Saturday, November 21, 2020

Friday 5ive- November 20, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week, which has mostly been spent prepping for Thanksgiving next week.

1)  Walking by the Stumble Inn, a bar/restaurant that used to always be packed on weekends pre-COVID, I saw this sign that really sums up the feeling. 


2) Restaurants in NYC have really upped their game when it comes to creating outdoor dining areas now that the weather is much colder.  It's been interesting watching them build them.
Le Moulin Cafe
I really liked Luna Rossa's fall decor

3)  Reading with Robin had a Pre-Publication Marathon with 36 Authors last weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, she hosted authors who got to talk about their upcoming books. Robin interviewed each author for 30 minutes on Crowdcast, and there were so many great conversations. I was amazed at her stamina! I popped in and out all weekend, and did it ever add to my To-Be-Read pile. My favorite was Lauren Willig talking about her novel, Band of Sisters, which is coming out in March and it is fantastic. You can check them out on Robin's Crowdcast page here. 


4)  I'm watching the NBC sitcom Superstore on my Echo Show while I'm cooking dinner at night. It is laugh-out-loud funny, with some of the sharpest writing around. Lauren Ash as the take-no-prisoners head of security Dina and Mark McKinney as the caring and clueless store manager Glenn are the standout performers. 


5) I read two books this week. Danielle Martin's Glimmer As You Can takes us to 1962 Brooklyn as three women are each at a crossroads of their lives. You get a real sense of how dependent on men women were back then, and the courage it took to strike out on your own with your friends by your side. My full review publishes next Friday.

I'm continuing my Christmas-themed entertainment earlier this year with Susan Mallery's Happily This Christmas, the seventh book in her Happily, Inc. series. I read the sixth one last year, Meant to Be Yours, and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the wedding destination town setting. In the newest chapter, Wynn, graphic designer and single mom of a teen boy, helps her handsome police officer neighbor deal with his pregnant 21 year-old daughter who has moved in with him. I will definitely be going back to read the others in this delightful series. My full review publishes December 8th.



I hope you all have a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving this year. Stay safe, socially distant, wash your hands and wear a mask.



Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday 5ive- November 13, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. Happy Friday the 13th, just what we needed in 2020, a Friday the 13th.


1)  Last Friday night, my husband and I had date night- at home version. Every week I get an email from GetTaste, which gives me the opportunity to purchase a four course set meal from a Michelin-starred restaurant. Last week, the choice was from 4 Charles Prime Rib, and they had a five course meal- Little Gem Salad, Baked Crab Cake appetizer, Chicago Cut of Prime Rib, Creamed Spinach, and Chocolate Cream Pie for dessert. The price for two people was a (NYC) reasonable $154, and we added on a bottle of Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The meal arrived hot and well packaged, and it was delicious. The crab cake and creamed spinach were the best we have ever tasted. The beef was good, my only complaint was that it was a small portion for two people. We started with a Happy Hour cocktail of Chocolate Martini and Chocolate Espresso Martini. It was a wonderful way to end the week.


2)  On Saturday, I decided to try Anita La Mamma del Gelato, a new gelato place in the neighborhood. I'd heard that the Milk Chocolate Pretzel was a winner, so I gave it a try and the people were not wrong. It was creamy, crunchy, and very tasty. I will be making a return trip to try more flavors. 
So many choices!



3)  Today I took part in BookReporter.com's "9 1/2 Annual Book Group Speed Dating" presentation. Every year at the Book Expo at the Javits Center, my favorite activity is Speed Dating with Publishers. The attendees sit at tables and publishers go from table to table sharing upcoming books they are excited about. Since there was no Book Expo this year, Book Reporter held Speed Dating virtually for the second time this year, which is good in that you get to hear from every publisher instead of just a few, but I do miss the personal contact with the publicists and the books that we get to bring home. We do get access to egalleys, so there is that. It's a well-done, professional production, and I'm grateful that Carol and Austin from Book Reporter share this with us. Visit their website for all kinds of great bookish content.


4)  We started watching season two of The Good Fight on CBS All Access. The casting is fabulous- Christine Baranski,  Delroy Lindo, Audra McDonald, Sarah Steele, Cush Jumbo-  many great Broadway performers and guest stars. I can see why so many people call it the best drama on TV.


5) It's Nonfiction November so I'm trying to read one nonfiction book per week. This week I'm in the middle of Guy Raz's How I Built This, stories of entrpreneurs and how they made it. The founders of Away luggage, AirB&B, and AllBirds shoes are among the many people profiled in this interesting book, which came out of Raz's podcast of the same name. It would make a good holiday gift.


I also read two novels. The first- Kristin Fields' A Frenzy of Sparks- set in 1965 Howard Beach, is about thirteen year-old Gia and her family dealing with a changing country and drugs coming into their neighborhood. Gia is interested in nature and science, so fans of Where the Crawdads Sing may like this intense family story. It's an emotionally powerful look at addiction. My full review is here.

Hazel Gaynor's historical novel, When We Were Young & Brave is about a group of teachers and Western students in China who end up living for years in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. It's a fascinating story, based in truth, and while I had heard about nurses living in internment camps during the war, I had never heard about teachers and students. If you liked Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale, pick this one up. It's stunning. 



Have a great week all- stay safe, socially distant, wear a mask and wash your hands. It's more important than ever.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields

A Frenzy of Sparks by Kristin Fields
Published by Lake Union Publishing ISBN 9781542022446
Trade paperback, $14.95, 272 pages (The ebook is free if you have Kindle Unlimited)


Sometimes a book grabs you right away, and at other times your interest builds more slowly until you realize how consumed you have become by the story and you can't put it down. Kristin Fields' new novel, A Frenzy of Sparks, fell into the latter category for me.

In 1965 Gia is thirteen years old living in Howard Beach near a marsh with her older brother Leo and their parents. Her dad Eddie is an NYPD police officer, mom Agnes works outside the home as well. Much of Gia's family- aunts, uncles, cousins- live in the same neighborhood and they spend all their free time together.

Gia is interested in nature and science, and concerned about the chemicals ever present in the food and environment. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring is her bible. She loves to go out on her dad's boat on the canal behind her house, and begs her dad to let her take the boat out by herself. Agnes would prefer now that Gia is getting older, that she should be more interested in traditional female pursuits, like Gia's cousin Lorraine.

It's a time of change in the country, and Gia's older cousin Ray has been experimenting with drugs, and selling them as well. He gets involved with some shady characters, and that will cause problems for more than just himself.

"People were sick of being told what to do", according to Gia. Black kids couldn't sit on a stoop without someone causing problems for them. Women were "trapped under their bell jars", like Lorraine who studied to be a nurse but wanted to become a doctor, and her mother Diane who worked in the navy yard during WWII, only to be sent home once the men returned from war.

The second half of the book deals with the fallout of having a drug addict living in your home. They lie, steal from family members, destroy trust, and break down the family unit. There are some very intense scenes revolving around the drug addict, and the frightening ways addiction spirals downward for all.

Several times reading this powerful novel I found myself closing my eyes and saying "oh, no" out loud. Fields puts the reader right inside this family, and your heart alternately pounds and breaks as they fight to save the life of their loved one and their family unit.

Fans of Delia Owens' blockbuster Where the Crawdads Sing should make A Frenzy of Sparks their next read. It has the similiar elements of a nature-loving girl facing danger that keeps the reader turning the pages. I highly recommend it.




Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Kristin Fields tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Monday, November 2nd: @shobizreads

Tuesday, November 3rd: The OC Book Girl and @theocbookgirl

Wednesday, November 4th: @booksloveandunderstanding

Thursday, November 5th: @compulsivereadersblog

Friday, November 6th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm and @pnwbookworm

Friday, November 6th: 5 Minutes for Mom

Monday, November 9th: Mom Loves Reading and @mom_loves_reading

Tuesday, November 10th: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, November 11th: What is That Book About – author guest post

Thursday, November 12th: Books with Jams and @bookswithjams

Friday, November 13th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, November 16th: Books & Bindings

Tuesday, November 17th: Cindy Reads and Writes – review and author Q&A

Wednesday, November 18th: @readtowander

Thursday, November 19th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Monday, November 23rd: Girl Who Reads

Monday, November 23rd: @readinggirlreviews

Monday, November 30th: Eliot’s Eats

Instagram tour:

Monday, November 16th: @thebookend.diner

Monday, November 16th: @readwithmason

Tuesday, November 17th: @readswithrosie

Wednesday, November 18th: @everlasting.charm

Thursday, November 19th: @the_unwined

Friday, November 20th: @katieneedsabiggerbookshelf

Saturday, November 21st: @readingwithmegan

Sunday, November 22nd: @bluntscissorsbookreviews

Monday, November 23rd: @girlsinbooks

Monday, November 23rd: @amanda.the.bookish

Tuesday, November 24th: @booktimistic

Wednesday, November 25th: @thebookishglow

Friday, November 27th: @readwithjamie


 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia By Tom Stevenson

The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia by Tom Stevenson
Published by National Geographic ISBN 9781426221415
Hardcover, $75, 794 pages


If you have started thinking about holiday gifts and have someone on your list who is an oneophile- a connoisseur of wines- The New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia is the perfect gift.

This is the first new edition in ten years and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the pandemic keeping us close to home, many people have turned to cultivating an interest in wines. (I know that my husband and I have done so.)

The book does a very deep dive in to all things wine. From which types of soil are suited to the different varieties of wine to the life cycle of the vine to an anatomy of wineries and vineyards, you will find everything you ever wanted to know about wines.

The book is divided into three parts- Taste and Quality, Wine Through the Ages, and A World of Wine.
There are fantastic photos and detailed illustrations (how white wine is made, for example), a guide to the various tastes and aromas you should look for when tasting wines, and classic food and wine pairings.

Some of the more interesting things that I found included a discussion of orange wine, something new that I was not familiar with (and am not sure I want to be). The photo of a porrón, a traditional wine decanter/drinking vessel found in Catalunya, Spain, made me smile as our daughter-in-law's parents gifted us one and we have yet to master it. 
Our porrón


A large portion of the book is A World of Wine, which goes around the globe from the traditional places like France and Italy to the lesser known ones like Mexico, Australia and China. Each country's different wine regions are discussed, and a list of the great wine producers is included. 

This comprehensive and beautiful coffee table book would be a wonderful addition to any oneophile's collection, and at nearly 800 pages, it will give them pleasure for years to come. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Friday 5ive- November 6, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week.
We're all talking about and waiting for election results, so I'm going to skip that.


1)  On Saturday, my sister-in-law Brigette and I virtually cooked a three-course dinner from Ina Garten's new cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. We FaceTimed each other as we started on dessert, Boston Cream Pie, which ended up being a three page recipe. We started at 10am, and making the cream, the chocolate glaze, and the cake took at least three hours. The hardest part was cutting the two very thin cakes into two layers each, something I had never attempted before. My pie didn't look like the photo in the book, and for some reason my chocolate glaze was not thin enough.
The Warm Spinach Artichoke Dip appetizer was very good, I think the carmelized onions made all the difference there. My husband would have preferred a creamier texture, so maybe next time I'll add more cream cheese.
The big winner was the Skillet Roasted Chicken and Potatoes. I thought maybe our choice of entree was a little bland, but the buttermilk marinated chicken thighs were tender and juicy, and the drippings from the chicken gave the potatoes layered underneath them a wonderful flavor.
We virtually shared our dinners together and it was so much fun, more family members want to join in next time.
Brigette's & my chicken entrees

2) On 81st Street near me, a group of neighbors got together to build and decorate birdhouses. Many people created them with their children, and they proudly displayed them on trees along 81st St. Late one night, a woman cut down all the birdhouses and destroyed them, leaving a note that said that they were not allowed to tie anything to trees along the street, that it damages the trees. It became quite a controversy, and I didn't understand why she didn't leave a note asking them to take them down, she just destroyed them on her own. (They have still photos from security cameras of her deed.) Anyway, the families got together and created more birdhouses and now they are displayed in the front window of a real estate office on 81st Street. It's a great way to build community spirit.




3)  It was so warm on Thursday that we ventured out to our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Lusardi's, for dinner. Our table was outside, right on 2nd Ave. During dinner, we heard a man singing Frank Sinatra songs. We looked over and he had parked his bike, with his IPad attached, and had a microphone and was strolling along the street singing. After he had sung a few songs, he walked from table to table and asked for donations. We happily gave him something, but I did find it odd that the restaurant would allow him to do it. Then he packed up, grabbed his bike, and moved down the street to the next group of outside restaurants. Ya gotta love the ingenuity of people; if the places where he normally performs are shut down, he goes to the people himself.
 



4) After starting Jenny Colgan's new novel, Christmas at the Island Hotel, last week, I was in a Christmas mood. I don't watch many Hallmark Channel movies, but I saw that One Royal Holiday starred some of my favorite Broadway actors, so to get my head out of all the politics, I watched it. Laura Osnes (she played Cinderella on Broadway) plays Anna, a young nurse going home to Connecticut for Christmas. She runs into a young man James (Aaron Tveit, star of Broadway's Moulin Rouge) and his mother, played by Victoria Clark (who was the Fairy Godmother to Osnes' Cinderella!), whose plane is grounded during a snowstorm. James is the Prince of a Northern European country, his mother the Queen, and they go with Anna to her father's inn. It's a charming story, and this movie is elevated because of the quality of the performances. I hope that more Broadway performers (Krystal Joy Brown from Hamilton and Motown, The Musical plays the town mayor here) are put to work in Hallmark movies.


5) I also watched a new movie on Apple TV+- On The Rocks. Rashida Jones' Laura is married to Marlon Wayans, and they have two young girls. They live in New York City, and he travels frequently for his job. Jones is struggling to write her next book, and begins to have doubts about her husband's fidelity. She shares her fears with her father Felix, played by Bill Murray. Felix cheated on Laura's mom, and he suggests that they follow Laura's husband to see if he is cheating. This may be Murray's best role yet, allowing him to combine his comedic skills with his vulnerability as the bon vivant Felix. He is fantastic here, he and Jones have a great chemistry as father and daughter, and the movie is a love letter to New York City.  Sofia Copppla beautifully directs this fanastic film. If you have Apple TV+, this is a must-see.

Stay safe and socially distant, wash your hands and wear a mask. 




Sunday, November 1, 2020

Fall Into Some Great Reads

Reprinted from auburnpub.com


If summer is traditionally a time for lighter “beach reads”, fall is a time for more “serious” books. This year, there are a plethora of books that will satisfy our literary desires.


Jess Walter’s 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins took the world by storm, ending up on many Best of the Year and Best of the Decade books. This year he returns with another stellar novel, The Cold Millions. 



Set in 1909 Spokane, Washington, it tells the story of Irish immigrant brothers, Gig and Rye. They spend most of their time looking for day jobs, and trying to scrape enough money together to rent a cold porch in a woman’s home. 


Tired of living hand-to-mouth, Gig becomes involved with a local workers’ union, and during a workers’ protest, he and Rye are arrested and thrown in jail with hundreds of other men. Sixteen year-old Rye is released and catches the eye of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a union organizer who travels from city to city giving speeches and raising money to bring attention to the cause of workers’ rights.


Flynn, who is an actual historical figure, is despised not only for what she says, but also because as a woman she dares to speak out at all. This makes her a target for many, but especially for the obscenely wealthy business owners who do not want their workers to organize. 


The Cold Millions takes historical events and people and mixes them with fictional characters to create a fascinating story that resonates with things that are occurring in society today. The brilliant writing pulls you in, and the characters live on long in your mind long after you finish this though-provoking book. I give it my highest recommendation.


V.E. Schwab is best known for her young adult fantasy novels, but her newest novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is geared towards adults. Addie LaRue is a young woman who, in 1714 France, runs away from an arranged marriage to a widower. 



In the woods, she meets the form of a man who promises her the life she wants- freedom to choose how to live, whom to love, what to be. The only catch is that in exchange for this life, she must give her soul over to him. Addie agrees, but only if she can give up her soul when she is done living her life.


This Faustian bargain allows Addie to make her own life choices with one caveat- no one will remember her. Once she is out of their sight, it is as if they never saw her before. This makes for a very lonely life for Addie. She can’t hold a job, or have a relationship; she is forever a stranger. 


The only one who knows her is the fallen god who gave her this life. He shows up from time to time, and Addie’s exchanges with him are intriguing and tension-filled. He seems particularly drawn to Addie. 


Three hundred years later, in 2014 New York City, Addie meets Henry in a used bookstore and he remembers her name. How is this possible? Henry and Addie begin to spend time together, and everything changes for Addie. Could this be the life she has always wanted?

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue reminded me of one of my favorite books from the past few years- Lisa Grunwald’s Time After Time. Both books ask the question “What would you give up for the love of your life?” 


I loved The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It reminds us to be careful of what we wish for, it may not be what you wanted. A tantalizing adult fairy tale, I give it my highest recommendation. 


Cassidy Lucas’ mystery Santa Monica begins with handsome, hot trainer Zack being discovered dead in his gym by his secret half-sister Leticia. She is an undocumented worker from Mexico, living here with her young disabled son.



Leticia works many jobs, cleaning the homes of the wealthy women of Santa Monica, including Brooklyn transplant Mel, who moved when her husband’s movie script became a success. Zack is drawn to Mel, which angers Regina, who is running a financial scheme with him.


This terrific mystery is elevated by the writing, characters, and the tackling of the difficult life of an undocumented worker. It has explicit sex, and if you liked Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, pick up Santa Monica. I couldn’t put it down. 



The Cold Millions by Jess Walter- A+

Published by Harper 

Hardcover, $28.99, 352 pages


The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab- A+

Published by TOR

Hardcover, $26.99, 444 pages


Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas- A

Published by Harper Perennial

Trade paperback, $16.99, 348 pages



Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday 5ive- October 30, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week.
It's a big week- Halloween is tomorrow and the election is five days away. And we have a full moon, the first one on Halloween seen all across the United States since 1944. Is that a good omen?

1)  My sister-in-law has a lovely Halloween display on her new patio. It's so pretty and festive!



2) Early voting started in New York City on October 24th and where we live on the Upper East Side, the Board of Elections has one early voting precinct for 118, 000 voters, making it the most overloaded in the city. Judging by the near constant line that frequently wrapped around the block two and nearly three times, it appears that all 118,000 voters are voting early. Rain didn't stop them either; we brought our umbrellas, rain gear, listened to podcasts, and waited between 3-6 hours in line to do their civic duty. The poll workers were great- they kept everyone orderly and organized and once inside things moved quickly.




3)  I watched two interesting streaming events this week. Last Friday night, Seth Meyers hosted a Seinfeld  reunion "A Fundraiser About Something"  with Larry David, Jason Alexander, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It was a benefit for the Texas Democratic Party, and they raised over $600,000. They reminisced about their favorite episodes, ("Soup Nazi", "The Contest" among them), and a few lucky donors won a phone call from Julia, Jason doing his infamous answering machine message on their voicemail, and they even shamed Larry David into doing a phone call for one person (just one- that's all!). 


Each year Bette Midler hosts a gala called Hulaween to benefit the New York Restoration Project, founded 25 years ago by Midler. They clean up parks, plant trees, build community gardens for city residents to grow fresh produce, and run education programs for public school children. NYRP has made such a big difference in the life of New York City residents. This year's gala was virtual, and it was a reunion of the movie "Hocus Pocus" featuring Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker. It was a new story, filmed at 70 different locations, and filled with great guest stars like Meryl Streep, Martin Short, Glenn Close (as Cruella de Vil),  John Stamos as Satan, Jennifer Hudson singing "I'm Not Telling You" and a surprise cameo by Mariah Carey singing "All I Want For Christmas". It was so well done and entertaining, a great way to forget about the crazy world outside. 


4) We binge-watched HBO's Succession over two weeks. It's about a family, whose patriarch (brilliantly played by Brian Cox) is the head of a multimedia conglomerate (think Rupert Murdoch), and the search within his family for a successor to his empire. Jeremy Strong won an Emmy this year for his portrayal of the troubled eldest son, and Kiernan Culkin, Alan Ruck and Sarah Snook are the other siblings with their own problems. It's Shakespearean in its storytelling, filled with betrayals, plotting, and double-crosses. I highly recommend the 2020 Emmy winner for Best Drama. You can watch the first episode here.
Succession


5)  I've been in a bit of a reading slump (maybe because of Succession), so I've just started two books.  The first one is The Little Book of Life Skills by Erin Zammett Ruddy. The book teaches the reader how to send email, pump gas, create secure passwords, even the proper way to blow dry your hair, with advice from experts in the field. It's interesting, and would make a great holiday gift for people just starting out on their own. (Is that even a thing now?) 

I needed a feel-good book, so I turned to Jenny Colgan's Christmas at the Island Hotel, which continues her series of books set on the small island of Mure off the coast of Scotland.  (Christmas On the Island and Endless Beach are the first two). I love catching up with Flora and her family and somehow it seems just right to read a Christmas book now. It feels like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold night. 


I hope you all stay safe and socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask, and this is your last chance to vote and make your voice heard, to choose the future you want for your children and grandchildren.

  


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter

Creatures by Crissy Van Meter
Published by Algonquin Paperbacks ISBN 9781643750835
Trade paperback, $15.95, 241 pages


One of the best reviewed books of early 2020, Crissy Van Meter's Creatures, is out in paperback this week. I missed it earlier this year, so I'm glad it came to my attention this week.

Creatures takes place on Winter Island, a feral island off the coast of Southern California. It is a hot spot with tourists during the summer, and the rest of the year it has small residential population. Evie is getting married tomorrow, and she is worried that the fishing boat her husband-to-be Liam is on hasn't returned to the island yet.

She also has to deal with a dead whale that has beached itself, leaving an overpowering smell. It bothers her mother, who surprisingly turned up for the wedding. Her mother was not really in Evie life, having spent most of her time on the mainland, leaving Evie as a young child to be raised by Evie's father. 

Evie's father never had a real job, other than growing and selling pot. They were frequently homeless, bouncing from staying in someone's garage or boat until he could scrape up enough money to buy his own small boat. He loved Evie, but it wasn't an easy life for a young girl.

The story moves back and forth in time, like the tides that come in and out of the island. We see Evie's life as a young girl who has to grow up too soon, helping her dad sell his pot. She makes one friend, Rook, a girl from a wealthy family who often leave Rook on her own.

We see Evie and Liam's relationship through the years. They are both from dysfunctional families, and while that is part of what draws them together, it also creates problems as they don't know how to communicate with each other. Liam's frequent physical absences crash into Evie's emotional absences.

The writing is emotionally powerful, I frequently had to stop and reread sentences that I found so deeply moving, like this paragraph:
"Sometimes he wants to crack me open. I can tell by the desperation in his eyes during the days that are short and too-soon dark, and he wants me to just say it. Say anything. Say how hurt I am, how I'm not sure if I can move on, how I'm not sure I know how to love, if I'm sure of anything. He tries to bring it up: he tells me he loves me, he hides love notes all over the house, he does house chores, even some of mine. We have mastered this torture."

Evie works at the Sea Institute, studying sea creatures, especially whales. Her observations about whales echo the things going on in her own life. Winter Island is essentially another important character in the story.

Creatures touched me profoundly, especially Evie and Liam's evolving relationship. Even though I'm not from a background like Evie's, I felt a kinship with her, something I attribute to Crissy Van Meter's empathetic writing. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for putting me on Crissy Van Meter's tour. 





Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Rescue You by Elysia Whisler

Rescue You by Elysia Whisler
Published by MIRA Books ISBN 9780778310082
Trade paperback, $16.99, 319 pages


Elysia Whisler's novel Rescue You opens with massage therapist Constance slamming on her van brakes to avoid hitting a dog. She gets out of the van and manages to coax the lost dog, who was in bad shape and had recently given birth, to eat a biscuit.

She followed the dog who led her to newborn puppies in an abandoned house. Constance wasn't sure if the dog was a stray or from a nearby overcrowded and dirty puppy mill, run by Janice, an awful woman. She managed to get all the sick, dirty puppies and mom in her van and took them to her sister Sunny's dog rescue home, Pittie's Place.

Sunny has been trying for years to get the puppy mill shut down, and along with childhood friend Pete, (who owns Canine Warriors training dogs as pets for veterans) has snuck onto Janice's property to rescue dogs on their own. Janice looks at it as stealing, as does Detective Callahan of the local police department.

After Constance helps Callahan with a stiff neck, he asks her to help his buddy Rhett, a former Marine who suffered a bad leg injury and PTSD. Rhett owns a weight training gym, Semper Fit, for people who are serious about their training.

Constance has had a rough few years- she cared for her late father through an
 illness, and her husband left her. She used to be a runner, but these last few years she hasn't kept herself in shape. Sunny offers her a place in her spin classes, but one day Constance finds herself in front of Semper Fit and goes in.

Rhett is intrigued by Constance, and impressed by her determination and work ethic. They circle around each other, and eventually Rhett takes her on as a client and they become friends- maybe even more.

Rescue Me is the perfect novel for anyone who loves dogs (especially pit bulls) and takes their exercise training seriously. (I know more than a few of those people.) We are introduced to a cast of characters in an interesting settings of the world of dog rescue and weight training. If you spend a lot of time in the gym, you will get this wonderful novel on an entirely other level. 

It's the first novel in Dogwood County, a new series, and the characters win you over in such a way that you look forward with great anticipation to the next installment and get to know some of the other characters better. The Christmas gala party at Pittie's Place was so vivid, I felt like I was a guest at the party. I hope I get invited next year.

Thank you to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Fall Reads tour.



Monday, October 26, 2020

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

The Cold Millions by Jess Walters
Published by Harper ISBN 9780062868084
Hardcover, $28.99, 352 pages



One of the books I always recommend is Jess Walters' novel Beautiful Ruins. Set in 1962, it tells the story of a young man working to keep his family inn open on the beautiful Italian coast of the Ligurian Sea. He dreams of Hollywood, and when an American movie star shows up in a boat, their lives become intertwined. It's one of the most perfectly constructed novels I have ever read.

His latest novel, The Cold Millions, drops the reader into 1909 Spokane, Washington where many lives converge. Gig and Ryan Dolan are young Irish immigrants who hop trains and try to find any kind of job they can. They come up against job agencies who take financial advantage of men like the Dolans, police who don't like these "bums" sleeping outside, and uber-wealthy businessmen, like mine owner Lemuel Brand, who uses his money to take every advantage he can to stay powerful.

Tired of being taken advantage of, Gig gets involved with union organizers and gets thrown in jail, along with 500 other men, after a big protest. Ryan turns to famed union speaker Elizabeth Gurley Flynn to help him get his brother out of jail. Flynn sees that she can use young Ryan to gain sympathy and money for the cause of protecting and promoting the union.

Ryan also turns to vaudeville performer Ursula, who is romantically involved with both Gig and Lemuel Brand. Brand is a man who uses everyone in his orbit, pitting people against each other, having loyalty to none. 

Once again, Walters' carefully constructs a fascinating world, again weaving real people into his fictional narrative (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were in Beautiful Ruins), like Flynn and labor lawyer Fred Moore. I loved the sibling relationship between Gig and Ryan, it felt so grounded in reality. The dichotomy of Ursula using her femininity to get what she wanted, while Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was  harangued because she "acted more like a man" works so well here.

One might think that reading about union organizing in 1909 has no resonance in 2020, but as I was reading, all I could think was wow, these things are still happening today. Wealthy men want to control society to benefit themselves only, women who don't act in a matter that is considered docile are ridiculed, people at the bottom of the economic rung are scorned, and eventually when people have had enough, they will protest against injustice.

The Cold Millions is a brilliant book to get lost in, that makes you think that maybe we will make it out of these troubled times as apparently they have always been with us in one form or another. I give Cold Millions my highest recommendation.







Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday 5ive- October 23, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my eye this week.


1) We made a quick visit to Boston on Sunday and saw this yacht docked outside our hotel room. Below Deck is the rare reality show we watch, about the crews that work on luxury yachts, so we always find this fascinating. 


2)  Rosanne Cash is one of my favorite singer/songwriters and she released a new song this week, Crawl Into the Promised Land, and it's phenomenal. The video for the song is fantastic too, and it features a photo of Harriet Tubman taken in my hometown of Auburn, NY, where she lived for many years. You can find the song here. 



3) Carol Fitzgerald and her team at BookReporter.com hosted Bookaccino, an afternoon program which features Carol discussing books that will be published in the upcoming month. She always adds to my To Be Read pile as I listen to her describe books I know I will want to read. There is a PDF takeaway of all the books discussed, the next one is November 11th and you can sign up here to join.


4) We have been working on a virtual gala for ArchCare, the organization my husband is the CEO/President of, and it was held Thursday night at 7pm. It was a big success, raising nearly $1.2 million to help the frail and vulnerable in the archdiocese of New York. Called A Toast To Our Healthcare Heroes, it highlighted the work of the many people who showed up everyday at ArchCare during the pandemic, in nursing homes, hospitals, PACE centers and individuals' homes, placing themselves in jeopardy to do so. There was entertainment, and special guests like Jeannie and Jim Gaffigan, Tino Martinez, Mike Piazza, and of course Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan made an appearance. Thanks to all who watched and donated, it is so appreciated. It's online at www.ArchCareGala2020.org if you want to check it out.



5)   I did not have much time to read this past week, with travel and gala work. I started Crissy Van Meter's novel, Creatures, which came out in paperback this week. The novel made many Best of 2020 Lists already, and it's a coming-of-age story set on an island off the coast of California. On the eve of her wedding, Evie comes to terms with her relationship with her often-absent mother and pot dealing, neglectful father. It's very atmospheric, and the writing is descriptive and vivid. A full review posts here on October 29th. 


Stay safe and socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask, and prepare to vote if you haven't already. Early voting starts tomorrow, October 24th in New York.