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Friday, July 30, 2021

Friday 5ive- July 30, 2021

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


1) I visited the new Little Island at Pier 55 on the Hudson River with my friend Val. It's an oasis of green created on pillars that look like they are floating over the Hudson looking towards New Jersey. The landscaping is beautiful and extensive, they have an amphitheater for performances (a dance troupe was there earlier this week), and food trucks with seating in the middle. If you've done the Highline walkway, you should make a trip to Little Island, it's right across the street.









2) Speaking of the Highline, we wandered over there after Little Island, and this sculpture intrigued many people. Can you guess what it is?
Anyone who had a teenager knows this -it's a retainer!



3) I'm not a craft beer fan, but I know a lot of them, and next time they are in town a trip to the new Craft & Carry will be in order. 


4)  We watched the HBO Max documentary "Woodstock 99- Peace, Love and Rage" and it was so interesting. I remember it because it was held at the the closed Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY, not far from where we were in Auburn. What was supposed to be three days of people enjoying music turned into a Lord of the Flies situation. Overpriced water ($4 a bottle in 1999!), poor bathroom facilities, lax security, and band choices that appealed to a mostly testosterone-fueled crowd. I do remember seeing the fires people set that ended the concert on the local news. 





5) I read one book this week. Elizabeth de Veer's The Ocean in Winter is a story of three sisters dealing with the aftermath of their mother's suicide many years before. Alex, the oldest and an ER nurse, found their mother dead when she just 11 years old. Colleen, married with two teenage children, lives to make her children's lives perfect. She is also desperately trying to find their youngest sister Riley, a model who has been incommunicado with her sisters. Colleen is concerned that Riley is using drugs again, and hires a PI to find her. It's a heartbreaking story that asks the question, "do memories choose us or do we choose memories?" My full review publishes on August 6th. 


 Stay safe and I hope if you are able to do, you got a vaccine. We're all in this together to quote High School Musical.




Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The Beach Club Book Club Reads Jennifer Ryan's The Kitchen Front

It was time for the annual Beach Club Book Club summer book discussion. We couldn't go to the beach this year, so we discussed Jennifer Ryan's WWII novel, The Kitchen Front at the home of one of our members.

Mary Beth went all out with the theme of life in the small town outside of London during WWII. Four women compete in a cooking contest with the prize of cohosting on the BBC radio show, The Kitchen Front.

As we entered the kitchen, the island was set with the book surrounded by authentic posters from the era, and a recipe that Mary Beth made from the book- Audrey's Eggless Apple and Honey Cake (which was tasty). We were all glad that nothing with whale meat was served.


Susie made a family recipe that was handed down, potato and flour cakes fried in flour, because butter was in short supply in England in WWII.

Kerry made Victory Garden Brownies that were decorated like Audrey's garden.

Kathy put her own spin on "ration boxes", filled with wonderful appetizers. including mini wheels of brie, which made an appearance in the book. These were so cute, everyone wanted to steal the idea for their own parties.

Our discussion was insightful. We talked about the growth of the characters, particularly Lady Gwendoline, who began as a self-centered woman, but grew to become a strong, caring woman. Nell came out of her shell and showed her true accomplishments as a cook to honor Mrs. Quince, her mentor and friend. Many of us most identifed with Audrey, the widow raising her two sons, perhaps because many of us in the room have children.

We wondered if people today would be as stalwart when it came to handling the deprevations of wartime life- rationing food, growing our vegetables, raising animals (the Pig Club was interesting). The comparisons to the COVID lockdowns were commented on, and someone brought up the saying that during WWII people were asked to go to war, and during COVID we were just asked to sit on our couch and watch television,and some people found that too difficult.

Favorite scenes in the book were discussed, with the final competition scene with all the women marching into the room together receiving many comments. We liked the happy ending to the book, and hoped that perhaps the end of this book could lead into a sequel. We want to know what happens to these women once the war is over.

The Kitchen Front was big hit with the Beach Club Book Club, and if you like novels about female empowerment and friendship and the WWII British setting, you'd enjoy it too.

After a delicious and filling lunch of sandwiches, salad, quiche, and so many desserts, Kerry handed out gift bags she made for everyone. She included a bee bookmark, recipe cards, and pins and tiny ration cards. Mary Beth won the grand prize of a can of Spam. (My dad would have loved that, fried up in a pan.)

Posing with our books and aprons


The Beach Club Book Club



Monday, July 26, 2021

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778332046
Trade paperback, $16.99, 368 pages

Books set in WWII have become a popular genre of novels in recent years. Many of them center on how people faired through the war years in England and France. Sara Ackerman's Radar Girls takes us to the island of Hawaii just after the attack on Pearl Harbor to tell a lesser-known story of the women who went to work for the military learning how to read radar to aid the pilots returning from bombing runs.

Daisy is 23 year-old woman who loves working with the horses on the estate of a local wealthy landowner.  Horses are her lifeblood. She cares for her mother, who hasn't gotten over the accidental shooting death of her husband. Daisy is the sole financial and emotional support for her mother.

When the Japanese bombs devastate Pearl Harbor, everything changes on the islands. Similar to what happened in England during the war, the men went off to fight in the war, leaving the women behind to do the jobs the men previously did. In England, many women were recruited to try to break the German coded communications in Bletchley Park.

In Radar Girls, Kate is recruited with other island women to join the Women's Air Raid Defense (WARD) to learn how to read radar signals. Kate surprises herself by scoring high on the test, and she and the other women painstakingly learn all about the new technology of radar. They pinpoint planes in the air, both friendly and enemy planes, and help guide the pilots back home. 

They undergo intensive training, including learning how to shoot and fight fires.  They are doing top-secret work, and must hide their real job from family and friends. It is a stressful occupation, and as in England, the women are housed on the base. Daisy bunks with Betty, whose husband is a pilot, and Fluff, an innocent young woman who catches the eye of one of her superior officers.

Daisy becomes friendly with Walker, the son of the owner of the horse stables where she worked and a hero pilot. All the women have eyes for Walker, including one woman who believes herself to be his fianceé, but Walker begins to spend more and more time with Daisy.

I didn't know anything about WARD, and the women who learned a new technology to read radar. I found that part of the story most fascinating. The story is told from Daisy's perspective, so we really only see the other women from through Daisy's eyes. Hawaii has such a diverse population- Japanese, Chinese, Philippino- it was interesting to see how they were treated differently than the Japanese-Americans in California, for example.

If you read and enjoyed Kate Quinn's The Rose Code about the women in Bletchley Park, pick up Radar Girls. 

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer 2021 Historical Fiction tour.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Friday 5ive- July 23, 2021

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


1)  We went to a restaurant with friends in Harrison on Saturday, Emilio Ristorante. The food was fabulous, starting with my so-very-thinly-sliced eggplant parmesan appetizer on to my cingale (wild boar) ravioli entree. We've only had cingale in Italy, and this was so tasty. Our party of six drank a lot of great wine, and we had a lot of laughs with the affable owner, Sergio. There was also much
commiserating from the Mets fans at the table, who are fervently hoping for a World Series appearance this year. We'll see.... 


 Photo from Emilio's Instagram account



2) I finished another virtual ride, this one was Tahoe to Malibu, a 700 mile ride. I started it on May 1st and finished it on July 11th. On to my next challenge, Route 66, a 2200 mile ride, which should take me almost a year to complete. 


3) Walking to get my hair cut, I saw this ad in a window on 3rd Ave. for Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, a terrific summer read from Elyssa Friedland. I get so excited when I see book ads in the wild.  This delightful novel is for fans of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Dirty Dancing, and Schitt's Creek.


4)  We watched Dr. Death, a limited series on Peacock, based on a popular podcast. Joshua Jackson stars as a Texas surgeon who maimed and killed several of his patients before he was stopped by two doctors, played by Christian Slater and Alec Baldwin. The doctor moved from hospital to hospital, and the big question became was he just incompetent or a sociopath? The medical powers-that-be are indicted in this true crime story because they covered up his actions and let him move on to another facility with impunity. The acting is very good, but I would have preferred that the story was told in chronological order. True crime podcast fans will like this one. 


5) I finished two books this week. The first was Jennifer Ryan's The Kitchen Front, a novel set in WWII near London. Four women are recruited to enter a cooking contest, the prize is co-hosting a popular radio show on the BBC, called The Kitchen Front. Audrey is a widow struggling to provide for her two sons, and this would allow her to keep her home. Her sister, Lady Geraldine, is married to a powerful man in the town who rules over her with an iron fist. Zelda is a displaced rising London chef, now working as the head cook in  the local factory. Nell is a young cook working in Lady Geraldine's home. It's a good story of female friendship and resilience, and my book club is discussing it today.

Sara Ackerman's Radar Girls is also set in WWII, but in Hawaii, right after the Pearl Harbor attack. Local women are enlisted to work, learning how to read radar signals and assist the pilots fighting the Japanese. Fans of Kate Quinn's The Rose Code will find themselves drawn to this intriguing story. My full review publishes on July 26th. 


I hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and that you have gotten your vaccine if you are able. It will keep us all safe.




Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday 5ive- July 15, 2021

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

1) After 17 months of being closed, the Book Cellar reopened this week and I'm back to work. I volunteer at the Book Cellar, a used bookstore located in the basement of Webster Library, a branch of the New York Public Library. All of the staff are volunteers, all our books are donated, and our proceeds benefit the branch libraries of the NYPL. Over the past 17 years, we have donated over $1 million to the NYPL. It was so great to be back to work, to see all of the fellow volunteers, and all of our customers have been so happy to see us. If you ever visit NYC, you have to stop by. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram at BookCellarNYC.

2) One of my favorite things at the Book Cellar, besides getting to talk books with everyone, is creating new book displays. Since we were closed for 17 months, BookTok has become a thing. People on TikTok, many of them teenagers, have become book influencers. They create TikToks about books that they love, with books that make them cry being very popular. They have put many books on the bestseller lists, and publishers now court them. Maybe we should get into BookTok....




3) We were in Florida for a quick weekend trip, and our first stop was at the Publix to pick up a loaf of Cinnamon Bread. We brought the loaf back home because it is the best cinnamon bread we have ever had. We even got our friends hooked on it. Now we have to figure out how to get it delivered to NYC permanently, because making weekend trips to Florida for cinnamon bread could get expensive.


4) While I'm working in the kitchen, I watch TV shows on my Echo Show. I've been watching 30 Rock, the NBC sitcom created by Tina Fey and starring herself, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowksi. I forgot how falling down funny this show is. The jokes come fast and furious, and there are many jokes that probably wouldn't be allowed in today's culture. The guest stars are incredible too- Carrie Fisher, Elaine Stritch, Jon Hamm, Rip Torn among many more. You can find it on Hulu. 




5) I read lots of great books this week. Speaking of 30 Rock, I read a book about the show, The 30 Rock Book: Inside the Iconic Show, from Blergh to the EGOT by Mike Roe, which publishes in November. I got so much more out the show after reading this fascinating book. Reading about dealing with the intense personalities like Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan, the insanely long hours the writers worked, and sometimes myopic focus on sacrificing everything to the joke was so interesting. Roe tackles some of the tough issues around 30 Rock, and this would make a great Christmas gift for the 30 Rock fan in your life. 

I continued my reading trip to the Catskills/Hudson Valley (begun with Jane L. Rosen's Eliza Starts a Rumor and continuing with Elyssa Friedland's Last Summer At The Golden Hotel) with Lea Geller's The Truth and Other Hidden Things. When Bells Walker finds herself pregnant at 43 and her husband denied tenure, her family has to leave NYC and move to the town of Pigkill in the Hudson Valley, where her husband finds a job teaching English literature at Dutchess College. Her two teenage children are unhappy at the move, and mortified by her pregnancy. Bells can't find a job writing for the local paper, so she turns her skills to writing a snarky blog about the moms and displaced Brooklyn millenials in Pigkill. When her blog garners the attention of the media (which Bells likes), she finds that has created trouble for her family. It's a terrific beach read, and I found myself cringing at the things Bells does, all the while feeling empathy for her. Her husband is a little tone-deaf, and Geller nails the Hudson Valley milieu perfectly. 

Another great beach read is Beck Dorey-Stein's Rock the Boat. Kate Campbell has a charmed life- she lives in her longtime boyfriend's fabulous family apartment in New York City, works at his family's PR firm, and hopes to be married soon. When her life falls apart in five minutes, she has to move home to her parents' home in the New Jersey seaside tourist town of Sea Point. Devastated, she plots to get her old life back with a fool-proof plan. She reconnects with her childhood friend Ziggy, who lost his father and business partner in the plumbing business. Ziggy's best friend Miles is also coming home to claim the CEO title of his family's business, a hugely successful resort run by his mother. I loved the characters, the storyline (especially the library setting), and this book made me want to head to the fictional town of Sea Point to grab a cocktail at the Jetty bar, dress up for dinner at the Wharf, and hang out at the beach with Kate, Ziggy and Miles. (And yes, you'll have the 70's hit song, Rock the Boat, stuck in your head while reading it. And if you watched Netflix's Derry Girls, you'll have the image of the choregraphed boat dance stuck there too.) I also enjoyed her memoir, From the Corner of the Oval, about her time at the Obama White House as a stenographer.


I finished up the week reading Julia Quinn's The Duke and I, the book that the hit Netflix series, The Bridgertons was based on. The book is a quick read, even at 400 pages, and it's as a delightful as the series is. You will picture Reg√© Jean-Page's face as you read, even though his description differs slightly in the book. And the commanding Queen Charlotte is missing from the book, but other than that, it's a fun read. 


I hope you all had a great week. Stay safe and cool out there.



Friday, July 9, 2021

Friday 5ive- July 8, 2021

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

1)  We celebrated the 4th of July with a small gathering at our apartment with family. From our balcony we can see the Macy's 4th of July fireworks show over the East River, and they did a wonderful job this year. It really seems like things are returning to normal.

2) I made a new recipe this week- Spaghetti al Limone with Shrimp. It's a great dish to make on a hot summer day when you don't want to turn the oven on. It's from the New York Times, and the lemon really brightens up the dish. I also liked the addition of fresh tarragon. This one is definitely a keeper.


3) When  I opened my pint of Van Leeuwen vanilla ice cream, I found this quip on the lid- "Less reading. More eating." What kind of blasphemy is this? I was not amused.

4) I started watching HBO Max's new limited series, Mare of Easttown. Kate Winslet stars as Mare, the only female detective on the police force of the small town of Easttown, Pennsylvania. When a teenager girl is found dead, she is teamed up with a male detective from another department. Mare has been unable to solve the disappearance of another teenage girl months ago, and that girl's mother is understandably frustrated with Mare. Everyone is town is related to everyone else, and Mare's complicated home life adds to her stress. There are some excellent performances from Winslet, Evan Peters (as her new partner), Julianne Nicholson as her best friend, and Jean Smart as her mother. The show is getting darker now, and there seems to be more than one suspect. This show sucks you in.


5) I read two very different books this week. First up is Fed Up!, Colin Lancaster's memoir about the pandemic year as seen through his lens as a hedge fund macro trader. If you are a dedicated CBNC fan, you'll get so much out this. I really learned a lot, and found Lancaster's observations and analysis of the our economy fascinating. My full review is here.

Elyssa Friedland's novel, Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, is a must-read for everyone missing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The Goldman and Weingold families have owned and operated the Golden Hotel in the Catskills for over 60 years. It was the crown jewel of the Catskill resorts in its heyday, but tastes have changed, and now they are one of the only old-time resorts left standing. The place is run-down, reservations have declined, and when a hedge fund (they keep creeping up here) offers to buy the land to build a casino, the families have to get together to decide what to do. There's three generations of Goldmans and Weingolds, all with their own problems, desires, and secrets to contend with. It's a perfect summer read for the porch, pool or beach. I so enjoyed it.

I hope you all had a happy 4th of July and that summer is off to a good start.