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Friday, November 30, 2018

Book Make Great Gifts

Reprinted from the Citizen:

It's holiday shopping season again, and that means it’s time for the annual Books Are Great Gifts column. Books are never the wrong size or color, and they give many hours of enjoyment and enlightenment to the recipients.
There are a lot of great nonfiction choices this season. For the memoir connoisseur, Michelle Obama’s Becoming is a hot seller already and an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Everyone is talking about this one. 

And for those on the other side of the political spectrum, Bob Spitz’s comprehensive biography of Ronald Reagan, Reagan —An American Journey, has also garnered great praise. 
Reagan- An American Journey

If your father-in-law watches CBNC every morning, John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood — Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, about the meteoric rise and fall of Theranos, is the perfect gift. It has been compared to Woodward and Bernstein’s All The President’s Men.
Bad Blood

In the Hurricane's Eye
Your uncle the history buff will dive into Nathaniel Philbrick’s In The Hurricane’s Eye about George Washington’s victory at Yorktown. 

Infinite Wonder
For the science enthusiast on your list, astronaut Scott Kelly has a stunning coffee table book, Infinite Wonder, consisting of the photos he took of earth from the year he spent on the International Space Station. 

If your sister adores HGTV shows, Joanna Gaines’ Homebody will help her decorate her own home Magnolia-style. 

Cook Like a Pro
For your aunt who watches the Food Network while she makes dinner, The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten has a new cookbook, Cook Like A Pro. Add some of your favorite kitchen tools, and you’ve got a great gift. (And maybe she will treat you to a dish made from the book.) 

Night of Miracles
There’s plenty for fiction fans on your list as well. Elizabeth Berg’s lovely Night of Miracles continues the story she started in The Story of Arthur Truluv. It’s a sweet, charming book about the residents of a small Missouri town and it warms the heart. 
The Kiss Quotient
The Proposal

For romance lovers, Jasmine Guillory’s The Wedding Date and The Proposal would make a great double-feature gift. Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, about a woman with Aspergers who hires an escort to teach her about romantic relationships, has also gotten rave reviews.  
The Wedding Date

The Witch Elm
If you have any mystery/thriller readers on your list, Irish author Tana French takes a break from her brilliant Dublin Murder Squad series with her new mystery about a body found buried under a tree in The Witch Elm.  

Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke team up again for the fifth book in their superb Under Suspicion series about a TV producer of a cold case television show in You Don't Own Me.
You Don't Own Me
The Chalk Man
 For those who love a spooky psychological thriller, C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man will give goosebumps.  
Give the fan of Netflix’s Stranger Things a copy of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel The Haunting of Hill House, which is the basis for the hottest series of the same name on Netflix now.
The Haunting of Hill House
All The Ever Afters
For lovers of the Broadway musical Wicked, there are two terrific books that re-imagine fairy tales. You get a different view of Cinderella’s evil stepmother in Danielle Teller’s All the Ever Afters, and Rumplestiltskin’s story is told anew in Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. 
Spinning Silver
Mary Poppins
Books are wonderful gifts to give to children and you can’t go wrong with a picture book for the little ones. Take them to see the new Mary Poppins movie, and pair that with a copy of Mary Poppins (picture book) by Dr. P.L. Travers and Genevieve Godbout. 
If they prefer animal stories, Jonathan Litton and Thomas Elliott's board book Baby 101 — Zoology for Babies is adorable and informative. 
Zoology for Babies
The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden
There are so many fantastic books for middle readers (ages 8-12) these days. Karina Yan Glaser’s heartwarming story The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden continues her delightful series about a family living in New York City. 

The Parker Inheritance
Carl Hiaasen’s hilarious Squirm will tickle children’s funny bones, and Variance Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance tells the story of a young girl who finds a letter in the attic about her grandmother that sends her on a mission of discovery. 

Children of Blood and Bone
Tomi Adeyemi’s Children Of Blood and Bone will satisfy fans of Harry Potter and the Black Panther movie, and has been on the bestseller list for many months. 
Harper Lee’s classic book (and winner of PBS’ The Great American Read) To Kill A Mockingbird is now available as a beautiful graphic novel for devotees of that genre. 
To Kill a Mockingbird
And always remember that books are easy to wrap!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Once a Midwife by Patricia Harman

Once a Midwife by Patricia Harman
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks ISBN 9780062825575
Trade paperback, $16.99, 486 pages

Author Patricia Harman lives in West Virginia and is a nurse-midwife, so it's not surprising that her four novels are set in Hope River, West Virginia, and feature a midwife as the main character.

Her newest novel, Once a Midwife, is set in Hope River just as the United States is getting into WWII. Patience Hester is a midwife, wife to local veterinarian Dan, and mom to four young children. The Great Depression is over, and people are doing better financially.

Patience's friend and midwife assistant Bitsy, a black woman, comes back into town after being gone for almost ten years. She has a young white boy, Willie, with her. Bitsy was Willie's nanny, and when his mom died, Bitsy took him in.

The story is told through Patience's journals, and we see life on her family's rural farm, and the closeness of the small community of Hope River. We also get to see Patience at work, delivering babies in the Baby Cabin built by Dan, just outside her home.

We also learn a bit about Patience's earlier life- an orphan, a suffragette, a union organizer and a widow- which is covered in more depth in Harman's The Midwife of Hope River. (After reading Once a Midwife, I will be reading that one as well.)

Patience and Dan are deeply in love, but the looming crisis of WWII causes a major rift between them. Dan fought in WWI, and he was horrified by the things he saw and had to do. He swore he would never go to war again.

Patience believes that the atrocities that the Nazis and Japanese are inflicting on people cannot go unaddressed. Many people in Hope River are very supportive of the US involvement in WWII, and they don't understand Dan's refusal to even register for the draft.

Dan takes a moral stand and refuses to budge, not even when he is imprisoned for refusing to register. His family also suffers the consequences for Dan's decision. The children are taunted and get into fights, and Patience is run ragged trying to keep up with the farm and her midwife responsibilities.

Once a Midwife gives the reader an insight into life in a small town at this point in history.  We see how people deal with racism, the consequences of taking an unpopular stand, and how small towns come together to support each other in good times and bad.

One interesting topic covered is the use of German and Japanese POW labor in the United States during the war. It's not something that is well-known. The POWs were shipped to the United States, and many of them worked on farms because there was such a shortage of labor with so many men at war. I found that section fascinating.

Once a Midwife is a terrific book for those who like historical fiction, and Harman ties some things happening today in our country with things going on back then that will make you think.

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

Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, November 26th: Into the Hall of Books
Tuesday, November 27th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, November 28th: M. Denise Costello
Thursday, November 29th: Kritters Ramblings
Friday, November 30th: Instagram: @simplykelina
Monday, December 3rd: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, December 4th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, December 5th: Staircase Wit
Thursday, December 6th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, December 7th: What Is That Book About

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
Published by Harper ISBN 9780062319258
Hardcover, $28.99, 496 pages
Adriana Trigiani's newest novel, Tony's Wife, begins in 1932 Detroit. Saverio Armandonada (that's a mouthful!) is on his way to work in the Ford motor plant, along with this father Leone and all the other men in the neighborhood.

Saverio's job is to bolt the driver's door handle on 978 cars every day, ten hours a day, six days a week. On the seventh day, Saverio sings in the church choir. He has the loveliest voice in the choir, everyone said so.

On Christmas Eve, he was all set to give fellow choir member Cheryl a beautiful necklace and declare his love. When his love life doesn't work out as he planned, he gets an offer to audition for a band. His father is furious that Saverio would give up a good steady job for the unknown life as a singer, and throws him out of the house.

Chi Chi Donatelli lives in New Jersey with her family, where they all work in a textile factory. But Chi Chi dreams of being a singer, and her father supports her, even building a studio in their garage to record Chi Chi and her sisters in the hopes of becoming the next big girl group.

Chi Chi meets Saverio, hoping that he can get her record to a music label. They spend the day at the beach, and Tony is smitten with Chi Chi, although she is wary of his playboy ways. Tony is invited to the Donatellis for Sunday dinner, and he envies Chi Chi the warmth of her family. How he wished he had that!

Saverio and Chi Chi both dream of becoming stars, and they fall in love and marry. Chi Chi fears that becoming a wife and mother will force her to give up the life she has come to relish- writing and recording songs, performing on stage with Sav (now known as Tony Arma).

They move to Hollywood, where Chi Chi writes songs and cares for their children, while Tony tours the country and works as an actor in films. Chi Chi wants the traditional Italian family that she grew up with, but it appears that Tony may no longer want that. Can their marriage survive?

Anyone who loves the music of the 1940s and 1950s will adore Tony's Wife. Trigiani names each chapter as a direction in music- Feroce, Crescendo, Teneramente- adding to the authenticity of this engaging story. She even includes song lyrics throughout and a Tony Arma discography at the end of the book.

I found Chi Chi's story so very captivating. She is such a strong woman, a woman who took care of her family's finances and took charge of her career and life, all the time remaining traditional to her family values. I absolutely fell in love with her!

As with everyone, there are ups and downs in Chi Chi's life, happy times and incredibly sad and challenging times too. Once again, the cover art work is astonishing, and the descriptions of family meals and the beautiful clothing so evocative that you use all of your senses while reading this gorgeous story.

Tony's Wife would make a perfect hostess gift if you are traveling for Thanksgiving, as well as a lovely gift during this holiday season. Pair it with a Frank Sinatra record and a bottle of good Chianti as a gift to your best friend as well as for yourself.  I highly recommend Tony's Wife.

Adriana Trigiani's website is here, and you can follow her on Facebook here.

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

Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 20th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, November 21st: Life By Kristen
Monday, November 26th: she treads softly
Tuesday, November 27th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, November 28th: The many thoughts of a reader
Thursday, November 29th: Instagram: @shereadswithcats
Friday, November 30th: Instagram: @sweetbookobsession
Monday, December 3rd: Instagram: @bookishmadeleine
Tuesday, December 4th: Wining Wife
Wednesday, December 5th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary
Thursday, December 6th: Velvet Spade Reads
Friday, December 7th: Instagram: @ciannereads
Monday, December 10th: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, December 11th: Instagram: @storiesandcoffee
Wednesday, December 12th: View from the Birdhouse
Thursday, December 13th: Instagram: @owlslittlelibrary
Friday, December 14th: Always With a Book
Monday, December 17th: Instagram: @direads
Tuesday, December 18th: Instagram: @books.tea.quotes
Wednesday, December 19th: Instagram: @girlwithnoselfie
Thursday, December 20th: Instagram: @createexploreread
Friday, December 21st: Instagram: @strandedinbooks
Wednesday, December 26th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, December 27th: Instagram: @crystal_clears_the_shelves
Wednesday, January 2nd: Lit and Life
Thursday, January 3rd: Based on a True Story
Friday, January 4th: A Night’s Dream of Books
Friday, January 4th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, November 19, 2018

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062668738
Trade paperback, $16.99, 276 pages

If you're dreading your Thankgiving visit home, just be glad that you are not Adam and Marissa, the two main characters in Joshua Max Feldman's novel Start Without Me. 

Adam awakens in the basement of his parents' home, his first visit back home in many years. After years of alcohol abuse, rehab stints and disappointing his family, musician Adam wants to surprise his parents and siblings by making the morning coffee. When he knocks the coffee pot off the counter and it shatters, he takes off, not wanting to disappoint his family once again.

He ends up in a restaurant where he meets Marissa, a flight attendant who is on her way to her husband Robbie's family's home in Massachusetts. Robbie is from a wealthy family, and his father is planning a run for governor of the state.

Marissa and Adam bond over breakfast, and she ends up taking him to her husband's family Thanksgiving. Robbie is unsuccessfully trying to make a living as an independent filmmaker, and he resents Marissa being away so much.

His father is often absent, and when he is there is distant. His mother is overbearing and domineering. Sister Laila is home, and Robbie and Laila instantly revert to their childhood roles once back in each other's sight.

Marissa's family life was nothing like Robbie's. She grew up poor, her mother an addict who frequently left Marissa and her younger sister alone, like the time she left them at a McDonald's alone for five hours on Thanksgiving Day when they were just young children.

When Marissa's sister calls and asks her to come spend Thanksgiving with her family at their mother's home, Marissa resists. She'd love to see her sister and niece, but seeing her mother is not something she is ready for.

After Adam tells Marissa about his former girlfriend, the love of his life, she gives him money for a bus ticket to go see her and make amends. But Adam hasn't told her the whole story.

Start Without Me is a sad tale of two people who try to resolve issues in their past that threaten their future. They both are looking to escape the bad knocks life has dealt them, as well as deal with their own bad choices.

Feldman's writing conjures up some vivid imagery, as when Adam dreams of "the texture and resistance of the keys under his fingertips, the beer residue in the metal mesh of the mic on his lips, the bass rumble from the stage through his torso." You can actually feel that as you read it.

Two important things I learned from reading this book: don't ever ask a band to play "Freebird" and do not hit the call button on an airplane to complain that the tarmac delay (or anything else) is "unacceptable". Both are good to know.

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

Tour Stops

Tuesday, November 13th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Thursday, November 15th: Write – Read – Life
Monday, November 19th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, November 20th: Wining Wife
Monday, November 26th: Instagram: @kate.olson.reads
Tuesday, November 27th: Staircase Wit
Wednesday, November 28th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read
Thursday, November 29th: Instagram: @notthepathtonarnia
Tuesday, December 4th: Comfy Reading
Wednesday, December 5th: Jackie Reads Books
Monday, December 10th: As I turn the pages

Monday, November 12, 2018

Tasting Italy- A Culinary Journey

Tasting Italy- A Culinary Journey by National Geographic & America's Test Kitchen
 Published by National Geographic ISBN 9781426219740
Hardcover, $40, 383 pages

National Geographic and America's Test Kitchen have teamed up for a beautiful coffee table book, Tasting Italy- A Culinary Journey. Combining what they both do best, they take the reader on a journey through Italy, using the food of Italy as the basis.

America's Test Kitchen's Chief Culinary Officer Jack Bishop explains in his introduction how the differing climates of Northern and Southern Italy influenced the way that people in these regions ate. Traditionally pasta is a staple in the south, whereas corn polenta is the staple in the north. Olive oil is used more in the south, butter and cream more in the north.

The book is divided into three main regions- Northern, Central and Southern. The North is bordered by Switzerland, France and Austria and so their food is heavily influenced by those countries. It is surrounded by mountains, and therefore has a cooler climate. Fontina cheese and Nutella are among the most famous products made here.

The book is filled with gorgeous photographs of the region, as well as 100 recipes that the reader can try at home. Savoy Cabbage Soup with Ham, Rye Bread and Fontina and Spaghettini with Shrimp are two recipes from Northern Italy calling to me.

Central Italy, home to Florence, Rome and the Tuscany wine region, is probably what most people think of when they think of Italy. We took a trip to Florence this past summer, so I was most familiar with this section of the book, and I enjoyed reliving some of the best meals we have we have ever had by reading this.

Proscuitto wrapped in melon, figs, bistecca (steak), porchetta (pork) and the luscious Chianti wines can be found here in glorious abundance. The Hunter's Chicken recipe will find a place on my table soon.

Southern Italy has the hottest temperatures in all of Italy. The pace of life is a little slower here and  you'll find tomatoes, eggplants and lots of fish (anchovies, sardines, cuttlefish and octopuses) and not as much meat. The recipe for Eggplant Parmesan looks incredible.

Tasting Italy- A Culinary Journey is a wonderful book to give as a gift to anyone who has traveled to Italy, and with the holidays coming up it's the perfect time. National Geographic covers the fascinating history of the different regions, and America's Test Kitchen perfectly pairs their best authentic Italian recipes with the history. Even armchair travelers will be entranced by this beautiful book.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Tasting Italy's tour.  The rest of the stops can be found here:

Tour Stops

Wednesday, October 31st: Bryanna Plog
Thursday, November 1st: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Sunday, November 4th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Tuesday, November 6th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, November 6th: Wining Wife
Wednesday, November 7th: Getting On Travel
Thursday, November 8th: Staircase Wit
Monday, November 12th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, November 13th: Thoughts From a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Tuesday, November 13th: Traveling Between
Wednesday, November 14th: Man of La Book
Thursday, November 15th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, November 16th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

Family Trust by Kathy Wang
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062866257
Hardcover, $6.99, 400 pages

Kathy Wang's fantastic novel Family Trust opens with Silicon Valley resident Stanley Huang being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Divorced from his first wife Linda, married to his second, decades-younger wife Mary, father to two grown children, Fred and Kate, suddenly Stanley's life is turned upside down.

Each chapter is narrated by one of the main characters- Linda, Fred, and Kate take the lead, with Stanley and Mary each taking on a smaller role. Linda has been divorced for many years, and has decided to take the advice of her friends and try online dating with Tigerlily, a dating service geared towards Asians.

She connects with Winston online and he seems to be the opposite of Stanley. Winston appears to be an open, caring, outgoing man. Stanley was prone to violent outbursts, sometimes frightening his children.

Linda was the financial wizard in the family, and although Stanley liked to portray himself as worth millions, Linda had her doubts. She kept pushing Fred and Kate to talk to Stanley and get information about his will. Whenever the topic was brought up, Stanley was very vague about details.

Fred worked in finance, but he felt stuck in his role at Lion Capital. When an old college friend dangles a huge opportunity in front of him, Fred finally feels that his luck may be changing.

Kate is married to Denny, and a mom to two young children. She works for X Corp, a huge Silicon Valley company, where she has been for several years and is a valued employee. Denny is trying to get a startup going, with little success (or ambition) so far.

Fred and Kate both could use the money from their father's will to make their lives easier. Linda fears that Stanley will leave most of his money to his new wife, leaving their children out in the cold.

I found Linda's story to be the most intriguing. She is a smart, tough, hardworking, clear-eyed woman. Her interactions with her circle of female friends and her sharp-tongued observations made me laugh.

Mary had one chapter to tell her story and I found it surprising. Up to this point, we only saw her through the eyes of the others, it was a revelation to see her innermost thoughts.

Family Trust is a remarkable novel. Each character's story draws the reader in, and each person''s story could stand on their own in their own novel. The ingenious way that Wang weaves their stories together is a marvel.

It is a novel about a family who came to here to find the American dream. Both Stanley and Linda worked hard to make a good life for their children, pushed them to go to good schools and be successful. It has been compared to The Nest and Crazy Rich Asians, both of which I read and enjoyed, but Family Trust is the best of the three. Wang successfully combines humor and pathos in a deeply rich novel.

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

Instagram Features

Tuesday, November 6th: Instagram: @kate.olson.reads
Wednesday, November 7th: Instagram: @tbretc
Thursday, November 8th: Instagram: @diaryofaclosetreader
Sunday, November 11th: Instagram: @booksugar
Monday, November 12th: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks
Tuesday, November 13th: Instagram: @the_grateful_read

Review Stops

Tuesday, November 6th: BookNAround
Thursday, November 8th: bookchickdi
Friday, November 9th: Man of La Book
Monday, November 12th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, November 13th: Literary Quicksand
Wednesday, November 14th: Instagram: @writersdream
Thursday, November 15th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Monday, November 19th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, November 20th: As I turn the pages
Wednesday, November 21st: She Reads With Cats