Book and Podcast Favorites

Yay! It’s finally Friday. (Did you know my favorite day is actually Thursday?) Anyhoo, I’ve got some favorites podcasts and books to share with you!

Podcasts:

My favorite new podcast: Wildly Aligned Podcast with Natalie Brite. Thanks to my friend Britt for sharing a post on Instagram with Natalie’s positive voice. I’ve listened to this episode twice and am going to listen a few times more.

Do you ever get into a funk (aka depression) and just need to renew your mind? Yeah I was in one for two solid weeks and was wondering if I was going to be able to pull myself out or if it finally was time for meds.

Then I listened to this podcast and it was like the clouds parted, angelic choirs sang overhead, and I saw the light. It was as if my whole being was saying a big “Yes!” to every word.

Beyond Aromatics Podcast by the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or NAHA (of which I am a member). On this episode, Tiffany Carole shared about AromaPoint Therapy, which she developed, in which different diluted essential oils are placed on specific energy points on the body. She shares three points where anyone can apply the recommended oils. I applied diluted Bergamot to the Shen Men point on my ears and actually felt a calm release about 10 minutes later. Don’t knock it till you try it!

Visual Marketing With Tailwind is a podcast mostly devoted to Pinterest. Until a few months ago, I was barely using Pinterest and hardly ever for business. Then I started a marketing course and the instructor drilled into us that Pinterest was more important than Facebook or Instagram, and indeed, reminded us that Pinterest wasn’t actually a social media platform–it’s a search engine.

So, I started using Tailwind, which is an app which lets you schedule pins for a month or two at a time. And my views went from 1K-31K in 3 months. You better believe I want to know all I can about how to use Pinterest to get traffic to my website and Etsy shop! This episode is one of many that will provide useful info for those who want to grow a following and get more traffic to their site/blog/shop.

Books:

It’s been too long! With all the other things I’m juggling (Ayurveda classes, aromatherapy classes, Etsy, website, blog, social, our music duo) I haven’t been keeping up with telling you what I’ve been reading and loving. But here are a few (I’m currently at 103 books read for the year, so I’m breaking a personal record.)

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbie Waxman was the most light-hearted book I read this year so far! If you like to read about people who love books, this one’s for you.

Nina is a quirky, introverted twentysomething who lives in L.A., works at a bookshop, discovers a family she never knew she had, and meets a very promising man.

The author’s way with words is clever and unusual–no cliches here. And there are parts that made me laugh out loud, which is not something that happens often. (Unless I’m reading David Sedaris.)

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is my top pick out of all the books I read this year. I listened to the audio version read by Juliet Stevenson and I absolutely recommend you read it this way.

The story: one cold Winter Solstice night, a man appears in the doorway of The Swan, an inn on the Thames. In his arms he holds a small girl and nobody knows where she came from.

Three different stories unfold that include a missing child. Which family does the girl belong to? Or is she someone else entirely? And what did happen to those other children? Exquisitely written, woven with mystery, magic, and myth, this book will enchant you. 

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware was the scariest book I read this year. Here are some of the scary bits: a nanny alone in a house with children who hate her, the house is in the Highlands of Scotland, the house is also a “smart” house so everything from lights, to the refrigerator, to music is controlled by an app and is under constant surveillance from the parents who are away on business. Oh, and there are malicious, ghostly happenings that are directed at the nanny, as they were at her predecessors.

OK, I’m a wimp and don’t read horror, but this came close. I had to read this during daylight hours with people around. So if you like thrillers, this one is for you!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Saint X (Book Review)

<a href="http://<a target="_blank" href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250219590/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1250219590&linkCode=as2&tag=lifeofkim-20&linkId=7bf3e133a18b21e6e50a0488d9c45b87">Saint X</a>""Saint X is one of the very few books I’ve read this year that I could not put down! The bright, tropical cover disguises the depth of the subject matter. For although it is a clever, suspenseful thriller, this novel addresses the evolution of self, the parent-child relationship in its various stages, the advantages and guilt of white, wealthy people, and the disadvantages of poor people of color on Caribbean islands and the rest of the world.

It starts like a film, zooming in to the fictional Caribbean island of Saint X. It’s the mid-1990s. The reader is introduced to a well-to-do white family from New York vacationing at a luxurious resort for their New Year holiday.

Alison, the elder daughter, is eighteen, pretty, self-absorbed, bored, and typical of girls of that age. The unusual one and the heroine is the younger daughter, Claire, or Clairey, as the rest of the family affectionately calls her. She is seven years old, has an unusual appearance, is shy, socially awkward, and appears to display possible OCD tendencies. The parents remain on the periphery of the story, and what we know of them is seen through the eyes of Claire.

The other main character in the novel is Clive Richardson, a young man who was born and lives on Saint X, and who, along with his friend, Edwin, becomes a suspect in Alison’s death. In comparison to the comfortable lives led by Alison and Claire, Clive is without the advantages that wealth can provide. He grows up without many prospects for the future, so after high school, he and Edwin find employment serving the rich white people at the resort. Which is how they meet Alison and become involved with her on the night she goes missing.

As the novel unfolds, we glimpse some of what Alison gets up to and who she interacts with in the days and nights leading to her disappearance and death. After her body is discovered, Alison and Claire’s parents are frantic to find answers, to discover who is responsible for their daughter’s death. Although Clive and Edwin did spend some time with Alison on the night she disappears, not enough evidence is found to charge them with her supposed murder, so it goes unsolved.

The novel moves forward to when Claire is in her mid-twenties and living a fairly normal life in New York City complete with a good job and friends. She calls herself by her middle name–Emily–in an attempt to put the past behind her. Except she can’t. She still longs to learn more about Alison, and more about why and how she died.

We flash back in time to the months immediately following Alison’s death when Claire’s parents are wrapped up in their own grief and she feels forgotten. Then we see her as she grows up, through all the awkwardness of adolescence and into young adulthood, and how she must deal with the way people treat her when they discover who she is. And even though she wishes she could forget, Alison haunts her wherever she goes.

So Claire is in NYC, trying to live like other people do. As a way to assuage her guilt for her affluent background, she moves into an apartment in a part of Brooklyn that is mostly inhabited by economically disadvantaged people of color. She is still socially awkward, so she doesn’t interact much with the other tenants in her apartment building, but she wishes she could.

Then, out of the blue, while taking a taxi home one day, Claire looks in the rearview mirror and is shocked to find that her driver is Clive Richardson–the man that she has always believed was involved in Alison’s death! Everything she lived through as the sister of a murder victim comes flooding back in that instant. She becomes obsessed with getting Clive to confess. She relentlessly stalks him every night after work. She finds out everything she can about him. Then she pretends to befriend him.

What comes of this obsession with and connection to Clive? Will he eventually confess to his involvement in Alison’s murder? Will Claire ever be able to heal and let go of the past? Ah, but that would be telling! That is what you’ll find out when you read Saint X for yourself.

I was very fortunate to receive an Advanced Reading Copy of Saint X from Celadon Books; however, all opinions are entirely my own. Saint X, written by Alexis Schaitkin, will be published on February 18, 2020 and I absolutely recommend this novel to lovers of mysteries, crime thrillers, and really good fiction.

Evening Poetry, October 24

Dreams

by Mary Oliver

All night

the dark buds of dreams

open

richly.

In the center

of every petal

is a letter,

and you imagine

if you could only remember

and string them all together

they would spell the answer.

It is a long night,

and not an easy one–

you have so many branches,

and there are diversions–

birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down

to sleep beneath you,

the moon staring

with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent

all the energy you can

and you drag from the ground

the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake

with two or three syllables

like water in your mouth

and a sense

of loss–a memory

not yet of a word,

certainly not yet the answer–

only how it feels

when deep in the tree

all the locks click open,

and the fire surges through the wood,

and the blossoms blossom.

You can find this poem in Dream Work.

Evening Poetry, September 21

Fluent

by John O’ Donohue

I would love to live

Like a river flows,

Carried by the surprise

Of its own unfolding.

You can find this poem in Conamara Blues.

Evening Poetry, September 16

Messenger

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—

equal seekers of sweetness.

Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.

Here the clam deep in the speckled sand. 

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?

Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me

keep my mind on what matters,

which is my work, 

which is mostly standing still and learning to be

astonished.

The phoebe, the delphinium.

The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.

Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here, 

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart

and these body-clothes,

a mouth with which to give shouts of joy

to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,

telling them all, over and over, how it is

that we live forever.

You can find this poem in Thirst.

Evening Poetry, September 15

Retreat

By John Fuller

I should like to live in a sunny town like this
Where every afternoon is half-day closing
And I would wait at the terminal for the one train
Of the day, pacing the platform, and no one arriving.

At the far end of the platform is a tunnel, and the train
Slows out of it like a tear from a single eye.
You couldn’t get further than this, the doors all opened
And the porter with rolled sleeves wielding a mop.

Even if one restless traveller were to arrive
With leather grip, racquets under the arm,
A belted raincoat folded over the shoulder,
A fishing hat, and a pipe stuck in his mouth,

There would be nowhere for him to move on to
And he would settle down to tea in the lounge
Of the Goat Hotel, doing yesterday’s crossword,
And would emerge later, after a nap, for a drink.

You meet them in the bar, glassy-eyed, all the time.
They never quite unpack, and expect letters
From one particular friend who doesn’t write.
If you buy them a drink they will tell you their life history:

‘I should have liked to live in a sunny town like this,
Strolling down to the harbour in the early evening,
Looking at the catch. Nothing happens here.
You could forget the ill-luck dogging you.

‘I could join the Fancy Rat Society and train
Sweet peas over the trellised porch
Of my little slice of stuccoed terrace. I could
Be in time for the morning service at Tesco’s.

‘I expect death’s like this, letters never arriving
And the last remembered failure at once abandoned
And insistent, like a card on a mantelpiece.
What might it be? You can take your choice.

‘ “I shook her by the shoulders in a rage of frustration.”
“I smiled, and left the room without saying a word.”
“I was afraid to touch her, and never explained.”
“I touched her once, and that was my greatest mistake.” ’

You meet them before dinner. You meet them after dinner,
The unbelieved, the uncaressed, the terrified.
Their conversation is perfectly decent but usually
It slows to a halt and they start to stare into space.

You would like it here. Life is quite ordinary
And the self-pity oozes into the glass like bitters.
What’s your poison? Do you have a desire to drown?
We’re all in the same boat. Join us. Feel free.

And when the bar closes we can say goodbye
And make our way to the terminal where the last
(Or is it the first?) train of the day is clean and waiting
To take us slowly back to where we came from.

But will we ever return? Who needs us now?
It’s the town that requires us, though the streets are empty.
It’s become a habit and a retreat. Or a form of justice.
Living in a sunny town like this.

You can find this poem in Collected Poems.

Evening Poetry, September 14

Granadilla

By Amy Lowell

I cut myself upon the thought of you
And yet I come back to it again and again,
A kind of fury makes me want to draw you out
From the dimness of the present
And set you sharply above me in a wheel of roses.
Then, going obviously to inhale their fragrance,
I touch the blade of you and cling upon it,
And only when the blood runs out across my fingers
Am I at all satisfied.

You can find this poem in The Complete Poetical Works by Amy Lowell.

Evening Poetry, August 18

You can find this in The Book of a Monastic Life in Rilke’s Book of Hours.

I,6

by Rainer Maria Rilke

You, God, who live next door–

If at times, through the long night, I trouble you

with my urgent knocking–

this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.

I know you’re all alone in that room.

If you should be thirsty, there’s no one

to get you a glass of water.

I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!

I’m right here.

As it happens, the wall between us

is very thin. Why couldn’t a cry

from one of us

break it down? It would crumble

easily.

it would barely make a sound.

Evening Poetry, July 25

Charlotte Brontë’s Grave

by Emily Dickinson

All overgrown by cunning moss,

All interspersed with weed,

The little cage of “Currer Bell”,

In quiet Haworth laid.

This bird, observing others,

When frosts too sharp became,

Retire to other latitudes,

Quietly did the same.

But differed in returning;

Since Yorkshire hills are green,

Yet not in all the nests I meet

Can nightingale be seen.

Gathered from many wanderings,

Gethsemane can tell

Through what transporting anguish

She reached the asphodel!

Soft fall the sounds of Eden

Upon her puzzled ear;

Oh, what an afternoon for heaven,

When Bronte entered there!

You can find this poem in Hope Is the Thing With Feathers: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson.

One Book I Didn’t Finish and Why I Don’t Always Finish Books

I’ve heard nothing but high praise for The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Since I didn’t read The Alice Network, I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. I placed a hold at the library and as soon as I finished City of Girls (loved it!), I opened it up. Post-WW2, the Nuremberg Trials, two men on the trail of Nazi criminals, a woman fleeing from justice…It could be good, I thought. But six or seven chapters in, I still wasn’t feeling it, so I quit.

What I liked about The Huntress: the writing was solid and the story didn’t stagnate. From one chapter to the next, readers are introduced to the various main characters in turn, each round building on their backstories and moving the plot forward. There was danger, romance, and suspense: all the important elements in a novel.

What I didn’t like: Overall, none of the characters (except Nina) intrigued me or made me want to invest in the story. Also, the huntress is revealed right away, so there’s no mystery as to who she is. I guess the suspense is how she is going to be caught, but that took away a lot of excitement for me.

Also, this is dumb, but one of the characters is a young American woman named Jordan. The novel begins in 1946. Tell me who in white-bread America named their baby girl Jordan in 1928, which would’ve been the year she was born? I have a believability radar for films and novels and this was just off the charts unbelievable and silly. People were naming their girls Doris, Ruth, Mildred, and Betty in 1928–not Jordan.

I also didn’t care for the two men who are tracking down the huntress. Nothing particularly wrong with them, they just seemed run-of-the-mill stock military guys with no real personalities.

I may not have given this book enough time, it’s possible. If you liked it, please don’t be offended! We don’t all like the same things and that’s what makes reading and the reading community so much fun. I learn about books I’d never have dreamt of picking because other readers recommend them.

My reading philosophy is that life is short and there are too many books I want to read, so I better make sure they are books I actually want to read. Because my TBR is always growing, and I don’t read for a living (yet, anyway!), I want to read books that either captivate my attention with the characters or the plot. Recently I listened to the podcast episode of Getting Bookish With Shawna and Lizz where they talk about their DNF (Did Not Finish) books. You might enjoy this episode!

Are you a reader who has to finish whatever she starts? Or do you regularly say no to books that just aren’t for you? I find that the more I read, the more I discard. At least half, if not more, of the books I bring home from the library get sent back with only the first few chapters read.

I’d love to hear what you thought of The Huntress. If you read it, please comment below or tell me about whatever else you’ve picked up or discarded lately.