Sunday Salon: Ship-shape

The Sunday

I realize that I’m actually writing this on Monday evening. I’m either slightly late for yesterday, or really early for the 30th, but either way I was mulling this over yesterday, but never manage to post it.

My reading this week has been a leisurely revisiting of one of my favorite books, Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi. It’s the memoir of the author’s two-year trip around the world as the solo handler of a sailboat. She wrote it twenty years ago, and I bought it when it was new, and have re-read it a few times, over the years.

I’m not sure why this book resonates so with me. Part of it, I think, is that I love the ocean in a way that most people who don’t sail rarely do. Part of it is that the romance of being alone on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean appeals – and the risk. Part of it is that I relish the coziness of a ship’s bunk with a small furry animal for company, and reading myself to sleep as the waves gently rock me.

There are, of course, moments I do not wish to experience, even vicariously. At one point, Aebi describes having an earache in the middle of the ocean, and how she heats a sock-full of salt and holds it against her ear. Another tale in the book is the relatively brief mention of a fellow sailor’s issue with a toothache, and how he basically gets drunk so he won’t care, since it’s not exactly like there are orange nj cosmetic dentists hanging in the tropics. Or if there are, they’re sailing, too, and not seeing patients.

Mostly, though, I recognize that I, who considers “roughing it” to be a hotel without room service or wifi, and who can’t even sit through movies where people are cold, wet, tired, hungry, dirty and lacking toilet paper, would probably not be happy for more than a day or two than the minimalist conditions Tania Aebi seemed to thrive upon, as much as I like to imagine I might.

For Tania Aebi, Maiden Voyage represents two years of her life, twenty years ago.

For me, it’s several hours of reading enjoyment and lovely dreams about sailing, which is, after all, what reading is all about.

In Progress: Animals In Translation by Temple Grandin

My birthday was last Monday (the 17th), and, as usual, I received a book from my aunt in Connecticut. In recent years she’s been sending more non-fiction than fiction, but I’m not sure that’s intentional.

In any case, she knows that there is no drug rehab equivalent for bibliophiles, and really, as addictions go, reading is a pretty safe one. I mean, what other substance sends you to a bookstore or library when you’re jonesing for a fix? How often do you see a voracious reader begging on the street corner, “Man, I just need a dollar for another book?”

But I digress.

My birthday book this year is Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin. I’m barely into it, but already I’m fascinated. It’s about how people with autism respond to animals, often understanding them on levels that neuro-typical humans cannot. I’m reading it as a dog-lover and animal rescue volunteer who loves animals, but apparently this book is quite well regarded. In fact, I found a link to it on the PLoS Biology website, in which the editors actually asked Ms. Grandin to respond to something they’d posted. The complete article is here.

It’s all really interesting, and makes me look at my dogs in a new light. I’ll review the book when I’ve finished with it, of course, but I wanted to share what I have in progress for a change.

Review: Life’s A Beach by Clare Cook

I picked up Clare Cook’s novel Life’s a Beach because I was in the mood for a book to give me a jolt of laughter the way thoroughbreds get a jolt of energy and nutrients when given horse supplements. I was not disappointed.

Ginger is a fun-loving, woman a bit older than I am (specifically, in her early forties), with a sister about to turn fifty. She’s still living in her parent’s garage apartment (she hates the term FROG – finished room over garage), with her cat named Boyfriend and her non-committal boyfriend, a glass-blower named Noah. Glass is a trend in Ginger’s life. Between real jobs, she’s been trying to find herself, and her current incarnation involves making sea glass jewelry.

Against the background of her mother’s entree into the Red Hat Society, her father’s unwillingness to downsize and sell the family home, and her sister’s upcoming birthday, Ginger is a breath of fresh air, but living in denial, so when her eight-year-old nephew Riley gets tapped to be an extra in a horror movie, she is more than willing to go to the set and act as his guardian.

Clare Cook, who previously gave us Must Love Dogs, sends us on a wonderfully funny, sometimes sappy journey to the shore and beyond, all the while holding up a rather forgiving mirror to those of us who know that fifty really is the new thirty.

Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

When I saw The Wednesday Sisters on the “new in paperback” table at Barnes and Noble, I had to read the back cover. I did so, and took it home, along with about twelve other books.

In my defense – not that one needs to DEFEND book buying – I had spent almost an entire week writing about things like life insurance leads and how to save money on car insurance, and stuff like that, so I needed a lot of summer reading material.

I confess, I was hoping The Wednesday Sisters would be similar to The Jane Austen Book Club, but it was not, though both share, at their core, a story about close friendships among women.

Instead, Clayton’s book, which takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s is a gentle story of personal growth and deep bonding, all tied in with the desire to write and publish ones own fiction – a desire I completely empathize with, since I am attempting the same.

The different women in the story were all well-drawn, with distinct voices, and while there was no snark, there were moments of real humor. Likewise, when one of the women begins dealing with breast cancer, there were moments of poignancy that would be difficult to match.

Was The Wednesday Sisters what I was expecting? No. Would I recommend it anyway? YES!

Review: The Missing Keys to Thriving in Any Real Estate Market by Eddie Godshalk, MBA

The Missing Keys to Thriving in Any Real Estate Market: How to Create Wealth in Any Community Using Street Analysis Technology
Eddie Godshalk, MBA
Get it at Amazon

If you’ve never working in any aspect of the real estate market, you may not think Eddie Godshalk’s book, The Missing Keys to Thriving in Any Real Estate Market, is for you. You’d be wrong, because while the last part of the book, which explains his Home Value Predictor, is aimed at real estate professionals, the first part is a thorough explanation of why the housing market has tanked, why there are so many foreclosures, and how some of the financial strife related to real estate finance could have been averted.

Even better, Godshalk explains the history of housing bubbles, how they work, why they work, and what’s happening now, in accessible language that anyone can understand, even if they’ve never taken a single finance course.

After reading his book, you’ll have a better understanding not just of the big picture, but also of the smaller sections – like why your own home is worth what it is, and why you may not be able to refinance any time soon.

If, on the other hand, you are a real estate professional, whether you’re a Realtor, broker, lender, or appraiser, you’ll finish The Missing Keys… with a better understanding of the industry in which you work, and you’ll also be armed with powerful tools that will help both you and your client.

Once such tool is Godshalk’s Home Value Predictor, which you can learn about in-depth at

As someone who worked as a mortgage loan processor and underwriter for half her life, I can honestly say that while I was asked to review Mr. Godshalk’s book, I wish I’d had it to offer every client I worked with – especially those taking subprime loans, because it should be required reading for homeowners and real estate professionals alike.

Review: A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi

A Circle of Souls
Preetham Grandhi
Get it at Amazon >>

When Preetham Grandhi contacted me via this blog, asking if I’d consider reviewing his new novel, A Circle of Souls, I immediately stopped surfing websites for Myrtle beach vacation rentals and jumped at the chance. I was in the mood for a thriller, I told him via email, and after reading the description of the story, I thought it was just the sort of book I would love.

I was not wrong.

A Circle of Souls opens with a young girl on her way home from school – she never arrives, and the search for her (and later her killer) are half the plot of the novel. Intertwined with the murder mystery, however, is another mystery: that of a little girl who is having very vivid dreams which may be causing her harm.

Set in a sleepy Connecticut town, and filled with characters like the child psychologist working with Naya (the girl with the dreams) and a female FBI agent, neither of whom are at all predictable or “stock” characters, this book grips you from the start, teasing you with a cozy afternoon before it really dives into the action.

Despite the fast pace of the novel, and some rather bloody descriptions, there is also a gentleness to this story that is both lyrical and somewhat reassuring.

One of the ways I judge the quality of a novel is how willing I am to put it down and resume a non-reading activity. This book kept me enthralled to the point where I could not sleep until I knew what had happened.

Review: Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl by Susan McCorkindale

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl
Susan McCorkindale
Get it from Amazon >>

I picked up Susan McCorkindale’s humorous memoir on a whim, largely because the blurb on the back cover mentioned something about living miles away from any Starbucks. As someone who has had that experience, and who considers “roughing it” to be a hotel that has neither wifi nor room service, I thought it would be something I’d enjoy.

I was not disappointed.

This book is McCorkindale’s snarky spin on what happens when a girl from New Jersey leaves her cushy job as the head of marketing for a well-known magazine, and moves, with her testosterone-laden husband and sons, to a farm in West Virginia. From her comments on local couture (or lack thereof) to her tales of catalog shopping – not for Dansko womens shoes, but for beauty aids, bikinis, and (later) chickens, everything is hilarious, but it’s hilarity tempered by her obvious love of her family.

While this book is probably best enjoyed by women with children, or women who regularly read Family Circle, there’s enough in it for those of us who only have dogs to enjoy.