Wednesday, February 5, 2020

This Is Sunday Dinner

Lisa Caponigri is masterful Italian chef—and so knowledgeable. This cookbook is a keeper!

An elegantly presented cookbook that offers 52 authentic menus--each with five courses--to create traditional, memorable Italian feasts. 

Lisa Caponigri's life has been spent in the kitchen. Memories of cooking with her Sicilian grandmother and her own children have encouraged Caponigri--an Italian American who has lived in Italy--to inspire others to create similar experiences. In This Is Sunday Dinner, Caponigri presents 52 easy-to-follow, classic menus--each comprised of five courses, including wine suggestions--that pay homage to traditional, five-course Italian Sunday dinners: antipasto, soup, pasta and risotto, entrée or vegetable and dessert. 

Italians make creative use of seasonal ingredients at their peak. Thus, the cookbook is presented in accordance with the four seasons, and each section offers 13 region-specific menus. "Winter in Piemonte" showcases delicious cheeses, like figs stuffed with Gorgonzola and marinated in port wine, as well as creamy risottos, steak and even delicate Apple-Almond Turnovers. "Spring in Campania" features peasant dishes such as "Garbage Pail Spaghetti" that combines nuts with capers, raisins, tomatoes, olives and Pecorino Romano, not to mention Cheese Gattó that marries potatoes with broccoli rabe and smoked mozzarella. Menus replete with fish, eggplant, pastas and desserts--including a rich Cannoli Cake--are highlights of "Summer in Sicily." And "Tuscany in Autumn" showcases the elegant simplicity of menus that offer crostini, a luscious recipe for Ribollita--Tuscan bread and bean soup--as well as hearty recipes for pork and chicken.

Caponigri (Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?) believes cookbooks are not just about food, but also about traditions and a lifestyle. This elegant, artfully presented collection is testament to her culinary passion and prowess for all things Italian.

This Is Sunday Dinner: 52 Seasonal Italian Menus by Lisa Caponigri

Sterling Epicure, $29.95 Hardcover, 9781454930174, 336 pages

Publication Date: April 2, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (May 3, 2019), link HERE

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Would Like to Meet

Who can resist lively rom-coms in the vein of Nora Ephron? 

An aspiring talent agent sets out to prove to an Oscar-winning screenwriter that people can fall in love just as they do in the movies.

Debut author Rachel Winters hits all the right notes in Would Like to Meet. Single Londoner Evelyn Summers once dreamed of becoming a screenwriter. But she has settled into being the "longest-serving assistant in the industry," working for William Jonathan (Monty) Montgomery, an eccentric, high-powered, old-school talent agent. Things take a turn, however, when Monty reassures production duo Sam-and-Max that Evie can light a fire under screenwriter Ezra Chester and convince him to finish a script for which he's been contracted. Evie perceives Ezra--an "Academy Award winner, charitable heartthrob, and industry darling"--to be an "arrogant, insufferable arse." The stakes are raised when a possible promotion to agent is dangled before Evie. The problem, however, is that Ezra believes "Oscar winners... don't write rom-coms."

In order to get Ezra to fulfill his commitment on deadline and convince him to stop being so "short-sighted about the genre," Evie agrees to serve as his inspiration and "living proof." She proposes that she can meet a man the way it happens in rom-coms.

What ensues is a lively, laugh-out-loud story filled with raucous scenes of Evie's madcap meetings and zany mishaps in fulfilling her end of the bargain--from road trips to holidays to chance encounters. Everything that can go wrong does, including Evie making a child vomit, leaving her name and number in random books around London, and accidentally joining an erotic book group. Would Like to Meet is a fun and lively millennial rom-com with a heartfelt message that cleverly plays off tropes from a host of contemporary romance movies.

Would Like to Meet: A Novel by Rachel Winters

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.00 Paperback, 9780525542315, 368 pages

Publication Date: December 3, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (December 10, 2019), link HERE

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Way I Heard It

Mike Rowe, of ‘Dirty Jobs’ fame, has written a book…and it’s a good one! It's both clever and greatly entertaining. Rowe blends the story of his own life with his exploration of the lives of other notables. This is the perfect read to take with you on the go—short chapters for when you’ve got only a few minutes to escape into a good book!

Popular personality Mike Rowe cleverly spins and unravels mysteries about notable public figures, while sharing stories of his own life.

Television host, narrator, actor, producer and product pitchman, Mike Rowe presents 35 cleverly written short mysteries about public figures and notables that are culled from his podcast, The Way I Heard It. Between the mysteries, Rowe, with his signature humor and dry wit, ties in entertaining anecdotes about his own life--childhood adventures while growing up in a tight-knit Baltimore family; his mentors and his girlfriends; his penchant for Travis McGee novels; and his many comical experiences on the winding, bumpy road to success.

Rowe has hosted several offbeat shows on networks such as QVC, the Science Channel, CNN and National Geographic. He's most known for Dirty Jobs, where he performed 300 messy occupational duties alongside regular, hardworking employees. Rowe's affinity for the programs of radio broadcaster Paul Harvey served as inspiration for his creation of the mysteries of the book--what he pitches as "some true stories you probably don't know about some famous people you probably do." This includes obscure facts about presidents, musicians, writers, sports figures and more--the living and the dead--as well as places and events.

Readers will be greatly amused and intrigued by Rowe's presentation of each story. He offers just enough information and clues to keep readers engrossed--and guessing--about the who or what of each subject before he delivers surprising twists and reveals the mysterious identity at each story's conclusion. For all the jobs Mike Rowe has held in his storied career, writing might just prove to be his forte.

The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe

Gallery Books, $28.00 Hardcover, 9781982130855, 272 pages

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 25, 2019), link HERE

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Olive, Again

This was my favorite read of the year for 2019!  Really admire Elizabeth Strout’s work. She writes masterful sentences and creates indelible characters who are not always likeable, but fully human...and surely entertaining!
A prickly Maine woman finds hard-won wisdom as she butts up against the challenges of aging and ordinary life--and others struggling to survive.

In the Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout (My Name Is Lucy Barton) traced the life of a rigidly stoic, set-in-her-ways, lifelong inhabitant of fictional Crosby, Maine. Olive--a former high school math teacher and the wife of a small-town pharmacist--is judgmental, with often-grating hard edges that forge her opinions and resilience.

In Olive, Again, Strout picks up Olive's story in her seventh and eighth decades. Olive, an aging widow, contends with a now elusive world and her feelings for widower Jack Kennison, the antithesis of Olive. Jack, a staunch Republican and former professor at Harvard, migrated to Crosby after a co-worker accused him of sexual harassment and he was fired. He is drawn to Olive, questioningly.

As the narrative unfolds, readers learn that Olive and Jack have married. Despite their vastly different pedigrees, they are moored in similar emotional harbors, which unites them. Olive and Jack had first marriages to good people, yet both carry--and grapple with--guilt. Loneliness plagues them. They take stock of their fates, choices and destinies in a changing world, while facing the often-humiliating infirmities of aging. Jack tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, a lesbian whom he never accepted. Similarly, Olive contends with her strained relationship with her son, who's married and raising a blended family in New York City.

The 13 episodic stories that constitute Olive, Again are deep and meaningful--made richly entertaining and accessible through Strout's skillful blend of the serious with the comedic.

Olive, Again: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

Random House, $27.00 Hardcover, 9780812996548, 304 pages

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 25, 2019), link HERE

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Bromance Book Club

With the help of a romance book club for men, a baseball player sets off on a clever crusade to save his marriage.
It takes two people to fall in love, but it also "takes two people to ruin a relationship." Such is the case for Gavin Scott--a second baseman for the Nashville Legends baseball team, who suffers from a stuttering problem--and his loyal, devoted wife, Thea, the mother of their young twin girls. The couple married when Thea became pregnant. What started as a happy union settled, over time, into a sexless routine as "the daily necessities of dealing with the kids and the house and his game schedule" wore down their relationship.
When Gavin learns that Thea's been faking it in their marital bed for years, the revelation pits them against each other, resurrecting more truths and slights, until their faltering marriage comes completely undone. Gavin seeks the support of his friends, a group that meets covertly to eat, drink and discuss Regency romance novels. They refer to these books set in 18th- and 19th-century England as "manuals" that coach them in their romantic dealings with their partners and spouses.
The Bromance Book Club is the opening installment of a fun and funny, sports-related romance series. It unspools a dual-threaded narrative that juxtaposes Gavin and Thea's story alongside that of a Regency countess and her knight in shining armor. Through a series of clever, entertaining plot twists and striking parallels in the relationships of both couples, centuries apart, Lyssa Kay Adams (The Prospect) depicts how love--and the complications and ecstasies therein--never really changes or goes out of style.

The Bromance Book Club (a novel) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Berkley, $16.00 Paperback, 9781984806093, 352 pages

Publication Date: November 5, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (November 8, 2019), link HERE

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Think Positive, Live Happy

My story, “Reach Out,” has been included in the latest installment of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive, Live Happy: 101 Stories about Creating Your Best Life. This anthology, edited by Amy Newmark and Deborah Norville (Emmy Award-winning anchor/journalist of Inside Edition), is a collection of hopeful, inspiring stories about living a life filled with thoughtfulness and gratitude. My piece presents a lesson about not being afraid to reach out and do something nice for someone, even a stranger. Sometimes we second-guess ourselves, we hesitate, because we wonder if our outreach will be welcome. But in the case of the experience I share in my story, by taking a simple photograph and sharing it, two lives were changed in very special ways. This collection would make a perfect gift for the upcoming holidays…HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Chicken Soup for the Soul Books (distributed by Simon and Schuster), $16.00 Paperback, 9781611599923, 368 pp

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

To order this book via INDIEBOUND, link HERE

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Kate Racculia: The Journey Changes Your Perception

The Writer's Life
Kate Racculia is the author of the novels This Must Be the Place and Bellweather Rhapsody, an ALA Alex Award winner. Her third novel, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts (reviewed below), centers on an adventurous treasure hunt through the city of Boston.
Why did you set the story in Boston?
I moved to Boston to get my MFA from Emerson College. After grad school, I spent 11 years working there--first as a marketing writer in financial services, then as a prospect researcher. It was a niche fundraising job that involved researching and profiling wealthy donors--very similar to the job Tuesday Mooney holds in the novel. It was only after I moved out of Boston and settled in Bethlehem, Pa., that I really began to miss the place where I'd become a young adult.
So, the novel pays homage to your affection for the city?
The novel is a love letter to Boston and my life there, which I treasured. I wrote the book during the 2016 election, the constant cruelties of the Trump presidency, #MeToo--under increasing distraction, destruction and pain, and my own anger, confusion and alienation. I believe that art can be an agent for change, a political action, a comfort in the face of brutality. The novel also deals with adventure, friendship, a capacious understanding of human connections and family, work and responsibility, and wealth.
Wealth and money are central to the story?
Without ever intending to, I learned an awful lot about wealth in the jobs I had: how wealth works in America, its inextricable connection to power, how inequitably both are distributed. What having a lot of money can do to people, namely: insulate them from the world, destroy their perspective and make them paranoid and selfish--or allow them to be incredibly generous, and give them tools to remake the world around them.
Is this where the idea for the novel hatched?
I always try to write with a question in mind rather than an answer--to create a series of givens about psychologically realistic characters, to place them in high-genre situations and learn who they are by what they do, how they react and feel, and how they're capable of surprising even themselves--especially when they encounter the uncanny, the strange, the heightened. There's a terrific tension there that I love to play with, and I do use the word "play" intentionally; at its best, writing for me is a form of play and discovery.
Your characters are always infused with layers of eccentricity.
I love other people--characters--in all the ways that loving other people is itself complicated, endlessly interesting, frustrating, weird, heartbreaking and hilarious. So, I write both to get to know and get to experience many other people, to tease out my own identities and curiosities, but also explore imagined lives and adventures beyond my own. I tend to share with characters my own loves and worries, so we can almost investigate those mysteries together.
What draws you to creating ensemble casts?
I was an only child, and lived 30 miles away from the district where I went to school (and where my mother was a teacher). That degree of remove gave me a unique point of view on groups, the mystery of where and how I or any one person fit in (or didn't), and how everyone brought their own, often secret story into this combined larger tale that we were all a part of. It was fascinating and confusing--I've found many, many people who are "My People," but growing up I was an outlier, which was much easier for me to process and understand in fiction rather than in real life.
Did this inspire you to create Tuesday Mooney as a "loner"?
I have always loved stories about human connections--friendships, teams, and found families, whether at work, school or from neighborhoods. And I am, constitutionally, an introvert loner, so stories where introvert loners are essential parts of a group--while retaining their unique identities--really interest me.
Why are grief, loss and memories from the past recurrent themes in your work?
I think I'm just drawn to the mysterious--the dark, unexplored corners in people, in history, in the world around us, and how the attempt to plumb those depths, the work of seeking and trying to understand (even though full understanding may never be possible), can be the work of a whole life.
In terms of the "mysterious," a ghost figures prominently in this novel.
I flat out love a ghost story; always have. Ghosts were people, after all, with all the desires and fears and complexities of living characters, with that added flair of morbid mystery.
A puzzle resides at the heart of this novel. Off the page, do puzzles interest you?
Ha! Funnily enough, I'm not much of a puzzler. I'm a ringer at pub trivia and would love to get on Jeopardy! one day, but I'm not a big puzzle-as-a-pastime person. Although, I've always had an appreciation for seeking solutions.
Aha, seeking solutions... is that what inspired the treasure hunt that propels the mystery of the story? 
I adore mysteries themselves, whether a procedural television show, a P.D. James novel, or a larger, less-solvable puzzle about the things in life we can't understand, explain or account for--tackling those puzzles, even when they're painful or tragic, gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. I almost prefer a mystery that doesn't have a straightforward solution, a prize that gets refracted and redefined by human messiness and isn't what you thought it would be. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was a huge influence on this novel. The true grail isn't the object you seek, it's what--and who--you discover along the way, and how the journey changes your perception about what you value.

This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness for Readers (October 15, 2019), link HERE 

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

A treasure hunt through Boston for the fortune of a deceased billionaire inspires a quirky researcher to join forces with a cast of lovable misfits.
Tuesday Mooney is a single, 30-something loner--a dedicated prospect researcher for Boston General Hospital. There she gathers facts and tracks "digital fingerprints" on rich people in the hope that they will donate their fortunes. Tuesday volunteers to help at a benefit auction and invites along her former coworker and friend Poindexter "Dex" Howard--a financier suffering romantic woes with his younger beau. Both friends get swept up in a night of surprises, including meeting Vincent A. Pryce (an eccentric, cape-wearing, elderly billionaire and collector of Edgar Allan Poe memorabilia) and handsome Nathaniel Arches, an eligible, however notorious, bachelor. Tuesday is drawn to Nathaniel, especially after he makes a whopping $50,000 bid for a meet-and-greet with New Kids, a pop band.

When Vincent Pryce drops dead of an aneurysm at the auction, his obituary launches a treasure hunt through the city of Boston. Whoever can read between the lines of the obit and pursue the cryptic clues set forth will inherit a portion of his wealth. Tuesday--an inquisitive, "human Google"--charges headlong into the quest. But she's not alone: Dex, Nathaniel, Dorothea "Dorry" Bones (Tuesday's precocious 14-year-old, motherless neighbor), a lingering ghost from a sad chapter in Tuesday's adolescence, and a host of competing--often dark, duplicitous--forces are hell-bent on getting to the finish line first.

Kate Racculia (Bellweather Rhapsody) displays an abundance of intellect and imagination in this clever, immensely adventurous story that pays homage to the elaborate mysteries of life and death--and self-discovery.

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts: A Novel by Kate Racculia

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780358023937, 368 pages

Publication Date: October 8, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (October 15, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Mystery Weekly Magazine

I’m pleased to share that one of my short stories is included in the latest issue of Mystery Weekly Magazine (November 2019). In the comic mystery story, “To Whom It May Concern,” a Client Intimacy Customer Service Expert--with an extremely high opinion of himself--tells the story of how he was forced into a life of crime that snowballed beyond his wildest dreams. The issue of the magazine is available as an ezine (Kindle), via libraries and can also be purchased as a paperback on Amazon. Links are below – click on the highlighted text to learn more. Happy Reading!

To read an excerpt from “To Whom It May Concern,” link HERE

Mystery Weekly Magazine (November 2019)

Purchase the magazine as an e-zine via the Kindle Newsstand

Purchase direct via Mystery Weekly Magazine

Read via the library program FLIPSTER (check with your local library)

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

No Judgments

A heartbroken young woman hunkers down in the Florida Keys during a Category Five hurricane and goes on a quest to rescue stranded local pets.

Meg Cabot has published scores of novels for adults and teens that deliver fast-paced fun, romance and comedy. With No Judgments, she begins a lively series for adults set in Little Bridge Island (pop. 4,700). This fictitious small town in the Florida Keys braces for Hurricane Marilyn, a Category Five storm.
Twenty-five-year-old Bree Beckham is a transplant from New York City. Following the death of her father, Bree dropped out of law school and suffered a harrowing assault. Badly shaken and disappointed by the lack of support she received, she dyed her hair pink, changed her name and set off for Little Bridge, once her family's favorite vacation spot. On the island, Bree works as a waitress at Mermaid's Cafe, a local hangout, and shares an apartment with a friendly ER nurse and Gary, Bree's tabby cat.
As the hurricane approaches, Lucy and Ed Hartwell, owners of the Mermaid, offer Bree and Gary refuge from the storm--their sturdy house has a generator--and Bree jumps at the chance. This, despite the fact that Bree's constantly at odds with Drew Hartwell, Lucy and Ed's nephew. He was publicly dumped by his last girlfriend and seems like a "player." Still, Bree hunkers down with the Hartwells. As they ride out the 170-mph winds, and struggle to rescue stranded animals in the storm's aftermath, the attraction between Bree and Drew deepens.
Cabot (The Boy Is Back) has a long, successful track record of writing entertaining stories that allow readers to escape from the realities of life by bringing levity, wit and a host of surprises and happy endings to the page. No Judgments is further testament to her appealing, winning style.

William Morrow, $26.99, Hardcover, 384 pp., 9780062913579

Publication Date: September 24, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 16, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Window on the Bay

Two middle-aged divorcées--friends since college--find their plans to visit Paris complicated by familial demands and the prospects of new love.  
Jenna and Maureen are divorcées who live in Seattle. The duo originally met as college freshman while taking a French class and became best friends. They vowed that after graduation, they would take a trip to Paris where they would "walk in the moonlight along the Seine, tour the Louvre, and see the view of the city from the Eiffel Tower." Maureen's unplanned pregnancy, however, forced the friends to defer their plans to "someday."
Over the years, Jenna, an ICU nurse, and Maureen, a librarian, married, had children and divorced. Throughout 20 years of ups and downs, the two single moms emotionally supported each other. Now middle-aged--with their children grown and launched--Jenna and Maureen decide "someday" is now. Paris awaits. That is, until Jenna's mother has an accident that brings an attractive male surgeon into Jenna's life. Meanwhile, Maureen catches the attention of a book-loving plumber who, working near the library, starts paying Maureen visits in search of new reading material. The two women, bruised by the past, are leery, but soon become lured by the prospects of new love. But what about Paris?
Macomber (Cottage by the Sea, If Not for You) unspools several tender, romantic story threads in Window on the Bay. Through a refreshing role-reversal, the young adult offspring of each woman--with complications in their own lives--prove sources of unexpected wisdom to their mothers on the brink of change.  

Ballantine, $27.00, Hardcover, 336pp, 9780399181337

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 16, 2019), link HERE

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Ellie and the Harpmaker

A harp causes two lonely Brits, stalled by fate and the choices they've made in life, to forge a deep, life-changing friendship.
Ellie and the Harpmaker is a lyrically written, delightfully charming story about two strangers--lost souls--drifting through their lives, until a harp brings them together.
Ellie Jacobs is a lonely housewife living in Exmoor, England. She is married to Clive, a pragmatic, domineering man who goes to work every day and is obsessed with football and finance. One day, on a walk through the West English countryside, while reflecting upon the first anniversary of her beloved father's death, Ellie stumbles upon a place she's never seen before: the Harp Barn. There, she meets Dan Hollis, the "Exmoor Harpmaker." Dan takes utmost pride in his work. He also feels the experiences of life very deeply, but exhibits a limited range of expression.
When Ellie shares the special significance of the day with Dan--and how learning to play the harp is actually on her things to accomplish "before-forty list"--Dan kindly offers Ellie a gift: a harp beautifully carved out of red-gold cherrywood. Ellie is overwhelmed and thrilled by Dan's generosity, but her joy is dashed when she returns home and Clive demands she return the harp. Clive's will and Dan's will ultimately pull Ellie in opposite directions. This calls into question her beliefs about herself and her marriage, while also raising inquiries into the many mysteries of Dan's life.
By telling the story from two intimate points of view, debut novelist Hazel Prior allows readers to discover startling truths right along with her well-drawn characters. This approach heightens the narrative tension and allows this beautiful, tender story about the harmonious meaning of true friendship and love to reverberate with many unexpected surprises.

Ellie and the Harpmaker by Hazel Prior

Berkley, $26.99 Hardcover, 9781984803788, 336 pages 

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (August 6, 2019), link HERE