Friday, August 7, 2020

The Friday 5ive- August 7, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. While it seems like we are caught in an endless time loop (like the Hulu movie, Palm Springs, I wrote about last week), this week had a new twist- a tropical storm that led to a week-long power outage!

1) On Tuesday, tropical storm Isaias hit New York. I spent most of the afternoon trying to keep the chairs on our balcony from flying away, and I was successful, although a little bit soggy. I did see a small table whip by our balcony from one of neighbors' balconies. I hope no one was injured when it landed. We are renting a house in Westchester on the weekends, and they got hit pretty badly. Trees down all over the place, and the power will be out probably until Monday. At least we have another place to stay, so many people there, on Long Island, and in New Jersey and Connecticut will be suffering for almost a week.

2) While running errands here in the city, I saw a lovely exterior display on a new day spa, Upkeep. It's nice to see something so pretty on a city side street. I wish them the best of luck. 

3) I also saw this popup Liitle Free Library on the sidewalk. I guess someone wanted to share their books and thought this was the best way. It does appear that some of the books were claimed. There's some good ones left- Ragtime, The Color of Water, The Things They Carried.

4) The New York Public Library hosted a discussion of Fiona Davis' new historical mystery novel, The Lions of Fifth Avenuewith Zibby Owens of the podcast Moms Don't Have Time To Read Books. I read Davis' book and really enjoyed it. Part of it is set in 1913, where the superintendent of the main branch of the NYPL and his family live in an apartment inside the library. When rare books go missing, who is the main suspect? I have taken the guided tour of the library a few times, and got so much more out of the book because I did that. It was interesting listening to Davis talk about her research for the book. It was chosen as Good Morning America's August Book Club read. Click here to watch the discussion.

5) Buckle up, because I read five books last week. In addition to The Lions of Fifth Avenue, I read Allison Winn Scotch's novel, Cleo McDougal Regrets Nothing, about a congresswoman who is planning a run for President when her best friend from high school pens an op-ed piece about why she is a horrible person. If you have Amazon Prime, it is a free read on Kindle, and well worth it. It has a lot to say about women's roles today. 

 For a different kind of political novel, The Day That Lincoln Lost by Charles Rosenberg is an alternate history political thriller about the election of 1860, and the trial of a female abolitionist whose lawyer is none other than Republican nominee for president, Abraham Lincoln. History and politcial junkies will enjoy it. My full review is here. 

Fans of Christina Baker Kline's The Orphan Train and Lisa Wingate's Before We Were Yours will want to read Ellen Marie Wiseman's The Orphan Collector. Set in Philadelphia during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, it's the story of a 12 year-old girl who loses her mother to the pandemic and then must find out what happened to her twin baby brothers. It's a riveting story, and I read it in one day. I couldn't put it down. 

Lastly, Helen Cullen's novel, The Dazzling Truth is about a family living on an island near Galway off the Irish coast. The mother has crippling depression and anxiety, and her illness impacts the entire family. It's beautifully written, and your heart will break for all of them, but especially Maeve, the mother. I highly recommend it, and my full review will publish on Tuesday.

Stay safe,socially distant, wash your hands and wear a mask everyone, I hope we don't have to dodge swarms of locusts next week.

The Day Lincoln Lost by Charles Rosenberg

The Day Lincoln Lost by Charles Rosenberg
Published by Hanover Square Press ISBN 978-1335145222
Hardcover, $27.99, 432 pages
If you are someone who thinks that this time in our political history is unprecedented, Charles Rosenberg's alternate history political thriller, The Day Lincoln Lost, may disabuse you of that notion.

Abraham Lincoln is laying low, waiting out his time as the Republican nominee for President in 1860 at his home in Springfield. Abby Kelley Foster, a famous abolitionist speaker, was asked to give a talk at a local church about the need to end slavery now. She was not a fan of Lincoln's gradual approach to end slavery, and let everyone know that, even in his hometown of Springfield.

Lucy, a twelve year-old girl who had escaped slavery, was captured and jailed in Springfield, awaiting her return to Goshorn, the man who "owned" her. Foster encouraged the crowd to "do something about this", and the crowd surrounded the carriage she was being taken away in. Lucy and Goshorn disappeared into the night.

Foster was arrested for inciting the riot and placed in the Springfield jail. Abraham Lincoln and his law partner Billy Herndon reluctantly agree to represent Foster at her trial, after much discussion about how this will politically affect Lincoln's run for president.

They strategize that the best outcome would be to find Lucy and Goshorn, so they turn to the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Pinkerton puts one of his best agents on the job- a woman by the name of Annabelle, who just so happens to have grown up on a plantation neighboring the missing slave owner.

I liked that the novel had two women who were in roles not usually occupied by females- lecture speakers and detective. The inclusion of actual people in the story, both famous- Lincoln, Allan Pinkerton, and Frederick Douglass- and less well known made for a more interesting story.

President James Buchanan, widely considered one of our worst presidents, is seen here as someone who cares little of the serious problems facing his country, and more concerned with the machinations to  defeat Lincoln. That section may have some resonance for readers today. 

One paragraph that particularly struck me is this: 
"There is such bitterness in our politics now that people want to avoid arguments with their neighbors, their families, and the people they work with. Or, if they are merchants, with the people they sell goods to."
I guess the rancor we see today didn't start with Twitter; it has been with us a long time.

In this novel, the election of 1860 was not decided immediately by popular vote. No candidate received enough electoral votes to claim victory, which sends the vote to the House of Representatives. (Political junkies will truly enjoy this section of the novel.) I only hope our upcoming election is easier.

The Day Lincoln Lost will appeal to people who like historical fiction as well as political thrillers. The writing is crisp and the characters well drawn. And it reminds us that this union has survived difficult times in the past, and will do so in the future.

Thanks to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press for putting me on Charles Rosenberg's tour.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

With Or Without You by Caroline Leavitt
Published by Algonquin Books ISBN 9781616207793
Hardcover, $26.95, 288 pages

Author Caroline Leavitt's novels share stories of people facing some kind of crisis, often ones not of their design. In Pictures of You, a car crash causes the death of a woman that upends the life of the other driver. In Cruel Beautiful World, Charlotte's life is thrown into turmoil when her younger 16 year-old sister runs away with her teacher. She creates characters that you empathize with, and feel deeply about.

Leavitt's latest novel, With or Without You, begins with Stella and Simon, who have been together for twenty years, having a recurring argument. Stella, a nurse, wants to settle down, buy their New York City apartment, and have a child. Simon, a rock musician, does not.

Simon is preparing to go Los Angeles with his bandmates to open for a younger, popular rocker. He sees this as an opportunity for the band to break out and gain the attention they have been seeking for the last twenty years. Times have been tough for them, and this may be their last best chance.

Stella is suffering from a terrible cold, and instead of going to Los Angeles with Simon as planned, she says that she will stay in New York. At first upset, Simon tries to talk her into coming, even though maybe deep down, he thinks it would be better for her not to go. 

During the argument, they are drinking wine, and Simon gives Stella a pill to take to feel better. The next morning, Simon has to rush the unconscious Stella to the hospital where she works, after she has fallen into a coma.

Libby is an attending doctor and one of Stella's best friends. She is on Stella's case, and not a fan of Simon, whom she thinks is selfish. But Simon stays by Stella's side the entire time, giving up his trip to Los Angeles and dreams of stardom.

Stella's mom Bette flies in from Spain, and she and Simon form their own new family as they wait by Stella's bedside for her to wake up. The relationship between Simon and Bette is touching, and we see a side to Bette that Stella doesn't know. Libby comes to see another side of Simon as well.

When Stella eventually wakes up, she is a different person. She begins drawing circles on paper, over and over. She goes to the park and feels compelled to sketch people. Her drawings are so intense, and she becomes a popular attraction. People begin to pay her for her drawings, and soon she gets commissions for her sketches and draws the attention of the media.

Simon doesn't know what to make of this. All his life he has been an artist, and wanted attention for his work, and now Stella is the one whom the world notices. 

No one writes characters as well as Leavitt, and here we see how the circumstances of Stella's coma have changed the lives of not only Simon and Stella, but Libby's as well. People are forced to look at the life they had wanted but must deal with the life they now find themselves facing. 

 I liked how Leavitt looks at memories that we have of our childhood, and assumptions we make about those we love that turn out to be different from we had always believed. The characters in With Or Without You go through such emotional and physical upheavals, and the reader is right along with them for all the heartache. I read With Or Without You in one sitting, my heart breaking the entire time. I highly recommend it, and Caroline Leavitt gets better with every novel.

 Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Caroline Leavitt's tour.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Two Terrific Novels Featuring Fascinating Women

Reprinted from 

Many of the main characters in novels tend to be young females (age 30 and under), and since I am a little bit older than that, I enjoy finding novels that feature main characters closer to my age. I like being able to relate to their stage of life. 

This month’s Book Report has two novels who have main characters who have lived a little, have more experiences in their lives to draw upon.

Jane L. Rosen’s novel, Eliza Starts A Rumor is set in a beautiful bucolic town in the Hudson Valley, a bedroom community a few hours from New York City. Eliza is awaiting a visit home from her twins, a son and daughter, who are in their first semester at college.

What her children and husband don’t know is that Eliza is suffering from agoraphobia. The thought of leaving the house to go anywhere, even to the grocery store, sends her into a severe panic. 

This happened once before, when Eliza was in high school. For a number of months she refused to get out of bed, something that puzzled her mother and her best friend Amanda. This time around, she has a relapse after her children’s high school graduation.

Eliza has run the Hudson Valley Ladies’ Bulletin Board for fifteen years on social media. Mothers use it as a resource to discuss issues, like where are the best story times for children, and laundry tips. 

A new mother’s group has popped up, one where women graphically discuss their sex lives and their husbands’ shortcomings. When Eliza finds out that this group has more followers than her group, she decides to fight fire with fire.

She notices that a man is always stopping by her neighbor’s house during his morning run, and she makes up a story about two people who are having an affair. Her post gets a lot of attention and more followers, but it also causes big problems.

When Olivia, a young mom, reads this, she thinks it is her husband who is having an affair. She meets Allison, a lawyer who is a single mom to her child. Allison starts a friendship with a woman on the social media board who is not what she seems, and she meets a single dad of a tweenage girl, whom she begins to date.

Allison offers to help Olivia find out if it is her husband who is the cheater, and they end up beginning a friendship with Eliza and her childhood friend Amanda, whose Hollywood producer husband is caught up in the #MeToo movement.

The four women join together to help Olivia discover the truth. The story of their unlikely friendship drives this lovely story, and I related to Eliza having to deal with empty nest syndrome with her children away at school. I highly recommend Eliza Starts A Rumor for anyone who enjoys a story about women of every age coming into their own.

Amy Poeppel’s new novel, Musical Chairs also deals with a mom who has adult twins. Bridget is excited to be spending her summer at her rather rundown vacation home in Connecticut with her boyfriend. 

When he breaks up with her in an email after his ex-wife tells him he should, Bridget’s daughter quits her finance job in Hong Kong, and her newly married son shows up without his husband, her summer plans have drastically changed, and her house fills up.

Bridget’s best friend and musical partner Will will be spending the summer as well, as they must rehearse with the new member of their classical musical trio, hoping to revive their career. 

Oh and Bridget’s elderly father Edward, a highly respected composer, has announced that he will be marrying his deceased wife’s friend, which throws everyone into a frenzy.

Musical Chairs is a hilarious, sweet story filled with characters that you will want to hang out with. Reading this delightful novel makes you feel like you are a part of the story, as each of the characters is so interesting, especially Edward’s young assistant Jackie, a young city woman who is perplexed by these rich people. The scene where she gets drunk at Bridget’s house is howlingly funny. I adored everything about this book, and if you are looking for something light, an escape from the reality of our lives today, Musical Chairs is the cure.

Eliza Starts A Rumor by Jane L. Rosen- A

Published by Berkley

Hardcover, $26.99, 308 pages

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel- A+

Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Hardcover, $27, 416 pages


Friday, July 31, 2020

Friday 5ive- July 31, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. It's so hard to believe that this is the last day of July. The days go by so slowly, but the weeks go by too fast. Does that make sense?

1)  Our animal photo this week is a dog on a plaque. While walking in downtown Bronxville, my friend Barb and saw this woman touching this plaque on a wall of one of the buildings. On the plaque is a rendering of Jake, known as "The Prince of Pondfield". You are supposed to pet him and make a wish.  I think I know what most people are wishing for.

2) While in Bronxville, we stopped into the local bookstore, Womrath Books, and I picked up a few books to continue my quest to support indie bookstores. I bought Sue Monk Kidd's new novel, The Book of Longings, a fictionalized tale of the wife of Jesus, and then something to make me laugh, Selina Meyer's "autobiography", A Woman First.  Fans of HBO's Veep will recognize the book. I hope it has lots of cursing in it.

Womrath Books

3) I passed by The Beach Cafe today and I think they have the cutest outdoor seating decor I've seen yet, with a teal lifeguard chair and beach balls outside. 

4) The heat was too much for me this week, so I caught up on some TV. I finally finished the last season of Schitt's Creek, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I really stretched it out because I didn't want to finish it. Dan Levy and company created such a lovely show, and the timing for it couldn't be better. The world needs to see that people can grow and be better people, like the Rose family. Bravo to all, and congratulations on their 15 Emmy nominations this week. This show will stand the test of time. 

I also started Apple TV+'s The Morning Show. The first two hours are gripping television, and Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carrell, Mark Duplass and Billy Crudup deserve their Emmy nominations this week. Anyone who likes morning TV shows will love this one, and I like how they really hit the zeitgeist of the moment. I can't wait to dive back into this one. 

5)  I only read two books this week. Susan Mallery's The Friendship List is about two female friends who try to get out of their comfort zone by making a list of new things to do- skydiving, getting a tattoo, and having sex with a hot guy. It's the last one that has long lasting consequences for both women. It's funny, sweet, and sometimes a little heartbreaking. My full review is here.

Caroline Leavitt's new novel, With Or Without You, about a woman who comes out of a coma with a different personality and artistic ability, is Leavitt's best book yet. She excels at writing about people who face a crisis, usually not of their own creation, and she engenders such empathy for her characters. It's heartbreaking and very moving. My full review publishes Tuesday, but spoiler alert, I adored it. I can't get Stella and Simon out of my mind.  

Bring on August! Stay safe and socially distant everyone, wear a mask and wash your hands. We're all in this together.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

The Friendship Listby Susan Mallery
Published by Harlequin Books ISBN 9781335136961
Hardcover, 426.99, 384 pages

From the title of Susan Mallery's new novel, The Friendship List, you would assume that a friendship plays the major role in the book. And while Ellen and her best friend Unity's friendship is important, there are some very sexy scenes that will have readers reaching for a cold drink to cool down.

Ellen is a high school English teacher and single mom to Cooper, 17 years old and a football player. For all their lives, it's just been Ellen and Cooper, as Ellen got pregnant in high school and never had a relationship with Cooper's father beyond the one night.

Her best friend since childhood is Unity, who lost her parents in a car accident when she was a teenager. Unity married her high school boyfriend whose career in the military meant they moved around a lot. When he was killed in action three years ago, Unity's life fell apart and she has yet to recover.

Both Ellen and Unity don't have a lot of experience with dating, and their friendship has been the cornerstone of the life. It's also kept them from experiences that many adult women have had.

When Ellen discovers that Cooper is reluctant to go away to college as they had planned, it is because he is fearful of leaving his mom alone. She overhears him tell a friend that he believes she depends on him for everything, and he just can't go.

This spurs Ellen to join with Unity and create the Friendship List. On this list are things the women plan to do to expand their horizons. There are things like skydiving, rock climbing, getting a tattoo, and having sex with a hot guy on the list. The first one to complete the list gets treated to a spa day by the other one.

Ellen's other good friend is Keith, the high school football coach. They have dinner together frequently, and have never thought of each other as anything more than friends. Ellen is traveling with Keith, Cooper and some football players on a college tour trip. She decides that it will be the perfect time to show her son that she has a life of her own.

She gets a tattoo, and buys a sexy outfit to wear to dinner with Keith. Ellen's lack of experience does not dampen her enthusiasm for sex, and the scenes where she inadvertently tortures poor Keith are amusing and sexy. The dialogue between the two is witty, even laugh-out-loud funny.

Meanwhile, Unity's older friend Dagmar sets her up on a date with her nephew Thaddeus. Thaddeus is a wealthy entrepreneur and former stripper (how is that for a double whammy?) who is tired of the dating scene and looking for "the one".

But Unity cannot  move on with her life after the death of her husband three years prior. She works as a handywoman, with a large clientele at the local senior living complex. For fun she plays in the senior pickleball league (even though she is only 34), and she still attends a weekly grief support group.

Can Ellen and Unity shed their fears and move forward with life? You'll have to read this delightful story, The Friendship List, to find out. I read it in one day, and it moved me (Unity's heartbreaking sadness)
and made me smile (Ellen's curiosity about sex) in equal measures. 

If you are looking for a terrific story that has female friendship and steamy sex scenes, put The Frienship List on your TBR list. It's a great summer read.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Susan Mallery's blog tour. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty

Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty
Published by Park Row Books ISBN
Trade paperback, $17.99, 384 pages

In Ciara Geragthy's novel, Rules of the Road, Terry is having a difficult day. Her father's nursing home calls her to tell her they must fumigate the home so Terry has to take her father, who has dementia, home for few days.

Terry wants to deliver a birthday cake to her best friend Iris who is at a yoga retreat. When she calls the retreat, they tell her that Iris is not there and hasn't made a reservation. Worried, Terry goes to Iris' home and discovers that Iris is getting on a ferry from Dublin to England, and she plans to go to a clinic in Switzerland where she will end her life.

Iris has MS, and although she is doing fairly well other than using crutches to get around, she fears what the future holds for her. Terry has 90 minutes to get to the ferry and find Iris, so she brings her father along.

Unable to convince Iris to come home, Terry and her father get on the ferry and go with Iris to London. Terry has to keep an eye on her father so he doesn't wander off, and make sure that Iris doesn't abandon them until she can talk her out of going to the clinic.

Terry is a caretaker. She takes care of her home, her husband, and her two grown daughters, all of whom seem to depend on Terry to keep them going. It is out of character for Terry to just up and leave like this, and her family lets her know that.

Iris figures if Terry wants to tag along, then fine. Terry conquers her fear of driving in a big city, and the three set off on an adventure. She does her best to convince Iris that life is worth living, and hopes that Iris will eventually change her mind.

I enjoyed their time in France, where Terry has to save the day when their car breaks down. They end up at a mysterious castle B&B, where they meet the owner, whom Iris takes a shine to.

This road trip allows Terry to grow as person in her own right, be seen as not just as a daughter, wife and mother.  Her friendship with Iris also grows on the trip, as they come to a better understanding with each other.

One thing I found humorous was Terry's laundry observations. She knows how to get a stain out of anything. The observations about a long time married couple (Terry and her husband) were also particularly keen. Terry's tender loving care of her father is something that many people will also be able to relate too. It saddens her to watch her father fade away.

Rules of the Road is a buddy road trip story, with a dash of Jojo Moyes Me Before You. Watching Terry break out of her shell thanks to her friendship with Iris is something joyful. I enthusiastically recommend Rules of the Road.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer Reads Blog Tour.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle

Hieroglyphics by Jill McCorkle
Published by Algonquin ISBN 9781616209728
Hardcover, $26.95, 309 pages
When a book pulls you into its orbit as Jill McCorkle's Hieroglyphics does, you know you are in for something special.

Lil and Frank are elderly, retired and moving from the home where they raised their family in Boston to North Carolina to be near their daughter and grandchildren. Frank also grew up in that area, and one thing he wants to do is see the house where he lived with his mother, brother and stepfather.

Frank knocks on the door of his old home, and finds single mom Shelley living there with her young son Harvey. Shelley works as a stenographer at the courthouse, and has to record the trials of people charged with horrific crimes.

She is haunted by the terrible things that people do, and her young son Harvey is obsessed with ghosts, graveyards and serial killers, which upset the other children and teachers with whom he comes into contact.

Shelley is reluctant to allow Frank into her home, knowing that women who are too trusting get killed. Frank leaves, but he is drawn to the house and trying to come to terms with how his life there as young boy affected his adult life.

Frank's father was killed when he was young boy, and Lil lost her mother to cancer when she was a young girl. When they began dating, these losses bonded them together.

While packing up their old home, Lil finds notebooks and letters that she kept. In these notebooks she logged her daily life, filled with mundane things such as the weather for the day, and her daily tasks. They were also filled with more- her deeper thoughts about her marriage, her struggles as a woman, wife, and mother.

McCorckle brings her characters to life through their memories. When Lil remembers lovingly taking out the Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree, or how being alone in her dance studio reminded her of her mother, although these memories belong to Lil, they bring to mind our own memories.

Through Frank and Lil, we see how marriage can be difficult, and through Shelley we see how tough it is to be a single parent with a child who others see as an outsider.

Hieroglyphics is the kind of book that sneaks up on you. As you read, you are drawn into Lil, Frank and Shelley's interior worlds, and you find yourself feeling as if you know these characters on a  deeper level. As McCorkle writes, "A story is easier to fall into than your own life." I highly recommend Hieroglyphics.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Jill McCorkle's tour.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Friday 5ive- July 24, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week.  The heat continues, and it was so hot I had to read inside on a few days this week, but my buddy Otto the dog appreciated being able to nap in air conditioned comfort while I read.

1)  I ordered some bookish masks from Out of Print a few weeks ago and they arrived this week.  Every stylish book nerd needs one, don't you agree?

2)  Baseball is back, baby! We watched a few exhibtion games between the Mets and Yankees and it is so great to be able to watch the games, even if fans aren't allowed in the stadium. Fans can be part of the crowd though; many teams are selling fans the opportunity to have cardboard cutouts of themselves (or their dogs) sitting in the stands. My very funny brother Doug sent us a photoshop of my husband and I as cardboard cutouts at CitiField. At least we had good seats behind home plate.

3)  As those of us who have been cooking dinner pretty much every night since March (has it only been that long? It seems like years), it can be tedious and exhausting. Deciding what to make, ordering the groceries, cooking, cleaning up, on and on and on. This weekend, our kids made us a fabulous fish dinner. They purchased halibut steaks from Eastchester Fish Market, marinated them, grilled them to perfection with a tasty sauce, and made delicious sides of vegetable couscous, lemon roasted potatoes and fruit salad, paired it with Cakebread Chardonnay, and it was a fabulous meal. It was so good that I think they should cook every weekend. (Do you think that will work?)

4)  I'm always looking for something good to watch on TV, and I heard great things about the movie Palm Springs streaming on Hulu. Andy Samberg (whom I love on Brooklyn Nine-Nine) plays Niles who, while attending a wedding in Palm Springs, ends up in some sort ot time loop, reliving the same day over and over again. Cristin Milioti ends up in the time loop with him, and she wants to find a way out. It is funny and charming, with a great performance by J.K. Simmons as a man who is after Niles. It's got a great romance, some action, and if you are thinking that it sounds like the Bill Murray Groundhog Day, you would be right. I was smiling long after the movie ended, and I know I will watch it again and again. Samberg and Milioti have crazy good chemistry, and I hope this is the movie that breaks her out, as she gets a real chance to shine, as does Samberg.  (Note- it is R rated for a good reason. This isn't for kids.) Pair this with Lisa Grunwald's beautiful novel Time After Time for a great time loop double feature.

5)  It was yet another big week of reading, with four books finished. Jill McCorkle's Hieroglyphics tells the story of Lil and Frank, an elderly married couple whose move from Boston to North Carolina causes them to reflect on their lives. It's a poignant story, and my full review publishes on Sunday.

Seraphina Nova Glass' psychological thriller Someone's Listening tells the story of a psychologist who gets into a car accident with her husband but he disappears before the ambulance arrives. Did he run away? Is he lying dead somewhere? This is a good book for people who like to guess whodunnit. My review publishes today. 

As part of my ongoing journey to read more Black voices, I read Michele Harper's memoir The Beauty in Breaking. Michele grew up in a household where her father was violent, beating her mother and brother.  Determined to help people, Michele became an emergency room doctor. She tells her life story through the lessons she learned from patients she treated. She is as wonderful a writer as she is a doctor. 

The last book is Rules of the Road, a novel by Ciara Geraghty. When Terry discovers that her friend Iris is missing, she sets out with her father who suffers from dementia to find her. Terry finds a note that Iris wrote, saying she is going to Switzerland to a clinic to end her life. Iris has MS, and she wants to end her life on her terms. Terry and her father find Iris and the three set forth on a journey from Dublin to London to France, meeting interesting people along the way, and it changes Terry's life. My full review publishes next Friday.  

Stay safe, socially distant and cool, wear a mask, and wash your hands and we'll see you next week.

Someone's Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass

Someone's Listening by Seraphina Nova Glass
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525836749
Trade paperback, $16.99, 336 pages

Seraphina Nova Glass' novel, Someone's Listening, is for readers who like to sift through clues and multiple possible suspects as to whodunnit.

The novel opens with psychologist and successful talk radio host Dr. Faith Finley celebrating the publication of her book, Someone's Listening. The book is a guide for women who want to escape from the clutches of domestic violence and predatory people bent on doing them harm.

It should be a happy occasion, but there are clues that something is amiss. Her loving husband, respected newspaper restaurant critic Liam, seems angry, and people at the party appear to want to avoid Faith, not celebrate her success.

On the way home from the party, a truck veers right at them while Faith is driving, and she wakes up to EMTs strapping her to a gurney. She calls out for Liam, but there is no response.

As she comes to in the hospital, she asks for her husband, but the police officer in her room tells her that there was no one else in the car or anywhere near the scene. This confuses and upsets Faith.

Liam's body is not found, but it is discovered that he withdrew $6000 from their bank account and his passport is missing. Why would Liam leave? Is it because one of her former clients accused her of having an inappropriate relationship?

Faith is about to lose everything, and with her back against the wall, she begins to investigate what happened to her husband. She also starts receiving threatening notes, passages cut out from her book. Who is trying to ruin her life?  There are plenty of suspects, and a careful reader may be able to suss out a guess at who did it and why.

Glass does a terrific job setting a scene, painting a visual picture for the reader. "The Sunday newspaper, in its plastic sheath, lies at the end of the driveway, half of it immersed in a puddle from last night's rain."

If you enjoy a psychological thriller where you can exercise your skills at detection, Someone's Listening is for you. Fans of the Lifetime channel movies will enjoy it as well.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Mystery & Thriller Summer Reads Blog Tour.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books ISBN 9781501176418
Hardcover, $27, 416 pages
Sometimes you read a book at the exact right time, and Amy Poeppel's new novel, Musical Chairs, is that book. I enjoyed her first two novels, Small Admissions, about a young woman who works as admissions officer at a fancy Manhattan school. n (My review is here).I loved her second one, Limelight, about a mom who moves with her family from Dallas to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where she ends up accidentally becoming an assistant to a Justin Beiber-like character as he prepares for his Broadway debut. It was hilarious and sweet.

Her newest novel, Musical Chairs, features a protagonist closer to my age, which is refreshing. Bridget Stratton is preparing for a sexy summer with her boyfriend at her summer home in Litchfield, Connecticut. But like all great plans, this one falls apart.

First her boyfriend breaks up with her on the advice of his ex-wife. (She dodged a bullet there.) Her adult daughter moves in for the summer after she quits her finance job in Hong Kong, her married adult son shows up without his newlywed husband, and her best friend Will meets and falls in love with a woman from town.

Her house is rundown and now it is overflowing with roommates. Her father Edward, a famous classical composer and musician, lives close by and decides that he is getting remarried to his deceased wife's best friend, his best friend's widow.

Will and Bridget also have to find a new member for their classical trio after the young violinist they had hoped would help them revive their group and career quits before she starts. When Will suggests their only hope is their original violinist who ditched them and became famous in his own right, Bridget fears a secret from her past will surface.

Every character in Musical Chairs is so fabulous, even the secondary ones. Jackie, the young city woman from a much different background who becomes Bridget's dad's assistant, has so many great lines as a fish out of water, wondering how she got here with these crazy people. (The scene when she gets drunk at Bridget's house is priceless.)

Madge, Edward's housekeeper and cook, "a plump, short, direct woman who wasn't into small talk" keeps things running smoothly and is delightful, doling out kindness and orders in equal doses.

There are so many great scenes in this wonderful novel, and when someone compares a scene to a British Drawing Room Farce, I had to smile in recognition, as that was my very thought. (Although, given that it takes place in New England and a barn plays a major part, maybe it should be called an American Barn Farce?)

You don't need to enjoy classical music to like this book (I am not), but if you are an aficionado, you will get an extra layer of enjoyment out of it. I absolutely adored Musical Chairs, and even thinking about it now brings a smile to my face at a time when we could all use a little joy. This is a book I will return to again and again when I want to forget the troubles of the world. It will make you laugh out loud. I give it my highest recommendation.

Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony

The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778308744
Trade paperback, $17.99, 416 pages

Podcasts are a recent popular form of entertainment, so it's not a surprise that novels featuring podcasts would not be far behind. Gretchen Anthony's The Kids Are Gonna Ask features twin teenagers, Thomas and Savannah, who host a podcast that takes place at their dinner table. Their grandmother Maggie likes to invite all kinds of interesting and odd people to dinner, and Thomas and Savannah created a podcast around that.

Thomas and Savannah live with Maggie; their mom Bess died in a car accident years before, and they don't know who their father is. They decide to create a podcast about searching for their father's identity, with Maggie's reluctant blessing. (Maggie doesn't know the father's identity.)

Thomas and Savannah hope that the podcast might go viral, helping increase their chances of finding their father. Their wish comes true when a national podcast producer hears their story and wants to bring them to a wider audience.

It all sounds too good to be true, and as we all know with social media, things can go wrong. (The news is filled with stories about people who have said something on social media that ends their careers.) Thomas and Savannah's story blows up, with people choosing sides and voicing their opinion/threats on social media.

I found that part of the story so spot on. I follow lots of social media, and it always astonishes me how people get so angry that they write horrible things online that they would never say in person. I do not understand how people can get so worked up about things that do not personally affect them. Everyone has an opinion about what the kids are doing and feels free to share it.

Thomas and Savannah are typical teenagers- Thomas runs track, and Savannah has set her sights on becoming a producer. She is symbolic of young women today who speak their minds and will not settle for being treated less than because she is female. Their twin sibling relationship is well done too.

There is some good foodie parts to this novel- Maggie has a personal chef, Bart, who makes delicious food that had me salivating. (Who wouldn't love a personal chef? Never having to decide what to make for dinner each night is such a luxury.)

At it's heart though, this is about Thomas and Maggie looking for their father, and also hoping to find out more about their mother, who was taken too soon. It's a beautiful family story, with warmth and humor, appealing to all ages, from teenagers to middle-aged adults (I loved the character of Maggie). I recommend The Kids Are Gonna Ask.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer Reads Blog Tour.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday 5ive- July 17, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post where I share five things that caught my attention during the week. Is it just me, or does every day seem like Groundhog Day (the movie with BIll Murray, not the furry creature)?

1)  First up is an update. My two sons and I signed up for Summer Around the Finger Lakes, a virtual bike ride around all eleven Finger Lakes. We had to ride 408.2 miles between June 1st and September 30th, the distance around all of the lakes combined. My sons finished a few weeks ago, and they came in 1st and 3rd place, out of 1400 riders. I finished this week in 11th place. I'm pretty proud of myself, as I have never done anything like this. We are lucky that we have our Peleton bikes so we can ride inside rain or shine. Thanks to my good friend Kelly, who suggested the ride to us. We had a blast!

2)  Another update: since it looks like indoor dining in NYC is on hold, restaurants have really spruced up their outdoor areas. I passed by two restaurants on First Ave., the tent and the lights are a nice touch at Sefton, but I am concerned about the servers who will have to cross the bike path to wait on customers. Necessity is the mother of invention they say.

3)  I watched author and bookstore owner Judy Blume interviewed on A Might Blaze's Facebook page this week. She is so delightful, and her enthusiasm for books and the bookstore she and her husband George Cooper founded in Key West is wonderful. They are such a lovely couple, and if you are a Judy Blume fan (who isn't?), take the time to watch this interview. It will brighten your day.

4) We finished season three of Netflix's Ozark,, and it is everything that people said it was. Tom Pelphry's role as Ben, Wendy's bipolar brother, is the star of the season and sure to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Emmy Awards. He is phenomenal, and the second to last episode is one of the best hours on television that I have ever seen. If you liked Breaking Bad, you must watch Ozark.

5) It was another big week for reading. It began with Amy Poeppel's Musical Chairs, a comedic novel about Bridget, a woman looking forward to spending the summer with her boyfriend in her summer home in Litchfield. When he breaks up with her, her two adult children move in, and her best friend and musical partner Will falls in love with a woman in town, her summer is looking a lot different than she imagined. Musical Chairs is the book we need right now; it's funny and sweet and filled with characters you want to know. I felt like I was living in this delightfully witty book. Do yourself a favor and preorder it now so you can have it on July 21st, the day it publishes. You can thank me later.
I followed that up with a serious novel, Megha Majumdar's brilliant debut A Burning, about a young woman who lives in the slums of India. When she writes a Facebook post about a train attack, she is accused of being a terrorist and locked up. Her former teacher and a young person she has been tutoring both have to decide if they should support her or help themselves. It's a quick but profound read, and it's a Read With Jenna pick. I highly recommend it.

Robin Wasserman's Mother Daughter Widow Wife is another serious read. When a young woman is found bruised on a bus to Philadelphis, she has no memory of who she is. She ends up at an institute where a doctor and his young female associate try to help her. It's about the things we remember and why we remember some things but forget others. It's the kind of book you want to ponder.
Podcasts are all the rage, and Gretchen Anthony's novel, The Kids Are Gonna Ask, is about teenage twins, Thomas and Savannah, who start a podcast to discover who their father is. Their mother died in a car accident and they live with their grandmother Maggie, who doesn't know who their father is, but supports their quest to find him. As per usual with social media, things can go wrong, and they do. My full review will post on Tuesday.

Have a great week- stay safe and socially distant, wear a mask, and wash your hands.