Set in Connecticut: Fiction about the Nutmeg State

You might think a small state like Connecticut might not find itself as the setting for very many stories, but that’s not true! There are dozens of tales set in the Nutmeg State. You can begin with the fictional town of  Briar Creek, Connecticut where the Library Lovers mystery series by Jenn McKinley takes place and then move on to the strangely named Frog Ledge, Connecticut, home to the characters in Liz Mugavero’s Kneading To Die the first book in the Pawsitively Organic mystery series.

Some other recommendations if you want to indulge in a little fictional Connecticut scenery:

 Last Night at the Lobster: A Novel by Stewart O’Nan
Managing a failed seafood restaurant in a run-down Connecticut mall just before Christmas, Manny DeLeon coordinates a challenging final shift of mutinous staff members, an effort that is complicated by his love for a waitress, a pregnant girlfriend, and an elusive holiday gift.

This book was named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly and was a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

 Wishin’ and Hopin’: A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb
Back in his fictional town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, with a new cast of endearing characters, Wally Lamb takes his readers straight into the halls of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parochial School — where young  Felix Funicello learns the meaning of French kissing, cultural misunderstanding, and tableaux vivants. Wishin‘ and Hopin‘ barrels toward one outrageous Christmas. A vivid slice of 1960s life, a wise and witty holiday tale that celebrates where we’ve been — and how far we’ve come.

 Dune Road by Jane Green
Set in the beach community of a tiny Connecticut town, the heroine is a single mom who works for a famous–and famously reclusive–novelist. When she stumbles on a secret that the great man has kept hidden for years, she knows that there are plenty of women in town who would love to get their hands on it–including some who fancy the writer for themselves.

 

 The Land of Steady Habits: A Novel by Ted Thompson
For Anders Hill, long ensconced in “the land of steady habits”-the affluent, morally strict hamlets of Connecticut that dot the commuter rail line-it’s finally time to reap the rewards of a sensible life. Into his sixties and newly retired, Anders finds the contentment he’s been promised is still just out of reach. So he decides he’s had enough of steady habits: he leaves his wife, buys a condo, and waits for freedom to transform him. But as the cheery charade of Christmas approaches, Anders starts to wonder if maybe parachuting from his life was not the most prudent choice.

 Our Little Racket by Angelica Baker
In the aftermath of the collapse of Weiss & Partners investment bank, CEO Bob D’Amico’s daughter Madison, her mother, her best friend, her nanny, and a family friend begin to question their shifting roles in the insular, moneyed world of Greenwich, Connecticut. All these women have witnessed more than they’ve disclosed and must ask themselves: where is the line between willful ignorance and unspoken complicity?

 Housebreaking: A Novel by Dan Pope
When Benjamin’s wife kicks him out, he returns to his childhood home in Connecticut to live with his widowed father. Lost, lonely, and doubting everything he felt he knew about marriage and love, Benjamin is trying to put his life back together when he recognizes someone: his high school crush, the untouchable Audrey Martin. Audrey has just moved to the neighborhood with her lawyer husband and their daughter, Emily. As it turns out, Audrey isn’t so untouchable anymore, and she and Benjamin begin to discover, in each other’s company, answers to many of their own deepest longings.

 The Beach at Painter’s Cove by Shelley Noble
The Whitaker family Connecticut mansion, Muses by the Sea, has always been a haven for artists, a hotbed of creativity, extravagances, and the occasional scandal. Now, after being estranged for years, four generations of Whitaker women find themselves once again at The Muses. Leo, the Whitaker matriarch, lives in the rambling mansion crammed with artwork and junk. Her sister-in-law Fae is desperate to keep a secret she has been hiding for years. Jillian, Leo’s daughter, is an actress down on her luck. She thinks selling The Muses will not only make life easier for Leo and Fae, it will bring her the funds to get herself back on top. Issy, Jillian’s daughter, wants to restore the mansion and catalogue the massive art collection. Can these four generations of erratic, dramatic women find a way to save the Muses and reunite their family?

Prefer ebooks? Click here for a list of fiction ebooks that take place in Connecticut.

Downloadable Audiobooks your thing? Try these.

Dealing with Toxic People at Home and at Work

In a previous Blog Post, I discussed the prevalence of bullies in workplace culture (How to Spot a Bully in the Workplace and What to Do About It). My recommended reading list included The No Asshole Rule with the comment “A gem. I may write another post just about this book.”

Here it is.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton, PhD

The summary of this book says it is, “a business handbook on preventing and curing a negative work environment that explains how to restore civility to the workplace by weeding out problem employees in order to increase profit and productivity.”

But, oh, it is so much more.

How bad can working with, living with, and  having  toxic jerks in your life be? Consider some of these stats from the book:

Studies show that having just one chronic jerk in a workplace can diminish performance of the entire staff by a whopping 30%-40% .

Negative interactions affect mood fives times stronger than positive interactions.

25% of bullying targets and 20% of witnesses to bullying leave their jobs.

Working with toxic people can increase you risk of heart attack  20%-40%.

While this book was written with workplaces in mind, The No Asshole Rule can be applied to all areas of life. The author originally published his idea in the Harvard Business Review with the title: “More Trouble than They’re Worth”. And that basically sums up the No Asshole Rule. Some people, whether in your personal life or your business life, are simply more trouble than they’re worth.

The No Asshole Rule can help you:

1. Distinguish between  people who are having a bad day (temporary assholes) and those who are persistently nasty and destructive.

2. Spot the most common actions that toxic people use against others.

3. Discover how to assess the actual cost of having a toxic person in your workplace or life. (Yes, you can add up the money spent dealing with destructive, mean people. Think of such things as hourly salaries of managers and the human resources department. Think of sick time taken by the people who are targeted by the jerks. Think of the costs of counseling and lawyers. Think of stress-related illnesses and medications. Think of the loss of quality of life.)

4. Discover how to set up a No Asshole Rule and enforce it.

5. Learn how not to be an asshole. (Reigning in your inner jerk, avoiding asshole-poisoning, and a self-test to see if you often behave like a jackass.)

6. Tips for surviving an asshole-infested workplace.

7. The virtues of assholes (Yes!) with the warning that being a jerk all the time won’t work.

8. How a few demeaning creeps can overwhelm a horde of nice people.

The bottom line is that toxic personalities, whether at work or home, demean and de-energize those around them. They cost everyone in many ways: money, time, health, confidence, etc, etc. The advice of this book is clear: Expel rotten apples as fast as possible. There is a reason, Sutton asserts, that there is a delete button on the cover of the book.

I give this book Five Stars. It’s not just a valuable tool for the workplace, it is important for those who want to free themselves from anyone toxic in their lives.

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Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a wonderful graphic novel about her lifelong relationship with cooking. Lucy grew up in a household where food was always central. Her mother ran a catering business, grew her own food, and operated a farmer’s market stall. Due to this constant exposure, Lucy based many of her memories on food. Huevos rancheros reminds her of her adventures in Mexico with her best friend. Croissants remind her of the time she backpacked through Europe with a close college friend. Sushi takes her back to her travels in Japan. Hot chocolate, burgers, and fries remind her of traveling Italy with her father. Baking sweets became her way of working through stressful times in her life. Accompanied by these recorded memories are delicious recipes that are fun to make. After reading this graphic novel, you will gain a new appreciation for the importance different types of food can have on impacting people’s lives.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Modern-day Mexico, Italy, Japan, New York, and Chicago.

Number of pages: 173

Themes: Family, friendship, travel, growing up, and cooking.

Is this good for a book club? This would be good for book clubs that enjoy books about food.

Objectionable content? There are discussions of alcohol, periods, and pornographic magazines.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy the stories.

Who would like this? Anyone who loves food.

Rating: Five stars

Pirates: Books, Movies, and Pirate Language Lessons

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  There are many ways to celebrate. Dress like a pirate, talk like a pirate, watch a pirate movie, and, of course, read about pirates.

What’s your pleasure, matey?

How to Talk Like a Pirate: Take Pirate language lessons from Mango Languages. Available online from the Cheshire Library’s eResources page. Click on the Languages button and login to Mango to learn the proper way to talk on the high seas.

Pirate Movies. We’ve not only got all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but  several other pirate films and TV series, too.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (DVD – Animation)
After years of failed attempts to win the Pirate of the Year Award, Pirate Captain and his oddball crew go on a race to pillage the most booty.

Pirates: Dead Men Tell Their Tales (Downloadable)
Step back in time and discover the magic of the real Pirates of the Caribbean investigating the stories of Blackbeard, Sir Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd,  Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

 Treasure Planet (DVD – Animation)
Young Jim is given a map that charts the course to Treasure Planet, a distant world where hundreds of space pirates have stashed their loot.

Black Sails: The Complete First Season (DVD)
In 1715 New Providence Island is controlled by notorious pirate captains, and the most feared is Captain Flint. As the British Navy returns to exterminate Flint and his crew, Flint allies himself with Eleanor Guthrie, daughter of the local kingpin.

Cutthroat Island (DVD)
Morgan Adams, the female captain of a pirate ship, is on a treasure hunt for millions of pounds of gold buried on Cutthroat Island. She and her uncles each hold sections of the map to the treasure, but her Uncle Dawg would rather kill everyone in his way, including his niece.

Captain Blood (DVD)
A swashbuckling classic. After he treats wounded English rebels, physician Peter Blood (Errol Flynn) is arrested and sentenced to slavery in Jamaica. But Blood leads fellow slaves in an escape and strikes terror into the Jamaicans as the pirate Captain Blood.

Books about pirates.

Pirate by Clive Cussler (Fiction)
Confronted by a determined adversary, husband-and-wife treasure hunters Sam and Remi Fargo embark on an international quest involving an eight-hundred-year-old relic and a brutal murder. Also available as an eBook.

 

Pirate King by Laurie R. King (Fiction)
Mary Russell, wife to Sherlock Holmes, is traveling undercover along with a film crew that is ready to shoot a pirate movie. When the crew embarks for their Morocco location, Russell feels a building storm of trouble:  a film crew with secrets, decks awash with romance, and now the the real buccaneers the studio has recruited to provide authenticity are ignoring the movie studio owner and answering only to their dangerous outlaw leader. Also available as an audiobook.

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson (Non-fiction)
Pirate Hunters’ is a gripping account of two courageous divers’ quest to uncover the shipwrecked vessel of Joseph Bannister, one of history’s most infamous pirates. Also available as an audiobook.

 

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (Young Adult Fiction)
Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map, pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies. Now the only thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate Riden. Her power to enchant with song makes her a formidable foe– Alosa is only half-human, the daughter of a pirate king and a siren.

Unplug for Happiness

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How many times a day do you look at your phone? Start counting and the number may depress you. According to Time magazine, the average person looks at his or her phone 46 times a day. (Full article here.)

As a Technology Coordinator, it might surprise you that I strongly support limiting screen time. Study after study shows that time spent in front of devices like smartphones and tablets directly impacts your happiness. In summary, more time spent on Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, text messaging, and other online forms of communication makes you feel sadder, less satisfied with your life, and interestingly, more lonely.

Even more alarming, The Atlantic just published an article, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” which underscores the detrimental impact screens have taken on post-millennials. This generation doesn’t date, doesn’t hang out in person, doesn’t care about getting a driver’s license or a part-time job or going to the mall alone with their friends.

What do they care about? “It sometimes bugs me when I don’t get a certain amount of likes on a picture” says 13-year-old Athena. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.” The article strongly concludes that “There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness” and here we have a generation more plugged in than ever. (Full article here.)

So, how do you unplug for happiness? How do you ignore the siren’s song of likes, loves, and comments, the photos of your friend’s latest micro brewery trip, the constant churn of political news? It’s easier than you think.

  1. Get an alarm clock. First of all, if you rely on your smartphone to wake you up each morning, STOP! Get yourself a traditional alarm clock. A study from the Braun Research Center and Bank of America shows more people think about their phones than their significant others when they first wake up. If you’re guilty of browsing Facebook right before bed and checking your messages the moment you wake up, keep your phone out of reach. Better yet? Keep it out of the bedroom.
  2. Give your phone a home. Quit carrying your phone in your pocket and keeping your tablet within arm’s reach. Designate a basket or drawer for your devices when you’re at home, and leave them there. Without the temptation of your phone buzzing in your pocket or your tablet lighting up on the coffee table, you’ll find it much easier to unplug.
  3. Start small. Set achievable goals for yourself. No one can go from phone junky to unplugged zen master overnight. Start off with a small amount of time for unplugging, perhaps an hour a day. The next week, increase to two hours. Leave your phone in the car when you’re out shopping. Go for a long walk each day and leave your phone at home. Be as kind to yourself as possible, and reward good behavior. You won’t enjoy long-term success if you make unplugging a punishment. Did you get through dinner without looking at your phone? Treat yourself! Buy a book. Go out for an ice cream.
  4. Have a plan. So your phone is in the other room… Now what? If you sit there counting the cracks in the ceiling, you’ll never stop thinking about what’s going on in the online world. Fear of Missing Out is a real thing (Hey, it has a Wikipedia entry!). If you don’t keep yourself busy, the temptation to check your phone will be unbearable. Make a list of things to do while unplugged and use it.

You can also take a look at The Power of Off: The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World by Nancy Colier or The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere by Pico Iyer.

Happy unplugging! 🙂

Technology Help – Need device advice? Come to Drop-in Tech Help. No appointment necessary. We provide help with smartphones, laptops, tablets, ereaders, email, Facebook, social media, and more! Check out the calendar for our next session.