I’ve sat down to write many entries many times, leaving drafts dead in my folders. The biggest reason of all was that I was just  so depressed even the fun things to write about (like a trip to Germany to visit an old friend, see my favorite band, and visit some sites on my bucket list) didn’t feel compelling to write about in my fog.

But life is changing, and I’m about to accept a job offer, move cross country, and hopefully start my career. I turn 30 in a few weeks. It’s a time of incredible upheaval, but for the first time in more than 2 years, I’m feeling excited. So maybe I’ll pick this back up, or maybe I’ll switch gears in some other way. I’m not sure yet. But things are happening, and I’m optimistic that they’re good things.

Blogging for Books: Here and Gone

This is going to be a short review, for a short book.

Or maybe I should use the word “concise” for both.

here and gone

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck is a tight thriller that works very well, despite being somewhat different than advertised.

Audra is a former addict who, in trying to get her life back together for her children, realizes that she needs to leave her abusive marriage, so she packs up the kids and heads to California. When she’s pulled over in middle-of-nowhere Arizona, drugs are found in her car and when she arrives at the station and asks where her children are, she is told that there were no children in her vehicle. And thus begins a national news story that attracts the attention of Danny a former(ish) gang member who remembers a similar story from his own life and sets off to uncover the truth.

The blurb (and perhaps my description) made this thriller sound more psychological, and that’s what attracted me to the book. However, you know the entire time that Audra’s children were taken (you follow them along and some chapters are written in son Sean’s perspective). From the get-go you know exactly who the villains are, who the good guys are, and where everyone is. In that regards, there’s no suspense. Honestly even in terms of the ending, this book did not feel suspenseful, it was incredibly predictable, you can pretty much guess the outcome before you even hit the halfway mark.

But don’t confuse my saying that it’s not suspenseful with me saying that I didn’t enjoy it! I did enjoy Here and Gone. Beck knows how to write a story that doesn’t get dragged down with filler. This book gets straight to the point and never lulls or drags, which is why this book works so well and is so enjoyable.  The book doesn’t give you time to get bored.

This book would not have suffered from taking longer, building more suspense, and fleshing out this underworld it deals with (though blessedly, while child abuse is hinted at and heavily implied, nothing explicit ever happens in that regard- you don’t need to be explicit for your audience to get the hint and feel the urgency of the situation… looking at you Game of Thrones!). This book doesn’t suffer from being the length that is, as fast-paced as it as, and as concise as it is. If you want a light, unambiguous thriller to check out as summer draws to an end, I can safely recommend Here and Gone as a quick read.

3.5 stars.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Blogging for Books: The Book of Esther

I’m back! And I’m starting with a long-overdue book review. But it’s ok, because I just finished this book a week ago! It was, shall we say, a slog and a half. The only reason it got finished was because I had to much plane/airport time in the past two weeks, because I was barely 100 pages in for a year. Yeah, an actual year. I put more time into wondering if I should just write the review as a “did not finish” than try powering through. But I am glad I powered through.

book of esther

The Book of Esther by Emily Barton references the Biblical book of Esther, wherein (in a gross oversimplification) Queen Esther saves her people from Genocide and lays the basis for the Jewish holiday Purim. The Book of Esther is about Esther, the daughter of a Royal Adviser, who sees the impending threat World War II poses to Jewish culture and sets out to, well, stop a genocide. The book is written in a magical realism style and plays on concepts and place names and traditions to create a kind of alternate reality.

And fails to engage.

Esther bat Josephus decides to leave her home in Khazaria and find a group of Kabbalists who will hopefully change her into a man so that she can join the fight against Germania. Khazaria references a real kingdom which historically was located between the Black and Caspian seas in an area we’d now know as “Caucus states.”

Barton explains absolutely nothing, however, and my own research into Khazaria didn’t really translate into insight when it came to reading the book. I am not Jewish by faith or heritage but I’ve felt that I have a pretty decent layperson’s understanding of the faith, especially the mystical (Kabbalah) side of things just because of my interest in studying religions. It’s entirely possible that I’m wrong about that, but I think it’s equally possible that Barton just failed to show OR tell anything about the world she was trying to create.

Another area where Barton fails is weaving in the magical realism. I am a huge fan of magical realism and that’s a genre where I do feel that I have strong footing. A magical realism novel set during WWII and focusing on a Jewish perspective sounded like a truly, well, magical, recipe to me. But more than enchanted I was confused. One of the big “characters” in the book is Seleme, Esther’s “mechanical horse.” Which is mostly described just like a motorcycle, but actually is supposed to be a horse that is mechanical?

There are plenty of interesting threads in the book that don’t come to fruition. Esther is a teenager growing into womanhood and questioning and testing her relationship to her faith and society as she grows and begins exploring her place in the world and her sexuality. This goes nowhere.

The book has a transgender* character who is intended to (I think) represent the difficulty of managing a desire for knowledge in a restrictive and gender-segregated society, but it goes nowhere. Also this character is just the absolute WORST and part of a totally useless, underdeveloped love triangle that kind of dances around Esther exploring her sexuality but just never commits to it in any capacity.

* Using the term ‘transgender’ feels a little wrong here, the character does undergo a change but the motivation is less “I was born in the wrong body” and more “these doors are closed to me unless I am a man,” which is the same motivation behind Esther’s quest to transition. I didn’t get the impression that either character, least of all Esther, would consider this kind of change in a society without those restrictions. This seems like an oversimplified (though certainly respectable, especially historically!) view of gender identity. But I cisgender so maybe I’m getting this all wrong too.

Things I did like: the pigeons, the exploration of religious devotion and sentience that was explored in the golems, the theme of uniting people from all different backgrounds to help the common good.

2 stars.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

New York, New York

I saw Hamilton!

I’ve been going going going nonstop October and November. The beginning of October saw Manbeast and I attending a gorgeous wedding in the Catskills but honestly there’s not much to talk about in a blog. Go to the Catskills in fall though if you get the chance, stunning foliage, little-to-no cell service, absolutely beautiful!

And now it’s December. Where has the time gone?

Then it was off to Hamilton towards the end of the month. One of my amazing friends got reasonably priced tickets (I KNOW!) offered me the chance to go with her- since it had been far too long since I’d hopped down the NYC!

The downside to a mid-week trip is that friend’s have to work. Lucky for me my esoteric interests were getting there due city wide, and my friend was not so keen to come look at taxidermy with me. Let’s talk about the great stuff I saw (and ate)

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

This pie shop is famous enough that for some people, it needs no introduction. I discovered it while google mapping my route to stop #2. It was right there, across the street and I saw the name and thought “Baked in a pie???” and they WERE (pie, no blackbirds were harmed). I relished their Bourbon Pear Crumble and some coffee. An amazing treat to start my day (while I waited for the next stop to open!)

Do I Recommend: Hell yeah. Go out of your way for this place. Or don’t, if you’re near a different pie shop. Just get pie. And this pie, it’s good.

Morbid Anatomy Museum

More curio cabinet, Less true museum they basically feature a cafe, a gift shop, and one exhibit. While I was there, the exhibit was TAXIDERMY. AND it feature Walter Potter’s Kitten Wedding, a posed scene of… well… a kitten wedding. It was an amazingly well-curated collection, showing off bad taxidermy, created scenes, rare animals, and memorials to beloved pets. I was giddy the entire time I was there, a true treat.

Do I Recommend: The taxidermy exhibit closed Dec. 6th, so I can’t recommend that one anymore, but I would have. Here’s what I think the trick is: Check out their exhibitions, and if the subject matter sounds interesting then check it out! But if you’re not too keen on the exhibit subject, there’s no point in going because that is exhibit is basically it. If you’re on the hunt for a good gift for that spooky someone in  your life, check out the gift shop. They have some amazing taxidermy mice!

American Folk Art Museum

The exhibit I went to see is still on display through February, I recommend! The exhibit is “Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America” I don’t remember if my interest into Spirit Photography/the Spiritualist Movement has come up on this blog at all, but I certainly have one. So this was a slight departure, but an incredibly fascinating exhibit. And it wasn’t that creepy, I promise!

Do I Recommend: 100% recommend ‘Securing the Shadow.’ The museum in general is great, hosts great little events (I got serenaded with live music while I explored memorial imagery) and is just overall a nice little place. Check their exhibit lists though- they didn’t seem to have a main exhibit hall, just an exhibition du jour so make sure you’re going to something you’ll enjoy. Bonus location fact- it’s pretty much directly across the street from the Lincoln Center- easy to find and get to!

We grabbed a pre-show dinner at The City Kitchen. I had the hardest fucking time finding this place. I ended up actually IN Times Square which just, ugh. I saw it on my first trip to NYC, I did not have a burning desire to be in that cluster again. At least I didn’t feel too bad not being able to find the food place, because there were a ton of tourists more lost than I! It’s a food court style setup with lots of options- I grabbed some sushi and gyoza from Azuki and it was delicious.

Do I Recommend: If you’re in the vicinity of Broadway/Times Square and need some food, it’s a great place- especially if you have an indecisive group and want options. There are enough excellent food places in NYC that this one is not really worth going out of your way for if you aren’t in the Broadway/TS area.


What do I need to say? There were a few original cast members left, most were replacements. More than Lin-Manuel Miranda, I was sad that I didn’t get to see Johnathan Groff as King George, but Rory O’Malley still did an amazing job. It was my first Broadway show, and it was incredible.

I got a ‘Hamiltini’ in the commemorative cup, I couldn’t resist!


The next morning I got a breakfast sandwich at the bagel shop down the block from my friend’s place. If I stay with this friend and she is in the same place, I will go back to that bagel shop. But rather then recommend that specific one, the right thing to do is go to the local bagel place near wherever you’re staying. It’s NYC, it’s gonna have a good bagel.

I headed towards the Brooklyn Museum, and decided I needed some coffee first. I stopped at the nearby Lincoln Station for a great drink and a break from the rain. Alas, I did not try their food, I should have! (all I ended up eating after my bagel that day was a freaking chocolate croissant from Au Bon Pain. It was good, but geez was it poor planning!)

Do I Recommend: Yup! Especially if you’re at the museum. Not as fancy as their cafe, but better prices and great dog watching!

The Brooklyn Museum

What an unexpected treat this was! An art of Africa exhibit that mentioned Elegba, Life, Death & Transformation in the Americas, Blake’s Great Red Dragon on display, and the now-closed exhibit My Room is Another Fishbowl. A truly, truly wonderful day at a wonderful museum!

Do I Recommend: An emphatic “hell yeah!” It doesn’t get the accolades the Met does, but this museum is truly, truly wonderful. Bonus, it borders Prospect Park (which houses the Brooklyn Botanic gardens, a Quaker graveyard, and a zoo). So in nice weather, you could truly make a day of that little slice of Brooklyn.

My trip home was an absolute nightmare, it seems the return trip always is, but I made it in one piece. I really love visiting NYC and this trip ended up being absolutely perfect. I have some pictures I’ll hopefully insert in an edit, but right now I need to figure out what is wrong with my phone gallery. Next up: my great European adventure!


What’s Up With You?

I expected my graduation (June 2016) to bring a rush of relief and new-found invigoration to my life.

Instead I wallowed. The last class finished and I had a nerve-wracking week where not passing was a real threat looming over my life. But I passed. I have my diploma, I can put Drexel University on my resume (despite having never set foot on campus).

And while I thought I would suddenly have free time, I’ve been just as stressed as ever. The job search is leading nowhere, I can’t seem to keep up with things at home, I’m exhausted, I started working out regularly (which sucks up a lot of time and makes me feel like trash), and I’m still working two jobs.

And I miss writing so much.

I have a dedicated writers’ group which gives me some much-needed fiction time and also a low-key social outlet. Unfortunately, life has gotten in the way of many meetings.

And that just seems to be the theme here: life gets me down, I get exhausted, I put off the things I enjoy in an order to siphon energy to the things you need to do. I’m not going to use Spoonie terminology because none of this is from a chronic illness, but the analogy of  “just not enough” is resonating with me. And maybe it’s depression but if it is it feels so different from the other times I can’t recognize it as such.

I’ve got some good shit coming up though. This week I’m traveling to NYC to see Hamilton; early in November I’m going to Germany and Iceland! So there’s stuff to look forward too, even though a jam packed schedule gives me some anxiety. I’ll sleep eventually!

But there should be some blog posts forthcoming. I’ve done a fair amount of travel in 2016- a lot more than in previous years. I’ve hit up Myrtle Beach and Atlanta in addition to the upcoming trips. I plan to do little write-ups about those places in what I hope is the not too distant future, though admittedly everything may have to wait until Mid-November when I’m back from Europe.

But here I am, I’m alive, this blog is not truly abandon, stay tuned for updates!


Blogging for Books: The Naturalist

Just in time for Father’s Day, Blogging for Books gives me the chance to get the daddiest of dad presents.


This is only the second time I’ve used this platform to gift books I otherwise wouldn’t read, and it does diversify my reviews.

President Theodore Roosevelt is my dad’s favorite historical figure, and he is always looking for new TR books. Unfortunately for my dad, he doesn’t care that much about the presidency, but he is 100% here for reading about Amazon explorations and Teddy’s work creating our natural parks.

So thanks, Darrin Lunde, for saving me an awkward trip to Lowe’s!*

Lunde, a Smithsonian employee, uses The Naturalist to take an interesting look at T.R.’s relationship with the great outdoors and the impact that had on his political career.

This isn’t one of my great areas of interest so it’s hard to rate the book. Certainly it was well-written but I had a hard time getting through it because I just didn’t care that much. However, if your dad is like my dad and has tried to style their life around being Teddy Roosevelt, I think this book will be a hit.

Basically, if TR or political histories are your bag of ducks, then I think this book will be a hit. If you’re like me and you’d rather read about society ladies having seances, it’s not going to have much WOW factor.

The book retails for $28 (hardcover). It can be purchased from Penguin’s website, but I suggest you hit up your nearest brick-and-mortar bookstore to snag this one for dad before his big weekend.



*I spoke too soon, after writing that intro a bat got into our apartment and I had to go to Lowe’s and ask a sales associate “which of these gardening gloves looks like they could best withstand a bat bite?” Spoiler Alert: They don’t rate for that.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Blogging for Books: Mother, Can You Not?


I first learned about @CrazyJewishMom from the New York Times. I’m not a Times subscriber but my bff gets the Sunday paper and I was drinking coffee on her couch and took advantage. I checked out the Instagram because of the article, and stayed because I saw a lot of my mom in CJM (despite the fact that we’re gentiles).

While I still follow the account, I quickly became disenchanted with it. CJM is a “drone parent” and the similarities between Kim Friedman and Momma IotI were too much in a negative fashion. When this book came up as an option, I expected to hate read it.

So I settled down on Mother’s Day to devour Mother, Can You Not? and it painted a far, far more sympathetic picture of Kim and daughter Kate‘s relationship than I had imagined possible. I still think CJM might need to get a grip, texting your daughter 100 times in one day is just not normal, it’s clear that this mother and daughter have a relationship that is built on love and respect, even if it’s a strange kind. Kate’s anecdotes about how her mother shaped her life are understandable even by those not familiar with the CJM phenomenon, and I think Kate does have a knack for writing and I’m interested to see where she goes next. It also really sympathized Kim, who in my mind had been cast as the villain in Kate’s life. I guess I was really projecting.

My favorite story involves stealing a cat from an animal shelter… I guess that’s when I felt like CJM was someone I could relate to.

There are stories that give me cringey, secondhand embarrassment that don’t entirely paint the relationship in a good light (Kate’s photoshoot, for example), but overall Mother, Can You Not? is a tale of two women who actually understand each other.

And I respect that. And actually enjoyed this book.


Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

[and in honor of my own fraught maternal relationship, here is the song I think best sums up what we have. “Nail in My Coffin” by The Kills]