Book Review & East Village Tour: The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen

I have got a great book to tell you all about! Do you like love stories? Do you like mysterious, love stories? Well, I do because I can relate. All my “love stories” are a mystery. It’s always a mystery to me what went wrong. Have you been ghosted before? Yeah!? Me too! One of the main characters in the book, Wes, gets ghosted BIG TIME. Poor guy! If you’re in the dating world, you know first hand how much it sucks to get ghosted. Can’t help but to feel for Wes.

About Wes…he’s doing a summer film program at his dream college, NYU University. During the program, being the good guy that he is, he helps out his friend Tyler with his film. Tyler is doing some artsy, experimental film and so together they film a real seance that takes place in a dark townhouse in the East Village. At this seance, Wes meets a mysterious and beautiful girl. After the seance, he wants to get a signed consent form from her so she can appear in the film, but he didn’t see her come out. He also got distracted by another intriguing girl from the seance and went out for pizza with her. Tyler was not happy. Tyler needed that consent form, so Wes has to figure out how to track her down.

Somehow he does find her but then he loses her again. He can’t catch a break! Disappointed and a bit rejected, Wes tries to forget about this beautiful girl who has captivated him. But maybe their paths will cross again??

Annie van Sinderen is the captivating girl and she’s got a lot of baggage. If Wes and Annie were on Facebook, their relationship status would definitely be, “It’s Complicated.”

The story is told through Wes’ perspective and Annie’s. While Wes is experiencing NYC for the first time, Annie grew up there, however, she grew up in NYC in 1825. Yeah, “It’s Complicated,” is an understatement. What is Annie doing? Can she accomplish what she needs to do? Can Wes help?

Katherine Howe told me herself on Twitter that this is a weird book. She wasn’t kidding. It’s weird, it’s hypnotic, chaotic, captivating…what else? Spellbounding! Mesmerizing! It’s just so cool and amazing…haunting and jaw-dropping. It made me wonder about the history of New York, and especially since I live here, it made me picture what the city was like back then. The book is very descriptive, which makes it easy to picture.

The images of Annie being forced into present-day NYC are emblazoned in my mind. Can you imagine how jarring NYC would be to someone from 1825? Katherine Howe really makes you understand what a confused and terrified state of mind Annie must have been in when she had no idea what was going on around her.

The book makes you care about all the characters. Their struggles whether in present-day or 1825 are real and relatable.

I highly recommend this book. It was awesome!

As always when I read a book set in NYC, I take myself out on a tour of the city inspired by the book I read. Annie Van brought me to the East Village in Manhattan.

Here is a sneak peek into that tour:

The Merchant’s House Museum

West Village

The West Village, NYC

NYC, Annie Van Tour

NYC Tour, Book Review, Annie Van tour

The Appearance of Annie van Sinderen tour

NYC community garden

East Village community garden

East Village Dog

Washington Square Park

The Appearance of Annie van SinderenStay tuned for the full Annie Van tour! Thank you Katherine Howe for the inspiration! It was a hauntingly, beautiful day. 😉

Full tour is live! Check it out here!

Park Slope “Reconstructing Amelia” Tour

 

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What a wonderful sunny day this was! We’ve had a rough winter in NYC with cold, slushy snow storms, up & down weather, and lots of coughing and sneezing all around. This day, however, was beautiful and the people were out to enjoy it. I’m so glad my tour happened to fall on such a lovely day. In case you don’t know, I take myself out on “dates” based on books I’ve read set in this crazy city called New York City. I hate to say it, but so far it has been a lot more fun than any dates with the male population I’ve been on lately. I’ve got some blog posts on those kind of dates too. Read at your own risk.

Like Scott Rogowsky, let’s get down to the nitty gritty! I read “Reconstructing Amelia,” by Kimberly McCreight, which took me to an awesome neighborhood in Brooklyn called Park Slope. If you didn’t read my book review and sneak peak into my tour, go here.

The first time I did a tour based on a book, I had trouble getting out the door because of no hot water in my apartment. What a pain that was. If you’d like, you can read about that fun here. What I learned on that day is that I have to do a better job at shaking off my aggravations. I kept that in mind on this day.

Before setting out I was feeling a little anxious. My last tour, I picked up food at spots and mostly could just enjoy the solitude. For this “date” with myself I planned to up the anti. In the book, the character Kate meets up with someone at Dizzy’s Diner, which means that on a Saturday in NYC, I would be having brunch with myself.

Dun dun duuuun! For those who don’t know, the brunch culture in NYC is serious and it most definitely is a social activity. I planned to go inside and eat brunch alone. Why? Why did I feel the need to do this to myself? How come I couldn’t just take a picture of the exterior and be done with it? God I’m a masochist, that’s why.

“Take deep breaths and steal a picture before anyone notices how weird you are,” I tell myself.

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It looks inviting, right? “Can I ride that horse? I probably shouldn’t.” Time to go in. Just move forward, that’s what Don Draper would do. You’ve never watched Mad Men? Never mind.

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I pulled. I hate myself already.

The gentleman at the door who helped me to my table put me at ease right away. I struggled to move the table a little so I wouldn’t crowd the person behind me and he swooped in right away to help. I appreciated this so much because in NYC, you never know what you’re going to get in restaurants. Many are filled with nice staff, but lots of places have a pretentious staff. This was not one of those places! Phew!

I mean, look at this pig I sat under:

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Cute guy, right? Don’t worry piggy, I won’t be partaking in any of your friends for my meal.

The nice waitress came and took my order. I noticed later that she told everyone around me the “specials” but never told me. I wasn’t too bothered by it though. She probably sensed my nerves and knew I was trying to morph inside myself and pretend I wasn’t alone in a restaurant. She was probably uncomfortable about it too and wanted to leave me in peace. I had thoughts on telling her about my plan for the day so she realized how very cool I was, but I suppressed that urge. Waiters are busy so if she only half-heartedly listened and gave me a polite smile, it would have crushed my spirit. Instead, I focused on my coffee. I heart coffee!

And look at this mouth-watering meal!

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Oh my! No lie, this was the best brunch I’ve had in a long time! It was seriously tasty. Who needs the specials?

Dizzy’s was such a cool place and had a nice vibe. I highly recommend it.

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Prospect Park West often gets a mention in the book. Amelia has to walk up this street to get to school among many other spots in Park Slope. Speaking of the fictitious private school she went to, Grace Hall…I think I might have found the inspiration for that school.

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Wait for it…

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Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s called Litchfield Villa, but I think Grace Hall was modeled after it. I wonder if the author, Kimberly McCreight would tell me if I’m right?

Speaking of the author, she responded to one of my tweets while I was tweeting about my tour.

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This absolutely made my day! Thank you Kimberly! We’re on a first name basis now, right?

After being well fed by the great people at Dizzy’s it was time to head to the park and get dizzy from all the runners, bikers, and rollerbladers. See what I did there?

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So many motivated people at the park! I could have used the book to inspire me to go for a jog in the park, but I went with another direction…sitting in the park.

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A sign! I found my way to the spot I want to go! What a relief because whenever venturing into a big park, I have fears of getting so lost that I have to send out distress signals. My distress signals would involve clapping loudly, banging rocks together, and then breaking my foot from dropping the rock on it. Luckily, that did not happen.

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I made it to the Picnic House! Thank you Mr. Truck for blocking my view. It’s okay though, I’m letting go of my aggravations. See? I can learn!

The Picnic House is where Amelia goes to a secret meeting. It sets the stage for the rest of the story.

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Perhaps she met up with the other attendees in one of those picnic tables? Or maybe not. According to the book, they were hanging out under the “crooked trees.” I head to a spot under one of the beautifully crooked trees.

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This looks like a comfy spot!
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Ahhh peace!
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And squirrels!
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And dogs!
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More doggies! Okay, I’ll stop now.
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Did you really believe me?

I alluded to a missed connection in my last post. For awhile, I relaxed on my tree stump enjoying the scenery and then actually answering the phone when a friend called. I’m not a big fan of using my phone app. See Gary Gulman’s stand-up, “Telephone 1.0,” and you’ll understand more of how I feel about it. I digressed but you should totally YouTube that.

So I’m on my stump and a young looking guy who’s also alone sits down. He was at an appropriate distance in my vicinity, although, not close enough to strike up a conversation. I couldn’t tell from my vantage point if he was cute, but I was curious. I thought I should stay a little longer in case he wanted to come closer. I thought I waited long enough to see if anything interesting with him would happen, but since he seemed engrossed in his phone and I had a tour to continue, I decided to go on my way. I get up and start walking.

I soon realize that he also got up and was walking in the same direction as me. I was nervous. Was that on purpose? No, probably not. I didn’t know what to do. Turn around and walk towards him? No, what would be my reason for turning around? I decided to walk slower. I did try to give him a couple of glances, but I’m so bad at this stuff. The last time I looked back, he was stretching. I have no game, so I kept walking away.

Let’s take one last look of the Picnic House and forget about that guy. It wasn’t meant to be!

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I made a couple of other stops in the park which are shown in pictures in my original post and also my half-tour post, here.

Next stop on my tour is the street, Montgomery Place because the book reads: “That little block is like the nicest in the whole hood.”

As I’m making my way there, I realize that my battery power on my phone is at 20%! Oh no! I don’t understand how it got drained so fast. I never talk on the phone. Is that what did it? See, talking on the phone is the worst. Never. Do. It. I apologize to my friend. We actually had a great conversation and it was a highlight of my Park visit.

Before I get too panicky about my phone, I take a picture of myself.

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Okay, enough self indulgence. My phone dying is actually a serious problem. For one, all my tour stops are typed out on my phone and I need google to find them. Secondly, I have the worst sense of direction. Without google maps, I could get lost forever in Park Slope or God forbid, South Park Slope. I’m sorry, I have nothing against South Park Slope. I’d be lucky if I could afford to live there. Actually, I almost got a tiny studio with very low ceilings in South South Park Slope. I wasn’t a fan of crouching in my living space, so last-minute, I backed out. It was a good decision.

With my phone dying, I don’t know what to do, but I head to Montgomery Place anyway.

I couldn’t fully appreciate it since I was still in a state of panic, but here are the couple of shots I took:

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I wish I could have taken my time on this block, however, with direction from some passerby, I headed to Seventh Avenue to look for a coffee shop that had an outlet. As soon as I got there, I sensed that a Verizon store would be on that street. It must be my super power being able to sniff out a Verizon store.

It would’ve been better to spend my time in a coffee shop, but there would be no guarantee of an outlet. Since I’m a Verizon customer, I felt this was more of a sure shot. My super power ability proved true, I only had to walk a few steps before I stumbled into Verizon. They let me use their portable charger. Nothing to do but sit and wait. I will not get aggravated. I will take this opportunity to reread parts of the book that would be interesting to reread since now I know how the story ends.

After only an hour (see that optimism?), I’m back to my tour! I’m hungry again! Yay, I love to eat! I have two places to choose from in the book- a bagel place or a pizza place? Tough decision! Yes, I can eat two breakfasts in one day! Darn it, I’m getting a bagel!

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But can’t I get a slice of pizza too? Is that allowed? YES!

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It’s cash only. I have no cash…I can’t get a pizza. I’m stuffed, so like that guy, it’s not meant to be. Not too worry. There will be other slices of pizza in my future!

Time to go to Amelia’s best friend Sylvia’s street! According to the book, “Sylvia lived on Berkeley between Seventh and Eighth, around the corner from Mr. Wonton…”

Mr. Wonton!

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I’m pretending this is Slyvia’s place
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Slyvia’s block
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I just like this stoop!
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This is the spot where Amelia and Sylvia meet up to walk to school together

The most delicious hot chocolate I’ve ever had was at Cocoa Bar, which is now called Chocolateria. It was beyond amazing. Besides heavenly, chocolatey stuff, do you know what else they had? Outlets. I don’t get aggravated. The hot chocolate is too good.

Time to get back on foot! Now I want to go to another character’s home. Dylan’s place is described in the book as white stone, “and there was a kind-of-cool, kind-of-creepy sculpture out in front of a small tree with hands at the end of the branches instead of leaves.”  Again, I of course don’t have an address to this fictitious home, but I’m hopeful I will find a spot I think is her place. Yes, Dylan is a she and lives on 2nd street near the park, so that’s where I head.

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White stone, I’m getting close.

After passing many white stone brownstones, I arrive here:

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What is this!? Is that a kind-of-cool, kind-of-creepy sculpture!?! I think it is! It’s near the park! Maybe that plant grows hands at the end of its branches when it’s in bloom? I don’t know how that would work, but this is totally Dylan’s place! Should I knock and ask? Nahhh.

The last stop on my tour is Green-Wood Cemetery, since that is where Amelia is buried. It’s 6:30pm at this point and as I head there, I have a thought, “Will it be open?”

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Nope
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Double nope

Oh well, Green-Wood Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and is beautiful. I need at least a full day to explore its “478 spectacular acres.” I’ve seen it from various, gorgeous vantage points, but I’ve still never gone inside. I plan on remedying that soon. Check out their website to learn more about it!

This is where my tour ends! Thank you so much if you made it this far. Let me know what you thought about it in the comments.

Special thanks goes to author Kimberly McCreight. I loved your book so much, fell in love with your characters. My solo date based on your book was so much fun. You took me to so many great places. Thank you! Everyone, read her book. It truly was a wonderfully, suspenseful book and an eye-opening read.

According to my Fitbit, I walked 16,227 steps on this tour. That might be a lot of steps but what I learned within those steps is that I can relax in this city after a stressful work week. I had that vacation feel on this day. My focus was on where I would go next, what I would eat, about the book, and the characters. The stresses of my everyday life were nonexistent on this day. Instead of hurrying past people, I noticed their smiles and laughter. I saw families out enjoying the sun, kids posing by the park with their arms outstretched, and it all made me happy. I want to try to take this feeling into my everyday life.

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Park Slope Photography Tour

Hello again! This past Sunday I posted my book review of Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, but I also told you about the tour of Park Slope I went on based on the book. It was a “date” with myself in the very setting the story takes place. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, then click here. My full tour with sites specific to that lovely book will be coming on Sunday, I promise. Can I make that promise? It’s my first blogging promise, I’m nervous. I can do it…I promise.

Until then, I want to share some more photos from that day I think you might like.

Here they are!

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Prospect Park. I guess I should have found out who the soldier is in the monument. Sorry. Anyone know? Next business- can anyone spot the dog(s)? I can’t tell if it’s one dog or two! 🤔
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I’m obsessed. Why can’t I have one? They’re sooo pretty.
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I tried to get a cute dog picture and this happened
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Well, hello gorgeous trees!
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Can I frolic with them?
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Looks regal
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Look at this! It’s the Old First Reformed Church. Beautiful!
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I love this. A beautiful church and a Key Food grocery store. That’s so Brooklyn!
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Her jacket and backpack go perfectly with this home. She can never leave this spot.
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Always some kind of fair or open market going on.
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I’d live in one of these.
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Or I’d totally live in one of these too!
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I would not live…oh who am I kidding? It’s waaaay bigger than my apartment, and it’s in a prime neighborhood right by the park! I’d move in yesterday.

That’s all for now! I hope you enjoyed my half-tour! Come check back on Sunday to see if I treated myself the way I deserve on my date. Also, I think I had a missed connection. Story of my life. I’ll let you be the judge.

See ya again soon!

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Book Review & Brooklyn Tour: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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I’ve done it again! A tour of the city inspired by a book I’ve read. If you haven’t read about the first time I did this, check out my Breakfast at Tiffany’s tour here.

Now let’s get to the most important reason I’m writing today and that is to tell you about this book, Reconstructing Amelia. What a beautiful book. Beautiful and heartbreaking. Don’t worry, I won’t write anymore than what you would already read in the book summary.

It starts off with Kate, who’s working a high pressure job as a lawyer for a Manhattan firm. Kate is a single mom to teenage daughter, Amelia. They live in the idyllic neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn. Kate is in an important meeting when she gets a call from Amelia’s school, Grace Hall, and is told she must come right away because her daughter has been caught cheating on a paper. Kate does not believe this can be true of her extremely gifted and trustworthy daughter. When she finally manages to escape her office and arrive at the school, her world comes crashing down: Amelia has fallen from the roof and is dead. Soon Kate learns from Grace Hall and the police, that Amelia jumped. At first Kate accepts this explanation, but later on, something makes Kate question everything. Did her intelligent and beautiful daughter really jump? Kate is determined to find out the truth.

This was a tough read. I enjoy suspense books, which this is but it’s so much more. I got invested in this story because I wanted to know what happened, but also because the reality of the situation tugged at my heart. This story fluctuates from Kate’s point of view and Amelia’s. It’s gut-wrenching from both perspectives. From Kate’s point of view, we have a mom grappling with the reality of her daughter’s death, and with Amelia we know that ultimately she will die. It’s a tough pill to swallow. We follow Amelia’s story as she goes about her everyday life. We fall in love with the bright, thoughtful girl she is and see her as someone who should have a bright future. We know she doesn’t. Kimberly McCreight captured real, honest characters. The Kates and Amelias of this world do exist and that truth is what made it hard for me to read. I am so glad I read it though. Not only is it a compelling story, I think it helped strengthen my compassion for people in similar situations as these characters.

As I read this book, I thought, “Is it okay for me to go on a tour of Park Slope based on this sad story?” I read a lot of fun, chick lit books, which seems more appropriate for a “date” with myself as I explore the city. However, I also thought about how much I completely fell in love with these characters. Wouldn’t it be cool to explore their world for a bit? It’s hard for me to let go of characters after I finish a book, so going on this tour would let me hang onto them for a little longer.

I plan on doing this more, for as long as it’s still fun. Reading books set in NYC and then exploring those worlds is a great opportunity for me. I’ve lived in NYC for almost 13 years now. I’ve had many thoughts about moving out of this expensive city and thought about where I would go. I have a couple places in mind, however, something holds me back from escaping this city of tiny apartments. I still think I haven’t made the most of living in this city. It is an amazing city but have I done enough? Yes, I have a great job I can feel proud of, I’ve been to lots of Broadway shows, eaten at great restaurants, have awesome friends, taken random acting and improv classes, but have I fully taken advantage of living in this great city? Most of what I do I could do anywhere and for a lot cheaper. I have good friends, but at 38 years old, many have moved away and I’m still single.

I need to get out of my comfort zone and off my couch. Oh do I love my relaxing weekend mornings, grabbing a coffee and bagel…coming home to my lovely couch. Did you know for 8 years I lived in an apartment that was too small for a couch? Now I’m in an apartment that can fit a couch. Sweet heaven!

As lovely as my couch is, it’s time for a change and time to get everything I can out of this city. It’s nice going on dates with guys (by nice, I mean hellish), but now I want to take myself out on “dates” in the city. And my “dates” will be inspired by amazing books! How cool is that?

My day trip into Park Slope was incredible! I’m a Brooklyn girl so a bit biased, but I had such a wonderful time and discovered some great places, thanks to Kimberly McCreight.

Here’s a sneak peak into my Park Slope tour:

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Beautiful brownstones of Brooklyn
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Prospect Park
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It’s no secret. I love dogs! I’m a dog creeper.

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This building says, “This is me, I’m beautiful and you know it. Can’t stop looking at me, can you?”
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More lovely brownstones
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Colorful Brooklyn!

Full tour with sites specific to Reconstructing Amelia is here!

Also, if you haven’t already, why don’t you read about my last tour? Go here. Thanks so much for stopping by!