Book Review-Karen Robards: One Summer

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

Shortly after I joined my local RWA chapter, the longer-term members waxed poetic about a book called One Summer by Karen Robards. I was unfamiliar with the author. I borrowed the book from the library. A few days later, I purchased my own copy.

This is the story of a high school English teacher  who gets involved with a former student–after he’s released from prison for murder.  She is the only person in their small, Southern town who believes in Johnny’s innocence; the town does not react kindly to her helping him after his release.

Lots of tension here, including some incredible sexual tension, but also family issues mixed in with the always popular wrong-side-of-the-tracks trope. A compelling read.

Five stars.


Thursday Thought-Self-Help: Orbiting the Giant Hairball

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving With Grace by Gordon MacKenzie is one of the easiest self-help books I’ve ever devoured. There’s no jargon, no quoted sources or case studies (or if there is, they are a minor mention at best).

MacKenzie writes about his time working for Hallmark and the frustrations of a creative thinker trying to be productive in a corporate one-size-fits-all structure. He shares his methods for coping. Most of his ideas wouldn’t work in the majority of businesses. These days, they wouldn’t even work in “creative” business, such as broadcasting. They’d be great for advertising and marketing.

One of the most important lessons I learned is from Chapter 19. “Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.” (I once quoted this, then had to explain the meaning, which shocked me.) This may be the best advice I’ve ever read.

This is an older book (1998); technology has changed many things in our world. But the human brain, if properly treated, can triumph.

Thursday Thought: Holidays Aren’t a Day Off

Happy Memorial Day. My grandmother always called today Decoration Day, because one is supposed to decorate the graves of  deceased soldiers. When I was in high school marching band, we marched in three Memorial Day Parades. Then it was off for a family picnic.

We still have an annual family picnic. I love my family. I have wonderful nieces and nephews, and even young ones from the next generation. My sibs are great, and I’m lucky to still have both of my parents.

But now that I’m a working adult, I have concluded that just because a person doesn’t have to report to a day job on the holiday, doesn’t make it a day off. The work is just a different kind of work.

When my children were younger, I had to get them ready to travel, pack a change or two of clothing, and prepare a pot luck contribution. They’re responsible for themselves now, but I still have to prepare food to share. I like to cook, don’t get me wrong, and I enjoy the challenge of finding dishes that take everyone’s food foibles into consideration. It’s still work, though. I have to make certain I have enough meat for my gang (our picnics are bring your own meat and a dish to pass). I have to do the shopping.

Where is my day off?


Thursday Thought-Self Help: Deep Work

Deep Work by Cal Newport was recommended in a recent class I took. A bunch of fellow like-minded people started a book club and chose this title as the first to be read.

Okay, maybe I’m not as deep a thinker as the others. Or maybe I’ve read too many “self-help for productivity” books over the course of my life. This book didn’t do anything for me, except annoy me. I liked the first part of the book, and thought perhaps I’d found something useful, but once again, the author is more into delegating crap work so they con focus on the “important” work.

As if the “crap” work isn’t important. What happens when you don’t have staff or a wife? You’d have to order in your own damn sandwich. Oh. I forgot. You’re too important.

The author totally lost me when he complimented himself for doing “deep work” while helping his wife out around the house. After all, he does walk the dog every night.

To be fair, he did have good suggestions. The best was saying, “no.” Some of us do need to be more protective of our valuable time. Example: RWA and how its current issues are impacting my local chapter requires a lot more energy from the local board (although I am far from the person doing 98% of the heavy lifting) than I had anticipated; it is draining my energy. I would hate to be a chapter president right now dealing with that time suck. (Shout out to Kerrie of CNYRW!)

Women, especially, need to practice saying NO more often.

MJ Monday-Meals: Pasta Salad


Pasta has always been my “fallback” ingredient. It’s budget friendly, filling, and shelf-stable. What with COVID-19 reshaping our lives, I’ve been more and more dependent on pasta. Every couple of weeks, I’ve been making a pasta salad. I think I’ve made more so far this year than I have in the previous two years. It’s a good way to get vegetables into the diet, too. It goes well as a side for many things.

Here’s my recipe:

  • 1 box of rainbow rotini, cooked al dente
  • matchstick carrots
  • a cup or so of green peas (frozen, microwaved for a bit to thaw)
  • roasted red peppers
  • a can of artichoke hearts, cut into eighths
  • a can of sliced black olives
  • a yellow bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • a slice or two of red onion, cut into pea-sized chunks

I throw everything into the bowl while the pasta is cooking.

For dressing I use Good Seasons Garlic & Herb made with canola oil and red wine vinegar. I toss it all together (including the pasta). Then I add dry basil leaves, dry parsley, and garlic powder to taste.