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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

October Books From the Book Expo

Once again I attended the Book Expo in May at the Javits Center and brought home lots of fantastic books. These are the books that published in October- some YA, memoir and literary fiction among them. (Click on the publisher links for more information on each book.)

1) Fans of Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give have their next read in Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal's I'm Not Dying With You Tonight. Lena and Campbell are two high school students who don't know each other, and don't have much in common. One night, a horrible incident at the football game leads to a night of dangerous chaos in their town. They must work together to make it home safely, but can they do it? Published by Sourcebooks Fire.

2)  Saeed Jones' memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, was one of the Editors' Buzz Books on day one of the Book Expo. This week it was chosen as the Nonfiction winner of the prestigious Kirkus Prize. Praise for Jones' recounting of life as a gay man in the south, living with his religious mother and grandmother, has been effusive from all who have read it. Published by Simon & Schuster.

3) Ruta Sepetys latest YA novel, The Fountains of Silence,  is a big book set in 1957 Madrid. It tells the story of four people- Daniel, Ana, Rafa and Puri- as they try to survive and thrive under the despotic rule of Francisco Franco. This one has garnered much praise as well from critics, and Philomel Books publishes it.

4) Curdella Forbes's debut novel, A Tall History of Sugar is also set in the 1950s, but in the country of Jamaica. Moishe has a disfigurement that makes it impossible to tell what race he is. Arrienne loves Moishe from childhood and vows to protect him from those who mean to hurt him. The novel follows their lives through the context of Jamaica's colonial legacy. Akashic Books publishes it.

5) Carol Anshaw's latest novel is Right After the Weather, examines the aftermath of a violent incident. When Cate comes upon her friend being assaulted in her own home, what happens next changes her, and other people's view of her, forever. Atria publishes this haunting novel.

6) Susan Isaacs is back with another sexy, funny mystery set in the suburbs of Long Island in Takes One To Know One. Corie Geller retired from the FBI at age 35, married a judge, and became an instant mom to his 14 year-old daughter. Life is serene until she begins to believe that someone in her weekly lunch group is acting suspiciously. Is Corie just bored or is she on to something? Read it to find out. Published by Atlantic Monthly Press.

7) Aarti Namdev Shahani's memoir, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares, recounts Aarti's family move from India to Casablanca and finally to Queens, NY. Aarti becomes a scholarship student at an elite Manhattan school and her father becomes unintentionally involved with the Mexican Cali drug cartel. It's a relevant, fascinating immigrant story, published by Celadon Books.  

Monday, October 28, 2019

Meant To Be Yours by Susan Mallery

Meant To Be Yours  by Susan Mallery
Published by Harlequin ISBN 978-1335041494
Mass market paperback, $8.99, 464 pages

Author Susan Mallery takes readers to the town of Happily Inc, a destination wedding town in Southern California created in the 1950s by a banker who had seven daughters. By the time the 2000s rolled along, thousands of happy couples, from royalty to Hollywood celebrities and average Americans, have flocked there for the wedding of their dreams.

The town's commerce revolves around weddings, and in her fifth book in the series, Meant To Be Yours, wedding planner Renee Grothen is so busy planning the nearly 75 weddings a year for the company she works for, Weddings Out Of The Box, that she has no time for a personal life.

Renee has not been lucky in love- her first love broke up with her, and then she had a relationship with (unbeknownst to her) a married man. So when famous thriller author and former military police officer Jasper Dembreski takes her home from game night at the local bar, they agree that their hookup is strictly about sex. (You don't have to wait long for a hot explicit sex scene in this story.)

 Jasper decides that he wants to introduce a female love interest for his series detective, so he goes to Renee and asks her if he can shadow her for research. He has decided that the female character will be a wedding planner, and a serial killer will be stalking weddings in his next book.

Renee thinks this is a bad idea, but the owner of the company likes the suggestion, as do a happy couple planning their wedding who are fans of Jasper's books. So Jasper will be learning about wedding planning from Renee, but she has strict rules that he will not interfere or insinuate himself into the process. She takes her responsibility to make couples weddings special, and will not tolerate anything that disrupts that.

I so enjoyed my first trip to Happily Inc and Meant To Be Yours! Even though it is the fifth book in the series, I didn't feel lost not knowing any of the secondary characters. I was able to jump right in and follow the story. (That being said, I liked this book so much that I will read the rest of the series in order.)

Having gone through my son's wedding last year, I was drawn to the wedding planner aspect of the story; I liked learning about all the details that go into the process. And the theme weddings- Scottish, Star Trek, and even an apple-themed wedding- were so intriguing.

Reading about Jasper's writing process was interesting too, and the scene where he took Renee to the library because that is where he spent a great deal of time in school was so sweet.

I highly recommend Meant To Be Yours for anyone who likes a good contemporary romance, it's a great way to wile away a rainy Sunday. You'll feel like you met a new group of friends, and you'll want to visit them again in other Happily Inc books.

Visit Susan Mallery's website here for more info on Happily Inc- there's lots of fun stuff there, including a map of the town and character introductions.

Thanks to Harlequin for inviting me to be a part of their Romance & Women's Fiction blog tour, and providing me with an egalley for an honest review.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

ArchCare Gala Tasting

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.

Each October my husband hosts the ArchCare Foundation Gala at Gotham Hall in New York City. The foundation provides services for the frail and elderly in the archdiocese of New York. This year they raised over $1.4 million that evening, a huge success.

Before the gala each year, we attend a tasting at Gotham Hall to choose to menu. We begin with the floral centerpieces, and this year we chose this beautiful autumn arrangement.

We tasted some of the appetizer choices, including a clever meatloaf & mashed, a white truffle mashed potato ball topped with meatloaf. Our other choices included a confit of duck on a crispy sweet potato hashed brown topped with aleppo pepper- orange jam, coconut shrimp beignets, with a carrot-ginger puree and bonito flakes topping, and for the vegetarians, eggplant "meatballs", and figs in a blanket with goat cheese and poppy, coriander-maple topping.

For our first course, which was plated when we sat at the tables, we chose a salad with citrus (clementine and blood orange slices), cucumber oil poached tomato and goat cheese bon bons (so tasty!)  drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette.

Our entree was grilled filet mignon & butterflied lobster tail, served with a tiny twice stuffed baked potato, asparagus, crispy onions and a bordelaise sauce.  Our vegetarian choice was a delicious pumpkin and wheatberry "risotto", that had roasted apple, thyme, goat cheese, wild mushroom and spiced pepita. I thought it was fantastic.

For dessert, we had a flourless cocolate fondant cake, with burgundy-macerated currants and topped with a vanilla chantilly.
A view of Gotham Hall from the balcony

The table

Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday 5ive- October 25, 2019

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post where I discuss five things that caught my attention this week. I was in Florida for a girls' weekend last week, so this post covers two weeks.

1) I attended the annual ArchCare Gala at Gotham Hall this week, hosted by my husband to benefit the ArchCare Foundation. Along with 500 other people, I saw former NY Yankee Tino Martinez speak a few words. He told a funny story about trying to get Yankees tickets for his former school principal, a nun, and her friends. It was sweet, and anyone who attended Catholic school would appreciate it. The entertainment for the evening was provided by the New York Tenors, who sang three songs and had the audience on their feet. This is a clip of them singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."
Tino Martinez

2) I saw a whimsical tea pot display at the Mackenzie Childs store in New York City. Look at the hands coming out of the wall holding the tea pots, so very clever.

3) This vibrant red sky over the East River greeted me this morning as I got up early to do laundry.

4) I watched the entire season 3 of The Handmaid's Tale last week. I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to finish the last three episodes, and it was so intense that I could not sleep afterwards. My takeaway- the allusions to the Underground Railroad were terrifying, and those Marthas are badass women. 

5) It was a week for biographies about famous women. The first one I read is Janis by Holly George- Warren, which tells the entire life story of Janis Joplin, and I found the second half of the book more interesting than the first, after Janis starting becoming famous. She was a blazing talent, an addict, and a lonely woman.  I'll be downloading her music and writing a review of the book soon.

The second biography is also about a cultural icon- Carrie Fisher. Sheila Weller's  Carrie FisherA Life on the Edge  fully recounts Fisher's life from her childhood to her death in 2017, when she had a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. Fisher was bipolar and addicted to drugs. She spoke and wrote candidly about her struggles in both in her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her brilliant autobiographical stage piece, Wishful Drinking, which I was lucky enough to see on Broadway. (My blog post about that is here.) It's a compelling book, but Carrie's family has recently disavowed it, saying they did not contribute to it. It does make me want to read all of Carrie Fisher's novels and watch all of her Star Wars movies. My review will be up soon, and the book publishes on November 12th. 

I hope you had a great week too, let me know what you've been up to in comments.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062890542
Trade paperback, $15.99, 358 pages

Hannah Beckerman's novel If Only I Could Tell You opens with a prologue set in 1988.  Jess sees her older sister Lily coming out of the spare bedroom that their parents told them not to go into that morning. Lily warns Jess not to tell anyone that she was in there, and when Jess wants to go in, Lily physically prevents her from doing so.  When Jess gets home from school that day, the lives of their entire family has changed, although the reader does not know why.

Flash forward to the present. Lily is now a hotshot marketing professional, in high demand and featured in news stories. She is married to a very sucessful lawyer and they have a teenage daughter Phoebe.

Jess is a single mom to a teenage daughter, Zoe, but her career path has been less successful. She works as a location manager for films, and that means long hours and constantly seeking work. Her widowed mother Audrey has helped Jess raise Zoe, picking her up from school, caring for her while Jess works. Jess hasn't spoken to her sister Lily in years, angry over the fallout from that day in 1988.

Audrey is ill, hiding the seriousness of it from her daughters. She has recently moved in with Jess, reasoning that Jess and Zoe need her more than Lily's family does. Audrey would like nothing more that to see her daughters reconcile, and for her granddaughters to get to know each other.

It took me a long time to get into If Only I Could Tell You. The author constantly references that something big happened on that day in 1988, but it isn't until about halfway through the story that we find out what occured.

That's when the book really came together for me. Just as I was getting annoyed, the author turns everything on its head, and I have to say I did not guess at the reveal. I actually gasped out loud.
Many books have a secret at its core to keep the reader interested, and this one was heartbreaking.

If you like family drama, If Only I Could Tell You will be a good read for you. The characters are well-drawn, and the family dynamic was realistic. It is emotional, and it deals with something traumatic, so if that upsets you, I would suggest maybe not reading it. I admit to tearing up in more than a few places.

Fans of Jodi Picoult's books will want to pick up If Only I Could Tell. I recommend it.

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

Instagram Feature

Tuesday, October 15th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read
Wednesday, October 16th: Instagram: @downtogetthefictionon
Thursday, October 17th: Instagram: @kmc_reads
Friday, October 18th: Instagram: @jennsbookvibes
Sunday, October 20th: Instagram: @readingmama_reviews
Monday, October 21st: Instagram: @kraysbookclub
Tuesday, October 22nd: Instagram: @beauty_andthebook_

Review Stops

Tuesday, October 15th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, October 16th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, October 17th: Instagram: @libraryinprogress
Friday, October 18th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Monday, October 21st: Instagram: @book.hang.o.ver
Tuesday, October 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, October 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark
Thursday, October 24th: Instagram: @sunflower_book_lover
Thursday, October 24th: Girl Who Reads
Friday, October 25th: Always With a Book
Tuesday, October 29th: Instagram: @babygotbooks13
Wednesday, October 30th: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Thursday, October 31st: Literary Quicksand
Friday, November 1st: Write – Read – Life
Monday, November 4th: Instagram: @storiesandcoffee
Friday, November 8th: Comfy Reading

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday 5ive- Catching Up

The Friday 5ive is a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention that week. The last few posts have been about our trip to Italy, so I've got some catching up to do.

1) Our annual team trip to the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy was in September. This year, we had a outing to see the Broadway Ain't Too Proud to Beg, about the R&B group The Temptations. It was a fantastic show! If you've ever seen The Jersey Boys, you must see Ain't Too Proud To Beg. There's so much about the evolution of the Temptations that I didn't know. Members came and went, drug abuse, dissension in the ranks about the direction of the group, it's all here. You'll know most of songs (and want to sing them, but please don't do that during the show) and the choreography is phenomenal. It was a thumbs-up from all seven of us. You can get more information and tickets here.

2) We had another guest visit us and we took the tour of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Little Italy. It was so interesting, our tour guide Mike was great.  We got to go upstairs and see behind the massive pipe organ that has over 2600 pipes. It is massive! The highlight of the tour is going into the catacombs where several bishops and wealthy patrons are buried. The tomb that caught my eye was for Countess Annie Leary, a wealthy heiress who, when she died in 1919, donated a great deal of her money to the Archdiocese of New York, including $200,000 to build the sacristy at the new St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Ave. She was supposed to be buried in a vault there, but for some reason it didn't happen.  She had fabulous parties at her Fifth Avenue townhouse and was reported to be a hoarder. There is a story in the New York Times about her here, I'm going to try to find a book about her. Tickets for the tour can be found here.
The catacombs

The view of Old St. Patrick's from the choir balcony

3) We took our visitor to Sant Ambroeus to get some gelato after dinner and when we came out of the restaurant, I spied Billy Joel sitting on a bench outside. If I had know he was there, we would have bought him a gelato too.
Billy Joel

4) Singer/actress/dynamo Kristin Chenoweth visited the Barnes & Noble Upper East Side to promote her new CD For The Girls. She was interviewed by Frank Dilello from NY1, and then signed copies of the CD. She talked about choosing the songs for the CD (so many had to be cut), the time when seven-year-old Ariana Grande came backstage when Kristin was in Wicked on Broadway (and now Ariana does a fabulous duet of Lesley Gore's You Don't Own Me on the CD), and how her father told her she forgot to wear pants on the cover of the CD. I play For The Girls constantly, I love all the songs on it.

5) I've been reading a great deal since we got back from Italy, and one of the best books I read is J. Ryan Stradal's The Lager Queen of Minnesota, about a young woman raised by her grandmother who, when she is at odds with her life, ends up working in a small craft brewery and becomes, yes, The Lager Queen of Minnesota. It's got great characters, (sisters who have a lifelong falling out), a terrific Midwest setting, and Stradal is a fabulous writer. Read this book, I'll post a review soon.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Friday 5ive- The Five Best Food Items I Had in Italy

The Friday 5ive is a weekly post about five things that caught my attention. This week's post is about the five best foods I had on our trip to Italy.

1) On our first night in our first stop of Naples, we had dinner at the Sea Front Pasta Bar. We sat at a u-shaped bar surrounding the chefs making our meal. We had a three course pasta tasting menu, complete with wine pairings. Our first wine was a bright prosecco that made us very happy. The first pasta they made for us was my favorite of the three, a linguine with a very light lemon/olive oil sauce. It was perfection.

2) On day two in Naples, our guide Vincenzo took us to what he promised was the best gelato we'll have in Italy and I'll be darned, he was right.  If you go to Naples, you must stop in at Il Gelato Mennella. It's a tiny shop, but they have lots of interesting flavors, and I can highly recommend the pistachio. It was fabulous.

3) While researching restaurants at our second stop in Sorrento, La Locanda del Gusto had great reviews on TripAdvisor. A small restaurant, with just two dozen seats, the owner and only chef, Chef Carmen, ran a well-respected cooking school for years in Sorrento before opening up her own restaurant last year. We were all very happy with our entrees, including a Misto Salad, Lasagna, and my favorite, homemade gnocci that was light as a pillow in a silky tomato sauce. We went back for a second evening it was so good. Their house wine was fantastic too.

4) We moved on to the small town of Montalcino in Tuscany. Our traveling companions had been to the town many times, and took us to an authentic little old restaurant, Osteria di Porta al Cassero. It was filled with townspeople as opposed to tourists, and we were made to feel very much at home. We started with a lovely Brunello wine, and I ordered the Cinghiale, a specialty of the house. It's a wild boar stew over polenta. I'd never had wild boar and it wasn't gamey at all, rather it melted in your mouth. I made a good choice!

Cinghiale over polenta

5) Last year when we went to Florence, we ate at a terrific restaurant, Antico Ristora di Cambi. No one there really spoke English, and our poor waitress acted out the entire menu that was in Italian. They must have gotten a lot of English-speakers from their great TripAdvisor reviews because this year when we returned, we had the same darling waitress, but she spoke more English and the menu was in Italian and English. We sat near the prep area and watched the owner prepare the charcuterie platters, including cutting the proscuitto right off the leg. We ordered the specialty, Bistecca di Florentina. When my husband tried to order it medium, our waitress shook her head and said "No". They just sear the beef on each side briefly, and then it's brought to your table. They gave us a smaller piece and it was the best beef we have ever had. They serve it on a platter with a side of salt, just the way I like it.

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.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Two under-the radar books

If you liked watching TV’s Parks and Recreation for the description of small-town government, Nina Bocci’s latest novel, On The Corner of Love and Hate is perfect for you.  
Emma Peroni works in the economic development office of her small town in Pennsylvania. Emma’s dad is the popular mayor of the town, and now ready to leave politics and enjoy retirement. He would like to see Emma’s coworker, handsome, charismatic Cooper, run for mayor, and he asks Emma to help Cooper win the election, just as she had done for her ol’ dad.
The problem is that Emma is not a fan of Cooper’s. They have known each other since high school, and Emma feels that Cooper tries to skate by on his charm. She has been picking up his slack at work while Cooper has been courting the voters, and she has no desire to help Cooper even more.
Being from a small community also means the dating pool is smaller than in a big city, and Emma’s love life is less successful than her work life. Her mother would like her to date someone nice (like Cooper), and Emma’s recent dates haven’t exactly been winners, but Cooper is catnip to all women and that does not appeal to Emma. But when Cooper appears to be involved in a scandal, Emma has to come to the rescue.
On The Corner of Love and Hate is a delightful, sweet story, with characters who seem like people from your own small town.
Now that school is back in session, Laurie Gelman’s You’ve Been Volunteered (her sequel to Class Mom) is a timely September read. Jen Dixon has three children, two adult daughters and an elementary-aged son. Her best friend has moved away, and her husband is preoccupied with trying to expand his sporting goods store business.
Once again Jen has been asked to be room mother for her third-grade son’s class, and since she was so successful at that, she has also been asked to head up the volunteer program for safety monitors. As we all know, the better you are at a job, the more jobs you are given. Unfortunately this job is not as easy as class mom.
And once again, readers are treated to Jenn’s hilarious emails to parents about classroom activities, parent/teacher nights and what not to bring to the Halloween party. We delve more into Jen’s life, and I especially liked Jen’s interactions with her aging parents and her loving, supportive husband.
If you enjoy American Housewife on TV, You’ve Been Volunteered is a book for you.
BOOK: On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci
PUBLISHER: Gallery Books
COST: Trade paperback, $16
LENGTH: 336 pages

BOOK: You’ve Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt & Co.
COST: Hardcover, $26
LENGTH: 268 pages