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Friday, November 27, 2020

Glimmer As Your Can by Danielle Martin

Glimmer As You Can by Danielle Martin
Published by Alcove Press ISBN 9781643855233
Hardcover, $26.99, 320 pages

If you read Fiona Davis' Chelsea Girls or Jennifer Weiner's Mrs. Everything, Danielle Martin's debut novel Glimmer As You Can is a book to put on your TBR pile. Set in 1962 Brooklyn, it tells the story of three young woman trying to make their way in world that tells them men should make the decisions for them.

Madeline is trying to a make a living owning a dress shop. She is stuck in a horrible marriage with Fred, an awful man who is a powerful councilman in Brooklyn. Fred is a serial cheater, and has embarrassed Madeline more than once. He lives with other women, and only comes home to Madeline when he needs a respectable wife on his arm to squire to social events.

Madeline has poured her heart and soul into the Starlite, her dress boutique, but one bad word from her now ex-husband Fred and she could lose her clientele. At night, she turns the Starlite into a salon/dance club, where women come to read poetry, discuss literature and current events, and dance the night away.

Elaine is a British young woman who has lived through WWII and dreams of working for the Chronicle newspaper. She is living with her boyfriend Tommy, an alcoholic, and her sister Catherine is crashing with them and hopes to make a living as a singer. Tommy is an unemployed wreck who wants Elaine with him day and night. When Elaine gets an interview with the Chronicle, she has to decide if her dreams are worth upsetting Tommy.

She hangs out at the Starlite, reading the poetry she has written. One day she has a chance encounter with Lisa, a stewardess, whose boyfriend Billy was supposed to pick her up at airport and never showed up. Lisa loves traveling to Italy and Beirut and all the exciting places she gets to go, but when she marries Billy, she will have to leave her job. Is that what she wants for her future?

We learn a lot about how women were forced to rely on men in 1962. They had to choose between being married or having a satisfying career- you couldn't have it both ways. The women in this novel were free to be themselves only at their nightly sojourns to the Starlite, where Madeline created an atmosphere of acceptance, creativity, and joy.

When Madeline's ex-husband threatens the existence of the Starlight, the women band together to keep the one place that brings them joy. As a fan of the Brenda Starr comics growing up, I would have liked to have learned more about Elaine's job as a fact checker, I found that part of the story so interesting. Lisa's job as a stewardess in 1962 was intriguing as well. 

The world was changing, and Glimmer As You Can shows us a time when women decided they wanted more and were willing to defy society's expectations to get it.

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

Tuesday, November 10th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Wednesday, November 11th: @mynovelmenagerie

Thursday, November 12th: @baytownbookie

Friday, November 13th: Amy’s Book-et List and @amysbooketlist

Monday, November 16th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Tuesday, November 17th: Hallie Reads

Wednesday, November 18th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Thursday, November 19th: Run Wright and @karen_runwright

Friday, November 20th: @mrsboomreads

Friday, November 20th: @readwithmason

Friday, November 27th: Bookchickdi

Monday, November 30th: @vicireads

Monday, November 30th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Tuesday, December 1st: 100 Pages a Day… Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Thursday, December 3rd: @irishgirliereads

Friday, December 4th: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

Monday, December 7th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, December 8th: @katieneedsabiggerbookshelf

Wednesday, December 9th: Books Cooks Looks

Thursday, December 10th: Eliot’s Eats

Thursday, December 10th: @suethebookie

Friday, December 11th: What is That Book About


Instagram features:

Friday, November 27th: @booksloveandunderstanding

Saturday, November 28th: @lifeinlit

Sunday, November 29th: @babygotbooks13

Sunday, November 29th: @shobizreads

Monday, November 30th: @sweethoneyandbrei

Tuesday, December 1st: @shesalwayswithabook

Wednesday, December 2nd: @the_unwined

Thursday, December 3rd: @megsbookclub

Friday, December 4th: @suzysbookshelf

Saturday, December 5th: @liferhi_inspired

Sunday, December 6th: @giuliland

Monday, December 7th: @bluntscissorsbookreviews

Monday, December 7th: @books_with_bethany

Wednesday, December 9th: @thephdivabooks

Thursday, December 10th: @thebookend.diner

Thursday, December 10th: @readinggirlreviews

Thursday, December 10th: @the.caffeinated.reader

Friday, December 11th: @somekindofalibrary

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