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Friday, June 30, 2017

Road Trip- Summer With Robin in Rhode Island

I'm lucky that living in New York City allows me the opportunity to attend many book signings, talks, and sometimes, book launch parties. Last week I made a road trip to Rhode Island to visit my sister-in-law (who also loves books) to attend Summer With Robin at the Quidnessett Country Club.
A view from the Quidnessett Counrty Club

The setting is beautiful, and it was a perfect evening for book fun. We started the day wandering around Newport, my first trip there. It's such a lovely place! We walked around the wharf, had a delicious lunch at 22 Bowen's, splitting a burger and some polenta fries, and we each had a Kiwi Burst, a refreshing cocktail of rum, pineapple vodka, kiwi and mint.

After visiting the quaint little shops (the Newport Mansions Store on Bannister Wharf is a must-stop), we headed over to the country club. We had VIP tickets, which entitled us to a cocktail hour, with passed appetizers and a pasta station, and an opportunity to meet the authors and have our books signed.

The sold-out event was filled with mostly women, all readers, many of whom have attended this event annually. Robin introduced each author and gave them a few minutes to give a short overview and read from their books.
Robin Kall with her sister and the authors

Jillian Cantor's novel, The Lost Letter, is an historical novel set in two time periods. The first is 1938 Austria during the German occupation, featuring a stamp engraver apprentice.
The Lost Letter

The second time period is 1989, when Katie has to move her father to an Alzheimer's care unit and has his stamp collection appraised. The appraiser finds an unusual stamp, and that ties the two time periods together. It's a story that features family, strong women, and the Jewish resistance.

Angelica Baker's Our Little Racket is a debut novel set in 2008 in Greenwich Connecticut, about the aftermath of the failure of large bank, and how the failure affects five women involved with the bank's CEO, who faces accusations of wrongdoing.
Our Little Racket

Laura Dave, whose last novel 800 Grapes was a bestseller, is back with Hello, Sunshine, a modern tale about the role of social media in our lives. Her protagonist is a successful YouTube personality who has managed to work her way into a Food Network TV show. When she is hacked, it comes out that she is a fraud. The book has already been optioned for a movie, with Dave's screenwriter husband, Josh Singer (Spotlight) writing the screenplay.
Hello Sunshine

Kall asked the women what their inspiration was, and Baker said that when her writing was going poorly, and she started to read about the Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapses, which she was unfamiliar with. She said she can read fiction when she writes.

Cantor can't read historical fiction when she writes. She didn't know anything about stamps when she started, and her agent suggested the topic to her. During a visit to the National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, she was fascinated by the Resistance exhibit, and the fact that many were so young was impressive.

Her character Elena was inspired by a woman in the exhibit. Cantor created a Pinterest board with items about stamps, the Resistance, and Kristallnacht that helped her with research. She spoke of the ordinary people who lived in extraordinary times.

Dave was intrigued by the Sony hack, it made her wonder whose life when put under a microscope would look pure, and took her story from there. She immersed herself in the Food Network and food bloggers to get the look and feel for her character.

She mentioned something that the audience found interesting. She spoke about a marriage researcher who said she could tell what makes a marriage work. If the couple used the word "we" rather than "I', they would make it. You could hear the wheels turning as the audience all considered what word they used. Dave made the audience laugh when she said she now says "We're annoyed at you" when talking to her husband.

The writers talked about eavesdropping on others' conversations (at restaurants, on subways), the publishers asking them to be active on social media, Skyping with book clubs (they like it), and situations they won't use (most having to do with immediate family).

Dave spoke about spilling water on her computer and losing 200 pages of a novel. She was sad for a day, but then bucked up and started again. That led to a discussion about the importance of emailing the manuscript to yourself as you go along.

Kall finished up by asking my favorite question- what are you reading?- to the authors. Cantor raved about Georgia Hunter's We Were The Lucky Ones, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Sarah Dunn's The Arrangement and an older nonfiction book, Erik Lawson's In The Garden of the Beasts.

Baker is reading Julia Buntin's Marlena, Stephen Florida, The Epiphany Machine, and Britt Bennett's The Mothers.

Dave had five books on her list: James Hansen's First Man, (which is also a movie written by her husband starring Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong), J. Courtney Sullivan's Saints For All Occasions, Matt Klam's Who Is Rich?, and two older books, Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys and Isabel Gilles' memoir It Happens Every Day.

Robin had delicious cookies for all of us on our way out, and it was the perfect ending to an informative and interesting evening. You can find out more Reading With Robin's events here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dunkirk- The History Behind The Major Motion Picture by Joshua Levine

Dunkirk by Joshua Levine
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062740304
Trade paperback, $16.99, 339 pages

Christopher Nolan, the creative genius behind The Dark Knight (Batman), Inception and Memento turns his eye next to Dunkirk, which tells the true story of a major British military evacuation off the coast of Belgium during WWII.

Dunkirk is based on a book of the same name by historian Joshua Levine. Levine's 2011 book has been updated for the upcoming movie release, and it is bookended with an interview between Levine and Nolan at the beginning of the book about why Nolan chose this project, and a chapter at the end of the book discussing the process of making the movie, including comments from members of the production team. Movie buffs will love these extra chapters, giving them a fascinating insight into the process of moviemaking.

History buffs will love the actual story of Operation Dynamo itself. I confess to not being a big military history reader, so the sections of the book I found most intriguing had to do with the historical perspective of the events that led up to Britain's involvement in WWII.

Great Britain was still reeling from the effects of WWI, fought nearly twenty years prior. They lost an entire generation of men in WWI, and the thought of losing another generation to a war with Germany was not one that many people wanted to contemplate.

The worldwide depression severely impacted Great Britain, with unemployment high. With no system of welfare, there was tension between the classes, and extreme political parties were able to gain a foothold exploiting this. One can see echoes of this in today's world events as well.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed that he could work with Hitler's Nazi government to avoid war. He was accused of appeasement, and this led to the election of Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of Great Britain during the most trying time in history.

Churchill approved the plans for Operation Dynamo, which called for the evacuation of as many as 40,000 British troops from Dunkirk. The Germans were about to surround the British and French troops, and in order to save the troops from a certain slaughter or capture, they must arrange for an evacuation. Failure to save these troops would mean that the Allies would most likely lose the war, and the world today would be a much different place if that had happened.

The book goes into great detail about the actual logistics of the evacuation, a monumental task. Every available military and private ship and boat was recruited to make the trip to Dunkirk to ferry the soldiers back to England. There are many remembrances from people who make that voyage, and they are so interesting.

The troops were sent to the beach, and with tens of thousands of soldiers along the beach, some for many days, it became a little city of its own. Men played cards, built small shelters, and waited and waited until it was their turn to wade out in to the sea to be rescued, all while being attacked from the sky by German airplanes.

Levine compared this scene to the one of refugees from war and poverty who are taking any form of floating apparatus to get to the shores of Greece and Italy, an apt comparison.

Dunkirk is a fascinating look at a historical event that many people don't know about. While some people felt that this event was a story of a failed battle, Levine looks at it as an incredible story of survival. The goal was to save 40,000 troops, and the reality was that over 260,000 troops were rescued from the shores of Dunkirk, an astonishing number.

England used Dunkirk as a rallying cry and people in England today still speak of the "Dunkirk Spirit" when talking about bucking up and working together to achieve a goal that seems unattainable.

I highly recommend Dunkirk for movie fans, history and military history buffs.

Joshua Levine's website is here.
The website for the movie Dunkirk is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Joshua Levine's tour. The rest of his stops are here:

Tour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, June 28th: bookchickdi
Thursday, June 29th: Dwell in Possibility
Friday, June 30th: Mama Vicky Says
Monday, July 3rd: Ace and Hoser Blook
Wednesday, July 5th: My Military Savings
Thursday, July 6th: Books & Tea
Monday, July 10th: Man of La Book
Tuesday, July 11th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, July 12th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, July 13th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
Published by HarperCollins ISBN 9780062319227
Hardcover, $27.99, 532 pages
As regular readers of this blog know, I always look forward to a new Adriana Trigiani book. I feel like I am an honorary Italian when I read her books, filled with family, food, romance and people with a good work ethic.

Trigiani's latest novel, Kiss Carlo, is a big, beautiful novel, stuffed with all of the above and more.  The story begins in Roseto Valfatore, Italy in 1949, with Carlo, the ambassador, heading to Roseto, Pennsylvania to seek help from some Italian-Americans in rebuilding their road.

From there, we meet the Palazzini brothers of Philadelphia, Dom and Mike, who once owned a taxi company together, but after a falling out, they now have competing taxi companies and no longer speak to each other.

Dom is the frugal one, and his wife Jo has spent her life caring for their home and (now grown) children, and her nephew Nicky who lost his parents at an early age. Jo is the kind of woman who makes homemade pasta in the basement, and irons everyone's underwear.

Mike is the flashier guy, and he has a more successful taxi business. His wife Nancy has the fancy clothes, and visits the hair salon weekly. The sisters-in-law used to be close, but because of the feud no longer speak. It's almost Shakespearean, you could say.

Speaking of Shakespeare, Nicky drives Uncle Dom's taxi by day and by night volunteers at a local Shakespearean theater, run by Calla Borelli, who is trying to keep the doors to her father's theater open. This new television craze has hurt live theater.

What's interesting in Kiss Carlo is that the main character is Nicky, a man. Nicky feels a little lost, even though his aunt and uncle love him very much. He is engaged to Peachy, a woman who feels her time is running out before she is officially a spinster.

When Nicky gets the opportunity to perform onstage at the theater, he comes alive. Now he knows what he wants to do- be an actor. Peachy, however, will not hear of it.

There is a lot going on in Kiss Carlo, and watching how Trigiani weaves the story and characters together is just amazing. It's like seeing someone take a skein of yarn and a few minutes later a beautiful blanket materializes.

There are so many great characters in this story- Jo Palazzini, Calla, Nicky, Mamie Confalone- but my favorite is Hortense. Hortense is a black woman who works as a dispatcher for Dom's taxi service. She has been with them for years, and she brooks no nonsense. Don't ask Hortense what she thinks unless you really want to know.

Hortense finds herself involved in a crazy caper with Nicky, and through that experience she meets a woman who will change her life. I love that Hortense wants a better life for herself and when she sees an opportunity, she works hard and uses her brains to make it happen. (It's that work ethic that shows up in every one of Trigiani's books.)

I had the chance to speak briefly with Adriana and I told her that I think Hortense is my all-time favorite character of hers. She told me that Hortense was a real person, and she actually shows up in the Acknowledgements page.

Soap opera fans will get a kick out of the fact that uber-producer Gloria Monty has a cameo appearance in this book. I told you, there is a lot packed into this book.

I gave a copy of Kiss Carlo to one of my Italian-American friends, and she read the 500+ page book in two days, telling me she couldn't put it down. I totally agree with her, this is one of Adriana Trigiani's best books.

Whether you're from a big family or just yearn to be, Kiss Carlo is for you. And if you take this book to the beach, bring along plenty of sunscreen because you will not be able to stop reading it until you finish. I give it my highest recommendation.

Adriana Trigiani's website is here.

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

Tour Stops

Tuesday, June 20th: Life By Kristen
Wednesday, June 21st: bookchickdi
Thursday, June 22nd: A Night’s Dream of Books
Friday, June 23rd: Time 2 Read
Monday, June 26th: Library of Clean Reads
Tuesday, June 27th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, June 28th: Always With a Book
Thursday, June 29th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, June 30th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, July 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, July 4th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, July 5th: Tina Says…
Friday, July 7th: My Journey Back
Friday, July 7th: Stephany Writes
Monday, July 10th: Wining Wife
Tuesday, July 11th: West Metro Mommy
Wednesday, July 12th: BookNAround
Thursday, July 13th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, July 14th: Bibliotica

Monday, June 19, 2017

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L Walsh

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh
Published by Tor ISBN 9780765390189
Hardcover, $25.99, 304 pages

I enjoy reading novels about real people. I find it intriguing when authors take a real person and using research and their imagination, write a fascinating story.

Jenni L. Walsh's Becoming Bonnie, takes the reader on the journey of Bonnelyn Parker, a young woman living in Texas just before the Great Depression, before she meets Clyde Barrow and becomes one of the most infamous criminals in America- Bonnie of Bonnie & Clyde.

Most people know Bonnie Parker from the 1967 classic movie, Bonnie & Clyde, where Faye Dunaway played Bonnie Parker as a bored waitress who falls in love with Warren Beatty's charming Clyde Barrow, and they roam the southwest robbing banks before they end up dead in a violent clash with police.

Becoming Bonnie begins with a teenage Bonnie, a good, religious girl from the wrong side of the tracks in Dallas. Bonnie is a good student, and dreams of becoming a teacher. She sings in the church choir, and is a dutiful daughter and kind to her brother and much younger sister.

Bonnie's dad is dead, so she helps her working mother by working after school as a waitress in a diner. She is engaged to Roy, a young man who buys a run-down home for them to refurbish and move into once they are married.

When the depression hits, it hits Bonnie's family hard. Her brother mangles his hand at the factory where he works, so he becomes a stockbroker just before the crash. Her mother becomes ill and can't work as much. When Bonnie's boss has to let her go because there is no business, she becomes desperate to find a job to help her family.

Her best friend Blanche convinces Bonnie to join her at a speakeasy, where they both find jobs. Blanche meets Buck Barrow and it's lust at first sight. Buck introduces Bonnie to his brother Clyde, and when Bonnie saves Clyde's life after a booze running escapade goes awry, Clyde is grateful- and falling in love.

Walsh shows us how circumstances moved Bonnie from a shy, devout young woman to a person seduced by a lifestyle and the love of a man who swept her off her feet. She does a wonderful job putting the reader in Bonnie's shoes, and we get a real sense of how the Great Depression left people desperate.

The novel really comes alive when Bonnie and Clyde's relationship starts to blossom, you can feel the heat on the page. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz movie going from black and white to color.

Becoming Bonnie ends before the pair begin their crime spree, and I hope that Walsh will revisit the story and tell us what happened after they became Bonnie and Clyde.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Weekend Cooking- Charlie Palmer at the Knick

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.

People frequently ask me for suggestions on where to eat dinner near Times Square when they are visiting NYC, usually to see a Broadway show. I didn't really have a great suggestion for a smaller, more intimate place until now. (If you have a big group, Tony's DiNapoli is wonderful.)

About a month ago, we went with friends to see Hamilton on Broadway, and it was just as great with the new cast as it was with the original cast. Before the show, we went to Charlie Palmer's at the Knickerbocker Hotel, located at 6 Times Square, off of 42nd Street. It's so good, I have returned twice within a month, once with a great group of blogger friends after the Book Expo, and once on a ladies' night with my sons' girlfriends before we saw Anastasia (which was fantastic- go see it!).

The entrance is inside the Knickerbocker Hotel, up on the 4th floor. When you get off the elevator, it's hard to believe you are still in the middle of bustling Times Square. The room is hushed and dark, with lots of low lighting and couches in muted colors opposite the bar.

They have a wonderful pre-theater pre-fixe menu from 5:30-6:30, and even though we were running a little late, they managed to get us out in time for the show. They have a terrific wine and cocktail list, and my choice of the Landmark Chardonnay from California was a winner.

Their pre-fixe menu is three courses, with three choices for each for $45 a person. In the appetizer section, you can choose from a Market Salad, with pumpkin seeds, radish and a light lemon dressing, a Grilled Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Onion Flatbread or a Blue Crab Tomato Bisque.

The grilled flatbread was the star here, and it was big enough to share, so two people could order the salad and flatbread and share, as our waiter suggested.

Grilled Flatbread

For the main course, you can choose from a vegetarian Pecorino Risotto, with mushrooms, a Chicken Breast with a mushroom and scallion cream sauce, served with a roasted potato that was more like a baked croquette (and totally tasty), or their Kobe Burger, with a maple glazed bacon and comte cheese.

I've had the chicken all three times and each time it has been phenomenal. The portion is not too big either, which I really liked. The sauce was perfectly seasoned, and the potatoes seemed almost like a scalloped potato.

I chose the Almond Cake for dessert, which was served with a scoop of raspberry sorbet and strawberries. The presentation was lovely and the little cake with its sides was a terrific ending. The other choices are sorbet or ice cream, or fresh strawberries marinated in mint served with a lime sorbet.
Almond Cake dessert

If you are looking for a great dinner, with a quieter atmosphere where you can have a conversation without shouting, try Charlie Palmer at the Knick, I highly recommend it. 

One funny observation: each of the three times I have been there, I have been seated at the same table and had the same waiter, Matt, who is very good. It's starting to feel a little like Groundhog Day, which is now playing on Broadway.

Have you found any good restaurants in your town lately? Tell us about it in comments.

Charlie Palmer's at the Knick's website is here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Word For Word Series at Bryant Park

Bryant Park's outdoor Reading Room is one of the coolest places to hear about books in a beautiful setting, behind the main New York Public Library right in the middle of the city. On Wednesdays during the summer they host a Word for Word Series, with authors talking about their works.

Recently, Robin Kall, of the Reading With Robin podcast, moderated a discussion with five terrific authors, beginning with N. West Moss, author of the short story collection The Subway Stops at Bryant Park. This event was the perfect venue for her talk about her book, where all the stories have a Bryant Park connection.

Moss liked to visit the park and people watch, playing "Tourist/Not Tourist" with her mother. She has a real love for the park, especially the Gertrude Stein statue. She read a small piece from one of her stories, about a librarian named Tim who works at the NYPL. In her research for the book, West got a tour of the stacks of books underneath the Bryant Park lawn- lucky lady!

Courntney Maum's new novel Touch, tells the story of a trend forecaster who believes the next "big thing" will be human touch, not tech. She got the idea from watching a change in her friends. About three years ago, they suddenly became unable to make a decision without consulting their phones. From whom they be attracted to (Tinder) to where and what they should eat (Yelp), people seems to be losing their human intuition.

Maum read a dialogue from her novel between the protagonist and her driverless car, Anastasia; it was very funny and Touch intrigues me.

Daniel Riley, the lone male on the panel, presented his debut novel Fly Me, set in 1972 Southern California, about two young sisters, stewardesses who become involved in a cocaine drug-running scheme and become entangled in a skyjacking incident. As a person who came of age in the 1970s, I found this one fascinating.

J. Courtney Sullivan's novel Saints For All Occasions has been called "the year's best book about family" by Washington Post reviewer Ron Charles, and several other reviewers share his enthusiasm.

Sullivan joked that she would "talk fast" because she is "38 weeks pregnant and might not finish the program". Her story is about two sisters who emigrate from Ireland to Boston with a big secret. She got the idea from a family story, telling the audience that at every Irish funeral there is always someone who shows up, an uncle or aunt, whom no one knew existed. In her story, it is a cloistered nun. This one has been on my list for awhile, I can't wait to dig in, especially since I come from an Irish family.

Julia Fierro's The Gypsy Moth Summer has also garnered much critical praise, making many "Best of Summer" book lists. (Including mine- my review is here.)  Set in 1992, on an island much like Long Island, Fierro's novel has summer romance, family issues, corporate pollution, class and race issues all wrapped up in a fantastic story.

A three time veteran of the Word for Word series, Fierro was very comfortable with the audience, joking about, among other things, the fact that since she is half-Italian and half-Irish, there was a lot of holy water in her house.

Kall brought up that each book was set in different eras and asked why. Fierro's book is set in 1992 because she was 16 that year, like her character Maddie, and so could relate. She wanted her story to be pre-Internet, when teens hung out at the mall and beach.

Maum's novel obviously had to be set in the "present day-ish" because the book depends on the current technology being a big part of the story. She did go out of her way not to brand things; you won't find Iphones or Google in Touch.

Moss' story collection starts with the Bryant Park renovation in the 1980's, when the park was known as "Needle Park" because of all the needles that littered the ground when drug users were the only people who hung out there. She mentioned how much more beautiful the park is now, but progress has a double-edge, with a cup of coffee in the park "now costing $9".

Riley's Fly Me is set in 1972, a time of "transition and tumult in the culture and airline industry." Since the setting was 14 years before he was born, Riley depended on playlists, slideshows and his mom and aunt for help with his research.

Sullivan's Saints For All Occasions goes back and forth between 1957 and 2009 because she wanted to look at the characters over time, how they are shaped by the decades and the Catholic Church, particularly women and what they could and couldn't do.

Kall then asked about epigraphs in books, because each author used them in their books. An epigraph is a short saying or sentence, used as a quote in the beginnings of the book to suggest they theme. Fierro originally had six, and laughed that her editor told she had to choose only one. The authors have epigraphs  from Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Joan Didion and David Foster Wallace in their books.

Kall closed by asking the authors to suggest books to the audience. Maum chose Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash, Riley suggested Newton Thornburg's 1976 California-set Cutter and Bone, Sullivan loves anything by Irish author Anne Enright, particularly The Gathering,  and Fierro went non-fiction with her pick of Deborah Blum's true crime book The Poisoner's Handbook, about the birth of forensic medicine in the Jazz Age of New York City.

Kall did a terrific job, asking great questions and getting such an interesting conversation with five authors in just an hour's time. I'm looking forward to more wonderful bookish talks at Bryant Park.

Information on Bryant Park's events is here.
Reading With Robin's website is here.
N. West Moss' website is here.
Courtney Maum's website is here.
Daniel Riley's website is here.
J. Courtney Sullivan's website is here.
Julia Fierro's website is here.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Speed Dating at the Book Expo

One of the most enjoyable events every year at the Book Expo is Book Group Speed Dating, organized by Carol Fitzgerald and her group at the Book Reporter Network. Nearly two dozen publishers present their upcoming fall books to the 200 librarians, booksellers and book club organizers. The publishers go from table to table and they each get a few minutes to make their pitch.

It's great because you get to hear about books that aren't necessarily on your radar, books from smaller publishing houses, as well as the more well-known publishers. These are some of the books that caught my eye.

Harlequin, known for their romance novels, is branching out with their Graydon House imprint. Kaira Rouda's Best Day Ever is described as a "wild ride of psychological suspense." A husband arranges for a special day for his wife on their anniversary, but his idea of a "special day" differs from hers. Click here for more information.

Sourcebooks presented Chelsea Sedoti's novel, As You Wish, is a young adult novel that will also appeal to adults. In the small town of Madison in the Mojave Desert, people on their 18th birthday get one wish. Some people wish for money, some wish for love, and Eldon has 25 days until his birthday to figure out what he should wish for. I don't normally like magical realism, but this one intrigues me. Click here for more info. 

St. Martin's Press had two books that interested me. Daren Wang's The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is a fictionalized version of a true story about an western New York town, near Buffalo, that seceeded from the Union during the Civil War. I grew up in central New York and have never heard of this story, and the fact that there is a female protagonist seals the deal for me. This book is available now, click here for info.

Janet Peery, a former National Book Award finalist for her first novel The River Beyond The World in 1996, is back with her second novel The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs, about a dysfunctional family with five adult children who all have issues. The mother is desparately trying to save her youngest son from his addiction, and the story sounds heartbreaking and deeply moving. This one is also available now here.

And this concludes my wrap-up of Book Expo 2017. It was a whirlwind two-and-half days filled with books and catching up with friends, and there is not much better than that.

 You can find all of the books presented here.

Book Expo- Authors Pose With Their Books

One fun thing I like to do at the Book Expo is ask authors to pose with their books. It's nice to put a face with the author's name, and most of them are very happy to oblige.

Caitlin Macy has written Mrs. called a "modern-day House of Mirth" set in my 'hood of the Upper East Side, and featuring a character  who is an "obsessive prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office". Shades of BIllions, perhaps?
The cover of Melanie Benjamin's The Girls in the Picture caught my eye. It's a novel based on the the friendship between Mary Pickford and Frances Marion. Fans of Adriana Trigiani's All The Stars in the Heavens, as well as Melanie's previous novels The Aviator's Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue, will definitely want this one.  

Hallie Ephron's 2013 suspense novel, There Was An Old Woman, was terrific and had a great character, an 80-year-old woman named Mina who was out to solve a murder in her neighborhood. I can't wait to read her new book, You'll Never Know, a mystery that involves sisters, a disappearance and a creepy doll.

This smiling guy is Matthew Weiner, the genius behind TV's Mad Men. His novel is Heather, the Totality, is described as a "chilling novel about a collision course between a privileged family and a dangerous young man." He told us it's a little dark. Hmmmm.

I loved, loved, loved Tayari Jones' novel, Silver Sparrow, and was thrilled to get to tell her so, and get a signed copy of her upcoming An American Marriage, about a young couple whose marriage is tested when the husband is unjustly jailed.

Ben Blum's memoir tells his true story of his goal to be an Army ranger. On his final leave before deployment to Iraq, while his family is waiting to see him home in Colorado, he is in Tacoma, committing armed robbery of a bank with two other soldiers and two other men. Why did he do this? Ranger Games has the answer.

Emily Culliton's The Misfortune of Marion Palm is a debut novel about a Brooklyn Heights wife and mother who has embezzled money from her children's private school and goes on the run. This caper is fiction (I hope).

Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer, and many of her books have a magical touch in them. The Rules of Magic even has it right in the title. This one is a prequel to her famous bestseller Practical Magic.

I was first in line to get Eleanor Henderson's autograph on her new novel, Twelve-Mile Straight, inspired by stories of her family. Her debut novel, Ten Thousand Saints, is one of my all-time favorites, and I'm almost done with this one and it is just as stunning. (Henderson lives in Ithaca.)

Kate Moore's book, The Radium Girls, tells the true story of women who were poisoned by their employer  and fought back years later to get justice. This one is for fans of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Silkwood.

Nancy Pearl is the most famous librarian in the United States. (She even has an action figure!) Her novel George and Lizzie is the story of a marriage where the two parties have differing ideas of love and marriage.

I'm intrigued by Sujata Massey's mystery, The Widows of Malabar Hill,  the first in a new series about a young female lawyer in 1920's Bombay, fighting for justice for a group of widows. 

The Queen of Mysteries is Mary Higgings Clark, and I alway stop by to say hello and get a copy of her latest. This one is All By Myself, Alone.

There are always famous people to spot at the Book Expo, like a smiling Savannah Guthrie from the Today Show, signing copies of her children's book, Princesses Wear Pants.

Savannah's Today Show compatriot Jenna Bush Hager was on hand with her sister Barbara Bush, and they had a long line of well-wishers.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space, was promoting his book Endurance. 

And every year I take a photo with the incomparable Adriana Trigiani, whose new book Kiss Carlo is fantastic. My review will post on June 21st.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro

The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
Published by St. Martin's Press ISBN 9781250087515
Hardcover, $26.99, 400 pages

Author Julia Fierro garnered critical praise for her debut novel, Cutting Teeth, about a group of preschool parents and a weekend they spend together on Long Island. (My review is here.)

She managed to corral a large group of characters and make them believeable and interesting. In her new novel, The Gypsy Moth Summer, we once again get a multi-character saga, this time set in 1992 Avalon Island, a stand-in for Long Island.

Leslie has been estranged from her wealthy parents since she married Jules, an African-American man. Leslie and Jules have two children- handsome, sensitive teenage Brooks and toddler Eva. When Leslie inherits her parents' large estate in Avalon, she moves her children and a reluctant Jules back to her now-crumbling family home.

Jules is less than excited, but he is a landscape architect and the beautiful gardens on his in-laws' estate seduces him. What he could do with those gardens! But he fears Leslie is hiding something from him too.

Jules is also concerned about his son Brooks. There aren't many black families on Avalon, and when Brooks becomes involved with Maddie, a 16 year-old with an alcoholic mother, and a father who berates (and beats) her and her brother Dominic, Jules' antenna is raised.

Maddie's grandfather is the Colonel, a man who holds an important position at Grudder Aviation, a company that made its upper echelon millionaires off the many years of government contracts they procured.

The effects of aging are taking its toll on the Colonel, and his wife Veronica can't hide his condition forever. Veronica doesn't trust Leslie, believing that she has come home to cause trouble for Grudder, so she intends to use Maddie's relationship with Leslie's son to uncover Leslie's plans.

Once again, Fierro writes multi-faceted characters, and each person's point of view is distinct. We understand why they do the things they do. Fierro creates such empathy for each of her characters, even the ones you may not particularly like.

You'll be transported back to your own teenage summer romances as Fierro gets those feelings and the 1992 atmosphere pitch-perfect. (The 1992 presidential race, the clothes and the food will bring back memories.)

Fierro has many balls in the air here, and she juggles them all with admirable skill. The Gypsy Moth Summer deals with family issues, class distinctions, race issues, summer romance, the military complex, corporate pollution and yes, a gypsy moth invasion that overshadows everything happening in the summer of 1992. I highly recommend The Gypsy Moth Summer, it will be one of the most-talked about books of the summer.

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

Julia Fierro’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Wednesday, May 31st: BookNAround
Friday, June 2nd: View from the Birdhouse
Sunday, June 4th: Writer Unboxed – author guest post
Monday, June 5th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, June 6th: Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Wednesday, June 7th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, June 8th: Bibliotica
Friday, June 9th: Readaholic Zone
Monday, June 12th: Girl Who Reads
Tuesday, June 13th: Suzy Approved
Wednesday, June 14th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, June 15th: Wildmoo Books
Friday, June 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, June 19th: BookBub Blog – author guest post
Monday, June 19th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, June 20th: Anita Loves Books
Wednesday, June 21st: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, June 22nd: Write Read Life
Friday, June 23rd: I Brought a Book
Monday, June 26th: Art, Books, & Coffee
Monday, June 26th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, June 27th: Book Chatter
Wednesday, June 28th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, June 29th: A Bookish Way of Life
Friday, June 30th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, June 30th: Books a la Mode – author guest post

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hillary Clinton at the Book Expo

I was very excited to hear that Hillary Clinton was going to be the keynote speaker at the 2017 Book Expo. I was looking at my email when the announcement came through and I was able to snag a much-coveted ticket to the event.

There was a huge crowd lined up an hour and a half early to get into the venue. The program began right on time (probably because CSpan 2 was carrying it live), and author Cheryl Strayed, author of the mega-smash, Wild, was in conversation with Ms. Clinton.

Carolyn Reidy, the CEO of Simon & Schuster, publisher of the upcoming Hillary Clinton memoir, introduced her, joking that introducing is a relative term when talking about the first female presidential candidate of a major party, former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, since we all know her. She also got a laugh when she said that if only a small portion of the 65 million people who voted for Clinton buy her upcoming book, it will be a massive bestseller.

Clinton received a long standing ovation as she entered, waving to the crowd. Strayed began by asking if Clinton "knows how much we love you, how much you mean to us?" Clinton replied "I hope you know how much you mean to me." Her love and respect for booksellers, librarians and readers choked her up and brought tears to many eyes in the room.

Strayed asked Clinton what her upcoming book would be about, and Clinton replied that it would be about "resilience, where you find the courage to get back up after a painful, really painful experience."

She said that on the campaign trail so many people shared their stories with her. She's learned that "resilience is one of the great gifts to be given in the form of family, friends and faith." She spoke of two people she has been in contact with for years, victims of the 9/11 attack.

One woman was burned so badly, she has had a decade of painful surgeries. Another man was hit by the landing gear of one of the planes. She has kept in close touch with both of these remarkable people, and she said she is "honored and humbled to see how they handle it." That is true resilience in her opinion.

Since this occured at the Book Expo, there was a lot of talk about books. Clinton has always loved reading, and she read every Nancy Drew book as a girl. She liked that Nancy Drew was "such a go-getter- smart, brave, a real role model for me and my friends. She took care of the house, went to school, and solved mysteries."

Clinton also mentioned that she keeps a book log, which contains "every book I ever read as an adult." She read a lot of mysteries after the election- Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, Donna Leon's books and Louise Penny's mysteries set in Three Pines. Clinton gushed about meeting Penny, just like all us book nerds do when we meet a favorite author.

Clinton's talk was captivating and the rapt audience was sad to see it end, but we all look forward to reading her book when it publishes this fall. She even left us a gift on the way out- a signed notecard that now graces my refrigerator.

You can view the entire interview here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Summer Reading Suggestions

Reprinted from the Citizen:

Another Memorial Day has come and gone and we now turn our thoughts to summer reading. It seems to be a good time to escape from the weather, our jobs, current world events and read a good book (or two or three). 

Dorothea Benton Frank’s annual summer book is set during summers at the beach in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. “Same Beach, Next Year” tells the story of a couple who while vacationing at their usual summer condo discover that the wife of the new couple at the complex is the former high school love of the husband. 
Same Beach, Next Year

The couples become fast friends, vacationing every summer, and their families become close as well. But when the old attraction between high school sweethearts appears rekindled, and their respective spouses also become close, trouble ensues. There’s a real beach-y feel to this book, and part of it is set in beautiful Greece, so you get to travel there as well.

Karen White’s “The Night The Lights Went Out” is a romantic suspense story about Merilee, a woman whose husband leaves her for their daughter’s 4th grade teacher. She relocates her two children to a smaller home with a cranky landlady, a hunky contractor, and a fellow mom who is a little too eager to help. When a man is found dead, Merilee’s past comes back to haunt her.  Fans of Lianne Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” will enjoy this one, and the landlady is fantastic character. 
The Night The Lights Went Out

Cozy mystery and cruise fans will welcome aboard Ellie Alexander’s latest Bakeshop Mystery, “A Crime of Passion Fruit” . Jules and her mom own a lovely bakery in a small town near Portland, Oregon. When Jules’ estranged husband Carlos, a chef on a cruise ship, asks Jules to come back and work as a pastry chef for a week, she agrees and brings her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, a police detective, along. 
A Crime of Passion Fruit

A murder occurs and Jules and company are on the case to find the killer. You don’t have to have read any of the previous books in this series to enjoy this one, and you get a peek at life below deck on a cruise ship, along with great food descriptions.

Adriana Trigiani’s newest family saga, “Kiss Carlo” brings us from Roseto Valfotore, Italy to Roseto, Pennsylvania as a young man yearns to become an actor in a post-WWII world. The characters here are fantastic, from the big, loving Italian Palazzini family to Calla Borelli, trying to keep her father’s theatre alive, to my favorite, Hortense, the wise and wise-cracking taxi dispatcher. 
Kiss Carlo

It’s a big, beautiful family story, and whether you yearn to be in a big family or are from your own big family, “Kiss Carlo” is for you. (And soap opera fans should keep an eye out for a cameo from superstar producer Gloria Monty.)

Julia Fierro’s “The Gypsy Moth Summer” drops the reader in 1992 Avalon Island, a stand-in for Long Island. The island is home to an aviation factory with long-term military contracts, and a wealthy enclave of people with ties to the factory. 
The Gypsy Moth Summer

When Leslie’s returns to her the large family estate after a years-long estrangement with her parents, she brings her African-American husband, teenage son, toddler daughter, and a determination to right past wrongs. It’s a beautifully written emotional story, and sure to be one of the most discussed books of the summer. Fierro gets the 1992 atmosphere pitch-perfect.

If your taste runs more to nonfiction, Sally Mott Freeman’s “The Jersey Brothers”, about a navel officer missing in WWII and the quest of his two brothers also serving in the military to find him, is a gripping read. All three brothers ended up in the middle of the most important events of the war, and Hillary Clinton recently raved about the book at the annual Book Expo in New York City. 
The Jersey Brothers

David Grann, author of the classic “The Lost City of Z” has a new book out, “Killers of the Flower Moon” about the murders of members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma and how the investigation led to the rise of the FBI.  In the 1920s, the Osage discovered oil on their land and became overnight millionaires, the richest people in the world per capita. 
Killers of the Flower Moon

When some Osage were murdered, new FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sends one of his best men in to unravel what has been happening there. This one is a page-turner.

Enjoy your summer reading!