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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Best Behavior by Wendy Francis

Best Behavior by Wendy Francis
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525804625
Trade paperback, $17.99, 336 pages

Five years ago I read Wendy Francis' Summer of Good Intentions, about three sisters dealing with the death of their father, and loved it so much that it made my list of the Most Compelling Books of 2015. (My review here)

So I was happy to hear that she has a new book out this week, Best Behavior. Set over a long college graduation weekend, Meredith has to deal with preparing to be an empty nester as her twins, Dawn and Cody, are graduating from her alma mater, Bolton College in Boston.

Meredith is a NICU nurse married to her second husband Joel, a high school guidance counselor. Joel couldn't be more different from her first husband Roger, a highly sucessful Boston lawyer who cheated on his wife and left Meredith when the children were youngsters. Joel is steady, kind and a wonderful stepfather.

Roger is remarried  to Lily, a gorgeous Instagram enhancer (not be confused with an influencer) not much older than his children. They live in a huge oceanside mansion where the kids' graduation party is being held.

Change is hard for Meredith. She is sad that this part of her life is over, and her children are setting out on their own lives now. Dawn will be moving to Chicago with her boyfriend, working at a marketing job. Cody is going to North Dakota to teach at a Native American high school.

Dawn feels deeply, is stubborn and was a ballerina until high school. She and her mother had the typical mother/daughter stresses in high school , even moving in with her father in Boston for a year, which upset Meredith greatly.

Cody is the golden boy. He is rock solid, smart, and a football hero. She never had to worry about Cody, although something is bubbling up about him over this graduation weekend that could possibly spoil the celebration.

Trying to be on her best behavior, Meredith decides that she will be as graceful as Jackie Onassis this weekend. She is tested when Roger shows up uninvited to a pre-graduation dinner hosted by the college. Following the ceremony, Roger hosts a graduation at his second wife's favorite restaurant and much to Meredith's chagrin, Lily is there too.

The story culminates at the graduation party where things all come to a head. Can Meredith remain on her best behavior? Anyone who has had to deal with exes, and manuever family gatherings with gritted teeth, will recognize the issues that Meredith must face.

I enjoyed finding a new slang word here- "dosey", which means a person someone can take in small doses. I have a feeling I will be using this word in the future.

Best Behavior took me back to the days of my sons' college graduations and the mixed emotions that I felt. It's a time of reflection, pride, joy and wistfulness. Wendy Francis excels at writing about families at the turning points of life, and she makes you feel a less lonely as you relate to her characters. I recommend Best Behavior.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer Reads Blog Tour.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Doan

The Sweeney Sisters by Lian Dolan
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062909046
Hardcover, $27.99, 304 pages
I love a good sister story and Lian Dolan's The Sweeney Sisters is a great sister story. When Bill Sweeney, a giant of the literary world, passes away, his three daughters- Eliza, Maggie and Tricia- reunite in their postcard perfect hometown of Southport, Connecticut to plan his funeral.

Liza lives in Southport and owns a successful art gallery. "She had been raised well and married better", wife to the successful Whit and mom to two teenagers. She is efficient and organized, and her home is a showplace where everyone gathers for a Thanksgiving, with each course timed to perfection.

Maggie is the second born, known as 'Mad Maggie' in her younger days. A freespirit, she is an accomplished artist whose paintings sell well in Liza's gallery. She has dated and lived with many men, including a Hollywood director who treated her badly. Maggie "excelled at emotional intelligence, " she was "the glue that held the whole family together".

Tricia "emerged from the womb ready to conquer the world, setting and achieving goals with astonishing success." Her resume includes Yale Law School, marathon runner and hardcharging corporate lawyer in NYC.

The girls lost their beloved mother Maeve to breast cancer when they were teens, and now they were orphans. When their father's best friend and trusted lawyer Cap tells the sisters that there is not much left in the estate and that they need to sell the family home and find their father's last work, a memoir that he had already received an large advance for, they band together.

At the sendoff party for their party, they see an unfamiliar woman in the crowd. Serena is a Washington journalist who grew up in their neighborhood, although she is a few years older than the Sweeney Sisters. She is there because she ran a DNA ancestor test and discovered that she is also a daughter of Bill Sweeney.

What does Serena want? Is she after any family money, a good news story, or both? Did Bill know he had another daughter?

The Sweeney Sisters is a gem of a novel. It's got humor and warmth, and I laughed out loud several times, something that is sorely needed these days. The sisterly dynamics feel very real, and if you have sisters or wish you had sisters, this is a book that will touch your heart and bring you joy. I absolutely adore The Sweeney Sisters and give it my highest recommendation.

Thanks to William Morrow for providing a review copy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge by Phaedra Patrick
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778309789
Hardcover, $25.99, 336 pages

When we meet Mitchell in Phaedra Patrick's novel, The Secrets of Love Story Bridge, he is at his job cutting off the locks that people have attached to the bridge where he works in Upchester, England. A famous boy band filmed a video for their song "Lock Me Up With Your Love" on that bridge and ever since the song became a hit, people have been attaching locks with messages of love on them to the bridge.

The locks could weigh down the bridge and cause problems so Mitchell and another man spend their days cutting them off. One day, Mitchell spots a lovely woman accidentally fall off the bridge after attaching a lock and he jumps off the bridge to rescue her.

Mitchell becomes famous when a reporter writes a story about his rescue. He is perplexed by the attention, as he is a private person.  A widower,  he lives with his 10 year-old daughter Poppy in a small apartment. His wife Anita died three years prior.

Mitchell feels guilt about Anita's death. Trained as an architect, he worked long hours for a firm in a town far away designing the Upchester bridge. This kept him away from his wife and daughter, but he felt it was a sacrifice he had to make to advance his career and build a future for his family.

After his wife died, he quit his job to take the bridge maintenance one with steady hours so he can care for his daughter. Mitchell doesn't have many friends, and doesn't realize how lonely he is until he meets Liza, Poppy's music teacher.

It turns out that the woman he rescued from the bridge is Liza's sister Yvette, who had disappeared a month before the fall. Mitchell wants to help Liza and her family find Yvette. He feels like he couldn't save his wife, but maybe he can save Liza's family.

Phaedra Patrick writes lonely people so well. Her previous novel, The Library of Lost and Found, is about a woman who works in a library, but doesn't have much of a life outside that. Patrick creates such empathy for these characters, and I particularly like how she writes children. Poppy is a realistic depiction of a 10 year-old, not a smart-aleck or worldly beyond her years. I also like that the main character of the story is a man.

Patrick clearly believes in family, not only the family we belong to but also the one we create ourselves. The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is a sweet story, with enough of a mystery to keep our attention. Fans of Elizabeth Berg's The Story of Arthur Truluv would enjoy. I recommend it.

My review of The Library of Lost and Found is here.

Thanks for Harlequin for putting me on Phaedra Patrick's tour.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill

The Summer Villa by Melissa Hill
Published by MIRA Books ISBN 9780778359982
Trade paperback, $16.99, 384 pages

We all may be stuck in our own homes, but you can visit the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Melissa Hill's latest novel, The Summer Villa. Told in two separate timelines, we meet three young women who are all running away from their homes to stay at Villa Dolce Vita, a small, rather run-down vacation rental in Positano.

Kim is a 30 year-old American woman whose wealthy parents expect her to go to London and marry herself off to a man she doesn't even know to help their business prospects. When Kim refuses, she secretly runs away and ends up at Villa Dolce Vita. There she meets two other young ladies, Colette and Annie.

Colette is taking a well-deserved vacation after running her family's bakery in England after her father deserts the family while his wife fights breast cancer. Annie is an Irish hair stylist who receives this trip from one of her customers when the woman passes away.

Annie is a party girl, and she spends her nights out at the local bars, where she meets a handsome British man and thinks he may be the one. Colette is a sweet young woman who is a little imtimidated by her gorgeous roommates, but when she meets a handsome Italian man who woos her, Annie and Colette are a little surprised and envious.

While spending her days at the pool sunning herself and trying to figure out what she will do with her life, Kim finds a journal filled with affirmations and quotes that speak to her. She begins to take stunning photos of Positano and capture them with these affirmations, and when she posts them on Instagram, they go viral.

Years later, Kim has turned her Instagram posts into a mindfullness book, and she buys Villa Dolce Vita and creates a spa and wellness retreat there. As she prepares for the grand opening, she is struggling with the feeling that she cannot bond with her young daughter, and that her husband will discover this. It also appears that someone is trying to sabotage her grand opening.

Colette is married and dealing with infertility. Her husband is consumed with work and tries to talk her out of going to Positano for Kim's grand opening.  Annie is a single mom who now owns a successful hair salon, and while she is going to the grand opening, something is bothering her about seeing her old friends again.

Each woman is struggling with issues that many women can relate to in the current timeline, and it all comes to a head at the grand opening. There are secrets that come out, and I admit that I was taken by complete surprise, which I enjoyed. Hill skillfully puts all the pieces together and creates a novel that keeps the reader guessing, and as someone who has visited Positano, I was happy to revisit it in this  captivating novel.  If you want to escape to a beautiful place for a few hours, pick up The Summer Villa. Fans of Liane Moriarty's novels will enjoy this one.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on Melissa Hill's tour.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday 5ive- April 24, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week. In my quest to work on a small project a day, today's task was finding a place for a set of golf clubs and a new golf push cart. In a small NYC apartment that was a challenge, but hey, I have a lot of time on my hands, right?

1)  Even though the weather has been colder than usual for April, we do have signs of spring. We took a walk on Sunday and found some welcome sights of lovely flowers to brighten our day.

2)  The only place I go to on a regular basis is the laundry room in our building. I go at 6:45am and I'm the only there. Items that have been found in the machines are tacked up on a bulletin board. This week I saw this tacked up on there and have to wonder if the person who lost their "Here Comes The Madness" underwear will ever claim it. It's been a week and so far no takers. At least it give us all a well-needed chuckle.  

3) We are all starved for live musical entertainment so it was great to watch a concert that was filmed in January before we all had to social distance from each other. CBS televised Let's Go Grazy: A Grammy Salute to Prince and it was fantastic. They had great performances from  H.E.R and Gary Clark Jr. (Let's Go Crazy), Sheila E (The Glamorous Life), Beck (Raspberry Beret), Princess, featuring Maya Rudolph, (Delirious) and the great Mavis Staples with the Revolution (Purple Rain). The best concert I ever saw was Prince during his Purple Rain tour, and who can forget his Super Bowl concert when he played in the pouring rain? If you missed it, the link is here. Be prepared to dance. 

4) I'm missing getting to attend book signings and hearing authors talk about their books, and this week I watched two Facebook Lives with Adriana Trigiani talking to Erik Larson about his Winston Churchill book, The Splendid and the Vileand Colum McCann speaking about his novel Apeirogon, about two fathers, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who each lost a daughter. Both discussions were so fascinating and made me immediately go online to a local indie bookseller to order both books. If you like smart, interesting conversations about a wide range of topics, go to Adriana Trigiani's Facebook page here and watch them. Erik Larson here, and Colum McCann here

5) I read three books this week. Melissa Hill's The Summer Villa, about three young women who meet when they share a vacation villa in Positano, Italy. It will take you away and there were a few interesting twists that I didn't see coming. I enjoy being surprised. My full review posts Monday. 

The Secrets of Love Story Bridge is a wonderful novel by Phaedra Patrick about a lonely young widower with a 10 year-old daughter who rescues a woman who fell off a bridge. When the woman disappears after that, he becomes involved with the family in trying to help find her. I enjoyed Patrick's The Library of Lost and Found, and this one was just as good. She writes lonely people so well. My full review publishes next Wednesday. 

I also read an early review copy of Curtis Sittenfeld's novel Rodham, which poses the question what if Hillary Rodham never married Bill Clinton? It's an intriguing concept, and I liked the last half of the story better than the first. Sittenfeld also wrote American Wife, which was a fictionalized account of the life of a woman very similiar to Laura Bush. I'm curious to know why Sittenfeld didn't use a fictional character to represent Hillary Clinton, as she did with Laura Bush. You have to remember that this is fiction, not nonfiction, although she weaves in many factual events into the book in a clever manner. My full review will post soon.

I hope you all stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Published by Harper Books ISBN 9780062913265
Hardcover, $26.99, 320 pages

Elizabeth Wetmore's debut novel, Valentine, takes place in West Texas in 1976. It's oil country, and a hardscrabble place to be. The story begins with Gloria, a 14 year-old Mexican girl getting into a truck with a man she doesn't know.

Gloria is sexually assaulted all night long and beaten but manages to escape and make it to an isolated ranch house where a very pregnant Mary Rose is alone with her young daughter. Mary Rose takes Gloria in, and when the attacker comes looking for Gloria, Mary Rose holds him at gunpoint until the sheriff arrives.

Valentine tells the story of how this event affects the women in Odessa. Mary Rose moves with her daughter into town, fearful of living so far from anyone else, while her husband stays at the ranch. She has agreed to testify against the young man, who comes from a well-to-do family who has gotten him out trouble more than once. The nightly phone calls threatening her only make her more determined to testify, even though her husband is furious at her for doing that.

Mary Rose moves onto the street where Corrine, a recently widowed retired teacher lives. Corrine and her husband saw Gloria get into the truck with her attacker, and not stopping her haunted Corinne's husband.

Corrine is grieving, drinking hard and avoiding all contact with anyone, except for ten-year-old Debra Ann. Debra's mom ran away and Debra spent a lot of time with Corinne's husband. When the young girl finds a homeless Vietnam vet, she helps him, bringing him food and keeping him company.

Karla is a single mom who works as a bartender at the local bar/restaurant. She began as a waitress, where she was routinely harassed by the many men who came in for lunch and dinner. It's the only job where she can make enough money to support her child, so she must put up with their behavior, dodging the more dangerous men.

Suzanne is a successful Avon saleswoman, the ultimate room mother who knows how to work a room. She came from "trash" and strategized her way to becoming one of the most respected women in town. She has a will of steel, and while people may underestimate her, it is at their own peril.

The characters in Valentine are so compelling, and the story so powerful, it is a remarkable debut. I found myself drawn to Corinne and Mary Rose especially. Corinne's deep grief is palpable on the page, and Mary Rose's anger at what happened to Gloria fuels her desire to get justice for the young girl, and protect other young girls from a similiar fate.

Though the men run the world in Odessa -"You raise a family in Midland, but you raise hell in Odessa" is a common theme- it's the women who must deal with this harsh world the men have created. They face dangerous sexism and racism. Each of these women have to figure out how to survive and thrive, support each other, and make the world better for the young girls coming up behind them.

Valentine gets my highest recommendation, it's one of the best books I have read this year, and it is the Read With Jenna Today Show pick for April. It's suggested for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Elizabeth Strout, and as I love both of those authors, I highly agree with that.

Thanks to Harper Collins for providing a review copy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Published by Harper Books ISBN 9780062671189
Hardcover, $28.99, 448 pages

Give me a novel based in fact and a setting in a place I'm not familiar with and I am all in. And if it's written by Louise Erdrich, all the better. Her latest novel, The Night Watchman, is based on the life of her grandfather, an American Indian who fought the federal government when they tried to take away the land of his people in North Dakota in the 1950s.

The man based on her grandfather is Thomas, a night watchman in the jewelry making factory in a Native American homeland in North Dakota. Thomas is also on the Turtle Mountain Advisory Commitee that oversaw the area, and between both of those jobs he spends as much time as he can with his loving wife Rose and their children.

Thomas becomes concerned when he learns that the US House of Representatives is considering a bill that would end support of the Native Americans on Turtle Mountain, effectively forcing the residents there to leave their homes and move to the big city to find jobs to support their families. Selling the land would violate a treaty signed with the tribe years ago, and Thomas rallies the people to petition the government to honor their agreement and defeat the resolution.

Patrice is a young woman who works in the jewelry factory and lives with her mother, drunken father, and siblings in a rundown home. She works hard and hopes to get a promotion so she can earn more money to support her family.

When her older sister, who had married and moved away to the big city, disappears, it is up to Patrice to find her. Her journey to the big city brings her into contact with men who take advantage of young women, and Patrice has to use her wits to get out of more than one jam.

She has two men back home who want to date her, although she doesn't want to date them. Wood Mountain is a boxer who ends up on her train to Minneapolis, and he decides that he should keep an eye on her. Barnes is the math teacher who wants to be her boyfriend.

Every character in The Night Watchman is interesting. Thomas, Rose, Patrice, Wood, even the secondary characters like the Mormon missionaries who attempt to convert the Native Americans, are so fully realized, you find yourself wanting to know more about each of them. Erdrich writes in each of their voices brilliantly.

Erdrich packs a lot of story into her lovingly crafted novel, and you learn a lot about life on Turtle Mountain in the 1950s- the traditions, the food, the culture, the family connections. The scenes set in Washington DC as Thomas and Patrice and others go to meet with congressmen, are also fascinating.

The Night Watchman is a book to get totally immersed in, and in a time when most of us can't leave our homes, it's great to be taken somewhere else for a day or two. It's especially appealing to those who like history. I highly recommend it.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Friday 5ive- April 17, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention during the week. We're all still hunkered down, working from home, making dinner every.single.night.

1) People may not have been able to go to Washington, DC to see the cherry blossoms, but we had a tree in front of our apartment building that was in full bloom this week. It really stood out on the streets of New York.

2) Easter was this past Sunday, and although we couldn't have our family together, we did manage to eat dinner at the same time over Zoom. One family made steak, one had Mississippi pot roast, and I made our traditional lamb. The scalloped potatoes turned out very tasty, as did the ambrosia salad and broccoli salad. We didn't even have room for dessert. We had a wonderful time!

3) With bookstores closed, I have been trying to help by purchasing a book a week from a different local independent bookstore to send to people as a small way to help out. So far I have sent out Adrienne Martini's memoir Someone's Gotta Do It, her memoir about running for office in her small town in upstate New York in Otsego County from Astoria Bookshop, Andy Greene's The Office- the Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, from Books Are Magic, and I preordered Curtis Sittenfeld's upcoming novel, Rodham, a fictionalized account of what if Hillary Clinton didn't marry Bill Clinton from  Bookmarks Shoppe. Her book, American Wife, was a wonderful novel based on the life of Laura Bush. 

4) Speaking of married women, this week my TV watching was all about the Mrs. I started season three of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime, and it is so good to catch up with Miriam and her manager Susie, played by the fabulous Emmy winner Alex Borstein. The supporting cast is also so great, and I think I'm going to like the storyline about Joel opening up a club above an illegal gambling operation in Chinatown.

The other show I've been watching is Mrs. America on FX on Hulu, about the efforts of Phyllis Schlafly to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Cate Blanchett is riveting as Schlafly, and next week we will see the characters of Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Betty Freidan (Tracey Ullman), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba). This one is must-see TV.

3) I read two books this week- Robyn Carr's novel, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, about two sisters who have to face new lives after their mom dies and a marriage falls apart. My review is here.

The other book is Elizabeth Wetmore's Valentine, which is this month's Read With Jenna pick from the Today Show. Set in 1976 in hardscrabble Odessa, Texas, it reveals how the aftermath of a vicious assault of a 14 year-old Mexican girl affects the women in the town. The characters are so compelling, and the writing is brilliant. My review will follow next week. 

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay home.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778310099
Hardcover, $27.99, 304 pages

When you want to tune out the news and get lost in a good book, Robyn Carr's latest, Sunrise on Half Moon Bay, is a great place to turn.

Addie is 32 years old, and has spent the last eight years of her life caring first for her father, and then her mother, who lived four years after suffering from a stroke. Now that both of her parents have passed, Addie has to decide what to do with her own life.

Her sister Justine is twenty years older, and was out of the house before Addie was even born. Justine is a successful corporate laywer, working long hours to support her stay-at-home husband Scott and their teenage daughters Olivia and Amber.

Justine and Addie had an agreement that Justine would pay Addie to stay home and take care of their parents, and Justine would pay all of their expenses, including a small stipend for Addie.

Justine has always been a take-charge, decisive person, Addie has been more deliberate. Caring for their ailing parents and an event from Addie's college days has made her reluctant to move forward with her life. She feels stuck, but doesn't know how to move forward.

Her lifelong best friend Jake has been a shoulder to lean on, but now even he has been urging Addie to do something- go back to school, maybe even start dating. And he wouldn't mind if he was the guy she would want to date.

When Justine's husband decides that he wants out of the marriage, she is blindsided. She always thought they were happy. Scott wants half of their marital assets and spousal support, which means that Justine's financial support of Addie is in jeopardy.

Addie and Justine's lives have been turned upside down, and now they have to take a hard look at what they really want out of life and how to get there. They haven't been close as sisters, but now they must figure out a way to pull together and build a new relationship with each other.

The sister relationship is the strongest element of Sunrise on Half Moon Bay. I loved watching Addie and Justine work their way back to each other, depending on each other to get through a new phase of their lives. Justine reevaluates her career situation and has to deal with a big change in her midlife, while Addie is starting a little later than most people at finding a meaningful job.

There is so much that people can relate to here- Addie sacrificing to care for her parents, Justine working long hours at a tough job to provide financially for her family, while still coming home to make dinner, do laundry and help with her daughters' homework. Even Olivia and Amber, having their lives turned upside down by their parents' divorce, are in a situation where many people have been.

I hope that we get to revisit Addie and Justine in a future Half Moon Bay book, I feel like they have become my friends.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on Robyn Carr's tour.

Robyn Carr's website is here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Office- the Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History by Andy Greene

The Office- the Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by Andy Greene
Published by Dutton ISBN 9781524744977
Hardcover, $28, 464 pages

With everyone stuck inside all day and night, people turn to binge-watching great television shows. One of Netflix's most watched shows is The Office, which ran for nine years on NBC, and introduced the world to many talented writers and actors.

It is great timing that Andy Greene's book, The Office- the Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History published last month. If you are watching The Office, whether for the first time or rewatching on Netflix or Comedy Central, this book is one that will enhance your enjoyment of the show.

Greene is a writer for Rolling Stone magazine, and he wrote a article for the magazine about the show when it was on NBC. Over the years, he has written other articles about the show, and even became good friends with Creed Bratton, who began as an extra, and worked his way into one of the most interesting roles on the show.

The book begins with the start of the The Office on the BBC in Great Britain, the brainchild of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. If you are not familiar with that show, you get a great peek into the mindset of the origins that led to many international versions of The Office.  It works so well because many people all over the world work in an office with characters like the people we see on the TV show.

Greene goes season by season, giving an overview of the season, and doing a deep dive on one specific episode, like "Diversity Day", and "The Dinner Party", generally thought of as the best episode of the show.

He interviewed writers and producers of the show, which really adds to the inside baseball aspect of the show. I found this the most interesting parts of the book, getting a perspective we haven't yet heard about.

While most of the quotes from the lead actors (Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Jenna Fisher, Rainn Wilson) came from previous sources (which Green annotates at the end), his new interviews with the actors in secondary roles (Brian Baumgartner, Kate Flannery, etc.) are fascinating.

We learn which actors auditioned for the roles (Bob Odenkirk from Better Call Saul came very close to playing Michael Scott), and why Steve Carrell was generally thought of as the nicest guy in show business. Everyone loved him, and for good reason. His goodbye almost had me teary-eyed and I don't even know him personally.

The show had up and down years, and when Carrell left after season seven, the show lost its way. The writers, producers and actors were pretty honest about what happened. Imagine what would have happened if James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) actually took them up on their offer to join the cast as the new boss!

So many great talents came from The Office- Mindy Kaling, Ed Helms, producers Michael Schur and show runner Greg Daniels are among the many people who have left their mark in the entertainment industry.

If you are a fan of The Office, this is a must-read. If you know a fan of The Office, give this as a gift. Who knows, you might get a World's Greatest Gift Giver mug in return.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Reading in a Quarantine

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

So much has changed since my last column back in March. Most of us are home, many either working or home schooling during this most challenging time. In between watching the nonstop press conferences and news updates, we look for something to take us away, if only for a little while.

This month’s Book Report will give you some ideas for books to read while you are home. Independent bookstores are hurting, like everyone else, and if you want to support a bookstore near you, you can find one on bookshop.org. 

For people who enjoy literary fiction, Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward about a young boy who is the only survivor of plane crash, is heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s a Read With Jenna pick from the Today Show. 

 Another pick from the club is Abi DarĂ©’s debut novel The Girl With The Louding Voice about Adunni, a young Nigerian girl who overcomes many obstacles in her quest to get an education. Both Edward and Adunni are unforgettable characters. 

If you like fiction set in the 1950s, there are several good novels out now. Louise Erdrich’s new novel, The Night Watchman is based on her grandfather, a Native American who fights to stop the US government from taking land from his tribe. 

Gretchen Berg’s The Operator is set in a small town in 1950s Ohio, where a telephone operator listens in on a phone call that will change her life. The main character reminded me of Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and it has been recommended for fans of TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Lara Prescott’s debut novel, The Secrets We Kept tells the story of secretaries in the CIA during the cold war who are recruited to help smuggle Boris Pasternak’s novel, Doctor Zhivago out of Russia.  Fans of Susan Elia MacNeal’s Maggie Hope series will like this one.

If you liked TV’s The Crown, Georgie Blalock’s novel The Other Windsor Girl, is a fictionalized account of the fascinating life of Princess Margaret, as seen through the eyes of one of her assistants. 

If mysteries or thrillers are the type of books that take you away, there are some terrific ones out now. Chris Bohjalian follows up his hugely popular The Flight Attendant from last year with this year’s The Red Lotus about an NYC emergency room doctor whose boyfriend goes missing on a bike tour in Vietnam. She discovers that he was not entirely truthful about what he was doing there, and it involves a possible worldwide pandemic. 

New in paperback mysteries are Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy about a black female spy in the CIA in 1986 who has to either betray the man she loves or her country as she is tasked with helping to encourage a coup in a Communist Burkina Faso. 

Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister finds a woman having to team with her long-estranged sister to save her stepson from a murder accusation. It’s a real puzzler as to who is hiding what here. 

For those who like something lighter, Christina Lauren’s The Honey-Don’t List, has main characters who are home design gurus, (think Chip and Joanna Gaines). 
Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test is about a successful Vietnamese businessman on the autism spectrum living in the US whose mother returns to Vietnam to find the perfect bride for him.

If you prefer nonfiction and you’re missing baseball, Jesse Dougherty’s Buzzsaw- The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series will fill the void for you. 

If you’re watching a lot of movies, Brian Raftery’s Best.Movie.Year.Ever- How 1999 Blew Up The Big Screen is about all of the great movie releases from 1999, like Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Office Space, The Blair Witch Project and more. It will add to your watchlist. 

If you’re spending a lot of time in the kitchen, Erin Gardner’s Procrastibaking-100 Recipes for Getting Nothing Done in the Best Way Possible will help you find a tasty, productive way to avoid the rest of your home responsibilities. 

If you’re looking for something to keep the kiddies busy, Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby series has several titles that are perfect for early chapter book readers. 
Another series that is great for parents to read aloud as a family is Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

I hope you stay safe and well and home. We’ll get through this all together.