Friendmendations the First.
Will the titles get more creative with time? WE'LL SEE!
It’s the first one! The first edition! Let’s go on this journey together. Read it or skim it — I hope you find something you like.
Books up first.
This book recommendation comes with a pre-recommendation, and that is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, which is admittedly a book for children. But it's one of those engrossing books that whisks you into a world and stays with you for years, so I still urge anyone who was a bookish kid to read it if you have time for something short and fun and twisty along the lines of a From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or The Egypt Game.
That being said, the actual recommendation here is Kate Racculia's Bellweather Rhapsody, which definitely has traces of The Westing Game in its DNA. Both are murder mysteries with a large, fascinating cast of characters, and both unfold with surprising turns and secret reveals in a large old building you can vividly picture. But Bellweather is also dark and funny and adults will sink into it the way you sink into those transportive books you used to read and re-read as a kid because of all the little details on every page.
It takes place at a snowed-in hotel on the anniversary of a murder-suicide in one of the rooms, over a weekend when a huge group of high school musicians are gathered for a showcase. A snowstorm traps everyone — teen prodigies, bitter now-grown former teen prodigies, evil stage moms, and hotel staff — when history appears to repeat itself and another shocking murder takes place in the Bellweather Hotel.
Ugh, I loved it! I loved how it talked about art and music. I loved the obnoxious and insecure performing arts teens and not just because I related to them a lot. I loved how it dropped little pop culture references organically, the way they normally come up in thoughts or conversation, to enhance its 90s setting. It was a delicious ride, please go for it.
Here is a YouTube video I wish more people have seen.
It’s two Broadway actors performing lines from The Jersey Shore in character as Jack and Algernon from The Importance of Being Earnest. Yes, that’s Santino Fontana from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and yes, this video made more sense when it came out in 2011, and yes, they made 5 of these total and they’re all delightful.
A recipe that is good.
It’s summer. Every day is a hot one, like seven inches from the midday sun, and the boys of summer have not yet gone, and we’re all just trying to find a way to be cool for the summer.
Food-wise that means I’ve been making a lot of salads. My go-to when I want to throw something together quickly is watermelon, Persian cucumber (they’re better, and you can get them at Trader Joe’s), feta, sunflower seeds, and olive oil. Another great one is Gimme Some Oven’s Asian broccoli salad with peanut sauce, which is so great to make ahead and then eat cold throughout the week. HOWEVER, you gotta cut the amount of green onions in half. You may think “but I like green onions!” and look, I do too. I’m telling you that your breath will haunt you for days if you don’t alter the recipe.
Something to read on the internet.
This New York Times photo essay, “A Family Portrait: Brothers, Sisters, Strangers” is FASCINATING in every way. The author and photographer was conceived with the help of an anonymous sperm donor and set out to find, meet, and photograph his 32 (!!!) half-siblings who share his DNA. It’s touching and thought-provoking and will stay with you.
And finally, a bop.
This was the first song on my summer playlist last year. Use it well.