The Life of a Book

The Life of a Book

The Life of a BookI have always been curious about the birthing process of a novel, especially when I finish one that I adore. How did this bundle of joy come into the world? What is the life of a book?

It starts with a gleam in the author’s eye, of course. What inspires her? How does she take a nugget of an idea and flesh it out? What sparks her imagination when she creates characters and a fictional world that draws us in?

Let’s say she completes the book and is lucky enough to find an agent who loves it and sells it. What happens next? As a novel travels through its own bookish birth canal, from conception through delivery, all kinds of things are happening behind the scenes that most of us are unaware of.

I’ve always been drawn to interviews in which authors can talk about their journey. And now, thanks to Penguin Random House, we can hear from selected authors about just that — as well as the book doctors and nurses critical to the book’s success.

The Life of a Book

Penguin Random House has a fascinating new interview series on its website called The Life of a Book that gives you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the publishing process from start to finish.

If you read my blog last week, you know that I was smitten with Celeste Ng’s latest novel, Little Fires Everywhere. With its absorbing plot, unique and multi-dimensional characters, and modern-day look at complicated issues, Little Fires Everywhere stood out as an exceptionally good read.

So I was delighted to find out that Ng is one of the authors interviewed in a podcast for The Life of a Book series.

I listened to Ng’s interview, and if you’ve read the book (or even if you haven’t) I think you’ll enjoy hearing her musings on different aspects of her writing process. For instance, you’ll find out …

  • Is she a planner or a pantser? (Pantser means a writer who doesn’t rely on an outline but lets her characters lead the way in the story development)
  • Why she chose photography as the artistic persuasion of one of her characters.
  • What she felt the hardest part was to write.

It Takes a Village

I moved on to the interview with Virginia Smith, Senior Editor at Penguin Press, who spoke about the value of a team. Contributions from editors, cover designers, publicists, marketing experts all add up to make the book shine in every way.

Assistant Director of Publicity Juliana Kiyan explained how the publicity strategy for a sophomore novel differs from that of a debut. Her job is to spread book love among a targeted but widespread audience: readers, booksellers, the media and, of course, fans of Ng’s first novel. Sales Manager Megan Sullivan described the fun of getting to read galleys (uncorrected proofs) months in advance so she can start creating a buzz long before the novel is published.

Jaya Miceli, the cover designer, shared what she looks for in cover art; how it must relate to and capture the mood of the writing.

You can find all this on Penguin Random House’s blog, The Perch, along with interviews of other authors and publishing professionals.

Happy reading!

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Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

As I raced toward the explosive conclusion of Little Fires Everywhere, I simultaneously couldn’t wait to find out what happened but dreaded finishing this extraordinary read. You know that feeling, right?

I loved Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, with every fiber of my being. It was a captivating story of race and prejudice and family dynamics, and it went on to win a ton of awards and made Ng a respected new voice in fiction.

Patiently, I waited for Ng’s sophomore novel to be released.

The wait was worth it, people.

Little Fires Everywhere is, well, brilliant.

Book Buzz: Little Fires Everywhere

 

Little Fires Everywhere

The story of two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio — Mr. and Mrs. Richardson and their four children, the “haves,” and Mia Warren and her daughter, Pearl, the “have nots,” whose lives intersect for a brief period of time and everything changes collossally for both families.

Elena Richardson is the matriarch — a Shaker Heights native whose expectations for her life followed a prescribed formula, just as the community itself had been one of the first planned communities in the U.S.

All she wanted was marriage, children, career, and a lovely home. And it pretty much worked out that way.

But then, Mia and her teenage daughter Pearl arrive on the scene. Looking for an affordable place to live, they rent a small house owned by the Richardsons. Mia is an independent thinker, an artist on the side; she needs to work several low-paying jobs to make ends meet. Pearl is a shy but friendly girl,  and is embraced by the Richardson family and spends most of her time hanging out with them.

In short order both mother and become more than tenants: each of the four Richardson children is drawn to these women, and Elena Richardson employs Mia as a part-time housekeeper.

Elena  is curious about Mia’s past, and feels prompted to nose around when Mia becomes intimately involved in a child custody case involving a friend Mia has met at one of her jobs.

The friend is a Chinese mother, Bebe, who abandoned her infant during a time of duress. The infant is given to the McCulloughs, friends of the Richardsons, who had struggled with infertility for years and were on an adoption waiting list. Now the baby is a year old, and the McCulloughs have assumed this child will be theirs forever.

But then Bebe reappears, and wants her daughter back.

The case divides the community, as well as the Richardson family. I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. Coincidentally, the novel I reviewed last week, Lucky Boy, had the same theme. In both books it is dealt with so compassionately and even-handedly. I admire both authors for being able to find compelling voices on both sides of an emotional issue.

Ng’s characters are so well drawn, each unique and credible, and truly, Shaker Heights itself must be counted as one of the protagonists. Shaker Heights, Ng’s hometown, was  planned with the best intentions and idealism, and although successful in some areas, it nonetheless is beset with the same race and class issues faced just about everywhere else.

I am sure that Little Fires Everywhere will have the same phenomenal success of Ng’s previous novel. Already, Amazon has named it a “Best Book of September 2017.”

And I sure hope Ng is working on her third.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Little Fires Everywhere. To enter this giveaway, click on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and leave a comment. US addresses only, please. The winner will be randomly selected.

 

I received a copy of Little Fires Everywhere from Penguin Press for an honest review, which is is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: Lucky Boy

A hauntingly beautiful story and so achingly relevant for these times, Lucky Boy held onto my heart and still has it in its grasp.
Book Buzz: Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy

Lucky Boy is the story of two strong women: Soli, a teenager fleeing her native Mexico for a better life in northern California, and Kavya, daughter of immigrant Indian parents now living with her husband Rashi in upscale Berkeley — whose lives crash together in a torrential storm of love and loss.

Author Shanthi Sekaran is so seriously good at telling this story that you fall in love with both of these women — vulnerable, passionate and loving — even though their motivations are in stark opposition to each other’s.

Lucky Boy brings to light the struggles of undocumented immigrants thrust into a society so different from their own, where the norms and routines are true culture shock. They live in constant fear of being caught and sent back to their homeland that they had fled for good reasons. The only way to survive is to stay under the radar. Not make eye contact. Be invisible.

Lucky Boy is also about the heartbreak of infertility. Having known friends who have gone through this, I felt the anguish of Kavya and Rishi who have a wonderful life but are denied the one thing they want more than anything.

Soli survives a harrowing journey from Mexico and locates her cousin’s apartment where she will stay. The cousin is shocked at Soli’s appearance. She is dirty and gaunt from the trip, but she is also unwittingly pregnant. Nonetheless, she finds work for Soli as a housekeeper for a wealthy Berkeley family where she is treated well, even given paid leave when it is time for the baby to be born.

However, circumstances intervene and suddenly the cousin is being deported and Soli is sent to a detention center. Her infant son is taken away from her.

At the same time, Kavya and Rishi are desperate to conceive a child but in spite of lengthy and expensive fertility treatments they have not been successful. They decide to become foster parents, and as fate would have it, Soli’s baby boy comes into their welcoming arms.

Soli tries to survive the horror of the detention center, deprived of decent food and living conditions and repeatedly raped by guards. Barred from talking to a lawyer, she does not know where her son is and if she will get him back.

While Soli languishes at the detention center, Kavya and Rishi embrace parenthood and begin to forget that it is only temporary. They are in denial that their baby has a birth mother who is fighting to get him back.

Such an engrossing story with multi-dimensional characters, Lucky Boy would be a perfect choice for a book group because there are so many issues to ponder over. Immigration, motherhood, privilege … this novel will open your eyes to injustices in our broken system.

There could not be a better time for us to become enlightened.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Lucky Boy. Please leave a comment on the Books is Wonderful Facebook page and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of Lucky Boy from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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Not Giving a F*ck

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

Who is Mark Manson, and why has he written a self-help book called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living the Good Life?

Not a Ph.D, not a therapist, Manson is a regular guy in his 30s who started writing a blog in 2007 for his own enjoyment. His funny, irreverent style and refreshingly blunt philosophy caught on with the masses; hence, his book became a best seller.

Not Giving a F*ck

I am not typically drawn to books in this genre, but with a title like this one, I had to check it out. I downloaded the audiobook from Audible and listened to it while doing stuff around the house last weekend.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Note: There are a sh*tload of f-bombs throughout. Let this be a warning if you are listening to the audiobook as I did.

Manson contends that the lets-all-feel-good-about-ourselves mindset we’ve been spoon fed for years is just wrong. We’ve been conditioned to believe that if we’re not in a constant state of happiness, well, there must be something wrong with us. Not true!

The self-love philosophy that encourages us to buy more, earn more, be more, actually serves to remind us of what we are not, what we have failed to be — why haven’t we reached those higher plateaus? Realizing we’re not good enough, we try even harder, get more neurotic, tear our insides to shreds, and become less happy, not more.

Manson believes that the more we pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied we become, the more we give a f*ck, and the vicious cycle continues.

Giving too many f*cks is bad for your mental health. As Manson says, we’re here on earth for a short time. The key is to not give a f*ck, and you may find that when you stop trying so hard, things start to fall into place on their own.

What the f*ck is wrong with coming in second?

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F*ck positivity,” Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f*cked and we have to live with it.”

When everyone on the soccer team gets a gold medal for just showing up, it does our kids no favor in the long run. We think we’re protecting their feelings, but pretending everyone is extraordinary is perpetuating a myth. The truth is there are winners and losers among us, and that is often isn’t our fault. It’s just the way the cards were dealt.

It is unrealistic to think that things will always turn out the way we want. What makes us stronger — and happier — is dealing with adversity.

Manson knows from whence he speaks.

Like the road not taken, Manson says, it was the f*cks not given that made a difference in his life. He quit his job in finance after six days to start an internet business. He sold most of my possessions and moved to South America. No f*cks given.

F*cks should be given about the important things. That said, the art of prioritizing the important things in life is not an easy process. Over the course of our lives we identify the most meaningful components and eventually discard the things we thought were important but really aren’t. We ultimately realize that we can’t give a f*ck all the time because then we will be disappointed when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would.

A benefit of aging is realizing when to give a f*ck.

We reach maturity when we learn to only give a f*ck about what is truly f*ckworthy.

As we grow older, we come to accept who we are and not aspire to some unrealistic version of ourselves. This is liberating.

I hear this from many of my contemporaries. We no longer need to give a f*ck about everything. We reserve our f*cks for our friends, family, our passions – this is as it should be. Happiness will come as we adjust our expectations of life and accept who we are.

Everyone will have pain, but avoiding it or denying it will just bring more pain. Happiness comes from not avoiding problems, but solving them.

So what the f*ck can we do about it?

Manson says to get real about our limitations — own them and accept them. It’s not wrong or weak to acknowledge our fears and faults; it’s actually empowering. Avoiding the truth leads to unhappiness, but if we can tackle our fears straight on we will actually find happiness through the resilience to deal with them.

Like “don’t sweat the small stuff,” not giving a f*ck can be liberating.

What in your life do you not give a f*ck about?

 

 

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Book Buzz: I’m The One Who Got Away

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

With scorching honesty infusing her gorgeous prose, Andrea Jarrell looks back at her unconventional childhood in this brave coming of age memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away.

Book Buzz: I'm The One Who Got Away

I’m the One Who Got Away. The title itself is bittersweet. Jarrell did get away, finding the normalcy in love, marriage and parenting as an adult that eluded her as a child.

But did she really get away?

Her past caught up with her in a blinding moment, when the brutal murder of an acquaintance in the small community where she, her husband, and two children had once lived evoked a visceral response. It wasn’t just the horror of the crime and the loss of an innocent life; she flashed back to her own experience as the child of a possessive single mother and the mercurial, frustrated actor father who was in and out of their lives.

The murder victim, a single mother named Susannah, was someone Jarrell knew through their children’s preschool, a mom whose son was the same age as hers.

Although they had been casual friends, Jarrell had always felt uncomfortable in Susannah’s presence. Susannah’s life was centered on her son; the two were inseparable. Just like Jarrell and her single mother had been. The two of them against the world. “Just we two,” her mother often reminded her.

The murder is the catalyst that forces Jarrell to revisit her own relationship with her parents.  Her bright and adventurous mother was married at 16 to a man whose insecurities and alcoholism were a constant threat. Jarrell’s mother loved her husband but loved her daughter more, and with the escalating abuse she knew there was no other solution than for mother and daughter to flee.

Jarrell’s mother, in her youth both valedictorian and homecoming queen, had aspired to be a photojournalist or graphic artist and was offered several scholarships. Instead, she married a man who turned out to be toxic. She never went to college. Throughout her life, Jarrell questioned her mother’s choices, especially when she let her father back in their lives. Would this be her future, too, putting her dreams on hold for a man who held her back?

Eventually, she comes to terms with her past. Her mother did what she could with the imperfect cards she’d been dealt. She didn’t complain about the trajectory of her life, but made the best of it with no apologies.

The loving, complicated relationship between mother and daughter is truly the backbone of I’m the One Who Got Away.

Jarrell’s life would turn out to be different, but not without its stumbles. That’s what life is.

Not simple, or perfect. But if we can choose the best of what we had, what worked really well, and pack away the worst of it in an old cedar chest in the attic to be examined when we need a reminder, we’re the artisans creating the future that we want for ourselves and our children, which is exactly what Jarrell has done.

As she says at the end of the book,

“… I’ve learned again that I can’t go over, under, or around, and I can’t turn back. No matter how high or rough the surf, going through every stage is where the living is.”

 

I received a copy of I’m the One Who Got Away from She Writes Press.
The text and views are all my own.

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Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

So how could a bibliophile not pick up a novel entitled “How to Find Love in a Bookshop?”

Of course I did.

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Here is my observation about novels with bookshops. They have a sprinkle of whimsy and magic throughout. Any why not? Bookstores are … were … filled with wonder and enchantment. Generations following us may never know the delight of browsing in a bookshop, losing any sense of time and space while paging through new titles, and admiring the art of beautiful covers.

Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop is set in the Cotswolds in England, a magical place in and of itself, where Emilia has returned following the death of her father Julius to salvage the bookshop he ran for years.

Called Nightingale Books, the quaint and dusty bookshop had been tended with care if not financial acumen. Julius was devoted to his beloved books and also to his customers who became his extended family. With his notion that “a town without a bookshop is a town without a heart,” he created a comfortable space that encouraged lingering and schmoozing.

When he passed away, Emilia — and the townspeople who adored him — were struck with the magnitude of his loss. Emilia vows to maintain the cherished bookshop in her father’s benevolent style, but struggles with the overwhelming debt he had unknowingly accrued. And as property developers circle her like hawks, having to shutter the doors for good becomes a grave possibility.

It is the cast of wonderful characters in the town that truly is the heart of this novel. We come to know and connect to the patrons of Nightingale Books who stop in to get recommendations for their next read … or ask for help in selecting a gift … or simply share their own stories.

There is the wealthy lady of the manor who hides a painful secret, and her daughter whose wedding plans are thwarted by a devastating car accident. There is the single dad desperate to do right by his son through introducing him to books. We get to know the painfully shy young chef who can’t bring herself to approach the man she secretly has a crush on, and the mum of a baby who offers free interior design advice to upgrade the shabby room of the shop.

This is a community of folks that values its local bookshop and its owner, and each other, through the ups and downs of daily life. These human connections that arise from a shared love of books are not to be found, sadly, when simply ordering a book online.

Are there shocking twists and turns? No. Is there murder, intrigue, and violent car chases? No. That’s not what this novel is. Picture yourself in a comfortable chair sipping tea (of course) on a lazy day with a cat on your lap.

That’s the feeling you’ll get when reading this novel.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir, "I Can't Make This Up"

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.
The opinions and text are all mine.

If your typical day is like mine, you spend a considerable amount of time in the car. Whether it’s getting to work and back, running errands, shuttling kids to activities, or visiting family and friends, you are behind the wheel a good part of the day.

I find myself flipping from music to talk shows to news, anything to distract me from the boredom of sitting in a traffic jam. Fortunately, there is another option: listening to an audiobook on Audible. When I want to catch up on a novel I’ve missed or discover a new author, I can search through Audible’s vast selection of titles and come up with the perfect choice for the moment.

These days, I often find myself needing to tune out what is happening in the world. I yearn for a selection that will take me away. Something that will make me laugh.

And laugh I did, all the way through Kevin Hart’s funny and heartfelt new memoir, “I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons.”

Kevin Hart Shines in His Memoir,

If you are familiar with Kevin Hart, you know he is an accomplished actor and stand up comedian, as well as a successful businessman. His meteoric rise to fame is all the more admirable because of his humble beginnings in North Philadelphia.

North Philadelphia both then and now is a tough neighborhood besieged by drugs and violence, and Kevin Hart’s family was not immune to the temptations on the street. As he describes, he was born an accident to a father who became a drug addict and was in and out of jail. His older brother was a crack dealer and petty thief. And his mother, although well meaning, was strict to the point of being abusive, beating him with whatever she could get her hands on, whether it was a frying pan, a belt, or even one of Kevin’s toys.

Now how can all the above be funny? Kevin Hart turns tragedy into comedy, and listening to him narrate the book is like attending one of his stand-up concerts. His delivery is what makes this audiobook superior to the written version, in my opinion. You feel like you have a front row seat to his comic genius.

Not that the written version is any less funny. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review. “[An] emotion-filled memoir full of grit and humor…Inspiring and thoroughly entertaining, Hart’s memoir brings his readers into his hilarious universe of stories and philosophy.”

In addition to all his other talents, the man can write. And what makes this particular memoir stand out for me is not just the funny stuff, but also the life lessons Kevin Hart shares from the bumps in the road. He is introspective, humble, down-to-earth and philosophical. He could have succumbed to the drugs and crime in his neighborhood. He could have grown up angry and rebellious.

But that is not the way he is wired. He chose to find meaning from the life lessons at every turn that helped him forge a way out of the poverty and violence and into a career that has made him adored by millions of fans.

Although this was not written as a self-help book, Kevin Hart’s memoir is truly motivational as well as funny as hell. His message is that we all have challenges that can be overcome through determination, and using laughter as a coping mechanism never hurt anyone.

 

 

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Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

It took no time to be swept up in the magic in The Luster of Lost Things, Sophie Chen Keller’s new novel set in a tiny bakery in New York City. Tantalized by Keller’s mouthwatering descriptions of flaky croissants fresh from the oven, sweet vanilla wafers with sea-salted caramel filling, and double butterscotch pops, I was practically swooning with desire for one of the sugary concoctions created by Lucy at her bakery,The Lavenders.

Book Buzz: The Luster of Lost Things

Lucy, a talented pastry chef, pours her energies into running The Lavenders while faced with the sadness of being a single mom. Her pilot husband disappeared when his plane crashed in the ocean while she is pregnant with their only child. Now she is devoted to making a life for herself and her son.

One cold wintry night, she invites a homeless woman into the warmth and comfort of her bakery, and in return the woman gives her a book of drawings that Lucy displays in the shop. This book, known as the Book, becomes pivotal to the story.

Twelve year-old Walter Lavender Jr. might remind you of the boy in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. He is bright and good-hearted with a communications disorder that renders his speech difficult. Taunted in the school yard, his refuge is the bakery where he pitches in before and after school, and every day places a lighted candle in the shop’s window, hoping it will bring his father home.

Plaintively, he wonders,

“Couldn’t Walter Lavender Sr. try a little bit harder to come back or send a sign? I am the one doing all the looking even though he is the one who is supposed to be here, to teach me the things I do not know.”

Walter Jr. has a super power of sorts: he can help people find lost things. He finds a missing cockatiel, a bassoon, and even a lost dog that ends up becoming his own, Milton.

But when the beloved Book goes missing and business in the bakery flounders, he sets out to find it and realign the stars. This takes him on an astounding search through New York City, in the dingy tunnels of the subway system, in Chinatown, across Central Park and so many other landmarks. In his quest, he learns about what it means to lose and find something precious, and also what it means to be him.

Oh, does Sophie Chen Keller have a way with words. Describing the end of a school day, she writes,

“… when the afternoon bell rings, the cherry red doors fling open and the kids pour out like spilled birdseed.”

Walter Jr. says,

“… I step behind the counter and search for the squeaking mice, nudging away a ring of passion fruit marshmallows engaged in a sumo match. I wait, looking into the display case as a jelly frog studded with chopped dates and hazelnuts hops across the second level.”

And when Lucy and Walter Jr. bake together:

“I tilt my bowl over the mixer and we alternate adding our wet and dry ingredients so the bubbles of air in the batter don’t pop and the cake emerges tender and fluffy from the oven. Lucy pours out the batter and it cascades across the first baking pan in a butter-silk curtain.

‘Masterful,’ she pronounces.”

 

Yes, it is.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Luster of Lost Things. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Luster of Lost Things from Putnam for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: The Address

Book Buzz: The Address

I had to hide from my family for a little while.

But now that I’ve finished reading The Address I can finally resume my regularly scheduled life. Thank you, family, for indulging me and leaving me alone with this wondrous new novel written by Fiona Davis.


Book Buzz: The Address

Take a captivating morsel of New York City history, stir in the epic splendor of the famed Manhattan residence the Dakota, add a heaping teaspoon of intrigue, top it off with a juicy murder mystery and you’ve got the most satisfying literary meal: The Address.

The Address

The name Dakota may be familiar to you. Not only is it famous for its contribution as one of New York’s most interesting architectural designs and esteemed landmarks, it has also been home to celebrities, artists and the glitterati of Manhattan society. It was home to Lauren Bacall, Leonard Bernstein, Gilda Radner, Roberta Flack and so many other familiar names from the entertainment industry, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Sadly, it was in front of the Dakota that Lennon was murdered in 1980.

Years ago I read a fascinating book by Stephen Birmingham, Life at the Dakota: New York’s Most Unusual Address, which apparently was also an inspiration to author Davis in creating her novel. Weaving in familiar names, dates and events from the past, she presents two storylines; one taking place in 1985 and the other in 1885.

Alternating mostly by chapter, The Address connects a scandalous event from the past to the descendants of one of the (fictional) architects of the Dakota in the present.

Because I adore historical fiction, especially of this time period, I was intrigued with the description of New York City at the time the Dakota was built, how the Upper West Side where the Dakota is located was pretty much a wasteland, and the first tenants were pioneers of sorts, taking a chance on living in this urban frontier.

In the 1800s segment of The Address, Sara Smyth, a competent young hotel employee from England, is hired as the first manageress of the Dakota and arrives to find utter chaos as the building is still under construction. She organizes a large staff and generally becomes responsible for a successful opening. Under her watchful eye, the operation runs smoothly and she is highly respected.

But her own life begins to unravel when she gets swept up in a romance that never should have happened. She is ultimately sent away and incarcerated for a manufactured reason. When she is released and attempts to return to the life she knew, things are not the same.

Meanwhile, fast forward to 1985 when designer Bailey Camden is hired by her cousin Melinda, heir to the Dakota fortune, to help with renovations to the building. While searching in the basement of the Dakota, Bailey unearths several fascinating artifacts connected to the scandal of 100 years ago and initiates some detective work on her own.

And that’s all I will tell you because I won’t reveal spoilers. Suffice it to say I was engrossed in this novel from the get go and the last 50 pages kept me glued to my reading perch.

My family will attest to that.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of The Address. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Address from Dutton for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Book Buzz: What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories

Hot Stuffed Eggs with Tomato Sauce
Mashed Potatoes
Whole Wheat Bread and Butter
Prune Pudding
Coffee

–Lunch at the White House

˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜

If you’re a foodie, you’re probably gagging by now. Not the most appetizing menu, is it?

But before you start tweeting about this disgusting sounding menu, I will tell you that it is not from the current administration.

This meal actually was served on March 21, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, oversaw the catering operation.

Eleanor Roosevelt was open about her lack of interest in food. She declared that she really didn’t care what she ate. Consequently, the Roosevelt administration was not exactly known for its gourmet meals. That only deteriorated when Eleanor discovered her husband’s infidelity and retaliated by hiring the next head chef, who came to be known as the worst cook in White House history.

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the women profiled in What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories. Author Laura Shapiro, herself a foodie and culinary historian, reveals the lives of women through the food that they ate, or didn’t.

How did these women view food, and how did their attitudes impact those around them?

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Dorothy Wordsworth was her brother’s companion, nurse, cook and caretaker. For a time she found fulfillment in making whatever William fancied, and taking pleasure from his enjoyment of her cooking. However, when he fell in love and got married, she fell into a deep depression, ate herself into oblivion, and wallowed in dementia for the rest of her life.

Rosa Lewis was a famous caterer in London who rose from obscurity as a scullery maid to become the most famous cook in England, the favored chef of the king. However, her queasy-sounding quail pies and other way-too-rich recipes lost favor after World War I and, refusing to change her style, she lost her clientele.

Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler’s mistress, was the charming hostess who wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time. Fussing over the procurement and preparation of the finest food and beverages for company, she was solicitous of every guest at the dinner table. She took no interest in the political dealings of her lover or anyone who visited. Instead, she made sure that everyone was well fed and having a good time.

I confess that this profile did not sit well with me and I wish it had been omitted, although Shapiro did acknowledge the moral distance between Braun and the rest of these women.

Author Barbara Pym was determined to make the best of the post-World War II deprivations in London by writing about food in delectable detail. Barely acknowledging there was a war, Pym writes lavishly about food in all her novels. She enjoyed sitting quietly in restaurants and observing the gustatory behavior of diners around her.

And finally, Helen Gurley Brown, who turned the old, boring Cosmopolitan into a racy, sexy best-selling magazine, also helped usher in the feminist era. At the same time, she doted on her husband’s every need and want, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to please him … in every way. Her appreciation of food was only for how it could make him happy. Most likely an anorexic, she was reed thin all of her life and famously deprived herself of nourishment.

What She Ate is a terrific concept for a history lesson, and a fascinating peek into the personal lives of women in different eras. A tasty and entertaining amuse-bouche.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food that Tells Their Stories from Viking for an honest review, which is the only kind of review I write.

 

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