What’s On …

Just a few little notes about what’s on my playlist, my nightstand, and my stove these days.

On my playlist: I mentioned the Spilled Milk podcast briefly when I featured Molly Wizenburg’s book, Delancey, in Books and Brews a couple of months ago, but I’m still listening, and so I’m mentioning it again. It’s two comedians/writers (Molly & Matthew Amster-Burton) talking about food. Everything from lima beans to espresso. I’ve learned some things along the way, (like how it’s the length of time that the water spends in contact with the grounds that determines the amount of caffeine in your cup) but mostly I just love this one because it’s laugh-out-loud-while-walking-to-work funny. I think the best podcasts feel like you’re dropping in on a really great conversation between friends, and Spilled Milk hits exactly that mark. A couple of my very favorite episodes are Peanut Butter Cookies and S’mores. Continue reading

Books & Brews: Triple Love Score / Sweet Potato Sage Ale

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. 

Brandi Megan Granett had me at poetry professor and anonymous online Scrabble poet. I’m a sucker for a story with some sort of university connection. Throw in some unexpected online fame and I’m totally intrigued. Granett’s, Triple Love Score, tells the story of Miranda, who teaches poetry at a small upstate New York college and for fun starts making small poems of words related to a theme on a Scrabble board and posting them to social media as Blocked Poet. Her posts start to gather a huge following, and when she signs on with a high-powered brand manager her popularity soars and suddenly there are book deals and merchandise and cross-country book tours in support of her brand. All good and well, except her old-friend Scott has reappeared after a six-year, unexplained absence. (By old-friend, I mean man with whom she was in love and waited for, before giving up and allowing her love to morph into anger.) And he’s brought his daughter with him. All this happens at the same time Miranda is in the midst of a fun, no-strings-attached, fling with Ronan— who’s headed home to Ireland in a few weeks. Which means it’s all very deliciously complicated.

Here’s what I loved about Triple Love Score: Continue reading

Care & Feeding In Albuquerque

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At the end of September, I retreated. I spent four magical days in Albuquerque, New Mexico surrounded by other authors, learning and editing and talking and listening and laughing and writing and just being… still. Which is something I’ve talked a lot about14457348_10211129525020922_5240464678755916991_n here lately– this idea of rest and stillness, and the fact that it seems simultaneously necessary and a bit out of reach.

Leading up to the trip, I was very aware of what hadn’t happened since I attended last year. Most specifically that I hadn’t finished a book. I felt a little queasy about admitting I was still working on it. That it had been a slow year. That I still wasn’t quite sure where the whole thing was 14354956_10211120518395762_4196198396467923707_ngoing. And then suddenly I was in the Atlanta airport and there were familiar faces. People that I had become accustomed to seeing only as tiny square profile pictures were right there, in person. Giving hugs. And I knew instantly that this was going to be everything I needed.

Post retreat, Jessica Topper, wrote a lovely reflection in which she described the experience as “the care and feeding of writers.” I keep coming back to that phrase. About how really when I talk about rest and stillness, I think I’m talking about being kind to myself and seeking experiences that nourish instead of tearing down. I didn’t sleep all that much more than usual in Albuquerque, but I was heard, understood and encouraged. And I have rested. Now to finish that book …

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Huge thanks to Women’s Fiction Writers Association for creating this fabulous tribe (and especially to Orly Konig and the conference committee) and to Barbara Claypole White, Jessica Topper, and Mindy Miller for the photos in this post (because we all know I’m terrible at documenting my travels, or mostly anything except food & beer).

Books & Brews: Results May Vary / Urban Family Brewing Company’s Death to Cereal

 

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday* of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. (*Except this month … I’m running a little late with August’s book. Which just means double the fun in September!)

Up for reading and pairing in August was Bethany Chase’s RESULTS MAY VARY (which, by the way, might have one of my favorite covers ever). The story opens with the main character Caroline discovering that her husband is having an affair with a man. And when I say husband, know that I mean high-school sweetheart turned husband, with whom she has spent the overwhelming majority of her life– so obviously her world is completely turned upside down. The novel chronicles Caroline’s attempts to make sense of the betrayal and learn how to move forward. The book totally lives up to it’s amazing cover (not that I was judging it by that, at all, in any way).

Here’s what I loved about the book: Continue reading

Books & Brews: From the Sideline / New Belgium Brewing’s Shift Pale Lager

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. 

This month I read Amy Avanzino’s second novel, FROM THE SIDELINE. Technically it’s the second book in her Wake-up Series, but I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone without reading the first book (though I really want to, now). In FROM THE SIDELINE, the main character, Autumn Kovac, reluctantly allows her only son to try out for the local youth football team. She’s terrified about sending her ten-year-old onto the field to be tackled by faster, larger, and far more coordinated children. She’s convinced he’ll sustain a head-injury, at worst, or be ridiculed by his peers, at other worst. Even though she can’t see any positive outcome, trying out for the team is only thing has made him happy since his father left– so she gives him the green light, certain he won’t make the cut. When he does, she finds herself thrown into a world she knows nothing about and finds out she has as much learning and growing to do as her son, if not more.

Here’s what I loved about the book: Continue reading

Books & Brews: The Life Intended / Bell’s Oberon

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. 

I didn’t intentionally choose to read Kristin Harmel’s THE LIFE INTENDED during the same month I turned 39, but I did. Have you ever had that experience where the exact right thing (a story, a song, a photograph) finds you at the exact right moment and you feel just a little more understood? That’s what this was like. Here’s why I loved the book: Continue reading

Books & Brews: Eight Hundred Grapes / Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it. The series kicked off in earnest in May 2015, which means it turns one this month. Happy birthday, dear Books & Brews, happy birthday to you…

The events in Laura Dave’s EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES take place against the backdrop of the yearly harvest party at a vineyard– which makes it a perfect read for this celebratory month. (Synchronization, perhaps. *winking at anyone who has read the book already*) However, unlike my quiet little confetti throwing on the blog, Dave’s novel is full of family drama, in all the best ways. The main character, Georgia, returns home to her family’s vineyard in search of the comfortable familiar. Instead she finds that everything (really, literally everything) has changed. Here’s what I loved about the book: Continue reading

Books & Brews: A Paris Apartment / 10 Barrel Brewing Company’s Cucumber Crush

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.

I had been meaning to read Michelle Gable’s A PARIS APARTMENT for a long time! It was on my “to be read” list last year when I was in Paris. My plan was to pick up a copy at Shakespeare & Company and to read while I was in Paris (because reading a book set in Paris, in Paris… I mean really, would anything have been better). Alas, they did not have a copy on hand. Plan foiled, I turned to other books on my near infinite list. Then last month, almost exactly a year later and on vacation again, I was wandering through Powell’s Books in Portland. Out of the bazillions of books, what should catch my eye but  A PARIS APARTMENT. It was clearly meant to be.

Here’s what I loved about the book: Continue reading

Books & Brews: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake / Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a story I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.

I’ll admit, I did exactly the thing the old adage tells us never to do: I judged this book by its  cover. But you see it up there, right? How could you not fall in love, but if for some odd reason, the cover didn’t draw you in, the description would get you: Lou is a chef. Al is a restaurant critic who writes under a pseudonym and is known for his scathing reviews. He dines at Lou’s restaurant on a very off night. And by very off, I mean walked in on her fiancé with another women when she stopped by to surprise him with a coconut cake– off. Al skewers her restaurant in a review. Then the two meet at random in a bar and Lou accepts the challenge to show Al all the best of Milwaukee’s food scene. One caveat– no talking about work. As Lou’s business collapses, largely due to Al’s review, the two fall in love. Which is clearly problematic.

Here are just a few things I loved about Amy E. Reichert’s THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE: Continue reading

Books & Brews: The Good Neighbor / Anchor Steam

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Two of my favorite things in the world are craft beer and books. On the last Thursday of every month I pair a novel I love with a pint to sip while reading it, under the theory that there is a perfect beer to compliment every book.

This month I read The Good Neighbor by Amy Sue Nathan and I could not be more excited to share it with you! Many of you are on a bit of a break from work and/or school right now and if you’re like me, reading is near the top of your winter break “to do” list– just go ahead and add this book to the very top of that list.

Izzy Lane, the main character in The Good Neighbor, is recently divorced and has just moved back to her childhood home with her son, Noah. She’s in transition, learning to navigate sharing custody with her ex and starting over in the neighborhood she grew up in. In the midst of this, she starts an anonymous blog as a place to express her feelings about all the change. She has a regular readers and enjoys connecting with them in the comments. Just as she is starting to find her footing, she runs into her ex-husband and his new girlfriend. Caught off-guard and wanting to seem “fine” about it all, she invents a boyfriend. Just a tiny little lie. No big deal. Until she slips and mentions this fictional beau on her blog, and her best-friend Jade approaches her about writing a dating blog for 40-somethings on her extremely popular website, Pop Philly. Suddenly Izzy’s tiny lie has the potential to cause more harm than she ever imagined.

Here are just a few things I loved about The Good Neighbor: Continue reading