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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062390011
Hardcover, $26.99, 352 pages
Baltimore is in the news this week, and if you want to get a real taste of what that city is like, turn to the novels of mystery writer Laura Lippman. Along with her Tess Monaghan Baltimore PI series, Lippman's stand alone novels are set in and near Baltimore, including her latest, Lady in the Lake.

Madeline Schwartz is a middle-aged housewife and mother of a teenage son, living a comfortable existence in 1960's Baltimore. But she is not satisfied with that anymore. She leaves her husband, moves to a small apartment in a different part of the city, and begins to look for a bigger meaning to her life.

She also begins a torrid, secret affair with a black police officer. She befriends Judith, a younger woman, and when a young girl goes missing, Maddie and Judith join the search party. When they find the body of the girl, a reporter from a local newspaper interviews Maddie, and Maddie decides to befriend him in order to get a job at the newspaper.

Lippman began her career as a newspaper journalist and Maddie's experiences at the paper have such a ring of authenticity to them that you can smell the ever-present cigarette smoke that permeates the newsroom. The newsroom is a male-dominated bastion, and Maddie has to maneuver her way to figure out how to rise in the ranks from assistant to the advice columnist to real reporter.

When a young black woman goes missing, Maddie asks why this woman's disappearance is less newsworthy. Cleo, the single mom of a young child, was dating a married man of prominence in the community. When her body is found in the fountain of a city park, the police show little interest in solving the case.

Maddie gets to know Cleo's mother, and ingratiates herself with the police detective in charge of the case. Her cop boyfriend warns her to stay away from it, but Maddie wants justice for Cleo.

The story alternates between Maddie and chapters narrated by Cleo, who is speaking from beyond to Maddie. There are also short chapters narrated by others, including the reporter Maddie works with, and a Baltimore Oriole baseball player, that give additional layers of depth to this powerful, immersive story.

You can add Maddie Schwartz to the long list of Lippman's strong and brilliantly drawn female characters, including Tess Monaghan, Lu Brant from Wilde Lake and Polly from Sunburn. I don't know of anyone who writes literary mysteries better than Laura Lippman, and I bow down to anyone who gives a shout-out to The Big Valley. I highly recommend Lady in the Lake. 
Laura Lippman's website is here.

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

Instagram Features

Tuesday, July 23rd: Instagram: @crystals_library
Tuesday, July 23rd: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Wednesday, July 24th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes
Wednesday, July 24th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread
Thursday, July 25th: Instagram: @amanda.the.bookish
Friday, July 26th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf
Friday, July 26th: Instagram: @tbretc
Sunday, July 28th: Instagram: @basicbsguide
Monday, July 29th: Instagram: @givemeallthebooks
Monday, July 29th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary
TBD: Thursday, July 25th: Instagram: @writersdream
TBD: Saturday, July 27th: Instagram: @reading.betweenthewines

Review Stops

Tuesday, July 23rd: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, July 25th: Brooke’s Books and Brews
Friday, July 26th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, July 29th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, July 30th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, July 31st: bookchickdi
Thursday, August 1st: Read Like a Mother
Friday, August 2nd: Instagram: @shereadswithcats
Monday, August 5th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Tuesday, August 6th: Comfy Reading
Wednesday, August 7th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, August 8th: Lit and Life
Friday, August 9th: Julie’s Bookshelf
Monday, August 12th: Literary Quicksand
Tuesday, August 13th: Always With a Book
Wednesday, August 14th: Into the Hall of Books

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday 5ive- July 26, 2019

Welcome to the Friday 5ive for July 25th. It was sweltering hot last weekend, thank goodness it cooled down (and that we have excellent air conditioning both at our apartment and at The Book Cellar where I volunteer.) These are five things that caught my attention this week.

1) Sunday was a scorcher but I managed to take a trip to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to attend a brunch with 60 enthusiastic readers at Cebu Bar & Bistro to hear Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Grunwald talk about writing, the creative process and Lisa's new book Time After Time, which is my favorite book of the summer. It's always good to see Adriana, and she kindly asked me to say a few words about my love for Time After Time, which I gladly did. I handed out my cards to women who asked me about my blog, so welcome new readers! I met two lovely women at my table, Reggie and Joanne, and we shared our favorite authors and books.
I also got to speak with Lisa Grunwald and her husband Steve, and they are such kind and interesting people too, I now feel like we are friends as well. Lisa's publicist at Random House, Karen Fink, took this photo of us, and I enjoyed chatting with Karen as well. Nothing is better than talking books with new people! My blog post about the day is here.

Me, Lisa Grunwald, Adriana Trigiani

2) It was a week for bookish events as two of my coworkers at the Book Cellar (Allison and Rachel) and I attended a talk about historical fiction with writers Lauren Willig, Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb at Shakespeare and Co. on the Upper East Side. The ladies were funny and interesting, talking about collaborating with other authors, how they research, and the importance of cocktails. Willig lives in our neighborhood and visits the Book Cellar, and her latest book, The Summer Country, is set in 1812 and 1854 Barbados and is a fabulous book, dropping the reader right into steamy Barbados. My review is here.
Gaynor and Webb's new book, Meet Me In Monaco is set during Grace Kelly's wedding to Prince Albert and sounds so fabulous, I can't wait to read it. My book club read Gaynor's The Memory of Violets a few years back, and we enjoyed it immensely. Her lovely Irish lilt (she lives in Ireland) is delightful too.
Hazel Gaynor, Heather Webb, Lauren Willig 
Allison and Rachel get their books signed

3) The sign of the week had me laughing out loud. The Meatball Shop has this one outside its restaurant and it perfectly encapsulates this week's heatwave.

4) Lots of us were waiting for Levain Bakery to open its new location a short 12 blocks from our apartment. They sell the most sinful cookies- Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip and Oatmeal Raisin- and I visited them on opening day to get some. I didn't even mind that it poured buckets of rain down on my head as I walked home because, you know, cookies.

5) My husband and I have been watching The Loudest Voice miniseries on Showtime, about Roger Ailes, the man who created and ran Fox News. Russell Crowe is unrecognizable and hypnotic as the bombastic, bullying and creepy Ailes, who was forced out of Fox News for sexually harassing women in his employ.

I hope you have a wonderful and cooler week.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

July Books From the Book Expo

Each month I will share with you the books that I got at the Book Expo that publish this month. The July books are particularly interesting.

The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is a debut novel by Andrea Bobotis. Set in the small town of Bound, South Carolina, Judith discovers that she has inherited everything from her family- "the pie safe, the copper clock, the murder no one talked about." From Sourcebooks Landmark, it sounds like a book to read on the front porch with a cold glass of lemonade.

I read Marcy Dermansky's novel Bad Marie and thought that she was a remarkable writer. In Very Nice Rachel kisses her writing professor and when he needs a place to stay, she invites him home to her large Connecticut where he begins an affair with Rachel's divorced mom. Dermansky excels at writing complicated characters and this "brilliantly funny novel of money, sex, and bad behavior" should continue in that vein. Published by Knopf.

No one is getting more press than Colson Whitehead for his novel The Nickel Boys. Set in 1960's Florida, young Elwood is sentenced to a reform school, Nickel Academy, for an innocent mistake. The academy is supposed to provide "physical, intellectual and moral training" to help the boys grow into fine men. In reality it is a place of horrors where the boys, particularly the black boys, are beaten and sexually abused. Whitehead's last novel, The Underground Railroad, was a powerful novel about slavery in the South, and this one looks to be just as gut-wrenching. It's from Doubleday.

Karen Dukess has a perfect summer book, The Last Book Party, set in Cape Cod and the publishing world of 1980s New York (when times were good and the money flowed). It's a coming-of-age story about a young woman who wants to be a part of the literary scene, until she sees what it's really like. Henry Holt publishes.

I read Lisa Taddeo's nonfiction Three Women, where she writes about the sexual desires of three distinct women- Maggie (who had a sexual relationship with her high school teacher and when she reveals it, she is the one who suffers), Lina (an Indiana thirty-something housewife who has an affair with her high school boyfriend after a disappointing sexual relationship with her husband) and Sloane (a forty-something successful restaurateur who has sex with other men while her husband watches). There's a lot to be sad about here, as the women are not in great relationships, and it is very sexually graphic and brutally honest. Avid Reader Press publishes.

Laura Lippman follows up her fantastic novel last year, Sunburn, with the even better Lady in the Lake. It's set in 1960s Baltimore where middle-aged housewife Maddie leaves her husband and son, has an affair with a black police officer, and becomes a newspaper reporter trying to solve the murder of a young black woman. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and I loved the newsroom setting. It's published by William Morrow.

See you in August!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Brunch With Lisa Grunwald and Adriana Trigiani

Me, Lisa Grunwald and Adriana Trigiani
Yesterday I took a trip to Bay Ridge Brooklyn for a brunch with fans of Adriana Trigiani and Lisa Grunwald at Cebu Bar & Bistro, organized by The Bookmark Shoppe. Close to 60 of us gathered to hear these wonderful authors talk about their creative process.

Many in the crowd were being introduced to Lisa Grunwald, whose novel Time After Time is the highlight of the summer for me. (My review is here.) Adriana Trigiani has been raving about Time After Time on her weekly Facebook Lives, and it sounded so intriguing I had to read it.

Time After Time tells the story of a young woman, Nora, who is killed in a horrific train crash at Grand Central Station in New York City in 1925. On the anniversary of her death in 1937, a railman named Joe sees Nora at Grand Central, looking disheveled and out-of-place, but beautiful. He offers to walk her home, and on the way there she disappears.

Every year on the anniversary of her death, Nora reappears. She and Joe fall in love and manage to create a life within the confines of Grand Central, as they discover that she is safe within those walls.
It's a beautiful love story, one that completely absorbs the reader in that time and place with these two people.

Lisa Grunwald was researching for another book when she came upon a book about Grand Central Station in the 1940s. She found a story about a man who saw a woman there who asked him to walk her home. She disappeared on the way, but the man continued to the address where he found a woman who lived there, and when he told her his story she said that it was her niece, who died a dozen years ago at Grand Central and that this happens every year on the anniversary of her death.

Grunwald did a great deal of research for this brilliant novel, reading every book she could find about Grand Central's history, going on Ebay where she found uniform buttons for railmen, maps, ticket stubs and more. She called it "going down the rabbit hole." Her attention to detail in the book is what makes the reader feel like she is right there.

She spoke of the main theme of her book- how much do you sacrifice for love? Nora is stuck in this one place and if she and Joe want to be together, is he willing to sacrifice everything else to be with her?

Trigiani and Grunwald spoke about their different styles- Trigiani writes a book a year, Grunwald takes three to four years to complete a book. They spoke about the importance of gestating ideas, just sitting and thinking, which is difficult to do in this fast-paced, immediate gratification world we live in.

An audience member asked if the authors know the endings to their books when they begin to write. Grunwald says that she likes to think she does, and 50% of the time she is right. In the new book she is writing, she knows the ending but not the beginning as of yet. Trigiani says she always thinks she knows the ending, then as her deadline approaches, she keeps adding and changing the ending.

It was an interesting event, and I met some lovely people at my table, Reggie and Joanne, and we had a wonderful discussion about our favorite books and authors. If you ever get the chance to meet an author, take it. It's fascinating to hear about the process of writing.

Both Time After Time and Triagiani's latest book, Tony's Wife (which comes out in paperback on Tuesday, July 23rd- my review is here) have stunning book covers, and they are both set in the 1940's. If you want to get lost in a different time and place (and with all the current national discord, who doesn't?), pick up these lovely novels.

I love the covers of these books

Lisa Grunwald's website is here.

Adriana Trigiani's website is here.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Weekend Cooking- It's Too Hot to Turn on the Oven

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.

The weather in New York City and across a large swath of the country has turned oppressively hot, with the temperatures soaring into the 90s. It's just too hot to cook dinner, so I turned to Pinterest to find some recipes that I can make without turning on the oven.

My husband loves Sloppy Joes, and I found a twist on that with Big Mac Sloppy Joes from This Is Not Diet Foods. The recipe is simple, browning ground beef, then adding a little mayo mixed with Thousand Island dressing, salt and pepper to replicate the Big Mac sauce. Toss in chopped pickles and onions, add some shredded cheddar cheese and heat in a skillet. Brown hamburg rolls (which I did in a toaster oven), top with shredded lettuce and you are all set. It really did taste like a Big Mac, which, depending on your opinion of the Big Mac, is a good or bad thing. I'm wondering what it would taste like if I swapped out ground turkey for the ground beef. The recipe can be found here.
Photo from thisisnotdietfoods.com

I was looking for a salad to pair with the Big Mac Sloppy Joes, and I found a recipe for Columbia Restaurant's famous 1905 Salad. We love going to the Columbia Restaurant in St. Armand's Circle in Sarasota, Florida, and frequently we go to share the salad and their scrumptious Cuban bread for a nice lunch. This recipe took us right back to sitting at a table at Columbia, all we were missing was the red sangria. Can't Stay Out of the Kitchen had the recipe posted here.
You start with iceberg lettuce (which my husband loves), add chopped tomatoes, julienned ham and swiss cheese, and green olives. The dressing is a simple olive oil, white wine vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper blend, then you add some grated Romano cheese, a squeeze of lemon and the secret ingredient- Worchestershire sauce. Toss well and you have a tasty side or main dish salad. 
You can find bottled Columbia salad dressing in the Publix in Florida, but it's so easy to make yourself, why would you?
Photo from cantstayoutofthekitchen.com

It's probably hot where you are too, what do you make for dinner when the temperature hits 90 degrees?

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday 5ive- Catching Up

Welcome to this week's edition of the Friday 5ive, five things that caught my attention this week. This post is a catch-up of sorts, with two things that I did a few weeks ago and didn't have a chance to tell you all about.

1) On June 29th I went to see Hugh Jackman at Madison Square Garden in his "Hugh Jackman- The Man. The Music. The Show" tour. I saw Jackman when he did his one man Back on Broadway show a few years back. This show had a few elements from that one, he sang songs from his Tony-winning performance as Peter Allen, he told stories about his life. The big difference here was that he included songs from the movies The Greatest Showman and Les Miserables. He had Keala Settle come on and blow the roof off Madison Square Garden with her rendition of "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman. The Harlem Village Academy school choir joined him for a few songs too, including "You Will Be Found" from Dear Even Hansen. I most enjoyed his medley of classic movie songs, including "Luck Be a Lady", "Singin' in the Rain" , "I Got Rythym", "Stepping Out With My Baby" and "Sing Sing Sing". He really knows how to rock a tuexdo and top hat too. Jackman is a versatile entertainer who just wants people to have a good time, and we all did. Catch his tour if you can, you'll leave with a big smile on your face.

2) I also went to see The Cher Show on Broadway, starring Stephanie J. Block as Star Cher in her Tony-award winning performance. You would swear you were seeing the actual Cher up there, Block is that good. I've seen her in 9 to 5 on Broadway (in the Jane Fonda role), in Falsettos and in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and she is a fantastic actress. I'm so happy she won the Tony. The show features three actresses in the role of Cher- "Babe", young Cher played by just-out-of-high school Micaela Diamond, (who is terrific and we'll be seeing her on Broadway for a long time) "Lady", (Cher of the Sonny and Cher Show years) played by Teal Wicks, and Block as "Star". Jarrod Spector brilliantly plays Sonny Bono, and he sounds exactly like him when he sings. The three actresses interact with each other as Cher, which some people found confusing, but I thought it worked well. The biggest problem is that it's too difficult to tell Cher's 50-years-in-the-spotlight story in two hours and fifteen minutes on stage. Netflix or HBO should do a miniseries on her life. Go see The Cher Show before it closes August 18th.

3) We went to our annual NY Yankees game this week with my brother, who was visiting. It was the perfect night for a game, a warm, sunny evening. The first place Yanks were playing second place Tampa Bay, and the first batter of the game, Travis D'Arnaud hit a home run to right field. He went on to hit two more home runs, including the game winning three-run homer in the 9th inning to beat the Yankees 5-4. At least we had good seats and my soft pretzel was tasty.

Brett Garner and Aaron Hicks in the outfield

4) My husband and I have been totally absorbed by The Good Fight on CBS on Sunday night. We watched The Good Wife when it was on, and we are loving The Good Fight. Christine Baranksi was always the best part of The Good Wife, so I'm happy to see her in the starring role. Cush Jumbo and Sarah Steele are also back from the first series, and their expanded roles here give them room to shine. I don't know why CBS relegated The Good Fight to their CBS All Access streaming network, it's better than any drama they currently have on their broadcast network.
The cast of The Good Fight

5) I'm reading two nonfiction books now- Say Nothing- The True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. Say Nothing tells the story of a widowed mother of ten children who is taken away from her home in Belfast by masked men and never seen again. Through her story, we find out about "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland, as the I.R.A., a militia of mostly Catholic men and women, battle the British soldiers who are there to maintain the status quo for the ruling Protestant minority by any means possible, including brutal violence against the citizens of Northern Ireland. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about that time in recent history.
Say Nothing

Three Women has been a very buzzed-about book for many months. Author Lisa Taddeo talks about the sexual desires of women through the stories of three women. The first is a young woman who had a sexual relationship with her teacher while in high school, and when she reports it a few years later is met with scorn from her community. The second woman is a successful restaurant owner whose husband likes to watch her having sex with other men. Rumors fly in her community about her as well. The third woman is a thirty-something housewife whose husband refuses to kiss her or have sex with her. She reconnects with a high school love and has an affair. This is riveting nonfiction that reads like fiction.
Three Women

I hope you have a great weekend and that you stay cool in this heat.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Weekend Cooking- A Foodie Trip to Boston and Portland

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.

Our family took a trip to Boston and Portland, Maine for the 4th of July. We had so much fun and ate at some great restaurants. (We could have done without the 5 1/2 trip home that took 8 hours.)

On the first night in Boston, our son and his girlfriend took us to srv, an Italian restaurant in the South end of Boston. Their specialty is cichetti, which is the Italian version of tapas. We shared stuffed peppers and meatballs, and as my entree I had Tajarin, a creamy yet light pasta dish with black truffles, asparagus, and parmigiano-reggiano. The decor was beautiful, with the lighting fixtures capturing our attention.
The light bulbs are covered with upside down glass pitchers, bottles and dishes
After dinner, we wandered through Little Italy, stopping at a wonderful 24 hour bakery, Bova's Bakery. Even late at night there was a line and we ended up with an assortment of tasty treats. At least we walked home, burning off some of the upcoming caloric intake.

Too much to choose from

The boutique hotel we stayed at, Boston Yacht Haven Inn & Marina, has only ten rooms on the harbor. All the rooms are on one floor, and in the morning they serve a hot breakfast. Just outside the rooms in the hall we found a huge sideboard with pastries, cereal, and hot dishes like french toast (served in individual casserole dishes) and ham and cheese bake which we ate out on our balcony overlooking the harbor. What a lovely treat! It's a great place to stay, we highly recommend it.
Top- breakfast buffett, Bottom- french toast and ham & cheese bake

On July 4th, we wandered around the waterfront in Boston, stopping for lunch at Trillium, a brewery and restaurant. I chose a tasty burrata dish, served with figs, apple slices, grilled cornbread, crispy proscuitto and drizzled with honey. I made a good choice.
Burrata with apple, fig and crispy proscuitto

There was an outdoor beer garden with food and beverage trucks nearby, so we stopped and I had a frozé- a frozen rosé wine drink that was really an adult slushy- nothing wrong with that.

Next up was a trip to Wegmans (yay!), where we bought burgers and hot dogs to grill. It's very exciting for us because living in NYC we miss barbequeing so much. Our son's condo complex has three grills that people share, and they were working overtime that day, but we got there early and scored a grill and a table. Pasta salad and corn on the cob rounded out our All-American celebration.

The next day we headed to Portland, with a stop for lunch in Kennebunk at Pilot House, right on the water, where we finally got our lobster roll. It was worth the wait, and our waitress was so kind, giving us tips on what to see in Portland.

Restaurants in Portland are tough to get into for lunch and dinner during the summer- a lot of them don't take reservations, so be prepared to wait. We had appetizers and drinks at Street and Co.  Our choices of crab and cucumber salad and eggplant dip with capers and pita were so good, we ordered double. The restaurant is in an old brick building, and the ambience is pretty cool.

We moved on their sister restaurant Scales for dinner, where I had a lobster that was very fresh. The restaurant is huge, and you can pick out your lobster if you like, they have them in a big floor tank up front. The decor is modern, light and airy, with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and a huge bar area.

Speaking of bars, we found an Irish pub, RiRa- The Irish Pub and enjoyed a drink or two and a chat with the friendly Irish bartender. A band was coming in to play just as we were heading to dinner.

On day two, my husband headed out to bring back donuts from Holy Donuts, where the secret ingredient is mashed potatoes in the batter. I know what you're thinking, but trust me, it works.
Holy Donuts

We had a fabulous dinner at Fore Street, a farm-to-table restaurant where the menu changes daily, depending on what the chef can find fresh that day. The kitchen is very open, and we got a table right in front, where we could see a sous chef preparing the salads. We were mesmerized for the entire meal. I had the roasted half-chicken, one of their specialties, but the highlight for me was dessert- a pistachio ice cream bar, drizzled with a caramel sauce. it was the perfect ending to the meal and our trip to Portland.
Pistachio bar
We could see everything going on in the kitchen

The salad ingredients are kept in a glass walk-in cooler

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday 5ive- 4th of July Edition

I missed posting a Friday 5ive last week, but I have a good excuse- we were in Boston with our family! So this week's edition is a road trip to Boston and Portland, Maine.

1) One word- boats! We stayed at a beautiful boutique hotel, The Boston Yacht Haven Inn and Marina, right on the harbor in Boston, just a short ten minute ferry ride to see our family in Charlestown. Directly  outside our window were stunning yachts, including this one- the Invictus. It looked like a cruise ship, not a yacht. We looked it up and found out that you and 11 of your closest friends can rent the yacht for a mere $600,000 per week. Stay for a month, you can afford it.
The Invictus

2) Boats- Part 2- The USS Constitution is docked in the Charlestown Navy Yard. It's the oldest commissioned naval ship and you can visit the ship and museum. On July 4th, the ship circled the harbor and it was pretty majestic to see it moving through the water.
The USS Constitution

3) From Boston we made our way up to Portland, Maine. There are so many cute little mom-and-pop shops and fabulous restaurants. We took a boat tour of the city, and then visited the Portland Head Light at Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth.  There are plenty of picnic areas and a few food trucks too. The views from the lighthouse are stunning, I highly recommend a trip there if you go to Portland.
Our team at the lighthouse- this is the spot for the photo

4) When our sons were little guys, they loved fire trucks. Whenever a fire truck went down our street, the boys, their dad, and our dog Malcolm would take off running to see what was happening. Portland has a tour that takes place on a renovated fire truck, and all I could think of when I saw it was that my guys would have loved to do this when they were little. They weren't so keen on it now that they are older.
Vintage Fire Truck tour

5) The guys did however want to go to Bissell Brothers Brewery. I've never been to a brewery (I'm not a beer fan, ten cent Genny screamers when I was in college cured me of that), but I found it very interesting. It is a true family affair, with lots of parents and their little children there. (Maybe they should put in a play area.) There were all age groups there as well, parents and grandparents, I found that fact fascinating. They had a food window before went into the brewery itself, with some tasty looking nachos being served that day. The guys were hoping to score some of Blowing Smoke cans of beer that Bissell Brothers made in conjunction with a Brooklyn brewery, The Other Half. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Blowing Smoke

Bonus: Tomorrow I will have a special edition of Weekend Cooking, with some of the great restaurants we visited.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

More Great Beach Reads

Reprinted from the Citizen:

With the 4th of July behind us that means summer reading is now in full swing. Nothing beats grabbing a cold glass of lemonade, a good book and getting some sun. Don’t forget the sunscreen because these three books I’m recommending will have you glued to your beach chair until you finish them. 

Linda Holmes has written a charming debut novel, “Evvie Drake Starts Over”. Evvie is packing up her car to leave her emotionally abusive husband and her small hometown of Calcasset, Maine, when she gets word that her husband has been killed in a car accident.  

No one knows she was going to leave, including her loving single dad who raised her on his own, or her best friend Andy, who is raising his two young girls alone since his wife left the family.

Evvie seems stuck. She is living in a big house that she never liked, with a job transcribing research that she does from home. She helps Andy with his two girls, whom she adores, but that is the extent of her social life. 

Andy has a friend, a major league baseball pitcher for the New York Yankees who has lost his mojo. He can no longer pitch at all, every pitch thrown wildly, and no one has been able to help him fix his problem. With New York media and fans being brutal, Dean is looking to escape.

When Andy suggests that Dean move into the spare apartment Evvie has in her house, she reluctantly agrees. Evvie and Dean get to know each other, but they both agree that the topics of baseball and her marriage are off limits. Watching their relationship develop is sweet.

“Evvie Drake Starts Over” is a heartwarming story, and if you are someone who enjoys baseball and a good romantic story in a small town setting, this one is for you. Jenna Bush Hager chose this as her July pick for her Today Show Book Club.

Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of summer novels, and this year’s entry, “Summer of ’69” even has summer in the title. Hilderband and her twin brother were born in July of 1969 and so she used that for this intriguing family story that takes place over one summer. 
Elin Hilderbrand at the Book Expo NYC

Kate is distraught that her only son Tiger has been sent off to fight in Vietnam. Her first husband fought in the Korean War, came back home, and committed suicide. She worries constantly, and has turned to drinking, which upsets her second husband.

Oldest daughter Blair is married and very pregnant with twins. Blair’s marriage is troubled and she doesn’t know what to do. Second daughter Kirby was arrested at a peace protest in college and is hiding that fact from her parents. She also became romantically involved with a policeman, and something bad happened there.

Youngest daughter Jessie is thirteen and trying to maneuver through the summer while staying at her grandmother’s summer home in Nantucket. Hilderbrand does a fabulous job writing from Jessie’s point of view, bringing you right back to the days when you were thirteen.

Hilderbrand also manages to weave in two historic events from July of ’69- the Apollo 11 moon landing (Blair’s husband works for NASA) and the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Senator Ted Kennedy’s car, which happened on Martha’s Vineyard that same week. (Kirby works at the Shiretown Inn where Senator Kennedy was staying on that evening.)

“Summer of ’69” is Hildebrand’s best book yet, an emotional family drama.

Jean Kwok’s “Searching for Sylvie Lee” is a mystery and a family drama. Sylvie is a successful first generation Chinese-American daughter living in New York City. As a young child, she was sent to live with her aunt, uncle and grandmother in the Netherlands. She has returned to the Netherlands to be with her dying grandmother and try to fix her life, which is falling apart, but her family doesn’t know it. 

When she disappears, her introverted younger sister Amy goes to the Netherlands to find out what happened. The story is told from the point of view of Sylvie, Amy, and their mother, who only speaks Chinese. 

Family secrets are revealed, and Kwok’s story shares what the immigrant experience is like for people who don’t speak the language and are looking to build a better life through hard work. We also see the family dynamics that threaten to destroy them.

“Searching for Sylvie Lee” is brilliantly written, heartbreaking, and Jenna Bush Hager recently chose it for her Today Show Book Club. 

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Summer of ’69” by Elin Hilderbrand- A-
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Searching for Sylvie Lee” by Jean Kwok- A
Published by William Morrow
Hardcover, $26.99, 317 pages