A Look in my Nook: Summer Reading 2013

It’s that glorious time of year again when schedules permit laying around outside with a good book in hand.  Here’s a few that have made their way onto my summer reading list this year:

Summer Reading 2013

  1. Against the Tide – John F. Hanley
  2. Bad Monkey – Carl Hiaasen
  3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple
  4. Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
  5. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris
  6. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  7. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  8. The Last Original Wife – Dorothea Benton Frank
  9. Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline

What have you included on your summer reading list?  If you’d like to join my book club’s discussion of “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”, please feel free to hop on over to http://knickerbookers.blogspot.com where we’ll be posting about it!

Happy reading!

It’s My Birthday!!!

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! (Yes, I’m singing to myself!)  I’m also celebrating the birth of my blog, officially one year old tomorrow! I’m so excited! As in, Jessie Spano excited that one episode of Saved By the Bell when she gets addicted to Caffeine Pills.  You know the one – “I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so… so… scared.”  OK, I’m not really scared, but I am a little scared.  I’m officially on the wrong side of 25 with just a hop, skip and a jump to 30.  Wow!


As I turn the page to the age of 26, I’d love to take a moment to reflect on where I am and all that happened this past year.  So here it is, the “Top 25 of 25” – including the good, the bad, the ugly, and the absolutely amazing:

  1. I graduated law school. BOOM.
  2. I passed the bar exam. DOUBLE BOOM.
  3. I got to see some incredible music, including but not limited to: Adele, Steely Dan, Toro Y Moi, The Mountain Goats, Phish, Animal Collective, and Bon Iver.
  4. I had a double breast lumpectomy, and the biopsy for both was clean.  I am a very lucky girl.
  5. We lost my grandfather in June.  He was an amazing man who led an incredible life and will be missed very much.
  6. There were other graduations to be celebrated – most notably my brother from Hunter College (who is now getting his Masters at Columbia), my brother-in-law from the CIA (who now works at Colicchio and Sons as a chef), and my dear friends who graduated from Columbia’s Master of Social Work program and inspire me with their endless pursuit of helping others.
  7. My step mother Emily with the help of some dear friends threw me the most gorgeous bridal shower in history!
  8. My friends and sister threw me an awesome Bachelorette party, complete with a party bus through NYC, naked blow-up dolls, and penis accessories (as required!).  A night I’ll never truly remember, nor will ever forget!
  9. My cousin Lauren had a baby girl, who is both beautiful and healthy! Our family is blessed with one amazing child after another!
  10. My father started a new business dedicated to curing opiate addiction through medically-assisted detox.  Not only is the business thriving, but he’s doing something he’s passionate about.  I couldn’t be more proud.
  11. There were new pet additions to the family – 2 pugs on my dad’s side, and a new yorkie for my mother.  Yep, we’re dog people. Maybe 26 will be the year when Dimona gets a brother or sister 😉
  12. I got to read A LOT.  Thank you, unemployment. On a related note, I got a Nook! (Shallow, but it has been life changing!)
  13. Oh hey, I GOT A JOB! My career as an esquire is just beginning…
  14. I think I got married?
  15. But seriously, Josh and I had the most amazing reunion with all of our friends and family for an entire magical weekend – the memories of which bring us infinite amounts of joy every day!
  16. THE HONEYMOON aka “Sussmans Do Sonoma.” My heart is in California.
  17. This little blog here, started the day after my birthday last year.  I could never have imagined the happiness and comfort this blog could give back to me, the connections I’ve made and the support that you all have shown me.  I’m so happy I did this!
  18. The New York Giants won the Superbowl!
  19. The day I found my wedding dress!!! (last wedding one, I swear)
  20. I went on a fabulous girls’ trip to Cancun in February with my step mom and two of my sisters.  It was a wonderful bonding (and tanning) experience!
  21. Josh and I left our teensy tiny little studio apartment in Brooklyn to stretch our legs in the suburbs for a bit.  We think Queens might be calling our name in the near future.
  22. I hit and knocked down a piñata last weekend with some pretty amazing friends cheering me on, proving you can be young at heart forever!
  23. Are you bored yet?
  24. I got more dog-slobbery kisses than a girl can count!
  25. I lived, and loved, each and every single day of this entire past year, and thank God for all of my family and friends who have joined me for the ride!

So what will 26 bring? Well, I know today will include birthday sex and cake (kids don’t read this blog, right?), so I’m already starting this year off with two of the best things in life! Wishing you all a happy hump day – no pun intended!  xoxo

Weekly Recap: In Like a Lion

Hummingbird in Central Park – Anna Marrow

Happy Saturday everyone!  You know that saying, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”?  Well, I’m really hoping we start to get more lamb than lion soon. Here in the northeast, we’ve endured 3 days of cold wind, rain, sleet and snow – weather more miserable than we’ve seen almost all “winter” long. These are a few of my favorite things that have been keeping me warm on the web this week:

Hoping you all have some fun weekend plans! I’m having brunch here today and here tomorrow, with some BYOB karaoke in Koreatown scheduled in between for this evening. God grant me the energy and stamina I had in college to make it through this marathon NYC weekend! Enjoy the day, xo.

Just a Little Love Poem

 Free Printable Valentines via Pumpkins & Posies

One of the most wonderful things about my wedding (IMO) was that Josh and I designed the entire ceremony ourselves. Our different religious backgrounds allowed us the freedom to create a ceremony unique to us, outside of traditional vows and readings sometimes required in a Church or Synagogue.   By pulling in our own favorite traditions and inspirations, everything from our vows to the ceremony music was personally chosen and encapsulated who we are as a couple perfectly.

One of our readings was Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda.  Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet alive from 1904 to 1973, who was politically exiled to Argentina for a large portion of his life.  In 1971, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  His poems have been translated from Spanish all over the world, and his talent is remarkable.

Sonnet XVII

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

-Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets (1960)

Some writers have the ability to move me to tears, and he is no exception.  This is one of those times that I wish I was fluent in Spanish, so that I could read his works as he originally wrote them.  Knowing that some of the meaning and passion of literature is often lost in translation, I can only imagine how incredible his poems must be in their native language.  The English versions alone are enough to touch my soul.

When I read Sonnet 17, I marvel in the depth of the love and bond that Josh and I have.  It’s so powerful to read another’s words and relate exactly to them.  I often think of all of the other lovers in the world and of the powerful connection joining humans throughout space and time via the emotions we all share and empathize with.

I think this is what Valentine’s Day is all about – the sharing and celebration of this beautiful emotion called “LOVE” in all of its many incarnations, big and small!

Today, I’m wishing each and every one of you a day filled with love, happiness, peace, and joy with those you surround yourself with.   Tune out the hype and emphasis on the materialism of the date, if you can. Reflect on all of the good in your life, and revel in the knowledge that YOU deserve LOVE.  It’s what makes the world go round. xo

A Look in my Nook: Vol. 1

It’s a wet morning out there for those of you also in the northeast and I’m hoping everyone stays warm and dry today! It’s the perfect day to curl up with a book, so I thought I’d do my first “a look in my Nook” feature and review the last 3 books I’ve read and what I’m reading on my Nook now.  I’m certainly no literary genius, but I do love to read and devour books quickly these days, so feel free to take any of my thoughts on these books with a grain of salt.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Like many others I know, I came across the “Game of Thrones” series when HBO debuted their new show based on these books last spring.  I read the first in the series, titled “A Game of Thrones” quickly, wanting to finish the book before the TV series ended so that the ending of the book would not be ruined for me by the show.  I always made sure to read just far enough to cover the upcoming episode’s plot, and it was a fun way to read the story and watch the show together.

I began the second book,  A Clash of Kings, soon after finishing the first, but studying for the bar exam over the summer got in the way.  It took me a while to pick it back up, and by the time I did I had forgotten most of the plot and restarted from the beginning despite the fact that I had been halfway through.  Bottom line: It was totally worth it to read all 1000 pages over again.  I couldn’t put it down.

If you aren’t traditionally into “fantasy” novels (as I certainly claimed I wasn’t), you shouldn’t shy away from the series.  Although there are fantastical elements, most of the plot gives a medieval feel, with kingdoms, wars, sex, violence and all the other elements that make movies, books, and television amazing.   By dumbing it down this much, I’m certainly not giving the book enough credit.  George R. R. Martin is a great writer, and the characters really come alive on multiple levels in his books.  In “A Clash of Kings”, the once untied Westeros realm has now been divided into separate kingdoms, each with their own “king” vying for power and control over the whole.  Certainly, some of these “kings” don’t make it to the end of this book, but everything is left unresolved.  The Kings aren’t the only important characters in the story, but rather a pair of sisters, one of which everyone believes is already dead, play very important roles.

Talking with others about the series, some have told me they thought the first one was too slow, and it deterred them from reading the second book.  I do agree, the first one is very slow until the ending, but after reading the second book (which has a much faster pace), I now understand why it had to be that way.  Because this is a long series of books, the first one naturally had to develop a lot of character stories and set the plot for the rest.  I’d recommend reading the second book of the series first, before deciding whether or not to continue on.  I can’t wait to pick up the third in the series, “A Storm of Swords”, which I’m geared up to read next!

2. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts is the second book I’ve read by Erik Larson, the first being “Devil in the White City”.  If you haven’t read his books, allow me to give you a little information.  Both of the books are completely historical and he uses real sources such as diaries, transcripts, letters, and other documents to create a narrative.  He’s an amazing writer, and has the ability to create an entirely non-fiction book that reads like fiction.  His character development and creation of real emotion are what make his books so popular.  I certainly recommend Devil in the White City, as well.

As a quick plot summary: In the Garden of Beasts focuses on the Dodd family in 1932 Berlin. William Dodd, an unlikely choice for the American Ambassador to Germany, along with his wife and two adult children attempt to navigate the delicate social and political climate in place during Hitler’s rise to power.  As the story progresses, it is clear he is on a failing mission to “keep the peace” and form a relationship between Hitler’s militaristic Germany and America at this time.

Although these events take place almost an entire decade before America joined WWII, the atrocities that were already quietly occurring in Germany at this time are astounding.  I came away from this book with a richer knowledge about Hitler’s rise to power, and both German and American politics in the early 1930s.  If you’re interested in the time period at all, I certainly recommend this book.

3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife is told through the eyes of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, during their tumultuous few years of marriage while the two were living in Paris.  She is more than just a sympathetic character, and I found myself with a lump in my throat and even brought to tears as I navigated through the ups and downs of her marriage to a “literary genius”.

Having not known much about Hemingway, I wasn’t aware that “The Sun Also Rises” focused on events true to his life and experiences.  There was certainly a lot I learned about the author in this story.  However the book was about him, and not about him at the same time… does that even make sense?  Adding to the rich plot were their ever changing circle of “friends” in Paris, including a “who’s who” of the famous authors and poets of the era.  When reading about their lavish vacations, glittering but depraved personalities, and the hurtful games they play with each other, I suddenly understood F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book “Tender is the Night” in a new light. (Yes, he’s part of the fast crowd of friends as well).

Paula McLain creates a plot that seamlessly weaves together many themes. The book is about a famous author and his struggle both internally and externally to be true to himself and appeal to others.  It’s also about a simple woman from the midwest with a troubled childhood, who loves her husband with her whole heart.  It explores the trust and slight naivety that exists when you’re head over heels in love, and the book is also about how strong a marriage must be to withstand everything outside the marriage trying to pull it apart. I certainly recommend it as one of the best books I’ve read this year.

4. The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman

I just started The Visible Man and have really enjoyed the first 80 pages or so that I’ve read.  The plot focuses on the relationship between a psychologist and the most bizarre patient she’s ever had.  The patient, a man, is obviously highly intelligent, but she is having trouble diagnosing whether the incredible experiences and stories he tells actually happened, or are imagined and internalized.  The story thus far is told through her transcripts and recordings of their sessions, and her professional notes and evaluations she makes to herself.  I’m interested to see where this story will lead, but am liking it thus far.