What I’ve Read


I’m deep in edits for my next novel, and working on another (trying to make up for the deficit from last year, I suppose), but I do find time to read. Here’s what I’ve read so far in 2021:

Hope: an ARIA anthology

I’ve worked as editor as the annual anthology of short stories, essays, and poems by members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for three years now, and as editor, I also get to choose the theme! For our 2020 anthology, ‘hope’ seemed most appropriate. Besides, it’s our state’s motto! This collection showcases the varied talent within our 300+-member organization.

Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump

Yes, I read it. I borrowed it from the library, and I was curious. While it doesn’t really offer any new revelations, the former president’s niece offers insights into the man. The greed and dysfunction within the family (headed by Trump’s father) is mind-boggling at times.

Eventually Evie by Cat Lavoie

In my opinion, you just can’t go wrong with a Cat Lavoie book. This is chick lit at its very best – a modern woman who travels through life with plenty of bumps along the way. Evie is lovable and well-drawn. Really just a very fun read.

Home Waters by Elizabeth Devlin

If you’re a Rhode Islander, or even if you’re not, you’ll enjoy this book set in The Ocean State. Here’s a romance with an important message about ocean conservation, all set in and around Narragansett Bay. Local author Elizabeth Devlin has done a great job with this first in a series.

Halfway to Nowhere by Steena Marie and Elena Aitken

This novel is short and sweet, and a very enjoyable read. I believe it’s an introduction to future novels, and I’ll be looking for what comes next. A lovely mother-and-child connection.

The Magdalen Girls by V.S. Alexander

If you’re familiar with The Lost Child of Philomena Lee or its subsequent movie, Philomena, then the plot behind this book won’t be a surprise. It’s set in Dublin in 1962 and is fiction, but based on the very real Magdalene Laundries, a Catholic institution that operated from the 18th to the late 20th centuries. It’s heartbreaking but a very good book.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I loved this novel – and I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2018. Arthur Less is a gay man in San Francisco, dreading his upcoming 50th birthday. To avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover, he goes on a trip around the world. It’s poignant and funny and sad and wonderful.

The Mill Town by Sam Kafrissen

Another local author, and I was intrigued. Set in the dying town of West Warwick in 1958, this novel reminds one of the Sam Spade detective series. In fact, the character of Hugh Doherty figures in multiple Kafrissen novels. This story has a good plot, and while it would benefit greatly from a good edit, the author knows how to craft a tale.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

This book was published in 2019, so the headlines may have faded, but it shouldn’t matter. Journalist Ronan Farrow writes about the obstacles that were put in his way when he tried to investigate allegations of abuse by legendary filmmaker Harvey Weinstein. It’s about a lot of powerful men trying to keep quiet the stories of sexual abuse and assault against not-powerful women.

Our Wicked Lies by Glede Brown Kabongo

Here’s the tagline: “Her marriage is to die for…” Right?? Don’t you want to read this? (Answer: yes, you do). Kabongo is a great storyteller and knows how to weave tension into every scene. I’m looking to read more from her.

I Thought You Said This Would Work by Ann Garvin

Okay, so I wasn’t sure I would love this book as much as I did. A shaky start (for me), but oh boy – once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Three girlfriends with misunderstandings that have broken friendships apart, a road trip, and forgiveness. It’s really, really good.

COVID Chronicles by Dr. Therese Zink

Dr. Zink is a local author, who presents a book of essays, detailing the thoughts and memories of essential workers who helped to get the country through this crisis. If you want to read about the human spirit and its remarkable resiliency, this is for you.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

I’ll admit, I wasn’t familiar with this book (even though it spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list). My sister told me about it a year or so ago. I finally read it this past spring and OMG. Talk about the best opening lines: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting in a Dumpster.” If you haven’t yet read this book, please go find it now.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Maybe it was because I had just read The Glass Castle, but I sought out this book to read. The book is 20 years old now, so some of it might seem dated, but the story remains true, maybe truer now. She went undercover to work in low-paying jobs and tried to see if she could ‘match income to expenses.’

The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes

Delightful, quirky, witty – everything you’d expect from Irish author Marian Keyes. A woman with a rare disease (Guillain-Barre syndrome) is hospitalized for months, only able to communicate by blinking. As she struggles with her identity (before and after the illness), relationships get complicated.

Boop and Eve’s Road Trip by Mary Helen Sheriff

Just so you know, Eve is the granddaughter and Boop is her grandmother. The road trip is essential, not only for their relationship, but for their respective healths (both physical and mental). It’s full of Southern charm and sayings, but is poignant and sweet at the same time.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

This is actually last summer’s big read, but I just got around to it (and now I can read Weiner’s next book, That Summer). The character of Daphne Berg is lovable, and this story – about female friendships and fallen-apart relationships, is classic Weiner.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Did I save the best for last? Oh, this book. Given to me by my pal Lisa at Ink Fish Books, it took me weeks to finish. But that’s not a bad thing. With possibly the most exquisite prose I’ve ever read, this novel – and it is a novel, it’s fiction – imagines the aftermath of the loss of William Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, from the bubonic plague at age 11. Now, it’s true that Shakespeare’s son Hamnet died in 1596 at age 11, but little was known about the boy. O’Farrell took what she did know and constructed a gorgeous novel about parents and children, grief, loss, and love.

So, there you are. I need to return to writing so I can have (at least) one book for my readers this year! Feel free to let me know what you’ve been reading in the comments. And be well, everyone – better days are here.

A Free Book to Start June


Image from flickr.com – free to use

Welcome to Pride Month! Annually in June, and to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – and those who love them – recognize the ongoing work to achieve social justice and equity for all humans.

If you don’t know about the Stonewall riots (also known as the Stonewall uprising), they happened at the end of June in 1969 in response to police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village (Manhattan), a traditionally gay bar. Lesbian and gay patrons, their supporters, and folks sympathetic to the movement pushed back against the violence, harassment, and persecution perpetrated by members of the police against gay and lesbian patrons. The uprising was seen as the beginning of a movement to outlaw discrimination against people based on their sexual preference. It’s been 52 years. Have things changed? Yes, in some ways, and for the better. However, discrimination and hatred are still with us, in many forms.

The movement continues, as does the fight for equality for all people. Perhaps it’s even more important now. The brave men and women who fought for freedom over 50 years ago didn’t risk (or in some cases, give up) their lives so that a select few groups could wield power and exert dominance over others.

My 2013 novel

To that end, I’m making one of my books free for the next five days. Bits of Broken Glass is about a small group of high school classmates who reunite 25 years after their high school graduation. It features diverse characters, all of whom carry baggage from their younger days, and all of whom fear some of the ghosts of the past. Bits of Broken Glass was an Amazon #1 bestseller a few years ago, but if you haven’t yet read it, now’s your chance. Download a copy for free, or pick up a paperback copy for about $10.00, either through Amazon or from your favorite bookstore. If your bookstore doesn’t have a copy in stock, just ask them to order it for you! And that title? Yes, it’s a fragment of a lyric from one of my favorite James Taylor songs.

Coming Soon – A Green Anthology


After the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge, which ended on April 30, I generally take a break from blogging. Can you blame me? Although most of the work is done during the months of February and March (so that I don’t have to blog each weekday – believe me, I learned the hard way!), still, I keep up with the April posts, catching little errors here and there. Also, I like to visit as many blogs as I can during the month of April, so little else gets done.

However, again this year I was chair of an annual project involving my fellow Rhode Island authors. For the sixth consecutive year, the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) will publish an anthology of stories, essays, and poetry by Rhode Island authors. This is my third year chairing and editing the project. It’s always exciting!

For 2021, I chose the theme of GREEN. I do believe an anthology should have a theme, something to tie together the submissions, and GREEN can be interpreted in many ways. There were stories and poems about GREEN in its many forms – envy, money, grassy areas, green eyes, ecology. The was memory and fantasy and baseball! We have a multitude of talent within our group.

So, look for our anthology, coming soon. It’s presently with the publishing company we use (https://www.stillwaterpress.com/). Copies will be available both online and through Stillwater.

And if you’re looking for past anthologies, check them out here:

https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/shoreline-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-and-prose-aria
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/under-13th-star-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-and-prose-aria
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/selections-aria-anthology
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/past-present-and-future-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-prose-association-rhode-island-aut
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/hope-aria-anthology

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “Z” is for HAZARD ROCK


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The name Hazard is well known in Rhode Island. Members of the Hazard family were among the first settlers in the state. According to Wikipedia, “descendants have been known for military achievement, business success, philanthropy, and broad social activism spanning such causes as abolition of slavery, treatment of the insane and alcoholics, family planning, and innovative employee programs.” Belcourt Castle in Newport, one of the “summer cottages” of the very well-to-do, was built for Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont, a socialite and U.S. Representative from New York.

Hazard Rock, pictured above, lies at the end of Hazard Avenue in Narragansett. The name Hazard seems appropriate here, as the rocks can be very slippery. The waves hit hard against the rocks, making them black and slick. And there have been injuries and deaths attached to the rock. In 2016, a person was pulled from the waters off Hazard Rock. At the time of rescue, the person was unresponsive and was pronounced dead. Just a few months previous, a 61-year-old man was seen swimming in the water near Hazard Rock. His body was found several days later. And in 2015, a 14-year-old girl and her father were snorkeling and spearfishing in the waters near Hazard Rock, when he lost contact with her. She was found unconscious hours later and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

So, while these stories illuminate the dangers of being on Hazard Rock, it’s a beautiful place to enjoy the views from a distance, as noted in the photo above.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series! Here’s to another “Blogging from A to Z” in the books – this was my 10th year participating. My previous themes have been:

2012: Authors, novelists, poets, lyricists

2013: Oh! The Places I’ve Been

2014: CHEESE! “Smile and Say…”

2015: Listen Up!

2016: Paris Between the Wars

2017: A to Z Musicals

2018: 1968

2019: Dylan

2020: Yes, But Would You Eat It?

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “Y” is for YAWGOO


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The only remaining ski ‘resort’ in Rhode Island is located in Exeter. It opened in the 1965-66 season as “Rhode Island’s first chairlift ski area.” (Other ski areas relied on tow ropes or T-bars). Developer Richard Downs acquired property around Yorker Hill (295 ft.) and began cutting ski trails.

Because of its location, Yawgoo relies mainly on artificial snowmaking. It also has a snow tubing park available with eight lanes.

The early 1970s saw difficult days at Yawgoo Valley. The 1971-72 season had minimal December skiing and 1972-73 only had 58 days of operation, the majority of which were considered bad.

In an effort to develop a summer business, Downs and his partner Steven Ellis constructed a skateboard park in the spring of 1976. By the summer of 1977, an estimated 10,000 skateboarders had visited the park. Now there is a water park, consisting of two water slides, a kiddie pool and a regular pool.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “X” is for PAWTUXET VILLAGE


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Of course I got creative with my “X” post. (Just so you know, I bent the rules a little with “Z,” too).

Pawtuxet Village, one of my favorite spots in Rhode Island, is where the Pawtuxet River flows into Narragansett Bay. In the Native Narragansett language, ‘Pawtuxet’ means ‘little falls.’

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Settlers in the early 18th century saw the advantage of using the Pawtuxet River’s power, and constructed mills along its banks. The harbor in the village became one of America’s premier shipping ports.

There are still many colonial houses and buildings in the village, thanks to the hard work of the Pawtuxet Village Historic District.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In 1772, Rhode Islanders took the first organized military action towards independence by burning the British schooner HSM Gaspee. The action was part of the beginning of the American Revolution. Each year in June, “Gaspee Days” are celebrated in the village, with a parade and a symbolic burning of the Gaspee.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In the late 1800s, one of Rhode Island’s well-known and wealthy families, the Rhodes, developed and built Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet, a famous dance hall and casino. Because of its location along the banks of the Pawtuxet River, there were also canoe trips offered. These days, it’s a popular venue for weddings, retirement parties, and the annual Book Expo of the Association of Rhode Island Authors.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “W” is for WOONSOCKET


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Bienvenue! We are in Woonsocket today, and while it might be a good exercise for me to write this post en français, I’d need to use the French-Canadian version of French to be authentic.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

Before the European settlers arrived in Rhode Island, specifically northern Rhode Island, in the 17th century, the area known today as Woonsocket was inhabited by three Native American tribes: the Nipmuc, the Wampanoag, and the Narragansett.

So where did the name Woonsocket come from? It’s likely derived from another Native word, maybe ‘woonksechocksett,’ meaning ‘fox country,’ or ‘wannashowtuckqut,’ meaning ‘at the fork in the river.’

As the Industrial Revolution expanded along the banks of the Blackstone River, textile mills were built from Pawtucket to Woonsocket. In 1831, Edward Harris built his first textile mill in Woonsocket. But the actual town of Woonsocket wasn’t established until 1867, when three villages in the area (Woonsocket Falls, Social, and Jenckesville) officially became Woonsocket. Three more industrial villages were added in 1871 (Hamlet, Bernon, and Globe), and Woonsocket incorporated as a city in 1888.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The influx of immigrants to the mills, primarily from Quebec and other areas of French-speaking Canada, bloomed the city. By 1913, Woonsocket had the sixth-largest population of French or French-Canadian foreign nationals in the country. By the Great Depression in 1929, ethnic French Canadians comprised 75 percent of the city’s population. There were newspapers in French, radio programs, and if you strolled down Main Street, you’d likely hear French spoken.

The Depression had hurt the textile mills, but business revived at the outbreak of World War II. Woonsocket became a center of fabric manufacturing, for military uniforms and parachutes. If you’re in the area, the Museum of Work and Culture is well worth your time. https://www.rihs.org/locations/museum-of-work-culture/

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “V” is for VALLEY FALLS


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

A little village in the town of Cumberland, Valley Falls sits on the border of Central Falls and Lincoln. Valley Falls is known for being the starting place of Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway. That’s right! Berkshire Hathaway was actually founded in 1839 by a businessman named Oliver Chace, who founded several textile manufacturing companies in the 1800s. Originally called the Valley Falls Company, the company manufactured cotton.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Like most mills, the river and its dam helped to power operations. The textile empire built by the Chace family lasted for 70 years, with mills on both sides of the dam pictured above. As the company grew, other manufacturers came to the area to use the labor force. Valley Falls became Cumberland’s downtown and the seat of town government.

The Valley Falls Company closed in the 1930s, and the mills on the Cumberland side were torn down to avoid property taxes. In 1991, the town of Cumberland and the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor, an area dedicated to the history of the early American Industrial Revolution, transformed the site into a historic park. Sadly, the area has been marked by graffiti and vandalism, and a number of homeless people have set up tents down by the river.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “U” is for USQUEPAUG(H)


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The village of Usquepaug (“OOS-kwah-pawg”), sometimes written as Usquepaugh, translates as ‘the end of the pond.’ But when you read on, you’ll see another possibility for this unique name. Usquepaug is in the town of Richmond, along the Usquepaug River.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

In the little Usquepaug Road Historic District (blink and you’ll miss it) is the Kenyon Corn Meal Company, a grist mill that dates back to the late 1600s.

Photo by Martha Reynolds
Photo by Martha Reynolds

Are you familiar with a grist mill? In New England, they’re pretty well known, but maybe in other parts of the country (or outside the US), they’re a curiosity. A grist mill grinds grain (wheat, corn, rye, etc.) into flour. The ‘grist’ is the grain after it’s been separated from its chaff (the indigestible outside protective layer). At Kenyon’s, the grinding stones come from granite that was quarried in nearby Westerly.

The building pictured above was constructed in 1886, and the white corn meal produced by Kenyon’s is traditionally used in johnnycakes, a flatbread or thin pancake made from cornmeal. Each year (prior to COVID), the Johnny Cake Festival is held at the Usquepaug Historic District – hopefully it will return.

Out-of-towners might be rightfully confused if they stumble into Usquepaug. Usquepaug? Ask an old local and they might tell you that Escoheag is this way, and Quonochontaug is that way.

Usquepaug – Glen Rock reservoir – photo by Martha Reynolds

So, at the beginning of this article, I mentioned the word Usquepaug translated to ‘end of the river.’ That would seem to make sense. But there’s a local tale, unverified, that years ago, a local told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times that Usquepaug is a Native American word borrowed from the Scottish-Gaelic word for whiskey. What?

If you can find an old bottle of Tullamore Dew, the older green-and-white crock, you’ll find the words ‘Uisge Baugh’ on it. Uisge Baugh supposedly means ‘water of life,’ or whiskey. I went looking for one of those old bottles, but came up empty. The newer bottles don’t have those words on the label.

#AtoZ Stay Home! Wear a Mask! “T” is for TOUISSET


It seemed appropriate this year to feature a theme that kept me close to home, so I give you my A to Z within the small acreage that is Rhode Island. I tried to be creative (you’ll see!) but I hope you learn something about Little Rhody, too. Whether you’ve lived here all your life, grew up within the boundaries, or have never set foot on one of our many beaches, come along for a virtual tour.

Photo by Martha Reynolds

The name Touisset (“TWISS-et”) comes from a Native American Wampanoag name meaning ‘at the old field’ or ‘at the corn field.’ Touisset Point, in the town of Warren, was inhabited by Native Americans before the European settlers arrived. They lived off the land, enjoying the proximity to the water and all it provided.

The Touisset Marsh Wildlife Refuge is part of the Rhode Island Audubon Society, and is a 66-acre site situated on the Kickemuit River and Mount Hope Bay.

By the late 1800s, Touisset Point was developed as a summer community for wealthy Rhode Islanders who bought or rented farm houses to escape the heat and noise of the city and enjoy the cooler breezes that blew in off the water.

The wildlife refuge is a quiet, calming place if you can’t afford to rent a house in Touisset Point. It has a one-mile, easy trail that provides views of the Kickemuit River. The area is full of flowering fields in the summer months, and you may see butterflies. In the woods, there’s a possibility of sighting deer or fox, and perhaps a harbor seal in the water. The hike can be muddy in springtime, but it’s a good spot for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing when there’s snow on the ground.