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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypole White

The In-Between Hour by Barbara Claypole White
Published by Harlequin Mira ISBN 978-0-7783-1475-2
Paperback, $14.95, 384 pages

I admit that it took me about one-third of the way through Barbara Claypole White's The In-Between Hour to really start to appreciate it, but once I hit that mark, I could not put it down.

Will Shepard is a best-selling writer of a fictional series featuring a James Bond-like hero, Agent Dodds. He lost his five-year-old son Freddie in a fiery car crash with his son's mother four months ago, and there seems to be some question as to whether she crashed the car deliberately.

He is in unbearable pain, made worse by the fact that his elderly father doesn't remember that Freddie is dead. Every time his father brings up Freddie, Will has to tell him Freddie is dead and his father's grief reignites his own.

Will has to go back home to North Carolina to move his father from the nursing home where he has been kicked out.  Poole's description of the nursing home as "a place inhabited by nothing but echoes" is so evocative. With nowhere to go, they end up at the guest cabin owned by a local veterinarian, Hannah, who is hurting as well.

Hannah's adult son Galen suffers from severe depression and recently tried to kill himself. He is moving back home, and Hannah is at a loss as to how to help her son. She has hidden from him the fact that her own father killed himself, and Hannah is panicked that Galen has inherited the depression that took her father's life.

Will and Hannah are fragile. Hannah handled her life by becoming a "people pleaser with (expletive) boundaries" as Galen describes her.  Will handled his terrible childhood by leaving as soon as he could.

Will's mother suffered from serious mental illness, and his father tried to care for her at home, which left Will the odd man out. His mom would get drunk, and was probably bi-polar. His father would try to keep Will safe by telling him to go his room and shut the door, and one of the best lines in the book reflects this. "Most of his family life had happened on the other side of his bedroom door."

Poole's book deals with single parenthood, childhood traumas, depression, loneliness and family secrets. In her unique setting of the Occoneechee Mountains in North Carolina, she brings the native American tribe of the Occaneech Band of the Saponi Nation into the story through Will and his father, and I found that so interesting.

The Reader's Guide with discussion questions and a listening guide added a great deal to the story for me. I've already created a playlist with the listening guide suggestions.

Although this is a love story, there is so much more to it. As the mother of two adult sons, like Hannah, I appreciated her relationships with her sons. Not only were the main character of Will and Hannah wonderful and real, so were the minor ones, including Will's dad, Galen and Poppy, Hannah's free-spirit friend. Watching Will and Hannah work their way through their problems and pain was a journey well worth taking.

rating 4 of 5
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Barbara Claypole White's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Barbara’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, December 31st: bookchickdi
Wednesday, January 1st: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, January 2nd: Bibliotica
Monday, January 6th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Tuesday, January 7th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, January 8th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, January 9th: Chronicles …
Tuesday, January 14th: Becca Rowan
Wednesday, January 15th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, January 17th: Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, January 17th: Not in Jersey
Monday, January 20th: Staircase Wit
Tuesday, January 21st: Sweet Tea and Lollipops
Wednesday, January 22nd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, January 24th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, January 27th: As I turn the pages
Tuesday, January 28th: Book Journey
Wednesday, January 29th: Found Between the Covers
Barbara Claypole White's website is here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Short Leash by Janice Gary

Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance by Janice Gary
Published by Michigan State University Press ISBN 9781611860726
Paperback, $19.95, 246 pages

Janice Gary always loved dogs. The day she found Barney a Lab/Rottweiler mix running loose in the road she was not in a good place in her life. She had moved from near Washington DC to rural Georgia, following her husband as he got a new job.

She had left behind a support group she liked for adult children of alcoholics (ACOA), didn't have a job herself, and had no friends. She didn't know it, but Barney would become a big part of her life. 

When Janice was just 20 years old, she left home and moved to San Francisco to become a musician. She didn't know anyone, the days of free love had ended, and where she ended up in Berkeley was not such a great place.

One night she was attacked and raped while trying to find a friend's apartment. The attack changed her entire life; she became fearful of being anywhere alone. Eventually she moved back home.

While walking Barney one day, he was attacked by a dog. His response to being attacked was that Barney became an aggressive dog. Anytime he saw a dog, he would attack. He didn't like people coming too close either. It made walking Barney very difficult; they couldn't walk where most people did- parks, waterfronts, neighborhoods. That meant Janice had to walk Barney in deserted areas, which exacerbated her memories of being attacked herself. 

One vet thought that Janice's fear was triggering Barney's aggression. So twenty years after she was attacked, Janice went back to Berkeley and tried to come to terms with what happened to her. As she walked the street where the attack happened, she thought "the shadow of the past walked with me wherever I went."

At the age of 48, Janice applied to and was accepted into a writing program. She had decided that this was something she needed to pursue, and let her fears go. I am in awe of women who can do this. I have a friend who started a whole new life in her 40s, went back to college, got her degree and is now in a career that she loves. Janice even won an award at her graduation ceremony for a personal essay she wrote about her father, who committed suicide when she was teen.

As Barney aged, he had more medical problems. Anyone who has owned a dog knows how this goes. They made countless visits to vets and specialty vets (I didn't even know there was such a thing as a 'canine dermatologist'). This section of the book really touched my heart, as we had a very sick basset hound and went through many of the same emotions as Janice and her husband.

Short Leash is such a personal book, but it speaks to so many of us. Anyone who has to overcome a trauma, anyone who has loved a dog, anyone who had a tough childhood will find something to identify with here. Janice Gary writes honestly and from her heart, and this book moved me deeply.

rating 4 of 5
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this tour. The rest of Janice Gary's tour stops are here:

Janice Gary’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, December 16th:  Book Club Classics!
Monday, December 16th:  Shelf Pleasure – author guest post
Tuesday, December 17th:  The Book Wheel
Wednesday, December 18th:  BookNAround
Thursday, December 19th:  Bound By Words
Friday, December 20th:  Dog Spelled Forward
Monday, December 23rd:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, December 26th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, December 30th:  Bookchickdi
Thursday, January 2nd:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Monday, January 6th:  Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, January 7th:  Teena in Toronto
Wednesday, January 8th:  Bibliotica
Thursday, January 9th:  Book-alicious Mama
Friday, January 10th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, January 13th:  Book Dilettante
Tuesday, January 14th:  My Bookshelf
Wednesday, January 15th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, January 16th:  Suko’s Notebook

Janice Gary's website is here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Seduction of Miriam Cross by W.A. Tyson

The Seduction of Miriam Cross- A Delilah Percy Powers Mystery by W.A. Tyson
Published by elitbook.com ISBN 978142758785
Paperback, $6.99, 364 pages

Delilah Percy Powers operates a private investigation office in Philadelphia. One of the more interesting things about the office is that it is staffed by all women. Delilah was a week away from her marriage when her fiance was killed in a kayak accident. She mourns him still years later and his body was never found. Maybe that's why the PI business interests her so.

Margot is the office manager and an ex-nun possessed with "uncanny intuition". Barb is a sensible, resourceful stay-at-home mom married to a cop. She was looking for a job with flexible hours, and working for Delilah fit the bill. Natasha is a single mom of a three-year-old boy who lived on the streets for awhile and is tough as nails.

Their newest client wants Delilah to investigate her aunt's murder. Miriam Cross wrote feminist literary novels and she was found decapitated in a house she rented under an assumed name. Cross was not well liked by many people, her novels were controversial, but as the investigation proceeds, it becomes clear that she wasn't the quiet maiden aunt that her niece was led to believe.

The investigation uncovers links to white slavery, a financial institution's involvement, mob connections, an underground railroad system for abused women run by a nun, a hacker trying to get a job with Percy Powers, and Cross' kinky relationship with two men. I have to confess that I had trouble following the resolution of the convoluted mystery, but Tyson did keep me turning the pages to find out what was going to happen.

I became very invested in Percy Powers Investigations, and really enjoyed the scenes among all of the women in the agency. Tyson's strong suit is writing about these interesting women. I can see this as a series of books, and I would love to find out more about these women and how they came to this point in their lives. Tyson's strong suit is writing about these interesting women.

rating 3.5 stars

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on W.A. Tyson's tour. The rest of the stops are here.

W. A.  Tyson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, December 2nd:  From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, December 4th:  Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, December 5th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, December 6th:  Not in Jersey
Monday, December 9th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Tuesday, December 10th:  Simply Stacie
Wednesday, December 11th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, December 12th:  Reading Reality
Thursday, December 12th:  Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, December 13th:  Bibliotica
Monday, December 16th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, December 17th:  Staircase Wit
Wednesday, December 18th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Thursday, December 19th:  A Chick Who Reads
Friday, December 20th:  Broken Teepee
Monday, December 23rd:  Bookchickdi

W.A. Tyson's website is here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend Cooking- NYC Holiday Markets

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.

Every year I look forward to visiting the Holiday Markets at Bryant Park, Columbus Circle and Union Square. They are outdoor shops set up and filled with local craftspeople and great restaurants. You can find unique gifts and I get a lot of Christmas shopping done there. You never know what is around the next corner.

Bryant Park has a lot of jewelry, Columbus Circle has many beautiful children's clothing and toy shops and Union Square has lost of crafts, many from Brooklyn it seemed.

If you wanted to go just to eat, you would have your choice of international cuisine, all located in one spot. Columbus Circle puts most of them together in a long row and you could go from Korean BBQ to  fancy cheese to Thai food to Hong Kong Street food to empanadas to Greek food and of course, chocolate.
Cheese shop at Columbus Circle

Bryant Park has its food spread out mostly along the outer walkways. WichCraft has a grilled cheese and soup stand next to the meatball stand near Josie's Creations which sells heavenly croissant/donuts (think cronut) that I always have to bring home for everyone to enjoy.
Croissant/donuts filled with custard- yum!

Usually I will stop by Toparepa grab an arepa- corn pancakes filled with mozzarella cheese. They are so tasty and easy to walk and eat. Max Brenner has a popup of his chocolate shop and I am addicted to his hazelnut and chocolate dusted pecans; they are sinful. Jacques Torres also has a popup with cute chocolate Santas and snowmen. I have been known to grab a chocolate chip cookie for a treat there. 
Jacques Torres 


Max Brenner Chocolate

Bryant Park also has a sit down restaurant called Celsius that is set up next to the ice skating rink where you can have a leisurely lunch or dinner with a drink and watch the skaters.
New York City is a wonderful place to visit for the holiday season and if you ever have the chance, be sure to check out the various holiday shops. It's a great place to spend the day!

The link for Columbus Circle Holiday Market is here.
The link for Bryant Park Holiday Market is here.
The link for Union Square Holiday Market is here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Charlie Brown Christmas- The Making of a Tradition

There is a special place this time of year for A Charlie Brown Christmas. Every year as a child, my family would look forward to all of the Christmas specials, but this one in particular. The beautiful music, the snowflakes falling, and oh that Charlie Brown tree. Hasn't everyone at one point in time has had a Charlie Brown tree?

This year It! Books, a Harper Collins imprint, has published a gorgeous commemorative book, A Charlie Brown Christmas- The Making of a Tradition by Lee Mendelson with reminiscences by Bill Melendez that is a beautiful gift for anyone who loves this TV special.

The book is filled with fabulous photos not only from the show, but also of the creators, along with photos and sketches from the actual production. There is also sheet music for "Christmas Time is Here" and "Linus & Lucy" in the chapter about Vince Guaraldi.

We learn about Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz through interviews with producer Lee Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez. The highlight of the book is the illustrated script of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is absolutely wonderful, and just brings a smile to your face as you page through this section.

A Charlie Brown Christmas- The Making of a Tradition has found a special place among my Christmas decor and if you like to decorate for the holidays with books, this one is must-have. And if you know of anyone who loves Charlie Brown, this is a terrific gift.

You can find it more info here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Weekend Cooking- Celebrity Chefs- More Than 60 Delicious Recipes

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.

As usual, I am giving books as Christmas gifts this year. I love spending time wandering bookstores picking out just the right book for each person on my list. I also have a closet's worth of books I have picked up during the year so my gift stacks are getting a little overcrowded.

This year at Barnes & Noble, they are selling an exclusive book published by Hearst titled Celebrity Chefs- More Than 60 Delicious Recipes that contains recipes from some of the most popular TV chefs for just $9.95. It's a hardcover book, and it will make a really nice gift for the chef on your list. The book was 30% off this week and members got another 10% off, so you could buy several copies as gifts, each costing less than lunch at Subway.

Many of the recipes were previously published in Hearst magazines, such as Women's Day, Good Housekeeping and Redbook. The book opens with a thumbnail sketch of each chef, and then chapters are your standard Appetizers, Salads and Soups, Meat, etc.

There are many recipes I would like to try including:

  • Hubert Keller's Mango-Avocado Bruschetta
  • Carla Hall's Winter Salad with Pears, Aged Cheddar & Almonds
  • Mark Bittman's Pasta with Funghi Trifolati
  • Lisa Fain's Sour Cream-Chicken Enchiladas
  • Marcus Samuelsson's Whiskey Fudge
It's a hardcover book, with lots of great photos and nutritional information for the recipes. For the price you pay, it's a terrific value, and I like the variety of dishes from many chefs I enjoy watching on TV.

The link to the book is here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini
Published by Plume Books ISBN 978-0-14-218035-8
Trade paperback, $16, 352 pages

Historical fiction novels are in vogue lately, with books recreating the lives of such relatively unknown people as Edgar Allen Poe's wife in Mrs. Poe, Anne Franks' sister in Margot, and Elizabeth Keckley, better known as Mary Todd Lincoln's modiste and confidante in  Jennifer Chiaverini's Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker.

Anyone who saw Steven Spielberg's movie Lincoln last year may remember the character of Mrs. Keckley in a few scenes in the movie, played by actress Gloria Reuben. I had known of Mrs. Keckley, but not of her story, which is fascinatingly brought to life in this new novel.

Keckley was born a slave, and purchased her and her young son's freedom through her earnings as a seamstress. Her son was born of a rape by a white man, an acquaintance of her owner who failed to protect her from the man.

Elizabeth loved her son George, and was thrilled when he went to college. She became a modiste to many famous women in Washington DC, most notably Mrs. Jefferson Davis, of whom she was very fond.

As the succession of the Southern states portended the Civil War, Mrs. Davis wanted Elizabeth to come with her to Alabama, but Elizabeth was wary of going further South. Her reputation led her to be summoned to the White House to meet with Mrs. Lincoln and she became the modiste (dressmaker) for the First Lady.

Through Mrs. Keckley, the reader is privy to private and public moments in the White House. Mr. Lincoln is portrayed as a humble, honorable man, one who dearly loved his wife and children. Mary Lincoln is lonely, shunned by many of the society people in Washington as an unsophisticated outsider.

Elizabeth became Mrs. Lincoln's confidante, the one to whom she turned to when she was troubled. Mrs. Lincoln was wary of the men in Mr. Lincoln's cabinet and she freely shared her opinions with her husband, who may have agreed with her, but was more reticent to do anything about it.

When her son Willie died, Mrs. Lincoln was inconsolable, and Elizabeth stayed by her side. When Mr. Lincoln was assassinated, again it was Elizabeth who stayed with her, even leaving her own successful seamstress business behind to accompany Mrs. Lincoln on her move to Chicago.

I didn't know much of Mary Lincoln's life after she left Washington, and so this part of the novel truly captured me. Elizabeth assisted Mrs. Lincoln in trying to sell her dresses off to cover her over $70,000  debt, mostly from her shopping trips to New York City.

They journeyed to New York and became involved with brokers who took advantage of them. Congress had yet to fund any pension for Mrs. Lincoln, so she had no income. Elizabeth came upon the idea of writing a memoir about her life as a way to earn money she could share with Mrs. Lincoln, but that became a disaster which haunted her the rest of her life.

Chiaverini, who has written many novels about quilting, came to this story after hearing about a quilt that Elizabeth made for Mrs. Lincoln from pieces of material she used in various dresses made for Mrs. Lincoln. That led her to the book that Mrs. Keckley wrote, Behind the Scenes.

I enjoyed getting to know these two disparate women who became unlikely friends. Chiaverini cleverly uses Elizabeth's story to bring us right into the inner sanctum of the White House during the most turbulent time in our history. She brings the Lincoln family to vivid life and yet in the end, it is Elizabeth Keckley's story that is truly amazing. I will be looking for more information about her.

rating 4 of 5
Thanks to TLC Tours for including me on Jennifer Chiaverini's tour is here:

Jennifer Chiaverini’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 18th:  BookNAround
Tuesday, November 19th:  Always With a Book  **book spotlight and giveaway
Thursday, November 21st:  A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, November 21st:  Bibliotica
Friday, November 22nd:  Books are the New Black
Monday, November 25th:  A Bookworm’s World
Tuesday, November 26th:  Red Headed Book Child
Wednesday, November 27th:  Lit and Life
Friday, November 29th:  Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Monday, December 2nd:  Book-alicious Mama
Tuesday, December 3rd:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Wednesday, December 4th:  Must Read Faster
Thursday, December 5th:  The Daily Mayo
Friday, December 6th:  West Metro Mommy Reads
Monday, December 9th:  Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, December 10th:  Lavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, December 11th:  Bookchickdi
Thursday, December 12th:  Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 17th:  Kritter’s Ramblings