Saturday, August 18, 2007

Books I Read on Vacation

I’ve been composing this post in my head since returning from vacation to a billion business emails, a SITE-SoCal meeting, and getting my son ready for his send-off to college on Monday. This year’s vacation awarded me ample time for reading and here’s a peek at what I enjoyed most:

EVERY CROOKED POT, by Renee Rosen. Most people have scars from childhood and adolescence, but hide them inside the people they grow up to be. Renee Rosen’s character, Nina, takes us on a wacky, witty, and wonderful ride through the 1960s and 1970s in search of a fix for a disfiguring birthmark over her eye. Nina is sympathetic without being maudlin and humorous without being absurd. A colorful cast of characters, led by her clarinet-playing, carpet-baron Daddy, make EVERY CROOKED POT one of my favorite books of the year.

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, by J.K. Rowling. I spent a full day immersed in the magical world of J.K. Rowling, devouring this final tome in the Harry Potter series. The series ended without any big surprises, revealing the true natures of several key characters. Most rewarding was seeing the awkward orphan of book one become what Professor Dumbledore calls, “ wonderful boy. You brave, brave man.”

THE LIAR’S DIARY, by Patry Francis. Patry weaves a stunning tale of loyalty and betrayal, confidence and deceit, love and murder. The story grabbed me early on, but the vivid, haunting characters jumped from the pages into the community around me. THE LIAR’S DIARY kept me guessing with sadness through every chapter, then concluded with a twist I never saw coming.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS, by Augusten Burroughs. Anyone who enjoyed Augusten’s memoir, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, will get a kick out of this new collection of essays. Augusten writes about his quirks, oddities, and sensibilities with swashes of brilliant color and blinding insight. I am compelled to call his writing “Van Gogh with words.” Augusten’s brother, John Elder Robison (LOOK ME IN THE EYE), gave me this book at BEA and signed it, “the big brother.”

ALEX AND THE IRONIC GENTLEMAN, by Adrienne Kress. I confess, I probably wouldn’t have read this middle-grade adventure tale if not written by my Backspace friend, Adrienne. What I found between the charming cover and the final page is an adorable heroine, Alex , tomboy with a love for adventure. Throw in a nutty crew of adversaries and compatriots, a quest for pirate’s treasure, and you have a terrific children’s story. Adrienne’s writing style is particularly keen for reading aloud.

PROMISE NOT TO TELL, by Jennifer McMahon. Imagine growing up in a commune in Vermont during the 1970s. That is a story in itself, no? Jennifer deftly reflects between her character’s unconventional upbringing and the person she became after she moved away. The night Kate Cypher returns to the commune to make arrangements for the care of her mother diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a young girl is ritualistically murdered in the same manner as the unsolved murder of Kate’s best friend thirty years earlier. PROMISE NOT TO TELL is a spooky tale of avenging spirits and redemptive love.

What good books have you read this summer? Click the blue comments link below.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Chesapeake Bay: July 2007

I didn’t think it was possible to be so blissed-out that I couldn’t write. Chesapeake Bay did that to me.

Three years ago we stayed at the Chesapeake Beach Resort & Spa and fell in love with Chesapeake Bay. When BassMan’s parents requested only a low-key family gathering for their 50th anniversary, both BassMan and I thought of taking them to Chesapeake Bay. I searched the internet for the perfect location and found a gorgeous weekly rental house on a private beach in Port Republic, Maryland. This glorious bayfront house owned by Greg and Alicia Yowell was like a private Ritz-Carlton villa in a secluded section of paradise. I rose every morning to watch the sunrise over the bay.

My first morning, however, was framed by the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series. Having been a fan of the Boy-Who-Lived since his first adventure in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE, I had already done my internet research to find the nearest store where I could buy HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS. I spent my first full day in Chesapeake lying on the sofa in the sunroom, a bayside breeze catching the pages as I turned them with record speed.

I took breaks to visit with BassMan’s parents, his sister, her husband, and their two young children. BassMan grilled delicious beer-can chicken, Elisabeth and Jonathan played with their little cousins in the bay, the senior Basses sat on the deck watching the kids play, and I read until midnight. Rising with the sun again the next day, I finished the final tome by eight, just about the time the rest of the house began to stir.

Port Republic, Maryland is only about an hour east of Washington, DC, but it might as well be on the other side of the world when considering its seclusion. I could fill several blog pages about our stay in Chesapeake Bay, but I don't want to be one of those boring neighbors telling vacation stories. Here are just a few of the highest highlights:

  • Viewing bald eagles soaring over Chesapeake Bay, swooping down to catch a fish and carry it wiggling in its claws all the way back to its nest in the cliffside trees.
  • Finding three giant Chesapecten jeffersonius scallop fossils during my daily shore walks.

  • Watching two elegant cownose rays gliding through the clear morning water as gracefully as the eagles soaring above.

  • Enjoying crabcakes and other seafood delights at local eateries.

  • Discovering what it is about the ocean that I love so much. That will require a blog post of its own. Maybe later.
Click here to view my Chesapeake Bay photo gallery.