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Sunday, November 19, 2023

The 2023 Books Are Great Gifts Guide Is Here

Reprinted from auburnpub.com:

Thanksgiving Day is coming upon us and that means holiday gift shopping gets into full gear so it’s that time of year for the annual Books Make Great Gifts Guide. Books make great gifts- they always fit, are never the wrong color or size, and easy to wrap.

For your best friend whose television is tuned permanently to the Hallmark Channel this month, Sarah Morgan’s The Book Club Hotel has a charming Vermont boutique hotel setting at Christmas, best friends, and a romance. 

Jenny Colgan’s The Christmas Bookshop is set in lovely Edinburgh, Scotland and centers on a young woman determined to save the bookshop where she is employed from being purchased and turned into a tacky tourist shop. 


Mary Kay Andrews’ annual holiday book Bright Lights, Big City takes place in New York City as a brother and sister come up from North Carolina to sell their family’s Christmas trees in Greenwich Village in New York City and save the family business. 

For your sister who loves true crime podcasts and fictional mysteries and thrillers, Jessica Knoll’s novel Bright Young Women tells the story of two women connected to the crimes of real life killer Ted Bundy. 

Tess Gerritsen starts a terrific new thriller series with The Spy Coast, where a few retired CIA spies have settled in a small town in coastal Maine. When one of them is threatened by someone from her past, the spies bond together to save the day. 

For your aunt who likes to read historical fiction and recently binged the miniseries All the Light We Cannot See, Kelly Rimmer’s The Paris Agent is a tense novel about ordinary British women who become undercover spies in WWII France, and the price they pay to try and save the world. 

Turning to Nonfiction, for your uncle the history buff, David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon, has a new book, The Wager about a shipwreck, mutiny, and murder in 1740. It’s gotten rave reviews. 

Rachel Maddow’s new book Prequel has been getting a lot of buzz. It tells the true tale of Nazis sympathizers who infiltrated power positions in Congress, media, and religion in the United States in the lead up to WWII. 

Moving up chronologically, Loren Grush’s The Six is about the first six women in NASA’s space shuttle program in the 1960s and 1970s. This one is for your niece who read Hidden Figures.

Speaking of the 1970s, Henry Winkler’s fascinating memoir Being Henry takes him from his childhood through his breakout role as the Fonz on the TV hit “Happy Days’ through his struggle with dyslexia to his Emmy-winning role on HBO’s “Barry’ and more. This one will be a great gift for so many people on your holiday list. 

“General Hospital” heartthrob, Uncle Jesse on “Full House” star, and perpetually youthful-looking John Stamos has a memoir out as well that will appeal to fans of his many years in popular culture titled If You Would Have Told Me. 

For the person who loves to be creative in the kitchen, there are two good cookbooks out. Natasha’s Kitchen by popular blogger Natasha Kravchuk has 100 “family-friendly and foolproof” recipes, including some from her native Ukraine.  

Molly Baz shares her motto More is More in her cookbook that is great for cooks of all skill levels. Molly believes in intuitive cooking not so much in exact measurements. 

 Fans of The Games of Thrones have their next read in Rebecca Yarros' two novels

 Fourth Wing and Iron Flame.  

For Young Adults, Rebecca Ross’ Divine Rivals is a popular fantasy one, the first book in her Letters of Enchantment series. 

Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy has been repackaged in a three-book set for those who love the Prime series it is based on. 

Middle grade readers are big fans of Rick Riordan’s series of novels, and his new one in the Olympians series is The Chalice of the Gods. 

Christopher Paolini’s new addition to his popular Eragon series is Murtagh

Other popular series for children are The Magic Tree House which has over 50 books in the series, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and The Bad Guys series. 

Mo Willems has a new picture book for youngsters, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Sleigh and poet Amanda Gorman’s Something, Someday teaches about kindness. And you can’t go wrong with a Sandra Boynton board book for babies.

Remember that you can support independent booksellers buy purchasing on bookshop.org.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 10, 2023

Friday 5ive- November 10, 2023

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

1)  Manhattan has its first Wegmans grocery store  (there is a Wegmans in Brooklyn) and it is a stunner! The 6 train lets you out right across the street from the store so it is convienent for me to get there, although carrying groceries back can be a bit tricky. The layout is beautifully done, and they have so much product in the store. The prepared foods section has something for everyone in packaging for one, two, or more people. I picked up a chicken francese, potato au gratin, and broccoli for my dinner and it was delicious. They have a wing bar, a huge charcuterie section with packages of sliced meats of all kinds, and an amazing cheese section stocked with products from their own cheese cave, overseen by their own Cheese Cave Affineur (that is a new term for me). The edible Chocolate Tea Cup in the bakery is adorable. I will be making many more trips to Astor Place to visit Wegmans.
Chocolate Tea Cup

Charcuterie as far as the eye can see

2) The NYC Marathon was this past Sunday and it's always fun to go cheer on the runners. It's a real team building exercise for New Yorkers and something we sorely needed this year, everyone on the same side, encouraging the brave souls running through all five boroughs. I love all the clever signs, like this one below.

3) I went to a live taping of Hillary Clinton's podcast You and Me Both at Symphony Space. Her guest was Broadway legend Patti LuPone and the conversation between this two iconic women was enlightening and intelligent. Amber Ruffin- comedian, author, actress, Broadway creative (she wrote the book for Some Like It Hot and the upcoming revival of The Wiz)-hosted and joined the ladies for a funny and interesting Q&A at the end. (Who knew Amber Ruffin and Hillary Clinton were such good friends?  It makes sense though, they are both accomplished and funny people. They should auction off dinner with these two ladies for charity,) Once again it was great to be among a community of people joined together for an activity. We even got to hear Patti sing Make Someone Happy. They did. (And Patti's red shoes were to die for!)
Hillary Clinton, Patti LuPone, Amber Ruffin

4) I watched all four episodes of Netflix's All The Light We Cannot See, based on Anthony Doerr's novel of the same name. I read the book when it published in 2014, and I think they did a good job with the miniseries. It tells the story of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl in WWII who, along with her uncle and aunt, work for the French resistance using her uncle's radio to send secret coded messages to the Allies to help them defeat the Nazis. Even though I knew how the story ends, I was on the edge of my seat as director Shawn Levy rachets up the tension, especially as Marie is being stalked by a Nazi who wants something he believes she possesses. Aria Maria Loberti does a good job as Marie, as does Louis Hoffman as Werner, a reluctant Nazi soldier who has an unknowing connection to Marie. Hugh Laurie is fantastic as Uncle Etienne as well. 

5) I finally read Toni Morrison's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, Beloved. I can't believe I never read this incredible novel. It was my October Banned Book read gifted to me by my daughter-in-law, and it is a novel that everyone should read. Taking place shortly after the Civil War, former slave Sethe and her daughter Denver live in Ohio and are haunted by spirit of Sethe's dead baby Beloved. No one in town will associate with them for reasons that become apparent. Another former slave Paul shows up to stay with Sethe and Denver, and soon a young woman appears who shakes up things in the household. Sethe is traumatized by her life as a slave, and Morrison shows the reader the horrors and dangers of treating people as less than human. It is brutal and eye-opening, and heartbreaking. This book should not be banned, it should be required reading. 

Stay safe and healthy all, and we wish all of our veterans who sacrificed for our country a Happy Vaterans' Day tomorrow.

Friday, November 3, 2023

A Dish Best Served Hot by Natalie Caña

A Dish Served Hot by Natalie Caña
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778333500
Trade paperback, $18.99, 352 pages

Last year I read and loved Natalie Caña's first novel in her Vega Family Love Story series A Proposal They Can't Refuse. I loved it so much, it earned a place on my Most Compelling Books of 2022. (see post here.) Two grandfathers scheme to get their grandchildren to fall in love, which of course they do after much ado. The characters and story drew me in right away, and it was steamy.

Her second book in the Vega family series is A Dish Best Served Hot. Saint Vega is single dad raising his young four year-old daughter after the death of his wife. He discovers that his daughter's new teacher is Lola Leon, who was his high school love.

Saint left to join the Marines and Lola moved away with her mother and the two never had closure to their budding relationship. Each believes the other was responsible for the ending of their relationship. 

Saint's grandfather and Lola's grandfather (who raised her) are "mortal enemies" who live in the same assisted living facility. The pranks they pull on each other may amuse each other but as they escalate, Saint and Lola are being called constantly to come to the facility to deal with the men. If they don't behave, they will be forced to move out.

Now Saint and Lola are being thrown together, sparks begin to fly again. Can they reignite what they had years ago? Lola's family is very different from Saint's- her father and brother are in prison, and Saint's family are very close, upstanding members of the Puertominican community of Humboldt Park outside Chicago.

Lola volunteers for the community center that not only houses a school but also a shelter for LGBTQ+ youth, a cause close to Lola's heart. When Saint's family gets a construction contract from the company that bought the center's building and plans to kick the shelter out, Lola and her friends mobilize to stop the demolition. This puts Lola and Saint on opposite sides, until Saint offers to help the shelter find a new home.

A Dish Best Served Hot takes on some timely social justice issues which elevates the book from the usual romance novel fare. Of course, Natalie Caña's steamy scene (or two) heats up enough to fog up your glasses as you read them. Characters from the previous Vega novel make some cameo appearances, but this book belongs to Saint and Lola, and once again Caña mixes the right blend of heart and heat to the delight of readers. I recommend it.

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