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Saturday, October 28, 2023

Friday 5ive- October 27, 2023

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly post featuring five things that caught my attention this week. Like the fact that as I write this, it is 75 degrees in NYC. It was a busy week, we were out everywhere.

1) The ArchCare Gala was held this week and they raised over $2 million to care for the frail and vulnerable in the archdiocese of New York. It was a fantastic evening, with Good Day New York's Rosanna Scotto once again emceeing, and she had a terrific interview with New York Giants legend Eli Manning. Everyone was excited to meet and get a photo with Eli (who is very tall). Nick Fradiani, who now plays Neil Diamond  in Broadway's A Beautiful Noise- The Neil Diamond Musical, performed four songs-America, I'm A Believer,  I Am I Said, and of course Sweet Caroline. We saw Nick in A Beautiful Noise earlier this year and he is phenomenal in the show. If you get the chance to come to NYC, definitely go see it. 
Our team with Eli Manning

Nick Fradiani, my husband Scott and myself

You can see some of Rosanna's interview with Eli Manning here.
You can see some of Nick's performance here.

2) We had dinner with two friends this week at Sartiano's in the Mercer Hotel in New York and it was quite an experience. Apparently it is the hot spot, drawing lots of celebrities. It's a gorgeous restaurant, and the food was amazing. I had the Agnolotti, made with sweet corn, chanterelles, and pecorino cheese. It was the best pasta I've had outside of Italy. It's a special treat dinner, and I highly recommend it. 
Photo from Sartiano's website

3) After dinner we attended a talk at the Sheen Center featuring television producer Matt Williams reading from his memoir Glimpses- A Comedy Writer's Take on Life, Love and All That Spiritual Stuff. Williams, who co-created and produced Roseanne and Home Improvement, two of the biggest sitcoms of the 1990s, also teaches at Columbia University, so he knows how to speak to an audience and keep us engaged. Author Adriana Trigiani came onstage after the reading to discuss Williams' book and career, and I found the talk so interesting. Williams' book talks about how throughout his life he has found glimpses of grace and goodness when he needed it most. In the scary world we find ourselves in, glimpses of grace and goodness are so important. I'm looking forward to reading Glimpses.  

4) It was a week of bookish lunches. The first was with a new friend, Alexa Weijko, an editor at 
Soho Press. I've seen Alexa on Zoom presentations with publishers speaking about their upcoming books, so I was excited to meet in person this week. We talked books we like, my work at the Book Cellar, and I learned all about the job an editor does (which I found fascinating). We're also from the same hometown of Auburn, New York, so we caught up on all things Auburn. I can't wait to hunker down with these terrific upcoming Soho Crime books, they're always intriguing reads.

My second bookish lunch was catching up with two of my Book Cellar friends. We talked books we've recently read and loved and books we're looking forward to reading, as well as new restaurants and shops in the neighborhood. I even stopped into the recently opened Caroline's Donuts and picked up a few treats for me and one doggie treat for my son's dog Otto. Mmmm, donuts as Homer Simpson would say.

5) I read two good books this week. The first is Jean Kwok's The Leftover Woman, the story of two women whose very different lives intersect in ways they couldn't imagine. Jasmine secretly leaves her home in China for New York City to look for the daughter she was told by husband had died at birth. Rebecca works in publishing and lives in a beautiful New York City home with her handsome and charismatic husband and young daughter they adopted from China. Jasmine deals with the challenges of being an impoverished immigrant while trying to find her daughter, while Rebecca's carefully manicured life is becoming unglued with problems in her marriage and her career in her father's legacy publishing house crumbling. Kwok masterfully manages to keep the story suspenseful while at the same time throwing a light on the intensely competitive publishing world, the invisibility of immigrants, and the repercussions of the one child policy in China. It's just brilliant. 

The second book is Tess Gerritsen's thriller The Spy Coast. Maggie Bird, a retired CIA spy moves to a quiet coastal town in Maine where some of her former colleagues have already quietly settled incognito. When someone from Maggie's past comes looking for her, the team, who calls themselves The Martini Club, band together to find out who is after Maggie. They also have to deal with Jo, the new chief of police of this quiet town, who wonders what is the deal with this so-called Martini Club of older people who keep insinuating themselves in her investigation. It's a fast-paced story with terrific characters and I'm happy to see that this is billed as the first in the Martini Club series, I will be impatiently waiting for the next book in the series. Gerritsen got the idea for the book from the fact that she discovered the little town she lives in in Maine has a group of retired CIA agents living there. 

Stay safe and healthy all. Until next time.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Friday 5ive- October 20, 2023

The Friday 5ive is back! I've been traveling recently and so have missed a lot of Fridays, I will try to do better. Now let's get to the important things, like when is this rain going to end? The last 20 of  21 weekends have seen rain on at least one of the weekend days and it is wreaking havoc in New York City. Here are five things that caught my attention this week:

1) On the local news this week, New York City "elected" an honorary Dog Mayor, and the winner by popular vote was a basset hound named Sally Long. Sally is the first female dog elected mayor of New York, it's too bad we've haven't elected a woman as the real mayor of New York City. We used to have a basset hound named Malcolm, and he would have made an excellent mayor. 

2) You never know what you'll see walking around New York City. We have a lot of new restaurants that recently opened, and in my neighborhood I saw a new Jello Shot store. That's right, if you find yourself strolling and think, "you know what I could really use right now- a Jello Shot", well here is your place, called Spoonable Spirits.

3) I love a good bookish podcast and one of my favorite authors, Adriana Trigiani, has a new one called "You Are What You Read". Adriana, who is one of the best interviewers in the business (her Facebook Live shows featuring authors from all genres are wonderful), interviewed Sarah Jessica Parker on the premiere broadcast, and it was a fascinating discussion. I love hearing stories from Sarah's childhood and how her mother insisted that each of her children never leave the house without a book. I'm looking forward to the discussions with cookbook author Lidia Bastianich and Jacqueline Woodson. You can find it here. 

4) I watched the first three episodes of Lessons in Chemistry on Apple TV+ this week. Based on Bonnie Garmus' debut novel, Brie Larson is picture-perfect as chemist Elizabeth Zott who battles sexism in her 1950's workplace, and ends up hosting a hugely popular television show where she shares recipes and the science behind cooking. If you liked the book (it has been on the bestseller list for a long time), or if you enjoyed the Julia Child miniseries on Netflix, you'll want to watch Lessons in Chemistry. It's very well done.

5) While visiting Bookstore1 in Sarasota, I picked up a copy of Abraham Verghese's 700 page doorstopper of a novel, The Covenant of Water. Set in the southern Indian coast from 1900-1977, we meet three generations of family who has lost members through drowning. We live alongside these characters, through good times (marriages, births) and bad times (monsoons, illness, untimely deaths). We also learn about the history of India during those years, something I knew little about. The characters propel this fascinating story- from a 12 year-old girl who is married off to a 40 year-old man and becomes the matriarch of an important family, to Digby, a Scottish doctor who ends up working at a leper community, to Elsie, a artist who wants desperately to be allowed to create her art, to Mariamma, who trains to become a doctor trying to discover why her family members die from drowning- all of their stories intersect until the surprising ending that had me gasping. It's a true commitment to read this novel, but so worth it.

I know the events of the past few weeks have been sad and horrifying, we should all pray for peace in this troubled world. Until next time.

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm by Patricia Crisafulli

The Secrets of Still Water Chasm by Patricia Crisafulli
Published by Woodhall Press ISBN 9781954907645
Trade paperback, $19.95, 220 pages

Librarians these days have to deal with many challenges- budget cuts, crumbling buildings, people who want to ban books, governments passing laws that are unrealistic (and unconstitutional) among them. Ohnita Harbor librarian Gabriela Domenici has to deal with even more dangerous situations in Patricia Crisafulli's second book in her Ohnita Harbor Mysteries series, The Secrets of Still Waters Chasm.

In the first book in the series, The Secrets of Ohnita Harbor, Gabriela discovered a dead body and was nearly killed by the head of the library board of directors as he tried to steal a valuable relic donated to the library.

In the new book, Gabriela understandably suffers from anxiety from her near-death experience. When she and her boyfriend Daniel are out hiking a trail in the nearby Still Waters Chasm in the Adirondack Mountains, they come across some huge construction vehicles but no one around. It  looks like the trucks may be drilling deep underground on the public land, but for what reason?

On their way out of the park, they stumble upon a man and a woman and an overturned canoe. The woman is dead, and while they attempt CPR on the man, he appears dead as well. With foam coming out of their mouths, could they have eaten something poisonous?

Gabriela and Daniel move around to try and get a cell phone signal and call the police. When the police arrive and Gabriela and Daniel take them to the bodies, the bodies and the kayak are gone. 

So now Gabriela is involved in another mystery. She also attempts to help Wendy, a young woman who inherited an antique drawing of what appears to be some type of early sail. The young woman wants to sell the antique to get away from an abusive boyfriend, and Gabriela, a research expert, promises to help her discover the worth of her drawing.

She also befriends Lucinda, an herbalist with an expertise in plants and their healing properties. There are people in town who do not like Lucinda, they call her a witch and believe she poisons people.

Daniel is unhappy that Gabriela is getting involved with people and situations that could be trouble for her. She is still fragile from her last experience.

Crisafulli based Ohnita Harbor on the city of Oswego in Central New York, a place where I attended college, and anyone who lives in the area will recognize the castle library where Gabriela works. I like how she works in interesting topics- fracking, inventor Robert Fulton, library politics- that enlighten the reader.

I enjoyed getting reacquainted with characters from the first book, like Gabriela's fiesty Italian mom Agnese and the staff of the library, but you need not have read the first book to enjoy this one. The mystery kept me turning the pages and I admit to holding my breath at the end. 

Crisafulli's The Secrets of Still Water Chasm is a fast-paced mystery that elevates the genre with great characters and a fascinating setting.  I'm looking forward to a third book in the series.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Patricia Crisafulli's tour. The rest of tour can be found here:

Instagram features:

Tuesday, September 5th@nobookmark_noproblem 

Wednesday, September 6th@coffee.break.book.reviews

Wednesday, September 6th@spaceonthebookcase

Thursday, September 7th@more.books.yes.please 

Friday, September 8th@literally_lit_in_miami 

Saturday, September 9th@nurse_bookie

Sunday, September 10th@a_book_read_in_jersey 

Monday, September 11th@readthisandsteep

Tuesday, September 12th@dianas_books_cars_coffee 

Wednesday, September 13th@gallaghergirlreads

Thursday, September 14th@zelia.loves.books

Friday, September 15th@bookshelf_by_britt 

Saturday, September 16th@ink_drinker64

Sunday, September 17th@diveintoagoodbook

Monday, September 18th@kelly_hunsaker_reads 

Tuesday, September 19th@nissa_the.bookworm 

Wednesday, September 20th@books_n_yogapants

Wednesday, September 20th@shook_sbooks

Thursday, September 21st@megsbookclub

Friday, September 22nd@bookstasamm 

Saturday, September 23rd@kristis_literary_corner



Monday, September 25thStranded in Chaos

Thursday, September 28th: @donasbooks

Thursday, September 28th: @subakka.bookstuff and Subakka.bookstuff

Friday, September 29thLaura’s Reviews

Monday, October 2nd: @aimeedarsreads

Wednesday, October 4th@paws.read.repeat 

Friday, October 6th@fashionablyfifty

Monday, October 9thBookchickdi

Wednesday, October 11th:  Kahakai Kitchen

Thursday, October 12th@kristens.reading.nook

Sunday, October 15th@literally_lit_in_miami 

Monday, October 16thWhat is That Book About

Wednesday, October 18thGirl Who Reads

Thursday, October 19th@always_reading1

Friday, October 20th@chicagobooklover 

Monday, October 23rdBooks Cooks Looks

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Roaring Days of Zora Lily by Noelle Salazar

The Roaring Days of Zora Lily by Noelle Salazar
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778305200 
Trade paperback, $18.99, 416 pages

Noelle Salazar's fascinating novel  The Roaring Days of Zora Lily begins in 2023 with a curator at the Smithsonian Museum of American History's discovery while working on an exhibition of iconic movie costumes from 1920's through today. She finds a label underneath another label with the name of Zora Lily on it.

Who is Zora Lily and why was her label hidden underneath the label of a famous costume designer? That takes the story back to the days of Prohibition and the 1920's. Zora Hough was a teenager from a poverty-stricken family in Seattle. Zora helped her mother support her family as seamstresses, repairing clothes for others.

Zora's talents lay in designing and sewing beautiful dresses for wealthy women in Seattle. She spent all her time either in school or working to help her mother. Zora's best friend dances in a club downtown and convinces Zora to join her in some well-deserved fun at the clubs.

Zora is introduced to a whole new world in the dance clubs, and catches the eye of a handsome and wealthy man, a man whom all the other women desire for themselves. The dicotomy of her life at home and her night life in the clubs is striking.

Soon Zora's talents are put to use repairing the costumes for the dancers and when Zora's friends are drawn to the bright lights of Hollywood, Zora accompanies them and gets a job at a studio as a seamstress. 

Although Zora was led to believe that she would be designing clothes for the movies, in fact she spent all her time sewing and repairing other people's designs. She became frustrated and was set to return home for good when an opportunity arose for her to possibly realize her dreams.

Noelle Salazar transports the reader to the 1920's era in The Roaring Days of Zora Lily. You can almost hear the music in the clubs, taste the fizzy drinks, and see the beautiful dancers moving. I also liked the Hollywood setting, meeting people like Greta Garbo. Zora being torn between her loyalty to her family and her own big dreams is something people can relate to as well.

Fans of Karen White's jazz-era Wicked City trio of novels (The Wicked City, The Wicked Redhead, The Wicked Widow) and Adriana Trigiani's All The Stars in the Heavens, (a fictionalized account of actress Loretta Young's life) should put The Roaring Days of Zora Lily on their TBR list. I recommend it.

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