READ IT: The Last Bar in NYC

Sunday, June 4, 2017

BY: Brian Michels

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: memoir, fiction, food & drink, alcohol
Pages: 248
Format: Kindle/Ebook
Source: I received this book from the author for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

"Thank heaven for New York City bartenders. They satisfy your boozy thirst in a strife filled life and a good one will listen to anything on your mind when no one else will. Our barman/narrator is one of the good ones. He’s been disposed under chins and elbows and cocktail napkins and ashtrays and spilled drinks for decades in New York City for countless drinkers willing to confess anything to a bar top. From one bar stool to another our barman’s raw and soulful voice delivers a metropolitan story of good times, struggle, regret and salvation - a story put together with well-known real life places, countless celebrity faces and amazing characters only found in New York City. Maybe you live in New York or simply wondered about living there. Maybe you’ve dreamed of tending a bar or owning a bar or sitting in a bar in New York City. Maybe you’ve always wanted to meet a bartender from the prohibition era who pissed into Al Capone’s beer or a horse-betting Rabbi that can explain the world order or see Mickey Mantle fall down drunk with his face buried in a filthy barroom toilet. Maybe you’re interested in a wine and beer stained, cigarette burned oak top metamorphism that will add some hardened experience to your teetotaler life. Or maybe you just have a tiny sadistic stripe and you’d like to witness what a big city, countless smokes and lots of drugs, liquor, sex, and bearing witness to the eternal under the neon glare of Times Square can do to somebody, to anybody. From 1966 and his first job in a South Bronx bar at 4 years old opening cans of beer to shining shoes in bars across the Bronx to serving booze in iconic bars and restaurants all over Manhattan our Barman spars with the life force of New York City for fifty years until last call when he’s faced with an unforeseen betrayal and is left almost broke, without a plan and nearly a hollow man. That is until he learns to forgive and luckily realize that life without warning has just begun."

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
It was okay. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I think it fits the book well, and portrays the colorful city life that I would think of for NYC Bars. It's a good fit. 

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I had the hardest time getting into this book in the beginning, then got into it a few chapters in, then fell back off. Throughout this book I kept thinking how much I felt like I did when I read The Catcher in The Rye. I think that would very much be considered a compliment, as Catcher in the Rye is a classic and loved by many. Just as I also think is the case with this book, especially based off of the numerous amounts of 4-5 star ratings it has received. For me, and my personal taste and style, I didn’t enjoy these memoirs as much as I’d hoped I would. I really wanted to love this novel. After talking to the author and reading a couple of online interviews with him, I was sure I would love his writing style, and I did. What kept me from giving it a 4-5 star rating was that there was a lot of extra details that felt overwhelming rather than adding importance to the story. Not quite half way through reading I felt so much had already happened and I was not getting the “lead up” or mystery pulling me back in and leaving me on the edge of my seat, wondering “What’s going to happen next?”. 

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
As I mentioned, this book reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, however, in that novel I couldn't stand the main character. In this memoir I thought the main character was interesting, hardworking, and funny. I enjoyed reading about his background and family history. 

Favorite/Insightful passages?
"I liked what they said because it made me feel better about pissing my pants"
Only because this made me laugh out loud while reading :-) 

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
Referring back to what I said about having no "lead up" or suspense, there was no ending to fall back down to. Which is what I enjoy in books. However, I do enjoy reading about and have a great respect for others that can take a hard upbringing or past and make things better for themselves in the end. Having to work as a young child to help support the family and his fathers drinking & gambling, only to make something of himself, follow his dreams, and find success makes for a captivating story worth reading. 

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
I've had conversations with the author, but something I haven't asked that I'm curious to know is if he plans on writing any fiction novels? Because I love his writing style, I would be interested to see what he came out with that was fiction. 

Final Thoughts:
I think my opinion of this book and feeling like I was missing something is based more off of my personal style and love for thrillers than it is of Michels' writing talents. His memoir is the third that I’ve read that had similar style and flow, and I felt this same way about all of them. Perhaps I don’t enjoy memoirs as much as I thought? However, as I mentioned, I did love this author's writing style and the personality that came through in his words, and for this reason I will continue to follow this him. I look forward to seeing what he comes out with in the future, he’s someone to watch for.

What's next? 

This is my circus and these are my monkeys

The last two months has been craaaazy  and I'm going to throw a pretty short n' sweet post your way just to say "Hey, how are you, I'm still alive and breathing and here's what's been up".

Finding time to shower has become an actual life struggle, let alone finding time to do any writing & blogging. Fulfilling my goal of one day writing a novel got moved to my "To do in my next lifetime" list. Even sitting down to write this post took twice as long to do because two of my kids saw me typing and then that turned into "Oh, I want to type something!" and ended up with them typing random letters into a blank word document for a solid 15 minutes, both pounding the keyboard with excessive force. I truly did not know if my "C" key would even work for this post.

So much has been going on, and it's stressful and chaotic at times, but it's been filled with fun activities from my active and healthy family, which I can't complain about and feel so blessed to have in my life. There is such a thing as good chaos, even if it doesn't always feel like it. Between the daily life of chores, housework, bills, working, and all the adulting Marty and I are required to do, the kids schedules have been keeping us plenty busy on top of everything else with school ending and summer beginning. 
As the younger kids were finishing out school with spring concerts and field trips (seemed like they had something going in daily), we also got the garden started at home (which has since been neglected already and needs restarted. awesome), and ball season got underway before school even ended. Brody also decided to play ball this year as well, and thankfully his season beginning and Gradey's ending are just overlapping, rather than having both going on at the same time. Brody is still in his cast from his hand surgery he had back in February, so although he doesn't get to play much, he's really loving being a part of a team and getting to practice and play any time he gets. Gradey had a great ball season. He had new coaches this year and improvement showed in the whole team and they finished the season 9-2-1! Max is thinking of starting baseball this year with soft pitch, which is a shorter season for younger kids that introduces them to getting the hang of the basics and comfortable with catching and hitting the ball. When the boys aren't at practice and games, they have a game going in town with all the other neighborhood boys. I love their love for the game. It's either baseball or nerf guns around here. Alyssa has been busy with dance as usual and just finished her track season. She did an awesome job at her meet a few weeks ago when Marty and I took the boys to go watch. I don't mean to brag, actually yes I am...but these kids possess some pretty amazing talent. 
We've been going to Des Moines quite alot the last few months. Sometimes weekly. Since Brody's surgery, he has to get routine x-rays, CT scans, and cast changes as he's healing, which is a slow process. This week we go back up for what we're hoping is the last cast removal, and then go into a splint that he would have to wear for an extended period of time. We're getting burnt out of the trips and he's tired of the casts, so he's ready for it to be over. I've been in the process of having my ears checked out and tested again to get some new and better hearing aids, so we've added a few more trips up for that, plus a couple trips for Sam to see the neurologist to have his head checked out since it measures too big, although his development is fine, just to be on the safe side. He also had to take a trip for hearing test to rule out any hereditary hearing loss. I will be very happy once on our long trips to Des Moines comes to an end.
Gradey just celebrated his 9th birthday with a nerf war party that turned out pretty good (I would consider it Pinterest worthy. *pats self on back*) and he had several friends come. They all showed up in camo and we gave them camo head bands, face paint and their own dog tags. They all looked pretty badass. After setting up the war zone, I didn't have the ambition to take it back down until the following week, so the kids and all their neighborhood friends took advantage of that while they could. The amount of nerf bullets in the yard during cleanup was unreal. I'm getting ready to start planning Sam's first birthday party for next month (.....Like, I can't even believe this is here already and I'm probably most likely going to cry that day). The last few years we've made the tradition of having a get together at our house for the Fourth of July, and since his birthday is the 10th, we will make it one party until he's old enough to want something else. I mean, who doesn't want a fireworks show at their birthday party?! And bubbles....he has to have bubbles. 
Since my last post, Brody got his drivers permit and Alyssa will will get hers this fall. A few nights ago Brody also had his 8th Grade Graduation and is heading into can this be happening already?!........I'm just going to go cry now. 
After months of what feels like "go go go", it is the perfect time for Marty and I to take a much needed break, since we haven't had one since....ever. Next week we are taking a very much needed, quiet weekend to ourselves, spending most of our time fishing, which we both love. I am going to sleep through the night....for first time in over a year. The level of excitement for this is beyond anything I've ever felt before.

Until next time... ♥ 

Elocin Designs Studio Giveaway

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I’m hosting a giveaway where FOUR LUCKY WINNERS will walk away with one of these watercolor pieces, painted by Elocin Designs Studio (aka me)!!
To enter, you must (do all three): 

- “Like” Elocin Designs Studio Facebook Page
- Share this post to your Facebook timeline and tell your friends about the giveaway
- Leave a comment on the Giveaway post telling me which one is your favorite! 

All entries must be submitted by the end of the day Friday, April 7th and winners will be announced the following day! 
*First person drawn gets first pick, second gets second, and so on. 
*Pieces will be given in a lightweight matte and frame (not pictured)
*Winners must meet for delivery of piece, or can be mailed if not local.
*All pieces are hand painted by Elocin Designs with Watercolor only

A WALK IN THE WOODS (not by Bill Bryson)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

This last Wednesday, the kids had no school, and for those of you that are real parents like Marty and I, will admit that we were fully prepared to have a day full of mild chaos, the occasional bickering and arguing between kids over "who looked at who first with the wrong facial expression", every dish in the house dirtied, and not being able to walk through the main living areas of our house from being bombarded with toys. Not always, but usually, those days can be exhausting. Especially when the weather outside isn't the greatest and we're all cooped up indoors. 
On snow days, the kids say "YAY!" and we say "....yaaaaaay."

With the new year, one of my resolutions was to have three things on my schedule each month, and having a 'family day' where we take the kids to do something away from the house is one of them. Would you look at me, staying true to my resolutions three months in?! (gives self high five). So, with a day of no school...perfect day for family day. We decided to go walking on trails and have a picnic where Marty used to work in his Neature Walk Glory Days (where we met when we worked together over a decade ago) or to the water park if the weather was crappy. I called the water park to make sure our backup plan would work and their hours were 4pm-9pm! What the hell kind of inconvenient hours is that?? No way that would work. So, I was praying that the weather would play in our favor, or we would be looking at said day described above. The DAY BEFORE our scheduled family day, I had to drive out of town for a doctor's appointment in the worst. weather. ever. The snow flakes were literally the size of cotton balls and I thought that all hope for a day outdoors was lost, until Marty messaged me from home that the sun was shining! Thank. God. 

The next day, I packed all of us a lunch (sandwiches for the guys, something puréed for Sam, and a salad for me. The two older kids made other plans and skipped out on us. Teens...) and we loaded up and told the kids it was time to get dressed so we could leave for the trails. If you're a parent you also know that it's in the best interest for your sanity to keep such things to yourself until the very last minute to avoid A) having to tell them if there is some unexpected reason that you have to cancel plans and B) because they will hound the ever-living shit out of you until you leave. We loaded everyone up to go, but before we took off, Marty had to explain to the kids that they could stop trying to find sticks around the yard to take with us, because there would already be sticks in the woods. Apparently they were unaware of this. Life lessons. 

When we got to the park, we got lucky and the nature center was opened. It has several different taxidermy animals, fish, birds, etc on display that the kids could look at and some areas that allow them to feel fur, skeletons, turtle shells and such. It's a nice little center and has tons of different things for them to look at and kept the kids entertain for awhile. Not quite as long as Marty and the nature guy that was working gabbed about nature things, but close enough. While we were in the center, Marty and I saw my old boss (the man that introduced us) working outside, so after we left the center we stopped to say hello. It'd been about ten years since we'd seen him, and he hadn't learned that we were together or had Sam, so that was such a nice little unexpected reunion. We were both very happy to see him. 
And Clete, if you're reading this (which, if I know you like I think I do, you haven't gotten on a computer since you retired, let alone read a blog!) we both agreed that you don't look like you've aged a day since we last saw you. Lookin' good, sir!

Despite the fact that it was chilly outside, the kids ran straight for the playground when we go to the shelter house. My kids are obsessed with playgrounds (and nerf guns). I could just make every 'family day' at a school's playground and they would be happy. Marty got a good fire going in the fireplace while I took Sam on the swings. Sam didn't know whether to freak out with excitement or lay his head on my shoulder and attempt to sing himself to sleep, so he did both simultaneously. It was amazing to see such talent come from an eight month old, to be honest, considering that he proved to be more capable of multitasking than this guy that is all over the internet right now

Before we headed off into the woods, we decided to eat lunch first. We got everything out of the cooler and handed everyone their items, and shared fruits, veggies and healthy things and I was feeling very proud of myself for being organized and gaining some bonus brownie points in the Mom department, when I realized that I forgot a fork for my salad. This isn't like when you prefer to eat your pizza with a fork, but are okay to pick it up and eat it by hand when none are available. I mean, soup would have been easier to have at this point because then I could have atleast drank it. Although the thought of making myself some chopsticks out of twigs did cross my mind (I only didn't do this because I reminded myself that I don't know how to eat with chop sticks), I was left with the options of eating with my fingers or using Sam's spoon. I'm embarrassed to admit that I tried the spoon, but I ended up eating a salad (with dressing!) with my hands and I know for a fact that I had more food on my face and hands than any of the children did and I didn't even care. 

As soon as we stepped foot on the trails, Sam (who I was packing in one of those baby back pack thingies) fell asleep. About half way through the walk, I couldn't decide if the dead weight of this 20lb sleeping baby was worse than if he was awake and squirming. By the end, my shoulder blades felt like they were connected to my ass. But the trail was so nice. It felt amazing to be outside in nature and getting fresh air after being cooped up so long with new baby and winter. The kids climbed around and got dirty, we found trees that the beavers had been munching on, a bald eagle soared through the woods, Marty spotted the first wild flowers poking up through the dead leaves. It was just great. After we reached the end of the trail, and Marty and I were hit with the realization of the shape we're in, we sat around for a bit while the kids climbed all over the picnic tables, still left with levels of energy that we only dream of having. We packed up and drove home with a car full of two exhausted parents, a rested baby and two kids who looked like they just got done eating dirt and it was perfect. 

We are just as guilty as other parents of letting daily schedules, work, and chores get in the way of what's important sometimes, and it's sooooo easy to fall into that. There are so many ways to find time together, even if for only a few hours one day a month and not spending a dime. It's not always easy to find the time or plan something that works for everyone each time, but you'll always be glad you did it. These are the things your kids will remember that you did with them over their toys and videos games. Sometimes, you just need that off day to spice things up, away from your normal life, to keep you all grounded yet on your toes. 

Our walk in the woods wasn't perfect...the kids didn't listen a couple of times and I ate a chopped salad with my hands for crying out loud, but it was a perfect day for me. It brought back so many memories of Marty and I, seeing an old friend and familiar place, and bringing our kids to the place where our history began.... money can't buy days like these and nothing in this life means as much to me as these people that I call mine. 

*     *     *     *     *

Also, today marks one year ago that we announced to our loved ones that we were expecting another boy! And I just can't believe how fast time is flying by, you guys... 


Sunday, March 19, 2017

A few weeks ago Marty’s mom came to visit and, bless her soul, she brought me a bag of books! I was currently reading Behind Closed Doors, but knew that this one was going to be next as soon as I saw it. I’ve been on a mystery/thriller/suspense kick lately and after I read the description of this book, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Let’s get the rundown of it, shall we?

Oh, and please take a moment to appreciate this scene…. Sometimes as parents, getting away to read, if only for 5 minutes or just long enough to get into a comfortable position, that means hiding away in an empty kids’ room and hanging out on an Angry Birds bed with the entire tub of mixed nuts.
*Disclaimer: I was only okay with laying here because I had just washed everyone’s bedsheets, so I was confident with the cleanliness of the situation. You never know what you might be getting into with kids… 
BY: Fiona Barton

Published: April 24th 2016 by AntiStar
Genres: mystery, fiction, crime, thriller, suspense
Pages: 324
Format: Hardcover
Source: Given to be my a family member
Buy: Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen...But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…”

First Impressions/Cover? (Because we judge the covers even though we’re ‘not supposed to’)
This was one of the books in the bag that I was immediately drawn to the cover. I may have been a little biased since, as I said before, that I was reading Behind Closed Doors (and loving it) and that cover felt very similar….which, we all know has absolutely nothing to do the similarities of the stories, but hey….not everything we do has to make sense.

How did you experience the book? Were you engaged immediately or did it take you awhile to get into it? How did you feel reading it - amused, sad, confused, bored...? 
I got into this book from. the. very. first. page. and that is always awesome. This book had me on the edge of my seat from the get-go up until the very end. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that started that build up so early and really hung onto it throughout the entire book. Very suspenseful.  

What characters did you like best from the book? Why? 
I didn’t have a favorite character in this book. I felt I leaned more toward Jean’s character, like I got to know who she was more than the others, but didn’t favorite her. However, I will say that my opinion of her changed throughout the book. I gradually came to terms with the fact that I think she was borderline crazy. The author did a great job of really introducing you to each character though, leaving sort of a mystery behind each one.

Favorite/Insightful passages?
“The simple lies are the hardest, funnily enough. The big ones seem to just fall off the tongue.” – Jean

Was the ending satisfying (no spoilers)? 
I’m just going to be honest and say that when it comes to endings, I’m hard to please. Perhaps too much build up makes endings fall flat for me, or perhaps it’s because I have closed books before and just been so in awe that I just spend a few seconds with the closed book in my lap, blown away by how good it was and asking myself how I’m going to continue living my life and compare every book thereafter to it.
This book ending fell flat for me. I mean, I got the closure I needed but just wasn’t ‘wowed’ like I was for the entire rest of the book. I keep asking myself what kind of ending it was that I was hoping for, and I’m not sure what that would be. I felt like it all built up to the very last pages and then I was like “….that’s it?”

If you could ask the author a question, what would you ask? 
Not really a question…but when reading the book, I saw her portrait on the back, and thought “Whoa….this looks like a sweet lady that would bake me some cookies, not write about  _____________.”  
So maybe I would ask her where her inspiration came from.

Final Thoughts:
I rated this book 4 starts on Goodreads, only because of the ending.
Despite my thoughts on the ending, I would definitely recommend it to anyone that enjoys suspense and mysteries. I actually enjoyed this book as, if not more than Behind Closed Doors (which I will be leaving a review on soon). Even if the ending really is a dud, the rest of the book is well worth the read, and I will be looking out for more of Fiona Barton’s books

What's next? 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

This post primarily goes out to my existing followers and readers, to the friends that have followed my blog over the years or from the beginning. You'll notice that everything that once existed on my page, is no longer here. Same goes for some of my social media feeds. There are several different reason's I have decided to clean up these pages and start fresh, which I'm not really going to go into specifically. All the reasons come from a positive place, from growth, and from deciding what it is that I want out of this blog. I feel like my life and the world we live in today is so far different just from the time I started this blog, and there are just precious things in my life that I simply am choosing to keep off of the internet and all to myself. 

The majority of the posts and feel of this space will remain the same as it always has, but better. I will re-share some of my old favorite posts as well along the way. 

So, whether this visit is your first or your hundredth......welcome. ♥

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