Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book review--The Lost Years

In the past, I'd generally stick to pure fiction in my reading material. I love to get lost in other people's imaginations, and I like that there are no constraints. But ever since I picked a memoir I'd read a review about (A Girl Named Zippy) I've been on a non-fiction kick.

Last night I finished a book called The Lost Years by Kristina Wandzilak and Constance Curry. It chronicles years of alcohol and drug abuse by a girl (Kristina) who was once an athletic, bright, and popular high school student who had the world at her feet. After Kristina's first drink of alcohol in high school, her life spirals down into an alcohol and narcotic addiction that tears her family apart and leaves Kristina herself broken and nearly dead.

Contance, Kristina's mother, whose marriage is troubled and whose husband is also an alcoholic, is at a loss as to how to help her daughter until she begins to take charge of her own life. As she grows and finds a strength she never knew she had, she realizes the only way to help Kristina is not to help her at all.

I cried several times while reading this book. It is emotionally wrenching and powerful, each scene recounted first by daughter and then by mother, in their own unique perspectives. How they lived through this ordeal, which is no doubt being played out thousands of times every day in this country, is inspirational. I recommend it if only for reaffirmation of the resiliance of the human spirit.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All the Roadrunning

These two talented musicians - and between the two of them they've been around the block a few times - have crafted a CD full of duets that don't feel like they did them just for the money. They work. Their voices are perfect together, Knopfler's guitar (as always) is sublime, and the lyrics are all about love and pain and longtime relationships. I could talk about every song on the CD, but just listen if you can to the first verse from If This is Goodbye, the final song on the CD:

my famous last words
are lying around in tatters
sounding absurd
whatever i try
but i love you and
that's all that really matters
if this is goodbye if this is goodbye

This CD is all about storytelling, about aging and living gracefully, about romance after many years, about surviving. It's about you and me and our memories as Knopfler writes in This Is Us.

You know how there are CDs you only play when you're in party mode and others you only play when you're nostalgic or sad or with your very best friend? And then there are CDs you play as background music. We all have music that works for different times in our lives - this CD begs to be listened to, the lyrics beg to be heard, so don't waste it on background music but do share it with your friends.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September From Both Sides

I didn’t realize when I signed up to blog today that this Tuesday would be the sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy. Certainly that’s one thing to hate about this ninth month of the year because it will always be a reminder of that terrible time in our nation’s history. Because I've lived in New York City twice in my life, as both a single and then a married woman, and because my husband and I still go there regularly to enjoy the city, I feel a special connection to Manhattan—my second home—and a definite sense of loss on this anniversary of 9/11. May all those who were lost, and who did lose loved ones, find peace.

There have been other losses, too, sad to say. Personal ones. Both of my parents died in September—in different years but one on September 19th, the other on September 21st. My maternal grandmother, in fact, passed away in the same year just ten days after my father did. I truly hope that’s the end of that, and bad events come only in threes, no more.

That’s one side of this end-of-summer, beginning-of-fall time of year.

But there’s a better side.

The glorious days are still ahead. What things do I love? The dozen or so hummingbirds that swarm around my feeders, performing their jet-fighter pilot maneuvers as they store up food for their long flight to Mexico to spend the winter. The leaves changing color, becoming a riot of orange, yellow, red on the wooded mountain road that leads to my house, scattering the pavement and beautifying the hills. The cool mornings after a blazingly hot August that shattered old records, the warm, magical, golden afternoons under a true-blue sky, the crisp, cool evenings that hint of winter in the air. The first smell of woodsmoke rising from someone’s fireplace or stove. New clothes—and the rediscovery of old favorites taken out of storage for the season ahead.

Having just returned from Connecticut where my son was married on the last of August—thanks to all for your good wishes, it was a beautiful outdoor ceremony on a beautiful day!—how could I not love September? The post-wedding brunch was held at the bride’s parents’ home on the first of this month and the newlyweds are just getting back from their Paris honeymoon. This season I have a new “daughter,” a new extended family. It doesn’t get better than that.

So how can I not love September, its splendors as well as those poignant memories?

Monday, September 10, 2007

A poem for September...

'Twas the Day School Began

'Twas the day school began, and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring, except for my mouse.

As I surfed the 'net and watched the soaps,
and outlined all my writing hopes.

The children were nestled all snug at their desks,
While teachers took roll call and talked about tests.

The stockings they sat in their hampers just waiting,
for someone to wash them but they weren't rating.

This day was for me, for writing and napping, and spending
uninterrupted time on the telephone yapping.

Before I knew it, the kids were returning,
telling me all about what they were learning.

But it's hard to be filled with too much sorrow
when I know it'll happen again, tomorrow!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Happy New Year!

It must have been going back to school that did it. But don’t we all have fiscal years-- beginning in September--imbedded in our consciousness?

Oh sure, there’s the chronological year—Ending in December, beginning in January. New Years Eve, fireworks and all, champagne and black-eyed peas signaling the beginning of that new year.

But I think September begins another, just as deeply felt and deeply meaningful as any December New Year’s Eve.

As the August days zoom toward the end , and those lazy nights having dinner in the back yard get shorter and shorter, and it’s dark so soon you wonder where the day went, it feels like the end, doesn’t it? Of something?

And the ads for back to school fill the paper and the airwaves. And I always feel like I need new—pencils. And new clothes. (Although I always feel like I need new clothes. But that’s a different blog)

Something begins in September. No matter what age I am.

I do remember the clothes I wore on the first day back to school in—maybe 1963? When I was 14. No, still 13. It was still too hot in Indiana for my new all clothes—just because it’s back to school doesn’t mean summer weather is over. But I could not wait to wear my little black and white hound’s-tooth skirt and my big red sweater. I had new penny loafers and clean white bobby socks. My mother insisted it was too soon to wear it, that I would die in the heat. But I would not be deterred. I thought I looked great. I was all set for school, for sixth grade and my new classmates and maybe this year I would finally be deemed cool.

Then I forgot to brush my teeth. I just had time before the bus came to do it. I raced to the bathroom, got a mouth full of Crest—and dribbled a huge pasty glob of it down my front. My red sweater was…well you can imagine.

I frantically dabbed at it with a towel, thereby adding towel lint to the gunky mess. Let’s just leave the rest of it to history. It was a sad event. And I did not make it into the cool group.. (Although it wasn’t only the Cresty sweater. But that’s a story for another blog.)

And now, its September again. It’s beautiful here in New England. The pink and white roses in my garden are struggling to stay in bloom. The sedum are swarming with bees. The dahlias are taking their turns at being the stars of the garden, all lavender-edged white, and fiery red, and huge white blossoms that look like fireworks. The trees are still green, but as I look out my study window, I just saw a leaf fall, floating slowly to the ground. And so it begins.

The apples will be good soon. And the foliage will bring leaf-peepers from all over the world.

Even the sun sign for September is Virgo, the virgin. The symbol of changes to come, and new experiences, and innocence. And the time goes by so quickly now. Picking up speed.

In October, my second Charlie McNally mystery, Face Time, will be released! I can’t wait for you to read it. Soon we’ll race into Halloween, and then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas…and then that other new year. And it will all happen way too fast.

But isn’t September the anything-can-happen month? All you need is some new pencils and some new penny loafers. And to be careful brushing your teeth.

Do you have back to school memories? Have you ever gotten over the September cycle?

Have a wonderful September…and happy new year!


Hank Phillippi Ryan

Saturday, September 8, 2007

See You In September

The first thing I loooove about September is the weather. It cools down from the sweltering heat of August and becomes comfortable. The days are perfect for walking and the nights great for sleep. I can open the windows and let the air in. I can sit outside and enjoy the day.

I also love that the vacation crowds are all gone and while the weather is taking a turn, it hasn’t turned yet. School’s open and all the vacation hot spots are still operating. The prices are slashed in half and it’s perfect for playing the tourist. The guides at the sites have time to answer questions and give you that extra bit of information that most people don’t get.

Fall clothes are also on my lists of things I love about September. Sweaters and sweatshirts, exercise pants, and patent leather shoes. Curling up in front of the fire with a glass of wine or apple cider and Smokey Robinson or Gladys Knight singing in the background is close to heavenly. I’m always cold, especially under air conditioning. It seems I can never find a comfortable temperature and I feel claustrophobic being confined to rooms where the air has to be cooled in order for my body to maintain an energy level where I can work. Honestly, I don’t know what we did before air conditioning, and while I prefer having it, to not having it, it’s not the same as a perfect fall day.

See You In September, I love September songs, and going back to school. See You In September always takes me back to those days. While the song was often popular in June when schools were closing, it was more popular as September approached and I knew I’d get to reunite with friends I hadn’t seen for three months. I was a person who usually traveled upstream. I loved school. I loved learning and the social part of school appealed to me too. Each succeeding year meant nine months of fun and new opportunities. At the time I was going through it, I knew it was the best years of my life.

I love that a new television season begins in September. After a summer of reruns, finally I get to see the resolution of the cliffhanger that the season ending left me with. I get to watch the new programs and find what appeals to me. Now that we have cable and can always choose a new movie to see, the new season still gives me a little jolt. I’m very selective now, since I have so little time for watching television, but I still feel a need to know what the new programs are.

The US Open (tennis) begins the last week of August and ends the second week in September. This is my favorite tennis tournament. It’s in the United States and close to where I live. I’ve spent days on the bleachers in the hot sun watching some of the best players in the world do what they do best. The bleachers are hard, the food is past expensive, the sun can be hot, yet the experience is priceless.

I love picking apples and making applesauce, apple jelly, stewed apples, apple pies, apple cobbler, apple brown betty, apple crisp, baked apples, apple turnovers, and all manner of apple dishes. Apples are the only fruit that I like when it’s cooked. I’d rather eat fruit fresh and raw, but for the American staple, I’m right in there enjoying it in any form. Years ago I used to go to a farm and pick vegetables and then can or freeze them. Then I’d go to orchards and pick fruit, peaches, apples, strawberries, blue berries, pears and make jams and jellies. I still like the apple dishes and look forward to cooking them every year. Nothing is better than a warm kitchen, smelling of apples and sugar, on a crisp September day.

These are all the things I love about September.

What I dislike about September is mainly that darkness comes early. The days no longer have the same amount of daylight. I love the daylight and in September it gets noticeably darker earlier. I get more accomplished when the amount of sunlight is longer. When it’s dark, I feel like my day is over and I should prepare for bed.

But the sunsets in September are spectacular. I can say this about all sunsets, no matter the season. They are all different. In September the sun is a huge red-orange ball dipping in the sky. Even driving home after a long day at work, the sunset commands that you notice it, practically forcing you to look at it. No matter how bad your day may have been, the sunset gives you a sense of wonder.

There’s more to love about September than dislike about it. Yes, it means winter is coming, but that also holds a lot of exhilaration. Embrace September. Enjoy it. And marvel at how much of your life you fondly remember that took place in September.


Contests - The Best is Yet to Read

Don't forget that every month of the year two lucky people who post to The Best is Yet to Read blog get a chance to win a prize from our authors. Don't forget to read the blog and post often...


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

September Song

I love September - it's always a toss up for me whether I prefer April or September, but when it's September, I know that it's my favorite month.

One of the reasons I love September so much is because I live in Vancouver and the evenings in September are the most beautiful of the year. And that's going some because Vancouver evenings (sun or rain or the bi-yearly snow) are incredibly beautiful. Just look at the sky in this picture - it's gorgeous.

Other reasons I love September? Shall I count the ways?

I love the weather, the cool evenings, the warm days, the gentle rain.

I love the leaves changing color. It's not a big event in the rainforest because most of the trees are coniferous, but there are a few streets where there are deciduous trees and the colors are brilliant. It reminds me of the east coast for a very short period of time.

I love the feeling of starting a new year. All of us spent most of our formative years beginning the year in September and that sticks with us, at least it did with me. I tend to do more list-making, more organizing, more goal-setting in September than I ever do in January.

I love the way people come back from vacation rested and ready to go. They want to go out to play, they want to get working, they're ready to get back to their regular lives.

I love the movies in September - this is when all the Oscar contenders start hitting the theatres and I get to see great movies week after week.

I love the way people (including me) in Vancouver eek (eak?) out the last days of summer, wearing sandals and shorts and T-shirts even in the rain and the cool of the evenings, pretending that summer isn't over. Not yet.

I love the way I go to the mall or walk down Robson Street or Denman and not run into hordes of kids during the day. I love 'em but I'm glad they're back at school.

I love the way the Seawall and Granville Island and the Art Gallery and my favorite restaurants go back to their regular non-summer, non-touristy selves. Sometimes they're still busy but they're no longer frantic.

I love that I can buy next year's summer clothes at 50 or 70% off. And because my favorite shoes are sandals, I just know that I'll be able to buy at least one pair that I've been eyeing all summer at a price I can afford.

I love the evenings as they get darker, settling into my favorite chair with candles lit and a glass of wine, and reading a great book and not feeling the slightest bit guilty about not being outside in the sunshine.

September always makes me sing.


Saturday, September 1, 2007


Hi, everybody: ChristyJan and Anne are the winners of the August NEXT contest and prizes will be winging their way to you soon. Email me at with your name and mailing address and we'll get them on their way to you.


What's NEXT IN October?

Two great new books from Hank Phillipi Ryan and Kate, both of which got 4 1/2 stars from RT Magazine.


There's a magic in life—But Ria Sterling has yet to embrace it, because she considers her ability to predict death from merely touching a photograph a curse. She yearns to use her sight to save just one life. On the other hand, tough-talking detective Carrick Jones and his partner profess not to care about saving anyone. But they do need Ria's help in solving a case. Instead, she predicts that Carrick's partner will die. Soon. And when her vision proves true, Ria goes from psychic to prime suspect.—The one thing she can't predict is her instant attraction to Carrick, a man who doesn't believe in the paranormal—only what his five senses tell him. But when danger threatens, Ria finally sees how to use her gift in a unique way. And to show Carrick the inexplicable power of a love where seeing really is believing.—


Seeing is believing (4.5 TOP PICK) by Kate Austin, has it all - - romance, sexual tension, mystery, adventure and a strong heroine. Ria Sterling has a psychic gift. She can look at photographs of people and know if they’re going to die within a couple of days. She accepts her gift and wants to prevent the deaths, but when she correctly predicts the death of Detective Carrick Jones’ partner, the nonbelieving policeman thinks she murdered him. Ria, however, has more amorous thoughts on her mind. She sees a possible future with him, but she also knows, on a psychic level, they are meant to work together to save someone. But with a killer after her, can Ria win Carrick’s trust in time and unmask the murderer? This is a page-turner from start to finish.

Hank Phillip Ryan’s FACE TIME

It's the scoop of a journalist's dreams!
New evidence in an old murder case could set a convicted woman free. Who better to crack the story than Boston's own version of Brenda Starr? Unfortunately, the prime source won't talk, the attorney general is trying to block the investigation, and the more Charlotte snoops around, the more people turn up dead!

An extended visit from her persnickety mother isn't helping. And Josh, the incredibly sexy new love of her life, may be the picture of perfection, but that includes a close-up of a prickly preteen who's not keen on sharing her daddy with Charlotte.
What's a star reporter to do? If anyone can pull it together it's Charlotte, but she'd better hurry, because someone wants her nose out of their news— for good.

RT Magazine’s 4 ½ star review of FACE TIME:

Face Time (41/2), by Hank Phillippi Ryan, returns to the Boston TV world of Emmy-winning investigative reporter Charlie McNally. In her first book, Prime Time, Charlie was almost killed by a sociopath. But she did meet a wonderful man, professor Josh Gelston, and now both romance and excitement continue. When Charlie is approached about helping to clear a woman imprisoned for the murder of her husband, the story seems perfect for sweeps. But soon Charlie and her producer are up against a politician running for governor on a law-and-order platform with the woman’s case as his selling point. Soon there are more murders, and Charlie finds both herself and her difficult but loving mother in trouble. Strong writing and an interesting plot make this a wonderful follow-up.