My Month in Books and Movies: June 2022

BookAuthorGenreBeach read/book club/personal introspection/how toRating
Black CakeCharmaine Wilkersonfiction/women’s fiction/relationships/family/resilience/friendshipBook club/Beach read1
Iona Iverson’s Rules for CommutingClare Pooleyfiction/light/intertwined stories/friendshipBeach Read2
Klara and the SunKazuo Ishigurosci fi/dystopianBook Club3
A woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of Virginia Hall, WWII’s Most Dangerous SpySonia Purnellnon fiction/female spy during WWIIBook Club4
Minimalista: Your Step by Step Guide to a Better Home, Wardrobe and LifeShira Gillhow tohow to5
The Candy HouseJennifer Eganliterary fiction/interconnected people/slight dystopianBook Club6
We came, We Saw, We Left: A Family Gap YearCharles Wheelannon fiction/memoir/travel journalBeach Read7
Nora Goes Off ScriptAnnabel Monaghanfiction/women’s fiction/rom comBeach Read8
Great ExpectationsCharles Dickensfiction/classics/coming of age/moralisticbook club9
Olga Dies DreamingXochitl Gonzalezfiction/political/women’s fictionbeach read10
The Messy Lives of Book PeoplePhaedra Patrickwomen’s fiction/finding your voice/relationshipsbeach read11
This Time TomorrowEmma Straubfiction/women’s fiction/time travel/findind oneselfbeach read12
Out of the Clear Blue SkyKristan Higginswomen’s fiction/light/divorce/relationshipsbeach read13
Minus MeMameve Medwedwoman’s fiction/marriage/infertility/illness/relationships/beach read14
Beautiful CountryQian Julie Wangmemoir/coming of age/immigrationbook club15
Mindful Thoughts at home: Finding Heart in the HomeKate Peersnon fiction/mindfulness/homehow to16
The Tea House on Mulberry StreetSharon Owensfiction/women’s fiction/light/intertwined stories Beach Read17
Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other CloseAminatour Sow & Ann Friedmannon fiction/friendship/relationshipshow to18
Group TherapyBB Eastonfiction/light/rom com/beach read19
Some of these books were rereads, or really, skims. I did not read all of these cover to cover this month- I just finished them in June. However, as I had a trying month, I did manage to go through quite a few light and plucky books because my brain needed a break. When the going gets tough, LA takes to reading.
  1. Black Cake– Loved this book- it does a rare thing- it’s easy to read, but also gives many layers to think about. Beautiful story about a woman who doesn’t let anything get her down- she just keeps going. Great look at the things we give our children, and how the parent child relationship is often difficult.
  2. Iona Iverson– I loved this book. But let me preface: this is not “the great (insert country here) novel”. There are no lush descriptions or brilliant dialogue, no literary tricks. It’s fairly predictable as to what’s going to happen. It’s just a simple story about an unlikely group of friends, but I was 100% in for the ride. The characters are a bit quirky, which I like, and there wasn’t too much “bad”, so it was a fairly pleasant diversion for me. If you like a light book that really centers around friendship, give this a try.
  3. Klara– Reread for Book Club/fulfills my science fiction square on my Bingo card. I don’t like the genre, but I thought this was a thoughtful and introspective read about what the future holds as far as friends, and what we consider friends
  4. A Woman of No Importance– Reread for book club/fills my book about a spy square for Bingo card. Brilliant story about an unsung hero, who is greatly responsible for how WWII played out. If you want to read about a strong woman- look no further. My book club did wonder about how true some of these exploits were however, because it seemed too much at times.
  5. Minimalista- If you are a fan of the organizing/minimalist genre, this book is same old same old. Though it’s written in a pleasing style, I didn’t learn any new tricks. However, the style of this book is awesome. Gill does a great job of summarizing and highlighting the take aways. The book itself is written in an organized and minimalist style, so I feel very confident listening to her as a authority on the subject.
  6. Candy House– There are some wonderful sentences in this book, with some really inspiring ideas. Egan knows how to write. However, this book is sort of six degrees of separation- she might write a chapter about a character, but then we only sparsely see that character again. There are so many characters, and I sort of forgot the back story to some of them- which means that I was lost sometimes as to both the character motivation, and the motivation of the author. Because of its odd lay out, it’s a stretch to call it a novel. However- as flawed as this book is, I still found certain parts extremely intriguing and thought provoking. But- I do have a hard time recommending it, because I know much of it seems inconsequential.
  7. We Came, We Saw, We Left– Two parents and three teens take nine months off and explore the world. I admit I enjoyed this book vicariously: while I reveled in the adventures that the family had, I know that there is no way I could do a trip like this. 1) lack of reliable plumbing 2) bugs 3) carrying my belongings on my back. But this is a breezy read about the amazing places they saw, and what it’s like to be with your family 24/7 for nine months. My only issue is there are a few pop culture references gone awry- I don’t care about grammar errors- but please don’t start to get facts wrong. I have an issue with the fact that facts are now loosely interpreted. I did email the author about the first error I caught, but after that I decided if he didn’t care, why should I. But- I’m glad my daughter isn’t learning from him. This book fulfills the BN monthly pick spot on my Bingo card.
  8. Nora Goes Off Script– For the record, this is a light book, and as I stated about something else, this is not brilliantly written nor thought provoking. It’s just a simple, slightly unbelievable story about a woman trying to rebound after a lousy marriage. I liked the main characters, it moved quickly, and it had a sort of quirky charm. This was a perfectly nice light, fluffy read .
  9. Great Expectations– I don’t love this book- I think it’s too long, too many words and chapters. However- the writing is beautiful. The bones of the story hold up. It just takes too long to get to the very satisfying last few chapters.
  10. Olga Dies Dreaming– This is not a bad book. However, it takes itself way too seriously. It tries to be political and anti establishment and is full of messages, but at the end of the day it’s a story about a cold, narcissistic, manipulative Mother and the emotional damage she does to her two children who spend their lives trying to make their mother love them. If you take it as a beach read, you will probably be satisfied. If you look at it as literary fiction, be forewarned.
  11. Messy Lives– Patrick is a decent writer- however, this story mucks itself up a bit too much. Plucky heroine and her growth as a person makes sense, but there are these little gaps that make it inconsistent. The book is missing something, but I’m not quite sure what. However, if you’ve ever been 40, and feel a little lost, this is a decent read.
  12. This Time Tomorrow– 40 year old woman wakes up on the morning of her 16th birthday. The old what would you change about your life trope…This is a fairly pleasant read if you like the genre, and accept a touch of sci fi in your novels. Decently written, not too cliché, not too preachy, but fails to give a completely satisfying story. That being said, if this was my airplane book I’d be able to read until I wanted to nap or watch a movie.
  13. Clear Blue Sky– On the plus side, there is clear character growth. On the minus side, pretty much everything in this book. I did not feel for either of the two main female characters in this book- they annoyed me, as women, as mother’s, as friends. as sisters and as partners. However, I know Higgins has a huge fan base, so there are some who will like this more than I did.
  14. Minus Me– I didn’t love the main character, and I think in a light fiction novel it is imperative that you like the main character. To be fair, I also didn’t like some of the other characters in this book- too one dimensional, or too cliché. However, there are days that I need to just shut off my brain, so this book came at a good point in my weekly journey.
  15. Beautiful Country– Memoir about an undocumented young woman’s journey. While this was an interesting story, I didn’t feel that the way it was written moved me very much- it comes across a bit sterile. I needed more feeling. There are many who love this book though, so this is just my take on it.
  16. Mindful Thoughts– This is a simple premise of how to be more mindful about your day to day. While this book has nothing wrong with it, and it is uplifting, it didn’t move me the way other books of this genre have. It’s fine- but nothing special.
  17. Tea House– Read for Tea Book Club. Hmmm.. where do I start? First- this book was written in 2005, and I think it would have felt dated in 2005, much less 2022. I just couldn’t get past some of the attitudes and such. I didn’t like a lot of the characters- and there were a lot of characters. Book was a bit creepy to me.
  18. Big Friendship– This book is supposed to tell you how to maintain friendships. But I will tell you what this book doesn’t say- you can’t be a friend if you are a narcissistic, over indulged person who doesn’t have a clue how to actually put someone else’s needs in front of your own. Do you know how to be a friend? Listen. Communicate. Cut your friends some slack. It’s not about you all the time. Clearly one of the worst books of the year for me, possibly in my life time. I now know why this book had been on my TBR longer than any other book.
  19. Group Therapy– This book is a mockery of so many things- therapy, strong women being at the forefront. There are very few books I will tell you DON’T Read. This would be one of them. Just a waste of words and time. In the running for worst books I read this year.
Title GenreWhere SeenRating
Top Gun: Maverickaction/adventure/sequelTheater/AMC1
Lost IllusionsForeign (French)/period/based on La Comedie Humaine by Honore de BalzacTheater/Film Forum2
Downton Abbey: A New Eraperiod/historical fluff/sequelTheater/AMC3
Lightyearanimated/childrens/sequel/action/adventureTheater/AMC4
Fire In The Mountainsfiction/drama/foreign (Hindi)Theater/Film Forum5
Alone Togetherfiction/dramedy/pandemicTheater/Tribeca Film Festival6
  1. Top Gun– I love the original Top Gun. I love the new Top Gun. This isn’t a deep, thinking person’s movie- this is just a plot driven by a crisis, and the story of a man searching for something. I was all in for every second of this ride. I know there are people who are not going to enjoy this, but if this type of movie is your thing- get thee to a theater now. One of the best sequels that I’ve ever seen.
  2. Lost Illusions -This is a really well done film. I have no idea how close it is to the book, but this is an engrossing tale of a young man trying to find his place/get ahead in the world. I thought the film was structured well- where we are sort of peering into his life and watching his ups and downs with him. But, it’s much wordier than most French films, so you have to either speak French or be OK with a lot of reading- plus the whole period thing…
  3. Downton– I am a huge fan of Downton, so this is another case of being all in for the ride. I love everything about Downton, and this satisfies me on all levels. But if you are not a fan, you can skip this- there’s no bells and whistles, just the continuing sage of the Family Crawley.
  4. Lightyear– Very average sequel to the Toy Story franchise. This movie lacks heart and whimsy, and the message gets lost in all the mish mosh. Unless you have a child between 5 and 10, I’d pass.
  5. Fire in the Mountains- Story of an Indian family trying to get by. Proves that dysfunctional families/relationships are universal. Subtlety shows gender gap, bureaucracy, patriarchal tendencies and superstition, which is good, however, it’s sometimes wanders a bit too much. Beautifully shot. All in all, I don’t think I’m telling anyone to run out and see this film.
  6. Alone Together– Katie Holmes directed this entrant at the Tribeca Film Festival. I call it two hours of my life that I will never get back. First off- this is a warning for people to not direct themselves in a movie- you need outside perspective as to what does and doesn’t work. Secondly, she is flat as an actress- I don’t know if I’ve ever seen less emotion. The script is dull- scenes never realize what they are supposed to be: comedy not really funny, emotions seem wooden. There are also so many incongruities- someone needs to teach her how to outline and fact check… This is definitely one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

The Nightstand

I’m going to be nosy today:

What do you keep in your nightstand?

I admit, this post was inspired by my watching Sex and the City, but for the purposes of this blog, keep the TMI rule in your mind…insert wink here…

On the surface of my nightstand I have:

  1. lamp
  2. picture of my daughter
  3. a mug that my daughter painted which holds: hand cream, sephora lip mask, and nail file
  4. coaster
  5. small wooden cat in sleeping pose
  6. diffuser bottle

I have three drawers in my nightstand:

In the top drawer:

  1. a power strip because I charge my phone and ipad overnight. I have a long cord so I can read and charge before I go to bed.
  2. box of tissues
  3. lavender room spray
  4. Carmex
  5. cough drops (ricola sugar free lemon mint)
  6. pen and notepad
  7. book light

Middle drawer”

  1. fuzzy socks
  2. moisturizing gloves
  3. foot lotion
  4. eye mask (the kind that can be cooled or heated)
  5. flashlight
  6. wooden sticks for essential oil diffuser
  7. essential oil (lavender)
  8. advil
  9. benedryl
  10. nasal spray
  11. thing that gets rough calluses off feet

bottom drawer:

  1. pajamas

Now it’s your turn: what are the things that you think are essential to keep next to your bed? Do you use a nightstand or a table? Tell me how you set up the bed area.

What Inspired Me: 6/19/22

  • Flowers! And I thought that birdhouse was so cool!!
  • The Kimonos exhibit at the Met is just beautiful!! I can’t say I paid much attention to the facts/history though…
  • Gallery 304 at the Met is filled with so much art and artifacts- I could not just show you one thing. These are the things that sparked my interest.
  • Love going to Tribeca Film Festival- didn’t love the movie. Hard pass…

Gratitude and Mindfulness: 6/18/22

My daughter spent three weeks in Cape Town as part of study abroad for her minor with her university. She had an amazing experience, most notably going to the beach and seeing penguins! and seeing lions and zebra’s at a nature preserve. I am grateful that she did not get COVID on the trip and got the full experience. I am grateful that her flights were not delayed or cancelled. I am grateful that she had an amazing time! I am grateful for the university to offer such a wonderful experience, and for the professors who organized the learning experiences.

My prompt for the week is BALANCE. Here’s how it was used in the books I’m reading:

  1. I read a book about how to sustain friendships through the long haul…which I hated FYI. The word “balance” doesn’t appear in the book at all. How can you have a book about relationships and not have the word balance. I know this is a thought not a quote, but I thought it belonged in both sections.
  2. But did that balance out the thoughtlessness of leaving it unsaid for so long? Annabel Monaghan
  3. Unwashed, without his glasses, starving, and knowing his life was in the balance, he had broken down after six months in solitary confinement and having regularly been beaten unconscious. Sonia Purnell
  4. The clubhouse is both spartan and lavish- the tricky balance required by the hardy rich. Jennifer Egan
  5. This past summer had been so fraught, so off balance and distressing that I hadn’t been able to enjoy it. Krista Higgins
  6. “And Finbarr taught him to catch a football and balance it on his nose.” Nina de Gramont
  7. “Well, you’re in for a treat. They’re set on this planet that’s balanced on four elephants on the back of a giant turtle.” Freya Sampson.
  8. Leah likes to balance the checkbook, whereas I assume that the bank will contact me if there is a problem. Charles Wheelan
  9. She will talk about sustainability. About the need to hold on to some sort of balance in nature. Charmaine Wilkerson
  10. For all of us, the challenge is how to balance work and family and do a decent job at both. Caroline Kennedy
  11. Without the delicate balance of a sustainable rhythm in our day-to-day lives, little things pile up becoming big things that overwhelm us. Melissa Michaels

Here’s how I’m going to think about balance:

  1. Can you talk about relationships and never mention balance?
  2. Is balance the key to life?
  3. When I read about balance, it often seems like a circus trick- is that because balance is sort of a novelty that doesn’t really exist
  4. How do we make balance in our lives?
  5. Do people still balance their checkbooks?
September, 1918
BY AMY LOWELL

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.

Amy Lowell, “September, 1918” from The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. Copyright © 1955 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright © renewed 1983 by Houghton Mifflin Company, Brinton P. Roberts, and G. D'Andelot, Esquire. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Source: Selected Poems of Amy Lowell (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002)

One of my blogging buddies wrote a very thought provoking post yesterday:

https://robbyrobinsjourney.wordpress.com/2022/06/17/did-a-google-chatbot-just-come-to-life/

Give it a look if you have a chance.

When Tech Doesn’t Work

I was walking through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A woman stopped me and pointed to her phone, and I ascertained that this woman didn’t speak English, and was going to try to ask me a question via her phone. She had earbuds in, and it looked like she would say something and then the phone would show the English translation.

Sounds good, right?

Well…almost…

The first thing that came up was roughly:

“Do you know the Mother’s coin.”

then

“The pond is the woman.”

then

“It’s the big ugly person”

followed by

“Oh shit no”

The woman proceeded to turn fifty shades of red, and just walked off, actually ran off, as she tried to bow to me. I never did figure out what work she was trying to locate.

So score 1 for the theory of technology and being able to further communication with one another, but for now, we will just have to muddle through the trial and error!

What Inspired Me: 6/12/22

  • The highlight of my week was clearly meeting up with Cheryl from Living in the Gap!! She is just as wonderful in person as she is on her blog!!!
  • The birdhouses at the Botanic Garden are so much fun! This is my favorite so far
  • Saw two plays this week- Good, not great. “What the End Will be” sort of goes all over the place- a 90 minute one act play needs to have a bit more direction. 1971 is a re-enactment of a conversation between James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni- to call this a play is a stretch
  • Montgomery Clift festival at Film Forum. “A Place in the Sun: is just an amazing movie- can’t believe I’d never seen it before!!

Gratitude and Mindfulness: 6/11/22

I had a low level migraine that started Saturday afternoon, and continued through Wednesday morning. If I seemed off, that is basically it. I am grateful that I am not feeling quite as wonky as I had been. My June has so far been as stressful as May, so I have no doubt my stress is helping out my migraine.


My mindfulness/journal prompt for the week is: LOVE

Here’s how it was used in the books I’m reading:

  1. I’ll tell you”, said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, “what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter- as I did!” Charles Dickens
  2. One partner always loves the other more. Mameve Medwed
  3. She loved the simple things in life, reading novels in bed, and eating crisps in the park, just like her Dad. Phaedra Patrick
  4. If you mean that love is an escapable pit of despair that leaves you in a suspended state of misery from the moment you say I do until you finally lose the will to live, then yeah, I do believe that. BB Easton
  5. Falling in love is a series of moments in which the ordinary becomes the extraordinary. Caroline Kennedy
  6. America loves a sinner, lucky for me. Jennifer Egan
  7. Leah’s love of planning solved one of the most stressful things about travel, particularly low-budget travel: the constant decisions- every meal, every night of lodging, every bus or plane ticket. Charles Wheelan
  8. Our homes should welcome us with open arms and inspire us to live a life we love all year. Melissa Michaels
  9. He didn’t simply want to catch her, he wanted to pin her down, and make her love him as much as he loved her. Xochitl Gonzalez
  10. Families are sources of love and support, but they also have moments marked by disappointment and awkwardness. Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
  11. Love is the greatest risk of all, but a life without love is meaningless. Clare Pooley

Here’s some thoughts that I am going to explore on LOVE:

  1. Do we use the word love too often?
  2. Are we too lazy to find words that better fit situations than the word love?
  3. Is love equally good and bad?
  4. Quote 6- America loves a sinner needs to be explored more fully
  5. Are we too afraid to take a real love risk?
  6. Should you really tell your kids to find someone who loves them more?
  7. Is love ever equal between two people?
  8. Are there romantic loves that we never get over?
Sonnet XLIV

You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
a word is one wing of silence,
fire has its cold half.
I love you in order to begin to love you,
to start infinity again
and never to stop loving you:
that's why I do not love you yet.
I love you, and I do not love you, as if I held
keys in my hand: to a future of joy-
a wretched, muddled fate-
My love has two lives, in order to love you. That?s why I love you when I do not love you,
and also why I love you when I do.

Pablo Neruda
Author's Poems - via SaveAQuote.com <https://www.saveaquote.com/poems/authors-poems/>

Adversity

We all face adversity. Every single one of us has a cross to bear. In our quest to keep up with out neighbors, in our quest to look at what everyone else is doing, we only look at the shiny things that they have- we fail to look at the stuff they don’t have, or the things that they have that might not be so good.

What we fail to recognize, what we fail to glean from our neighbors, is how they triumph over adversity. Have you ever looked at someone you know has had a hard go, and marvel at how they got through it?

How do people get through the bad stuff?

How do you get through the bad stuff?

What is your secret to getting over adversity in your life?

In a bizarre, yet not so bizarre coincidence, the morning I wrote this post I began catching up on blogs, and saw this blog by KE Garland https://kwoted.wordpress.com/2022/06/06/monday-notes-4-weeks-in-the-netherlands/ Kathy and I has some weird cosmic connection going on, as we often mirror each others thoughts and feelings. But she tells a tale of overcoming adversity and how she recently handled it.

My Daughter and the Grocery Store

If you’ve read my long enough you know that I do small grocery shops multiple times a week. I have little storage, and prefer as little food waste as possible (just give a gander at how food waste effects the environment). This is how my daughter has watched me shop over the years, and how she has learned to shop.

My daughter’s university has this thing called ABP, which is alternative break program. These are things one can do over spring break that are sort of learning experiences. My daughter participated in one during her Freshman year, and had the privilege of running one this year.

When you lead a program like this, you are responsible for everything: you are given a budget, and you need to make care of learning and enrichment experiences, transportation and food for all participants on the trip.

My daughter had no problem with reaching out to partner organizations and filling up their time with the learning portion. As she is something of a mass transit savant, the transportation portion fell in line rather quickly. But then there was the food…

They would have one day to buy the food needed to feed fifteen people for six days, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. She knew what her budget was. She had ideas as to what they would serve. But she had absolutely no idea how to decide how much of each thing to buy…, and all those other questions one asks when buying food that is supposed to last for a week.

So I got a panic call the day before the program started.

Would lettuce and tomatoes last a week? (They should if stored correctly)

Are frozen vegetables besides corn and peas OK to eat? (Yes. Check the labels though to make sure nothing is added- FYI- corn and peas are the only frozen veggies that I buy)

How much cheese do I need? Making sandwiches, quesadillas and tacos… (ummmmm….I have no idea how much cheese to buy. I think you would need X amount but I’m not sure)

Bread? (Is anyone gluten free? If not one loaf of two different types.)

And this went on and on.

Frankly, many of her questions stumped me. How do people buy groceries for multiply people a week at a time? I’ve learned to shop for how I live- it’s not easy to rethink how you’ve thought for years. I know there was a time in my life when I worked sixty hour weeks and did shop for a week at a time- but those were also the days I ate a lot of salad and grilled chicken…and ate breakfast and lunch at work…

In the end, my daughter’s particular program was the one where the kids were fed (complaints from other groups were things like cereal for three meals a day) The only thing she miscalculated on the too little side was lunch meats, and she overbought pasta. Unopened food went to the food bank, and kids took home the odds and ends that were left over.

After the program was over, my daughter stated that running this program was the greatest learning experience she has had at college. She said that hands on application of practical knowledge was needed, and this was clearly when she had to apply everything she has learned in her entire life to make this go smoothly. Reaching out to corporations and non profits to set up learning experiences, figuring out which experiences will be most beneficial, learning to budget, learning to deal with different personalities, making sure everything is treated fairly and equally, making sure everyone eats…

Sometimes you really do learn things at college.

What Inspired Me- 6/5/22

  • Had tea at Oscar Wilde Tea Room- perfectly kitsch and marvelous
  • Had delightful evening at Barcade, where I got to relive my youth and play Pac Man and Centipede
  • Manhattanhenge is where city dwellers gather in the streets to watch the sunset
  • I know I totally mocked the combined no hitter- yet there I was cheering on the 10th anniversary of Johan Santana’s no no, as he stood at the mound with the five pitchers from the combined no no….hypocrisy my name is LA
  • Gallery 300 begins the Medieval section of the Met- with an abundance of artifacts and art.
  • Also caught the new showing of baseball cards from the Burdick collection, which is tucked away in the least accessible area of the Met…