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Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Justice by Max Collins

Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins
Published by Thomas & Mercer ISBN 9781612185309
Trade paperback, $14.95, 302 pages

Joseph Reeder is a former Secret Service agent who took a bullet for the president, a man whom he didn't respect and whose conservative politics he did not like in Max Allan Collins' political thriller Supreme Justice. His politics put him at odds with his superiors and coworkers, and he compared himself to Pete Rose, who didn't get into baseball's Hall of Fame due to his gambling, saying that, like Rose, "he accomplished great things, but would spend eternity on the outside."

Reeder now owns a private security company, and is called into help when a very conservative Supreme Court justice is killed during a robbery at a restaurant where Reeder's company provides security. After viewing the security camera footage, Reeder concludes that the justice was targeted, and the robbery was a coverup for murder.

A task force investigating the case, consisting of DC local police, FBI and Homeland Security, are all protecting their turf and squabbling amongst themselves as to who the culprit is and what their motives are. Reeder's murder theory is dismissed until another incident occurs, and now Reeder wonders if someone is targeting conservative justices, trying to change the direction of the Supreme Court after they have overturned Roe v Wade and made abortion illegal.

The new president is a liberal, and if he can appoint more liberal justices, abortion could be made legal again. But would someone in the White House go so far as to eliminate justices to change the law back? It is an intriguing premise for this action-packed novel.

Reeder is paired with a young female FBI agent, and his relationships with his former coworkers come into play here. They have to investigate on their own, being careful not to tip off anyone who may be involved in the murder.

Supreme Justice is a fast-paced thriller, heavier on the action than on character development. It is the kind of summer read that you can polish off at a day at the beach, quickly turning the pages to find out if Reeder's theory is the right one. Careful readers may be able to figure out who the culprit is, although there are plenty of red herrings here to throw the reader off track.

As I was reading this, I thought that if it was the 1980's, this would make a perfect Clint Eastwood movie: Reeder is a loner, an honorable man, loyal to his values who ends up caught in a situation only he can resolve.

I'm sure we haven't seen the last of Joe Reeder; this is the kind of character who could conceivably spawn an entire series of thrillers for those who like their action spiked with a dose of political intrigue.

rating 3.5 of 5
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this tour. The rest of Max Allan Collins stops are here.

Max Allan Collins’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 16th:  5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, June 17th:  My Bookshelf
Wednesday, June 18th:  FictionZeal
Thursday, June 19th:  Kritter’s Ramblings
Monday, June 23rd:  Reading Reality
Wednesday, June 25th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, June 26th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Friday, June 27th:  A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, June 30th:  Bookchickdi
Tuesday, July 1st:  Bookish Ardour – author guest post
Wednesday, July 2nd:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, July 7th:  Bibliotica
Tuesday, July 8th:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, July 9th:  From the TBR Pile
Thursday, July 10th:  Traveling with T
Monday, July 14th:  Staircase Wit
Wednesday, July 16th:  Literally Jen

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Weekend Cooking- Two New Pinterest 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. 

Last week I tried two new Pinterest recipes, and they both turned out to be winners. I've had my eye on this Herb and Citrus Roasted Chicken, maybe because the photo just looked so darn good. The oranges and lemons gave it such a bright, fresh flavor. It's an easy recipe to make and the three of us who ate it all gave it thumbs up.

I found it at The Comfort of Cooking, and it's a refreshing summer dinner. The link is here.

To accompany the chicken, I tried this Balsamic Roasted Potato Salad. It was so delicious, and a nice change from the mayonnaise- based potato salads. The honey in it balances the balsamic vinegar beautifully. My guys liked it enough to eat the leftovers the next day. If you like German Potato Salad, you'll enjoy this recipe.
This one came from Your Home Based Mom, and the link is here.

We added sliced roasted zucchini that I got at the Union Square Greenmarket and it was a meal that pleased us all. I will make these two recipes again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lisa See in Conversation With Adriana Trigiani at Barnes & Noble

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a terrific conversation between Adriana Trigiani and Lisa See at Barnes & Noble Union Square in NYC about Lisa's newest novel, China Dolls, which has a gorgeous cover.
The novel tells the story of three young Asian women who work in a Forbidden City nightclub in 1938 San Francisco. Like her previous novels, this one was also thoroughly researched, and on her website she has posted fascinating interviews she did with three women who performed on the Chop Suey circuit (similar to the Chitlin Circuit of the South) here.

One of the interviewees is called Mai Tai, and yes, the drink was named after her. See ran into a man who knew Mai Tai at a book signing, and he laughed and then began to list some of the famous men she slept with from Hollywood.

See's great-great grandfather came to the United States and ended up becoming the patriarch of Chinatown in Los Angeles. See has 400 relatives on her father's side, most Asian, but her mother's family is very small. (Her mother is author Carolyn See.)

Although See doesn't look Asian, she identifies heavily with her father's side of the family because as she said "we identify with people around us, they're our mirror." And so many of her novels, such as the popular Shanghai Girls and its sequel Dreams of Joy, have Chinese protagonists.

Trigiani asked See, whom she called "a real storyteller" about her writing life. See is an early riser and staggers to her office answering emails while her husband exercises to his Eminem music playing loudly.

She must write 1000 words a day, which as she points out "isn't that much, about four pages." If she has written 997 words, she forces herself to come up with three more words, proving her mother's point that "the word control freak was invented for me."

See doesn't outline her books, but she does start with the last sentence first, so she knows where she's going emotionally. She said that sometimes the characters will take her in a completely different direction that she thought she would be going.

See spoke lovingly of her husband, a lawyer whom she says is very handsome, even asking for corroboration from her cousin who was in the audience. They have been married for 33 years, which drew a round of applause from the crowd. She said that her "rock solid life" helps her work life and reflects that.

In discussing China Dolls, See spoke of her research, of how on the Chop Suey circuit of the 1930s and 40s there was an Chinese Sinatra, a Chinese Houdini and a Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. From this research came her three main characters: Grace, who ran away from an abusive home life in Ohio, Helen, who grew up in a traditional Chinese compound home in San Francisco's Chinatown, and Ruby, a Japanese girl posing as Chinese.

Ruby is "unlike any character I have written" See said. "She loves sailors and they love her!". Trigiani said "I've never read a character like her- you blew it apart. You showed a real sense of diversity in the Asian community."

In the Q&A section, someone asked See about the Tiger Mom controversy. See said she didn't see the big deal, students should be studying and working hard. In the Asian community there is respect for elders and family, and immigrants see education as a path to keep moving forward.

One thing she said that I found intriguing was that "all of us have someone who was scared enough and brave enough to leave their country to come here." That struck a chord with me and many others I'm sure.

A few of the women at the event were not familiar with Adriana Trigiani and were totally charmed by her, asking me about her books. Her latest, The Supreme Macaroni Company is now in paperback and I highly recommend it. (My review is here.)

I'm looking forward to reading China Dolls, and will post a review when I do. For more information on China Dolls,  go to See's website here.
My review of Shanghai Girls is here.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Weekend Cooking- Eat What You Love Everyday by Marlene Koch

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. 

Eat What You Love Everyday by Marlene Koch
Published by Running Press ISBN 978-0-7624-5163-0
Hardcover, $26.50, 349 pages

A few years ago at the Book Expo, I met Marlene Koch, author of the cookbook Eat More of What You Love. She created recipes for some of our favorite dishes and lightened them up without losing any of the flavor. Her recipe for Steak Diane is one my family enjoys a great deal.

Koch was at BEA again this year, promoting her new book, Eat What You Love Everyday, and once again it looks like a winner. It has 200 new recipes, all lower in sugar, fat and calories.
Marlene Koch at BEA

Following the introduction, there are short sections on Everyday Healthy Eating Tips (like 'Cook everyday'), Everyday Ingredients (where she discusses things like agave nectar and buttermilk), Everyday Meal Planning ( I liked 'Set aside time each week to look for new recipes', and Pinterest is a good resource for this), and Everyday With Diabetes.

There are fourteen chapters, with standard ones like Breakfast and Brunch, Everyday Soups and Sandwiches and some different ones such as Cook It Fast or Slow: Pressure and Slow Cooker Favorites, and even one with Menus for Every Day, Every Occasion, and Everyone, which puts together recipes from the book into various meals.

I found several recipes I'm going to try include:

  • Savory Southern Biscuits
  • Buffalo Chicken Dip
  • Southern Style Grilled Cheese (with pimento!)
  • Antipasto Pasta Salad
  • Fabulous French Onion Chicken
The first one I'm going to make is
Breakfast-Style Egg Salad Sandwich
2 large hard-boiled eggs
1 green onion, chopped, white separated from green
1 1/2 teaspoons light mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 slice light white or wheat bread
1 1/2 teaspoons real bacon bits (like Hormel)
1. Peel eggs, cut them in half, remove yolk from one of the eggs, and discard it. Using the coarse shred on a box grater, grate the egg and egg white into a small bowl (you can mash the eggs with a fork, but the grater makes for a much creamier egg salad). Add the white part of the onion, mayonnaise, yogurt and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

2. Toast bread and spread the egg salad on the warm toast, sprinkle the bacon bits on top, and garnish with the green part of the onion.

One of the best things about these books is that Koch uses ingredients that every kitchen has readily on hand. If you are looking to lighten things up, you can;t go wrong with Eat What You Love Everyday.

Marlene Koch's website can be found here.

rating 4 of 5

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank

The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank
Published by William Morrow ISBN 978-0-06-21352-9
Hardcover, $26.99, 336 pages

You can always count on Dorothea Benton Frank to deliver a terrific summer read to hunker down with on the beach. Her contribution this year is The Hurricane Sisters, which once again features a gorgeous cover.

We meet eighty-year-old Maisie Pringle, celebrating her birthday with her driver-turned-boyfriend Skipper, who is a much younger (65!) man. He and Maisie are very happy together, much to the chagrin of Maisie's daughter Liz, who at first glance is kind of a stick-in-the-mud.

Liz's twenty-something daughter Ashley lives in the family's somewhat rundown beach house on an island off of Charleston, South Carolina. Ashley works in an art gallery for ten dollars an hour and aspires to be an artist and visit Rome, Paris and New York. Her college friend Mary Beth can't find a teaching job, so she works for a caterer and lives with Ashley.

Liz is married to Clayton, who works in finance and spends most of his week in New York City. They also have a son, Clayton, called Ivy because he is Clayton IV in the family. Ivy lives in San Francisco with his business and life partner James, and though his parents had a difficult time with the fact that he is gay (they sent him to a conversion camp when he was a teen), they all seem to have made their way back to each other.

Ashley has a crush on a state senator, Porter, who is a bit John Edwards/John Kennedy-ish. She dreams of being his Jackie Kennedy, and when she meets him at an event and they start dating, it seems that her dreams may come true.

But Porter proves to be very controlling. He tells Ashley how to speak, how to act, and is generally very critical of her. Mary Beth and Maisie warn Ashley about Porter, but Ashley makes excuses for his behavior. When one of Porter's ex-girlfriend's tries to warn Ashley, she chalks it up to jealousy until the situation worsens.

Frank tackles the issue of domestic violence here, in a manner that may surprise people. South Carolina has the highest rate of women murdered by their husband/boyfriend, and Frank shows us how insidious domestic violence can be.

It doesn't just happen to women who are trapped, have children to support and nowhere to turn. It can happen to an intelligent, educated woman from a good family who should know better because her mother works for a domestic violence program. Frank definitely gives the reader something to think deeply about, and even offers the reader a way to help at the end of the book.

Of course, she still has her fabulous sense of Southern humor. I cackle at her one-liners, like this one from Liz, who says "Let me tell you, my friend, the gene pool is a mighty big place and like they say, there's literally no lifeguard."

Frank also again has an interesting take on marriage, and how difficult it can be and how much care you must take to stay connected, like she did in her last book, The Last Original Wife.  And again, I got lots of great restaurant suggestion for my Charleston Pinterest board.

There is so much in this fantastic book, told from the alternating perspectives of Maisie, Liz, Ashley and Clayton, that I would love to read a prequel, telling us more about Maisie, Liz and Liz's sister Juliet who died young. I feel there is an amazing story there as well.

The only problem with my Dorothea Benton Frank novels is that they all have sunscreen on the pages from turning them so quickly.

rating 4 of 5
My review of The Last Original Wife is here.
Dorothea Benton Frank's website is here. 

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Dorothea Benton Frank's tour. The rest of the stops are here.

Dorothea’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, June 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, June 4th: Always With a Book
Thursday, June 5th: The Book Bag
Monday, June 9th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, June 10th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, June 11th: Tutu’s Two Cents
Thursday, June 12th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Tuesday, June 17th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, June 18th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, June 19th: Book Chick Di
Monday, June 23rd: Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, June 26th: Chronicles…

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jimmy Osmond's Awesome Possum Family Band

Jimmy Osmond's Possum Family Band by Jimmy Osmond & Bob Ostrom
Published by Regnery Kids ISBN 978-1-62157-211-4
Hardcover Picture Book, $16.99

I don't review many children's books, but when Jimmy Osmond's Awesome Possum Family Band  came through, I thought it sounded too cute to pass up and I was right.

Anyone who grew up when the Osmond Family was performing will adore this book. Told from the perspective of the youngest possum in the family, number nine like Jimmy, we see how the youngest member of a large family so wants to be like his older siblings.

The Possum Family Band receives an invitation to appear on a famous TV show (just like the Osmonds did on The Andy Williams Show). Each family member has an important job, from playing instruments to singing to creating posters, making costumes and building stage sets.

But Number Nine is too little to know his talent yet. He makes a mess painting, and nearly burns himself trying to press costumes. His mother tells him to "practice, practice, practice. Success comes with a price."

Number Nine takes that advice and soon discovers that his talent, a sound that his family has been missing in their band.

Jimmy Osmond's Awesome Possum Band will most definitely appeal to the youngest member of any large family, anyone who tries to keep up with his or her siblings. The bright, colorful retro illustrations are also endearing.

I loved the end of the book, where Jimmy has photos of his real siblings and writes about their individual talents; every baby boomer will be nostalgic reading this section. Then he encourages the reader to discover his or her own talent, and there is a space to draw themselves sharing their talent.

This would be a cute gift for the little one in a big family, and I like how it encourages everyone to work together as a family. I highly recommend it. (And for every copy sold, $1 goes to the Children's Miracle Network.)

rating 4 of 5

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some Great Summer Beach Reads

Every year I devote my June Book Report column in the Citizen to summer beach reads. Here is this year's edition.
 Reprinted from auburnpub.com.

June has arrived and that means it’s time to plan our summer beach reads. Whether you read on vacation, by the pool, or on your front porch, here are some suggestions for great summer reads.

If you are looking for a traditional juicy summer novel, Stephanie Evanovich follows up last year’s big beach read “Big Girl Panties”, with a sassy, sexy prequel “The Sweet Spot” about a Derek Jeter-like baseball star who pursues a restaurateur wary of his reputation. It’s perfect for the baseball lover, and it publishes July 8th. 
The Sweet Spot

South Carolina native Dorothea Benton Frank returns with another Southern family novel about a four women: 80 year-old feisty Maisie, her middle-aged daughter Liz, Liz’s artist daughter Ashley and Ashley’s roommate Mary Beth, all trying to come to grips what life has in store for them- oh yeah, and there is a hurricane heading their way. I love the humor and humanity in Frank’s novels. 
The Hurricane Sisters

If you like your summer reading to have a little more meat, Patry Francis’ 500 page “The Orphans of Race Point” takes place over thirty years in the lives of three friends who grew up together on Cape Cod. It’s a big, wonderful story with heartbreak, love, and family- those who are related by blood and those you choose to be your family. This is my favorite book so far this year. 
The Orphans of Race Point
Another big book is Greg Iles’ “Natchez Burning”, the first in a trilogy. This one tells the story of a son out to save his father, a beloved doctor accused of murdering an African-American nurse he worked with years ago. This one has been getting rave reviews, including one from Stephen King. 
Natchez Burning

Those of you who were addicted to HBO’s “True Detective” should check out Laura McHugh’s “The Weight of Blood”. When a teenage girl is found brutally murdered and left under a tree, her friend tries to find out what happened, and wonders if it could be tied to her mother’s disappearance when she was a just a baby. The story is told from the mother’s perspective and the daughter’s perspective, and has lots of scary, creepy atmosphere.  
The Weight of Blood
If historical fiction is your pleasure, Jacqueline Winspear, author of the WWI private investigator Maisie Dobbs series, checks in with a stand alone WWI novel, “The Care and Management of Lies” about Tom, a farmer in England, his sister who protests for peace, and his wife, a teacher-turned-farmer’s wife who must keep the farm going when Tom goes to war in France. I loved the look at what being a farmer’s wife at that time entailed. 
The Care and Mangement of Lies

If the Civil War interests you, Jennifer Chiaverini’s “The Spy Mistress” fictionalizes the true story of Richmond, Virginia aristocrat Elizabeth Van Lew who spied for the Union, putting herself and her family at great personal risk to help Lincoln’s generals win the war. It was a story I didn’t know and found so interesting. 
The Spy Mistress

Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, “Astonish Me” is very different from her first novel, “Seating Arrangements”, but just as good. Joan studies to be a ballerina and becomes involved with a Russian dancer who defects to the US in the 1970s. She marries a childhood friend, has a son, and moves to California. Her son becomes a ballet dancer and his idol is the Russian whom Joan was in love with years ago. The writing is gorgeous and if you love ballet, this insider’s look is fascinating.
Astonish Me

For non-fiction readers, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner follow-up their hugely successful book “Freakanomics” with “Think Like A Freak”. They combine terrific storytelling with their unique analysis to help people be more creative and productive. They show us how a hot dog eating champion came upon his winning strategy (it involves soaking the bun in water), why an Australian doctor ingested dangerous bacteria, and why e-mail scammers say they are from Nigeria. If you didn’t get Dad a Father’s Day gift yet (and if you didn’t, shame on you!), go get this. 
Think Like A Freak

Everyone is talking about Hillary Clinton’s book, “Hard Choices”, which published this week. She talks about the difficult decisions she has faced in her life and how she came to them. It covers much of her time as Secretary of State in the Obama administration and people will no doubt be parsing the sentences for clues as to whether she will run for president in 2016.
Hard Choices

Whatever you read this summer, I hope you enjoy it and that the weather is good wherever you go.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Weekend Cooking- A Movie Review of Chef

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. 

I don't watch many reality shows, but when I did, Bravo's Top Chef was my favorite. I was riveted by people who were so passionate about their craft, and that is what kept me watching.

My sister-in-law is a real foodie and we were looking for a movie to see; lucky us, Jon Favreau's Chef was playing at her local theater. Favreau plays Carl, a chef working in an Los Angeles restaurant. He seems  happy, enjoys his co-workers (John Leguizamo and one of my favorite actors, Bobby Cannavale) and dates the pretty front of the house manager, played by Scarlett Johannson.

Carl is told that a hugely important food blogger/reviewer is coming to the restaurant. This reviewer (played by the amazing Oliver Platt) gave Carl a rave review years ago, and Carl wants to blow his socks off. He creates an exciting new menu, and gets the staff pumped up for this big night.

Then the restaurant owner, played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman, instructs Carl to cook the same menu that has made them a city favorite. It is a menu filled with good, but safe items; nothing that people would say 'wow' over (scallops, molten cake, etc). Carl argues with his boss, but the bottom line if he doesn't cook the usual menu, he can leave.

Carl caves and the results are predictable; the reviewer savages him in a vicious way for not being creative. Carl is devastated, and because he doesn't exactly understand how Twitter works, accidentally starts a Twitter war with the critic.

After a crazed viral video, Carl is forced to leave the restaurant. His ex-wife, played wonderfully by Sofia Vergara from TV's Modern Family, convinces him to accompany her and their pre-teen son to Miami where she encourages him to take an old food truck and cook the food he wants to make.

Carl has a chance to reconnect with his son as they and John Leguizamo's character drive from Miami to LA, stopping along the way to sell their Cuban sandwiches and side dishes. The movie shows us not only the amazing dishes Carl makes, but we also get a look at some beautiful cities- Miami, New Orleans, Austin- as well.

I loved this movie! There is food porn for the foodies, (the pasta dish he made for Johannson had me drooling) a wonderful father-son story (Emjay Anthony, the actor who plays his son is fabulous), beautiful scenery, great performances, especially from Favreau, who shows how a man's passion for his life work affects him deeply. We also see how new social media is used to make or break a business and how hard it is to work in a restaurant.

One of my favorite performances out of the many is a hilarious cameo from Robert Downey Jr., who has been directed by Favreau in the Iron Man movies. This man is a comic genius, and the interplay between him and Favreau in their single scene was a highlight.

I can't recommend Chef more highly; if you like food, this is a must-see.
Watch the trailer here.

The Chef website is here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Great Book For Father's Day- Good Talk Dad by Bill and Willie Geist

Good Talk Dad by Bill and Willie Geist
Published by Grand Central ISBN 978145554727
Hardcover, $27, 272 pages

Bill Geist has been doing pieces for CBS Sunday Morning for years. He usually profiles interesting (quirky) people and places, and his sense of humor makes me smile. His son Willie Geist is currently one of the co-hosts on the third hour of the Today Show, and is featured on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He clearly inherited his father's sense of humor.

Just in time for Father's Day, they have written a book that I dare say most of us can relate to: Good Talk Dad: The Birds and The Bees...And Other Conversations We Forgot To Have, which pokes fun at the fact that Bill never gave Willie 'the sex talk'. Come to think of it, they never had deep conversations about other important things either. Sound familiar?

Early on, Willie describes embarrassingly being baptized as a 19 year-old in a church service, along with several babies sleeping peacefully in their mother's arms. He asks: 
"Couldn't they have done this in a private ceremony before the service, as they do with the technical awards at the Oscars? In a ceremony earlier today, nineteen-year-old Willie Geist was given the sacrament of baptism."
If that made you giggle, you'll love this book as much as I did. Bill and Willie alternate telling stories from their lives, some of which differed depending on whom was telling it.

Bill and his wife Jody decided to send Willie to summer camp. But not to the camp that all Willie's friends were going to; Willie went to Camp Carson, "where convicted nonviolent offenders were sent to serve out their sentences", unbeknownst to Bill and Jody. That wasn't in the brochure. The campers had to decide whether they were safer backing the Latin Kings or the Spanish Gangster Disciples, who, at night, slashed each other car tires as a "prank".

When Bill received a $10,000 check to write a book, he bought a brand new red Jeep to celebrate. Willie loved his dad's "instinct to take that ten-thousand-dollar book check and spend every nickel of it as fast as you could, like a rapper who just got his first record deal".

Some of the funniest stories involve that Jeep. Jody taught Willie to drive on that Jeep, and then when it was all beat up and on its last legs, Jody drove down to Nashville to accompany Willie to college, but they had to make many stops along the way, coaxing that Jeep and stopping to repair it and feed it antifreeze several times before making it to Vanderbilt.

Bill and Willie shared a love of the New York Yankees and inappropriate humor. When Willie's basketball team held a year end banquet and discovered that the special guest was not a famous New Jersey Nets player but the team mascot, the boys pounded the poor mascot with rolls from the table. Some dads disciplined their sons, yanking them out of there. Bill laughed hysterically, thinking it was pretty darn funny.

There are serious moments in here, such as when Bill finally tells his children (after ten years) that he has Parkinson's disease. They found out when they received emails from people after reading about it on Bill's Facebook page. They suspected something was wrong, but never realized the truth.
I met Willie at Big Fish on Broadway- nice guy!
I loved the stories about aunts and uncles and grandparents; it reminded me of my own family. And when Willie becomes a dad, his stories about his children, Lucie and George, are utterly charming.

This is a perfect book to read this Father's Day, or to give as a gift. It is funny, heartwarming (but mostly funny) and Bill and Willie are terrific writers; their voices come shining through as if they sitting next to you on the couch, recounting their stories aloud. It's like S@$t My Dad Says, but without all the cursing.

rating 5 of 5

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Meeting Hillary Rodham Clinton

Unless you haven't been paying attention to the news, you probably know that Hillary Rodham Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State, wrote a book titled Hard Choices that published this week. It covers mostly her time as Secretary of State, and the choices both she and the Obama administration had to make during difficult times.

The first stop on her book tour was this past Tuesday at the Barnes & Noble Union Square store. The store was scheduled to hand out wrist bands at 8am, and I felt comfortable getting to the store at 6:30am. When the taxi pulled up, I saw a huge line of people who had obviously slept overnight outside the store. It looked like the line outside the Today Show when One Direction is playing a concert on the plaza. By the time 8am rolled around, there was close to 1000 people in line.

The line snaked down 17th Street, up Park Ave. South and headed up 18th Street where I ended up, about 250th in line in my estimation. Luckily, I had a book with me to keep me company, although watching the people turn the corner hoping we were the end of the line, only to see the look of dismay cross their faces as they realized the line went all the way down another block, kept us amused.

At 8am, they opened the store to let us in, 20 at a time. We went to the cash register, paid for our book (limit one) and then formed a new line to go to the second floor where we checked our bags. We were told verbally and in writing (they gave us all an instruction sheet) that we could take our cell phone and wallet ONLY with us. But security told us if it didn't fit in our pocket, we had to check it. (If you had no pockets, like me, you were out of luck.)

This was the one glitch in an otherwise well-oiled machine; they could have given us that information online and we all would have been better prepared. I have been to many, many big book signings (including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter), and never have I had to check my purse.

We waited in line again to get up to the third floor where we got wanded before heading up to the fourth floor, the events floor. This store process took about an hour, so we waited in line again for another two hours or so. At least my group was in the actual event space, but we couldn't sit down. Normally, we sit in chairs, but the setup was all the press in front of the signing table, all of us behind them.

I didn't have a book with me, but just my luck I ended up standing next to table that had Colm Toibin's book of short stories, The Empty Family. I finished four of the stories while I waited. We all watched for signs, and when we saw Huma Abedin, Clinton's top aide, we knew Ms. Clinton would be there soon.

She walked in to thunderous applause and cheers, and she looked lovely in her bright pink jacket. The press took photos, she spoke a few words, and the signing began. It took another hour for me to get to the front of the line. She shook hands with all of us, and responded to our words.

I congratulated her on the upcoming grandbaby and then, like everyone else, told her that I hope she runs; our country needs her. She thanked me for coming and buying her book. She signed the book, and then we were handed the signed book. And like that it was over.

It was a six-hour process, but well worth the wait. I admire Ms. Clinton a great deal. The thing that struck me most about the crowd was the diversity of it; it looked like all of America. We were old and young, men and women, black, white, Asian, East Asian, Latino. The most surprising group there were young men, many of them about my sons' ages, early twenties. If these people were willing to wait 4-6 hours to meet Mrs. Clinton, I'd say she has a large, diverse group ready to vote for her if she runs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BEA14- Book Group Speed Dating Part II

In a previous post, I covered the books presented by Harper Perennial, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Liveright and Norton publishers during the Book Group Speed Dating at BEA14. This post covers Picador (Macmillan), Random House, Simon & Schuster and Soho.

Darren from Picador (Macmillan) presented the following books:
  • Dark Amelia- by Sally O'Reilly, an historical novel about Shakespeare's muse, with some sorcery thrown in. Fans of Deborah Harkness will like this one.
  • The Boy Who Drew Monsters- by Keith Donohue will appeal to fans of Stephen King and Joe Hill. It's a YA crossover book about a young boy who draws monsters that come to life, set on an empty Maine estate.
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.- by Adelle Waldman is coming out in paperback after making many 'Best of 2013' lists. This one is about a 20-something young man in Brooklyn looking for love and sex. It has become a cultural touchstone.
  • Someone- by Alice McDermott is publishing in paperback and made my list of Most Compelling  Books of 2013. It's the story of an ordinary Irish-American woman as she ages from childhood on. It's beautiful and quiet, and my review is here.
  • Man Alive!- by Mary Kay Zuravleff tells the story of family living outside of Washington DC and what happens when Dad gets hit by lightning and it changes his personality.
  • Lookaway, Lookaway- by Wilton Barnhardt also publishes in trade paperback after making a big splash at last year's BEA. The story revolves around a Southern family falling apart and the tough matriarch keeping them all together. 
Maggie from Random House shared their upcoming books:
  • Still Life With Bread Crumbs- is Anna Quindlen's latest novel about a middle-aged artist who moves to a cabin in the woods and finds artistic inspiration and maybe love. Every woman of a certain age will want to read this, my review is here.
  • The Weight of Blood- by Laura McHugh put me in mind of HBO's True Detective with its story of a murdered teenage girl and how it may possibly tie into her friend's mother's disappearance years ago. Lots of creepy atmosphere here and I raced through this one even though these kinds of books are not usually my cup of tea.
  • The Mill River Redemption- by Darcy Chan, who first book, The Mill River Recluse, was a self-published ebook. There are some of the same characters in this book about love, family and forgiveness in a small town.
  • The Deepest Secret- by Carla Buckley tells the story of a mom who accidentally hits someone with her car, but can't turn herself in because she has a son with a devastating chronic illness. The ending is said to be completely unexpected.
  • Under the Wide and Starry Sky- by Nancy Horan continues the trend of novels about the wives of famous men, this time it's writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny.
Briony from Simon & Schuster had five books:
  • A Sudden Sight- is Garth Stein's follow-up to his smash The Art of Racing in the Rain. This one is a family story with a ghostly twist and an environmental slant, and is described as 'visually beautiful'.
  • We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas is one of the books that had everyone talking this year. The debut novel sold for one million dollars at auction, and it is the story of Eileen, an Irish- American woman, from childhood through marriage and adulthood. It's about love, desire and the fight to get into the middle class. This is one I will definitely read.
  • Juliet's Nurse- by Lois Leveen gives us the story of Juliet's nurse from Romeo and Juliet, and takes the reader from 14 years before their love story and beyond the final scene of the play. Fans of Phillipa Gregory will like this strong female protagonist.
  • Before I Go- by Colleen Oakley is traditional women's fiction, along the lines of PS I Love You.  A terminally ill woman tries to find a spouse for her husband before she dies and then regrets her attempt.
  • Henna House-is Nomi Eve's historical novel about young Yemenite Jewish girls who will be adopted by the Muslim community if they are unbetrothed when their parents die. Fans of The Red Tent and The Dovekeepers will want this one.
Soho presented four books:
  • Herbie's Game by Tim Halliman is described as "the spawn of Donald Westlake and Carl Hiaasen". He is a favorite of Nancy Pearl.
  • The Bishop's Wife  by Mettie Ivie Harrison is a mystery set amongst the Mormon community. When a prominent Mormon's wife disappears, her friend believes the husband killed her. It's based on a true story, and written by a practicing Mormon.
  • The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin is a YA crossover, called a 'docu-novel' about a teenage artist who may have committed suicide- or was it murder? The novel is filled with paintings and photographs.
  • Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis tells the story of young teen in Greenwich Village in the 1970's, and it "lifts the skin off the character" with its in-depth character study. It won an O. Henry Prize.
  • I'm Glad I Did is a YA mystery novel written by Carole King contemporary Cynthia Weill about young songwriters working in the famous Brill Building in 1963. There should be lots of interest in this given the smash Broadway show Beautiful is so popular.
Thanks again to BookReporter.com for putting this event together; it gets better every year.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

The Heiresses by Sara Shepard
Published by HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-225953-0
Hardcover, $25.99, 320 pages

Sara Shepard is best known for her YA book series, Pretty Little Liars, which was turned into a successful television series. Her latest novel, The Heiresses, is an adult novel, but geared toward her older YA readers ready for a terrific beach read.

The Saybrook family made their fortune in diamonds after WWII. Patriarch Alfred and his partner began their business after returning from the war; they became wealthy and hugely successful, and now most of Alfred's family works in the business.

After Alfred's death, his son Mason became president of Saybrook's. He and his wife have two daughters: Corinne, the type-A, hardcharging daughter engaged to a Texas oil heir she fell in love with at Yale, and Aster, the ultimate party-girl, with no job or responsibilities.

Mason took his niece Poppy under his wing after her parents died in a plane crash. He was supposed to be on that plane, but at the last minute didn't go. Rowan is Mason's other brother's daughter, and she is also works for the family business. Natasha is the last heiress, who moved away and hasn't spent much time with her cousins.

The family is the subject of intense public interest, much like the Kennedy family. Also like the Kennedys, people have said they have a curse- the plane crash, a grandson kidnapped at age four and never found, and the man who was to have been the new CEO mysteriously drowned at a family celebration five years ago.

A tabloid website has been set-up that seems to have inside information on the Saybrook family secrets. Who is behind it? One of the heiresses dies, but did she commit suicide or was she murdered? The heiresses are in a car that is hit head-on, and another ends up seriously injured in a coma.

The main mystery of the novel is who is trying to kill the heiresses and why. There are plenty of suspects, and a careful mystery reader may pick up on enough clues to figure out who is behind it. I'm not a big mystery reader, and even though the characters and the plot seemed at times formulaic, Shephard kept me turning the pages to see what will happen next.

Shepard includes a family tree at the beginning, which is so helpful in keeping the many family members straight until you get a little in to the story.

After we find out who is trying to kill the heiresses, Shepard gives us another, even meatier, mystery involving a big secret that goes back many years. I like how she tied that into the murder mystery.

Matriarch Edith is one of the most fascinating characters. She's always cold and wears her fur coat no matter the temperature. She says what she thinks, and is critical of her granddaughters. I wish we had seen more of her. Edith has a great scene at the end of the novel that sets up the sequel, and I have to say bravo to Shepard for hooking us into reading the next book. There is no way I'm not putting that one on my TBR list when it publishes.

rating 4 of 5
My review of Sara Shepard's first adult novel, Everything We Ever Wanted, is here.
Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Sara Shepard's tour. The rest of the stops are here.

Sara’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 20th: Mystery Playground
Wednesday, May 21st: The Gilmore Guide to Books
Friday, May 23rd: Write Meg
Monday, May 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, May 27th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, May 28th: From L.A. to LA
Thursday, May 29th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, June 2nd: Excellent Library
Tuesday, June 3rd: Stephany Writes
Wednesday, June 4th: Bibliophilia, Please
Thursday, June 5th: Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, June 9th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, June 10th: Book-alicious Mama
Thursday, June 12th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, June 16th: BoundbyWords
Tuesday, June 17th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Wednesday, June 18th: Books à la Mode
Wednesday, June 18th: Great Imaginations
Thursday, June 19th: Books in the Burbs