Sunday, August 25, 2019

Many Hands Make Light Work by Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy

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.

Many Hands Make Light Work by Cheryl Stritzel
Published by She Writes Press ISBN 9781631526282
Trade paperback, $16.95, 289 pages

After seeing all the news coverage of events from 1969, like Woodstock and the Apollo 11 moon landing, one can't help but be nostalgic for that time, and that makes it the perfect time to read Cheryl Stritzel's family memoir Many Hands Make Light Work.

Stritzel came of age in Iowa in the 1960s and 1970s, one of nine children born to Joe, an agronomy professor at the University of Iowa, and his wife Marcella. Joe saw that as more young people were going to college, more housing was needed. So they bought up several homes in the neighborhood and turned them onto student housing.

Joe and Marcella grew up during the Depression and their mentality was to do for themsleves. Therefore, the children all pitched in and helped rehab the homes. The youngest children, dubbed "the Littles" pulled nails and stacked wood, the older kids tore up carpets and tore down wallpaper. (One old house had 22 layers of wallpaper!) In the winter, they got up early and shoveled all the sidewalks of the homes before heading off to school.

Having nine children meant being thrifty. They had a commercial milk dispenser installed in their kitchen and bought milk in five-gallon metal cans. They grew green beans, green peppers, and varieties of lettuces in the garden of one home, huge plots of tomatoes in another home, and an entire yard was filled with sweet corn.

They had peach, pear, plum and apple trees. One the more memorable scenes was of the children undergoing preparation to pick the cherries from the fifteen foot Montmorence cherry trees that dominated their yard.

First Mom made plates of pancakes, topped with butter and honey (from their own hives of course), and a single slice of bacon. (The children grew up never realizing that you could have more than one slice of bacon for breakfast.) Then the Baseball team, as Dad called them, donned their equipment-  each had an old metal coffee can with a piece of twine at the top that allowed for the can to hang off their waist so they could use two hands to pick more efficiently. Singing "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma meant that work could begin.

Many Hands Make Light Work is such a delightful, warm-hearted book. The memories (eating Spudnuts donuts after church, Greg sitting at "the Toast Seat" during breakfast, stopping at the A&W restaurant for 11 root beers to go along with the packed sandwiches during a rare family vacation) will bring to mind your own family memories.

The craziest story involved Cheryl babysitting for a family. It should be an easy job- the only child, a baby, would be asleep, and Cheryl could watch TV and do her homework. But as the parents were leaving, they handed her a flyswatter and told her that if the lion acted up, just tap him on the nose. Yes, they had a lion. Not a baby lion, one that was more like a teenager. He slept in the chair in the living room, where Cheryl was to be. That scene was straight up nerve-wracking, but as I was reading it, I thought to myself, yeah, that kind of stuff happened back then.

I can't recommend Many Hands Make Light Work more highly. It brought me joy, made me laugh ,and and made me feel grateful for growing up in my own big Catholic family. If you grew up watching The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, this is for you. I loved reading all about the Stritzels, and if you long for a good family story, pick up this book now. It's one of my favorite books of the year.

Thanks to She Writes Press for providing me a copy of this wonderful book for an honest review.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday 5ive- A Bookish Week

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my eye this week.
It's been a week filled with lots of exciting bookish things.

1) Thursday was our annual Beach Club Book Club meeting. We meet at a fantastic beach club on Atlantic Beach on Long Island. The weather was perfect-bright, sunny and hot. The ladies prepared some appetizers, followed by sandwiches and couscous salad, and ending with these gorgeous and delicious cookies baked by Buttercream and Biscuits. We had a great discussion of Lisa See's powerful novel, The Island of Sea Women.  (My full review is here.) The book is about two best friends, women divers on the island of Jeju, South Korea, and what happens when you can't forgive someone you love because you don't understand. One of the club members has a son who lives in South Korea and that gave an added dimension to our discussion. Many thanks to our hosts!

Beach Club Book Club

2) On Tuesday, I attended a book event at The Corner Bookstore on the Upper East Side for debut novelist Jonathan Vatner's book, Carnegie Hill. The overflow crowd (there were people outside on the sidewalk!) heard Jonathan read from a particularly humorous chapter (a scene about a woman visiting a doctor to consult about cosmetic surgery) of his book. Vatner, in discussion with author Grant Ginder, was inspired by a friend who lived in a co-op on the Upper East Side. His friend would share the emails he received from the co-op board, and Vatner turned that into this hilarious novel about residents of an Upper East Side co-op building that has gotten rave reviews. I can't wait to read it.
Jonathan Vatner

3) The Readerly Report is one of the podcasts that I subscribe to and enjoy a great deal. Gayle and Nicole talk candidly about the books they enjoy, the ones that didn't particularly move them, and other bookish things. They invited me on their show, and we had a fantastic chat about book events we attend, books we're reading, authors we like, and I answered their five questions they ask all their guests. You can listen to it here. And if you like podcasts about books, I highly recommend The Readerly Report, but be warned, listening will increase your To Be Read pile significantly.

4) I found the sign of the week at my local Italian grocery store, Agata & Valentina. While picking up some chicken thighs at the butcher counter, I noticed a sign advertising Filet Mignon from Seneca Falls NY. I was so excited, I took a photo and I know the butcher was wondering what I was doing.

5) In addition to my continued reading for our Italy trip, I read a memoir by Cheryl Stritzel McCarthy, Many Hands Make Light Work. It's about her family of nine children growing up in Iowa in the late 1960s, and 1970s. I loved this book! It's a sweet family story, and anyone from a big family will relate to it. The title comes from father Joe's favorite saying, "Many Hands Make Light Work" as the family owns several student rental homes, and the children spent much of their growing up years doing routine maintenance (mowing grass, shoveling snow, painting) and actual demolition on the homes. There's so much here to enjoy- a big Catholic family who enjoy each other's company, just reading about their daily routine will leave you speechless. Dad is a college professor, and Mom runs the home with an efficiency that is astonishing. Everyone should read this book, and I will have a full review this weekend.

We will be off to Italy next Friday, so I'll be back here in a few weeks with lots more to share with you all. Ciao!

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs

The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062425584
Hardcover, $26.99, 365 pages

You don't need to know anything about sewing to appreciate Susan Wiggs' latest novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, as the sewing circle is not exactly what the name implies.

Caroline Shelby is trying to make a name for herself as a designer, working in New York City for popular designer Mick Taylor. He has used many of her designs for his sucessful line, and Caroline is on the cusp of becoming famous herself as she is entered into a contest for new designers, and poised to win with her creative designs for pregnant women and new moms.

Her new life takes a turn when Taylor steals her designs and then her best friend Angelique dies, leaving Caroline with two young children to care for. Caroline drives Flick, six years old, and Addie, five years old, across the country to her family home in Oysterville, Washington.

Caroline's family takes them in, even though Caroline hasn't been close to them since she left town for New York ten years ago. Her mom and dad own a restaurant on the waterfront, and her two sisters and two brothers are all a part of the restaurant business.

The first person Caroline runs into as she enters the town is the man she has loved since she was a young girl. Will and Caroline were best friends as children, and just as they were beginning to become something more than friends, beautiful Sierra moves into town and sets her sights on Will.

Will, Caroline and Sierra were best friends, until Sierra and Will became a couple and a heartbroken Caroline stepped aside, never telling Will of her feelings. With Caroline back in town, they all resume their friendship, but things have changed.

Caroline comes to love Addie and Flick, and has to decide whether to pursue legal guardianship of them. When she designs some cute outfits for them to go to their new school, the parents at the school love them and Caroline soon finds herself designing children's clothes.

She also feels guilty about her friend's death, and wants to help women who are suffering from domestic violence- thus, The Oysterville Sewing Circle is born. With the help of her sisters and some friends, they create a safe space for women to come and share their stories and get help.

Wiggs creates characters that are believeable and in this time of such discord in this country, it's wonderful to read a story about people who genuinely care for each other and root for each other to win. Even in the conflicts between characters, each one is a good person trying to be true to themselves.

The difficult subject of domestic violence is handled with honesty and dignity, and it reminded me of Dorothea Benton Frank's The Hurricane Sisters, which also dealt with the subject. (My review is here.)

I hope that Wiggs' returns to Oysterville again, as there are more stories to be told here; I'd like to know more about the Shelby siblings. I recommend The Oysterville Sewing Circle for anyone who likes a story of resilience and friendship.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Susan Wiggs' tour. The rest of her stops are here: 

Instagram Features

Tuesday, August 20th: Instagram: @simplykelina
Tuesday, August 20th: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver
Wednesday, August 21st: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_
Thursday, August 22nd: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Friday, August 23rd: Instagram: @crystals_library
Saturday, August 24th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread
Sunday, August 25th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read
Monday, August 26th: Instagram: @tarheelreader

Review Stops

Tuesday, August 20th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, August 21st: Reading Reality
Thursday, August 22nd: Laura’s Reviews
Friday, August 23rd: bookchickdi
Monday, August 26th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, August 27th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, August 28th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, August 29th: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, August 30th: Girl Who Reads
Friday, August 30th: Write – Read – Life
Tuesday, September 3rd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, September 4th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Thursday, September 5th: Into the Hall of Books
Friday, September 6th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

August Books from the Book Expo

Every year I attend the Book Expo, one of the biggest publishing conferences in the country where publishers give out copies of the books they will be promoting in the near future. Each month I will post a photo of the books I picked up that will be published that month.
(June books are here.)
(July books are here.)

Here are the books I picked up that publish in August.

 Karen Abbott's The Ghosts of Eden Park recounts the true story of legendary bootlegger George Remus, who owned 35% of all the liquor in 1921. Mabel Willebrandt, a pioneering female prosecutor sets her sights on bringing down Remus' empire, along with her investigator Franklin Dodge. When Dodge begins an affair with Remus' wife, things get really crazy. This one has gotten rave reviews and sounds fantastic for people who like true crime that reads like fiction.

In thriller writer Karen Slaughter's newest novel The Last Widow, Atlanta medical examiner Sara Linton and her partner, Georgia Bureau of  Investigations Will Trent, are tasked with investigating a two deadly bombings when Sara is kidnapped and Will must save her and prevent more bombings from happening. Slaughter is at the top of her game here.

Lisa Lutz's The Swallows is about "a teacher at a New England prep school who ignites a gender war- with deadly consequences". I loved her last novel, The Passenger, and this one looks to be pretty intense and a little controversial.

Sarah M. Broom' memoir The Yellow House is about the shotgun house she and her family of eleven siblings grew up in a poor neighborhood in New Orleans. Her widowed mom raised her family in that house until Hurrican Katrina came along. It's about race, class, inequality and family and it's gotten great reviews.

Rob Hart's novel, The Warehouse, was chosen as one of the Editor's Buzz Books at the Book Expo. Paxton works for Cloud (think Amazon) that has taken over a large portion of the American economy. Zinnia has gone undercover at Cloud trying to discover exactly what is going on there. It sounds fabulous and a little scary.

In Brock Clarke's Who Are You, Calvin Bledsoe, when the titular hero's mother passes away, a mysterious woman shows at her funeral and claims to be his aunt. She convinces Calvin to accompany her to Europe, where he is followed by secret agents, religious fanatics, and his stalker ex-wife. It's  being called a cross between a Wes Anderson movie and John Irving book, with that odd comic sensibility.

 Rick Moody tells the tale of the first month of his second marriage in his memoir The Long Accomplishment. His hope for a smooth matrimonial start is beset by "miscarriages, the death of friends and robberies, just for starters." Moody wrote the book The Ice Storm, so it will interesting to read his take on a real marriage.

See you in September.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sorbillo Pizzeria

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.

While preparing for our trip to Italy, I read in Matt Goulding's Pasta Pane Vino about Sorbillo Pizzeria in Naples. Goulding spent time with Gino Sorbillo where they make 1500 pizzas every day.
During further research, I found that there is a Sorbillo Pizzeria right here in New York City, so we made a pilgrimage to the Bowery to check it out before we try it in Naples.
The bar area of Sorbillo

The restaurant is small, like most New York City restaurants. My husband was a liitle bit hesitant, he didn't feel like pizza for dinner. When we got there, he and my son started with a Peroni beer, and then we asked the waitress for a red wine suggestion. They have an extensive wine list, and we chose a Brunello from Montalcino which was very smooth. We can't wait for our wine tour there!

We ordered a Proscuitto di Parma e Mozzarella di Bufala appetizer, which was big enough for all four of us to share to go with our drinks. I regret not also ordering the ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers- next time I will.

Three of us ordered pizzas- the classic Margherita con Bufala, Funghi (mushroom) and Bologna (Parma ham, Parmegiano Reggiano, Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil) and they were all delicious. Thin crust, hand-formed, and even though when they brought them you thought, I can't eat it all, yeah, well I did. (OK, I did share a piece, so technically I only ate 3/4 of a pie.) I like that on the menu it list the region of Italy where that particular pizza flavor originated.
Margherita Pizza- a classic

My husband had the Gnocci Alla Sorrentina, potato gnocci with fresh mozzarella in a tomato sauce, and he had the Polpette Napolitana, two huge beef meatballs in a tomato ragu. He pronounced both dishes the best he had and then stated that we would be returning here frequently.

When the dessert menu came, my daughter-in-law and I both pounced on the fried dough with Nutella drizzled on top. Thank goodness we only ordered one for the table because it was huge and it was fabulous. (Yes, we pretty much finished that off too.)
Nutella-topped fried pizza dough

We really enjoyed our meal there, the waitress was very friendly and helpful, and we met a lovely couple at the table next to us. If you find yourself in the Bowery section of New York, I highly recommend a stop at Sorbillo- I'd suggest making a reservation too, as it did get pretty busy there.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Friday 5ive- August Florida Edition

The Friday 5ive is a blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week.
Last weekend we were at our home in Longboat Key Florida for a relaxing four days, and although it rained at some point each day, we still had fun.

1) Our landscaper is doing a terrific job at the house, Leo, Edgar and their crew are keeping the place looking great. We have lots of pretty flowers blooming right now, it was such a lovely sight to see.

2) A few weeks ago we went to see a Beatles tribute band and had a fantastic time, so we tried our luck with a Neil Diamond tribute at the Longboat Key Club. Tim McCaig performed lots of Neil Diamond hits, including songs from The Jazz Singer, one of my husband's favorite movies. He sounded a lot like Neil Diamond, and had the crowd up and dancing all night.

3) Our first stop in Longboat Key is dinner at the Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, and we had our traditional bottle of Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay. We also had a dinner at Euphemia Haye, which has such a beautiful dining room with pretty white lights inside.

4) I have two favorite reading spots in Longboat Key. When the sun is shining, I walk two miles down the beach to the Longboat Key Club and sit under an umbrella by the Gulf of Mexico. The sound of the waves is so soothing. If the weather is iffy, I pull out the big pool chair and read while I float around our pool. It's very peaceful and quiet, an antidote to the craziness of New York City.

5) While in Florida, I read Susan Wigg's latest novel, The Oysterville Sewing Circle, about a young  fashion designer who ends up leaving New York City with the two young children of her best friend in tow. She goes back home to Oysterville, Washington to try and pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and ends up helping women who are touched by domestic violence. It was a good read, and I'll post a review next week.
I started Jenna Bush Hager's newest Today Show Read With Jenna Book Club pick, Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn. Patsy is a Jamaican woman who leaves her home and young daughter behind to try and make it in New York City and reconnect with the woman she loves. It's much more difficult than she thought it would be, and her daughter is so unhappy to be left behind. The writing is just exquisite, and I'm torn between wanting to see how it ends and not wanting to leave this book.

I hope you had a good week, there will be more exciting bookish things coming up in next week's edition.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Friday 5ive- August 9, 2019 Edition

The Friday 5ive is a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week.
This was a quiet week, I didn't do too much outside the apartment and work at the Book Cellar.

1) We have been watching the Showtime series, The Loudest Voice, about Roger Ailes and the ascension of Fox News. It's based on a series of articles in New York magazine by Gabe Sherman and it is very well done. Russell Crowe is unrecognizable and remarkable as the bullying, bombastic, creepy and paranoid Roger Ailes. He will surely be nominated for an Emmy for this. Siena Miller is also fantastic as his loyal wife Beth, and she is also unrecognizable under the makeup. Naomi Watts portrays Gretchen Carlson, who ultimately took down Ailes when she made audio recordings of his constant harassment (sexual and otherwise).  If you want to know how we got to where we are in American politics, you'll find some answers here. 

2) The new Levain Bakery that opened up recently on the Upper East Side has a terrific mural on a wall in their store that caught my eye. It's got lots of the cool things in our neighborhood, but it is missing the Book Cellar. I'm sure it's just an oversight.

3) Have you heard of Yacht Rock? Apparently it's a new name for late 1970s/early 1980s West Coast soft rock (it used be called AOR- Adult Oriented Rock). I've been taking Jenn Sherman's Yacht Rock rides on Peleton bike and loving it. The Doobie Brothers, Christopher Cross, Loggins and Messina, and Michael McDonald, all the music I listened to while tanning in the backyard in high school. My only problem with the Yacht Rock Ride is that I keep spilling my chardonnay while riding. This is one of Jenn Sherman's Yacht Rock playlists- does it make you nostalgic?

4) This week I worked on our Italy trip some more- here are some of the books I pulled out to prepare. I always like to read fiction set in the places I'm going to visit, as well as travel guides.

5) I finished two books this week- Laurie Gelman's You've Been Volunteered and Cara Wall's debut novel, The Dearly Beloved, which I picked up at the Book Expo.
Gelman's book is a sequel to the hilarious Class Mom, about Jen, an older mom who has two grown daughters born during her wilder rock groupie days, and now has a young son in first grade with her loving husband. She is called upon to be the class mom for her son and her funny and sometimes wildly inappropriate emails to the parents in the class had me in stitches. In the sequel You've Been Volunteered, Jen is back as her son's grade three class mom, and that means the inappropriate emails are back! This time Jen is also asked to coordinate the school safety patrol, which leads to misunderstandings and a little mayhem. I only wish there were more of the class mom emails in this second book, but there are still plenty of laughs in this one too. You can read an excerpt here.

The Dearly Beloved is an emotional, moving book about two couples. Set in 1960's New York City, James is a pastor who wants to address wider social justice issues through his ministry, and his wife Nan is a pastor's daughter who has a very strong faith and wants to be a traditional pastor's wife. She also wants children, but she is finding that more difficult to achieve. Charles is James' co-pastor who wants to be a traditional pastor, helping his flock to understand the word of God, as well as with their personal problems. Charles' wife Lily was orphaned as a young girl and doesn't share Charles' faith in God. She wants to be an academic, and finds herself drawn into the problems of the world at large. This is a beautiful book, about faith, love, family and commitment to oneself and to one's spouse. This book will make you think and break you heart. It's one of the best books of the year. 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Pleased to Meet Me by Bill Sullivan

Pleased to Meet Me by Bill Sullivan
Published by National Geographic ISBN 9781426220555
Hardcover, $26, 335 pages

The Self-Help section of the bookstore is filled with books about why we do the things we do- why we eat things that are bad for us, why we are sad, why we struggle to let things go. Now Bill Sullivan, a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology and professor at the Indiana School of Medicine where he studies genetics and infectious disease, has written a book, Pleased to Meet Me, a book that looks at who we are through the lens of science.

In the introduction he asks why some of like "exotic foods and fine wine" while "others want nothing more than a plain hamburger and a Bud Light". Why do some people like to travel while others are homebodies? Why do some people abuse drugs and alcohol? Why are some people fearless and others scaredy cats?

Sullivan believes that many of the answers to these questions actually lie in our individual DNA makeup. In addition to our eye color and whether we are left or right-handed, DNA can affect if we have an aversion to broccoli, how quickly we lose our temper, and even who we choose as a mate. The study of this is called epigenetics.

Beginning in the womb, choices our parents make can affect us before we are born. Studies show that exposure to nicotine can alter sperm, and even maternal stress, abuse, and poverty can create changes in a baby's DNA that can affect behavior for years afterwards.

One of Sullivan's biggest takeaways is that gut bacteria has a huge impact on our lives. There are multiple studies that show that these microbes can influence our food cravings, mood, behavior and even personality.

The other big takeaway is that mice are very important to scientists. In many of these studies, (like the ones that inject microbes from a person suffering from depression into a normally perky mouse making the mouse less active) gut bacteria makes a huge difference in the behavior of mice.

Sullivan cites dozens of scientific studies (meticulously cited in the Sources section at the end) that could seem overwheming to the casual reader, but then he balances them out with multiple pop culture references (Lady Gaga, Seinfeld, Star Wars, and Ron Swanson just to name a few) to keep everybody happy.

There are so many interesting tidbits that you could use as cocktail party conversation- the study of nursery schoolers personality traits that predicts political affiliation 20 years later, acetaminophen has been shown to decrease empathy, birds are better at multitasking than people- that I'm sure my husband was wondering what the heck I was reading as I read these aloud to him. (Why do smokers drink a lot of coffee?)

If you are curious about human behavior (and who isn't?), Pleased to Meet Me, is an interesting book about why we are who we are. I recommend it.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Bill Sullivan's tour. The rest of his stops are here:
Tuesday, August 6th: Amy’s Book-et List
Wednesday, August 7th: Stacy’s Books
Thursday, August 8th: bookchickdi
Friday, August 9th: A Bookish Way of Life
Monday, August 12th: JulzReads
Tuesday, August 13th: Orange County Readers
Tuesday, August 20th: Instagram: @crystals_library
Wednesday, August 21st: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Wednesday, August 21st: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, August 22nd: The Desert Bibliophile
Friday, August 23rd: Sara Ames-Foley
Monday, August 26th: Paul’s Picks
Friday, August 30th: What’s Nonfiction?

Monday, August 5, 2019

Two Historical Mysteries

Reprinted from the Citizen:
Historical mysteries are an increasingly popular category of fiction, and many of these novels begin with real people or a real event that inspires an author to tell a story. Two such books are featured in this month’s Book Report.
Author Beatriz Williams’ The Golden Hour takes the reader to World War II Bahamas. The Duke of Windsor had abdicated the throne as king of England because he fell in love with a twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson, and caused a huge scandal. They marry, and five years later his brother, King George II, appoints the duke as governor of the Bahamas, far away from England. 
Lulu Randolph is a freelance writer for a New York society magazine, and her latest assignment is to write a puff piece about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Thinking she can turn it into a monthly column, Lulu ingratiates herself with the duchess, who takes Lulu into her inner circle.
As WWII approaches, the relaxed lifestyle in the Bahamas changes. Many of the wealthy Americans leave, the extravagant social events lessen, and an unease settles over the island. Lulu becomes entranced by a mysterious man, Benedict Thorpe. He claims to be a botanist, but Lulu has her doubts.
When a wealthy man is murdered, Lulu wants to get to the bottom of the shady dealings going on. She is warned by a friendly bartender that she should leave the island, that she doesn’t know what she is getting herself into. That just makes Lulu more determined, even if it involves her friend the duchess.
There is a second story here as well. We meet Elfriede in 1900, a young mother suffering from a severe case of postpartum depression who is sent to stay at a sanitarium in Switzerland. She meets a severely injured man there, and they begin a deep friendship. How Elfriede’s story intertwines with Lulu’s is another intriguing mystery.
The Golden Hour is a terrific historical mystery, and the unique setting of the Bahamas adds to its appeal. Anyone who is intrigued by the story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor will enjoy this look at a different time period in their life. Williams seamlessly integrates the two storylines, and the characters of Lulu and Elfriede are strong, interesting women.
Laura Lippman’s latest mystery, The Lady in the Lake also has a female journalist as her protagonist, and the murders in the story are based on two real cases. Maddie is a Baltimore housewife, mother to a teenage son, looking for more from her life in 1960s Baltimore. She leaves her husband, moves into a small apartment in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and begins a clandestine affair with a black police officer. 
When a teenage girl goes missing, Maddie helps in the search for her and finds the girl’s body. She becomes intrigued with the case, and befriends a newspaper reporter. She decides it’s time to get a job and goes to the reporter’s newspaper, looking for a job.
Maddie starts out as an aide to the advice columnist, but wants to be a reporter. When the body of a young black woman is found in a park fountain, Maddie thinks there is more to the story, but no one on the paper, or in Baltimore for that matter, cares to find out what happened to a poor young black woman who didn’t have the best reputation.
The murdered woman was involved with a married man, and had to hide their relationship. Maddie could relate to that, as she and her police officer boyfriend had to hide their interracial relationship in 1960s Baltimore.
Like Lulu in The Golden Hour, Maddie doesn’t listen to people who say she shouldn’t get involved. Even her boyfriend tells her to back off, but Maddie is determined to get justice for this young murdered mother.
Lady in the Lake is an outstanding novel, and Lippman gets better and better with each book. Her characters are strongly drawn, from the major ones like Maddie and Cleo, the dead woman, to the minor ones like Tessie, a young woman Maddie befriends, and Bob Bauer, the reporter who interviews Maddie about finding the body.
We see Maddie finding her voice as a reporter and a woman, taking charge of her own life after deciding that being a housewife wasn’t enough for her. I found the newspaper aspect of the story so interesting, and Lippman’s time as reporter brings a sense of authenticity to one of the best mysteries of the year. And like Williams did with the Bahamas, Lippman's Baltimore is an important character in the story.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Weekend Cooking- Preparing for Italy

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.

My husband and I are preparing to go on a trip to Italy at the end of August, so this month I am reading books all about Italy- some travel guides, some fiction set in Italy, some memoirs and some cookbooks.

A few years ago, I reviewed Matt Goulding's Grape Olive Pig in preparation for our trip to Spain, and I really enjoyed his exploration of Spain through its food culture. Now I'm reading Pasta Pane Vino before our trip to Italy. Each chapter is devoted to a different section of Italy, with much emphasis on the nonnas (grandmas) who share their stories. Goulding also gives you a guide of what to eat where- if you like cacio de pepe, go to Felice a Testaccio in Rome. This one will have a lot of post-it notes in it.

Speaking of nonnas, Rossella Rago's Cooking With Nonna- A Year of Italian Holidays shares recipes for each holiday from various nonnas, many of whom have been on Rossella's popular web TV series. The book is filled with gorgeous photos of the food, and what could be better than having an entire cookbook filled with tried-and-true nonna recipes? From the simple "Spaghetti in Wine Sauce" for Valentine's Day dinner to the more labor intensive "Little Hats Filled with Cheese and Mortadella in Broth" there is something here for every skill level.

Another family-oriented cookbook is Adriana Trigiani and Mary Yolanda Trigiani's Cooking With My Sisters-One Hundred Years of Family Recipes from Italy to Big Stone Gap. I enjoy cookbooks that tell a story, and the sisters have filled this gem with family photos and stories in addition to recipes. You'll feel like you are at a family reunion as you read this delightful book. I've had "Ida's Easy Artichoke and Chicken Casserole" and it is a keeper.

Lastly, I'm in the middle of Frances Mayes' See You in the Piazza. Mayes, who authored Under the Tuscan Sun, takes the reader on a journey through small towns in Italy, sharing the best out-of-the-way restaurants, shopping, and places to stay. She also has recipes in here if you are daring enough to try and replicate some of the great chef's dishes. This one is perfect for anyone who wants to be adventurous on a trip through Italy.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Friday 5ive- A Trip Home

The reason that last week's Friday 5ive was an early edition last week was because we were in the car on our way back home to Auburn, NY for a family celebration. This week's Friday 5ive is filled with photos from that trip.

1) We spent some time in the lovely town of Skaneateles and we were delighted that it was Antique Book Show weekend. We used to take our sons when they were little guys to see the beautiful boats, so it brought back so many happy memories.

2) The sign of the week comes from The Blue Water Grill in Skaneateles, where they kindly offer their babysitting services for wives who want to drop off their husbands while they peruse the lovely shops on Main Street.

3) On Saturday night, the Auburn Education Foundation was hosting a fundraiser at Emerson Park with the Cavern Club Beatles, a Beatles tribute band direct from Liverpool, England. They were terrific, they sounded just like the Beatles, and by the end of the show they had the huge crowd up and dancing the night away. It was a blast! You can watch a performance from them on YouTube here.
The Cavern Club Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper's costumes

4) John Lennon's sister, Julia Baird, was at the event to promote her book Imagine This, about growing up with her brother John. Can you imagine my excitement that there was a book signing at the concert? Of course I purchased a signed book, you need not even ask. Julia Baird's website is here.
Julia Baird and me

5) The weekend was so much fun, and it was great to have my whole family together. There's nothing like family. We also managed to get the ol' gang back together to go to the concert, so we got to see all the people we love from back home in one weekend, no small achievement.
Family is everything

San Gennaro Club
I hope you had a great week, and that you spent it with people whom you love.