On Blogging

I’ve been looking back on the little ways my life has changed since I started this project nearly three months ago and wanted to share some of them with you now.

  1. Changing my routine – in an attempt to find a few extra minutes to read every day, I started setting my alarm for 30 minutes before I needed to begin my day.  I pour myself a cup of coffee and open my book.  Those 30 minutes have become some of my favorite moments of the day.  It’s amazing how much more accomplished I can feel if I’ve already finished a chapter of my book by the time I get out of bed.
  2. Finding new books – I’ve always read a ridiculous amount, but this past year post-graduation from college was the first time I had total control over what I was reading.  As an English/Theater Studies major who read everything that was assigned, there wasn’t much time left to read for pleasure.  What I’ve learned this year is that there are SO MANY GOOD BOOKS being published every week.  Some people get food envy, but I get book envy when it comes to contemporary literature (ok, let’s be real, I get food envy too).  If I see someone reading something they loved, I need to pick it up.  
  3. Making new friends – from those I’ve actually gotten to meet in person to those I interact with each day, this community is filled with the most wonderful, intelligent people.  
  4. Keeping an account – my blog has turned into an unofficial journal, recording why I felt what I felt about each book.  I try to infuse each post with a bit of my personal life, a little context on where I am coming from.  It has become something to look back on and remember where I was when I read that book.
  5. Seeing NYC in a new light – I’ve always loved New York and I haven’t taken a minute of my life here for granted, but looking for new photo locations has enabled me to find something worth looking at on each street corner.  I pay attention to sidewalks and street art and shadows in a way I hadn’t before.

The History of Bees

Thank you, Touchstone Books, for this copy of The History of Bees by Maja Lunde.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, The History of Bees is a dazzling and ambitious literary debut that follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future to weave a powerful story about the fate of our planet and the world-changing potential of each family.

England, 1852: On the edge of self-destruction, seed merchant and biologist William is roused from despair by one of his children, who inspires him to invent a new type of beehive that will bring his family the honor and fame they deserve.

USA, 2007: George, a beekeeper in Ohio, has proudly preserved the traditions passed down from one generation of beekeeper to the next even as he fights an uphill battle against modern farming.  He hopes that his stubborn and rebellious son, Tom, will be their bee farm’s salvation, but the new ideas Tom encounters in college fuel his father’s deepest fears.

China, 2098: Working as a hand pollinator in a time when bees have all disappeared, Tao thinks only of how to give her son a better future.  But when he is mysteriously taken away by the authorities following a terrible accident, she journeys to the heart of Beijing to find out what happened to him, no matter the cost.

Morgan’s thoughts:

It’s always a little unfair to be the next book after a great book.  I was so completely in love with The Heart’s Invisible Furies that I was instantly more critical of The History of Bees.  This book switches between the three different perspectives far too quickly and suffers from one of the pitfalls of writing from multiple points of view: one perspective is far more interesting than the other two.  Tao is not only the most interesting narrator, her story also has the highest stakes.  In the beginning, I was reading just for her.  Not only that, I found neither William nor George endearing.  Their wives/daughters were more interesting than they were but were given far less attention.

However, my perspective began to change as I became more invested in the well-being of the bees.  Suddenly, I was hooked on this book and could not put it down.  I was reading in Riverside Park last night and looked up at one point to realize the sun had set, the streetlights were on, and the park was nearly empty.  I was invested more in each plot line as I realized how they all wove together. I needed to know what had happened to lead us to this point of desolation in 2098 and how (or if) it could ever be resolved.

The ending is completely gratifying and extremely touching.  This book is a beautiful lesson of how the actions of people separated by time and place can have an effect on one another.  If there’s anything I took away from watching all of midtown Manhattan head outside to watch the eclipse yesterday, it’s that we are all in this together.  This is our world, so we need to treat it wisely. It’s more delicate than we might expect.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery – or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him.  And he never will be.  But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his close friendship with the infinitely more glamorous and dangerous Julian Woodbeard.  At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

Morgan’s thoughts:

Go ahead, put this book on the shelf with Castle of Water, Exit West, and Fates and Furies because it is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year.  This book begins as truly wonderful historical fiction – we are introduced to Cyril’s journey while he is still in the womb, on the day his mother is humiliated in church and thrown from her hometown.  This horrific display of piety never slows her down, not even for one moment. Catherine Goggin is a badass woman with a plan – she can take care of herself.  All of the women in this novel are role model material.

Cyril, on the other hand, doesn’t quite know who he is or what is worth fighting for.  As this book slides forward in time, Boyne elucidates the true pain associated with being a gay man in Ireland in the 1960s.  It’s dangerous and depressing.  Despite how much Cyril wishes he could control these urges and keep them a secret from those around him, he is simply unable to do so.  The more he hides his true nature, the closer he is able to get to others who care for him and love him.  That’s all he’s ever wanted, and I understood why he was determined to do so.  But I just knew something had to break.

As this novel moves closer to the future, Boyne illuminates just how recently this hatred was a part of our world’s everyday rhetoric (and how it is not as far gone as we might like to think).  The characters freely speak of Ireland as this “backwater town” but when they get to New York City, things aren’t as different as they had wished.  In our current lives, where hatred pervades our country and our world, this is an important story about people persecuted for being who they are.

Almost immediately after finishing this novel, I wanted to pick it back up and start it over again.  I’ll be doing the next best thing, which is lending it to my best friend, but you can be assured I’ll be rereading this novel throughout my life.  There is definitely more to be gleaned from this moving tale.

Read this if you liked: A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore! The Heart’s Invisible Furies was written by John Boyne and published in 2017 by Hogarth Books/Crown Publishing.

Things That Happened Before the Earthquake

Thank you, Doubleday Books, for this copy of Things That Happened Before the Earthquake by Chiara Barzini.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Mere weeks after the 1992 riots that laid waste to Los Angeles, Eugenia, a typical Italian teenager, is rudely yanked from her privileged Roman milieu by her hippie-ish filmmaker parents and transplanted to the strange suburban world of the San Fernando Valley.  With only the Virgin Mary to call on for guidance as her parents struggle to make it big, Hollywood-fashion, she must navigate her huge new public high school, complete with Crips and Bloods and Persian gang members, and a car-based environment of 99-cent stores and obscure fast-food franchises and all-night raves.  She forges friendships with Henry, who runs his mother’s movie memorabilia store, and the bewitching Deva, who introduces her to the alternate universe that is Topanga Canyon.  And then the 1994 earthquake rocks the foundations not only of Eugenia’s home but of the future she’d been imagining for herself.

Morgan’s thoughts:

I did not love this novel and I did not hate it.  Chiara Barzini is a brave author and, I believe, quite a skilled writer. The pacing of this novel perfectly reflects Eugenia’s experience during these two years of troubled adjustment to Los Angeles.  It meanders along, a series of events rather than a plot that charges ahead, but this lazy pace is interrupted with shocking events that stuck with me even after I had put the book aside for the day.  My dreams were filled with variations of the trauma Eugenia was experiencing, proving to me that I was being affected by this story in ways I hadn’t seen.  The moments that are supposed to be horrifying were just that.  But then, with time (and pages), they fade and we are back to Eugenia’s less-than-normal daily existence.

This story is a true experience in putting on someone else’s shoes and walking a mile as a girl who was taken from a country she had not chosen to leave and forced into the life of a typical American teenager.  For that opportunity, I felt this was a worthwhile read.  If reading is able to teach us empathy, which I believe it is, especially reading narratives written in first person, this book does just that.  Given the state of our nation, we can only be helped by learning more about those experiencing hate and discrimination in our country.  This novel depicts her family’s struggle to re-enter the country, to visit the hospital in the case of true medical emergency, to be stuck without legal assistance even after they’ve been screwed over – things we take for granted.  

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

Goodbye, Vitamin

Thank you, Henry Holt Books, for this copy of Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong.  All thoughts and images are my own.

Synopsis: (as told by the back of the book)

Freshly disengaged from her fiance and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town, and arrives at her parent’s home to find family life more complicated than she’d realized.  Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory.  Her mother, like Ruth, is smarting from a betrayal.  But over the course of a year, the comedy in Ruth’s situation takes hold, gently transforming her grief.

Morgan’s thoughts:

This book snuck up on me.  I didn’t know how much I was enjoying it until it was almost over.  It’s short: ~200 pages that read very quickly.  But it is a breath of fresh air.  Ruth, our narrator, is matter of fact in her descriptions.  She notices everything, both big, like her father’s declining memory, and small, like the way strangers interact with one another on the street.

Reading this book made me consider how attached we are to our memories.  Not just those of us who openly proclaim their love of memories – who journal or make 1 second everyday videos or keep book blog entries to remind themselves what they were reading when. We all take for granted being able to recall even the smallest memories whenever we choose to do so (and even when we do not voluntarily choose).  What we remember makes us who we are.  To lose that is to lose a part of yourself.

One of the most beautiful parts of the book is the inclusion of excerpts from Ruth’s father’s journal that he kept when she was a young girl.  It’s funny how memories that aren’t ours can become ours when someone else shares them with us.  One of the best conversations I had with my parents this past year was when I asked them to share their memories of the day I was born.  If you haven’t done that before, I would highly recommend asking the question.

This book is refreshing.  Take a minute to walk in Ruth’s shoes for a year.  I can’t imagine you’ll regret it.  Despite the subject matter, this book is not maudlin and it’s not saccharine. It’s just right.

Interested in this book?  Click here to buy it on Amazon or find it at your local bookstore!

Reading My Way Through Greece

9 days. 6 books. 3 cities.

Read by destination: Athens, Crete, Santorini

Read by book: Nuclear Family, Outline, From the Mixed-Up Files, Dark Matter, To The Lighthouse, The Luminaries

Please note: I was lucky to receive a copy of Nuclear Family from Henry Holt but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Read it all:

Preparing to go

I am an obsessive person.  Sometimes this manifests itself in productive ways – I am incredibly detail oriented at work.  I research every city I travel to within an inch of its life. I always know how to get home. Sometimes it is less productive. I get extremely addicted to iPhone games. I find it hard to forget about mistakes I’ve made. I over analyze offhand comments made to me.

In preparation for our trip to Greece, I combined two of my current obsessions: travel and reading. I did some research and found three books set in Greece, two of which I read before leaving (A Separation by Katie Kitamura and Running by Cara Hoffman) and one of which I brought with me (Outline by Rachel Cusk). But it’s me – I couldn’t just leave it at that. I packed 5 other books as well. I carefully selected a group of paperbacks that would suit any mood I had while travelling.


Despite this careful preparation and planning, I was thrown off my charted reading course before I even left the apartment.  I had my backpack on, suitcase by my side, and hand on the doorknob when the doorbell rung.  It was none other than a delivery man with a package from the lovely people at Henry Holt containing a few books including Nuclear Family by Susanna Fogel.  I threw caution to the wind and chucked Nuclear Family in my bag. (I know, adding a seventh book to my suitcase is my version of throwing caution to the wind. That’s just who I am.) And with that, I was off.


Athens was where we began our trip and Nuclear Family was where I began my adventure.  This was unforeseeably perfect – Nuclear Family is a hilarious epistolary novel.  Through a series of letters addressed to a main character who we never hear from directly, we learn about the deterioration of her parent’s marriage, the scandalous escapades of her younger sister, the failed exploits of her own love life, and so much more.  We hear from her parents, her sister, her father’s new wife, her grandmother, as well as the exercise machine in her father’s office, her boyfriend’s dog who knows that he does not deserve her, and more.  It’s the kind of funny that will make you laugh out loud when you least expect it.  And it is the perfect book to read while travelling with your family because it mocks all the crazy things families do to one another while simultaneously paying homage to why we love one another so much.  A 9 day trip with your mom and younger brother will do exactly that.  I handed this book to my mom immediately after finishing it and she loved it too.  Approved by both NYC book girl and her mom.


We had less than two full days in Athens so we dove in head first.  We had a wonderful tour guide who explained the layout of the city as we zooped along.  Highlights of this first day include the Panathenaic Stadium – a site that is essential to the history of the Olympic Games. They have a small museum inside the stadium that has all of the Olympic torches inside – we had a great time looking at all of these.  The next highlight is absolutely the Acropolis Museum which is maybe the most beautifully designed museum I have ever been in.  If you are in Athens, this is a must see.  It is absolutely insane that most of the complete pieces of the Parthenon are in the British Museum, but don’t get me started on this subject. Because I’ll give you an earful.


We finished our first day by heading up to the Acropolis. It is stunning that the structures up there have existed for thousands of years.  The history is palpable as you walk among it.  The Parthenon is breathtaking, but my favorite site was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, which is a stone theater on the slope of the Acropolis.  It is still used today and you can bet that the next time I find myself in Athens, I will be seeing an opera there.  We finished our night with a lovely dinner at Dionysus Restaurant, which boasts terrific views of the Acropolis at night.


The next morning we were up early and off to the Temple of Poseidon which is south of the city at Cape Sounion.  It is about an hour and a half drive out of Athens, but the road runs down the shore so the drive was one of our favorite sites.  The Temple sits on cliffs overlooking the water and has amazing sunset views, but we were not able to stay for those because we were headed back into the city for lunch and our flight to Crete.


On our way to Crete, the biggest island of Greece, I started Outline by Rachel Cusk.  It is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.  Like Nuclear Family, we rarely hear from the narrator herself but instead learn about her through her reflection – in the conversations she has with others.  This book is also set in Athens and its surrounding neighborhoods, so my reading of it was certainly enhanced by having just been in that same place, walking the same streets and eating the same foods.  This book is the perfect example of a book being not about the plot but about the style of the writing.  It meanders in the most wonderful way.


Crete was full of the kindest people we met along the way.  We stayed in Elounda, a small town on the north side of the island.  Our first day there, we simply vegged out, which was much needed after the two intense adventure days in Athens.  We went to the beach, swam in the pool, and watched The Devil Wears Prada, which is a family favorite.  And I read. A lot.


On the second day, we were to a small island off the coast of Elounda called Spinalonga.  A brief ferry takes you to a now uninhabited island that was once an army fort and then a leper colony.  The history of the island is bizarre but the views are beautiful and we had a great time exploring.  And felt grateful when we left that none of us suffered from leprosy because for a long time the fate of the inhabitants of that island was simply bleak.

That night, I began my reread of From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and in honor of its 50th anniversary and this New Yorker article, I was inspired to revisit it.  I just love this book. I love it just as much now as I did when I was 10. I definitely see myself in Claudia.  She is a girl with a plan.  She loves to learn – she plans lessons for them during their week of living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And she loves a good mystery.  

There’s something grounding about rereading something you love.  I find myself remembering the person I was when I first read it.  In the way that some associate songs they were listening to with certain eras of their lives, I associate what I was reading. And there’s something beautiful about doing it when travelling in a new place.  Melding both new adventures with old values.  

P.S. the drivers in Crete are crazy and it’s great.  Everyone passes everyone else whenever they feel the need to.  It would be dangerous if they weren’t all such great drivers.


Everyone we met who lived in Crete told us how jealous they were that we were going to Santorini and they were so right.  We took the ferry over to Santorini (which is maybe the most comfortable means of travel I’ve ever experienced). We were staying in Oia, which is on the easternmost part of the island.  Our hotel was right at the start of the main pedestrian walkway, which was the perfect place to be.

Santorini is the most beautiful place I have ever been fullstop.  I am in love with this city, with the people in it, and with the sea surrounding it.

I spent the first day tearing my way through Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  Dark Matter is a dark, scientific thriller. I thought the writing left a bit to be desired by the story was excellent.  The concept was thrilling and terrifying because it seemed possible, in some scary version of our reality.  This book is dying to be a movie with some really wonderful and really attractive lead actor.  If you have any ideas, let me know. I’ve been brainstorming for the past few days.  


And I haven’t even mentioned the best part of Santorini yet.  There is this bookstore called Atlantis Books in Oia that is maybe the greatest bookstore I’ve ever been in.  They have a little bit of everything: fiction, philosophy, children’s books, rare books, books in many different languages, staff suggestions, etc.  It’s managed and curated by Craig, one of the stores original founders.  If you go to Santorini, do not miss this store.  I picked up a number of things but the most exciting were: a birthday present from my mom – a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ledger in which he himself went through and recorded all of his memories from the year he was born on.  It is just the coolest thing I have ever owned.  The others were recommendations from Craig: Stoner by John Williams, which Craig said “just might be a perfect novel,” and A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, which “might come in handy later in my life.”  I cannot speak highly enough of Atlantis Books or the people inside.  I’ll be saving my pennies in the hopes of returning one day.  There is just no feeling like buying the right book in the right place.

Throughout the trip, I was making my way through The Luminaries. I’m about a third of the way through this very long novel, so I don’t feel truly prepared to write about it yet. I’m enjoying it so far (I’m a fan of historical fiction), but I’m not totally hooked, hence the meandering my way through it.


On my brother’s birthday, we went to the Dominaie Sigalas vineyard for a wonderful lunch and wine tasting.  A beautiful setting AND there was a litter of baby kittens that were extremely interested in us (potentially because my brother kept slipping them food under the table but also many just because they loved us. The world will never know.)  We ate incredible food in Santorini; one of the highlights was definitely his birthday dinner at a restaurant in Oia called Floga.  Some of the most delicious and creative dishes I’ve ever seen.

On Friday, I started Viriginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse.  I love Mrs. Dalloway and I knew it was time I picked up Woolf again.  She absolutely delivered.  This book has such beautiful prose. Woolf masters the balance between movement and stasis both in her character’s physical presence and in their mental state.  I simply loved this book.


On our final day in Santorini, we went out on a boat and explored the red sand beach, the white sand beaches, and the harbor of Thira.  We swam and ate and swam some more.  It was the most amazing way to spend the last day.  (I got incredibly sunburned but didn’t notice until we were back on land which honestly was lucky because it didn’t allow my sunburn to rain on my parade until later that night).

I feel so lucky to have spent 9 days in one of the most beautiful places in the world with two of the people I love most. (In a twist of fate, my dad was unable to join us because he qualified for the British Senior Open – GO DAD – which was the same week.) Greece has my heart.  IMG_2988

Interested in any of these books?  Click here to find them on Amazon: Nuclear Family, Outline, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Dark Matter, To the Lighthouse, The Luminaries.