Powered By Blogger

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan

Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Knopf ISBN 978052552059
Hardcover, $27.99, 416 pages

I'm a big fan of J. Courtney Sullivan's books, (her last one Saints for All Occasions was my favorite and made my list of the Most Compelling Books of 2017), because I want to meet all of her characters in real life.

Her latest novel publishes today, Friends and Strangers, and as always, her characters are so fascinating. Elizabeth is a new mom who has moved from Brooklyn to a small university town to be closer to her husband's parents.

She has been unable to meet the success of her first novel with her second one, and feels pressure to show people that the first one was not a fluke. Her husband Andrew left a good paying job to try and get his invention for barbeque grill that runs on solar power up and running.

Elizabeth spends a lot of time scrolling through her Brooklyn moms' Facebook group page, missing her friends. She decides that if she is going to write, she needs to leave the house to do it and hire a sitter for baby Gil.

She finds Sam, a student at the nearby university, who seems perfect. She bonds with baby Gil right away, and definitely needs the money Elizabeth will pay her. Sam doesn't come from money, like her roommate or most of the other students. She works in the kitchen at school, and sometimes feels more comfortable working with the older women in the kitchen than she does with her fellow students.

Sam also befriends Andrew's father (I adored him), who used to own a successful town car service until Uber came around and destroyed his business. Now he is going to lose his home, and he has become obsessed with the income inequality he sees. The gap between the top one percent of earners and the rest of the country disturbs him and he has formed a small group of people trying to raise awareness. Sam becomes intrigued and joins his cause.

Elizabeth is seeking a friend, and she becomes close to Sam. Sam comes over for Sunday dinner every week and stays to watch TV with Elizabeth, and Elizabeth frets over Sam's romance with an older man she met in London. The line between employer and employee becomes blurred.

Every character in Friends and Strangers is so intriguing and realistic. Like Kiley Reid's  Such A Fun Age, the book dives into class, money, marriage, family, older women and younger women, the meaning of friendship, employers and employees. I liked Friends and Strangers better.

I found myself thinking about the characters long after I finished the book, a sign that it is a good book for me. I felt that Sullivan brilliantly captured the struggles of college student who feels torn, the challenges of a new mother in a new place, and a man who finds the career he built gone due to changing times. I highly recommend Friends and Strangers, and once again Jenna Bush Hager and I agree as she chose it for her Read With Jenna book club on the Today Show for July.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday 5ive- June 26,2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week. New York City has moved into Phase 2 this week, and that means restaurants can have people dining outside and retail can move to curbside pickup. So far, so good.

1)  This week's photos of flowers comes from our own apartment balcony. Our planters have really exploded this week, I'm not sure how much longer they will be able to be contained.

2)  Now that Phase 2 has started, restaurants in NYC can have outdoor seating. The problem with that is that there is very little space outside many restaurants. They have gotten creative in building outdoor dining areas right in the street, which I find a little disconcerting. It may work on a side street, but the first restaurant pictured has tables in the bus lane on Second Ave. I like what Petaluma did with their outdoor tables on the sidewalk- they have tall dividers that give some measure of privacy.

Formerly a bus lane, now fine dining

Tables on a side street

Tables on a sidewalk behind tall dividers- I like this one

3)  We were lucky enough to travel to Italy the last two years, and had hoped to return this year, but that was not to be. Our friend Alberto at Cortona Wine Tours started a Wine Club, and we were able to order a case of wine from him. It arrived this week and we will doing a live online tasting with him on Sunday. It's the next best thing.

4)  We had tickets to go see comedian Jim Gaffigan at Radio City Music Hall in April, but that too was a no-go. I signed up for text messages from him, and he has been sending videos of his comedy bits every day. They are just short 10 minutes or so, and it's always good to have a laugh during the day. You can subscribe on his YouTube Channel here. 

5)  I got a lot of reading done last week. For my Juneteenth Weekend Reads, first up was Jesmyn Ward's memoir Men We Reaped, about five young men (including her brother) from her hometown in the rural South who died at a young age. It's heartbreaking and illuminating, about race and poverty.

Saeed Jones' memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, is about his life as black gay man growing up in Texas. He is a poet, and every word is deliberately chosen in this powerful, searing book. He won the LAMBDA Award for memoir this year and it is well- deserved. It's a good read for Pride Month too.

Imbolo Mbue's novel, Behold the Dreamers, was also a good read for Immigrant Heritage Month. It tells the story of an immigrant couple from Cameroon who come to New York City for a better life for their young son. The husband gets a job as a driver for a Lehman Brothers executive, and his wife studies to be a pharmacist. They work hard and life is pretty good until the destruction of Lehman Brothers at the beginning of the economic crisis of 2008 threatens everything. So many people recommended this one, I really loved it.

Connie Schultz's The Daughters of Erietown takes place in an industrial town in Ohio from the 1950s to the 1970's. Ellie, a young high school girl, becomes pregnant, and she and her boyfriend Brick put their dreams for college on hold, marry and move to Erietown, where he gets a job as a maintenance man and she raises their family. Like Behold the Dreamers, it's about what happens when your plans are derailed, and how that effects everyone. It's a terrific novel.

I hope you enjoying the warm weather and that you are staying safe. Wear your mask, socially distance, and wash your hands.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell

The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
Published by Algonquin Books ISBN 9781616208578
Hardcover, $26.95, 336 pages

In Richard Farrell's debut novel The Falling Woman, Erin is fighting a tough battle with pancreatic cancer. When she and her husband Doug, who has been by her side caring for her, receive the latest test results, the news is not great. She is not in remission, but she will need to continue treatment, to keep fighting.

Erin is tired, and not sure how much longer she can fight. She decides to fly to a cancer survivors retreat, something that concerns Doug. The flight that Erin is on crashes over the Kansas farmland, and it appears there are no survivors.

But Erin is thrown from the plane and lands in a barn. She is found by the owner, and taken to the hospital. Before she can be questioned by the authorities as to what happened, Erin disappears.

Charlie is an investigator for the NTSB. This accident is the first major case he is assigned to, and if he does a good job, he will move up the ranks and gain respectability. He is assigned to identify the 123 bodies, a gruesome and difficult task, but one he takes very seriously.

When rumors of a female survivor swirl, the media leaps on the story. The lead investigator assigns Charlie to track the woman, and determine whether she exists or it is a hoax. This upsets Charlie, he feels it is a waste of time, and he is in a no-win situation.

Erin hides out in a cabin in Virginia, she has decided not to tell anyone that she is alive. Her husband and daughters have already mourned once, and they will have to mourn all over again when she dies of cancer.

Charlie tracks her down and tries to convince her that she must come forward. She owes it to her family, and the families of the other six women who hold out hope that it is their loved one who is the survivor.

The scenes between Charlie and Erin are the heart of this intriguing story. Can he convince her to come forward and save his job or will Erin convince him that she is entitled to live out her final days in peace? Charlie also confides in Erin about a major step he and his wife have to decide.

We see the government bureaucracy at work as the higher-ups in the NTSB want to shift blame for anything that can go wrong with the investigation, and I found the steps the investigators took at the crash sight intriguing.  I liked the character of Lucy, the investigator who put forth the idea that other people have survived plane crashes and maybe someone did here as well.

There is action and two characters thrown together who have to convince the other of what is morally right. The Falling Woman feels like a cross between The Fugitive movie and Ann Napolitano's novel Dear Edward.  Readers will spend time wondering what they would do in Charlie and Erin's positions. Farrell's first novel is thought-provoking, it will be interesting to see where he goes with his next one.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Richard Farrell's tour.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Friday 5ive- June 20, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. The weather was spectacular last week, sunny and warm, perfect for sitting outside and reading a good book (or two or three or four).

1) It's so wonderful to see all the flowers in bloom, like these beautiful hydrangeas. They just make me smile.

2) Speaking of flowers, I ordered these paint by numbers kits of flowers for the gals to do while the guys go golfing. One of my friends did something similiar with her family, and we ladies thought it looked like fun. I'll post the results on an upcoming edition of the Friday 5ive. (Warning- I can barely draw stick people, so we'll see if I am any better at this.) I ordered them from The BookMark Shoppe in Brooklyn on Tuesday and they arrived on Wednesday- what great customer service! Shout-out for indie booksellers!

3)  June is Immigrant Heritage Month and when I was looking through my bookshelves for books to post on the Book Cellar Facebook page, I came up with quite a variety of books. I've read seven of them (and all were great), so I think I will try to read one of these per week to catch up. #ReadingGoals
Immigrant Heritage Month books

4) We watched the last episode of Showtime's Billions this week (their season was shortened by the COVID outbreak), and I was so excited to see Rick Hoffman playing a small role as sleazy doctor. Hoffman played lawyer Louis Litt for seven seasons on USA Network's Suits, which my son, his wife, and I loved. I went on Twitter and discovered that many Suits fans were as thrilled as I was to see him back on TV. (It's the little things.....)
Rick Hoffman on the left on Billions

5) As I said, I read a lot this past week (four books) in the sunshine, and it was glorious. (Click on the book titles under the photos for links to purchase.)

First I read actress Hilarie Burton Morgan's The Rural Diaries, a memoir about her and her actor husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan and their young son moving from Hollywood to a farm in Rhinebeck, NY, a few hours north of NYC. It's terrific, and the perfect tonic for those of us stuck inside. Burton Morgan shares what life is like on a farm, her hands-on remodel of their farmhouse, and friends she made in a small town. I highly recommend it. I bought this from Oblong Books & Music independent bookstore in Rhinebeck, and Burton Morgan personally signed every copy they sold- they are up to 7355 so far- amazing!
The Rural Diaries

Another great book I read is Regina Porter's 2019 novel, The Travelers, which weaves the stories of several people from two families from 1954 to 2010. It's about love, marriage, family, race, friendship- in short, life. Porter is a brilliant writer, and if you are looking to read more black voices, pick this one up. I read it in one day, I couldn't put it down.
The Travelers

I also read Emma Jane Unsworth's novel Grown Ups, which for some reason I thought was a memoir when I started reading it. (My first clue it wasn't should have been that the narrator's name is Jenny, not Emma.) Jenny is a 35-year-old Londoner who writes a column for an online site called Foof, pitched for feminists. She lives with her somewhat-famous photographer boyfriend Art until they break up and she has to take in three roommates she doesn't like. She avoids her mother, until her mother shows up to move in with her. The book is a fast read, with texts, emails and social media posts interspersed. Jenny is kind of a mess, but she says things that will make you laugh out loud one minute and tear up the next. Although I am someone who is not the target age for this novel, I still enjoyed taking Jenny's journey with her. 
Grown Ups

And lastly, I read Richard Farrell's upcoming novel The Falling Woman, the story of Erin, a middle-aged woman facing a deadly pancreatic cancer diagnosis She gets on a plane that explodes over Kansas, and is the only survivor. She disappears from the hospital before Charlie, the young NTSB investigator tasked with finding out if it is truth or a hoax that there was a female survivor, can talk to her. This is Charlie's first time working a major disaster and if he can't get answers, his career will be finished before it begins. Why did Erin disappear? Why doesn't she want her family to know she is alive?  Fans of Dear Edward will want to read this one. My full review posts on Tuesday.
The Falling Woman

 Have a great week everyone- stay safe and healthy and wash your hands.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West

Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778305095
Hardcover, $27.99, 320 pages
I love reading a debut novel from a new author, the excitement of finding a new voice, knowing that the author has poured everything into this endeavor. Catherine Adel West's Saving Ruby King is a debut novel, and it's brilliant.

The novel opens with Ruby King's mother murdered in her own home on the South Side of Chicago. Many people suspect Ruby's father, a man with a bad temper who had spent time in prison for killing a man years ago. People suspected that Ruby's father Lebanon beat his wife, but that was a not so hidden secret.

Ruby's best friend since childhood, Layla, is concerned for Ruby's safety. Ruby is distraught, but won't allow Layla to help. Layla's father, Jackson, the pastor of Calvary Church, has known Lebanon since childhood, and has been secretly giving money to Lebanon for some unknown reason.

Layla wants to help Ruby, but Jackson orders her to stay away from Lebanon. Layla and her father have been butting heads recently, and things that have been simmering under the surface are coming to a head.

The story is alternately narrated by Layla, Jackson, Ruby, Lebanon, and even Calvary Church narrates secrets that have happened within its walls. The two families have grown up in that church, from Lebanon and Jackson's mothers as children, to Layla and Ruby.

Saving Ruby King has elements of a mystery to it- who killed Ruby's mother, why is Jackson giving money to Lebanon- as well as a multigenerational story about secrets and the damage that keeping those secrets can cause down through the generations.

I found myself totally absorbed in this emotional story from the opening pages, and every revelation was another gut punch. The idea of Calvary Church narrating parts of the story worked so well, the church is central to the lives of these people.

I highly recommend Saving Ruby King for anyone who likes a compelling story, with characters that you can empathize with, and a strong sense of setting. I hope to be reading more books from Catherine Adel West in the very near future, she is a wonderful writer. And if you want to read more books by black authors, Saving Ruby King is a good place to start.

That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson

That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson
Published by MIRA Books ISBN 9780778351238
Trade paperback, $16.99, 320 pages

Brianna Wolfson's first novel, Rosie Colored Glasses, is about a mother-daughter relationship. Her second novel, That Summer In Maine, tells the stories of two mothers and daughters and the one thing that binds them together.

Hazel is 16 years old, and her mom Jane raised Hazel all on her own. Hazel never knew her father and she and her mom were inseperable, sharing everything, including bowls of ice cream in bed at night.

Now Jane is married, and with her husband Cam has twin baby boys who take up all her time and energy. The relationship Hazel and Jane had has changed, and Hazel feels left out, never more so than when she sees her mother sharing ice cream in bed with Cam instead of her.

Hazel receives a message from a 16 year-old girl named Eve who looks like her and tells her that she thinks they are sisters. Eve tells Hazel that she is going to visit their biological father in Maine and asks Hazel to come with her.

Jane is shocked. She had no idea that Hazel's father Silas had another child, let alone one who was born so close to Hazel. Jane, Cam and Hazel meet with Eve's parents, and after Hazel insists she is going whether Jane approves or not, Jane relents and allows Hazel to go to Maine.

Eve's mother Susie gives Jane a notebook that she wrote to Eve, explaining everything that happened during that summer in Maine when she met Silas and returned home pregnant with Eve. As Jane reads the notebook, she decides to write her own story of how she met Silas that same summer in Maine, became pregnant, and left to have Hazel on her own.

We get to read both woman's notebooks, and follow Eve and Hazel's summer trip to Maine to stay with Silas, their artist father who lives in a cabin on a beautiful lake. Eve has already spent part of last summer with Silas, so she has established a relationship with him. Hazel has some catching up to do, but she enjoys having a sister and a father, something new to her.

Wolfson writes the mother-daughter relationship so well, and she captures the teenage voices of Eve and Hazel so beautifully and realistically. Eve has underlying anger issues, and she vacillates between wanting to be a fun party girl and being angry at her parents and the world. Hazel wants to fill the void left by her changing relationship with her mom, but is uncertain if Silas and Eve can do that.

I liked that the character of Silas is so layered. He's not just some guy who left two women pregnant, he has something in his past that he cannot seem to get over, a deep hurt. I didn't like that he gave teenage girls beer, though.  Bad judgement there, Silas.

That Summer in Maine is a novel that will appeal to adult women and teenage young women. I think many young women can relate to the feelings that Eve and Hazel have, as older women will to Jane and Susie's stories.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer Reads 2020 Tour.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Friday 5ive- June 12, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. June is a month filled with birthday, anniversaries and graduations in our family. Two of our nephews graduated from high school this month, and their school and family were very creative in their celebration of this auspicious occasion.

1)  Last Saturday was my husband and my 33rd Anniversary, and we celebrated with a surf and turf dinner on the grill at the home upstate where we are staying on weekends. We’ve never grilled lobster tails and they turned out pretty good! It was a lovely evening and we got to share it with our older son and his wife.  We celebrated their 2nd anniversary on Monday with takeout from Underhill Crossings in Bronxville. The food was delicious- we shared Clams Casino and I had a tasty Cobb Salad and Ravioli in a Sage Butter Sauce. We will be ordering from there again! You can find their website here: http://underhillscrossing.com/
Anniversary flowers
Grilled lobster tails

2)  This week I voted by absentee ballot in the Democratic primary in New York State. It was an easy process and I have voted in every election since I was 18. It’s important to make your voice heard and it’s our responsibility as citizens to vote.

3)  I told you a few weeks ago that my sons and I signed up for Summer Around the Finger Lakes, where we ride enough miles between June 1 and September to ride around each of the 11 Finger Lakes. This week I crossed the 100 mile mark, along with my sons and my friend Kelly who told us about the ride. They are all in the Top 50 riders, our of nearly 1000 riders. Go team! It’s not too late to join, more information is here. http://yellowjacketracing.com/races/summer-around-the-finger-lakes

4)  Every week I try to order a book from an independent bookstore. This week I ordered from Books and Crannies, a black-owned bookstore in Martinsville, Virginia that I found on Twitter. I love that the woman who owns the store is a mom to an 11 year-old son and 1 year old daughter, and she closes her store to go watch her son play basketball for his team, and brings her daughter to the store while she works. As a mom whose sons played sports, I appreciate that. If you can, support an independent bookstore. You can find Books and Crannies here. https://www.booksandcranniesva.com/

5)   I got a lot of reading done this week. I read Emma Straub’s All Adults Here, a wonderful family story about accepting and loving people as they are, and it’s a good read for Pride Month. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/318841/all-adults-here-by-emma-straub/
 I also read Catherine Adel  West’s novel, Saving Ruby King, a family drama set on the South Side of, Chicago, about the secrets that can destroy generations. I loved that the neighborhood church is actually a character that narrates events that happened within its walls. It’s a fantastic, heart wrenching novel.https://www.harlequintradepublishing.com/shop/books/9781488057250_saving-ruby-king.html
 I also read That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson, about two teenager girls who spend a summer with the man they never knew was their father. It was a week for family dramas. https://www.harlequintradepublishing.com/shop/books/9781488088599_that-summer-in-maine.html

I hope you stay safe and healthy.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Summer Reads

Reprinted from the Citizen: (Click on the titles under the photos for more information on each book.)

With Memorial Day in the rear view mirror it’s time to gear up for summer, and that means it’s time for my annual Summer Reading Recommendations List. Since most of us are staying close to home, it’s a good time to let books take us away.

There are some authors who are closely associated with summer, and Mary Kay Andrews is one. In her latest novel, Hello, Summer, Conley has to move back to her beach town hometown in the Florida Panhandle when the news agency she was going to work for went out of business. Her sister publishes the local newspaper, owned by their family for four generations but in danger of folding. When Conley comes upon a car accident where the local Congressman is killed, she “kicks up dirt” and angers some townspeople. I always wanted to be Brenda Starr, so this book was perfect for me. 
Hello, Summer 

Elin Hilderbrand is another “summer author”, and this year’s entry is “28 Summers”. It’s similar to the movie Same Time, Next Year, about two married people who meet every year to carry on an affair over 28 summers, but things become more complicated as the years roll on.
28 Summers

If you like a good mystery to dig into, Hannah Mary McKinnon’s Sister Dear is about a young woman who discovers her father is not her biological father. She insinuates herself into her beautiful, wealthy, successful half-sister’s life, befriending her and working for her and her husband. The ending of this novel is a corker, you will gasp out loud. 
Sister Dear

If you’re a fan of the Lifetime Movie Channel, Kimberly McCreight’s psychological thriller A Good Marriage is perfect for you. When a woman ends up murdered after a neighborhood party, the secrets of all the married couples bubble up to the surface. It’s a twisty mystery where you don’t know whom to trust.
A Good Marriage

Curtis Sittenfeld imagines what life would have been like for Hillary Rodham if she had not married Bill Clinton in her novel Rodham. There may be no one public figure over the last thirty years who has had more written about them, and Sittenfeld’s fascinating story, divided into three sections- The Catch, The Woman, The Front Runner-, really takes off in the last section. 

For those who like to follow popular book clubs, Reese Witherspoon’s May choice-  Alka Joshi's The Henna Artist- takes you away to 1950s India, where a young henna artist strives for a better life and ends up caring for a young sister she didn’t know about. It will transport you.
The Henna Artist

Jenna Bush Hager chose Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel, Valentine recently, and that book also transports you, but to 1970s Odessa, Texas. When a young Mexican teen is brutally attacked, it affects the women in the town. The characters are compelling, and the story is powerful. 

With so much time on our hands, we’ve been binge-watching television shows. To go along with that, there are two new books about situation comedies. Marc Freeman’s Modern Family has interviews with the actors, producers, and writers from the show that just ended its highly successful eleven season run. 
Modern Family

Andy Greene’s The Office- The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000’s also has interviews with actors, writers, and producers of the iconic show. He goes season by season, and does a deep dive into one episode for each of the nine seasons of the show. This is a must-read for fans of the show.
The Office

Father’s Day is coming up this month, and Dad may appreciate a good book this year. Tom Papa’s You’re Doing Great! is a collection of essays from this hilarious comedian, who also has a new Netflix comedy special with the same name. Fans of Jim Gaffigan should give it a try.
You're Doing Great!

If Dad is a true crime fan, Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge’s book, Hunting Whitey follows the FBI agents who successfully tracked down one of the most wanted fugitives in American history, Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. 
Hunting Whitey

There are some wonderful books now out in paperback as well- Lisa Grunwald’s Time After Time a beautiful love story with a time travel aspect set in Grand Central Station in New York City in the 1940s, Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes , about two Irish families who live next to each other and are devastated by a tragedy, and Kate Mulgrew’s How to Forget, a memoir about the life of her parents, and caring for her mother with Alzheimer’s. 
How to Forget
Time After Time

Ask Again, Yes

Happy Summer to all!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Friday 5ive- June 5, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. This week seems like a year, doesn't it? New York City has dealt with COVID, and we seem to be on the back side of it thank goodness. This week has seen daily peaceful protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, and looting and mayhem at night by people taking advantage of a horrible situation. Now NYC is under a nightly curfew. Things seem to be calmer as the week moves on.

1) Every week I purchase a book online from an independent bookstore- I've bought books from Books Are Magic and The BookMark Shoppe in Brooklyn, Astoria Book Shop in Queens, Book Revue on Long Island, The Rivers' End Bookstore in Oswego, and Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck. This week I bought a book from The Lit.Bar, a black-owned bookstore in the Bronx. If you want to do something constructive, make a purchase from a black-owned bookstore, restaurant or business. It's a simple way to show your support. BuzzFeed put together a list here.

2)  My husband and I stopped at this little deli in Port Ewen to get some sandwiches for lunch. It's such a cute shop, like something you'd see in Mayberry. They have delicious sandwiches, and one entire wall is covered with a list of their specialty sandwiches, like The Dugout, The Texan, and High 5. They have a comic book rack and a baseball card display. I haven't seen one of those in years. I also saw a two hams sitting in the back, fresh out of the oven and ready to be sliced. If you ever find yourself in Port Ewen in the Hudson Valley, stop in.
Sandwich Wall

Comic Book Rack

Baseball Card Display

3)  Now that the weather has turned warm, restaurants in our neighborhood are setting up tables just inside their doors and selling adult beverages to go. Oda House, a Georgian (Russia, not US) restaurant up the street from us just set up a table to sell drinks and dumplings to go. It's sort of like a street fair atmosphere.

4)  My friend Kelly told me about a virtual bike race, Summer Around the Finger Lakes. You can virtually ride, walk or paddle your way around the 11 Finger Lakes in or around your home, and eventually you will build up enough miles to go around all the lakes. You submit your results from June 1- September 30, and you get a medal for each lake you traverse. My two sons and I signed up, and we now when we ride our Peletons, we get credit for the rides. So far it's been a blast, and I've recruited my nieces too. 

5) I finished two books this week- Molly Fader's The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season (my review is here) and Kimberly Belle's Stranger in the Lake (my review here. The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season is about a young woman who brings her daughter to her aunt's cherry orchard in Michigan, on the run from someone. Aunt Peg has a secret too, and it's a wonderful book about family, and a balm to escape these troubled weeks. 

Anyone who liked The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl will want to put Stranger in the Lake on their summer reading list. A young woman discovers a dead body drowned under the dock near her and her husband's home, in the same spot where his first wife drowned four years ago. Is her husband a killer? 
I just started Britt Bennett's The Vanishing Half, about two light-skinned black twin sisters who leave their small town home in Louisiana in 1954. One sister leaves her sister behind to start her own life living as a white woman, and the other returns home with a daughter. I am tearing through this book, it is so fantastic and beautifully written. I can't wait to finish it. 

I hope you all stay safe and healthy.