Book Review: Gypsies of New Rochelle by Ivan Jenson


AuthorIvan Jenson
TitleGypsies of New Rochelle
Publication Info: Michelkin Publishing (2017)
Summary/Review:

I received an advance reading copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

I gave up on reading this novel about 40% through.  The novel set in 1980 is narrated by 17 y.o. Shawn Aldridge, the youngest member of an eccentric family that recently moved from the midwest to the New York City suburb.  All of the children are expected to accomplish something great, but most of the family’s hopes are pinned on Shawn’s sister Nora becoming a concert violinist, leaving the other children to work out their resentment and inadequacy in other (supposedly comic) ways.  Shawn, an irritating narcissist, sees himself as a sensitive poet and spends much of his time taking the train to New York where he dates an exotic dancer, while simultaneously dating a typical middle-class suburban girl in New Rochelle.  The characters frequently stereotype others, and the author’s voice seem to agree with them.  The dialogue is stilted and unbelievable. Really everyone in this book is loathsome, and while it’s possible to have a novel with no sympathetic characters, you have to be a better writer than this.  I’m not surprised to look at Amazon and see this book compared to Augusten Burroughs’ Running With Scissors, because I hated the movie adaptation of that book for many of the same reasons I hate this book.

Favorite Passages:

“Now, there were two sides to this family. One was playful, fun, drunken and the other was desolate and desperate. At any given moment I could not tell which side was going to win out. The dark or the light.” – (Kindle Locations 134-135).

Rating: *

Photopost: Playland


My family and I finished up the summer with an extended long weekend visiting my mother in the Bronx.  We took the time to explore New York and have a lot of fun.

We spent our third day at the historic Playland Amusement Park in Rye, NY.

Book Review: My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78 by Robert Sullivan


Author: Robert Sullivan
Title: My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78
Narrator: Mike Chamberlain
Publication Info: Dreamscape Media (2012)
Other Books by Same Author:  The Meadowlands and The Thoreau You Don’t Know

Summary/Review:

Robert Sullivan and I share a surname and a lot of common interests.  In this case, local history and travelogue.  The American Revolution famously began in New England and ended in Virginia, but the majority of the war took place in New York and New Jersey where the battles are greatly overlooked.  Even the coldest winter on record when the Continental Army encamped at Morristown, NJ doesn’t get the press of the somewhat milder winter at Valley Forge, PA.

Sullivan visits sites in New York and New Jersey, attempting to experience the long marches of a Continental foot soldier, while also exploring the popular memory through books, poems, museums, and reenactments.   I really like the premise of the book and some of the historical details of the Revolution and how the landscape continues to inform the New York/New Jersey area.  On the other hand, the book is meandering and not very cohesive, and well … a bit boring at times.  For example, a long portion of the end of the book Sullivan describes in detail many visits to the Watchung Mountains in New Jersey to attempt signaling his family in Brooklyn using a mirror.  It’s just not lively reading.  All the same, I like the way Sullivan thinks and will seek out his other books.

Recommended books:  Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell, Snowshoeing Through Sewers by Michael Aaron Rockland and Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
Rating: **1/2

Beer Review: Ommegang Three-Eyed Raven


Beer: Game Of Thrones: Three-Eyed Raven
Brewer: Brewery Ommegang
Source: 750ml bottles
Rating: *** (6.6 of 10)
Comments: This is a Game of Thrones themed beer so there was a chance that drinking it would lead to choking, convulsions, and turning a deep shade of purple, but luckily that didn’t happen.  I actually found the beer to be somewhat bland.  It pours out a near black color with a thick head.  The nose is floral with hay, and the flavor is sweet with a bitter chocolate.  It’s not bad, just seems too tame for the story it’s tying into.

Book Review: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow


Author: Ron Chernow
TitleAlexander Hamilton
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Publication Info: New York, N.Y. : Penguin Audio, p2004.
Summary/Review:

A straight-forward biography of General Washington’s right-hand man, Constitutional crusader, and founder of American finance as first secretary of treasury. It does not shy away from Hamilton’s failings such as an ill-tempered tongue and poor decisions, but mostly presents him as an honorable person who set the United States on the course to greatness before his own fall from grace (followed by his being felled by a dueling pistol).  Chernow relies on the unnuanced history that presents Aaron Burr as pure villain, but Burr did kill the book’s protagonist, so I suppose it’s only fair.  If you’re looking for an introduction to one of the United States’ overlooked but fascinating founders, this is it.

Recommended books:Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Future of America by Thomas Fleming, Ordeal of Ambition: Jefferson, Hamilton and Burr by Jonathan Daniels,  Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis, Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side by Leonard W. Levy, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis and John Adams by David McCullough
Rating: ***

Beer Review: Ommegang Rare Vos


Beer: Rare Vos
Brewer: Brewery Ommegang
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)

Comments: A yummy beer enjoyed on draft at the Doubleday Cafe in Cooperstown, NY.  A golden amber brew with a floral aroma, the beer has a bready, malt flavor with spices and hints of fruit, like apricot.  A very well-crafted and quaffable beer with ineffable qualities.

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Beer Review: Saranac White IPA


Beer: Saranac White IPA
Brewer: Matt Brewing Company
Source:
12 oz. bottle
Rating:
** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: 
Surprisingly this beer pours out with a thick head and cloudy, golden body looking all the world like a hefeweizen.  It’s a hoppy beer with some spiciness but it felt understated to me.  I could have used more flavor.  Other than that, it is a cheerful beer with a fruity aroma and stands out as something unique.

Photopost: Baseball Double Header


Over Memorial Day Weekend, I enjoyed a two-city, two-team, two-day baseball double header. On Sunday, I traveled down to New York to see R.A. Dickey and the Mets take on the San Diego Padres in the good company of some of my Mets fan friends. The next day, my son Peter & I went to Fenway Park for the Red Sox victory over the Detroit Tigers.

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Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

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