Review: New Jerusalem News

New Jerusalem News by John EnrightI opted to read (or in my case listen, as I used Audible for the audio-book) this novel for a few reasons:

  1. My mom spent some of her summers and childhood in the Cape Cod area and I’m always interested to read and learn more about the culture, the people, the area. I have yet to visit but hopefully some day.
  2. I needed to listen to an audio-book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
  3. I love the idea of audio-books and figured since this one was a comedy of sorts that it would be a good fit for me.

I discovered a few things in listening to this book: I love audiobooks and being read to; I don’t think I’m the target age/demographic for this book as I couldn’t relate to most of it; it didn’t grab me as much as I was hoping it would have. I can’t help but wonder if I had read it vs. listening if that would have changed my experience? Probably. I very much wanted to be on the East Coast, near the water, when reading this book. The writing and the characters, however, is phenomenal. Enright is a master with words and allows the reader to visualize each character, every detail.

Book Description for New Jerusalem News:

Dominick is always just passing through. He is a professional houseguest who follows the sun and the leisure class from resort to resort. But this winter he lingers on a quaint New England island and in spite of his best intentions becomes involved in the travails of his eccentric geriatric hosts. An environmental protest against a proposed liquid natural gas terminal turns ugly, and by accident and happenstance Dominick becomes a mistaken suspect in terroristic bombings. But the book, of course, is really about its characters. None of them are young—white-bearded men and blue-coiffed women busy with aging, dementia, and ungrateful children. Dominick strives to float above it all in a life of itinerant escape. A New England comedy of sorts, New Jerusalem News, on another level, is an extended meditation on history, identity, and what it means to drift.

Buy the book:    Amazon   Barnes & Noble    Book Depository

Author’s Bio:

Originally from Buffalo, New York, John Enright holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from the City College of New York and a master’s degree in folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. After working in magazine journalism and book publishing, he left the U.S. to teach at the American Samoa Community College. He remained in the South Pacific for 26 years, directing environmental, cultural, and historical preservation programs and writing extensively about the islands. His acclaimed detective series, Jungle Beat (Thomas & Mercer), featuring Det. Sgt. Apelu Soifua, is set in Samoa. His collection of poems about Samoa, 14 Degrees South, won the University of the South Pacific Press’s inaugural Literature Prize for Poetry in 2011. He now lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with his wife, ceramicist Connie Payne.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter    Facebook

Would you like to read this book or win a $15 Amazon Gift Card? Residents of the U.S. and Canada can enter via the  Rafflecopter giveaway link to win one of two copies of the book or a $15 Amazon Gift Card.

1-iRead Button smallDisclosure: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book via Audible for the purposes of my review. All opinions are my own. 

Good Things Friday

Three posts in week? That’s a good thing. We’ll  ignore the fact that Wednesday and today’s titles both feature “thing” in the title.

I have a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit as it’s still a little too raw/painful for me (example: I cried in the dressing room a few weeks back when Christmas music was playing when I should have been rejoicing that I am wearing pants a whole size smaller) but I can still get ridiculously excited about sending -and receiving- Christmas cards. Ours arrived yesterday and I’m beyond excited. Now for it to be after Thanksgiving so I can address and send them because, while I have them now, they aren’t going anywhere until after we celebrate the turkey.

A stretch of really nice weather: mid-60s each day. I always forget that we get a real fall in November here. It’s January-March t hat are the worst with dreary weather and gross, gray days.

Saturday night dinner date with a good set of friends. We haven’t seen them in a long time due to conflicting travel schedules, trouble finding a babysitter, etc. It will be great to reconnect. I’m also excited about the Reese’s Peanut Butter brownies I’m making for dessert.

I only have seven books left to read for the Goodreads challenge. It will be tough to make it happen but if some of the audio books I have requested come through, i may be able to achieve my goal.

A relatively low-key weekend planned: dinner with my dad this evening; friends tomorrow night; church + video chat with Lisa on Sunday. If the weather cooperates, Knight and I will be checking out a new to us part of town with lots of antique shops + authentic Mexican food.

Any fun weekend plans or good things to share? 


Things I’m new to: I finally started using Spotify. It’s changed my work day in the best way possible. Listening to full albums of my favorite artists or finding the complete soundtracks to some of my favorites (Garden State. Little Miss Sunshine) has made me an infinitely happier person. We’ll just ignore the fact that I’m likely the last 32 year old to use this fantastic service. | Ditto goes for dry shampoo. With all my working out I’ve been tired of washing my hair every single time I shower and now I don’t have to. Some cold air from the blow dryer + dry shampoo? Good as new. My long, thick hair is thanking me with softer follicles and a healthier appearance.

Things I don’t understand: The controversy over Starbucks simplifying their cup design | The obsession over Hunter Boots (rain boots even when it is not raining?) | People who still misspell things even when our phones/computers tell us that it’s wrong. | Not picking up your trash; we have had a few neighborhood visitors lately who have decided our front yard is a good dumping ground for their trash.

Things that make me giggle: a client emailed me thanking me for my “patients.” Not what she meant, but considering she sent it to me on two separate occasions, it was a bit funny. | When Jack decides his bed is not fluffy enough and he paws and claws and bites and flings it around for a good five minutes before settling down. | Our neighbor’s oldest child will shout my name when she sees me and waves with her whole body. It’s the cutest thing.

Things that make me happy: My holiday/Christmas vacation time was approved. I’ll have a little over two weeks out of the office (our office is closed between Christmas and New Years, the rest of the time is my vacation days). | Finding a Christmas card design that fits our family perfectly + saving 15% on the order and free shipping. | Receiving good news/good reports that my bonus girls are doing really, really well in school. | Coloring & bringing the completed coloring pages to my office to hang up around my desk. Adds a nice pop of color. |

Your turn! Share with me one thing that you’re new to, that you don’t understand, that makes you giggle & makes you happy! 

Cleaning House

I like to think I’m good at being domestic, most of the time: I meal plan, love to cook/bake/experiment in the kitchen, I stay on top of laundry, I love & remember to send cards to friends and family for most occasions but one thing I have a mental block about? Cleaning the house. I mean, I do it, just not as often as I should.

For awhile we had a cleaning service that came every other week and cleaned the whole house for $85/trip which felt like a steal to me, however over time I noticed the quality of their work wasn’t as good as when it started. This resulted in me having the management company to get it fixed or discounted,  being home for them was proving to be inconvenient and so we called it quits with them. I am also not a fan of adding new debt to the household so when we had to get our shower/tub/surround fixed last year due to a water leak, the cleaning crew was cut in favor of paying what I now call the “shower tax.” All that to say, for the last year the house cleaning has been back on our shoulders. We could make it work to hire another company but I haven’t found one that I like/feel comfortable enough with as of yet. Anyway.

I do what needs to be done, of course: washing sheets, laundry, ironing, keeping the kitchen clean/tidy, cleaning the bathrooms, and vacuuming because with a black dog, you can’t NOT vacuum at least once a week. But.. there are so many other things I don’t do. Dust the baseboards; clean the cabinet faces; clean the bathroom as often as I should (I  know, I know, it needs to be done every week); take the curtains to the dry cleaners; dust the blinds, etc. Our house is a little over 2,000 sq ft. and when I think of all the cleaning that has to be done it just seems to be too much.

Knight helps of course, but during the fall he has his work cut out for him with the leaves + our yard and taking care of the common area, a byproduct of being the only non-child family on the Board of Trustees in our neighborhood. He is also banned from the laundry; the number of questions he asks about how to wash X,Y, and Z, it’s just easier for me to do it.

After looking at various ideas and schedules thanks to Pinterest, all of which made me feel panicky and overwhelmed, I’ve decided to tackle the cleaning by room and by floor of the house, everything will be on a rotating schedule and while it may not get done every week, it will be cleaned twice a month which is admittedly at least once more than it was before. That means that everything I can possible stand to do: dust, vacuum, mop, disinfect, tidy, wipe/clean, etc. will be done to each floor, every other week. Laundry and ironing will be every few days like it is now; two people who work + work out every day = lots of laundry. Vacuuming will be a whole house ordeal every single week, if not more often.

Am I alone in this? Anyone else struggle to cook, clean, grocery shop, workout, work, have time for yourself/friends/significant other? If you have any suggestions on quick cleaning tips, favorite all-natural cleaning products (I get most of ours at Whole Foods or Lucky’s Market) and etc., let me know! 

Books and Bookshelves

Let’s talk books and bookshelves for a moment, shall we?

When I lived with my parents, my mom decided that all their books in the built-ins should be organized by the color of their spine/book cover. It was (and is, they are still that way) a positively lovely look. A rainbow of books.

For the last several years I’ve had 1.5 bookshelves for the books I have read and 1.5 for the books that I want to read. No real rhyme or reason to the organization, with the exception of height. I don’t like it when books of varying heights are all smooshed together so I have them from tallest to shortest and a mix of horizontal and vertical. One day I was looking for a book by one of my favorite authors to loan to a friend and couldn’t find it and thus, I decided that all books by a certain author, whether it was read or not, would be grouped together. And so I spent the next several hours moving books around the various bookshelves, marching up and down stairs (I have two shelves in our formal living/dining room and one in our office space) and while there are still a few that aren’t in their right spot, I feel much better. It’s really fun for me to look at the authors that I must buy every time they come out with a new book: Jennifer Weiner; Adriana Trigiani; Ridley Pearson; Charlaine Harris (True Blood Series only); J.R.Ward; Jane Green; Anne Rice; Mario Puzo. I hope to eventually commandeer my mom’s Harry Potter collection and bring it to my house so of course there will be a JK Rowling section.

I have lots of other books, of course, random titles I’ve wanted to read, things I’ve picked up at book sales, gifts from friends and family. Those books are organized by read/not read (I try to do it by shelf if I can, because apparently I’m odd about book organization).

That brings me to the next topic: how I buy books. I rarely buy books these days thanks to my awesome library system, I can almost always get the print or digital version relatively easily. The exceptions to this are the yearly book sale where I can’t help but buying a few for myself and anytime a book comes out my any of my favorite/authors series that I’m currently reading. I love owning books, lending them, sharing them with friends but since I have limited shelf space I have to be discerning as to what I buy versus what I borrow.

Someday I’d love to have a room that is nothing but built-ins, cozy chairs with fluffy throw pillows and luxurious blankets, a warm rug, a coffee table that I can put my feet on and a fireplace but until that day comes, my system will have to do. Something like this picture only a little warmer and organized.

How do you decide what books to buy vs. borrow? Any specific bookshelf organization going on in your house? 

Review: After Alice

After Alice (429x648)

This was my first Maguire novel; I’ve heard great things about Wicked and the other stories he’s written but I haven’t picked them up (yet). I was drawn to this book mostly because I’ve always enjoyed the traditional story of Alice in Wonderland, having read the novel, and of course have watched the various movie versions. I’ve always been rather fascinated by the story itself, what inspired the story which led me to read Alice I Have Been, but a new take on the story, someone else being there to help Alice return home? Why not!

The book is slow to start, but from what I’ve heard that’s normal for a Maguire story. The story goes back and forth between Ada and her trip in Wonderland to her nanny and Alice’s sister. I wasn’t a huge fan of the secondary story (the nanny/Alice’s sister) but it did, I believe, address some cultural aspects of the time (the nanny pining for her master; how kids are raised; gossip, etc.).

I did enjoy Ada encountering the classic characters: the white rabbit, the talking flowers, the walrus, the Cheshire Cat. A unique twist on the story, though the characters were ever the same. If you enjoy a twist on a classic or you’ve liked Maguires other novels, I’m sure you’d enjoy this one.

About After Alice

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 27, 2015)

Down the rabbit-hole, where adventures await . . .

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant new work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. The White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the bloodthirsty Queen of Hearts—droll and imperious as always—interrupt their mad tea party to suggest a conundrum: If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or if Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. In any case, everything that happens next isAfter Alice.

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gregory maguireAbout Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister; Lost; Mirror Mirror; and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, A Lion Among Men, and Out of Oz. Now a beloved classic, Wicked is the basis for a blockbuster Tony Award–winning Broadway musical. Maguire has lectured on art, literature, and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Find out more about Gregory at his website and follow him on Facebook.

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Leaving October

hello novemberAnd with that, it’s November. I am struggling to believe that in a few short weeks it will be Thanksgiving, then time will fly until Christmas, and then I’ll be scribbling notes in my Kate Spade planner for 2016. I also am struggling to believe I’m that person that says “where has the time gone?”

October included a trip to Seattle to visit my brother, meet his girlfriend, and enjoy the Pacific Northwest. I was fortunate to meet one of my favorite former bloggers & IG’ers (SizzleSays) who is such a kind and beautiful soul; had it not been for her work meeting I think we would chatted for hours. I stole as many hugs from my brother as possible and cried when we left him… he makes everything better and him being across the country has been really tough for me the past few years. He’s searching for his Great Perhaps and life’s meaning, doing what he needs to, but damn if I don’t miss him.

This month was full of wacky weather patterns that brought me a cold but it was no match for me and my all-natural remedies. Take that germs! There were far too many nights staying up late cheering on the STL Cardinals and my Green Bay Packers. I read my first John Green novel (good, but oh the tears). I read more books in the Janet Evanvoich Stephanie Plum series I care to admit. I managed 100% of all my workouts once again and I’m so excited to say that I’m down 18.5 inches overall since I started three months ago (and ok, a little embarrassed that I had that many inches to lose and probably more to go, but hey, I’m doing it!).

There were date nights with friends; evenings spent on the deck grilling. Finally working my flex schedule at the office which totally changes my outlook on the week and my stress level. I was approved to be a mentor to young high school kids thinking about college and their career and am (im)patiently waiting to be matched. Sneaking out for a few week day lunches here and there, bonus when they included my friends’ adorable baby girl who was happy to sit on my lap and play with my bracelets.

Halloween was spent cooking for my boys and seeing a spooky play with my dad that really stuck with me (Angel Street, aka Gaslight, for those interested). Not many trick-or-treaters which means there will be some yummy baked goods coming out of my kitchen in the coming weeks.

This month I didn’t love: Having to leave my brother; some of the work days were longer than necessary; my sweet cravings; some of the challenges that come along with being a Bonus Mom & long distance parent.

This month I loved: protein shakes, working out, the new Macklemore song, staying up far too late reading my book, and cleaning up/out things for donations and trash, throwing a kick-butt after hours networking & Happy Hour event at our office, feeling energized and strong.

How was your October? Any November plans to look forward to?

Currently, on a Friday

Reading: After Alice, by Gregory Maguire; also reading Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich and a Place to Stand for Postal Book Club. I kind of have book ADD lately, in case you haven’t noticed.

Loving: I’ve been in a good routine lately with all things; working out, meal planning, date nights with Knight, seeing my dad, good mix of seeing friends. It’s nice to be in a groove with variety, you know?

Thinking: People really need to stop texting and driving. Please. Stop. Also, do we really need to start a countdown to Christmas after Halloween but before Thanksgiving? I enjoy holiday movies and music as much as the next person, but dear Lord, too soon.

Frustrated: With the number of people who have been misspelling my name at work lately. It’s resulted in my putting my first name in bold or all caps, but no one is paying attention it seems. Is it that hard to pay attention to how to spell someone’s name?

Feeling: Accomplished for doing 100% of my workouts for the last twelve weeks. A little down because holidays are, simply put, rough for me. At the same time, excited as I get to see my childhood BFF in the middle of November. We haven’t seen each other in a little over a year so this will be epic.

Anticipating: Two trips in November. A family trip in December. Going to see one of my favorite authors (Ridley Pearson) before I see one of his plays with my dad.

Watching: There has been full-on sports in our house: World Series. Football. I only pay attention to the games if Aaron Rodgers is playing.

Sad: Missing mom has been intense this week, for no reason that I can think of in particular. Working through the feelings as best I can.

Working: Hard! At working out, at home, at the office. Knight and I have made some great progress on cleaning up/out a few of our rooms + basement (so much trash!), redid the girls’ room, talking about refinishing our floors this winter while it’s cold since we have time.

Grateful: Amazing friends, family and all the resources I have available to me.

Listening: iHeart Radio created a Favorites station for me. Full of all sorts of good music. A little bit of everything, if you will.

Wishing: That it didn’t have to be so cold so quickly. Lows in the 30s? Thanks but it’s not even November 1st.  I hope that we get a decent amount of trick-or-treaters this weekend so that we don’t have too much candy leftover.

What’s your Currently for today?

Review: All the Stars in the Heavens

All the Stars in the Heavens (397x600)You guys, Adriana has done it again. She’s written a book that I couldn’t put down: the book went everywhere with me for a few days. My car. My purse. Under my desk at work (you think I’m kidding?). A plane. My couch. All told and start to finish, I read this book in about five days and I savored every single word.

If you haven’t read any of Trigiani’s novels, then we can’t be friends. In all seriousness, this story is beautiful. You’ll fall in love with every single character that graces the pages, save for one or two, you’ll not want this book to end, and if you’re like me, you’ll close the book with tears in your eyes. Trigiani’s writing is on point, as always. She really gets what she writes, if that makes sense. Family, she writes her families so well. Love, she gets it all- the longing, the burning desire, the angst, the tug of the heartstrings. I would love to sit down with her and talk about her process, how she does it; I’ve seen her speak before and she was phenomenal. Here’s hoping she comes to the Lou again soon.

My only complaint? I’ve finished this novel and I know it will be another year or two before we get another novel from Adriana. I may have to go back and re-read her other books that line my shelves.

About All the Stars in the Heavens

Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Harper (October 13, 2015)

Adriana Trigiani, the New York Times bestselling author of the blockbuster epic The Shoemaker’s Wife, returns with her biggest and boldest novel yet, a hypnotic tale based on a true story and filled with her signature elements: family ties, artistry, romance, and adventure. Born in the golden age of Hollywood, All the Stars in the Heavens captures the luster, drama, power, and secrets that could only thrive in the studio system—viewed through the lives of an unforgettable cast of players creating magic on the screen and behind the scenes.

In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling, and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Adriana Trigiani takes us back to Tinsel Town’s golden age—an era as brutal as it was resplendent—and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame and success. With meticulous, beautiful detail, Trigiani paints a rich, historical landscape of 1930s Los Angeles, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.

The movie business is booming in 1935 when twenty-one-year-old Loretta Young meets thirty-four-year-old Clark Gable on the set of The Call of the Wild. Though he’s already married, Gable falls for the stunning and vivacious young actress instantly.

Far from the glittering lights of Hollywood, Sister Alda Ducci has been forced to leave her convent and begin a new journey that leads her to Loretta. Becoming Miss Young’s secretary, the innocent and pious young Alda must navigate the wild terrain of Hollywood with fierce determination and a moral code that derives from her Italian roots. Over the course of decades, she and Loretta encounter scandal and adventure, choose love and passion, and forge an enduring bond of love and loyalty that will be put to the test when they eventually face the greatest obstacle of their lives.

Anchored by Trigiani’s masterful storytelling that takes you on a worldwide ride of adventure from Hollywood to the shores of southern Italy, this mesmerizing epic is, at its heart, a luminous tale of the most cherished ties that bind. Brimming with larger-than-life characters both real and fictional—including stars Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, David Niven, Hattie McDaniel and more—it is it is the unforgettable story of one of cinema’s greatest love affairs during the golden age of American movie making.

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About Adriana TrigianiAdriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is an award-winning playwright, television writer, and documentary filmmaker. Her books include the New York Timesbestseller The Shoemaker’s Wife; the Big Stone Gap series; Very Valentine; Brava, Valentine; Lucia, Lucia; and the bestselling memoir Don’t Sing at the Table, as well as the young adult novels Viola in Reel Life and Viola in the Spotlight. She wrote the screenplay for Big Stone Gap, which she also directed. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Visit Adriana at her website:, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Nora, Lately

Last week I was in Seattle, combination of work/leisure trip. It was my first time really getting to explore the city and my goodness, it’s beautiful. The air. The water. The mountains. I fell in love with how walkable the city was, the Pike Place Market, I was a super tourist and stopped by the original Starbucks twice (but did not get a drink because the line was stupid long each time), bought Rocky Mountain Chocolate, supported local bakers and bookstores, and walked my heart out everyday. Knight and I celebrated our three wedding anniversary there over appetizers and craft beer, a baseball game and lots of laughs. Simple. Sweet. Perfect.

Work has been a tad insane as this is the time of year where we are fulfilling all the last minute requests the Feds had for us before September 30th. I’m thankful for the busy-ness but my brain hurts. Add to that we are short a colleague at the office due to a medical situation, and that’s causing a lot of strain, stress and uncertainty across the board. (The business will be ok, just contingency plans to be considered, examining them from every which way. It’s exhausting!)

I finally got to clean out our “office,” over the weekend. One trash bag full of recycling, another full of papers to shred/burn, another still full of trash, and a lot of stuff sold/donated. The closet is no longer a hellish place, we have all of our important paperwork in one place at long last, and I feel like we can maybe start to enjoy that room and/or I can make it more of my craft/reading/coloring room. This also means I’m on a tear and ready to throw away all sorts of things we don’t use/why are we keeping this?.

I swapped out my summer clothes for my fall/winter wardrobe and of course Mother Nature took note and gave us a few 80 degree days this week. In the process, I donated a whole bag of clothes to the VVA, reorganized my closet and shoes, and feel much more put together.

Still going strong on working out: averaging five days a week (sometimes six), down five pounds, a pant size, a shirt size and close to seven to eight inches total lost. I’m much more mindful of what I’m eating/when/why and how which has made all the difference, I think. I’ve always loved working out, but I’ve also always loved food. I still treat myself and don’t feel guilty about it, but it’s a different relationship now. A better one.

There are still the feels, all of them. Feeling like I’m waiting for things to fall into place so that me and Knight can do this or that; career choices and wonderment; seriously considering making this year the last year of this little ole blog (perhaps a book/movie type blog instead); realizing life is so short and wondering how to cram everything in, and of course, missing mom. (Just when I think I’m better, a certain episode of Sex & The City comes on the TV and next thing I know I’m a puddle of tears.)

And yet, even with all the feels, I’m feeling very optimistic lately. This is the time of year where all I want to do is bake, read, exercise, hang out with friends, rinse and repeat. Something about fall makes me wholly unmotivated to do adulting things and instead I want to do all the fun things: take a drive in the country, visit a pumpkin patch and a winery (why not put the two together? That sounds like a genius business idea!), go on a weekend escape, get fresh fudge from a mom n pop shop, stay up late and chat over a fire, watch movies.