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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.

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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow

The Wrong Kind of Women by Sarah McCraw Crow
Published by MIRA ISBN 9781488062469
Hardcover, $27.99, 239 pages

Sarah McCraw Crow's novel The Wrong Kind of Woman, set in the 1970s, opens with Virginia's husband Oliver dying of an aneurysm in front of their thirteen year-old daughter Rebecca. Oliver was a history professor at Clarendon, an all-boy's college in New Hampshire.

Virginia is devastated by Oliver's premature death, as is Rebecca, who adored her father. Virginia taught an art history class at the college, so in addition to dealing with the emotional loss of her husband, she has to deal with the financial loss of his income. 

We also meet Sam, a student at Clarendon who was in the faculty/student jazz band with Oliver. He admired Oliver and enjoyed his friendship as he didn't fit in with the other young men at school. After Sam ends up partnering with Jerry, a Vietnam vet, on a project, Jerry brings Sam to the commune where he is staying. 

Sam is enchanted by Elodie, a young woman from the commune. Elodie wants to see change in society, perhaps by any means necessary. She is planning something, will Sam get himself involved to win her affection?

The most interesting character to me is Louise, a professor in the history department. She was the only female tenured professor at the college, one of only four women professors. They were called the Gang of Four, and following Oliver's death, Louise invited Virginia to join them for an evening out.

It was an eye-opening experience for Virginia. Although Oliver didn't like Louise, he found her too pushy, Virginia liked these women, especially Louise. They spoke of their difficult experiences at the college,  and their desire to make Clarendon a coed institution.

I would have liked to have seen more of Louise and the other female professors. I found their stories so intriguing, and the scene where they invited two women to speak at the college was very strong. It reminded me of the FX miniseries Mrs. America, which I enjoyed immensely. There are even a few mentions of Shirley Chisholm and Bella Abzug, who were prominently featured in that series.

Virginia has her consciousness raised by economic necessity; she needed to get a better paying job for herself and Rebecca. She was close to getting her PhD, and Louise convinces her that she can do it, and they will help her in any way they can.

There are many 1970s touchstones in this novel for those of us who remember that era. Who else spent their Friday nights watching The Brady Bunch followed by The Partridge Family? And we all remember  Tim Conway trying to make Harvery Korman laugh in The Carol Burnett Show skits.

The Wrong Kind of Woman mines some of the same territory as Jennifer Weiner's wonderful 2018 novel, Mrs. Everything, taking the macroview of women's lives in the 1970s through the microview of the women in these novels, allowing the reader to see the tumultous times through these women's eyes.

Thanks to MIRA Books for putting me on Sarah McCraw Crow's book tour.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Friday 5ive- October 16, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. It's been a pretty quiet week here, we had three rainy days which we needed.

1)  Every year ArchCare, the organization of which my husband is president and CEO, hosts a gala that raises funds for their foundation to help the frail and elderly people they serve. The event is usually held at Gotham Hall, which is so spectacular, but this year because of COVID, the event is a virtual gala. But the good news is that now anyone can watch it online! This year's theme is a Salute to Our Healthcare Heroes, and will feature stories about the brave and dedicated people who work in ArchCare's nursing homes, home care agencies, and assisted living facilities, and who did heroic work this year.  Good Day New York's Rosanna Scotto hosts, and we've lined up some terrific entertainment- Jim and Jeannie Gaffigan will share some laughs, jazz singer Nicole Henry performs, as do the New York Tenors. Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan will share some inspirational words, and for the baseball fans, we have New York Mets Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and former New York Yankee Tino Martinez. You can join in our sing along with Broadway performers from Sing For Your Seniors, as they close the show with a special performance. Join us Thursday, October 22nd at 7pm right here- at ArchCareGala2020. 

2)  You never know what you'll see while walking doing errands. On my way to the grocery store I saw this Sukkah, which according to the helpful information sheet is described as "a temporary shelter covered in natural materials, used especially for meals during the Jewish festival of Sukkot." You can find more information about Sukkot here. 

3)  Hispanic Heritage Month ended yesterday, and so it is appropriate that I began watching the updated version of One Day At A Time, which ran for three seasons on Netflix, was cancelled, and then picked up by Pop TV (the first American home of Schitt's Creek), and now CBS is running the first season episodes on Monday nights at 9pm. The original show starred Bonnie Franklin as the divorced mom of two teenage daughters (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli) and was a ratings hit. I fondly remember watching it. This version stars Justina Machado as Penelope, a divorced mom of a smart teenage daughter and fashionista tween son. Her lively mother, played by the legendary Rita Moreno, lives with them. Penelope served in the military in Afghanistan, and now works as a nurse in a doctor's office. It's wonderful television, celebrating family life through the eyes of this Cuban-American family, and yes, handyman Schneider is here as well. I highly recommend it.

4)  You've all seen TV commercials, received emails or texts, all encouraging everyone to vote. The cast of the TV show The West Wing teamed up the organization When We All Vote with a special on HBOMax. The cast- Martin Sheen, Dule Hill, Allison Janney, Rob Lowe, Janel Maloney, Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford- recreated a classic episode of the series- season 3's Hartsfield's Landing- as a staged play at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. It was so good to see this iconic cast back together again. John Spencer, who played Chief of Staff Leo McGarry, passed away during the last year of the series, and was sorely missed. Sterling K. Brown from This Is Us had the unenviable task of stepping in to play Leo, and he was reverent as he put his own stamp on the role. Martin Sheen and Richard Schiff pretty much look the same nearly 20 years later, and Bradley Whitford looks better than he did back then- his silver hair makes him look distinguished. I always loved The West Wing, and this is one of their best episodes. If you have HBOMax, this is must-watch TV. I wish they had made it available on broadcast TV so everyone could see it. (HBOMax is having a free trial, so you could sign up for that and watch.)

5)  It was a busy week, so I only got around to reading two books, for which I am on blog tours. Sarah McCraw Crow's The Wrong Kind of Woman is set in 1970's New Hampshire, at a men's college. Virginia's professor husband tragically dies in front of their 13 year-old daughter. Virginia discovers how difficult it will be to make a living, and becomes friends with the few female professors at the college, whom the men openly disdain. It's a time of upheaval in the country, and anyone who enjoyed FX's Mrs. America may want to put this on their reading list. 

Elysia Whisler's upcoming novel Rescue You is about Constance, a young physical therapist who helps her sister run a dog rescue organization. She becomes involved with Rhett, a former Marine who runs a local gym. Rhett is wary of getting involved with anyone, but he is drawn to Constance. If you like dogs (especially pit bulls) and are into weight training, this book has your name all over it. (I know a few people like that. )

Stay safe, socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask and VOTE. It's the best way to build the world you want to see for your children and grandchildren.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas

Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas
Published by Harper Perennial ISBN 9780063018440
Trade paperback, $16.99, 448 pages

Fans of Liane Moriarty's books should make room on their shelves for Cassidy Lucas' debut novel, Santa Monica. Set in a wealthy enclave of Santa Monica, we have sex, adultery, secret relationships, immigration issues, an unexplained death and so much more in this propulsive page-turner.

Zack is the sexy trainer that all the ladies in his exercise classes pine after. When he is found dead by his half-sister Leticia, an undocumented worker from Mexico, the book grabs us and never lets us go until the very end.

The story moves back in time five months and we discover that Leticia cleans house for several wealthy families in Santa Monica, including Mel Goldberg, a Brooklyn transplant. Mel's husband Adam wrote a hot screenplay and now they have made the move to Hollywood.

Adam has settled into the Hollywood scene, but Mel misses her business, her friends, and pretty much everything about Brooklyn. She doesn't fit in with the thin, blonde, surgically enhanced women who spend a lot of time at the gym where Zack works. She's a little overweight, and openly speaks her mind on  everything, including her politics, which differ from many of the other women.

Her one friend Regina is an exercise addict, and convinces Mel to host an exercise class at her house. Zack is the instructor and he finds himself drawn to Mel, which enrages Regina, who has her eye on Zack. Regina has involved Zack in a shady financial scheme which she hopes will get her out of debt before her husband finds out.

Zack doesn't want anyone to know that Leticia is his half-sister. Leticia works several housecleaning jobs, babysitting jobs, dog walking jobs, anything she can to support herself and her young son, who is disabled after an accident. Zack feels guilty, and tries to help Leticia in any way he can, and he adores his nephew.

All of these stories circle each other until they collide. The juxtaposition of the wealthy Santa Monica residents and people like Zack and Leticia, who scramble everyday to keep their heads above water, is thought-provoking. Leticia's fear of being discovered by ICE agents, deported and having to leave her son gives the reader a window into the daily stress of living with that fear.

The characters here are multi-dimensional. We see their good sides and the bad decisions they make; we root for them to make good choices and cringe when when they don't. When a book gets me that me invested, I know it's good read. There are also some very steamy sex scenes here that will raise your pulse like you just took a strenuous class at the exercise studio. 

Santa Monica is a stellar debut, a satisfying mystery with incisive social commentary. I hope to read more from Cassidy Lucas and I can see this as an HBO miniseries, ala Big Little Lies. I recommend it, I read it in one day as I couldn't put it down. 


Friday, October 9, 2020

Friday 5ive- October 9, 2020

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

1) One of the big news stories this week (non-political edition) is that a T.Rex skeleton, named Stan, sold for nearly 32 million dollars at auction this week. Stan is a 40-foot long T.Rex dinosaur found in 1987 in North Dakota. It was a beautiful day for a walk, so I thought I'd go see Stan in person in the window at Christie's Auction House near Rockefeller Center. He's very impressive, but where would you put that in your house?

2) Today is the last day to register to vote in New York, so if you haven't already, time is ticking. This week I joined the bipartisan organization Moms Rising and mailed out ten postcards to moms in North Carolina reminding them to vote. It's the best way to make your voice heard. My friend Dorothy gave me the cool tote bag.

3)  Speaking of voting, the cast of HBO's brilliant VEEP got together on a Zoom call as a fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats this week. I loved the show, although they couldn't have imagined that the insane stuff they dreamed up isn't crazier than the world right now. They talked about their favorite guests- Peter MacNichol and Hugh Laurie among them, along with my personal favorite, Dan Bakkendahl, whose portrayal of the foul-mouthed Congressman Roger Furlong was genius-level. They also shared insults hurled at Jonah that never made the show, and performed a few deleted scenes. It was great to see everyone back together again. More info on the fundraiser is here.  

4) If you want to escape from politics and like rom-com movies, Then Came You is now on demand and streaming. Kathie Lee Gifford plays Annabelle, a widow who decides to travel the world to see all the sights she and her husband never got to see. She starts in beautiful Scotland, staying at Awd's Inn, a castle/inn run by Howard, who is trying to save his family's ancestral home by turning it into an inn. Craig Ferguson is perfect as Howard- hilarious, cantankerous, and he falls in love with Annabelle, which doesn't bode well for his upcoming marriage to Claire, played by Elizabeth Hurley. You'll want to visit Scotland as seen through the lens of director Adriana Trigiani in this charming movie. My full review is here.

5)  I read two fantastic books this week. Jess Walter's The Cold Millions is set in 1909 Spokane, Washington and tells the story of two young Irish immigrants whose involvement with a workers' union protest gets them thrown in jail. It's a big story, and although it's set in 1909, there is a lot that resonates with events happening today. It's about class, unequal wealth, and family loyalty and it's just brilliant. I loved Walter's 2012 novel, Beautiful Ruins, and this one is just as good.

V.E. Schwab's novel, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is a spin on Faust. Addie is a young French woman in 1714, who does not want to marry the widower her parents have chosen for her. She runs away and makes a deal with the devil in the form of Luc. She wants her freedom to live her life as she chooses, and when she is finished, he can have her soul. This dooms her to be forgotten by everyone she meets, which is a difficult life. Three hundred years later, she meets a man in a bookstore who knows her name. How is this possible? I loved, loved, loved this complicated, fascinating story. It reminded me of one of my favorites from 2018, Lisa Grunwald's Time After Time. A full review will follow soon.

Stay safe, socially distant, wash your hands, wear a mask, and make a plan to vote. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Movie Review- Then Came You

If you've ever thought of visiting Scotland, but can't because of the pandemic, watch the movie Then Came You, now available on demand. Kathie Lee Gifford (who wrote the screenplay) is Annabelle, widowed a year ago, who heads out on a world-wide trip to visit all of places she and her husband never got to see, places from their favorite movies. 

She begins her journey in Scotland, where she will be staying at a castle, Awd's Inn, owned by Howard Awd, wonderfully played by Craig Ferguson. Howard is valiently trying to keep his family's home afloat by turning it into an inn, but things aren't looking good.

Howard picks up Annabelle at the train station, and they don't exactly hit it off. His Scottish sense of humor is not appreciated by Annabelle, but she is charmed by the beautiful castle/inn. As they get to know each other, it is clear that there is more than a friendship there. Howard's fiancee, played by Elizabeth Hurley, may not appreciate their blossoming relationship however.

If you are a romantic comedy fan, Then Came You will tick off all the boxes for you. If you watched Craig Ferguson when he cohosted a week of Today's fourth hour with Kathie Lee, you know they have an  amazing chemistry. Their quick-witted repartee shines through in this delightful movie, and watching them open up to each other is heartwarming.

Adriana Trigiani expertly directed this lovely movie, and she perfectly captures the beauty of Scotland. I wanted to walk through my television to wander the highlands and through the rooms of the beautiful Awd's Inn. The set design and decoration is just stunning, the costumes are gorgeous, every detail about this movie works so well.

Craig Ferguson has always been known as a very funny man, but he attains leading man status here. He balances the humor with emotion so well. (He's very handsome too!) Ford Kiernan plays his best friend Calvin, and he is a delight. And Wally the dog, who becomes Annabelle's constant companion, will bring a smile to your face.

Then Came You is the perfect movie to get us away from the craziness of these times, to take us out of ourselves.  It will make us laugh, open up our hearts, and give us hope. I highly recommend it, it had me smiling from ear to ear the entire time. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778310150
Hardcover, $27.99 320 pages

Sometimes you just need a good, twisty psychological thriller to sink your teeth into. Lisa Unger's new novel, Confessions on the 7:45, fits that bill.

Selena is running late at work. She likes to be on the early train home so that she can have dinner with her husband and two young sons, but tonight she called home to say she would be on a later train. A sinking feeling made Selena put a camera in her children's playroom where she caught her nanny Geneva and husband having sex while the boys were in the other room watching television. And this was the second time she caught them.

She gets on the train and finds a seat next a young woman Martha, who befriends Selena and makes a confession - she is having an affair with her boss, who is married to the CEO of the company. After a few drinks, Selena confesses her tale of the nanny and her husband. Martha wistfully wonders what if they could solve each other's problems? Selena finds that disturbing, but she'll never see Martha again, even though Martha pushes Selena to exchange phone numbers. 

When Selena returns home, she confronts her husband who swears it was just the one time, and he is sorry, but Selena knows better. She is devastated because she really liked Geneva, she was wonderful with the boys and kept the house organized. 

Before Selena had a chance to fire Geneva, she disappears the night Selena confronts her husband. The police show up after Geneva's sister calls them, and Geneva doesn't show up for work the next day. Selena doesn't tell the police that her husband was having an affair with Geneva, and the tension ratchets up as the lies continue.

There is another story we get entangled with- a young woman named Pearl lives with her mother, a woman who owns a failing bookstore and has relationships with many men. Who is Pearl and how does she figure into the main story?

Unger has a lot of balls to juggle to keep the story moving and connected, and she does it expertly. With a nod to the classic Hitchcock movie, Strangers on a Train, we wonder what happened to Geneva and does Martha have anything to do with it?  Mystery/thriller fans who like to put their deductive skills to the test will enjoy trying to untangle all the knots of this intriguing story.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Fall Mystery Reads Tour.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Friday 5ive- October 2, 2020

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week. It's hard to believe we are already in October, I'm not sure where I misplaced September.

1)  Many of us fondly recall the 1991 movie Father of the Bride, starring Steve Martin and Diane Keaton as parents whose daughter is getting married, much to the dismay of her father who still thinks of her as a little girl. The charming movie was so successful it spawned a sequel, Father of the Bride 2, about the daughter and her mother both having babies. Director Nancy Meyer reunited the entire cast for Father of the Bride 3 (ish), which featured the Banks family getting together on a Zoom call while son Mattie proposes to his girlfriend, a lovely nurse quarantining in a hotel room. It was such a delight to see everyone, as well as new members of the family, Ben Platt and Florence Pugh, who play the babies all grown up. Kieran Culkin's performance as Mattie was so sweet, it brought tears to my eyes. You can find the video on Netflix's YouTube channel here , and while you're there, donate money to World Central Kitchen, who do an amazing job feeding people affected by natural disasters and the COVID-19 crisis. 

2)  I'm still obsessed with looking at people's backgrounds on TV, and trying to see what they books they have on their shelves. Author Eddie Glaude Jr. made it easy for me as he placed several of his books face out when he was on MSNBC, and I hope other people take notice and start doing the same.

3)  We have 300 apartments in our building, and three elevators. With the COVID restrictions, each elevator at maximum capacity of two people, and more people moving back into New York, the lines to get into the elevator are getting longer and longer. Now I have to be strategic about leaving the apartment. I go to the laundry room at 6:30am, and no one is on the elevator or in the laundry room. Running errands during the day, I have to plan to avoid the morning rush, the after school crowd and after work rush. I don't how office buildings are going to make this work.

4)  I watched the movie Just Mercy on HBO.  It's based on the book by Bryan Stevenson about his work in Alabama providing legal assistance to men on death row. Michael B. Jordan is fantastic playing the character based on Stevenson, and Jamie Foxx is astonishing as a Black man falsely convicted of murdering a young white woman. This is a movie that everyone should watch, about how the legal system can be so abused by people who are callous at best and evil at worst. Tim Blake Nelson's performance as convicted felon whose testimony was coerced to get a conviction is also terrific. The trailer is here

5)  I finished two books this week.

Reading the memoir Becoming Duchess Goldblatt was a great tonic. Duchess Goldblatt is a fictional character who became hugely popular on Twitter for sharing her gentle insights and witty sayings. This memoir is by the woman behind the Duchess, who created her after losing her husband, her new home, her job, and most of her friends following her divorce. She shares her terrible year, and how creating the Duchess brought her a new sense of self, many gifts, and new friendships, including one with her musical idol Lyle Lovett. She shares many of her best tweets in this heartwarming book. If you are on Twitter, give the Duchess a follow. 

If you like twisty psychological mysteries, Lisa Unger's new novel Confessions on the 7:45 is for you. When Selena sees her husband having sex with the nanny on camera, she confronts him. Does the woman she met on the train ride home and shared this information with have anything to do with her now-missing nanny? There are so many moving parts in this story, if you can guess what happened, you are smarter than me. My full review publishes on October 5th. 

I hope you have a good week- remember to wear a mask, stay socially distant, wash your hands, and make sure you are registered to vote. Our democracy depends on our active participation, and voting is the most effective way to make your voice be heard.