Review: The Dunning Man

The Dunning ManThe Dunning Man by Kevin Fortuna is a collection of short stories featuring characters from all walks of life, with my favorites being “Poor Jimmy,” and “Flogging Maggie,” with “Weddings and Burials,” coming in close second.

Fortuna packs a punch in each short story, addressing a number of things: sexuality, family tension, ghosts from memories past, and more. Most of the stories start with one of the main characters with a drink in their hand, about to have a drink in their hand, or recovering from one too many drinks, which is interesting because even with all that alcohol the characters aren’t blurry, nor are their thoughts. Maybe that’s what makes the stories so interesting.

About the collection of stories, via Barnes & Noble:

The six stories in The Dunning Man feature anti-heroes who reject society’s rules. Characters from all walks of life-a rogue hip-hop star, a blackjack dealing mom, a middle-aged drunk plowing through his inheritance, and an empty-nester housewife trying to make peace with the past. They each exist in the here and now, living for what’s possible and what’s left-not what they’ve left behind. Redemption awaits all, but only along the rutted, gut-churning path of honest self-examination. Age quod agis.

Set in Atlantic City, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., the Hudson Valley and Manhattan, Fortuna’s stories depict the violent clash between society’s expectations and the chaotic arc of individual destiny. These are powerful tales of truth seekers imbued with larger-than-life personalities and the all-consuming need to find something worth seeking.

I often find short stories to be a bit morose and yet, I’m attracted to them all the same. If you enjoy a good short story (or six), pick this collection up.

Do you enjoy short stories? Any collection in particular that you would recommend? 

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I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours. All opinions are my own. 

On Thank Yous & Thanksgiving

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Thank you, dear reader, for being here. For supporting me. For telling me it’s ok to not be ok. For recommending books, podcasts, movies, ideas to me. For all the notes, cards, comments, texts, virtual hugs, the real life plans. All of it. You mean more to me than you’ll ever know and having this space to write, to send words out to the internet, it’s been a saving grace on more than one occasion.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and while I still don’t know how I feel about it (I’m going back and forth between wanting to lie in bed and sob vs. putting on my big girl panties and getting on with it) that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t shower those I love with thanks and gratitude. You are some of the people I love most so thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Whenever and however you celebrate, enjoy every minute of it. Every laugh, every stressful moment, every dirty dish and crumb, all the leftovers, the desserts, the family and friend moments. Take pictures. Laugh until you cry. Take a moment to sit back and absorb all the awesomeness that is your day and celebration. Be present. Soak it all in. Love and be loved. Because friends, let me tell you- as stressful as life gets or as worrisome as things can be, those moments with the ones you love? Those are the things you’ll remember long after the day is done and the dishes are put away. Trust me. I may not have future family Thanksgivings with my mom, but it is for damn sure that I love the memories and ones that I had.

Weekend in The Life: 11/22 and 11/23

I’m going to spare you the details of Friday the 21st because, you guys, it was the most boring work day ever. I got stuff done, sure, but I felt like time stood still so apart from my evening with Knight (Nachos, Netflix, dog walks) I am afraid Friday was nothing to write home about… at all. I’m going to finish off the day in the life posts with details about this past weekend! 

Saturday, 11/22

Morning: Woke up at 6am thanks in part to the neighbor’s puppy barking up a storm and in part because Jack woke up in response. Took Jack for a quick walk, climbed back in bed, because 6am on a Saturday, managed to fall asleep for 90 more minutes. Started my day by making breakfast sandwiches: scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits with butter and optional cheese. Get ready for day.

Afternoon: run errands: return books to library (and of course borrow two more, request two others), drop off clothes at dry cleaners, go to Barnes & Noble to look at new covers for my New Nook (Knight brought one home for me this weekend!), have hot chocolate, meet my dad at B&N, and chat for awhile. Run to Target for dog food and a few other essentials. Head home and hang out for the afternoon: order Belle’s birthday presents, order a new Nook cover for me, kind of laze about and feel restless because we want to do something but we don’t know what. Knight watches College Football, I read the fourth and finale book in a romance series. Walk Jack. Change dinner plans with friends so we can go to a place that has the Mizzou game on.

Evening: At 5pm, get ready for our night out with friends. Attempt to curl my hair but the rainy weather causes a huge issue, so ponytail with a side braid it is. Meet friends for dinner at 6pm, wait for a table for 45 minutes, thankfully steal a few seats at the bar. Get seated, debate on what to order for dinner, enjoy a good dinner with our friends, and home before Saturday Night Live. I had two glasses of wine at dinner and thus, I have a horrible headache when we get home, fall asleep just after Weekend Update on SNL. 31 is glorious sometimes.

Sunday, 11/23

Morning: Still have a killer headache from the wine the night before (um, hangovers are horrible. Also, this is why I very rarely drink any sort of alcohol) which means I lay in bed until 9:30am, the laziest I’ve been in… ages. Wake-up by watching an episode of Will & Grace, finish the romance book, check work email since we are doing a project that involves in a customer in Dubai and the time zones are making communication difficult, get ready for the day. Receive an email from a friend with some not-so-awesome news so reach out to her, offer support and hopefully will be able to see her this week. (See also: so tired of receiving bad news. This world is full of it and it’s a lot to take and deal with sometimes.)

Afternoon: Make our way over to my dad’s. We discuss paint with my dad, because Knight is painting his bathroom for him this week, go grab some lunch at Jason’s Deli, then off to Lowe’s to pick out paint and look at some of the fun Christmas decorations. Drop dad off at his house, get gas because it’s $2.39 a gallon (!), head home, take Jack on a very rainy walk, and start making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to take to our friends’ house as we are having dinner with some long-lost friends. Watch Gilmore Girls while baking because Knight went back to Lowe’s to get some stuff for our house. Eat a cookie because omg, these cookies are delicious and I can’t resist.

Evening: Organize meal plans, grocery list and other misc. for the week. Do a little bit of reading, then get ready for dinner at our friend’s house a little before 6pm. Head to their house for an epic catch-up session, meet their kids (yup, it’s been THAT long since I’ve seen them, first time for Knight). Enjoy laughter, stories, and the promises of many more future dinners to come. Late night walk for Jack, quick email check, put away the rest of the cookies and go to bed close to 10:30 pm.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a weekend? Anyone else excited/proud if you manage to make it through half of Saturday Night Live? 

Day in the Life: 11/20

Today’s Day in the Life is brought to you in “highlights,” where I spotlight some of the best things as I moved through the day, in pictures & brief summaries.

Morning Highlights: 

It”s SERIAL Day!

As any Serial addict would suspect: New Serial Episode. I listen to it while getting ready for work, on the drive to work and I may or may not have re-listened to part of it at the office. This one really got to me for some reason. I’ve always been Team Reasonable Doubt (as in, whether Adnan did it or not the case is thin, the life + 30 years in prison seems extreme and there is so much murkiness and shadiness surrounding this case) and this one furthered that for me. But, this isn’t about how I feel about Serial, so I’ll stop there. //Muscle Therapy

View from the PT office while I get "muscle therapy"

View from the PT office while I get “muscle therapy”

before work today, at my Physical Therapy appointment. I’m cleared to start working out again as of Saturday and my appointments are now every two weeks. I feel good, am making process, and I hate my PT exercises, which is a good sign, the doc says.// Conquering a conference call I did NOT want to have I thought I would be in over my head but I muddled through and got thumbs up from the client. Managed to navigate my commute + the call + sound intelligent all at the same time so we’ll call this a win. //A surprise sale which means I’m going to be over my sales forecast for the month. //Solidifying Dinner Plans with our friends for Saturday. Checking out a restaurant we’ve never been to but hear great things. (Yup, sometimes I email friends during the day. So sue me.)

Giving myself thumbs up for the surprise sale.

Giving myself thumbs up for the surprise sale.

Afternoon Highlights:

I won’t lie, my afternoons are boring to write about and even more boring to read about. In between more of the same: emails, phone calls, etc. (oh, office life): Sorting out and coming out on top of several other work issues with vendors and other internal screw-ups that had been plaguing me all week. Fixed, done and off my plate! //Receive good news from a friend today that made me smile. Making my Friday to do list before I go home for the day. //

Evening Highlights: 

After work Traffic.

After work Traffic.

Things got kind of silly this evening. Had to wait for a co-worker to leave the office and of he course dragged his butt.// Traffic alert that there’s an accident on my main route home. Took side streets along with evvveerrryone else. Took an hour to get home, normally only takes 25.// Had plans to meet my mom’s BFF for dinner but she had to cancel. All leftovers were in the freezer, I had no protein thawed or dinner plan, I left my turkey at work (so sandwiches out), Knight didn’t know what he wanted and so, to the grocery store I went to get boneless wings for us

Groceries

Groceries

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Moment of Zen

to munch on (along with aluminum foil, broccoli, shredded cheese and some ice cream for the hubs. All on sale!)// Long walk with the Jack Dog. // Read while eating; Knight watches football. Do laundry. Turn on fireplace for some zen.//

 

 


What is your go-to meal when you have a change of dinner plans? Do you use a traffic alert app?

Review: Proof of Angels

Proof of AngelsProof of Angels by Mary Curran Hackett is the kind of book that once you pick it up, it’s tough to put back down. I got sucked in the world of Sean Magee, his friends James, Libby, and Tom, his brother-in-law Gaspar and his lovable dog, Chief.

You learn quickly that Sean has a few skeletons in his closet, people he’s wronged, and a few things that he hasn’t come to terms with, a rough relationship with his sister, a past with alcohol and then, if that’s not enough, he winds up caught in a horrible fire (he’s a firefighter) in which he nearly loses his life. Lost in the smoke and fire, Sean promises to be a better man if he can just get out of the burning building: from there, Sean believes he sees an angel, a light, that leads him to the window. He jumps three stories and sustains life threatening injuries.

From that point forward, Sean wrestles with his inner demons while helping those around him overcome theirs. You have James who is an emotional eater. Libby, a former heroine addict who trains service dogs like Chief. Tom, the RN/PT & former war veteran who helps Sean get his strength back. Gaspar, the brother-in-law who encourages Sean and makes it possible for him to get better. Throughout the novel, you’ll be rooting for Sean’s recovery and his happy ending. I couldn’t read this book fast enough to see how the novel ends, all the while reflecting on my beliefs, angels both imagined and real, spiritual or right here on Earth. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from this novel:

 

You can find Proof of Angels on Goodreads, Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble.

Mary Curran Hackett has a website, and she’s also on Facebook and Twitter if you’d like to connect with her.
(Note: Sean Magee is introduced in the Hackett’s first book, Proof of Heaven, but this can be read as a stand-alone with no issue.)
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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via TLC Book Tours for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Day in the Life: 11/19

(Getting bored? Don’t worry! I’m documenting Thursday in photos to change things up a bit!)

Morning: Wake up at 5:45 to the sound of a text coming in; it’s my dad. He’s sick so he’s staying home. Struggle to fall asleep for the next 30 minutes. Jack hears me rustling so he decides it’s time to get up, too. Take him out quickly, then get ready for the day. While getting ready: check my personal emails, do my PT exercises (I’ve been dealing with a flare-up with my lower back), grab my lunch and head out the door. Can’t decide between Classic Rock or Country for the commute. Skip the Christmas stations. Get gas because it’s $2.49 a gallon: SCORE! Do a little dance because it’s only 7:30am and it is already 40 degrees out. At work: make my to-do list, tackle emails: respond to customers, answer internal questions, prepare for my 9:30am meeting on marketing/promo materials. Go from that meeting to a 10:30am meeting with the same customer from yesterday. After meetings are done, take a time out to read a few blogs, then back to work. Eat at my desk while reading a few pages of The Hurricane Sisters (yup, I bring my Nook to work!): roasted turkey breast, vanilla bean greek Yogurt from Trader Joe’s and a string cheese.

Paper, paper, everywhere.

Paper, paper, everywhere.

Afternoon: Work on a special sale/promo we are offering to customers, post on the social media platforms, send to my customers who have expressed interest in it recently. Get the official statement from the Head Honchos on our Business Continuity Plan should the Grand Jury make their decision re: Indictment of Officer Wilson this weekend (tensions are… high, to say the least in a lot of areas of STL). Communicate said plan as necessary. All the while, rocking out to the Dave Matthews Band Station on iHeart.com. Meet and greet one of my customers and have a chat about their future needs, some light networking, and then more of the same: phone calls, emails, proposals. Office life is… predictable.

Evening: Exercise, cautiously. Mostly leg and ab work as per my PT’s instructions to strengthen my butt and my core. Dinner is BBQ Chicken on Pretzel Rolls, french fries and green beans (for me, Knight won’t touch them). Jack walks. Chat with Knight about his day. Coordinate with a friend for our upcoming couples night. Brainstorm on baby shower plans (throwing one for a friend in January). Gripe that fall/winter/dark nights are boring. Go to bed around 9:30pm because fall/winter/dark nights make me sleepy.

Do you bring a book or your eReader to work with you in case you can steal a few minutes? Do you bring lunch or go out for lunch?

Day in the Life: 11/18

Joining the ranks with this one. Special thanks to Kelly and Kathleen for the motivation and inspiration. Goal is to post everyday now through November 26th (technically) with what I’ve done. I apologize for the profound lack of photos. I’m not the best at taking pictures throughout the day! 

Morning: Wake-up very, very slowly at 7am. Get ready for the day, decide between flat iron or ponytail hair. I go with ponytail hair and a fun ribbon. I don’t leave the house for work until 8:15am because both Knight and my traffic alerts tell me that my route to work is bumper-to-bumper due to an accident. When I do leave for work, the accident is gone and my ride is smooth sailing, with me getting to work at 8:45am. (This is not the norm, normally I’m at work at 8, sometimes 7:30, today my schedule allowed for it.) Catch up on emails, let out a sigh of relief because we finally fixed an issue with our website, conference call on a large scale project I’m working on that lasted about 45 minutes, advance sales, proctor some exams (one of the many hats I wear), and an impromptu hallway meeting with one of my bosses. Email my coworkers about a collection drive we are doing with the USO: it benefits soldiers who won’t be home with their loved ones this holiday season.

Bright outfits are best on cold winter days

Bright outfits are best on cold winter days

Afternoon: Order Jimmy John’s for myself and my Popz because I left my lunch and his lunch at home (I promised him some homemade sauce and meatballs) and eat in his office, taking a little time out from the work day. Deal with logistics for upcoming events in December. More of the same from the morning: sales, proposals, talk to clients, research some computer-related issues (for me, not my clients), organize a few vendor-related conference calls for December. Deal with a few workday disappointments. For breaks: research decorative banners for a friend’s baby shower. Read a blog or two. Check Instagram because it’s my favorite.

Evening: Get home, change out of work clothes, take Jack for a long but cold walk, feed him his dinner, tidy up the house. Meet my dad for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican joints. Try to ignore the fact that one year ago today my mom had her surgery (amazing how the brain remembers such things, even if you don’t want to), which was a recurring theme throughout the day. When will the

Lovely sunset on my walk with Jack

Lovely sunset on my walk with Jack

flashbacks/tears stop? Discuss ordering Belle’s birthday presents, save the ones we want to get in our cart for me to return to at a later time. Write myself a note to remember to bring my dad some sauce & meatballs on Wednesday. Burn some CDs for my dad (his band went to a recording studio the other night!) Take Jack for another walk despite the chilly, chilly temps.  Hang out with Knight, finish up this post read a little bit of The Hurricane Sisters, drift to sleep at some point.

My life during the week isn’t particularly exciting but I guess everyday can’t be the most interesting thing in the world, right?

 

Grinchy

I have felt Grinchy lately.

For anyone who knows me, this is most unusual. I’m normally singing the praises of the holidays, anxiously waiting 8am the day after Thanksgiving so I can put up our tree, get the lights out and help Knight put them out. I usually start hoarding Christmas presents and giving thought to what our Christmas cards will look like.

Instead, I’m annoyed by the people who put their lights up and have them on. Frustrated with all the holiday commercials showing families. Saddened by the traditions that won’t be the same, like so many other aspects of my life.

I’ve been wrestling with things a bit, too. I don’t want to be a Grinch or a Scrooge this holiday season because that’s not true to who I am, but I also don’t want to do what we have been doing for the last 31 years of my life. The holiday season has lost a lot if it’s shiny appeal for me because my mom, she just made it special. I can’t even explain why but if you knew her, saw what my parents’ house looked like around the holidays, received one of her Christmas cards (no photo cards for her. Nope, she wrote you a note. A meaningful one.) or saw how giddy she got over seeing a holiday play or that she teared up every single time we watched “You’ve Got Mail,” on Thanksgiving as we prepared the feast, then maybe you understand.

There are traditions that we all agreed we are taking some time off from: wreath making class; going to look at holiday lights with hot cocoa and cookies; even going so far as to take a year off from exchanging Christmas presents. I can’t fathom a Christmas tree that has no presents wrapped my mom under them. She would go all out with the packaging, making some of the most beautiful presents that you’ve ever seen: raffia string, crazy paper, hilarious “to,” and “from,” notes. She drew on our Christmas card envelopes. There was always an excuse to bring another dessert into the room where we opened presents. There was always the rule that we couldn’t go downstairs into the room with the tree (and presents) without my parents.

I know traditions live on with family members but this year, I just can’t. I don’t want to spend the holidays crying more than I already will be (or am).I don’t want to endure what should be a joyous time without my mom and best friend. I don’t want to see the sadness in my father’s eyes now that he can’t shower his love with the finest gifts, never failing to have one that made her cry (good tears). I can’t imagine sitting in my parents’ house with my three “stinky boys,” as I call them: Knight, my dad, my brother, and not hear my mom’s voice in the kitchen or her foosteps on the stairs.

This year we aren’t really celebrating. It feels simultaneously horrible and freeing at the same time. I feel grinchy. I know it’s ok to not be ok, I know it’s ok to take this time to go back into self-preservation mode. I know that it doesn’t make me a horrible or weak person that I can’t march through the holidays like I used to. I’m taking tiny wins as they come: adding a few Christmas movies to my Netflix queue; agreeing to put lights up at our house if nothing else and as silly as it sounds to honor and remember my mom; signing up for a work cookie exchange. Apart from that, I’m not going to punish or push myself. It’s a year in transition; it only makes sense that the holidays this year be transitional, too.

Review & Giveaway: Loving Lucianna

Loving LuciannaLoving Lucianna by Joyce DiPastena is a lovely, charming novel that combines romance (very tastefully done), family history/mystery/intrigue, and an honest look at what life in the medieval times would have been like. I loved all of the Italian names in this book, the fact that the main characters are falling in love in their “autumn,” years as DiPastena calls them, and the main characters themselves. Coming it at just under 225 pages, this is a great read for anyone who is a fan of medieval/historical type romances that won’t disappoint.

Book Synopsis:

Sir Balduin de Soler gave up long ago on love. He never had the means to support a wife until an unexpected advancement in his fifties allows him to reassess his future just as the lovely Lucianna enters his life.

Lucianna Fabio harbors a secret, painful memory from her past that has kept her unwed, as well. Now in her forties, she thought herself too old to marry until she meets Sir Balduin. Now suddenly their lonely autumn lives feel very much like spring again . . . until Lucianna’s brother appears without warning and threatens to revive the secret that will destroy Lucianna’s second chance at love.

About Joyce DiPastena:

Joyce DiPastena dreamed of green medieval forests while growing up in the dusty copper mining town of Kearny, Arizona. She filled her medieval hunger by reading the books of Thomas B. Costain (where she fell in love with King Henry II of England), and later by attending the University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in history, specializing in the Middle Ages. The university was also where she completed her first full-length novel…set, of course, in medieval England. Later, her fascination with Henry II led her to expand her research horizons to the far reaches of his “Angevin Empire” in France, which became the setting of her first published novel, Loyalty’s Web (a 2007 Whitney Award Finalist).

Joyce is a multi-published, multi-award winning author who specializes in sweet medieval romances heavily spiced with mystery and adventure. She lives with her two cats, Clio and Glinka Rimsky-Korsokov, in Mesa, Arizona.

Connect with Joyce:  Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Where to buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Nobles |Smashwords | iTunes

Enter to win one of ten eBook copies of Loving Lucianna via this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Italy Book Tours Logo jpeg 225 pixelsDisclosure I was provided a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of my review. 

Me Night Movies

For the last few months, Knight has had “man night,” once a week via his bowling league. I’ve come to look forward to these nights because it’s the one time a week that I do whatever I feel like: cereal for dinner! Sweatpants! Go long rambling walks. Watch ridiculous TV. Catch up on my Netflix queue/chick flick or chick-esque movies that Knight wouldn’t necessarily want to watch (although he would if I asked). I’ll periodically share the “Me Night,” movies that I’ve watched and ask you for recommendations I should add to this list!

* Philomena. Yet another stellar performance by Dame Judi Dench. She’s been one of my favorite British actors for some time and this movie further clinches how I feel about her: she’s simply amazing. The movie follows Philomena, an elderly woman who goes in search of the son she gave up for adoption. Anyone who researches/Googles this movie before watching it knows the ending but it left me with tears in my eyes nonetheless. It’s a beautiful movie full of hope, love and one of my favorite movie elements: British accents.

* The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Yup, another British movie. And yes, it’s three years old. This movie takes you to India where a group of retirees decide to make a go of it at a hotel for the elderly. There’s laughter, romance, discovery, harsh realizations, gorgeous scenery, lots of beautiful color (the clothes of India are simply gorgeous), tales of young and old love, and more. Yes, I cried in this one (three times total, truth be told), too. The cast is another fabulous group including Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy (from Love Actually, the Pirates movies) and Tom Wilkinson. It’s a movie about taking second chances in all aspects of your life. A great watch.

* The Other Woman. I wanted to love this movie because I needed a good laugh-out-loud movie but this one fell short. I think this movie tried too hard and really just felt like…awkward. The premise (a wife, a mistress and a girlfriend of the same guy all become friends and seek revenge on the jerky guy) feels like something we’ve seen before but it not nearly as funny a movie as I had hoped. The positives? I enjoyed the scenery of NYC and Connecticut, there is some great fashion and great decorating. Otherwise, this movie fell flat and I multi-tasked a lot while it was on: cleaning, ironing, leaving the room at times.

What’s the last movie you watched? Any recommendations for my Me Night Movies?