Friday, May 24, 2019

The Friday 5ive- May 24, 2019 Edition

The Friday 5ive

This week's Friday 5ive takes us into Memorial Day weekend, and that means summer is right around the corner. These are the five things that caught my attention this week.

1) I finished one series on Netflix- Ricky Gervais' After Life, which I really liked. He plays a widower who cannot get over his grief of losing his wife. He's hostile to everyone but his young nephew George and his dog. It's six episodes and the last one is so beautifully done, but I wonder what season two will hold.
I started Dead to Me on Netflix, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini as two young widows who meet in a grief support group. (There appears to be a recurring theme here....) Christina's husband died in a hit and run, and she is obsessed with finding his killer. She is earning critical acclaim for her portrayal. I think Linda Cardellini deserves praise as well, and the secrets that are slowly revealed are whoppers. 

2) While running errands, I came across this 'Chicken Bus NY' parked on a side street. I have never seen it before, but there was a group of young women, maybe college aged, who were taking their photo in front it. Apparently it's party bus that you can rent, and if you are interested, the link to it is here.






3) I went to hear actress Kate Mulgrew speak about her newest memoir, How to Forget, about the life and deaths of her mother and father. It's brilliant, honest and emotional, and I loved this book. She read two powerful pieces from the book- one about the time her father drove her to an audition when she was fourteen, and another about a neighborhood walk she took with her mother when her mother was suffering from Alzheimer's. This one is a must-read.

4) Lifetime TV channel is beginning a Books to Screen series of movies, and the first one is an adaptation of Adriana Trigiani's fabulous Very Valentine. They are starting a national book club ahead of the movie where we can all read the book together before the movie premieres on Lifetime on Saturday, June 8th.  The first trailer for the movie looks so wonderful, and Jacqueline Bissett as Grandma is perfection. I can't wait! You can join the National Book Club here

5) I started and finished Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, the story of Amy who leaves her home in New York City (where she lives with her parents) to search for her missing sister in the Netherlands. We hear the story from Amy, missing sister Sylvie, and their mother's perspective. There's a lot of family secrets going on here, and the mystery does eventually get solved. The book is on many lists of the best books of summer and deservedly so.

I'm in the middle of Mary Beth Keane's newest book, Ask Again, Yes about two NYC police officers who live next door to each other, and their son and daughter who have a relationship. I adored Keane's first two novels, The Walking People, about the men who built the NYC subways, and Fever, the fictionalized story of the woman known as Typhoid Mary, and Ask Again, Yes is shaping up to be her best one yet. This one is also on many best of the summer books lists for good reason.

Have an enjoyable holiday weekend!


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 9780062839053
Trade paperback, $15.99, 496 pages


Sonali Dev's wonderful novel, Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors opens when Trisha Raje was thirteen years old, and her father took her to visit an orphanage in his native Sripore in India, his home country. She was so affected by the sight of blind children, when she returned home to California, she organized a mission of opthalmic surgeons from the San Fransciso area to work with doctors from the orphanage.

Now Trisha is a well-respected, hard-working (and youngest) neurosurgeon at Stanford University. Trisha has to tell her newest patient, Emma Caine, that she believes that she can save Emma's life by removing a brain tumor that every other doctor has said will kill her. But the operation will leave Emma blind, something that Emma, a visual artist, will not accept.

It's up to Emma's brother, Darcy James, better known as DJ, to convince her to have the operation. Trisha had an unfortunate first meeting with DJ at a dinner at her parents' palatial estate. DJ was catering the evening, and Trisha nearly knocked over a pot of caramel off the stove, causing DJ to burn his hands.

DJ is hoping to get a job catering a fundraiser for Trisha's brother Yash, who is running for governor of California. Getting that job means that DJ will have money to help pay for his sister's medical bills. He left a great job working for a famous chef in Paris to come to California to be there for his sister, as they only have each other.

Trisha and DJ are thrown together again and again, over Emma's illness and then when Trisha's sister asks her to work with DJ on the fundraiser. Even as both of them are working for a common cause the sparks and words fly, and of course it takes a long time for them to realize that they are attracted to each other.

I really enjoyed Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors because it's more than a charming love story. Trisha's large family has a lot going on, from her sister Nisha hiding a secret from her husband, to her brother's political aspirations, to the reason behind Trisha's years long estrangement from her imperial father (it's a doozy and Dev teases out that storyline for a long time).

Foodies will love it too, as there are so many fabulous descriptions of DJ's food. DJ's mother was Rwandan and his father was Anglo-Indian, but he learned to cook from the Indian woman who lived upstairs from his mom, sister and him growing up in London.

Your mouth will water at DJ's steamed momos, dim sum biryani, California blue crab with bitter coconut cream, and his special dessert, Arabica bean gelato with dark caramel. It will have you running to the nearest Indian restaurant or your local bookstore to find an Indian cookbook to try your own hand at creating culinary masterpieces.

Like Curtis Sittenfeld's novel, Eligible, Sonali Dev's Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors is a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and it brings a fresh take on a familiar classic of literature with its multicultural cast of characters. I loved getting to know them all and I highly recommend it.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Friday 5ive- May 17, 2019 edition

Friday 5ive

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, where I share five things that caught my attention this week.

1) We were in Florida until Sunday, and I love to walk the beach listening to podcasts as I kick my my feet through the Gulf of Mexico. The water was bathwater warm! I listened to Conan O'Brien's podcast- Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend- where his guest was famed biographer Robert Caro. O'Brien has been trying unsucessfully for over ten years to get Caro as a guest on his three late night TV shows. He finally landed him as a guest on his podcast, where Caro discussed his three books about Lyndon Johnson (people are anxiously awaiting his fourth and final book in the series). Caro was very funny, not really what I expected at all. He spoke at length of his intense process to get to know his subject Lyndon Johnson, which included moving from Brooklyn with his wife Irene to the small town in Texas where Johnson grew up. It was a fascinating discussion, and one that any fans of the biographies should not miss.  (I know there are many fans- those books constantly sell out at the Book Cellar where I volunteer.) You can find the link here.


2) Some of the funniest women on the planet are Saturday Night Live alums, and Amy Poehler directed some of her best pals from that show in the Netflix movie, Wine Country. Six friends go to Napa Valley wine country to celebrate one of their friend's 50th birthday and it does not go as planned. (And not in a Friday the 13th kind of way, this is a comedy after all.) Any women over the age of 40 will relate to this movies, and for me the funniest part of the movie was when they all discussed their various ailments and medications they take- double knee replacement, using a CPap machine at night, and the mutitudes of pills they take. There are so many great lines, I have to watch it again to catch everything. Besides Amy, it stars Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Emily Spivey and Paula Pell (a comedic genius) as the friends and Tina Fey is hilarious as the woman who rents her home to them. 

3) I watched the series finale of The Big Bang Theory, and even though I haven't watched the series consistently in a few years, I didn't want to miss this. It was so well done, it honored all the characters, and Sheldon's speech at the end had me teary-eyed. Bravo!

4) There is a revival of the classic Rogers & Hammerstein's musical Oklahoma! at the Circle in the Square theater on Broadway. This is a fabulous interpretation of the show, and I loved it! The stage at Circle in the Square has the the audience in a U-shaped ringing the stage which is below the audience, not above. Some audience members sit at tables on the stage, and the actors interact with them. The actors were fantastic, led by Tony-nominated for their roles Damon Daunno (Curly), whose gorgeous voice on "Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'" set the tone for this new version. Broadway vet Mary Testa shines as Aunt Eller, the anchor of the cast. And Ali Stoker is nothing short of a revelation as Ado Annie, carousing around the stage in her wheelchair as she belts out a stunning version of "I Cain't Say No". The music sounds so fresh with the small group of musicians right on stage with the actors, I can't wait for the cast recording on June 28th. Oh, and they served the audience chili and cornbread at intermission on the stage. If you come to NYC, you've got to see Oklahoma!. Watch her sing it on Live! With Kelly and Ryan here. 

5) I read a lot of books on vacation last week- seven of them! You can get a lot of reading done on airplanes and at the beach, my favorite place to read. I read Tracy Garvis Graves' The Girl I Used to Know about a young woman who may be on the autism spectrum and her romance with a young man in college. It's an excellent, poignant book. Sonali Dev's wonderful novel Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors, is about a talented young surgeon from a wealthy Indian family in California who tries to save the life of a young artist and falls in love with the artist's chef brother, but not before they repeatedly drive each other crazy.  Australian author Sally Hepworth's mystery The Mother-in-Law tells the story of a young woman who is suspected in the death of her mother-in-law, with whom she had a difficult relationship. I liked that the mother-in-law was a multi-faceted character.  I read two books by comedians- Craig Ferguson's terrific memoir titled Riding the Elephant, which is an essay collection that gives insight into his life and career. Pete Holmes' memoir Comedy Sex God is about his search for those three things- comedy, sex and God. Both men write so well about their search for enlightenment about life, these books are not joke-joke-joke, but so much more. The best novel I read was Lisa Grunwald's Time After Time, about a young woman killed in a tragic accident at Grand Central Station in New York in 1929. She somehow reappears at Grand Central Station, and meets and falls in love with Joe, a railroad worker. It's all a beautiful love story, and Grunwald creates this cocoon of a world for them inside Grand Central, you'll never look at that place the same again after reading this gorgeous novel. The best nonfiction book I read was Kate Mulgrew's memoir about ther parents and the last years of their lives, How To Forget. She writes so beautifully, I think she may be a better writer than an actor, and she's a darn good actor. It's such an honest portrayal of a family. I'm going to see her next week at Barnes & Noble, I'll have more then. 



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
Published by Lake Union Publishing ISBN 9781542042963
Paperback $14.95, 322 pages


The cover of Kelly Harms' delightful novel, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, definitely called out to me with the art work of a woman walking in New York overlaid with the title written on book spines.

Three years ago Amy Byler's husband went on a work trip to Hong Kong and decided to never come back. She became a struggling single mother responsible for their two children, 12 year-old Cori and 8 year-old Joe. With the help of her best friend Lena she got a job as a librarian in her children's private school in their hometown in a small Pennsylvania town.

Out of the blue, Amy's husband John says he is coming back and would like to spend a week with the kids. Amy is dumbfounded but after asking the kids if they are willing, she takes the opportunity to spend a week in New York City at a teacher's reading conference at Columbia University.

She stays with her old friend Talia, the editor of a woman's magazine. Talia has a brilliant idea- a magazine spread about what she calls Amy's #Momspringa- a break where Amy gets to do whatever she wants before she returns home to her reality.

Talia's assistant Matt arranges for Amy to get a complete makeover, new clothes, go to spin class, and the Twitter postings about it become so popular that Amy starts getting requests for dates from eligible men. Her husband has been dating a young woman since he left,  so Amy agrees to go on a few prescreened dates.

Her dating life is eye-opening, but Amy can't stop thinking about Daniel, otherwise known as "hot librarian" at the conference. They spend a great night together, but reluctantly decide to be just friends.

When John asks to spend the entire summer with the kids and they agree to it, Amy gets to extend her #Momspringa for the rest of the summer. Amy's excellent adventure consists of wandering the city, eating at restaurants, and spending time with Daniel going to see Shakespeare in the Park.

The funniest parts of this wonderful story are the journal writings of Cori. Her mom wants Cori to read during the summer and journal about it, and Cori's letters to her mom are hilarious. I laughed out loud at every one of them. The text message exchanges between Amy and friends Talia and Lena are also so funny, mostly because most of us can look at our own phones and find similar group text chains from our friends.

Harms used to live in New York City, and The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is a love letter to the city. (Although I did question why Daniel, a NYCer, didn't know not to get on an empty subway car. You learn that your first week in NYC.) After reading this book, you will definitely want to book a trip to NYC pronto.

The characters are people you want to know, from Amy and the kids to Lena, Talia, Matt and Daniel. Since Amy is a librarian there are some great reading suggestions in there for teen readers. I also loved the reading program that Amy created and presented at the conference.

 Reading The Overdue Life of Amy Byler will take you out of your life for a few hours, just like Amy got to leave her responsibilites, and just like Amy you'll find it a welcome adventure. I highly recommend it.


Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Kelly Harms' tour. The rest of her stops are here:


Instagram tour:

Monday, April 29th: @booksandjil
Tuesday, April 30th: @diaryofaclosetreader
Wednesday, May 1st: @thebooksellersdaughter
Thursday, May 2nd: @theliteraryllama
Thursday, May 2nd: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Friday, May 3rd:@bookstackedblonde
Saturday, May 4th: @somekindofalibrary
Saturday, May 4th: @prose_and_palate
Sunday, May 5th: @lainetrees
Monday, May 6th: @hotcocoareads

Review tour:

Monday, April 29th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, April 30th: @dragonflyreads
Wednesday, May 1st: Book Fidelity
Friday, May 3rd: Lori’s Reading Corner – author guest post
Monday, May 6th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, May 7th: The Sketchy Reader
Wednesday, May 8th: @downtogetthefictionon
Thursday, May 9th: Tar Heel Reader and @tarheelreader
Monday, May 13th: Books & Spoons
Tuesday, May 14th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, May 15th: @crystals_library
Wednesday, May 15th: Rad Babes Read and @radbabesread
Thursday, May 16th: @thats_what_she_read
Friday, May 17th: Reading Reality
Monday, May 20th: Amy’s Book-et List
Tuesday, May 21st: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, May 22nd: Run Wright
Friday, May 24th: View from the Birdhouse
Tuesday, May 28th: Cheryl’s Book Nook
Friday, May 31st: Not in Jersey



Monday, May 13, 2019

Two Fantastic New Mysteries

Reprinted from the Citizen:


This month’s Book Report features the most recent domestic suspense novels from two writers who have written popular mystery series, as well as standalone novels.
Alafair Burke has authored 18 books, five of them the Under Suspicion series with the legendary Mary Higgins Clark, two series of her own, and five standalone books. Her latest standalone, The Better Sister, is thematically related to her two most recent successful books, The Ex and The Wife, but with different characters. 

In The Better Sister, Chloe, the executive editor of the highly acclaimed feminist magazine Eve, returns home from an awards banquet where she was the honoree to find that her husband, Adam, has been murdered. Chloe knew that the spouse was the first suspect in the mind of the police, so she did everything in her power to be helpful.
Things become complicated when the police turn their attention to Adam’s teenage son, Ethan. Ethan is the son of Adam and his first wife, Nicky, Chloe’s older sister. When Ethan was a toddler, Adam returned home to find Nicky face-down in their pool, with Ethan by her side.
He divorced Nicky and moved to New York, where he and Chloe eventually fell in love, married and raised Ethan. Nicky was out of the picture — until Adam’s death. Since Chloe was not Ethan’s legal mother, Nicky returns to take custody of her son.
Chloe and Nicky revert back to their familial roles: Chloe was the good girl who followed the rules and worked hard, Nicky was the partier with little sense of responsibility. Can they work together to clear Ethan?
Burke is a former prosecutor, and she knows how to write a courtroom scene that rings with truth and tension. And every parent’s heart will sink at the thought of their child in the situation that Ethan finds himself in.
The Better Sister is the perfect blend of character and plot. The characters drive the plot, and each character has secrets they are hiding that show they are not the person others believe them to be. This is a book you’ll want for a long airplane trip — time will fly as you furiously flip the pages to find out who did it.
Lisa Scottoline has written 41 books, including two series, several humorous nonfiction books and 15 standalone mysteries. Her newest standalone, Someone Knows, also deals with a big secret that drives the plot. 
Allie comes back to her hometown for the funeral of a man she had a crush on in high school 20 years ago. No one knows why David killed himself, but Allie is sure it has something to do with a tragedy that she, David, Sasha and Julian have lived with for the past 20 years.
After Allie’s sister died of cystic fibrosis, her family fell apart. Her mother couldn’t get over her grief, and her father couldn’t help her. When three of the cool kids in school bring Allie into their small group, she hopes that David will be her boyfriend.
Something bad happens one day in the woods, and the group breaks apart. Allie goes away to college, and marries a great guy, but can’t get over her guilty feelings. It drives a wedge between her and her loving husband, and Allie realizes she must find out the truth about what exactly happened if she is ever to find peace in her life.
But the two remaining people who know, Sasha and Julian, don’t want to talk about it. They have moved on, and don't want Allie to stir up the past.
The end of the book is filled with suspense, and you’ll be biting your nails and holding your breath, especially as everything comes to a furious conclusion. I found myself screaming, “Don’t go there, what are you thinking?” at one point. If it was a movie, I’d be peeking between my hands covering my eyes. (And it should be a movie.)
Scottoline really nails the teenage mind: the inability to think things all the way through, the longing to be part of a group, and the willingness to follow instead of doing what you know is right.
She also brings great empathy to Allie’s family situation when her sister dies. The family can’t find their way to grieve together, and it’s heartbreaking. Scottoline’s books get better with each one, and Someone Knows is among her very best.

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Friday 5ive- From Naples, Florida

The Friday 5ive

The Friday Five this week takes place in Naples, Florida where my husband spoke at a conference. The five things that caught my attention this week are mostly visual and they are:

1) This photo is from our beach on Longboat Key. I was taking my four mile walk down the beach and passed this beautiful bird regally standing guard on the beach. Is it an egret or a heron?




2) We made our way to the Ritz Carlton in Naples where the conference was held. In the lobby of the gorgeous hotel they had a Moet champagne vending machine, perfect for those 3am cravings for champagne.


3) The beach at the hotel is so fabulous, and I spent three glorious days reading at the beach, listening to the waves. I was so engrossed in my book when I suddenly looked up and saw a crowd gathered around my beach chair. I looked down and there was a baby turtle right next to my chair. It drew quite a crowd, with people following it all down the beach with their cell phone cameras, kind of like a Kardashian.


4) The conference has a wonderful spouses' program, with field trips and activities and breakfast every morning. At breakfast the coordinator has a book table where you can grab a book (or two or three) to enjoy. You know I love that! Jackie Carlino, the coordinator, even had one of my favorite books, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. It's the number one book I recommend to everyone. Seriously, read it people.



5) A theme dinner is held on the last evening of the conference. This year it was Gala Under the Gulf, and they had an acrobatic mermaid as entertainment. Everyone wanted a photo with the mermaid.


It was a relaxing week under the sun this week, but next week it's back to reality.


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Question Authority by Rachel Cline

The Question Authority by Rachel Cline
Published by Red Hen Press ISBN 9781597098984
Trade paperback, $15.95, 222 pages

Rachel Cline's novel, The Question Authority, may be slim- only 222 pages- but it packs a lot into those 200+ pages.

We begin in 2009 where we find Nora looking for her lost cat, where they are the only occupants in her deceased grandfather's huge Brooklyn Heights home. She is heading for work at the New York City Department of Education, where she is part paralegal, part insurance adjuster, preparing paperwork for settlement offers for lawsuits against the department.

When her boss asks her to work up a settlement offer for a teacher accused of having inappropriate relationships with his female students, it doesn't sit right with Nora. When she was in 8th grade, her best friend Beth (and several other girls) were the victims of a 26 year-old charismatic pedophile teacher, Bob Rassmussen.

Nora discovers that the opposing counsel representing the teacher is none other than her former best friend Beth, whom she hasn't spoken to since high school. How could Beth represent this man after what happened to her?

Nora asks to take the case to court after finding that this teacher has been accused ten years earlier of the same thing and gotten a slap on the wrist. This puts her in conflict with Beth who assumes that the Education Department will settle and pay the teacher off, as they have repeatedly done.

Beth and Nora meet, and Nora wants to talk about what happened in the 1970s to Beth and the other girls. Beth has moved on, and doesn't want to rehash it. But Nora is dogged about it, and digs deep into Beth's life to find out what she wants to know.

Although Nora is the main narrator, we get chapters from other characters point of view- including emails from Bob Rassmussen where he details his attempts to reconnect with his own children. We find the trail of destruction he left is wide-ranging.

 In the 1970s, Bob took his wife, young children, and several girls (including Beth) from Nora's school to Arizona, where he sexually abused the girls. Nora was supposed to go, but at the last minute she changed her mind.

There are a few heartbreaking revelations that come late in the story that I did not see coming, but really give the story a deeper resonance.

It took me awhile to get into The Question Authority, and reading it on an ereader sometimes made it difficult to keep track of who was narrating the chapter. (I recommend you read this in a hard copy.) But once I was able to keep things straight, I found myself enveloped in Nora's story, which I think many women who came of age in the 1970's can relate to.

The Question Authority is a book that you will want to sit with awhile after you finish. If you read a book by another woman named Cline- Emma Cline's The Girls- you should put The Question Authority on your list. They both deal so honestly with teenage girls' feelings in a 1970s setting.



Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Rachel Cline's tour. The rest of her stops are here:



Review Stops


Tuesday, May 7th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, May 8th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, May 9th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, May 10th: Booked J
Tuesday, May 14th: 5 Minutes For Books
Wednesday, May 15th: Tina Says…
Friday, May 17th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, May 20th: Read Like a Mother
Tuesday, May 21st: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Wednesday, May 22nd: Instagram: @libraryinprogress
Friday, May 24th: Kritters Ramblings