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Monday, August 30, 2021

The Wellness-Empowered Woman by Reena Vokoun

The Wellness- Empowered Woman by Reena Vokoun
Published by Fuchia Rose ISBN 9781736364703
Trade paperback, $16.95, 175 pages

In 2012, Reena Vokoun was a mom of two boys, 2 years and 5 years old, and working 60+ hours a week at Google, where her husband also worked 80-100 hours a week, as she recounts in her new book, The Wellness Empowered Woman

She and her husband rose early each day and worked late into the night at home. They had insomnia, had no time to workout, ate the scraps of food their sons didn't finish. She began to suffer from high stress and anxiety which manufactured in chronic sinus infections and asthma. 

While she loved her job, Vokoun had a lifelong passion for fitness, dance, and nutrition. As a first-generation-born, Indian-American, her family had introduced her to yoga and meditation, an important part of their culture.

Vokoun's grandfather encouraged her to follow her dream and start a wellness and health business. Finally, in 2014, Vokoun made the leap to begin her own business, called PassionFit.  The PassionFit motto is "Pursue your passions, be fit, and the rest will follow." 

Pursuing your passions, doesn't necessarily mean quitting your job. Vokoun suggests ways to incorporate your passions into your life- take classes, join organizations, work on side hustles. She says that by enjoying your passions, it adds a richness and depth to your life in other areas as well.

In the fifteen chapters of her book, Vokoun concentrates on the importance of maintaining a balanced life, get your body moving, sleeping enough and eating a balanced diet. At the end of each chapter. there are questions to answer to help you move forward and improve your life.

Some of her biggest takeaways include making a list of top three things personal and professional tasks to accomplish each day, celebrating your own individuality by prioritizing your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being (something social media can harm), and stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new.

During this last year of pandemic, when many people's physical, emotional and mental health suffered, The Wellness Empowered Woman has much to offer readers. When many have recently taken stock of their lives and what is truly important, her book comes at just the right time. I recommend it.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Reena Vokoun's tour. The rest of the stops are here:

Instagram Features

Tuesday, August 24th: Instagram: @everything.is.words

Wednesday, August 25th: Instagram: @rozierreadsandwine

Thursday, August 26th: A Bookish Way of Life

Saturday, August 28th: Instagram: @reading_with_nicole

Sunday, August 29th: Instagram: @workreadsleeprepeat

Monday, August 30th: bookchickdi

Tuesday, August 31st: Instagram: @meghans_library

Thursday, September 2nd: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads

Tuesday, September 7th: Living My Best Book Life

Wednesday, September 8th: Instagram: @joannasbookshelf

Thursday, September 9th: Instagram: @bookishbadassthings

Thursday, September 9th: Instagram: @nurse_bookie

Friday, August 27, 2021

Friday 5ive- August 27, 2021

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post featuring five things that caught my eye this week. The Friday 5ive took last week for a mini-vacation.

1)  Can you believe August is almost over? Why does summer go by so fast? I love summer, but my youngest sister loves autumn and can't wait for it to begin so she can have her pumpkin spice latte. Our brother made her a board for her "Coffee Corner" at her house. I'm always impressed by anyone with artistic skill (as I lack it). 

2) We traveled to Boston last weekend to visit our youngest son. He took us to his golf club, Granite Hills Links in Quincy, for lunch and the view there is incredible. You can golf while overlooking the skyline of Boston as seen in this photo. Apparently the club is one of the most popular wedding venues in Massachusetts and there was a wedding and a bridal shower there on the day we visited.

3) While the guys golfed, the gals spent the day at Nantasket Beach in Hull, and while walking the beach we came across a large group of young children talking surfing lessons. It was fun to watch them get up on their boards.  

4) Speaking of different seasons, I watched the Christmas episode of Ted Lasso on Apple TV+ and it was so delightful. If it didn't put a smile on your face, you are truly a Grinch. I particularly enjoyed the homage to my favorite Christmas movie, Love, Actually. Whenever I am feeling down or losing faith in humanity, I will play this episode. 

5) As I spent time in airports and on planes, I was able to read uninterrupted.  First up was Kristin van Ogtrop's memoir Did I Say That Out Loud-Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them. Ogtrop, was the former editor of Real Simple magazine, and her essays on such things as her climb up the corporate ladder from joy to agony as magazines folded up publication, to the time she nearly died from accidentally swallowing a plastic fork tine, to the vacation home her family bought with her sister's family will have you laughing and crying. It makes a good pairing with Sara Arnell's midlife crisis book from a few weeks ago, There Will Be Lobster. While I've been reading books about midlife crisis, I don't think I'm in one. (right?) 

Laura Dave's suspense novel, The Last Thing He Told Me, tops the bestseller list and I can see why. When Hannah receives a note from Owen, her husband of one year, reading "Protect her", she is totally unprepared for what is ahead of her. Her husband has disappeared after the company he works for is raided by the SEC and FBI and the head of the company is arrested. What happens next as Hannah attempts to keep her 16 year-old stepdaughter safe and unravel Owen's true identity kept me frantically turning the pages. Dave has written a few other books, but not suspense novels like this. I think she has found her genre and this is scheduled to be a limited series on Apple TV+ with Julia Roberts. 

I also read a psychological thriller, Where I Left Her, by Amber Garza, about a parent's worst nightmare. Whitney drops off her 16 year-old daughter Amelia at a sleepover with her new friend Lauren. When Whitney returns to pick Amelia up the next day, an elderly woman answers the door and says that no one named Lauren lives there, Whitney agonizes over what happened to her daughter. Like The Last Thing He Told Me, this book keeps you turning the pages, and the ending twist is a shocker. My full review is here. 

We seem to be going backwards with COVID, so please wear a mask, wash your hands, stay socially distant and get a vaccine. It's the best way to keep each other, especially young children who can't get a vaccine yet, safe.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Where I Left Her by Amber Garza

Where I Left Her byAmber Garza
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778332060
Trade paperback, $16.99, 304 pages

The opening of Amber Garza's novel, Where I Left Her, will leave any parent's stomach in knots. Whitney drops her 16 year-old daughter Amelia off at her new friend Lauren's house for a sleepover. The next morning she texts Amelia asking what time to pick her up and Amelia does not answer.

After hours of no contact with Amelia, Whitney checks Amelia's social media accounts and there is no activity, which is strange. Whitney then goes to what she believes is Lauren's house, and an older woman answers the door and tells her there is no Lauren or Amelia there, just her and her husband. 

Now Whitney starts to panic. She calls Becca, Amelia's best friend who hasn't been around much lately. Becca tries to text Amelia to no avail. Becca reluctantly tells Whitney that Amelia has been seeing an older man but she doesn't know more than that.

Whitney contacts her ex-husband who is in Amsterdam when she learns that Amelia was planning on getting a passport to come visit him and his new young wife. She also discovers Amelia took all her money out the bank.

Now the police have been called, and Whitney is in true panic mode as any parent would be. When Whitney was a teenager, she got into some trouble with her best friend Millie, getting involved with some older boys. Could Amelia be following in her footsteps?

As Whitney delves deeper into her daughter's life, and more time goes by with no word from Amelia, she becomes more and more frightened. 

Garza does a terrific job putting us into the head of a panicked parent. Any parent who has survived the teenager years will relate to trying to get information out them. Becca is less than forthcoming, trying to protect her friend. That so rang true.

The twist at the end of the book, while hinted at, took me by surprise. It is one that you will gasp at, and maybe even throw the book against the wall  (in a good way) when it comes. 

If twisty psychological thrillers that keep your heat pounding all the way through are your idea of a good read, definitely pick up Where I Left Her

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer 2021 Mystery/Thriller Tour.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

There Will Be Lobster by Sara Arnell

There Will be Lobster by Sara Arnell
Published by Savio Republic ISBN 9781642939262
Hardcover, $27, 164 pages

Sara Arnell's titled her memoir of a midlife crisis There Will Be Lobster after an incident on New Year's Day in 2015 when she awoke on the bathroom floor covered in her own vomit after an evening of drinking way too much.

She had a black eye, cuts on her face, and her cheek burned from passing out on the radiant-heated tiles in the bathroom. She had to pull herself together to cook brunch for her adult children and some of their friends. As she entered the living room, a lobster that was supposed to be sitting in a pot ready to be boiled crawled out from under the couch.

Sara was having a bad day after a bad few years. She shares stories about the 18 pound tumor her daughter had surgically removed, (a tumor that no one knew the young woman had), her paralyzing fear of being an empty nester, and losing her job as the CEO of a once prominent advertising agency when the agency lost nearly all of its clients. She was losing her identity.

When she lost her job, Sara spent her days in bed watching Bravo TV's Housewives reality shows, not showering for days, wearing her son's sweatpants. She drank way too much, including one infamous Thanksgiving at her son's apartment with his friends where she impressed (mortified?) the young men with her ability to play drinking games with them.

Sara felt "old, ugly and useless", like it was the end of the world. She couldn't shake herself out of this funk. She didn't have friends she could call to get a cup of coffee, calling herself "an accidental socializer", incapable of making plans with anyone, only speaking to people she ran into accidentally. 

I discovered that Sara grew up in the small town of Saugerties, where my husband's family is from, and that added an extra layer of interest for me. There Will Be Lobster is a quick read, with most chapters just a few pages and only 164 pages in total, but Sara packs a punch in this slim memoir. The main point to her story is that if she can pull herself out of a really bad time, maybe you can too.

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

Review Stops

Tuesday, July 27th: Run Wright

Thursday, July 29th: Instagram: @readinggirlreviews

Friday, July 30th: Instagram: @pnwbookworm

Monday, August 2nd: Instagram: @gracereads82

Tuesday, August 3rd: Instagram: @neverthless_she_reads

Wednesday, August 4th: Instagram: @bluntscissorsbookreviews

Thursday, August 5th: Instagram: @babygotbooks4life

Friday, August 6th: Instagram: @booksaremagictoo

Monday, August 9th: Welcome to Nurse Bookie

Tuesday, August 10th: Instagram: @books_and_broadway_

Wednesday, August 11th: Bibliotica

Thursday, August 12th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Friday, August 13th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, August 16th: Jathan & Heather

Tuesday, August 17th: The Bookish Dilettante

Wednesday, August 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, August 19th: Instagram: @mrsboomreads

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Bookseller's Secret by Michelle Gable

The Bookseller's Secret by Michelle Gable
Published by Graydon House ISBN 9781525806469
Trade paperback, $16.99, 400 pages

I've always seen books by and about Nancy Mitford (and her famous sisters) but haven't yet read one. After reading Michelle Gable's fascinating novel, The Bookseller's Secret, where Nancy Mitford plays a large role, I have already made a list of books about Mitford to add to my To-Be-Read pile.

We begin the novel in the present day with a young woman named Katie struggling in her career as a novelist. She had one successful book, and now her engagement to her boyfriend of many years is over. When her best friend Jojo offers to pay Katie's airfare to come to London stay with her, her husband and four young children, Katie gratefully accepts.

Jojo tells Katie about a very special bookstore, G. Heywood Hill Ltd., where the owner is a book concierge for a mostly wealthy clientele. For a large sum of money Felix will compile a personal library, consisting of books unique to each customer's interests. (My dream job!)

Author Nancy Mitford worked at the G. Heywood Hill Ltd. bookstore during WWII. Nancy is one of six sisters, some of whom are notorious for being friends with Hitler, as well as being Fascists and Communists, and she was friends with famous writers of the day, like Evelyn Waugh, who hung out at the bookshop. (Picture "Friends" as a group of intellectuals on a WWII BBC show.)

Katie becomes intrigued by the rumor that Nancy Mitford had written a memoir, and that Felix was in possession of it, which he vehemently denies. Then she meets Simon, a school principal, who was also looking for Mitford's memoir for reasons of his own.

The characters in this novel are so interesting and well drawn. Nancy Mitford jumps off the page, with her clever quips and saucy attitude. It's impossible not to fall in love with her. Between her infamous family, her  husband at war whom she hasn't heard from in three years, the French colonel who she falls in love with, her mission as a spy for Britain, and her struggles to write her next book, Nancy has a fascinating life. If you are a Nancy Mitford fan, you'll definitely want to read The Bookseller's Secret.

Other intriguing characters include Katie's grandmother, who is about to be kicked out her fantasy football league for her bad behavior, Jojo and her precocious son Clive, who is a real hoot. All three of these made me laugh. I also appreciated that the author wrote an informative real-life epilogue for several of the characters we meet. 
The question that lingers is "did Nancy Mitford write a memoir and if she did, where is it?" You'll have to read The Bookseller's Secret to find out. I highly recommend that you do.

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on the Summer 2021 Historical Fiction Reads Tour.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Friday 5ive- August 13, 2021

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

1)  THE HEAT! It's been over 90 degrees for the last three days. I'm lucky we have air conditioning. I stayed in the apartment Wednesday and Friday, on Thursday I walked five blocks to work at the Book Cellar. It was so steamy hot I'm pretty sure I lost five pounds of water weight walking the five short blocks. It should be cooler over the weekend thank goodness.

2)  People have been kindly bringing us vegetables from their gardens since we live in the city. We received gifts of zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn. I made an Eggplant Pamesan for dinner on Sunday, adapting an Ina Garten recipe. It was delicious (she adds goat cheese) and it will definitely go into the regular dinner rotation. 

Eggplant Parmesan

3)  I watched a little of the Field of Dreams baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. My husband is a Yankees fan, our younger son a White Sox fan, so that makes it interesting. If you liked the Kevin Costner movie, you would have enjoyed it even more. (Costner was in the announcers' booth during the game.) Watching the players walk out from the cornfield at the beginning of the game was pretty cool, and the ending, with a walk-off homer from the White Sox to win the game, made it cinematic. The highlights are here
Photo from New York Times

4) One of my favorite sitcoms returns for it's final season. Brooklyn Nine-Nine ends its eight season run with two episodes every Thursday for five weeks. It has been one of the consistently funny sitcoms in recent history, and I will miss it. The cast- Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Amy Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Joel Miller, Dirk Blocker and Andre Braugher (how did this man not win an Emmy yet for his performance?)- is fantastic, and the writing brilliantly funny. At least I have reruns on Peacock. 

5) I read three books this week. I love a good Irish family story, and Tracey Lange's debut novel, We Are the Brennans, is wonderful. After daughter Sunday is seriously injured in car accident in Los Angeles, her brother Denny travels there to bring her home to Westchester County in New York. She left suddenly five years ago, leaving everyone bewildered, including her boyfriend Kale. Kale and Denny own Brennan's Pub and are preparing to open a second bar. There are so many secrets that come to the surface in this book, I read it on one day. I highly recommend it.

Sara Nisha Adams' novel, The Reading List, is set in a London suburb. Mukesh is a widower mouring the loss of his beloved wife a year ago. He is lonely, and looking for a way to connect with his granddaughter Priya. Priya loves to read, so Mukesh visits the local library his wife frequented to find a book for her. He meets Aleisha, a young librarian who lives with her severely depressed mother and older brother, who has taken on the role of breadwinner. Mukesh and Aleisha bond over books and become good friends. If you love reading and libraries, this one is for you. I really liked it, and fair warning, there are some very sad parts.

Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong's memoir This Will All Be Over Soon shares her a year in her life. In January 2021, her 30 year-old cousin Owen died of brain cancer. He was someone who was always smiling, and his death devastated Cecily. A few months later, as the pandemic ravages the world, her new boyfriend contracts COVID and becomes quite ill. Cecily heads to the Hudson Valley to wait out the lockdown and her book takes an honest look at what living through all that was like. It's an homage to her cousin and  filled with heartbreak, fear, sadness, hope and love. Strong captures the feeling of that year in her words. 

It looks like COVID is not yet done with us. Please wear a mask indoors in public, wash your hands, stay socially distant, and get the vaccine if you are able. It will be the only way to get back to normal.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Friday 5ive- August 6, 2021

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention this week.
I can't believe it's August already. Why does the summer go by in the blink of an eye, but the winters drag on?

1) It was a quiet week, but on a beautiful sunny Monday I walked nearly 50 blocks to the Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue to shop for children's books for a baby shower, a friend's new grandbaby, and a baptism. I was in my glory, spending nearly an hour in the store. The sales staff was very busy helping two other customers, and it took great restraint for me not to jump in and offer my assistance. But I did not. On the way home, I passed this massive, complete New York City block construction project in midtown. It looked like something from the Transformers movie.

2) So many restaurants and small mom and pop stores closed during the pandemic on the Upper East Side where I live, it's exciting to see that a new business is planning on opening. This one is called The Picnic Basket, and I am waiting to see if Yogi Bear and Boo Boo will be behind the counter when it opens.

3) One of the books that occupies a spot on my coveted Favorites Shelf on my bookcase is Mary Karr's brilliant memoir Lit. Karr's first memoir, The Liar's Club, about her growing up in a dysfunctional family in East Texas in the 1960s, ushered in the many memoirs that now line up on bookstore shelves. She was a recent guest on Katie Couric's Next Question podcast, and it was a fascinating discussion. I found her speaking about becoming a Catholic as an adult, and how her peers and friends dismissed her because of it, so enlightening. Karr became a Catholic while a professor at Syracuse University (where she still teaches) and it was because of meeting an older Irish priest who helped her that it happened. Give it a listen and read Lit.

4) If you are missing Broadway, Apple TV+ has a treat for you- Schmigadoon!  Keegan-Michael Key and SNL's Cecily Strong star as a couple who have been dating for a few years and while on a outdoor couples retreat get lost. They end up in the town of Schmigadoon, which looks like the set of a Broadway show, complete with people breaking out in song and dance at the drop of a hat. In order for Key and Strong to be able to return home, they must find true love. Is it with each other? It's so delightful, filled with wonderful performances from Broadway stars like Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth and Aaron Tveit. The songs and sets will remind you of famous musicals like Carousel and The Sound of Music. You will not be able to stop smiling or humming along. 

5) I read three books this week. Naomi Hirahara historical fiction, Clark and Division, follow a Japanese-American family as their lives are turned upside down when they are forced to move to an internment camp in California after the Pearl Harbor attack. They lose their livelihood, home, and possessions, and eventually are moved to Chicago, where their older daughter was sent to live. When they arrive in Chicago, they discover their daughter was killed when she jumped in front of a train. Younger daughter Avi doesn't believe her sister jumped and is determined to find out how her sister died. Hirahara does an amazing job balancing the mystery of a young woman's death and letting the reader see how this group of Japanese-Americans were treated during WWII, losing their American dream in the process. I highly recommend it. 

Sara Arnell's memoir of her midlife crisis, There Will Be Lobster, takes us through a very rough patch in her life.  Just as she faces life as a lonely empty nester, she loses her job as CEO of a once prominent advertising firm. She spirals downward, drinking too much, not showering, staying in her bed all day watching various Real Housewives on TV. Arnell packs a punch in this slim memoir, with most chapters just a few pages. It's riveting.  My full review publishes August 18th.

A few years ago, I read Laurie Gelman's hilarious novel, Class Mom, about a woman with two grown adult daughters and a son in kindergarten. Jen Dixon was such a terrific class mom for her two daughters, she reprises the role for her son's kindergarten class. Her snarky letters to the parents in the class became legendary, and the book made me laugh out loud. In the third book in the series, Yoga Pant Nation, Jen is now class mom for her son's fifth grade class, and once again we are treated to Jen's parent letters. She's also now a certified spin instructor and trying to find a job as a instructor, while also dealing with her aging parents who seem to be having some troubles. As a former class mom and current Peloton riding enthusiast, this novel was speaking my language. (I also loved Jen's loving relationship with her husband.) Be careful where you read this one, you'll be giggling out loud and people will wonder what you are up to.

It looks like we are going backwards with COVID. Please be safe- get a vaccine to protect those who cannot, and wear a mask indoors. We can beat this if we work together.

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer

The Ocean in Winter by Elizabeth de Veer
Published by Black Stone Publishing ISBN 9781982674649
Hardcover, $27.99, 325 pages

Elizabeth de Veer's novel 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. She left her job as an ER nurse to travel to India to work with a friend who runs a health clinic.

Alex is summoned back home to Massachusetts because a woman she barely knew left her a house in a remote marshy area. She plans to fix up the cottage, sell it, and return to India.

Her plans change when the middle sister, Colleen, is concerned that their youngest sister Riley has dropped off the face of the earth. Riley is a successful model who has had a drug addiction in the past. Concerned when her attempts to contact Riley by email and phone don't work, Colleen goes to New York City to try and find her.

After that fails, she hires a private investigator to find Riley. The PI is a kind man and promises to try, but says if Riley doesn't want to be found, it could be nearly impossible.

Colleen, married with two teenage children, lives to make her children's lives perfect.  Since she grew up without a mother, she goes overboard to make sure her two children feel loved and have everything they need, even at the detriment to her marriage.

When Riley shows up at Alex's cottage during a storm, there are many questions. How did she know where Alex's new home was? Riley is drenched, upset, and not making much sense. Where was her car? How did she get there in a storm?

Riley has a lot of secrets that she has been hiding from her sisters. She shares them with Alex, who is relieved to see her sister, and confused and saddened by Riley's revelations.

Their mother's suicide when they were just young children haunts them to this day. It was a tragedy that their father didn't want to discuss, so the girls were left on their own to wonder why their mother took her own life. Was it their fault? 

The Ocean in Winter is a heartbreaking story that asks the question, "do memories choose us or do we choose memories?" You feel compassion for these women who lived with this sorrow for so long, and the sisterly relationship felt authentic. It's a sad story about the damage that secrets can wreak for generations. 

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Elizabeth de Veer's tour. The rest of her stops are here.

Review tour:

Tuesday, July 20th: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Wednesday, July 21st: Lit and Life

Friday, July 23rd: Kahakai Kitchen

Monday, July 26th: Buried Under Books – review and excerpt

Monday, July 26th: @pickagoodbook

Wednesday, July 28th: @jenniaahava

Thursday, July 29th: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, July 30th: Girl Who Reads

Monday, August 2nd: Lori Bree Reads

Wednesday, August 4th: @fashionablyfifty

Thursday, August 5th: @boozy.bookster

Friday, August 6th: Bookchickdi

Monday, August 9th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, August 10th: Kritter’s Ramblings

Tuesday, August 10th: Books and Benches – excerpt

Friday, August 13th: @rozierreadsandwines

Monday, August 16th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Two Summer Reads That Take You Away To Some Place New

Reprinted from the Citizen:

As we head into the dog days of summer (how can it be August already?), this month’s Book Report has two books that will each take the reader away to someplace new.

Beck Dorey-Stein’s first book, From the Corner of the Oval (My review here) is a memoir of her days in the Obama White House as a stenographer. We walked in her shoes as she recounted her hectic days taking down every word spoken and her excitement of “being in the room where it happened”.

Her latest book, Rock the Boat is a delightful novel set in the ocean-side town of Sea Point, New Jersey. Kate Campbell is living the good life in Manhattan, in the fancy family apartment of her wealthy boyfriend, and working at his family’s public relations firm. 

When that life collapses around her, she is forced to head back to her parents’ home in the tourist town of Sea Point to try to rebuild her life. She gets two jobs- days she works at the town library and at night she tends bar at the local hangout.

Her neighbor and childhood pal Ziggy is trying to get over the sudden death of his father and business partner in their family plumbing company. His best friend Miles is also returning, hoping to prove to his mother that he is the logical choice for CEO of the family resort business. Each character has to face the difference between what they thought their future would be and what it actually may turn out to be.

You really feel like you are taking a vacation at the Jersey Shore reading Rock the Boat. You’ll want to grab a drink at the Jetty bar, visit the library, dress up for a fancy dinner at the Wharf, and hang out at the beach with Kate, Ziggy, and Miles. I loved the characters and the setting, and you’ll be humming the 1970’s song ‘Rock the Boat’ as you read and wait to see if Kate’s plan to get her Manhattan life back works or if she creates a new dream for herself.

Jamie Brenner’s Blush also starts out in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side where the successful fancy cheese shop Leah has run for twenty years is about to lose its lease. 

Leah returns to her parents’ wine estate in North Fork, Long Island where her father tells her that they must sell the winery that they built forty years ago due to financial reasons. Leah always wanted to be a part of the winery business, but her father chose her brother Asher as his heir apparent to learn the business, which hurt Leah. 

Vivian, Leah’s mother, is devastated to learn that they will not only lose the winery, but also the beautiful home that she designed on the property. Vivian has always been the face of the winery, the impeccably dressed hostess for weddings and tastings, but she always wanted to have more of a say in how the business was run.

When Leah’s daughter Sadie shows up hoping to work on her thesis, she discovers a cache of notebooks that her grandmother had hidden recounting the book club meetings that she held years ago. 

The books discussed were novels popular in the 1980s- Judith Krantz’s Scruples, Jackie Collins’ Chances and Shirley Cochran’s Lace among them. (Many of us will recognize those titles immediately from our own reading history.)

The three women, along with Asher’s much younger girlfriend Bridget, form their own book club to read these books and take inspiration from the characters in the story. The women in these books took it upon themselves to go after what they wanted in business and their personal lives. Can these women do the same and save the winery from disaster?

If you are someone who enjoys wine, as I do, you’ll will get a higher level of satisfaction from this book as you learn all about the process of growing grapes for wine, all the way through the winemaking process. I found it utterly fascinating.

Brenner excels in showing us the three stages of loving relationships- Vivian and her husband of forty years and the lifelong partnership they have, Leah and her husband’s middle-aged marriage issues, and Sadie finding love in the throes of youthful attraction.

I liked how the title of the book- Blush- echoes the one-word titles of the 1980’s novels. Blush is a wonderful female-centered story that updates the sentiments of those earlier novels for today’s woman.  

Rock the Boat by Beck Dorey-Stein- A-

Published by The Dial Press

Hardcover, 38 pages, $27

Blush by Jamie Brenner- A-

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Hardcover, 384 pages, $26