ESSENCE at Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint of Angry Robot Books.

There's a famous quote by George R.R. Martin. that says, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."  When a reader picks up your book, what life will they be living? 

ESSENCE’s readers will be living the life of girl who has never been given the opportunity to think for herself. She goes from trying to feel nothing to trying to feel everything, and her struggle for independence is imperfect, raw and vulnerable. I hope readers enjoy her journey.

 What three books have inspired your writing the most and why?

ESSENCE was particularly inspired by the illusion of paradise presented in Alex Garland’s THE BEACH and—ironically—Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. It was also inspired by the religious cults explored in John Krakauer’s UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN.

At what point in your books did you connect with a character on a deeper level? Where did it take that character?

I hit a wall about halfway through ESSENCE, and I realized—after a few weeks of stress—that I had written one particular character into a corner. As soon as I freed him from the box I was trying to squeeze him into, the story came alive and began writing itself again Ultimately, that character—the one I didn’t even initially like—grew to be my very favorite person in the entire novel.

What were the logistical and emotional challenges in writing your book (s)?

I wrote ESSENCE very quickly—in just under four and a half months—so things were certainly pretty crazy there for awhile. It was hard to feel so compelled to write something all the time, and it was even harder to justify this compulsion when so many other facets of my life had to take a backseat for awhile. I was super excited when I finally got the story out of my head and onto some paper!

Your book is made into a movie. What do the opening credits look like?

What a fun question; I have never actually thought about this before. Hmm, ESSENCE opens in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco, which is now the headquarters of Autumn’s childhood cult, the Centrist Movement. I could definitely envision a wide shot of the gleaming, modern city, which would be juxtaposed with the zoom-in of the dated, sparse buildings where Autumn and her family spend their days in prayer and meditation.



If you could claim any other book as your own, what book would it be?

Definitely THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson. What a spectacular, gorgeous, heartbreaking piece of fiction. I am obsessed with it.

When distraction is calling, how do you stick to your writing process? What does that look like?

I wish I could say distraction never wins, but it often does. I have finally learned that I am the hare, not the tortoise, so I try to harness the creativity when I can, and I try not to worry about it when I can’t. I’m no stranger to 4,000 word days, but I’m also no stranger to zero word days. I wish I had more structure and consistency with my schedule, but this seems to work, so I have learned to accept it.

Where can readers find out more about you?

 Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/LisaAnnOKane
Twitter: http://twitter.com/LisaAnnOKane
Blog: http://lisaannokane.com/blog/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18456082-essence
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Ann-OKane/e/B00IH39H24


Monday, October 6, 2014

The Breck: Bucks, Babies and Bathrooms




Ah, it's time for that annual recap of the pastor's conference in Breckenridge, where I go on and on about the aspen leaves, the crisp weather, the first time I get to wear jeans and sweaters in like 6 months, our adorable room, the conference center,  oh also - did I mention it's beautiful?

Yeah, I'm going to skip all that this year and just do the highlights. How about that?  Look how good I am at summing things up here: I even made a collage! It's my first collage using a collage app.
 It's not great.
 It's not even good.
 But it's still a collage!



Amazing.

 The highlight: we left our child behind.
The lowlight: we left our child behind.

Yes, it was our first time away from our baby and it was...okay, actually!  We missed him like crazy and checked in with my Mom, who was watching him like 16 times a day, but we lived, and so did he. It was so nice of her to watch him so we could have some time away together, our first since he came along.   I, for one, decided this year I would view the conference as a writing retreat  - yes, it's a great time to connect with other pastors (Ryan did this), further your education (Ryan, yes), enhance the lives of teachers with great presentations (Ryan, again. I watched.).  I mostly wrote. I also hung out with my friend Nicole a lot, who was up there because her husband's DJ company was in charge of sound.  I wrote and chatted, wrote and chatted some more, and it was fantastic!

 At this rate, I should have the finished version of Wendy Darling Volume One to my publishers by December.   I felt a bit bad not milling around the conference center, but at the same time, this is my eighth year and it felt okay to just focus on fellowship and losing myself in words. Honestly, Wendy Darling has a lot more logistical issues then Queen had, and sorting them out has taken a lot longer than

 It wasn't all I did though.



We ate way too much at Bubba Gump's, which in spite of being an outdated-movie-reference-eatery-with-somewhat-racist-waiters that makes me a little depressed, they have the world's best coconut shrimp and that makes it worth going here once a year.  It was even better with old and one new friend.  We played some Tsuro (a very fun dragon themed tile game that is at once soothing and challenging) and chatted about life, pastors, prayer, cranky musicians and then headed to bed early.

 All I could think was: Tomorrow I get to sleep in. Tomorrow I get to sleep in. It's going to be amazing. 

I had this vision in my head of waking up in a cloud of pillows, my hair stretched above me, yawning in that gloriously commercial way, full of of joy and well-rested, like Katherine Heigl in a NyQuil commercial.

Didn't happen. I woke up at seven and couldn't fall back asleep because, parenthood.

Then I wrote at the lamest Starbucks ever. In case Starbucks doesn't know this, here is my general office/company-wide announcement: people go there to work. A lot. They are basically the at-home office for every at-home worker in the world.  And people that work at Starbucks are good customers. We buy lots of drinks.  We are quiet. Since we spend like four hours there, we buy a drink...and then a scone..and then a water...and then a Kind bar....then another drink...I don't take up tables for four people when it's just me. I'm polite. I tip. I just want a tiny table, an outlet and some guy named Scott NOT yelling in my ear about his newest business "We are trying to maximize returns and minimize risks, Todd!!"  

I'm easy to please. I'm sad to say that at the Breckenridge Starbucks, the table set-up was horrific.  Eight tiny tables line the wall.  Two tables that seat four are shoved up against the wall, each seating one person with one laptop.  In the middle 90% of the seating area is a large faux bear skin rug and then six gigantic leather chairs that face each other in the center.  It's like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast designed Starbucks. Nicole and I crammed into a tiny table by the the window, and later were joined by Karen and my new friend Wendy and it was a little bit ridiculous. Sometimes I think Starbucks is trying to upset us on purpose. No one was using the big chairs because they are awkward giant chairs! No stranger wants to curl up with another stranger, it's just not happening.

I tell you what, if I wasn't totally obsessed with their spiced cider..

That's my Starbucks rant.  Otherwise, having some fellowship with my lady friends was wonderful, and working baby-free for a few solid hours for a couple of days was good too.

  (Side note: the How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack has been seriously fantastic writing music for Wendy Darling. Who would have thought?)



That night Ryan and I went on a date, hooray, an actual date - to Michael's, our fav Italian restaurant up there. Plaid tablecloths, baked ziti, bread dipped in olive oil; - yeah,  it was pretty nice. Then he went to have some theology and beers and I fell asleep on the couch watching King Kong - SUCH a bad movie, and yet I can never stop watching it.  The next morning, we packed up early and headed home, to a baby who was teething and parents who wanted cuddles because they are suckers and they know it.

 It didn't help that my Dad kept sending me cute pictures (like this one) of LittleM at the Butterfly Pavilion.



Those eyelashes. They are getting downright ridiculous.

But wait...I didn't tell you the best part of our trip: the psychedelic, super weird geometrical bathroom that we got this year. Smack dab in the middle of our log-cabin theme room (what Colorado mountain resorts do very well) was this weird bathroom that juts out from the wall containing, in separate areas mind you:  a large geometric tub, a tiny NYC apartment shower, a sink that is in the hallway, and a bathroom that is in the bedroom linen closet.

It was crazy.
It was fantastic.
I offered everyone the chance to take a bath in our amazing 80's geometric tub that was in the living room. I even explained that it was rocking barely frosted windows so we could all look in and laugh at them as they took a bath, and NO ONE TOOK ME UP ON IT.

I think I have bad friends.

And that was the Breck.

Oh and by the way, the weather was crisp and delightful, it was beautiful, and the leaves were resplendent and I did wear sweaters and boots and it was wonderful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Book Reviews - Legend, The Interns Handbook, All Fall Down and Sharp Objects




 Legend by Marie Wu:
I'm not sure dystopian fiction is for me.  On one hand, I LOVE the Hunger Games. Like, LOVE THEM. On the other hand, my other attempts at dystopian fiction have not been as successful.  I did not love Divergent, and couldn't rouse myself to finish the series. I did watch the movie though, which led me to affirm my initial issues with the movie: every teenager would pick Dauntless, am I wrong?   At least in this book, wonderfully written by Marie Lu, there wasn't an intense focus on teenagers, rather society as a whole. The violence was quick and shocking, the mysteries of the society not overwhelming but still intriguing.  I actually enjoyed the multiple points of view of June and Day; I cared what happened to them, and I actually really liked that the main love interests just really got down to business without batting eyes at each other for three sequels.

 Overall, the best compliment I can give this book is that I will be reading the sequels, I think!




The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kuhn: 
The Intern's Handbook has a GREAT premise - an intern that is trained to kill by blending into the mind-numbing corporate hamster wheel? GENIUS. There were parts of this book and observations that made me laugh out loud - the author is sharp, like a razor blade wielded by one of his white collar assassins. The execution and construction of the novel gave me pause: I didn't like how it unfolded in it's various forms and flashbacks. The opening with the handbook was wonderful - but I think it could have served better as just the prologue, rather than the entire story. 

Overall, I liked it, and I can't wait to see what this author does next. Also, can someone make this into a TV show already?





All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner: I've loved Jennifer Weiner for a very long time. Her book Good in Bed was a major inspiration for me as a writer, and delightful for me as a reader. Her very honest take on love, life and the inner workings of women have always rang true, often with a side of belly laughs. In All Fall Down, my monthly book club pick, she took on a more difficult subject matter. I loved the first two parts of the book, and even though the third didn't thrill me as the first two did, waiting for Allison to get caught, I had a different perspective of the book after talking to the daughter of an addict. There were some complaints at book club about how Dave, her mother and her daughter were all very narrowly drawn characters with no depth. Our friend said that this was absolutely a correct portrayal of how an addict doesn't see other people, only themselves - everyone else is on the peripheral. The more I learned, the more convinced I am that Weiner did amazing research into the addicts mind frame and behavior.  This made the book all the better. It wasn't my favorite novel, but it was a great book for book clubs. Sometimes an anti-hero is the best hero.

Overall, I would say that this was a high note in Jennifer Weiner's wide canon.




 Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Stephen King, on the back of the book, describes this novel as "a snake coiled in a cage". I can't think of a better description, which is why Stephen King is king of the writers and I am not. You know who else is king (or queen) of the writers? Gillian Flynn. While I did not love this book as much as Gone Girl, I did tear through it on vacation, and that's saying something when you are distracted by the beauty of Branson. ;)  This book got under my skin, with it's wicked premise and darkly sick women. Even with the mystery, and the characters who just make me want to run the other direction - you know NO ONE like these people - what always floors me about Flynn's writing is her use of setting.  I can feel the sticky, oppressive nature of this wretched town when I read the book. I smell the factory, I hear the insects buzzing. 

She is one of the best "setters" I have ever read.  This book is no exception.  


Overall, highly recommended, even if it did deeply disturb me on an emotional level. 

What I'm reading now: Come Rain, Come Shine, Light in the Ruins, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog. 
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