My Literary, Artsy and Beachy Summer Adventures 2018

This has been a busy summer for me as I have enjoyed many books, from family sagas like A Place For Us, to stories of strong women like The Weight Of Ink, to page turners and beach reads like Something in the Water and Vox.

I attended book launching events celebrating Jenna Blum and The Lost Family, Nancy Balbirer and A Marriage in Dog Years, and Susie Orman Schnall and The Subway Girls, and participated in engaging book group discussions for Educated, An American Marriage and Song of a Captive Bird.

I was thrilled to go to the East Hampton Library fundraiser, Authors Night, where I had a brush wth fame, as I was face to face with Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria Baldwin, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Geraldo Rivera.


I also visited with many wonderful authors there, including Jamie Brenner (The Forever Summer and The Husband Hour).  Visit my Book Nation by Jen Facebook Page to see all my photos from the star-studded event!


I stole a few days away with a friend, and in July we visited the Pollack- Krasner House in East Hampton, where Jackson Pollack lived and painted.  We experienced the signature Pollack technique of drip painting and strolled the incredible sculpture garden at Longhouse Reserve where Chilluly and De Kooning pieces are amongst those on display.  It was an incredibly fun, action packed artsy get-away!






Also, during the summer, the theater was calling my name and I saw two incredible Broadway musicals, Once On This Island and Come From Away. The rest of the days I spent relaxing, swimming, reading and catching up with friends at the beach in Amaganssett, NY and Westport, CT.

IMG_3826.jpgAmagansett, NY sunrise

IMG_3974.jpgWestport, CT sunset

In addition, I have started a fun, new job at Bedside Reading, a unique business that places complementary books at the bedside in 5 star luxury and beach hotels.  Publishers and authors can join the program (click here to apply) and once their book is accepted and in place we promote it in many ways, including in magazines and multiple social media networks.  I am thrilled that hotel guests across the country will be receiving fantastic books in their rooms like Jeanne Blasberg’s Eden, and Christine Pakkala’s Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green along with Leah DeCesare’s audiobook of Forks, Knives and Spoons!  Also guests will be treated to Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke and Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage!  So great to be part of a team that spreads the love of books and sweetens the lap of luxury!

It is bittersweet for me as we wind down the summer, with just a few days left before my 21 year old son returns to college for his senior year. My 15 year old son is already busy studying for ACTs, practicing his viola for his Youth Symphony audition, and finishing his summer assignments in preparation for junior year.  Time goes so fast, especially in the summer!


This is my older son with photobomb by Chris Martin of Coldplay!

I will be going full force trying to tackle my “To Be Read” pile of books in between my work projects, and attempting to remain sane by attending my beloved dance class at Dance Express with Luisa for the 15th year!

Hope you enjoy the last dog days of summer! (This is Bogey!)


Thanks so much for following Book Nation by Jen!  I would love to hear about your warm weather adventures!  Did you go on vacation?  What did you read? What keeps you sane?




From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein


My Review:

Twenty something Beck is living in DC, enjoying time with her boyfriend, working a part time teaching job and part time at Lululemon, trying to make ends meet, when she answers an ad for a job as a stenographer at a law firm on Craigslist.  They ask for her resume and cover letter and Beck, thinking nobody even reads her cover letters, omits it.   She hears back with a request for the cover letter and feeling discouraged from her ongoing job search she tells them in an email that her resumé speaks for itself.  But then she was invited to come in and take a test, which she does, and enjoys it – it is not a typing test as she expected, but a multiple choice and analogy test.  Beck, having done well on the test, is called back again for an interview. She agrees to go but misses it due to Lululemon training.  She has no interest in working as a stenographer but feels she needs interview practice so she makes a halfhearted effort. Feeling apathetic but with some vague sense of responsibility, she writes to apologize and gets this message back:

Hi Rebecca,

I understand you’re busy.  For transparency’s sake, I wanted to let you know this is a job at the White House, and you’d be traveling with the President on his domestic and international trips.  Let me know if this changes things.


And this very email changes Beck’s trajectory in life and in love as she embarks on a crazy journey with the White House staff and President Obama’s team.

I really enjoyed this memoir, From the Corner of the Oval;  Beck is not unlike any young adult fresh out of school and focused on herself, her friends and her love life.  Her boyfriend shenanigans and drinking escapades are typical and par for the course, fun to read and reminiscent of the good ol’ days in the big city for me, but her job was a once in a lifetime opportunity that gives this memoir an extended life, great interest and that un-put-downable quality!  Author Beck Dorey-Stein shares tidbits of insight and glimpses of President Obama and his staff through her eyes as she tells her personal story of struggles and growth, personal and professional, with this incredible, little known insider view as the colorful backdrop.

If you enjoy memoirs, if you have an interest in hearing about what is is like to travel the world with the President of the United States, or if you want to read about one young woman’s journey to find herself and happiness, Beck Dorey-Stein’s From the Corner of the Oval is for you!


Goodreads Summary


About the Author:

Beck Dorey-Stein is a native of Narberth, Pennsylvania and a graduate of Wesleyan University. Prior to her five years in the White House, she taught high school English in Hightstown, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; and Seoul, South Korea.

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey


My Review:

If you are looking for a book to bring to the beach this weekend, here it is!  Not Her Daughter is a gripping page turner that had me completely swept up in the drama and questioning what is morally right.  Sarah, a successful business woman becomes upset when she observes a mother mistreating her young daughter, Emma, in an airport.  Weeks later, by chance, Sarah observes the same girl while at school and feels overwhelming compassion and the urge to save her.  She secretly follows her home to check on her wellbeing and after witnessing the mother engaging in more abusive behavior, Sarah decides to act.

Amy, an unfit mother knows she has a beautiful grey eyed, brown haired daughter but is not able to manage her work, her baby son and her useless husband along with this button pushing, irritating daughter of hers.  She cannot control her inner anger and is constantly lashing out at her bothersome child.  And then Emma is gone.  Is Amy worried and upset…or relieved?

An illegal kidnapping, or a rescuing in the best interest of the child – that is up to you, as Sarah and Emma, the unlikely duo hit the road together.

Being on the run with the now missing five year old girl is not an easy task and Sarah does her best to keep her friends, family and coworkers oblivious.  Then she runs into her ex boyfriend and her secret is in jeopardy.  Can she escape judgement along with the authorities?  Does Emma’s family even want her back?

This quick read is perfect for an escape from reality…don’t nitpick the practicality of the story and just enjoy the ride!

Goodreads Summary



About the Author:

Rea Frey is the author of four nonfiction books. Her debut novel, NOT HER DAUGHTER, will be released by St. Martin’s Press August 21, 2018.

When she’s not exercising, mothering, adulting, wifing, eating, or writing about herself in the third person, you can find her hard at work on her next book and ghostwriting for other people.


Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown


My Review:

If you feel like you could use a boost of self confidence or reassurance that you are who you are supposed to be, or you want to think about acceptance, your own as well as getting along with others in this world, Braving the Wilderness is for you, and frankly everyone you may know.

In discussing how to build bridges, Brown says, “…the more we’re willing to seek out moments of collective joy and show up for experiences of collective pain- for real, in person, not online – the more difficult it becomes to deny our human connection, even with people we may disagree with.”

Brené Brown delivers powerful messages about how to “reclaim connection and truly belong” in this short, easy to ready book.  She provides some good advice and examples to assist us in navigating today’s world, standing up for what we believe individually, connecting face to face and treating others with respect. I read and enjoyed the book but heard the audiobook is great too.

Goodreads Summary


About the Author:

Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work.

She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of four #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness. Her new book, Dare to Lead: Bold Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts., is scheduled for publication in October 2018.

Brené’s TED talk – The Power of Vulnerability – is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world with over 35 million views.

Brené lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Steve, and their children, Ellen and Charlie.

Vox by Christina Dalcher



My review:

Get ready to read this one, sure to be all over social media this fall!  As we can imagine, contention in government could lead to citizens’ rights being taken away, and in Vox, author Christina Dalcher goes to the extreme with this concept and shows us how easy it is to change people’s mindset in a short time.   In this made up Handmaid’s Tale – like world,  women are only allowed to speak 100 words per day. Their words are counted by a bracelet each one wears, and when they go over the limit, they receive an electric shock. All women have been removed from the workforce and are only allowed to take care of the home and family. Could something like this ever happen? I found there to be some vague parallels to real life, was captivated by the storyline, and even though the ending was a little far fetched and dramatic for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Maddening, frightening and exhilarating, this could be a fantastic movie!

Book groups will enjoy rich discussion surrounding this novel’s concept. Vox is available August 21st.

Goodreads summary


About the author:

Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.
Her short stories and flash fiction appear in over one hundred journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.
After spending several years abroad, most recently in Sri Lanka, Dalcher and her husband now split their time between the American South and Naples, Italy.
Her debut novel, VOX, will be published in August 2018 by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

His Favorites by Kate Walbert


(Book available August 14, 2018)

My Review:

With sparse, lyrical language, author of His Favorites, Kate Walbert, shines a light on women’s rights as she tells us about Jo’s tragic and unsettling experiences.  After being in a deadly accident at 15 years old with her best friends, Jo, a wild and now emotionally broken high school student is sent off to boarding school.  Her life at home crumbled, her friendships broken, and the new beginning her life away at school had the potential of being is not going in the right direction.  Memories and stories weave together our understanding of who Jo is…and how an irresponsible female teenager, faced with tragedy and then coerced by a sweet talking man, may not get the support she needed to fight back and stand up for herself.

With Jo’s best friend dead and her parents separated, she blames herself and feels the heavy weight of responsibility.  To start fresh she begins attending a boarding school, but not with a clean slate.  She is consumed with guilt and is having trouble fitting in. She has a labored relationship with her quirky roommate, and unacceptable interactions of the “me too” variety with a charismatic albeit inappropriate male teacher.  Her vulnerability attracts trouble, her cry for help is ignored and her most effective escape from reality consists of drugs, alcohol and trying to keep her mind dark and empty.

Reading this brief 150 page book generated overwhelming feelings of hurt and sorrow, along with anger and outrage.  I found Jo to be lost and desperate, abandoned by her family and friends from home, and abused and damaged by people who were supposed to help.  When she reached out for support she was belittled and rejected.  Like many who suffer abuse and never get the chance to speak out and be heard, Jo carries the burden and the heavy heart.  This is an important book for all to read – life is not always easy but we must all lift each other up, protect one another and stand up for our rights and others.  I highly recommend this one.

Goodreads Summary


About the Author:

Kate Walbert was born in New York City and raised in Georgia, Texas, Japan and Pennsylvania, among other places.

She is the author of A Short History of Women, chosen by The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of 2009 and a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize; Our Kind, a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction in 2004; The Gardens of Kyoto, winner of the 2002 Connecticut Book Award in Fiction in 2002; and Where She Went, a collection of linked stories and New York Times notable book.

She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fiction fellowship, a Connecticut Commission on the Arts fiction fellowship, and a Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellowship at the New York Public Library.

Her short fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize stories.

From 1990 to 2005, she lectured in fiction writing at Yale University. She currently lives in New York City with her family.


There There by Tommy Orange



My Review:

So much sorrow as the characters in There There seek connection and struggle with identity…an honest and important debut!

Author Tommy Orange gives us a window into Native American Indian suffering and challenges with skill.  We follow more than a dozen characters, hearing their stories as they prepare to attend a major Pow Wow, a coming together of Natives from all over.  As we know, their land was taken away from them, but most have never lived the traditional Indian life on a reservation.  They are interested in their own culture and history yet they know so very little about where they truly came from, the people, the places, and the rituals and traditions.  Not knowing their past contributes to unsettled feelings, and a sense of belonging is challenging and often laced with despair.

Tony Loneman was born to an alcoholic and has some mental deficits.  He deals drugs.  He plans to go to the Pow Wow to steal money.

Dene Oxendene smokes weed.  He takes over his uncle’s movie making project about Indians and their stories.  He plans to go to the Pow Wow to interview Natives.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield lived on Alcatraz in protest when she was a child, with her mom, who died of cancer and her sister.  She plans to go to the Pow Wow to see her grandson dance.

Edwin Black searches online and finds his long lost father.  He plans to meet him at the Pow Wow.

Everyone is searching for their history, a means to an end and connection while battling despair, addiction, weight issues and social challenges.  I found this book, a collection of integrated personal stories, compelling and tragic. Not knowing who you are can be devastating and hearing the words of a character who is half Native and half white, the struggle is evident as Orange writes, “You’re from a people who took and took and took and took. And from a people taken. You were both and neither. ”

With clarity and honesty, There There is a story of the urban Native Americans, an inherently beautiful people with a painful past and a deep sense of spirituality.  I highly recommend this book.

Goodreads Summary


Photo: © Elena Seibert

About the Author:

Tommy Orange is a recent graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.  He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow.  He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma.  He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.


Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage


My Review:

If you are in need of a blood chilling thriller to make your heart pound, Baby Teeth is for you!  Author Zoje Stage mastered dark and suspenseful when she created Hanna, a seven year old, only child of Suzette and Alex.  Suzette had a difficult childhood, poor mothering and a continual battle with Crones Disease, and when she meets Alex in a professional environment, he saved her from loneliness and despair by respecting her design work and falling in love.  Alex, an architect, is a cheery Swedish man who desperately loves his wife, Suzette, and showers his very bright but mute daughter Hanna with love and attention.  Both parents want to be the best they can be; they spend lots of time with Hanna, they have patience for their daughter, but she doesn’t speak a word and seems to only love her Daddy.

After being kicked out of several preschools for bad behavior that Alex cannot recognize or accept, Suzette is homeschooling her daughter but seeing red flags in her behavior towards her.  She witnesses outrageous outbursts but due to her lack of confidence in her parenting and wife skills, she keeps some of what she experiences with her daughter to herself so as not to upset her disbelieving husband.

Hanna has an alter ego that seems to want to kill Mommy so she can have Daddy all to herself and she is working on a plan.  When mother and daughter are alone she terrorizes and scares her but when Daddy gets home she is her cuddly sweet self.

Life becomes dangerous for Suzette when warnings escalate from Hanna’s artwork that depicts a dead Mommy to Hanna speaking obscene and threatening messages to her mother when nobody else is around to sophisticated scheming that leads to illness and physical violence!  Suzette and Alex’s parenting skills are in question along with safety in their home when they finally reach out for help ad share what is going on with outsiders as the danger and threats escalate…but will it be too late?

This is a creepy story…but good creepy!  If you want to feel positive about your own family, OR you don’t want to have children, this book will support you in a big way!  Baby Teeth is a quick summer read that will keep you engaged and freaked out.

Summary on Goodreads


About the author:

An author of dark and suspenseful novels, Zoje lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her debut novel BABY TEETH (St. Martin’s Press) was released 17 July 2018. It will be released in the UK as BAD APPLE (Transworld) on 9 Aug.