September 30, 2019

After Her

After Her by Joyce Maynard
2013 William Morrow
Finished on September 26, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author of Labor Day and The Good Daughters returns with a warm and haunting novel of sisterhood, adolescence, sacrifice, and suspense

It's the summer of 1979, and a dry, hot, northern California school vacation stretches ahead for Rachel and her younger sister Patty-the daughters of a larger-than-life, irresistibly handsome and chronically unfaithful detective father who loves to make women happy, and the mother whose heart he broke.

Left to their own devices, the inseparable sisters spend their days studying record jackets, concocting elaborate fantasies about the life of the mysterious neighbor who moves in down the street, and playing dangerous games on the mountain that rises up behind their house.

When young women start showing up dead on the mountain, the girls' father is charged with finding the man responsible, known as The Sunset Strangler. Seeing her father's life slowly unravel when he fails to stop the murders, Rachel embarks on her most dangerous game yet: setting herself up as bait to catch the killer, with consequences that will destroy her father's career and alter the lives of everyone she loves.

It is not until thirty years later that Rachel, who has never given up hope of vindicating her father, finally smokes out the killer, bringing her back to the territory of her childhood, and uncovering a long-buried family secret.

As with her novel Labor Day, Maynard's newest work is part thriller, part love story. Loosely inspired by the Trailside Killer case that terrorized Marin County in the late seventies, her tale delves deep into the alternately thrilling and terrifying landscape of a young girl's first explorations of adult sexuality and the loss of innocence, the bond between sisters - and into a daughter's tender but damaged relationship with her father, and what it is to finally trust a man.

I've had an ARC of this book on my shelf for six years and decided to add it to my stack of books for our road trip since I've know any book by Joyce Maynard is sure to be a winner. As with her previous novels (reviewed here), I was immediately drawn into the story, the opening chapters reading like a memoir, which is one of my favorite genres. As I read, I began to wonder if this story was loosely based on fact (the publisher's blurb on the ARC is not as detailed as that on the hardcover edition posted above) and learned in the book's acknowledgments that certain details were indeed based on a true story.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of this coming-of-age novel, but felt that the ending fell short, with somewhat unrealistic dialogue between the main character and the killer. With that said, it's still a solid read, and one which can be read in just a few short days. I, however, took much longer as I was preoccupied with my daughter's wedding, as well as a two-month long road trip.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes

The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper & Gloria Vanderbilt
Nonfiction - Memoir
2016 HarperAudio
Read by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt
Finished on September 3, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A touching and intimate correspondence between Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offering timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives

Though Anderson Cooper has always considered himself close to his mother, his intensely busy career as a journalist for CNN and CBS affords him little time to spend with her. After she suffers a brief but serious illness at the age of ninety-one, they resolve to change their relationship by beginning a year-long conversation unlike any they had ever had before. The result is a correspondence of surprising honesty and depth in which they discuss their lives, the things that matter to them, and what they still want to learn about each other.

Both a son’s love letter to his mother and an unconventional mom’s life lessons for her grown son, The Rainbow Comes and Goes offers a rare window into their close relationship and fascinating life stories, including their tragedies and triumphs. In these often humorous and moving exchanges, they share their most private thoughts and the hard-earned truths they’ve learned along the way. In their words their distinctive personalities shine through—Anderson’s journalistic outlook on the world is a sharp contrast to his mother’s idealism and unwavering optimism.

An appealing memoir with inspirational advice, The Rainbow Comes and Goes is a beautiful and affectionate celebration of the universal bond between a parent and a child, and a thoughtful reflection on life, reminding us of the precious insight that remains to be shared, no matter our age.

I first encountered Anderson Cooper's exceptional writing when I l read his previous memoir Dispatches from the Edge (reviewed here) and fell in love with his stories. I opted for the audio version of his new book and found enjoyment in both his and his mother's narratives. Gloria's voice brings so much emotion to the memoir, I found myself tearing up as she shared painful memories of her childhood, as well as that of the loss of her son, Carter. I borrowed a hard copy of the book from my library in order to mark my favorite passages, but think I may have to buy a copy for a second reading. This was such a great memoir!
When we're young we all waste so much time being reserved or embarrassed with our parents, resenting them or wishing they and we were entirely different people. This changes when we become adults, but we don't often explore new ways of talking and conversing, and we put off discussing complex issues or raising difficult questions. We think we'll do it one day, in the future, but life gets in the way, and then it's too late. I didn't want there to be anything left unsaid between my mother and me, so on her ninety-first birthday I decided to start a new kind of conversation with her, a conversation about her life. It ended up changing our relationship, bringing us closer than either of us had ever thought possible. (Anderson)
My mom has been famous for longer than just about anyone else alive today. Her birth made headlines, and for better or worse, she's been in the public eye ever since. Her successes and failure have played out on a very brightly lit stage, and she has lived many different lives; she has been an actress, an artist, a designer, and a writer; she's made fortunes, lost them, and made them back again. She has survived abuse, the loss of her parents, the death of a spouse, the suicide of a son, and countless other traumas and betrayals that might have defeated someone without her relentless determination. (Anderson)
My mom is now ninety-two, but she has never looked her age and she has rarely felt it, either. People often say about someone that age, "She's as sharp as ever," but my mom is actually sharper than ever. She sees her past in perspective. The little things that once seemed important to her no longer are. She has clarity about her life that I am only beginning to have about mine. (Anderson)
How can my body betray me when there is so much still to be done? You see, it isn't age itself that betrays you; it is your body, and with its deterioration goes your power. You end up obsessed, entirely focused on your health, paying attention to every nuance, every ache and pain. Instead of working or living your life, you waste your time on appointments with doctors. (Gloria)
I wish I had written this post as soon as I'd finished listening to the book. It's been almost a month and life has been very hectic, so I'm afraid this is all I can share. If you're a fan of memoirs, you don't want to miss this one. It's not just a memoir about Gloria Vanderbilt's life (which was very enlightening), but also a inspirational, heartfelt love letter between a mother and her son. Highly recommend!

September 18, 2019

Wordless Wednesday

Wedding Week! Bridal Brunch for Amy at the Amaya (Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

September 16, 2019


Atonement by Ian McEwan
2002 Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Finished on 9/4/19
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her older sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching Cecilia is their housekeeper’s son Robbie Turner, a childhood friend who, along with Briony’s sister, has recently graduated from Cambridge.

By the end of that day the lives of all three will have been changed forever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not dared to approach and will have become victims of the younger girl’s scheming imagination. And Briony will have committed a dreadful crime, the guilt for which will color her entire life.

In each of his novels Ian McEwan has brilliantly drawn his reader into the intimate lives and situations of his characters; but never before has he worked with so large a canvas. Atonement is Ian McEwan’s finest achievement. Brilliant and utterly enthralling in its depiction of childhood, love and war, England and class, Atonement is at its center a profound—and profoundly moving—exploration of shame and forgiveness, and the difficulty of absolution.

I first read this novel in 2001. I had received an ARC months before its publication date and was so excited to tell everyone about this wonderful book when it was finally released. I gave it a 5-star rating and it was my number one read of the year. I've had it on my shelf for 18 years, always hoping to make time to read it a second time, so after chatting with some friends about the books we've read and loved that others loathed, I decided the time had come. I had to see what I might had missed and why so many readers disliked this novel as much as they did.

It may come as a shock to many, but I am now one of those readers and it makes me sad to be so disappointed with a book after feeling so strongly about it for all those years. But it was all I could do to finish reading it and had I not previously read and loved it, I might have given up by the 50 page mark. Unlike my first reading, I did not find the story at all compelling or intense, but rather, I was bored with McEwan’s wordiness and impatient with the characters. In 2001, I wrote:
Even though I was sure of the eventual outcome (and with whom the blame lay), I was still completely engrossed in the narrative, reading as quickly as possible, yet knowing I should slow down and enjoy the story. The publisher’s blurb claims that Briony has a scheming imagination, but that implies malice and cruel intent, which I don’t believe is the case. I think Briony was simply na├»ve with an overly active imagination.
Well, that was my initial reaction, but upon a second reading, I no longer believe she was quite so innocent. She knew her accusation was unfair and unjust and yet she stood firm rather than admit a mistake.
They were safe, Cecilia was with Leon, and she, Briony, was free to wander in the dark and contemplate her extraordinary day. Her childhood had ended, she decided now as she came away from the swimming pool, the moment she tore down her poster. The fairy stories were behind her, and in the space of a few hours she had witnessed mysteries, seen an unspeakable word, interrupted brutal behavior, and by incurring the hatred of an adult whom everyone trusted—but whose heart she alone knew was black—she had become a participant in the drama of life beyond the nursery. All she had to do now was discover the stories, not just the subjects, but a way of unfolding them, that would do justice to her new knowledge. Or did she mean, her wiser grasp of her own ignorance?
By clinging tightly to what she believed she knew, narrowing her thoughts, reiterating her testimony, she was able to keep from mind the damage she only dimly sensed she was doing. When the matter was closed, when the sentence was passed and the congregation dispersed, a ruthless youthful forgetting, a willful erasing, protected her well into her teens.
Her memories of the interrogation and signed statements and testimony, or of her awe outside the courtroom from which her youth excluded her, would not trouble her so much in the years to come as her fragmented recollection of that late night and summer dawn. How guilt refined the methods of self-torture, threading the beads of detail into an eternal loop, a rosary to be fingered for a lifetime.

In spite of a disappointing second read, I do not intend to stop re-reading my favorite books. Many books have proven to be just as good, if not better, than my initial reading. I don't know why there was such a disparity in my reactions to this novel, but I'm not going to waste anymore time over-analyzing my opinion. How about you? Have you ever read a book you loved but wound up disliking it after the second reading?

September 3, 2019

A Month in Summary - August 2019

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon

August was the great month of distraction, so there was very little reading going on and I managed to finish only two books. What distractions, you ask? Well, of course we are busy getting ready to head out on another two-month long journey. This takes an enormous amount of planning & packing and since the ultimate goal is to attend our daughter's wedding in San Diego, we have been busy shopping for our wedding clothes. I can't tell you how many dresses I have purchased (and returned!) from Nordstrom until finally settling on THE mother-of-the-bride dress.

In addition to making lists, crossing off tasks and slowly packing for our road trip, we have driven to and from Seattle twice in as many weeks. My 86-year-old mother took a Holland America cruise to Alaska and we volunteered to get her on and off the ship so she wouldn't have to fly from Portland to Seattle, fussing with all that complicated travel. This also allowed us to spend some time with my stepmom, as well as pick up our new-to-us Smart car, which we bought from her.

The month flew by far too quickly and as I write this, I know the next three weeks are going to be a blur! We left Depoe Bay yesterday morning and are spending a couple of days in Bandon before continuing south. We should arrive in San Diego in a little over a week.

Books Read in August:

Henry, Himself by Stuart O'Nan

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

First Lines:

His mother named him Henry, after her older brother, a chaplain killed in the Great War, as if he might take his place. In family lore the dead Henry had been a softhearted boy, a rescuer of stranded earthworms and fallen sparrows, presaging his vocation as a saver of souls. Salutatorian of his seminary class, he volunteered for duty overseas, sending home poems and charcoal sketches of life in the trenches. At church the stained-glass window that showed a barefoot Christ carrying a wayward lamb draped about his neck like a stole was dedicated in loving memory of the Rt. Rev. Henry Leland Chase, 1893-1917, the mock-Gothic inscription so elaborate it verged on illegibility, and each Sunday as they made their was to their pew up front, his mother would bow her head as they passed, as if to point out, once more, his uncle's saintliness. When he was little, Henry believed he was buried there, that beneath the cold stone floor of Calvary Episcopal, as below the medieval cathedrals of Europe, the noble dead moldered in cobwebbed catacombs, and that one day he would be there too. (Henry, Himself)

Francis Gleeson, tall and thin in his powder blue policeman's uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct. A pair of pantyhose had been hung to dry on a fourth floor fire escape near 167th, and while he waited for another rookie, a cop named Stanhope, Francis noted the perfect stillness of those gossamer legs, the delicate curve where the heel was meant to be. (Ask Again, Yes)

Movies and TV Shows:

RBG - Outstanding! I'm inspired to start reading about this amazing woman.

Blade Runner 2049 - I really enjoyed this more than I thought I would. I wasn't a big fan of the original (I dislike movies that are visually dark & gloomy), so I didn't have high hopes for this follow-up. It's pretty long, though.

Seven Pounds - Will Smith has always been a favorite of mine and this tender film was touching without being overly sentimental. We both enjoyed it.

Woodstock - I was seven years old at the time of Woodstock and don't remember hearing anything about it, although I'm sure my older brother and parents knew all about it. I have always enjoyed watching movies & documentaries about the 60s and this PBS program did not disappoint.

The Wolf's Call - The dubbing for this film was terrible, but I still enjoyed it. Makes me want to watch The Hunt for Red October again.

MI-5 - It hasn't been all that long since we watched this, but I don't remember much about it. Must not have been terribly impressive.

Good Night, and Good Luck - Great movie with a fabulous cast. This was the second time I've seen it, but it was still just as good as the first viewing. The following quote is from Rogert Ebert and as I read it, I couldn't help but substitute Trump's name for McCarthy's.
"Good Night, and Good Luck" is a movie about a group of professional newsmen who with surgical precision remove a cancer from the body politic. They believe in the fundamental American freedoms, and in Sen. Joseph McCarthy they see a man who would destroy those freedoms in the name of defending them. Because McCarthy is a liar and a bully, surrounded by yes-men, recklessly calling his opponents traitors, he commands great power for a time. He destroys others with lies, and then is himself destroyed by the truth.

On the Basis of Sex - Having watched RBG at the beginning of the month, we were eager to see how this film compares. It was very good, but I liked the documentary better. This felt a little fluffy.

Outings & Trips:

Two quick road trips up to Seattle. Far too much traffic, which makes us very happy to live in our quiet little community on the coast!

This is 86! 
Heading out on a two-week cruise to Alaska.

Our new-to-us Smart!

And then there were fun times with good friends! As much as we love our travels, we are going to miss our friends (and Mom!) in Little Whale Cove.

The RV is packed and ready to go. I'm finally caught up (after an entire year!) on my posts about our 2018 trip, so we'll see how I do with documenting this two-month journey! You can always follow me on Instagram to catch the latest photos.

September 1, 2019

Texas Road Trip 2018 Summary

What an amazing trip! We spent 55 days traveling across six states visiting friends in Texas, friends in Arizona and family and friends in California. That's what this road trip was all about. The National Parks were a huge bonus (especially the Grand Canyon), but it was all about seeing those we love and miss that made this trip so special. I spent countless hours preparing our route (RV Trip Wizard was a lifesaver!), prepping meals to freeze (so I wouldn't waste time cooking when I'd rather be outside biking, hiking or sitting by the fire), and organizing the RV for two months of travel. So worth it!

A few stats, since I love this sort of thing:

Miles Driven: 5,891
Nights at Campgrounds: 33
Nights Boondocking: 7
Nights Moochdocking (friends/family): 14
Least Expensive Campground/RV Park: $6 Desert View (Grand Canyon)
Most Expensive Campground/RV Park: $57 Benbow KOA
Cost of Camping: $1,113
Average Cost per Night (excluding free nights): $31.80
Average Cost per Night (entire trip): $20.61
Cheapest Gas: $2.56/gallon (San Angelo, TX)
Most Expensive Gas: $4.49/gallon (Santa Claus, AZ)
Cost of Fuel (including propane): $2,023.44
Total Cost of Fuel and Lodging: $3,136.44
Cost spent exploring our beautiful country and visiting friends & family: Priceless!
Hottest Day: 102 (Las Vegas, NV)
Coldest Morning: 43 (Albuquerque, NM)
Most Beautiful Sunrise: Desert View (South Rim, Grand Canyon)
Most Beautiful Sunset: Desert View (South Rim, Grand Canyon)
Darkest Sky: City of Rocks (Faywood, NM)
Steepest Grade: 15% (Bald Hills Road, Redwood NP)
Most Boring Highway: Hwy. 95 (Nevada)
Most Stressful Drive: Devil's Backbone (Texas Hill Country)
National Parks and Monuments Visited: Crater Lake, Grand Canyon, El Morro, Petrified Forest, Saguaro, Redwood.
Favorite National Park: Grand Canyon
Wildlife and Birds: Elk, deer, javalina, Abert's squirrel, jack rabbit, eagle, osprey, turkeys, peacocks, pelicans, gray jays, and woodpeckers.
Friends & Family Visited: Linda & Bob, Kim & Pat, Cami & Chad, Maggie & Dick, Kristy & George, Amy & Will, Ana & Mark, Val & Neal, Merry & George, Sarah & Bert, and Sue & Rob. A huge thank you to everyone who allowed us to moochdock on your property, as well as taking time out of your busy schedules to hang out with us. We loved seeing all of you!
Meals at In-N-Out Burger: 4
Favorite Coffee House: Firecreek Coffee Company (Flagstaff, AZ)

There is nothing quite like a deadline to get me motivated. Tomorrow, Rod and I are heading out on another two month journey in our RV! We only plan to visit two states this year, but we're just as excited about all the new areas we hope to see as we were with last year's trip. I won't make any promises about blogging about this road trip any quicker than our 2018 trip, but I hope it won't take an entire year. :) 

To read all about our 2018 journey, click here or click on the link (55 Days on the Road) in the sidebar. I hope to eventually rename the posts to reflect the location of that day's visit, which should help enable future searches of specific areas.