Community rinks

Find a local pond for skating and hockey

Many communities have ponds or outdoor rinks for ice skating, stick practice and pond hockey. Town- and city-maintained ponds are free to use, making it a fun outdoor activity that doesn’t cost a thing if you already have skates – and a hockey stick, if you want to play, which longtime hockey player and Black Ice Pond Hockey Association Board President Daniel Luker says can totally change your on-ice experience.

“Get a buddy, show up, bring a stick and a couple pucks … and get out there and you’ll automatically start playing hockey,” Luker said. “Once you start skating and once you pick up a stick, it’s a whole different ball game. … Once you pick up a stick, you can’t help but play, and you’ll chase the puck forever.”

Whether you want to give pond hockey a try or would rather just free skate, here are a few local rinks to check out. The open/closed status of the rinks can change from day to day depending on temperatures. Call or check the city’s or town’s website or social media for the most recent information.

Amherst Middle School Rink, 14 Cross Road, Amherst, 673-6248, When open, hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Beaver Meadow Pond at Beaver Meadow Golf Course, 1 Beaver Meadow Drive, Concord, 225-8690, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Bow Town Pond, next to the Bow Community Center, 3 Bow Center Road, Bow, 223-3920,

Brown Memorial Field, 740 Swanzey Road, Swanzey, 352-4614, find it on Facebook. When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Davis Lane Rinks, Davis Lane, Amherst, 673-6248, When open, hours are daily from 10 a.m. to dusk.

Dorrs Pond, adjacent to Livingston Park, 56 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 624-6444, When open, hours are daily from dawn to dusk.

Four Corners, behind Holman Stadium, Sargent Avenue, Nashua, 589-3370, When open, hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. for general skating, and before 11 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. for hockey.

Hood Park at 4 Rollins St., Derry, 432-6136, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Ice Skating Rink at Watson Park, 441 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 882-1046, When open, hours are daily from dawn to 9 p.m.

Jeff Morin Fields at Roby Park, 126 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 589-3370, When open, hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for general skating, and from 8 to 10 p.m. for hockey.

Kimball Lake, 47 Kimball Lake Road, Hopkinton, 746-8263, When open, hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Riverside Ice Rink 223 Route 103, Warner, 491-9019, When open, hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information and to find out whether it’s currently open for skating, visit the Facebook page.

Rollins Park at 33 Bow St., Concord, 225-8690, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Shepard Park, 418 Nashua St., Milford, 249-0625, When open, hours are daily from dawn to 9:30 p.m.

White Park, 1 White St., Concord, 225-8690, When open, skating hours are daily from dawn until dusk. The Merrimack Lodge offers skate rentals for $5. Lodge hours vary; find it on Facebook for the most up-to-date hours.

Puddle Duck Pond

Puddle Duck Pond

This outdoor rink at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth is another option for those who want a better chance of getting on the ice even if weather conditions haven’t been great.

“Ice is maintained with a refrigeration system and Zamboni, which helps the rink remain open in warmer air temperatures,” Veronica Lester of Strawbery Banke Museum said via email. “Unless the ice is deemed unsafe for skating, Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond is open in rain, snow and sunshine. Opening and closing calls are made day-of by rink operations staff.”

The rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission costs $12 for skaters age 5 and up. Skate rentals are available for $6, and skate sharpening is available for $7.

Chill fun

Winter Fest returns to downtown Concord

By Angie Sykeny

Coinciding with the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament is the fourth annual Concord NH Winter Festival on Saturday, Jan. 29. There will be indoor and outdoor festivities for all ages, including shopping, food, entertainment, tours and more.

“There are not a lot of family-friendly events this time of year, and that is what makes this event special,” said Jessica Martin, Executive Director of Intown Concord, which organizes the Winter Festival in partnership with The Hotel Concord.

Ice carvers will demonstrate their craft and compete in a live ice carving competition during the Winter Festival. Courtesy photo.

The highlight of the event is the live ice carving competition featuring “New England’s best ice carvers,” Martin said. It’s free and open to the public on the Statehouse lawn from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ice carvers will also be there on Friday, Jan. 28, the day before the festival, doing live ice carving demonstrations from 3 to 9 p.m.

“This year we have seven carvers participating in the competition, which is the most we have had to-date,” Martin said, adding that the carvings will remain on display at the Statehouse for the week following the festival.

Main Street restaurants and retail shops will be open for a Winter Shopping Stroll; Red River Theatres will have a matinee screening of the animated family film Smallfoot (2018, PG) at 10 a.m. (tickets cost $5); and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will run games and interactive activities starting at 10:30 a.m.

Guided tours of the inside of the Statehouse will be offered, starting every 30 minutes from noon to 3:30 p.m. The tour lasts around 45 minutes and will include opportunities to see the Hall of Flags, which has more than 100 battle flags on display from the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War; the House of Representatives chamber and Senate chambers, which have national significance as the oldest continuously used legislative chambers in the U.S.; the Governor and Executive Council chambers and more.

“There are more than 200 portraits to view as you tour the building,” Martin said, “and it’s always fun to see the Visitor Center’s First in the Nation Primary display and Bicentennial dioramas.”

The Winter Festival Stage, which will be set up on South Main Street next to O Steaks and Seafood restaurant, will be a hotspot of activity, including an ice bar, complimentary hot cocoa, s’mores toasting and more. The stage will feature a variety of live entertainment, starting with a dance party with DJ Darren Roy at 11 a.m., followed by storyteller Ade Shields (11:30 to 11:45 a.m., and 1:35 to 1:50 p.m.), local singer-songwriter Jasmine Mann (11:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m., and 1:15 to 1:30 p.m.), New England folk-rock band The Penniless Jacks (12:20 to 12:50 p.m., and 2:10 to 2:40 p.m.) and family-friendly drag performer ChiChi Marvel (1 to 1:10 p.m., and 1:55 to 2:05 p.m.)

A free shuttle service will be available, running between the Statehouse, the Hotel Concord, the Holiday Inn and the Black Ice Hockey Tournament at White Park throughout the day.

Martin said attendees should continue practicing Covid safety — masks are not required but are strongly encouraged for indoor activities — and should have no difficulty staying spread out.

“This outdoor festival will offer people the space they need to socially distance themselves,” she said.

Concord NH Winter Festival

Where: Main Street, Concord
When: Saturday, Jan. 29. Most activities will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ice carving demonstrations will take place on Friday, Jan. 28, from 3 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Admission is free. Certain activities may have a fee.
More info: Visit or call 226-2150.

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Black Ice Pond Hockey Association.

Games on

Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament is (almost definitely) happening

The recent cold means the annual Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament will likely take place as scheduled this weekend, with youth games kicking things off on Thursday, Jan. 27, and plenty of other games on the roster — along with concessions, family activities, public skating and fireworks — through Sunday, Jan. 30.

“In recent years we’ve been challenged by global warming,” said Dan Luker, Black Ice Pond Hockey Association Board president. “We hope for below-zero temps at night, and a perfect day for us is 20 degrees during the day.”

Photo Courtesy of Black Ice Pond Hockey Association

The weekend is a tribute to the capital city’s place in hockey history. Luker said the first organized hockey game in the U.S. took place at St. Paul’s School in Concord, and the games being played at the tournament harken back to that old-school style.

“It’s the way the game was played to begin with — no refs, no goalies, 4 on 4,” Luker said. “It’s all about just skating and moving the puck. It’s a different feel.”

The tournament started 11 years ago, when Capital City Hockey League retirees decided they wanted to keep the game alive, for themselves and for younger generations.

“We all grew up playing hockey in the rinks, in the open air,” Luker said. “It brings you back.”

As the years have gone on, the Black Ice Pond Hockey Association has tried to reinvigorate the board by encouraging younger people to join. And the tournament has gone from all adult games to having a full night of youth hockey.

“Part of the goal is to infect [younger players] with the outdoor enthusiasm,” he said. “We’re psyched to have the kids play … [and] the kids love to be a part of it.”

Luker said there will be about 80 adult teams with more than 500 players taking the ice, which includes women’s teams and rec league teams, competitive players and players whose good skating days are well behind them.

“There are people who shouldn’t be skating out there who are having a blast,” Luker said.

Along with the games, there will be open skating time, concessions, a warming tent and family games throughout the weekend, and Friday night will feature fireworks.

“It’s the middle of winter, and there’s not much else going on in Concord,” Luker said. “People drift down and come and watch. … [It’s] something to do on a Saturday afternoon.”

Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament

Where: White Park, Concord
When: Thursday, Jan. 27, through Sunday, Jan. 20

Schedule of events

Heated spectator tent with family games and concessions open from 5 to 8 p.m.
Youth pond hockey games with Concord Capitals, NE Wildcats, NH Avalanche, NH Junior Monarchs from 6 to 8 p.m.

Concessions open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Black Ice Pond Hockey games from 9 a.m. to 8:20 p.m.
Heated spectator tent with family games from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Public skate on White Park Pond Rinks & RBC Rinks 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Ice sculpture at noon
Bonfires start at 5 p.m.
Concord Youth Hockey from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Dynomites & NH JR Monarchs practice on White Park Pond Rinks & RBC Rinks at 7:15 p.m.
Atlas Fireworks show

Concessions open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Black Ice Pond Hockey games from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Heated Spectator Tent open with family interactive games from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Youth Hockey Shinny Tournament on White Park Pond Rinks & RBC Rinks 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Concord Area Transit Shuttle Bus Winterfest Shuttle runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Bonfires start at 3 p.m.

Concessions open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Black Ice Pond Hockey games from 9 a.m. to noon

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Black Ice Pond Hockey Association.


Prog rockers ready new album

After a long break since releasing 2015’s Oceans, Mindset X is readying Humanz— the band’s first album with guitarist Lucian Davidson. The son of bassist and keyboard player Paul Davidson, he joined in 2018, and his presence is noticeable on the new disc’s first song.

“For The Love Of War” is a hefty, toothsome number that recalls early Black Sabbath and proto Metallica; the single will drop on Feb. 22. Ahead of that, the Manchester quartet will celebrate a milestone on Jan. 29 at Angel City Music Hall.

“Eighteen years together,” singer, guitarist and primary songwriter Steve Haidaichuk said by phone recently. “It feels like we’re 22 again — just a little more achy.”

The new addition has refreshed the group.

“We fell in that prog-rock niche over maybe the past 10 years,” Haidaichuk said. “Lucian’s background is a lot more metal, so it brings our aggressiveness to the forefront. Not to say that I’m not a metal guy, but, like, I dabble. … Lucien grew up on the big metal bands.”

“We were looking to add more to the sound of Mindset X,” Paul Davidson said. “A guitar player seemed to be the natural of what we’re looking for, which actually was great — it brings Steve to the front of the stage, instead of hanging back with us. So he’s more of a front man now.”

While Oceans was a concept album featuring a primary character, Humanz has other ambitions.

“It kind of ties back to the square root of what we are as a species,” Haidaichuk said.

“It’s almost like part two, but it takes it in a little different angle,” Paul Davidson said, adding that the new effort reflects the many challenges of the recent past — lockdowns, dread and endlessness. “You’re caught in a box for so long; you just want to break out of it, just let it all go.”

“I think every soul has probably written about their time in Covid-town,” Haidaichuk said. “This really isn’t about that, but it did make me reflect on the way society handled it, from an outsider looking in perspective [of] us as a species; really seeing our good points and our bad points.”

Keeping with the math-themed title of Humanz, the release of “For The Love Of War” on 2-22-22 will be followed by a video of the song two weeks later, with a “two by two” cycle repeating every other week until the full record is out.

“When we first started doing this, we released too much music over the course of a year, then as we got farther down the line as a band we released too little,” Haidaichuk said. “I think we learned from both of those experiences what kind of works and what doesn’t. … Some people still like CDs, and some people don’t even own a CD player anymore.”

They’re excited to perform at Angel City, one of their home city’s newest venues.

“It’s a classic club and for Manchester to have one of these, I think it’s about time,” Paul Davidson said. “Especially because you’re limited when you’re playing original music as well … it’ll be nice to have almost like a welcoming show.”

They’ll play two sets, featuring new songs mixed with old favorites, occasionally reworked. Haidaichuk stressed that their aim is to shake things up and remove expectations.

“At the end of the day, we’ve always taken the music side of us extremely seriously; we like to write things that we feel mean something, and maybe make a statement or two,” he said. “But on the flip side of tha t… we want you to have fun while we get you to think; that’s pretty much what Mindset X has always been.”

Mindset X w/ The Graniteers

When: Saturday, Jan. 29, 7 p.m.
Where: Angel City Music Hall, 179 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door, 21+

Featured photo: Mindset X. Courtesy photo.

The Music Roundup 22/01/27

Local music news & events

Open-ended: A monthly series of improvisational rock, The Cyrus Sessions is hosted by Slack Tide’s Chris Cyrus, who brings the bona fides for a night of jamming. The upcoming gathering features a fellow band member of Cyrus’s, drummer Jake Smith. The venue is an Italian steakhouse offering craft cocktails and “elevated pub fare,” and the event takes place in a recently renovated music and function room. Thursday, Jan. 27, 6 p.m., Luk’s Bar & Grill, 142 Lowell Road, Hudson. See

Real deal: Settling into New England like a weather front, Keb’ Mo’ performs several shows in the region over the next month, including one in downtown Portsmouth. Following that, he’ll join fellow bluesman Joe Bonamassa on a cruise to the Bahamas. The five-time Grammy winning singer/guitarist’s shows are soulful, evocative affairs; he recently released a new album, Good To Be, with an infectious title track. Friday, Jan. 28, 8 p.m., The Music Hall, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, $48 to $159 at

Tom tribute: Anyone looking for the heart of Saturday night will enjoy the Tom Waits Tribute organized by Granite State of Mind maven Rob Azevedo, with local musicians covering the L.A. bard. Todd Hearon will do “Ol’ 55,” while Chris Peters takes on “Downtown Train” and “Jersey Girl.” Other performers include Keith Sanders, Chris Howe, Joe Clark Beaupre, Paul Driscoll and the lovely duo Rockwood Taylor. Saturday, Jan. 29, 4 p.m., Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester,

London calling: Performing via livestream from London’s Docklands District, The Smile is Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, along with Tom Skinner of British jazz group Sons of Kemet. Playing in the round, it’s the first time the trio will do new music live. Yorke said the name comes from a Ted Hughes poem – “Not the smile as in ‘ahh!’, more ‘The Smile’ as in, the guy who lies to you every day.” Saturday, Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m., O’neil Cinemas, 24 Calef Highway, Epping, $20 at

Shock rock: Among music’s many subgenres, horror punk is exemplified by Blitzkid, a West Virginia band led by TB Monstrosity, a singer-guitarist who calls to mind Popeye’s Bluto at the end of a long weekend. The group formed in the late 1990s and broke up 10 years ago, but they’re back for a reunion show at a venue that on Saturday, Jan. 29, will also host a benefit for an employee who lost all her belongings in a house fire. Wednesday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m., Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, $17 to $250 at

At the Sofaplex 22/01/27

Hotel Transylvania 4: Transformania(PG)

Voices of Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez.

Also voices of Kathryn Hahn, Jim Gaffigan, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key and Fran Drescher. Adam Sandler, who voiced main character Dracula for the first three of these movies, has passed the microphone on to voice doppelganger Brian Hull.

The movie gives you the gist even if you’ve never seen any of these Hotel Transylvania movies before (or, if, like me, you’ve definitely seen some of them but can’t remember much of anything about them): Drac and his vampire daughter Mavis (voice of Gomez), her human husband Johnny (Andy Samberg) and their son Dennis (voice of Asher Blinkoff) run a monster-serving hotel in a creepy Transylvanian castle that does such a brisk business Drac employs many a zombie and ghoul. Newly married to human Ericka Van Helsing (voice of Kathryn Hahn), great-granddaughter of The Van Helsing (voice of Gaffigan), Drac has been planning to officially turn the hotel over to Mavis and Johnny. But Johnny is such a stone cold goofus that Drac backs out at the last minute, telling Johnny that it’s because the property can only be passed to another monster. Johnny, desperate to truly be part of the family, uses Van Helsing’s monster-ray to turn himself into a monster. When Drac attempts to turn Johnny back into a human, he accidentally turns Frankenstein, the mummy and Wayne the werewolf human, creating all sorts of people who need to be returned to their former form — including Drac himself, who finds himself becoming human and losing the power to turn into a bat mid-fall.

Because the McGuffin-ray is broken in the process, Drac and Johnny set off on a quest to find a crystal that will repair it and set things right. What they don’t know when they head off is that, while Drac can eventually adjust to being human with some sunscreen and a shower, Johnny is in danger of having his monsterness constantly mutate until he becomes a giant, mindless, brightly colored destructo-saur.

If you have Amazon Prime, you have access to this movie for free — which is probably its principal selling point. This movie doesn’t feature nearly enough monster hijinks and physical comedy and is way too talky and focused on the plot of Drac handing off his hotel. (I’m sure there’s a joke in here about this being Succession for kids but with literal monsters instead of psychological monsters, but this movie doesn’t really warrant that much cleverness.) I don’t think my younger kids care about father-in-law/son-in-law relationships and they probably would have liked more with the swarm of werewolf puppies and the comedy based on the Blob. But this movie isn’t, like, actively offensive or particularly violent and I think my older kid would watch this if it were the only thing available or if it was the alternative to some kind of chore, so, C? Available via Amazon Prime.

Munich: The Edge of War (PG-13)

George MacKay, Jannis Niewöhner.

Jeremy Irons also stars in this adaptation of a Robert Harris novel which is surprisingly suspenseful despite the fact that it is about two guys running around in 1938 not preventing World War II. I mean, spoiler alert? Not really, and that’s kind of an interesting creative challenge when you set up your characters to complete a mission the larger outcome of which is already known to have failed.

Here, we get our spy thriller tension in part from the fact that British translator Hugh Legat (MacKay) is rather spectacularly not a spy. He seems like sort of an aide to prime minister Neville Chamberlain (Irons), who is sent on a delegation going to peace talks in Munich in part because years earlier he went to college with German Paul von Hartman (Niewöhner). A similar mid-level government type, Paul worms his way into the German delegation by serving as a translator for Hitler (Ulrich Matthes). Paul is part of a small group of German government types who think that, if Hitler illegally invades Czechoslovakia, they’ll be able to get the support of the German military and oust Hitler from power. Instead of invading, Hitler agrees to first meet with the British and French and his ally Italy to discuss a means of avoiding war — or, as it plays out here, a means by which the other countries can let him take chunks of Czechoslovakia without them having to intervene.

But Paul has different plans. He wants to use the conference as a cover for passing documents to Hugh, his old Oxford buddy, that prove that Czechoslovakia is just the beginning and that Hitler is planning a war of conquest throughout Europe. He gets a guy to get a guy to get Hugh included in the British delegation so that they can work together to get the documents to the right people and prevent the countries from appeasing Hitler. But while Paul, a former ardent Hitler-supporter who has become disillusioned with the Nazis, is used to sneaking around, Hugh, just a guy who regularly gets yelled at by both his boss and his neglected wife (Jessica Brown Findlay), is not great at skulduggery. For example, he “hides” important papers in a desk drawer in his hotel (why not staple them to the door, Hugh) and is so bad at following Paul without being seen that they might as well be holding hands and singing.

I wish the movie had played that aspect — Paul as the weary citizen of a police state, Hugh as a neophyte — up a bit more, because it did help ramp up the tension. Weighing in at over two hours, I think the movie could have lost some of the side stories and focused on a streamline tale of two men trying to desperately do some real world-saving behind the scenes of some hot-air diplomacy. We take a lot of detours into Lenya (Liv Lisa Fries), a mutual college friend who had formerly been together with Paul; Hugh’s shaky marriage and stalled career, and Paul’s relationship with his assistant, Helen (Sandra Huller). Shaved down by about half an hour and more singularly focused on the diplomacy-spy angle, Munich: The Edge of War could have been a more energetic noir-ish suspense film. As it is, it is occasionally pokey but watchable history drama fare. C+ Available on Netflix.

Swan Song (R)

Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris.

Also Glenn Close and Awkwafina.

In the cleanly designed, tech-filled future, Cameron (Ali) is terminally ill but hasn’t yet told his family, including wife Poppy (Harris). This gives him a rare opportunity: He can tell them about his condition and live out his final days with them or he can essentially download his memories and personality into a healthy but otherwise identical clone who will slip into his life. Either way, Cameron won’t be there to see his young son and the baby Poppy is currently pregnant with grow up, but a Cameron can be there for them.

Dr. Jo Scott (Close) is the doctor performing this strange, secret procedure at what feels like a beautiful, modernist spa out in the woods where Cameron also meets Kate (Awkwafina), a woman who is essentially waiting for her end while her replacement has been living her life. His wife is just getting over a prolonged period of grief over the death of her brother and has previously stated that she would be happy to have such a real version of her mother back, especially if she didn’t know it wasn’t her “real” mother. These are Cameron’s arguments for going through with the swap. But he is also bothered by the deceit and the loss of his life before his death by basically giving it away to someone else.

Most of this movie is Ali’s performance and, as you’d expect, he gives a solid one, one that allows for enough suspension of disbelief about the sci-fi aspects so that you can swim around in the bigger picture life questions with his characters. This isn’t some twisty thriller; the movie is more concerned with the internal journey Cameron takes and as that kind of contemplative tale it is engrossing. A Available on Apple TV+.

Brazen (TV-14)

Brazen (TV-14)

Alyssa Milano is a mystery writer who must solve her sister’s real-world murder in Brazen, a relaxing mug of “Lifetime thriller plus TV procedural” from Netflix.

Grace Miller (Milano) is a rich and famous mystery writer who rushes home when her sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerop) calls her saying she needs help. What she needs is for Grace to allow her to mortgage her half of the family home the girls own together (and where Kathleen currently lives) so that Kathleen can hire a lawyer to fight for custody of her young son. Kathleen had to leave him with her estranged husband when she went to get treatment for her substance misuse issues but is now sober, working as a high school teacher and ready to fight for her son.

Even teaching at a fancy private school and money from a mortgage won’t be enough to afford the lawyer she’ll need to fight her rich and powerful ex, which is why Kathleen also has a side gig as a webcam performer. In a hidden room behind her closet, she performs as a dominatrix named “Desiree.” Desiree has a flowing brunette wig (Kathleen is a blonde) and wears a partial face mask (a sort of sparkly lace thing, not, like, an N95) so it’s clear Kathleen is hoping this part-time job stays a secret. But of course somebody is able to hack in and learns the real identity and location of Kathleen.

When Grace goes on a date with Kathleen’s neighbor, handsomely scruffy-beard-having police detective Ed (Sam Page — much improved from when he was Joan’s awful husband on Mad Men), Kathleen is home alone, doing one quick performance as Desiree. When Grace returns, she finds Kathleen dead on the floor of her bedroom.

As the first person on the crime scene, Ed, along with his partner Ben (Malachi Weir), gets assigned the case — which feels like one of those standard “but isn’t this some kind of conflict of interest thing, especially since you’re letting the victim’s sister crash on your couch, Detective Ed” TV conceits that you just gotta go with if you’re going to commit to watching an Alyssa Milano made-for-streaming thriller. Ed wants Grace to stay safe and out of the way while he and Ben do their investigating, but Grace, with her “knack for getting in killer’s heads” or something that has helped her solve real-world crimes as she does research for her books, convinces their boss, Captain Rivera (Alison Araya), to let her join in the investigation. And if you’re thinking “wait, the police are letting some fiction writer who is also a family member of the victim be part of the official investigation?” then maybe you didn’t see the “an Alyssa Milano made-for-streaming thriller” part earlier.

Brazen isn’t an especially good movie but it is a good watch. It is basically doing a Castle, with a little Law & Order-universe and just a touch of The Closer. It has that same easy-drinking quality of a story that can keep you watching without being so taxing you have to pay super close attention. It has the standard red herrings, no-nonsense police lady boss and partner banter. (Weir’s Ben and Araya’s police captain are perfectly serviceable supporting characters.) And because there is also some romance business here, Grace and Ed have an extremely from-the-shoulders-up love scene that was kinda charming for its lack of heat or chemistry. (What they lack in romantic chemistry, though, Milano and Page adequately make up for in mystery-partner chemistry.) It’s like “yes, we know we have to have this scene but let’s get you back to the mystery as soon as possible.”

Look, I’d like to pretend that I want to relax in the evening with a good book — a literary novel that’s been nominated for an important prize or perhaps a weighty and important history. But if I happen upon a Bones or Major Crimes or heck even a CSI in a pinch while flipping mindlessly through live TV, I’m probably going to stop there and fancy myself clever for figuring out whodunit. Brazen is that exactly — in fact, in a different era, it could have been the two-part premiere to some Wednesday-night network series. A Wednesday-night network series that would win no awards but that I would happily watch, both in first run and in syndication. B-

Rated TV-14. Directed by Monika Mitchell with a screenplay by Edithe Swensen and Donald Martin and Suzette Couture (based on the Nora Roberts novel Brazen Virtue), Brazen is an hour and 34 minutes long and available on Netflix.

Featured photo: Brazen.

The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan

The School for Good Mothers, by Jessamine Chan (Simon & Schuster, 325 pages)

Parents are more likely to have a child taken away from them by the government than by a stranger. Yet for most of us, Child Protective Services enters our consciousness only when we hear of its failure.

An alternate world is presented in Jessamine Chan’s debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, in which the state vastly oversteps its bounds and is given terrifying power over families when someone is accused of child neglect or abuse.

The story is about a single mother, Frida, who, overcome by exhaustion and stress, makes the shockingly bad decision to leave her toddler alone while she goes to get coffee and pick up some forgotten work at the office. Neighbors call the police when the child, named Harriet, starts crying.

When the police call Frida to say they have her child, she is overcome with guilt and rushes to the station, expecting to pick up her child after sufficient explanation and groveling. Instead, she finds herself in a cascading nightmare.

The police let Frida’s ex-husband, Gust, take Harriett to the home he shares with his young girlfriend. They tell Frida that she will have to convince Child Protective Services of her worthiness before she can have her child again. This isn’t just today’s Social Services, however, but a 1984-ish imagining of a state darkly empowered by surveillance technology and the belief that the state knows more about proper child-rearing than parents.

Soon after Harriett goes home, two men from Child Protective Services arrive to inspect her home and outfit it with cameras. They will be watching, even without Harriett in the home, in order to assess Frida’s fitness to mother her child. They explain that artificial intelligence will use the footage to analyze her feelings, that this will be fair because it eliminates human error.

Frida accepts this because she has no choice; it’s a condition for getting her child back. But so are monitored visits with Harriett with a social worker watching — visits in which she is expected to play with her toddler in her ex-husband’s house, the same daughter who now feels abandoned by her mother.

Not surprisingly, these visits go spectacularly poorly, and eventually Frida is deemed “insufficiently contrite” and a “narcissist with anger-management issues and … poor impulse control.” She is given her last option: to submit to a year’s stay at a state-run facility at which she and other mothers accused of neglect or abuse are taught how to be “good” mothers. At the end of the year, the state will decide whether she can have her child back.

Chan engages a politically fraught topic in the age of debate over free-range parenting, the ethics of nanny cams and other forms of surveillance, and whether parents or educators should decide what children are taught in public school. But she has crafted an elegant and engrossing story that only once steps out of the narrative (and then only briefly) to mention contemporary conflicts. Other than a few paragraphs, this is a story about Frida alone, and she is a complicated and bewilderingly sympathetic protagonist.

Although Frida insists she had one very bad day in her mothering career — her lawyer coaches her to call it a “lapse in judgment” — it was an extraordinarily bad day, and the fact that she had barely slept the night before does not absolve her of leaving a toddler alone in an exercise saucer for nearly two hours. Even though the child wasn’t hurt, it was a horrific offense, and it seems right that the state conduct a review for Harriet’s sake.

But compassion grows as we learn more about Frida’s circumstances — the discovery of her husband’s affair while she was still pregnant, the over-involved girlfriend who texts parenting advice to Frida and posts pictures of Harriett on social media, the shared custody arrangement that forces Frida to work while caring for a sick child on her own.

But again, there are no stereotypes here, just human beings in varying stages of imperfection. The father who left Frida also held her hand in divorce court; the girlfriend who seems to want the child for her own testifies on behalf of Frida’s parenting.

The only true villains here are the smug, condescending “playground moms” who look down on the parenting of others, and of course the state.

Its arrogant and overreaching arm, which coldly keeps Frida from the child who gives her life purpose and meaning, becomes so much of a villain that we wish the Avengers would swoop in.

Chan has a delicate touch and she refrains from overt moralizing; moreover, The School for Good Mothers is an extraordinary first novel because Frida is not one-dimensional. She did a terrible thing and we never really understand why she did it. But Frida is not quite an antihero, either; she loves her child desperately and did many things right before the state began training its eye on the things it believes she does wrong. As such, it’s a nuanced and intelligent novel that is also thoroughly absorbing, the sort of book you can breeze through on a weekend but will think about all the next week. A

Book Notes

Last week, we started running through a literal Book of the Month club for 2022, choosing the best-reviewed books that have a month in the title.

So far, we’ve had The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow; February House by Sherill Tippins; March: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks; One Friday in April by Donald Antrim; Eight Days in May by Volker Ullrich; and Seven Days in June by Tia Williams. On to the rest of the year.

July: The most recent is a book of poetry, July (Sarabande Books, 120 pages), published last June by New York writer Kathleen Ossip. NPR named it one of its “books we love.” But you can also go back to 2014 for the Tim O’Brien novel July, July (Houghton Mifflin, 322 pages), a story of 10 friends attending their 30th college reunion.

August: Snow in August (Little, Brown & Co., 320 pages) by the late Pete Hamill, former editor of the New York Daily News, is the best we can do, although this takes us back to 1997. It’s the story of a friendship that bloomed between an Irish Catholic boy and a lonely Brooklyn rabbi.

September: The Fortnight in September (Scribner, 304 pages) is a 1931 novel by R.C. Sheriff that was reissued last fall as a 90th anniversary paperback edition. NPR called it a “gift” that came back into the public consciousness during the pandemic. It’s also described as a “timeless classic” and is about a family of five vacationing on the coast of England.

October: The End of October (Knopf, 400 pages) by Lawrence Wright, a writer for The New Yorker, is about a deadly pandemic that begins in Indonesia and spreads across the world. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

November: November Road (William Morrow, 320 pages) is a 2019 thriller by Lou Berney. It’s set at the time of the John F. Kennedy assassination, and involves a mobster on the run who picks up a mother and kids on the side of the road and gives them a ride in exchange for his cover: disguising himself as an insurance salesman on a trip with his family.

December: Lots of choices here, many of them terrible, but let’s go with Lost in December (Simon & Schuster, 368 pages), a novelized retelling of the Bible’s “prodigal son” story by the wildly popular Richard Paul Evans, author of The Christmas Box. Scoff all you want, but it’s got five stars on Amazon. Guess we’ll need to read The Christmas Box, too.

Book Events

Author events

TOM RAFFIO Author presents Prepare for Crisis, Plan to Thrive. The Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Thurs., Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m. Visit

CHAD ORZEL Author presents A Brief History of Timekeeping. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Thurs., Jan. 27, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

ISABEL ALLENDE Author presents Violeta. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Sat., Jan. 29, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration and tickets required, to include the purchase of the book. Visit or call 224-0562.

JOHN NICHOLS Author presents Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiters. Virtual event hosted by Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord. Tues., Feb. 1, 7 p.m. Via Zoom. Registration required. Visit or call 224-0562.

GARY SAMPSON AND INEZ MCDERMOTT Photographer Sampson and art historian McDermott discuss New Hampshire Now: A Photographic Diary of Life in the Granite State. Sat., Feb. 19, 9:45 to 11:45 a.m. Peterborough Town Library, 2 Concord St., Peterborough. Visit


ROB AZEVEDO Poet reads from his new book of poetry, Don’t Order the Calamari. The Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester. Thurs., Feb. 3, 6 p.m. Visit

Book Clubs

BOOKERY Online. Monthly. Third Thursday, 6 p.m. Bookstore based in Manchester. Visit or call 836-6600.

GIBSON’S BOOKSTORE Online, via Zoom. Monthly. First Monday, 5:30 p.m. Bookstore based in Concord. Visit or call 224-0562.

Album Reviews 22/01/27

Dust Prophet, “Hourglass” (self-released)

Local bands could learn a thing or three from what this veteran threesome — led by Manchester’s long-put-upon, one-man demolition crew Otto Kinzel — accomplished publicity-wise in getting this new single to make the rounds in some of the more notable blogs. It debuted on none other than the Decibel blog, sporting a great review, for starters, which means this ain’t no joke, as metal releases go. Bassist-keyboardist Sarah Wappler and drummer Tyler MacPherson support guitarist-singer Kinzel in this one-shot, which is aimed at the stoner-metal crowd, i.e. folks who are into everything from Sabbath-ish Trail Of Dead stuff to Sabbath-ish Candlemass stuff, and it’s quite fitting in that regard, launching with an almost-sitar-emulating bit that has a world-music tint to it, after which comes the expected slow-mo-mosh-pit bombast in the vein of Sabbath’s “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” or your basic Kyuss-ish slowbie. Kinzel sounds quite a bit like early Ozzy Osborne here, which is of course apropos; there’s no reason these guys couldn’t have the success of any of their competitors. A+

Kristian Montgomery & The Winterkill Band, A Heaven For Heretics (self-released)

Another local band, if you count Vermont as more or less local; Montgomery, a native Dane, moved there from Cape Cod, which is where he was when we first chatted over Facebook PMs in March of last year, upon the release of his Prince Of Poverty LP, which I do recall rather liking. His forte is Appalachia-rock, which is just my rushed catch-all for this blend of hard-charging but breezily pretty Americana/semi-country. I suppose if he wanted, Montgomery could make a run for the space occupied by Dierks Bentley or really any other band that’s got enough bluegrass-elegance in its formula to avoid ever being accused of courting NASCAR and wrestling fans, but look at this mess, I’m all over the place, so let’s get to the point: Imagine a more aggressive, working-class Amos Lee or Peter Bradley Adams and you’re in the ballpark. This stuff is truly good, sporting a production that sounds like they had a ton of studio time to refine these gems. Dobro lines turn straight into earworms, hooks are omnipresent; this will probably amaze you if you’d be up for something Bob Seger-ish but fluffier and much more eloquent. A+


• Jan. 28 has a really low Yelp rating, because it falls right in the middle of the “January/February Slog,” when the holidays are long forgotten and the only thing people can really do for fun is to see if they won’t get actual frostbite on their feet just for walking to the mailbox. I am already completely insane from winter and would take up daily drinking if it weren’t super dangerous, but either way, Jan. 28 will see our next corporate dumping of random albums, for you, the public, to consume in enthusiastic fashion! In keeping with this column’s subject-to-change tendency to favor indie bands over commercial hip-hop albums that you all know about (or summarily avoid) anyway, we’ll kick off this week with none other than the brand new Eels album, Extreme Witchcraft! I have a couple of Eels albums and only play them when I’m in a self-destructive mood; you see, I don’t like Mark Oliver Everett’s music and, um, uh, never really did, except for maybe one song off Hombre Lobo (for the record, there’s no need to tweet at or email/Facebook me that Hombre Lobo is a “sub-par Eels slab” or whatever, because (a) I won’t believe you, and (b) it may indeed be even less tolerable than the other Eels album I have, but I can’t find it, and actually I couldn’t care less if one of the cats chewed it into unlistenability; as a matter of fact, if my own kitty Babypuss scratched up that CD, I’m giving him at least 10 Greenies treats for being the world’s greatest goodboy). No, you know what bothers me about Everett’s crummy tunes is that his picture should be under the Webster’s definition of “weird beard,” like he’s got this lumberjack neck-beard, like Paul Bunyan, which makes it even more difficult to appreciate the overrated “eclecticism” of this desert-dwelling Californian who’s pretending to be a super-cool millennial even though he’s 58. I mean, other than that he’s totally an artiste par excellence, so keep that in mind if my words have made you mad, and I hope you’ll take the time to find something else in our newspaper that’s more in line with your taste; I can recommend several regular columns. Oh whatever, I hate the Eels but I can’t just say that and call this a mini-review, so I’m off to torture myself with the new single “Good Night On Earth” right now. Oh boy is this stupid, a room-temperature stun-guitar riff, no bass, Super Mario Brothers drums, then some Flaming Lips garbage-noise, and then his dumb voice, with its weird beard singing. I can’t stand this trash so much I can’t even put it into words.

• The only Pinegrove song most people know, if they even know one, is “Old Friends,” a laid-back tune that sounds like a lame grunge band covering a Nilsson song. But they’re more of an alt-country/emo band, if you can picture such a thing, not that you ever would, so the band’s new album, 11:11, is more in line with that as far as the single, “Alaska,” goes: a little bit Guster, a little bit Dashboard Confessional. Actually it’s not all that bad.

Urge Overkill is the goofy hard rock band that did the cover of “Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon” in Pulp Fiction. Their new LP, Oui, has a song called “Freedom” that sounds like Foo Fighters trying to be Barenaked Ladies. No one would care about this.

• We’ll wrap this up with flute-metal fossils Jethro Tull, whose zillionth album, The Zealot Gene, is here, with a single called “Shoshana Sleeping” that’s pretty cool, kind of mid-career Zeppelin-ish except there’s that dumb flute, and singer Ian Anderson is trying to talk-sing like Lemony Snicket. Ha ha, he’s so weird and overpaid.

If you’re in a local band, now’s a great time to let me know about your EP, your single, whatever’s on your mind. Let me know how you’re holding yourself together without being able to play shows or jam with your homies. Send a recipe for keema matar. Message me on Twitter (@esaeger) or Facebook (eric.saeger.9).

Curing the winter blues

Spoiler alert: Winter is long and cold

“I have the winter blues,” my wife said to me many years ago.

At the time, the phrase and concept was new to me and I was perplexed and largely unsympathetic.

“You’re sad because it’s cold?” I said.

Turns out that might not have been the best response. A hug may have been a better move.

I get it now though. Winter doesn’t really bother me in that it’s cold. Cold is OK by me. But while spring, summer and fall seem especially fleeting, winter just seems to carry on longer than it should, comparatively speaking. When you get to late January, not even the biggest ski bum on the planet could convince me they don’t think about warmer weather when scraping the ice off their windshield or taking the trash out on a bitter cold night.

That is quite enough complaining about the weather. The fact is winter is cold and long, and beer is the only cure.

During the coldest nights, I tend to find myself turning to higher-alcohol brews, big beers I can sip and savor as I let the alcohol warm me up from the inside out. Imperial stouts, barrel-aged brews and barleywines are just what the doctor ordered.

These are beers with layers of complex flavors that deserve your attention, and with plenty of alcohol to numb your senses to the cold.

I should add that these big beers are perfect for sharing. A whole pint of a 13-percent ABV brew is a lot, so find a friend who needs help with the winter blues, too.

Here are five big beers from New Hampshire to help you through the coldest stretches of the winter.

Erastus by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

This Belgian-style tripel is just wonderful stuff, boasting a little peppery spice, some interesting fruit notes and a deliciously dry finish. This complex brew is one of my all-time favorites and I would drink this any time of the year but it’s perfect on a cold winter night. Erastus gives you plenty to consider as you sip. The fruitiness, coupled with the spice, is tasty and unique.

Fat Alberta by Throwback Brewery (North Hampton)

This is a chocolate peanut butter Russian imperial stout. Full stop. This is dessert in a glass with big notes of, you guessed it, chocolate and peanut butter. It’s so rich and so warming thanks to the 11 percent ABV — deliciously decadent. Enjoy this by the fire with or without a couple peanut butter cups.

Barrel-Aged RIS 2015 by Stoneface Brewing Co. (Newington)

This is another Russian imperial stout but this one is aged in bourbon barrels, which adds notes of oak and vanilla to an already flavorful and complex brew. At 9.5 percent ABV, the brew packs a punch but it’s still approachable compared to other bourbon barrel-aged brews that can exceed 14 percent ABV.

Quadracalabasia by Lithermans Limited (Concord)

This limited-release brew is a Belgian quadrupel that is brewed with roasted pumpkins and graham crackers. I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this incredible-sounding brew but I look forward to it. The brewery says the beer is “medium bodied and deeply complex with notes of plum, dark fruits and molasses.”

Ironside Barleywine by Kelsen Brewing Co. (Derry)

When it comes to big beers, Kelsen has cornered the market. Ironside is an English-style barleywine aged in brandy barrels for 18 months. The brewery describes it as “boozy and complex with notes of caramel, toffee, oak, vanilla and Werther’s candies.” Hello. This is exactly what I’m looking for when I’m completely sick of winter.

What’s in My Fridge

Modernism by Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton)

This Czech-style dark lager is tremendous, featuring notes of chocolate and coffee and a smooth, extremely easy-drinking package. The beer is a perfect example of how dark beers don’t have to be heavy. You’ll want another. Cheers!

Featured photo: Fat Alberta Chocolate Peanut Butter Russian Imperial Stout by Throwback Brewery. Courtesy photo.

Bruschetta with lemon honey ricotta

This recipe makes a simple but incredibly glamorous appetizer. As a bonus, it is an appetizer that is much better when made individually — by the people eating it. All that is required of you, the cook, is to prepare the ingredients and set them in serving dishes. Your guests will transform them from ingredients to a delicious snack.

Although one of the big selling points of this appetizer is the minimal amount of work required, I would be remiss not to tell you how delicious it is. This recipe is a Venn diagram of flavor and texture. It consists of salty, sweet and sour flavors, providing great balance. There are crunchy and creamy textures to make this appetizer even more appealing to your palate.

However, there is one caveat to the making of this bruschetta. You need to use good ricotta. There are two options for good ricotta. One, you can make your own. It may sound daunting; it really isn’t. You can find a simple recipe at my website,, or elsewhere on the internet. Two, you can find a good cheese shop or Italian grocery store where they sell homemade ricotta. The stuff you find in a grocery store is fine when hidden under sauce or noodles. For this recipe you want better than fine.

Once you have the ricotta (and other ingredients) on hand, all that is required is about 10 minutes’ worth of work. Slice and toast the baguette. Zest and juice the lemon. Stir those items into the ricotta. Put everything on the counter. Let your fellow diners make their snacks!

Bruschetta with lemon honey ricotta
Serves 6

1 crusty baguette, approximately 10.5 ounces
16 ounces ricotta
1 medium lemon
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut baguette diagonally into 1/4-inch slices.
Place slices on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden brown.
Place ricotta in a small bowl.
Zest lemon; add to ricotta.
Juice lemon, removing any seeds, and add to ricotta.
Stir well.
Top each crostini with a hearty tablespoon of ricotta mixture.
Drizzle with honey.
Sprinkle with a flake or two of sea salt.

Photo: Bruschetta with lemon honey ricotta. Photo by Michele Pesula Kuegler.

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