Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Authenticity Project


This is a fun, clever, very modern story offering a poignant message of hope!

A notebook created for the purpose of confessing intimate, personal truth turns British strangers into friends as they form an unlikely bond of trust.

Online, everyone's lives look happy and perfect, which makes Clare Pooley's (The Sober Diaries) charmed novel, The Authenticity Project, a fresh, welcome and necessary change of pace.

Monica is a single, 37-year-old Brit who gave up her corporate law to open a London café. She discovers a simple exercise book left behind in her coffee shop, with three words etched on the cover: "The Authenticity Project." The first page reads: "Everyone lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth instead...? Not on the internet, but with those real people around you?"

Intrigued, Monica learns the book was initiated by 79-year-old Julian Jessop, who committed his truth to its pages. Julian expresses the deep-seated loneliness he's experienced for five years, since the loss of his wife, Mary, whom he appreciated only once she was gone. Julian created the Authenticity Project to purge his own feelings and deliberately left the book with his story behind, hoping that whoever read his entry would be inspired to share their own story in its pages and then leave the book for others to do the same.

Monica searches for Julian online and discovers he is a famous portrait painter. In the meantime, she leaves the notebook, with her entry added, in a local wine bar. It lands with a cocaine addict, Hazard, who takes it with him as he sobers up on a remote island in the South China Sea. What ensues is a clever story of how the notebook travels from person to person, six strangers who ultimately discover each other and form bonds of commonality, friendship and love.

The Authenticity Project: A Novel by Clare Pooley

Pamela Dorman Books, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781984878618, 368 pages

Publication Date: February 4, 2020

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 as published via Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (February 7, 2019), link HERE

To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (January 7, 2020), link HERE

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Meg and Jo


A perfect read for those who just can’t get enough of the March sisters! 

This is a lively, hip, 21st-century reinvention of Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic about the tight-knit March family.

Virginia Kantra (Carolina Dreaming) energetically reinvents Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women. Kantra relocates the March family from New England to bucolic 21st-century Bunyan, N.C. Mother "Marmee" struggles to maintain the artisanal goat-cheese-producing family farm, while Father March, a pastor-preacher, is away serving as an army chaplain and military missionary activist.

Part of the story is filtered through Jo, a single 28-year-old journalist in search of a job, living in New York City. She works as a prep cook at an upscale eatery while secretly blogging about the food industry. When the tattooed, Michelin-star chef-owner of the restaurant takes a shine to her, she fears the consequences of mixing business with pleasure. The other half of the story is narrated by Meg, a devoted wife and stay-at-home mother of twins, whose life is deeply rooted in Bunyan. Is she truly fulfilled? While the other two March sisters pursue their own aspirations--Beth, chasing a career in the Branson, Mo., music business, and Amy in Paris, intent on becoming a fashionista--Marmee suddenly takes ill. Responsible Meg picks up the slack, faced with choices that might upend her sensible life and affect those of the family, as well.

Kantra retains Alcott's basic story blueprint and the essence of her unforgettable characters, including the irrepressible Aunt Phee and Trey, an updated take on Theodore "Laurie" Laurence. The narrative successfully weaves in provocative contemporary values and references, delivering a modern-day story--with bold new twists--that explores timeless themes of love, romance and the bonds of family.

Meg and Jo (A Novel) by Virginia Kantra

Berkley, $16.00 Paperback, 9780593100349, 400 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 (January 17, 2020), link HERE


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Recipe for a Perfect Wife


A powerful, thought-provoking story about the choices that ultimately come to define and liberate two women who lived 60 years apart.
Characters often face difficult choices--and learn how to live with the consequences--in the novels of Karma Brown (TheChoices We Make). In Recipe for a Perfect Wife, she continues this theme, chronicling the lives of two women who lived nearly 60 years apart.
In 2018, 29-year-old Alice Hale and her husband, Nate, move from a "shoebox-size" apartment in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan to a sprawling colonial house in Greenville, a suburban town "less than an hour's train ride from the city and yet an entirely different world." Alice has apprehensions about the retro fixer-upper, but nevertheless makes the adjustment.
While Nate commutes to his city job, Alice, having left her career and friends behind to write a novel, feels a deep loneliness. When she finds a vintage cookbook in the basement and begins whipping up some of the recipes, her anxiety and depression start to lift. She becomes intrigued and wants to find out all she can about Nellie Murdoch, the previous owner of the cookbook and the house.
As Alice learns more about Nellie's life, she faces unexpected crises that force her to rethink choices she's made, secrets she's kept and actions she may need to take in the future. Patriarchal dilemmas abound for both women. Yet, through the wisdom evoked by revelations in Nellie's life story, Alice is suddenly inspired and empowered better to deal with her own challenges.
Strong, well-drawn women anchor Brown's deeply thought-provoking, feminist novel. The spellbinding dual stories complement each other, raising themes of self-discovery, self-preservation and liberation for two women living eras apart.
Recipe for a Perfect Wife (A Novel) by Karma Brown
Dutton, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781524744939, 336 pages
Publication Date: December 31, 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 (January 10, 2020), link HERE


To read the longer form of this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (December 6, 2019), link HERE

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Confession Club


This novel of Women’s Fiction is a continuation of a heartwarming series by Elizabeth Berg that started with, The Story of Arthur Truluv.

A group of women form an unlikely bond of trust that allows them to share personal revelations.

When a participant in a local dining club in Mason, Mo., reveals a personal secret over dinner, the gathering is suddenly transformed into a "safe space": members of the group share not only a weekly feast, but begin to confess dilemmas from their private lives. Elizabeth Berg's illuminating novel The Confession Club brings together a small group of women--ages 20 to their 70s--who maintain an oath of confidentiality as they voice their sins, burdens, inadequacies and shameful secrets, offering each other opinions and advice without judgment. Among the members are a preacher's wife, who is a kleptomaniac; a woman remorseful over the way she chronically lied to her parents during adolescence; and another who finds herself attracted to an exhibitionist.

New additions to the group include some beloved characters from Berg's prior novels, including Iris Winters, from Night of Miracles, a divorcée who runs a baking school out of her home. She falls for a handsome, bright, high-functioning--yet homeless--Vietnam veteran with PTSD. And Maddy Harris, introduced in The Story of Arthur Truluv, is a married mother who returns to town to regroup and reconcile feelings from the past that prohibit her from sharing her soul with her husband.

Readers don't need to be familiar with Berg's prior books in the Mason series to enjoy this one--a tenderhearted, at times philosophical, patchwork quilt of stories. Berg extols the benefits of these unlikely people forming a bond and a community of trust and friendship that changes their lives for the better.


The Confession Club: A Novel (Book 3 of 3 in the Mason Series) by Elizabeth Berg

Random House, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781984855176, 304 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 (January 10, 2020), link HERE


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