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Friday, July 29, 2022

Friday 5ive- July 29, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week, this steamy, hot week.

1)  For all of you who follow my book reviews, I have some news. I just joined Bookshop.org as an affiliate. Bookshop.org began during the pandemic as a way to help independent bookstores sell online to  keep bookstores open. It's a great alternative to Amazon, and I ordered books from many different independent bookstores during the pendemic, and was so pleased with the service and the fact that I was supporting bookstores. I set up a shop on https://Bookshop.org/shop/bookchickdi. If you go directly to my linked page, you can see the books I have reviewed on my blog and in my Book Report column and buy them. You can also order any book that is available on Bookshop.org (not just the ones I have reviewed) by searching for the book at the top of the page. When you order from my page, 20% of the proceeds will support Yu and Me Books, the only Asian-American woman-owned bookstore in New York City, and my 10% commission will go to support the Book Cellar, the used bookstore where I volunteer. The Book Cellar is run by dedicated volunteers, and their proceeds benefit the branch libraries of the New York Public Library. We have donated over $1 million to support the programs of the NYPL in the 18 years we have been open. If you like to order books online and want to support independent bookstores, please consider ordering from my page on Bookshop.org. (If you see my bookchickdi photo on the top left corner, you'll know it's my page.) You can also find my shop on the right side of the page of my blog.

2)  When we moved from our home Auburn, NY to a tiny one bedroom apartment NYC in 2009, we rented a storage unit in Kingston, NY near my in-laws. It was a place to store our sons' childhood memories, photos, etc. After 13 years of paying for storage and many trips to the storage unit with the best of intentions of cleaning it out, the task was finally accomplished. My husband, with assistance from his sister, brother, and father emptied out the unit. Each of us got to keep one small box of stuff, and the rest went out. All day long at work I received photos of the boys favorite things- sports uniforms, Batman pajamas, baby blankets- and it was a delightful trip down memory lane. Now I need to purge items from our apartment for my box of memories. Marie Kondo fans would be happy.

3)  My younger son turned me on to this guy on Instagram who lives in NYC and every week films himself and other drivers on his street as they move their cars for the street sweeper, and then jockey for position to retrieve their parking spots before someone else steals it. (@francisccellis on Instagram) His commentary is hilarious, and he has become friends with the street sweeper. I saw with my own eyes this process this week along East 74th Street for the first time since I moved to NYC, and for some reason it brought me joy through all the honking horns.

4) I watched the first four parts of the fascinating six-part documentary series about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward on HBOMax, The Last Movie Stars.  Newman and Woodward's daughter approached her old schoolmate, actor Ethan Hawke, about doing the documentary. Newman was working on his memoirs with a writer and recorded hours of memories. He asked friends, coworkers, his family and even his ex-wife to record interviews on cassette tapes. Newman eventually burned the tapes, but the writer had them transcribed before burning. Hawke asked his friends, including George Clooney (who read Paul Newman's words) and Laura Linney (who read Joanne Woodward's) to read from the transcripts. Hearing the actual words of Newman, Woodward, and others close to them, and seeing their daughters interviewed, makes for incredible insights into these two talented and complex people. I highly recommend it. 

5) It was a busy week and so I only finished one book. Erin La Rosa's rom-com, For Butter Or Worse is for fans of Top Chef. Nina is a respected chef, owns her own restaurant, and is a judge on The Next Cooking Champ.  Her cohost Leo's family own a chain of Italian family-syle restaurants where he handles the business side while his twin brother is the cook. Leo likes to needle and get under Nina's skin on-air, until one day when Nina has had enough and quits the show. The big problem is that without the show, both of their restaurants may go under. The one way to fix that is to pretend to be dating. It's a terrific enemies-to-lovers story with some unique plotlines, like Leo's anxiety issues. Foodies will enjoy this one, and my full review is here.


Have a safe, healthy, cool week.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For Butter Or Worse by Erin La Rosa
Published by Harlequin ISBN 9781335506344
Trade paperback, $15.99, 368 pages

Hot steamy summer days like these call for a hot steamy romance to read and Erin La Rosa's For Butter Or Worse takes the cake.

Nina Lyon owns her own restaurant and hosts the cooking challenge reality show The Next Cooking Champ. Her cohost is Leo O'Donnell, whose family owns a chain of Italian restaurants, some of which  can be found in airports.

Nina has worked hard to earn the respect she deserves in the culinary world, something not easily attainable for women. She brings her experience to the show and can be tough, but fair, to the contestants.

Leo runs the business end of the family restaurants, leaving the food part to his twin brother Gavin to handle. Leo is handsome and all charm to most people, but snarky to his cohost Nina. He can't help pushing her buttons on air.

Both Nina and Leo hope that their TV show appearances will translate into more customers to their restaurants; it's a tough business with very tight profit margins. When Nina decides she's had enough of Leo, she loses her cool and announces on-air in a live show that she is leaving The Next Cooking Champ.

That leaves both Leo and Nina and their restaurants in a precarious position, and when paparazzi take a photo of them in what looks like a romantic clinch, the only way to save their restaurants (according to the show's PR person) is to be seen in public dating. Can Nina and Leo put aside their animosity to save their restaurants?

For Butter Or Worse is an enemies-to-lovers tale with some delicious food descriptions that will make you hungry. (Nina's mother's Pates aux Lardons -noodles with gruyére cheese, bacon and butter- will be making an appearance in my kitchen very soon.)

La Rosa elevates her story with some interesting touches. Leo has anxiety issues, and I love that he and his mom talk on the phone while watching rom-coms (Sleepless in Seattle) together. As the mom of two adult sons, I appreciated Leo's mom.

As with any good enemies-to-lovers story, Leo and Nina's "fake dates" lead to misunderstandings and to some very steamy sex scenes. (If you don't appreciate explicit sex scenes, this isn't for you. If you appreciate them, you'll be pleased.) 

If you're someone who enjoys a hot romance and doesn't miss an episode of Top Chef, put For Butter Or Worse on your TBR list today. 

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Summer 2022 Rom-Com Blog Tour.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin
Published by Hanover Square Press ISBN 9781335426918
Trade paperback, $16.99, 320 pages

Madeline Martin's terrific novel The Last Bookshop in London (my review here) told the story of a young woman who worked in a London bookshop during the Blitz of WWII. It was a fresh take on the popular WWII novels, and as someone who works in a bookstore, I enjoyed it.

Her new novel, The Librarian Spy, is also a unique WWII story. Martin sets this story in two cities- Lyon, France and Lisbon, Portugal. I can't recall reading a novel set in Lisbon, and didn't know anything about Portugal's role as a neutral country during WWII. I do now.

Ava Harper is a librarian working in the rare books room in the Library of Congress. She is recruited to help the United States war effort and is sent to Lisbon where she is tasked with purchasing magazines and newspapers from Germany, France, and elsewhere and microfilming them to send back to Washington DC to be studied by the War Department for intelligence that will help the war effort.

Elaine lives in Lyon, which is under the control of the Nazis and the Vichy government. When her husband  disappears, Elaine is recruited by his friend to work undercover with the French Resistance. Elaine works with other women hiding and passing out undercover newspapers to others in the Resistance. Eventually she ends up working on the printing press that creates the newspapers.

The contrast between Ava's life in Lisbon and Elaine's in Lyon is stark. Ava is enjoying tasty Portuguese pastries like pastéis de nata and living in a small but comfortable apartment while Elaine is constantly hungry and moving from one cramped safehouse to another trying to avoid being captured by the cruel Nazis who would torture her for information. 

Ava meets some British librarians, and catches the eye of one in particular, James. James takes Ava to fancy dinner parties, telling her it would aid the war effort, while Elaine anxiously searches for word about the whereabouts of her husband. Was he is prison, sent to a work camp, or dead?

There is a connection between Ava and Elaine that becomes apparent in the second half of the book as that revolves around a secret message that gets decoded and helps a woman escape.

At first I was more intrigued by Ava's story because I didn't know much about Lisbon (and I admire librarians, they are superheroes), but as the story progressed, Elaine's story captured me as well. Lisbon housed many refugees from the Nazi's, and was a point of departure for many who fled to the United States. The parallels to the refugees today fleeing war in Afghanistan and the Ukraine are significant.

Madeline Martin doesn't shy away from the horrors of the Nazis cruelties, and it can often hard, but yet important, to read. As a world we cannot keep allowing this atrocities to happen. It put me in mind of Jessica Shattuck's novel The Women in the Castle and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale from a few years ago.

As Eleanor Roosevelt said "A woman is like a teabag. You never know how strong it is until it's in hot water." Ava and Elaine personify that quite well in Madeline Martin's powerful novel The Librarian Spy.  I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Summer 2022 Historical Fiction Blog Tour.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Friday 5ive- July 22, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish post featuring five things that caught my attention this week.
It's been a scorcher of a week, temperature-wise, thanks goodness for air conditioning.

1) As one of the many wine clubs we belong to, PlumpJack Winery hosted a special Zoom cooking class with Truffle Shuffle on Saturday evening. The Truffle Shuffle chef walked us all through cooking a Crispy Skin Duck a 'lOrange with roasted parsnips. We received a two bottles of PlumpJack wine- a 2020 Odette Reserve Chardonnay to drink while we cooked, and a 2019 PumpJack Merlot to enjoy with our duck. We also received a box with the duck, parsnips and everything else we needed to make dinner. I've never cooked duck before and I have to say, we enjoyed it a great deal and I would definitely make it again. (The parsnips did not turn as well- luckily we had some leftover salt potatoes I fried up.)

2) I went to a Broadway show this week. I've been wanting to see POTUS, a comedic play about seven women surrounding a disaster of a President. The cast is absolutely first-rate, with the always amazing Julie White playing the Chief of Staff who is constantly putting out fires and actually the brains behind the operation. (The running gag is that she should President, but it is not a joke it is reality.) She and Rachel Dratch (who plays a mousy secretary trying to find her power) both earned well-deserved Tony nominations for their roles. Vanessa Williams plays the accomplished First Lady who also should be President, she definitely plays to her strengths in this role. Suzy Nakamura is also stellar in her role as Press Secretary and has some of the funniest lines in the play. The real revelation is Julianne Hough who more than holds her own with this strong cast in her Broadway debut. I laughed through the entire show, and there are more than a few lines that are thought-provoking and earned thunderous applause from the full house. The show closes in August, so go see it if you can. ( I also liked the Signature Cocktails available, although if I had purchased one before the show, I would have fallen asleep.)

3) Peloton riders got a big surprise last Friday. After she performed live on The Today Show plaza to celebrate the drop of her album Special, Lizzo showed up at the Peloton studio in NYC to take the live Lizzo spin class. Not only did she take the ride with everyone in the class and instructors Robin Arzón and Jess Simms, she sang every song throughout the 30 minute class and she brought along background dancers. It was such a cool thing to do, and it was a blast. I'm not sure Peloton tops that ride- maybe Bruce Springsteen shows up for ride and sings???

4) I wanted something light to watch on TV after the heaviness of Better Call Saul and The Old Man, so we watched Jerry & Marge Go Large, starring Bryan Cranston and Annette Benning. It's based on a true story of a small town Midwest middle-aged couple who figure out that there is a flaw in a popular lottery game. If you play enough games, you are guaranteed to win money. Cranston and Benning are charming as the couple looking for something to do together now that Jerry is retired from his line manager's job at the local plant. Jerry and Marge form a corporation with people in the town and everyone shares in the wealth, to the total tune of $27 million. (You may have seen the 60 Minutes story a few years back.) If you need a feel-good movie and have Paramount+, this one will make you smile.

5) I read two books this week. The first was The Desperate Hours by Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner. Brenner looks at the beginning of the COVID pandemic through the eyes of doctors, nurses, administrators and more at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospitals in New York City. I live almost across the street from New York-Presbyterian and so I had a special interest in this well-researched, well-written, totally immersive book. Brenner puts the reader right in the midst of the hospital where decisions are being made quickly without much information available about COVID. What impresses me most is the dedication of doctors, nurses, aides and maintenance staff who showed compassion and courage in dealing with so many people who were dying around them. It reminded me of Sheri Fink's Five Days At Memorial, about a hospital caught up in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The Desperate Hours is destined to go down as one of the most important books written about COVID. It will be one of my Most Compelling Books of 2022. 

I also read Madeline Martin's historical novel The Librarian Spy, about a Library of Congress librarian recruited to work as a spy in Lisbon, Portugal during WWII. I haven't read any books set in Lisbon, so this one intrigued me, and of course I can't resist a librarian as the main character. (My full review can be found July 26th) . If you liked Kristin Hannah's  The Nightingale  and Jessica Shattuck's The Women in the Castle, this one is for you. 

Have a safe, healthy, and  cool week.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Friday 5ive- July 15, 2022

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

1) While walking on my errand run this week, I passed Max Mara's store on Madison Ave. and this window display caught my eye. I'm always happy when I see anyone reading a book, even a bear. (Hey, we have the same eyeglasses!)

2) It seems like more a than few restaurants have decided to upgrade their outdoor dining areas with floral overhead decor. Loew's Regency Hotel on the Upper East Side has a long canopy of white flowers outside their hotel where a cafe resides (to cover the ugly scaffolding above), and Cacio e Pepe near the Webster Library on York Ave. has gone with a pink and white motif of flowers overhead. It adds a lovely touch to the neighborhood. 

3) We went to dinner at our usual Thursday place, Jean Claude 2, a French bistro near our apartment. We haven't been there in awhile, but the manager recognized us and was happy to see us back. The place was decked out in red, blue, and white balloons and it dawned on me that it was Bastille Day, July 14th. We sat near the door and laughed each time someone new entered the restaurant and said "Is it someone's birthday?" I guess we had good timing for the LaRues to show up on Bastille Day at the French bistro. It was delicious as always. Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

4) The last episodes of Better Call Saul began this week on AMC. They left us with a crazy cliffhanger last time, and picked right up at the beginning of the epsiode. The tension just kept racheting up and up as the minutes ticked by, and you didn't know how people were going to get out of the dangerous situations they found themselves in. I swear I was holding my breath the entire show. The show garnered many Emmy nominations this week, including an overdue nomination for Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler. 

5) I read three wonderful books this week. I returned to the fictional island of Mure off the coast of Scotland in Jenny Colgan's Christmas at the Island Hotel. I so enjoyed catching up with all of the characters I feel are my friends. Flora is adjusting to being a new mom, and preparing for the grand opening of the Rock, the hotel owned by her brother Fintan. She is planning her own wedding to Joel when her archnemesis Jan's supermodel sister sweeps in and wants to have an over-the-top, insanely expensive wedding that would put much needed money into the Rock's coffers. My favorite storyline of the novel involves the love between Saif, the doctor who left his war-torn home country of Syria with his two young sons but without his wife, and Lorena, a schoolteacher and Flora's best friend. It's heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.  And, well it is Christmas in July, right?

I have not read any of Katherine Center's books, but after reading her newest one, The Bodyguard, I will be checking out her backlist ASAP. Hannah Brooks is a bodyguard who usually guards business people for a living. Her assignment this time is to protect Hollywood hunk Jack Stapleton who has a stalker on his tail. Jack has disappeared from Hollywood for a few years and is visiting his sick mom in Houston. He doesn't want his mom to worry, so Hannah has to pretend to be his girlfriend while he is at his family's ranch. Hannah is dealing with the recent death of her mother and being dumped by her boyfriend who works with her. I raced through this one, filled with terrific characters and a unique workplace situation, finishing it in just a few hours. The Bodyguard is a perfect beach or porch read, and would make a wonderful rom-com movie. 

The last book I read is Katy Tur's memoir Rough Draft. Katy Tur is an MSNBC reporter, anchoring the 2pm hour daily. Her memoir deals with growing up with her parents as newspeople in Los Angeles. Her Dad flew a news helicopter and her mom hung off the helicopter shooting footage they would sell to news stations. They shot the famous Reginald Denny beating during the Los Angeles riots in 1992, and OJ Simpson's slow highway vehicle chase in 1994. Bob Tur was a violent man, beating his wife, son and daughter. In 2013, Bob Tur came out as transgender and, although Katy publicly and privately supported her father, he was emotionally abusive to her, berating her in public for not being supportive enough. 

Katy Tur became famous for covering Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and frequently incurred his public wrath as he berated her at his rallies, encouraging his followers to do the same. There are similarities between Bob Tur and Donald Trump, and Katy learned how to respond to Trump through her experiences dealing with her father. She married fellow newsman Tony Dikoupil, an anchor on CBS Mornings, someone who also had a difficult father (he was one of the biggest drug smugglers on the East Coast and is in prison). I liked reading about their love story, and their two young children. Katy Tur is an excellent writer, she never wastes a word in this honest, sharp memoir. I highly recommend it. 

I hope you all have a safe, healthy week.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber

Out of Her Depth by Lizzy Barber
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778386445
Trade paperback, $16.99, 400 pages

Lizzy Barber's suspense novel Out of Her Depth opens with a sentence that will entice you to keep reading- 
"Before you judge me, remember this: a girl died, and it wasn't my fault."

Rachel is teaching French and Italian at a private girls' school when a BBC News alert flashes across her phone that a man's criminal appeal is proceeding that evening. What does this have to do with the first sentence of the story? 

The story moves back in time to when Rachel was an ambitious high school student. Her Italian teacher reaches out to an old friend, a countessa who has a villa in Tuscany that she has turned into a pensione. Although she would be working as a maid, Rachel would be escaping to beautiful Florence for the summer.

The work was not easy, but when Rachel meets another maid named Diana, Rachel becomes "intoxicated with her, almost from the very moment, an intensity of feeling that perhaps blinded me to her other faults." Unlike Rachel, Diana comes from the same wealthy class as most of the villa's guests.

Rachel also falls for Sebastian, a neighbor of the Contessa's. Sebastian is charming and handsome and he seems to like Rachel as well. Diana encourages Rachel, telling Rachel that she would help her win Sebastian's affections.

But Diana is not the friend that Rachel believes her to be. As the summer moves along, Rachel finds herself doing Diana's work as well as her own, and being seduced by the lifestyle of her new friends, a  lifetyle she cannot afford.

The story moves back and forth in time, and we read on waiting to discover who was the girl who died and if it wasn't Rachel's fault, whose fault was it? Rachel seems to be unraveling in the present time, looking for answers, and perhaps absolution, for what happened in Tuscany.

I enjoyed being immersed in Florence and Tuscan countryside. You could feel the sunshine on your face, and taste the cool gelato on your tongue. The story had a Gatsby-esque touch, with our narrator trying to explain the actions of these rich people. Lizzy Barber has the reader in the palm of her hand, right up to the shocking ending. If you are a fan of thrillers like The Girl on the Train, Out of Her Depth is one for you.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Summer 2022 Mystery & Thriller Blog Tour.


Friday, July 8, 2022

Friday 5ive- July 8, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. It's hard to believe it's July already, summer is moving too quickly.

1) We like to go see the New York Yankees play at Yankee Stadium once a year, and this year we were invited to join someone in their Legends seats on the first base line right next to the Yankees dugout. The game started off rocky when the Oakland A's scored three runs in the top of the first, but the Yankees came back in the bottom of the first with an Aaron Judge  two-run homer. They went on to win the game, and I got a photo of Judge coming in from the outfield before the game. He is very tall.

2) While traveling home from Florida on the 4th of July, and got to see the beginning of the Macy's Fireworks Spectacular as our car came down the FDR along the East River where they shoot off the fireworks. That was a pretty cool visual, like a scene from a rom-com movie. We finished watching the show from our balcony, which is also pretty cool.

3) Our friends came over for dinner one night in Florida and they brought over an appetizer tray with figs from their garden. It reminded us of the trip we all took to Italy a few years ago where we picked figs from the vineyard where we were staying. It was such a great memory, and the Florida figs were delicious.

4)  Everyone was talking about The Old Man on FX and since I'm a big Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow fan, we tuned in. It was a bit of a slow start for me, but now I'm all in. It's about a retired-in-hiding CIA agent played by Jeff Bridges who is being targeted by the US government for his involvement in Afghanistan years ago. John Lithgow plays an FBI agent who has a past with Bridges, and his loyalties are in question. Amy Brenneman unfortunately finds herself in the middle of it all. It's very cat-and-mouse, and the flashbacks can be confusing at first. But I did guess one plot twist early on, so that makes me proud. New episodes drop on Thursdays and it streams on Hulu the next day. 

5)  I got a lot of reading in last week. Linda Holmes Flying Solo takes the reader back to Calcasset, Maine, the setting for her wonderful novel Evvie Drakes Starts Over. Flying Solo introduces us to Laurie, a 40 year old woman who breaks off her engagement and returns home to clean out her beloved great-aunt's home. She reevaluates her future after going through her aunt's effects, and there's mystery involving a wooden duck decoy that goes missing and may or may not be the work of a famous artist, and hot librarian. It's a great beach read. (My review is here.) 

I continued my streak of reading moving memoirs with Zibby Owens' Bookends. Zibby is the host of the popular podcast Moms Don't Have Time To Read and she has become a big book influencer with a regular gig recommending books on Good Morning America. She talks about being painfully shy as a child, losing herself in reading and writing, her weight and self-esteem issues, things many women can relate to (even if most of us can't relate to her wealthy upbringing on the Upper East Side on New York City, a privilege she readily acknowledges.) Owens dealt with so much loss in life, losing her best friend in the North Tower on 9/11, her grandfather, her stepbrother, and a best friend from high school all in rapid succession. She also lost her mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law tragically at the beginning of COVID. What I most admire about Owens is her ability to pick herself up and move forward. She sees opportunity where many see obstacles, and has created a wonderful career uplifting authors and readers, and now herself. Her love affair with husband number two Kyle is a sweet surprise, and I liked how she protects the privacy of her children. Bookends is inspiring and honest, and her extensive Reading List at the end of the book is a treasure trove for readers like myself. 
One of my go-to authors is Anthony Marra. I loved his Constellations of Vital Phenomena (set in Chechnya during their war with Russia) and The Tsar of Love and Techno, (a collection of stories set in the USSR). He is a brilliant writer. His new novel, Mercury Pictures Presents tells two stories, one set in Italy during the rein of Mussolini, and the other in California during WWII. After Maria inadvertantly causes her defense lawyer father to be imprisoned in Italy for his subversive actions, she and her mother run away to California to live with relatives. Maria gets a job at Mercury Pictures where her talent leads  her to a job as an assistant to Artie Feldman, the head of the midsize film production company. We toggle back and forth between Maria's new life in California and her father's life as he becomes a tutor for young Nino, who has aspirations to become a war photographer. This magnificient book packs so much into it, Marra creates these worlds for the reader that feel like we are a part of the story instead of just reading it. I learned so much about the movie industry at that time and their ties to the war effort. It makes me want to dive deeper into this time period and read more. This is a deep, thoughtful, meaty book, one I'd love to start right over and reread. I think this might be his best one yet, and that is saying something. 

Have a safe, happy, healthy week.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen & Flying Solo by LInda Holmes

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

July is the time to kick our summer reading into high gear, and this month’s Book Report features two titles that are made for that. A Shoe Story and Flying Solo are two novels that each feature a woman looking at a very different future than she imagined. They are at a crossroads in their lives and with the help of their friends, and the possibility of romance that may or may not include reconnecting with former loves, they forge ahead.

First up is  A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen. Esme is excited to be graduating from college and heading off to her new life interning at an art gallery in New York City and living with Liam, her college boyfriend who also has a job in New York. 

When tragedy strikes, Esme returns her upstate New York hometown of Honeoye Falls to care for her father and all her future dreams fade away. She breaks up with Liam, not wanting to hold him back.

Seven years later, Esme has the opportunity to dog sit for a woman in New York City.  While it’s only for a month, Esme looks forward to being able to explore the city she once hoped to call home, and maybe even run into Liam.

Esme meets a handsome bartender who rescues her from a creep, and makes friends with Sy, an elderly man she meets at the dog park. She also discovers that the woman who owns the apartment has an extensive collection of beautiful shoes, and finds a note from the woman telling her to help herself (or so she thinks).

Each clever chapter title is the name of a pair of shoes from the closet, and gives the reader some idea of what it to come. (I’m not a shoe person, but if you are, you will drool over some of these descriptions and titles.)

I loved following Esme’s adventures in New York City, and made a list of all the fun places I want to visit. (Mercer Kitchen will be my first stop.) Rosen drops the reader right into Greenwich Village, with a side trip to the Hamptons. You'll feel like you are there.

A Shoe Story is a perfect summer read, with characters you want to befriend, a fantastic setting, and fancy shoes. What could be better? I highly recommend it.

Linda Holmes’ first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over was one of my favorite books from summer of 2020, and I was pleased to hear that her second, Flying Solo publishes in June of 2022. 

Wildlife journalist Laurie Sassalyn is about to turn forty, has just broken off her engagement shortly before her wedding, and now returns to her small hometown in Maine to clean out the home of her beloved great-aunt Dot after Dot’s passing. Dot provided refuge to Laurie as a child when living with her four brothers was too noisy and overwhelming for the young girl who liked to read books in silence.

Dot was unmarried and lived a full life, traveling the world, collecting books, too many souvenirs from her travels, and boxes and boxes of Polaroid photos of friends and family. Laurie hires Matt from a service called Save the Best to provide a “bereavement decluttering”, which means he will determine what may be valuable to sell and then get rid of the rest.

Laurie finds a wooden duck decoy hidden underneath blankets in Dot’s cedar chest. She feels strangely attached to the duck, and Matt tells her he will see if could possibly be worth something, though he doubts it.

There is a mystery to be solved when the duck is stolen and Laurie, her best friend June, and former high school boyfriend-now-hot-librarian Nick team up to find out what happened and if the duck could be the product of a famous artist. 

I enjoyed the caper, sort of a grown-up Scooby-Doo mystery. Like A Shoe Story, Flying Solo has characters you want to know, and Laurie’s journey to discover if she wants to live a solo life like Dot is a unique storyline.  I liked the small town setting and getting to know the residents. I smiled at the Evvie Drake shout-out as the setting of both books are the town of Calcasset, Maine. I highly recommend Flying Solo as well. 

A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen- A

Published by Berkley 

Trade paperback, $17, 336 pages

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes- A

Published by Ballantine Books

Hardcover, $28, 320 pages