Powered By Blogger

Friday, June 30, 2023

Friday 5ive- June 30, 2023

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. It's the last day of June???? How is that possible???

1) One great thing about living where we do in New York City is that come July, we can see all the various fireworks displays that go off nightly from now until July 4th. Last night was the beginning, at first I thought it was someone working on the apartment above us and then I realized it was fireworks.

2) We went back home for the wedding of our dear friend and former neighbor's daughter. It was such a beautiful ceremony and it was great to catch up with all my good friends and dance the night away. We also celebrated four family birthdays- my older son, mom, nephew, and his wife all have birthdays this week so it was a good week to be home. We were able to have a cookout with charcoal-grilled hamburgers, a rare treat for those of us who live in NYC. My brother did a great job with the burgers, they were delicious, and my Tarragon Potato Salad (thanks to Ina Garten) was a hit. The recipe is here.

3) Carol Fitzgerald of the Book Reporter Network hosted a  "Bookacccino Live Summer Reading Event" where she shared titles of upcoming summer books. She covered a lot of ground in just an hour, and there were so many books that I want to read.  Laura Lippman's Prom Mom, Ann Patchett's Tom Lake, and Beatriz Williams' The Beach at Summerly top the list for me. You can watch the presentation on YouTube here.  

4) We watched the entire second season of The Bear on Hulu this week and wow, was it fabulous! The premise this season is that Carmy and the team is preparing to open a fine dining restaurant in the former The Beef restaurant that belonged to his deceased brother. We see members of the team as they learn how to work in a fine dining restaurant and each person gets an episode highlighting their journey. My favorite episode is "Forks", which shows Ritchie's story. You really get a feel for all that goes into running a restaurant, and the final episode of the season had me on the edge of my seat as they open the restaurant for family and friends night. This is a must-watch. 

5) I read Shaun Bythell's The Diary of a Bookseller on the recommendation of one of my fellow volunteers at the Book Cellar. Shaun owns and operates The Bookshop, a used bookstore in Wigtown, a small town in Scotland, and he tells the story in true diary form. Each day he has an entry sharing the days' customer count, the amount of money in the till at the end of the day and what happened that day. He shares stories of customers (some nice, some not so much) and as someone who runs a used bookstore, I could relate to so much of his story. He has a dry sense of humor and I found myself laughing out loud many times. The funniest interactions are between Shaun and his employee Nicki, who is a real trip. You don't have to work in a bookstore to appreciate this book, but if you've ever worked in retail, you'll enjoy. 

I hope you have a safe, healthy, happy 4th of July. Until next time.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Friday 5ive- June 16, 2023

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

1)  Monday evening I attended a book talk with Fiona Davis in conversation with Susie Orman Schnall at Rizzoli Bookstore. Fiona was there to launch the publication of her newest historical fiction 
The Spectacular. The book is set in 1956 New York City at Radio City Music Hall. Marion is a young dancer who becomes one of the famous Rockettes. She teams up with a psychiatrist who is helping the police in their search for the Big Apple Bomber. Fiona Davis has carved out an interesting niche for herself- she sets her novels in famous New York City buildings. (The Lions of Fifth Avenue was set in the New York Public Library main branch, Magnolia Palace was set in the Frick Museum.) She does an incredible amount of research for her novels, and for this one she interviewed Rockettes from the 1950s, two of whom were sitting in the audience. The discussion was fascinating and now I can't wait to read The Spectacular. (Side note- I got to meet Amy Poeppel, who is one of my most favorite authors, and tell her how much I love her books. The Sweet Spot is her current novel, and Limelight is my favorite. Do yourself a favor and read all of her books. They are full of humor and heart, and she was as lovely as I hoped she'd be.) 
Susie Orman Shnall and Fiona Davis

2) I continued my Tony Award-winning shows roundup with Good Night, Oscar. Sean Hayes (of the TV show Will & Grace and the podcast Smartless) won the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play on Sunday. He portrays Oscar Levant, a raconteur and brilliant classical composer and pianist, who made frequent appearances on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar in the 1950s and 60s. He also had a serious mental illness. In the play, Oscar's wife June helps his "escape" from the hospital where she had him committed to make an appearance with Jack Paar on The Tonight Show. Oscar is accompanied by an unwitting orderly who did not know where they were going, and Jack Paar did not know Oscar was in the hospital. I did not even recognize Sean Hayes, he looks so different and his voice was unrecognizeable. He becomes Oscar Levant before our very eyes. The show is filled with Levant's witticisms and cutting remarks that had the audience laughing out loud. The show ends with Hayes playing George Gershwin's jazz/classical masterpiece Rhapsody in Blue, a 7 1/2 minute song. It is as if Hayes was possessed by Levan's spirit as he plays and the audience jumped to their feet in applause when he finished. It is a virtuoso performance, one of the best I've seen and Hayes clearly deserved that Tony Award. The show is a limited run, so if you get to NYC soon, go see this one. 
Good Night, Oscar set

3) I made fried eggs for breakfast the other morning, and two of the eggs had double yolks. Is that like seeing two double rainbows? Should I have played the lottery that day?

4)  Speaking of Fiona Davis, she was a guest on Adriana Trigiani's Adriana Ink Facebook Live this week, talking about The Spectacular so if you didn't make it to Rizzoli, you can still hear Fiona speak about her book. Helen Ellis, another of my favorite authors, was on as well that day talking about her book, Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge: Intimate Confessions of a Happy Marriage  which I cannot stop
raving about. I was so happy to get my copy of the book this week so I can re-read it and read all the hilarious parts out loud to my husband. You can listen to the discussion here, and there are seven more (!) authors on that day's chat. 

5) I read a delightful novel this week- Matthew Norman's Charm City Rocks. Set in Baltimore, Billy is a single dad to high school senior Caleb, whom he shares custody with his former girlfriend Robyn. Billy teaches music to young people and lives over  Charm City Rocks, a music store. As he and Caleb watch a documentary on rock and roll of the 1990s, he admits to a crush on Margot, drummer for a popular all-female band who scored big and then imploded on live TV. Caleb does something crazy that brings Margot to Baltimore in the hopes that his Dad will tell Margot of his crush. Things don't go as planned. The story is wonderful, and the characters are good people. I always enjoy Matthew Norman's novels, going back to his debut Domestic Violets because his characters are so interesting and his books have heart and humor. My favorite scene is the car scene with Robyn and Lawson, Margot's former movie star husband. That scene was fabulous! If you liked Taylor Jenkins Reid's Daisy Jones & the Six, but wished it was a little lighter, you'll love Charm City Rocks. 

Have a safe and healthy week, and Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there. I know a lot of them!

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Friday 5ive- June 9, 2023

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

1) The number one topic this week was the air quality on Wednesday. I was at work at the Book Cellar and we have windows that look out into a garden. We can see a little bit of the sky and we noticed that it was turning odd colors during the course of the afternoon, going from a cloudy grey to almost a bright orange. The NYPL closed all their branches at 3:30 and we headed home to what felt like being around a campfire, with that smoky odor (but alas, no smores). All is well now, our air quality index on Friday was 33.
Photo taken at 2:30pm on Wednesday by NBC News NY

2) Sunday I walked over to Times Square to see the Broaway musical Kimberly Akimbo. On my walk over, I got caught up in the Israel Day Parade and it took me a lot longer to get where I needed to be. The show was fantastic, one of the best I've ever seen. It's nominated for 8 Tony Awards on Sunday, and I hope it wins them all. Victoria Clark is a veteran Broadway performer and Tony nominated for her role as Kimberly, a 16 year-old girl who has a disease that ages her. Her body is 72 years old, but her mind is sixteen. Kimberly is befriended by Seth, who works at the local ice skating rink. Seth is played brilliantly by Justin Cooley, nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, in his Broadway debut. Kimberly has to deal with being an outcast in school and with her dysfunctional family. Her father is an alcoholic who forgets to pick her up from the rink, and her mother is hugely pregnant- and a narcissist. Kimberly has to take care of them. Her Aunt Debra is played by the hilarious Bonnie Mulligan (nominated for Best Featured Actress in a Musical) who steals the show with her physicality and impeccable comedic timing. Debra has spent time in prison, and comes back to convince Kimberly's high school friends to help her with her latest scam. The show is hilarious and heartfelt, you'll laugh and tear up. This is the one show to see if you are coming to New York. 

3)  I stopped in to visit the new McNally Jackson bookstore in Rockfeller Center on Sunday. All I can say is that it is a stunning bookstore! There are two levels, and the store is so wonderfully curated. Their Children's section is huge, with separate areas for Picture Books, Chapter Books and Young Adult, filled with thousands of books. The Fiction section on the top floor is has so many sub-genres- American Literature, British Literature, Russian Literature- even Oceanic Literature and Canadian Literature have their own section. I did think it was humorous to see True Crime next to Romance. I was very impressed and will returning when I can spend more time browsing.


4)  On my walk back home, I ran into a large crowd in Times Square calling for Russia to free Alexi Navalny, currently imprisoned in Siberia for daring to ask for democracy. 

5) I watched the last two episodes of Ted Lasso and all I can say is bravo. It was a lovely way to say goodbye to our friends in Richmond, and they tied up most of the storylines very well. I liked Nate's arc, and the scene where Coach Beard goes to visit Nate was so touching, I cried. Sam, the Nigerian player, has a great arc too. Roy and Jamie's bromance was fun to watch, and seeing all these characters grow as people was enjoyable. I also like how they left the door open for a spinoff, I think the fans would be on board for that.  And shout-out for the Little Free Library in front of the Lasso house- nice touch! 
The LIttle Free Library!

I hope you all had a safe, healthy week. Don't forget Father's Day is next Sunday! Until then.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Summer Reading Picks

Reprinted from auburnpub.com

Memorial Day is past and now Summer Reading Season is upon us. This month’s column is filled with suggestions for books for everyone to read at the beach or on your front porch.

For the person who enjoys a good family story, J. Ryan Stradal’s new novel, Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club tells the story of four generations of women involved with the running of their family supper club in a small town in Minnesota. Some of them take to the family business, others feel confined by it. You’ll feel dropped right into this community. Stradal never misses, his books are must-reads for me. 

Susie Luo’s debut novel, Paper Names tells of the immigrant experience seeking the American dream. Tony leaves his job as an engineer in China to give his family a better life in New York City where he now works as a doorman. The lives of Tony, his young daughter Tammy, and Oliver, a lawyer who lives in the building where Tony works, collide after a violent incident. 

If Historical Fiction is your favorite genre, Luis Alberto Urrea’s Good Night, Irene, a story about women who worked for the Red Cross in Europe during WWII, is inspired by his own’s mother experiences. 

Kristin Harmel’s The Paris Daughter is set in 1939 Paris where a young mother forced to flee the Nazis entrusts her daughter to her best friend. Her return after the war leads to complications.  

Lisa See’s Lady Tan’s Circle of Women is also inspired by a true story, this one about a female physician in 15th century China who undertook medical care for women when no one cared about them. 

Mysteries and thrillers are always great beach reads. William Landay’s All That Is Mine I Carry With Me begins when a mother disappears and her husband, a defense attorney, is suspected but never charged in her disappearance. Her raises their three children alone and when her remains are found 20 years later, their children must decide if is he is guilty or not. 

Dennis Lehane’s new novel Small Mercies is set in Boston during the summer of the busing protests of the 1970s. When a teen girl goes missing the same time that a young Black man is killed in the subway, her tough Irish mother will stop at nothing to find her, including running up against the most dangerous mobsters in town. (This one has raw and offensive language, as well as violence, appropriate for the time and subject.) 

Liv Constantine’s The Senator’s Wife tells the story of a DC power couple. Sloane is a philanthropist married to a Senator, and when complications from her lupus become challenging they hire an assistant. As Sloane’s health deteriorates, she begins suspect her assistant is up to something nefarious. This one has twists galore. 

Romance novels and sunshine go together and this season the queen of summer beach reads Elin Hilderbrand is back with The Five-Star Weekend. This one celebrates friendship as Hollis, a popular food blogger, invites her best friend from each stage of her life to join her on a five-star weekend. It doesn’t go as smoothly as she hoped.

Susan Wigg’s Welcome to Beach Town begins when the town’s elite high school valedictorian, a scholarship student, reveals a town secret during her speech that tears the town apart. When she returns to the town years later, will everyone welcome her back and forget why she left or is she still a pariah? 

For people who prefer Nonfiction, Helen Ellis’ collection of humorous essays, Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge, celebrates life with her loving husband as they navigate the Covid lockdown in New York City. The hilarious essay 'An Email To Our Cat Sitter’ is worth the price of the book alone. Give this one to your favorite couple celebrating an anniversary in June. 

Bethanne Patrick’s memoir Life B- Overcoming Double Depression recounts the book critic’s lifelong struggle to deal with depression. When she hits her fifties, Patrick finally receives a diagnosis and the help she needs to become healthy for herself and her two daughters. 

Summer always brings a big biography, and this year it’s Jonathan Eig’s King-A Life a 688-page comprehensive look at the life of Martin Luther King Jr.  This one has garnered much critical praise. 

I hope there is something here for you to read this summer, email me with your summer picks.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick

The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick
Published by Park Row Books ISBN 9780778387121
Trade paperback, $18.99, 320 pages

In Phaedra Patrick's newest novel The Little Italian Hotel,  Ginny Splinter spends her days giving advice to callers on her radio talk show in a small town in England. She loves helping people and believes that she can help them solve their life problems. There isn't a problem Ginny can't fix,

Ginny is married to Adrian, who sells high end sports cars at a local dealership. She is about to surprise Adrian with a special anniversary trip to Italy when Adrian tells her that he is moving out, he doesn't know if he wants to be married anymore.

This stuns Ginny, and when she discovers that Adrian has a profile on a dating website, she is even more shocked. How could she, the woman with all the advice for her listeners, have been so clueless as to what was going on her marriage?

When Ginny finds out that the trip is nonrefundable, she invites four listeners from her show to join her in Italy. Instead of a stay for two at a luxury hotel and spa in a small town outside Bologna, Ginny will be joined by four strangers at a little Italian hotel near the luxury hotel. The only catch is that each of these strangers must have their own heartbreak story.

The hotel is run by Nico and his teenager daughter Loretta. Nico's wife left them when he refused to sell the hotel after a deathbed promise to his mother to change nothing in the hotel. The hotel is charming, and  a bit lived in, nothing like the successful luxury hotel up the road run by Nico's best friend.

Edna, an elderly woman who dresses in black, is sharp as a tack. Eric is quiet and gets up early every morning to run in the Italian hillside. He carries a dog collar with him. Rachel is a vivacious young woman whose mother has Alzheimer's.  Curtis spends all his time on his phone and can be a bit rude to everyone.

The group is slow to come together, but once they do, they all become very supportive of each other. We get the backstories of each of them, what their heartache is, and each story is moving as we become emotionally invested in them. The Italian setting is so vivid, if you close your eyes you will see the Italian countryside and smell the delicious fresh foods that Nico prepares for the group.

When Adrian shows up unexpectedly, Ginny is torn. She has to take a good look at her life and decide what she truly needs to be happy. The Little Italian Hotel would be good for a book club discussion, and you could have a great Italian-themed dinner to go with it. 

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer 2023 Blog Tours.

Friday, June 2, 2023

Friday 5ive- June 2, 2023

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. It's June already, that is simply not possible.

1)  I finally finished a virtual bike challenge ride that I started in September- the Applachian Trail Conqueror Virtual Challenge, which is a 1968 mile journey. Luckily for me, I virtually rode the trail from my Peloton at home because if it was doing this outside on the actual trail, I would have been gone from home a very long time. 

2)  I attended a wonderful event at the Long Island Lit Fest on Wednesday featuring Adriana Trigiani in discussion with Helen Ellis about Adriana's wonderful moving epic family story The Good Left Undone at the Mahasset Cinemas. Adriana and Helen are two of my go-to authors, I always look forward to the publication of their books. The discussion was a lively and often hilarious one, covering a variety of topics including:
  • The first time they met for dinner, which Helen called "one of the greatest nights in NYC" as they drank martinis and ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant or "dinner in the gutter" as Helen joked. (Anyone who has been to NYC will totally understand that.)
  • Adriana's obsession with the Plexiderm commercials
  • When Helen went home to Alabama from college in Colorado, she was wearing Birkenstocks, a flowing prairie skirt, and stick straight hair. Her mother greeted her with "Helen Michelle, we are in the South. We roll our hair and wear lipstick."
  • Adriana's reasons why Italy is "the Florida of the United Kingdom"
  • Who you will ask to do your funeral makeup when the time comes
  • Finding a bird in your house is bad, seeing one looking inside at you from the outside is very bad
  • If Adriana goes before her husband, she has instructed a friend to "go in and get my shoes. The new one will NOT be wearing my shoes. And you know I'll be replaced in three months." Women will swoop in on the widower.
The Good Left Undone was discussed, as was Helen's upcoming book Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge. I read an early copy and it is funny, sweet, and sassy. It's filled with essays about life with Helen and her husband during the pandemic, and the one titled "Email to the Cat Sitter" had me laughing out loud. It's maybe her best book yet, and a perfect anniversary gift for your favorite couple.
Adriana described the evening as "a little bit like back in time and you are in your aunt's kitchen and I'm your aunt." That is such an apt description, it was one of the best bookish evenings I've had in a very long time. Do yourself a favor and read The Good Left Undone (about how families are only as strong as their stories and women are the keepers of those family stories) and Kiss Me in the Coral Lounge. 
Hellen Ellis, me, Adriana Trigiani

3)  I attended the White Mass for healthcare workers and caregivers at St. Patrick's Cathedral this week. It was a lovely mass, and Cardinal Dolan gave a wonderful homily. I looked at the pew across the aisle and noticed that the nameplate honors Mary Higgins Clark, who was a lovely lady and a teriffic mystery writer. She was a big supporter of Catholic causes, including ArchCare, the organization that organized the White Mass.

4)  I went to Boston over the Memorial Day weekend to visit my son and he took me this very cool place for breakfast called Steel & Rye in Milton. As you walk inside, there is bakery case filled with scrumptious baked goods. In the back is the open kitchen, and to the right is a bar that runs nearly the length of the restaurant. They have plenty of seating inside and we ordered our breakfast and took a seat at the outdoor tables, alongside the families and people with their dogs. Once I saw the Cranberry Orange Loaf, I knew I would choose that and it was an excellent choice, although my son's Breakfast Sandwich with egg, bacon, tomato and lettuce looked very tempting. If I lived there, Steel & Rye would be a regular hang out for me. 

5) We watched the last two episodes of Succession this week, and all I can say is wow. The writers, actors, and directors knocked this one out of the park. The funeral episode was so fantastic, with an amazing performance from Kieran Culkin as youngest son Roman, and a eulogy given by Logan's brother (played so well by James Cromwell) that will go down as one of the best monologues ever. I wasn't sure the final episode could top that, but it sure did. The Roy siblings jockeying for the power seat of CEO was something Shakespearean, and that scene just outside of the boardroom was incredibly tense. And the scene in the car at the end, oh that was that crazy. All I can say is well done all, and anyone who thinks they will be in contention for Emmys against Succession, well,  I wish you luck. 

Have a safe, healthy, happy week and use sunscreen. Until next time.