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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Book Are Great Gifts Holiday Guide

Reprinted from the Citizen:
Thanksgiving is this week, and that means that Christmas shopping officially begins as well. Books make the best gifts — they are never the wrong size or color, and they are easy to wrap, even for the most gift-wrapping-challenged among us. And so I present the annual Books Are Great Gifts Guide.
If you’re looking to give a gift for an entire family, National Geographic has a wonderful collection of coffee table books filled with gorgeous photos and interesting facts. There’s Epic Journeys for the world (or armchair) travelers, and Atlas of National Parks for those who prefer to visit our nation’s parks. Almanac 2020 is filled with fun facts and photos about the world around us. 

For the biography aficionado on your list, Edmund Morris’ Edison dives deep into the life of the famous inventor. Ed Stack, the founder of Dick’s Sporting Goods (which began in Binghamton), recounts his own story in It’s How We Play the Game. Pair Sheila Weller’s Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge with some of Fisher’s own books for a great gift. 
There are many biographies of musical icons out as well: Elton John’s autobiography Me is topping the bestseller list now, as is a biography of Prince, The Beautiful Ones by Dan Piepenbring. Holly George-Warren’s biography Janis: Her Life and Music takes the reader inside Janis Joplin’s short and intense life. Add a CD of the artist’s music, and you have a great gift.

For the chef in your life, there is a new edition of The Joy of Cooking that updates 600 recipes for today’s chef. For the Food Network fan, Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman: The New Frontier has 112 recipes for everyday cooking. Wrap it in a pretty tea towel and you’re done. 
Fiction this season is all about sequels. Elizabeth Strout brings back Olive Kitteridge from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name in Olive, Again, which continues the cantankerous Maine woman’s story. Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments picks up life in Gilead 15 years after her 1985 book The Handmaid’s Tale. Fans of the Hulu show will want to read this one. 
If your fiction reader prefers historical novels, Jojo Moyes’ The Giver of Stars is about a group of female librarians during the Great Depression who deliver books to rural residents of Kentucky, although there are people who are trying to stop them. 
For the romance fan, Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is about a young female Texas firefighter who moves to Boston with her mother, and finds male firefighters there not as welcoming — except for one handsome rookie. Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over is about a young widow who takes in a Major League Baseball player with a case of the yips. 
Mystery fans love new books from their favorite authors. David Baldacci’s One Good Deed takes place in 1949, as a World War II vet on parole from prison takes a job that becomes complicated. Harlan Coben’s Run Away is about a father who finds his missing daughter busking for money in Central Park, and this endangers all their lives. Fan favorite Mary Higgins Clark’s Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry tells the timely tale of two women who accuse a TV newsman of sexual harassment and end up dead. 
Books make wonderful gifts for children, and older teens will love Ruta Sepetys’ The Fountains of Silence, about young teens trying to survive life during the brutal rule of Francisco Franco in 1957 Madrid, Spain. Katherine McGee’s American Royals posits that George Washington was named king of the United States, and his descendant, Princess Beatrice, is preparing to take the throne in modern times. Graphic novel fans will enjoy Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks’ Pumpkin Heads, about two teens who work in the same pumpkin patch every autumn
Middle grade readers also like graphic novels, and Raina Telegmeier’s Guts is about a young girl whose worrisome nature gives her a constant stomachache. James Patterson’s new Max Einstein novel, Rebels With A Cause, will be a hit, and Dav Pilke’s newest Dog Man book, Brawl of the Wild, is a favorite among youngsters. 
For the youngest children, you can celebrate Sesame Street’s 50th birthday with Cookie Monster’s Foodie Truck. Pair that with Little Blue Truck’s Christmas for a truck-themed gift. Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager have teamed up for Sisters First, a charming story about the love between two sisters. 
Happy Thanksgiving, and happy shopping!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The New Milk Bar

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.

After we finished our fun and exciting experience at Mission Escape Games last weekend (my first time doing one), we headed over to the newest edition of Milk Bar. I've been to the Milk Bar near Union Square, but this one is a much larger space and is called their Flagship Store.

When you walk in, a greeter leads you to the display case and gives you a menu. You move along in a cafeteria line, past their famous cookies- Conflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow, Blueberry & Cream, and my favorite, Compost Cookie. The Compost Cookie has everything- chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, potato chips, pretzels, oats and coffee. It's so good!

They have their famous Milk Bar Pie, their delicious cakes (Birthday Cake is popular) and their seasonal Pumpkin Dulce de Leche. Their truffles (Birthday Cake, Chocolate Birthday Cake and more) are a big take-out treat.
Birthday Cake Slices

New to Milk Bar are their savory treats. They make Pepperoni Bombs, Bagel Bombs, Italian Hero and Eggplant Parm Bombs. Each round, pillowy pastry has a filling inside that's just enough for a snack, a little less than a meal. I had the Pepperoni Bomb and quite enjoyed it. I also tried their seasonal Turkey Croissant, filled with turkey, cranberry, and herbs. It tasted just like Thanksgiving!
Truffles and Savory Bombs

This Milk Bar features a Build-A-Pint for $15, you can choose your flavor of ice cream and add toppings. Next time I will bring one of those home for dessert.

They also carry soft serve ice cream, milkshakes, milkquakes (shakes with add-ins) and  flavored lattes. One of our group got the Apple Pie soft serve and it had a wonderful apple flavor, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon.

The display case of cakes is a sight to behold, filled with so many gorgeous cakes that are sure to taste as good as they look.

Cakes as far the eye can see
They even have classes there where you can learn to bake your own Milk Bar cake to take home.

If you are fan of Milk Bar, or of bakeries in general, make sure to stop by Milk Bar Flagship in New York City, not too far from Penn Station.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday 5ive- November 22, 2019

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post where I share five things that caught my attention this week.

1) The fabulous Kristin Chenoweth spent a week at the Nederlander Theatre performing songs from her wonderful CD For The Girls. I love my signed copy that I got when I met her at Barnes & Noble where she shared some great stories with the audience. Her show was amazing, and she had special guest stars at each performance. We were lucky enough to get gospel singer CeCe Winans, who sang one solo song, and then she and Kristin blew the roof off the theatre with their duet of How Great Thou Art. Kristin performed a duet with the current Glinda from Broadway's Wicked (Kristin was the original Glinda) and then she invited a young woman from the audience to come up and sing a duet of Popular with her. The seventeen year-old was astonishing. I'll have more in a future blog post, but let me say, if Kristin Chenoweth is performing near you, you must go see her. For The Girls is on constant repeat at my apartment- I adore it!

2) On Sunday, I was invited to go to an Escape Room with my daughter-in-law, nephew's wife, and another nephew's girlfriend. I'd never done an escape room before, but these women were veterans. You are locked in a room and have to figure out a set of clues that lead you to another set of clues and on and on until you solve all the clues or your time of one hour is up. The scenario was that we had to solve the clues to save humanity from destruction, and let me tell you, forget Tom Cruise or Will Smith- if we need to save the world, get these young women. I was in awe as they ran around,worked together and figured it all out with eighteen minutes to spare. They could have taken a coffee break and still saved the world. It was fun and next time I hope to be of more (any?) help.
You're welcome humanity

3) The sign of the week caught my eye as I was running errands. I saw this in the front door of an apartment building. I think one of the occupants is hoping to get some of that $1000 a month Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is promising voters. Good luck.

4) I read two books this week. The first was Amaryllis Fox's memoir Life Undercover- Coming of Age in the CIA about her days as a young undercover operative in the CIA. I found the life she led intriguing, particularly in light of the testimony of the diplomatic and national security people we heard this week. These people are loyal to our nation and to our national security. There are so many young analysts and undercover agents working hard to keep us safe, and they sacrifice much to complete their missions. I give this one a solid B.

I'm in the middle of Nina Bocci's romance novel Meet Me on Love Lane, the second in her Hopeless Romantics series of books set in the Pennsylvania tourist town of Hope Lake. (The first one was On The Corner of Love and Hate.) In this one, Charlotte comes back to Hope Lake after a twenty year absence to try and figure what her next life move should be. Her father is the town doctor, her best friend Emma is head of the Community Development Office, and there are two men who could be her love interests. It's a sweet story, and if you live in a small town or just wish you did, this is a great series of books for you. I'll post a full review on December 2nd. 

5) I've been bingeing the first two seasons of Netflix's The Crown, about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Claire Foy is brilliant as the young Queen, I can see why she won all the awards that she did for this role. John Lithgow is always stellar, and he shines again as Winston Churchill. I found Princess Margaret's (beautifully played by Vanessa Kirby) story moving, perhaps because I just finished a novel, The Other Windsor Girl, recently and enjoyed it. I can't wait to get to the newly released season three. Are you watching?  
The first two seasons are on DVD

Thanksgiving is less than a week away- are you ready?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman

Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman
Published by National Geographic  ISBN 9781426220579
Hardcover, $65, 424 pages

If you are a fan of our country's National Park system, National Geographic has published the perfect book for you. Their Atlas of the National Parks by Jon Waterman is a lush coffee table book designed to please the outdoor traveler.

It begins with a overview of the National Parks system, starting with the creation of the National Parks Service in 1916 signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.  This beautiful book has over 200 maps, photos, and illustrations. History buffs will enjoy the many old photos and maps that show the parks as they were. Science fans will be attracted to the topographical maps and information about the flora and animals found in the parks, and art majors will love the  historical paintings that feature the parks.

There are so many interesting facts here, like the top fifteen most visited parks (did you guess that the Great Smoky Mountains Park is number one with more than 11 million annual visitors?). The Extremes Map has lots of trivia - the oldest park (Yellowstone, established in 1872), the only park south of the equator (National Park of American Samoa), and the smallest park by area (Thaddeus Koscuiszko Park in New Jersey is .02 acres).

The sections are divided up by region- from the Eastern Coast & Forest Parks to Alaska & Hawaii Parks. There are fun facts interspersed in each section that you can use as ice breakers at a party- Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the Atlantic Coast, and from October to March is the first place in America to see the sunrise, and Butch Cassidy's gang hidout in Canyonlands National Park in the rock walls there known as Robbers Roost.

Of course the photos are stunning, as one would expect to find in a National Geographic publication. You'd swear some of them were paintings- like the photo of the Grand Teton National Park, Bear Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park, and Snug Harbor Park in Isle Royale National Park- they look so breathtaking.

After extensively covering 32 of the largest and most popular parks, there is a section that gives an overview of the smaller and lesser-known parks, like Mesa Verde in Colorado, Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, and Virgin Islands National Park.

Atlas of the National Parks is a comprehensive look at some of the most beautiful places in our nation. If you have someone on your holiday gift list who has visited some of them or always wanted to visit them, give them this beautiful book.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on this tour. 

Monday, November 18, 2019

Two Books About Siblings

Reprinted from the Citizen:

The sibling relationship can provide drama in real life, and two recently published novels dive deep into those waters with J. Ryan Stradal’s second novel, The Lager Queen of Minnesota, and Ann Patchett’s tenth book, The Dutch House. 

Stradal’s first novel, Kitchens of the Great Midwest was a critically acclaimed story of a talented young chef staying true to herself and her food. In The Lager Queen of Minnesota we meet Edith, 64 years old, who works as a dietary aide in a nursing home. She bakes pies for the residents, and hers are named the third-best pies in the entire state by a hip newspaper. 

Soon, people are lined up trying to get into the nursing home dining room to try Edith’s pies. Edith and her retired husband Stanley struggle financially, but maybe this is a way to make some money and become more stable.

Edith grew up on a family farm, with her parents and sister Helen. When their father passed away, it was assumed that the farm would be sold and the sisters would split the money. But their father left it all to Helen, who took the money and with it, she and her husband became one of the biggest brewers in the Midwest.

After that, Edith refused to speak to Helen, but Helen was so busy creating her empire that she put it aside. When Edith’s granddaughter Diana comes to live with her, Diana ends up working at a local IPA brewer, and it turns out that she is very good as a brewmaster.

When Diana needs help, she turns to Edith and a group of older women who prove that age is just a number, and when the chips are down, there are people around to pick you up. 

You don’t have to like beer to appreciate The Lager Queen of Minnesota, but if you like a good IPA, you’ll get more out of this fantastic novel. I enjoyed learning about the brewing business. The Midwest setting is a welcome change from the urban settings of many books, and the characters are grounded in reality. I highly recommend this novel.

In Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House Cyril Conroy creates a successful business in real estate after WWII in Philadelphia. He surprises his wife by buying the Dutch House, a huge mansion in the suburbs. But is it a good surprise?

With the house comes a staff of three women who help raise the two children, Maeve and Danny. Their mother seems very unhappy, and disappears from time to time, until one day she leaves and never comes back.

Tenacious young widow Andrea sets her sights on Cyril, and their shared love of the Dutch House brings them together. When Cyril marries Andrea, she brings along her two young daughters. Like the wicked stepmother in fairy tales, Andrea bides her time until she can force Maeve and Danny from the Dutch House, and claim it as her own.

This devastates Maeve and Danny. They have lost the only home they have ever known, and any connection to their parents. Maeve, who is out in the workforce, takes in her high-school aged brother, and they live together in a small apartment.

Danny narrates this beautifully told story as he tries to understand where he fits into this world. Although the narration switches back and forth in time, Patchett is such a skilled writer that it all flows so smoothly, and the reader is never confused.

Maeve and Danny occasionally park outside the Dutch House, peering inside and reliving the past while talking about the future. We follow them through college, work, adulthood, and eventually Danny has a marriage and family of his own.

Maeve can’t seem to move forward with her life, and she tries to push Danny to go to medical school to become a doctor, but for her own reasons. When Danny meets the woman he wants to marry, she is concerned by how close Danny and Maeve are, and the influence Maeve wields over him. This causes problems for Danny as the two people he loves most don’t like each other.

Since we see Maeve through Danny’s eyes, she is perhaps not as well known to the reader. But they have an unshakeable bond that gets tested at the end of the story as they confront their past, the cost of forgiveness, and the meaning of family. I loved The Dutch House and highly recommend it.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal- A+
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
Hardcover, $26, 349 pages

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett- A+
Published by HarperCollins

Hardcover, $27.99, 352 pages

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday 5ive- November 15, 2019

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. I can't believe it's Friday already, this week flew by. It does not bode well for everything that I have to get done before the holidays.

1) Bryant Park opened up their Winter Village on Halloween, which is crazy. They have a skating rink (less crowded than the Rockefeller Center rink FYI), a huge restaurant, and dozens of popup shops for holiday shopping. There's lots of small mom and pop shops there where you can find unique gifts. At least the Christmas tree isn't up yet.
Bryant Park skating rink

2) Our Sign of Week from Olive & Bette perfectly sums up all of our feelings now that we turned the clocks back. (Shout-out Simon & Garfunkel)

3) We attended a gala this week and were pleasantly surprised to see that the Chiffons and the Shirelles were each singing some of their hits. I did video it, but there was too much ambient noise. The original lead singers from each group were still with the group and the ladies sounded wonderful. The Chiffons sang One Fine Day, He's So Fine, and Sweet Talkin' Guy. The Shirelles sang Soldier Boy, Mama Said and one of my all-time favorites Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow. 
The Chiffons

The Shirelles

4) I watched Mindy Kaling's movie Late Night on Amazon Prime on my Echo Show while I was making dinner one night. Mindy plays a young comedy writer who lands a job at a late night talk show hosted by Emma Thompson. Emma's character is a horrible boss who treats her writers terribly. It's funny and has a lot to say about people in power. I also liked that so many women worked on this project, both in front of and behind the scenes. Bravo Mindy Kaling. You can watch the trailer here.

5) I read two books in three days- Amor Towles A Gentleman In Moscow, (yes, I know, I'm late to the party) a novel about a man forced to live his out existence within the walls of the Metropol Hotel in Moscow for his transgressions against the state. It is a masterpiece of writing.  

I read Jeannie Gaffigan's memoir When Life Give You Pears, about the time two years ago she had a pear-sized brain tumor and the effect that had on her family of five young children and her husband and work partner, comedian Jim Gaffigan. It's harrowing, and moving, and yes, at times, funny. I read it in one day, I couldn't put it down. I met Jeannie at our ArchCare Gala in 2017 and had a lovely hour long conversation about family with her. You would never have known what she had gone through just months earlier. She is amazing. I'll post a full review of the book soon.
My husband, Jim Gaffigan, me and Jeannie Gaffigan

An update- I saw the balloon guy again on the street and he had an even bigger batch of balloons, plus a stuffed animal. Way to go man.

Let the countdown to Thanksgiving begin!

Women the National Geographic Image Collection

Women- the National Geographic Image Collection 
Published by National Geographic ISBN 9781426220654
Hardcover, $50, 508 pages

National Geographic continues its wonderful collection of gorgeous coffee table books this season with the stunning Women- the National Geographic Image Collection. 

The book is divided into six chapters- Joy, Beauty, Love, Wisdom, Strength and Hope. Each section contains full page photos of women from all over the world, of all ages and cultures. The placement of the photos is thoughtful, like the photo of a glorious smiling Dolly Parton holding a banjo (taken by Jodi Cobb in 1978) facing a photo of a Japanese woman singing and playing a samisen stringed instrument (taken by Eliza R. Scidmore in 1912). The comparison and contrast of an Australian Aborginal woman with a tradtional cermonial painted face (taken by Amy Toensing in 2012) with an Italian actress, her face veiled, taken backstage in 1994 by William Albert Allard) is amazing.

The joy of three women sharing a conversation inside a rickshaw in Bangalore, India (taken by William Albert Allard in 2004), school girl friends smoking cigarettes on a cruise down the Seine in Paris (taken by David Alan Harvey in 1989), and a group of women in London in 1966 holding up their compact mirrors to get a peek at Queen Elizabeth (photo by James P. Blair) highlight women in their everyday life.

There are photos of famous women- Amelia Earhart after she landed in Northern Island, surrounded by well-wishers, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti in her spacesuit,  journalist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells- as well as interviews with such powerful women as Christiane Amanpour, Nancy Pelosi, Laura Bush and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, talking about their successes, failures, and whom they admire.

One of National Geographic's most famous photos- "Afghan Girl", taken in a refugee camp in 1984 by Steve McCurry, highlighting Sharbat Gula's piercing green-eyed gaze is here, paired with a photo of Gula taken in 2002 by McCurry. Her eyes are still as piercing, and the effect of the photos side-by-side is dramatic.

Women- the National Geographic Image Collection is a brilliant look at women around the world, across the ages, in photos taken by the most creative photographers. It's a book to savor, and each time you open it up, you see something new that captures your attention. It would make a fantastic holiday gift for anyone's collection.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting my on this tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Tuesday, November 12th: Instagram: @megsbookclub

Wednesday, November 13th: Instagram: @diaryofaclosetreader
Thursday, November 14th: Instagram: @crystals_library
Friday, November 15th: bookchickdi
Friday, November 15th: Unabridged Chick
Sunday, November 17th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, November 18th: Instagram: @sixminutesforme
Tuesday, November 19th: Amy’s Book-et List
Wednesday, November 20th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, November 21st: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Friday, November 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, November 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Sunday, November 10, 2019

CBS Sunday Morning

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.

One TV show I have always enjoyed is CBS Sunday Morning. Now hosted by Jane Pauley, they cover a wide range of topics in several short pieces, including the arts.  This week's episode (November 10th) had many stories that caught my eye.

One was about the book Joy of Cooking. A young married couple, John Becker and Megan Scott, are tasked with testing 1500 recipes for an updated edition of the classic cookbook. That is some task!

The original Joy of Cooking was written by John's great-grandmother, Irma Rombauer, in 1931 after her husband died at a young age, and Irma had to raise her young family during the Great Depression. Irma's daughter Marion Rombauer Becker then collaberated with her mother on another edition, then Marion's son Ethan took over the family business. Now his John and his wife continue the family tradition.
Joy of Cooking 2019

It's a great story and you can see it here. They even include links to three recipes from the new cookbook- Mushroom Confit, Roasted Mushroom Lasagna, and two brownie recipes.

They also had stories about the new cast of The Crown, a Steve Hartman story about a nurse who took in an adult autistic man who needed a heart transplant (nurses rock!), and a moving piece about Mary Whyte, an artist whose latest project, We, The People, consists of 50 portraits of veterans (one from each state) and their stories.  It's a beautiful story and I encourage you to click here to watch it. It made me want to hop on a plane to Charleston to see it in person.

You can see twelve of the portraits here and buy the autographed catalog here. Proceeds benefit the Patriot Art Foundation. It would make a wonderful gift for the holidays.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock

The Other Windsor Girl by Georgie Blalock
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062871497
Trade paperback, $15.99, 400 pages

The British royal family has fascinated us and inspired countless biographies, historical novels, TV series and movies. Much is known about such royals as Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth. A less well-known royal, Elizabeth's sister Princess Margaret,  is the star of Georgie Blalock's intriguing historical novel, The Other Windsor.

The story is told through the eyes of the Honorable Vera Strathmore, a woman who tragically lost her fianceƩ in WWII. Vera's family has lost much of their land fortune, as have many others after the war. To earn a living, she writes romance novels under a nom de plume to maintain her anonymity.

One day in 1949, Vera's cousin Rupert informs her that Princess Margaret would like to meet the author of the sexy novels, and soon Vera finds herself at one of the underground parties with Princess Margaret's group of friends, called "the Set".

Margaret takes a liking to Vera, who becomes a member of the Set. She learns that Margaret likes to drink, sing, and gossip. She is fashionable, likes risque language, and smokes too much. She can be imperious, and even mean, to anyone who dares to cross her.

You'll see that Princess Diana was not the first royal to be hounded by paparazzi, as Margaret was constantly followed by photographers. Whereas her sister, the future Queen, was married and settled, Margaret was the interesting one, single and out to have a good time.

She was close to father, the King, and if anyone wanted to get something in his ear, speaking to Margaret was a good place to start. When her father died, Margaret was devastated, but her grief was not acknowledged. Her mother would no longer be Queen, while Elizabeth was soon to be coronated Queen, so all the attention went to them.

Vera soon became Princess Margaret's second lady-in-waiting, changing their relationship. Now Vera was an employee. She gave up her writing career, and the man she loved, hoping that this career move would help her achieve her dream of moving to New York.

There are some wonderful scenes in the book. One takes you inside the coronation of Elizabeth as seen through Vera's eyes, and another powerful scene occurs when Margaret asks her sister the Queen for permission to marry the much older recently divorced man she has fallen in love with.

Margaret was unlucky in love, first with the married man, and then with a photographer whom Vera feels treats Margaret badly.

Fans of Netflix's The Crown will devour this captivating novel. It has resonance today, as we see a new generation of royals, William and Kate and Harry and Meghan, whose every move is endlessly discussed and documented.

Immediately after finishing The Other Windsor, I went to Google Princess Margaret to read more about this fascinating woman. It's always a sign of a good book when I want to know more.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Georgie Blalock's tour. The rest of her stops are here:
Tuesday, November 5th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, November 6th: Doing Dewey
Thursday, November 7th: JulzReads
Friday, November 8th: bookchickdi
Tuesday, November 12th: A Pint-Sized Life
Wednesday, November 13th: Broken Teepee
Thursday, November 14th: Instagram: @thats_what_she_read
Friday, November 15th: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, November 18th: Instagram: @readingmama_reviews
Tuesday, November 19th: Instagram: @lauralovestoread
Wednesday, November 20th: Instagram: @beritaudiokilledthebookmark
Thursday, November 21st: Instagram: @lavieestbooks
Friday, November 22nd: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader
Monday, November 25th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Body Leaping Backward by Maureen Stanton

Body Leaping Backward by Maureen Stanton
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ISBN 9781328900234
Hardcover, $26, 215 pages

Maureen Stanton's coming-of-age memoir in her working-class prison town in the 1970s, Body Leaping Backward- A Memoir of a Delinquent Girlhood, appealed to me for many reasons.  I too grew up in a working-class prison town in the 1970s, and I came from a Catholic family with many children.

Stanton took me right back to those days- kids playing Flashlight Tag or dodgeball, waiting to hear their mother's voice calling them in for dinner, riding bikes all over town, piling everyone in the car to go to the drive-in movies.

Coming from a large family, (there were seven Stanton children) I could relate to her mom meticulously dividing up a bag of M&Ms so that each child got exactly the same amount. I vividly recall going to confession at church, and, like Maureen, worrying about what sins I would have to confess to (you don't want to keep repeating yourself week after week, but what kind of sins can a young child commit?).

I found Stanton's memories of Walpole prison interesting. The prison occupied a large presence in the town, both physical and emotional, although I don't recall my mother threatening us with ending up in the local prison if we misbehaved, like her mother frequently did.

The Stantons would visit the Hobby Shop, a gift shop located just inside the prison walls, where anyone could buy furniture, jewelry, dollhouses and crafts made by inmates. Most of the children's rooms were furnished from here. The man who ran the shop was a famous Boston mobster, and convicted Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo made jewelry that was sold in the hobby shop. (The town I grew up in did not have a retail shop so I found this fascinating and very strange.)

Life changed drastically for the Stantons when their parents divorced and their father moved out when Maureen was twelve years old. Money became scarce, and her mother resorted to shoplifting to feed the family. Eventually, her mother went back to school to become a nurse. She went to school all day, came home to do homework, and then fed her family dinner. It was a difficult life.

By the time she was in tenth grade, Maureen was using angel dust (PCP). Angel dust causes you to lose depth perception and balance, causes difficulties in concentration, and apathy. It's a serious drug, and Maureen and her friends were using it frequently. She began skipping school, stealing, became involved in petty crime. (She thought this was typical teenage behavior, but I did not relate to that.)

Stanton weaves in historical context to give the reader a good sense of what life was like at that time. Bomb scares were rampant in the 1970s, and "between 1971 and the end of 1972, the FBI reported 2500 bombings on US soil, an average of five bombings per day". Overall, crime rose in the 1970s, and the town of Walpole was no exception.

In her junior year of high school, Maureen got a job at a gas station, where she earned work-study credits, and learned a lot about life based on the customers that she waited on. She also met a man who helped her reconnect with her love of literature and writing.

She took a writing class in college, and when her mother found Maureen's high school diaries while moving, Maureen used that as the basis for this powerful memoir. Stanton's writing is crisp and poignant, like this sentence she writes describing her parents telling the children about their separation- "A tear slipped down my father's cheek, and then like a chorus we all cried, our last act as an intact family."

If you came of age in the 1970s, Body Leaping Backward will take you back to that time. Fans of Mary Karr's The Liar's Club should put this one on their list.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Maureen Stanton's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Instagram Features

Sunday, November 3rd: Instagram: @mrsboomreads
Monday, November 4th: Instagram: @ohthebooksshewillread
Tuesday, November 5th: Instagram: @gatticus_finch
Wednesday, November 6th: Instagram: @libraryinprogress
Thursday, November 7th: Instagram: @inquisitivebookworm
Friday, November 8th: Instagram: @orangecountyreads
Saturday, November 9th: Instagram: @crystals_library

Review Stops

Monday, November 4th: Tabi Thoughts
Wednesday, November 6th: seasaltdaydreams
Thursday, November 7th: bookchickdi
Friday, November 8th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Monday, November 11th: The Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, November 12th: PhDiva
Thursday, November 14th: Instagram: @books_and_broadway_
Saturday, November 16th: Instagram: @shelovesthepages
Monday, November 18th: Helen’s Book Blog
Wednesday, November 20th: Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Friday, November 22nd: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews
Monday, December 2nd: Instagram: @quietmountainreader
Tuesday, December 3rd: Comfy Reading
Wednesday, December 4th: Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, December 5th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Friday, December 6th: Lit and Life
Friday, December 13th: Openly Bookish