Recent Reads – Spring ’19

I could pretty much read mysteries and thrillers all the time but I know reading widely and outside my genre will help me become a better reader and writer. This past month, despite cramming in a lot of writing, I managed to read a couple books worth mentioning.

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaledeis  

Like WOMAN IN THE WINDOW last year, this book seems to be the publishing industry’s buzz book. I listened to it on audio and mostly enjoyed it. Good initial hook, a little boggy in the middle, clever ending.

In retrospect, I wish I had read it to pay more attention to see if the author played fair throughout. It uses some narrative sleight of hand to generate tension and surprise. Good beach read.

 

Light It Up by Nick Petrie 

If you are a fan of Child’s Jack Reacher series that are a lot of imitators out there but few who do it nearly as well. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of them while waiting for the next Reacher each November. Petrie is the real deal. 

Over the years, Child has honed his narrative style to a knife’s edge. There is not fat on the bone. Most of the time this serves him well, especially if the mystery element is really clicking. But after twenty plus books there aren’t a lot of surprises left with Reacher. 

Petrie’s Peter Ash is very much in the Reacher mold psychically (ex-Army, big, strong, acute need to help) but he’s also damaged and Petrie allows him to have more than the casual one book connection with other humans. The writing is crisp and clear and the vivid descriptions never get in the way of the action. The second book’s plot gets a little convoluted (common second book problem) but this third one is back on point. This is a top-notch action thriller series.

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

One of those books that was such a wrenching experience that I’m not anxious to revisit. It was beautifully written but so intensely emotional that it really started to affect my mood and my willingness to pick it back up. It’s a testament to the writing and world building that Ng can evoke such strong emotions but it’s not a relaxing read!

 

 

A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston 

After Stephen Tobolowsky’s book, this might be my favorite showbiz memoir. Cranston is an insightful writer and a good storyteller with an actor’s eye for details.

It’s much, much more than just his time as Walter White. In fact, I could have used more stories and examples from the hit show but it certainly didn’t detract from the book.

His life and stories are a good example of the drive, humility, and hard work it takes to succeed, not just in Hollywood, but any creative field.

 

 

May is national short story month. Shorts are a great way to try a new author’s work. (Hint: you can get my own novella SLEEPING DOGS for free right here). In the mystery genre, the Akshasic noir series is great.

I also think Laura Lippman is underrated as a mystery short story writer. Too often short stories end up as incomplete vignettes, even with mysteries. Lippman is great throughout, beginning, middle, and end. 

Scenes from Saturday + Flying Dogs

I came downstairs the other night and found Michelle sitting on the couch surrounded by a calendar, her laptop and 22 open browser tabs. It was summer camp planning time! After looking at our planned vacations, the sometimes stressful experience last year, and the general cost now with two kids going to camp full-time, we actually ended up scaling back the number of camps.

A bit counterintuitive, but it was just too much. Too much money, too much scheduling, too much logistics. Life is tough enough without stressing about what the kids will be doing on a random August Tuesday in May while it’s dark and raining and forty degrees out. We don’t need more excuses to drink wine.

We’ve decided to stop trying to constantly schedule engaging experiences each and every day. Just being at home together living our lives is good and enough.

So we are trying a less is more summer. The kids will have a few camps (can’t stay no to every theatre and musical camp!) and a few weeks on the Cape but mostly they will be home wandering around in the cul-de-sac. They will likely get bored at some point. They will likely get into petty sibling fights. They will definitely drive me crazy, too, but that’s all part of summer vacation. 

Along with the wine, of course. Continue Reading

Race Recap: New Life Trail 5k

When we lived in Boston, there was a strong running culture and a lot of places to run, but you almost always had to pause at some point to cross a road or dodge some cars. In the ‘burbs, you don’t usually has that problem. You have space and if you’re lucky you might have trails. 

As a master runner with an arthritic knee, I’ve been very happy to watch the growth of trail races in recent years. There is now a thriving barn-to-trail race series that partners with local farms, plus a number of other races taking advantage of the preserved land and trails in the area. That includes the New Life Furniture 5k trail race on the Medfield State Hospital land.  Continue Reading

Scenes from Saturday + Adult Conversation

Another week, another milestone. The girls became latch key kids last week. I had work meetings in the city and there was going to be a gap in time where the girls would be home alone after school for an hour. 

Ce was excited. Ally was more apprehensive. I think she was more concerned with what the unfettered power of big sister might unleash than the prospect of being without parental supervision. 

She also expressed a less founded apprehension that a random thunderstorm would hit while they were by themselves. We went over the weather reports very thoroughly. I’m not sure she was convinced. 

In the end, a little freedom was a good thing. I came home and the house was intact. They had made a snack (even making one for me), started their homework, and not spilled too much glitter. I’ll consider that a successful experiment in independence and free range parenting.

I know pretty soon the girls will expect to be left alone and will only try to find me if the WiFi isn’t working and that’s okay. Gotta let ‘em grow up. Slowly, if possible.  Continue Reading

What’s the Difference: Baking Soda v. Baking Powder?

What's the difference between baking soda and baking powder

If you’ve baked long enough, you’ve probably screwed up a recipe at some point by putting the wrong one in the batter and ended up with a metallic tasting cake or an overflowing quick bread. 

Want to just cut to the chase? 

Both baking power and baking soda are leaveners. They will both give your baked goods lift but they are not equivalent. They work in different ways and you really shouldn’t try to substitute. Continue Reading