The Lost Vintage
16 Aug, 2019

The Lost Vintage

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Lost Vintage The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
on June 19, 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: France

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine Examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy, to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife Heather, who now oversee the grapes’ day-to-day management. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a neighbor vintner and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousins clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of the Second World War and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great half-aunt who was teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between Resistance and Collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I’ve read Ann Mah’s nonfiction about french food while traveling through France, so I jumped at a chance to read her fiction about a vineyard in Burgundy.

This book was inspired by stories of what happened to French women following D-Day.  Many were treated as traitors for having collaborated with the Germans.  This was mob justice so no investigations were done to see who was innocent and who wasn’t.  No distinctions were made for women who willingly were sleeping with German soldiers and those who were raped.  Women who had nothing to do with the Germans were turned in as collaborators by angry neighbors. 

There is a lot going on in this book.  The present day story involves a woman who is studying for a wine test.  She goes to a family vineyard where the current generation is trying to modernize against the will of the older generation.  There is an ex-fiance next door.  There is a potential new love interest who may be up to no good.  (I felt like that was a story line that could have been taken out.)  She finds a hidden area in the wine caves with evidence of a relative that no young people have heard of and no older people will discuss.

I found the historical fiction aspect of the story more interesting.  Helene-Marie’s story is told mainly through her journal.  They find out that she was denounced as a collaborator after D Day.  This causes some issues in the family because no one wants to think of their family helping the Nazis.  Do they want to dig deeper into what really happened?

This is an interesting point to raise.  We all want to think that we (and by extension our families)would be on the right side of history but that obviously isn’t true.  I think about this a lot.  I want to be on the morally correct side of conflicts, not just a bystander who let things happen because they weren’t affecting me directly. 

Using a journal as a story telling device lets the author dive deeply into what life was like in occupied France.  It shows clearly how much there was to gain by collaborating with the Germans.  Do you starve with your morals intact or do you live through actions that you might have previously disapproved of?  Do you let your family starve?  What were the risks of working with the Resistance? 


 

About Ann Mah

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue.com, BonAppetit.comWashingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.

Find out more about Ann at her website, and connect with her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Pinterest.


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Review Stops

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Wednesday, August 21st: Into the Hall of Books

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14 Aug, 2019

When I’m Not Reading

/ posted in: Entertainment

I feel like I’m not getting much reading done lately.  What have I been doing instead?

I went tubing.

20190728_140841

Then I went kayaking.

kayakriver

I’ve been playing a lot of canasta on my ipad. I used to be ok at it and now I am horrible. I dropped 40 points in rank right back down to where beginners start and I’m still losing.

I started binging the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. I vaguely remember watching the original but I couldn’t have told you what the story was about.

I tried to be nice to a dog at work but she didn’t like the dog video I started for her.

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13 Aug, 2019

A Spark of Light – A Sassy Review

/ posted in: Reading

It’s been a few years since I’ve any Picoult.  I was previously a fan.  This book, though…  It gave me some agita.

 

First of all, there is a family of three that are sort of the center of the book. I hate them all with the passion of a thousand suns.

There is a 15 year old girl, Wren, who is in the clinic to get birth control. Her aunt is with her. Her father is the hostage negotiator. They are all horrible.

Wren is the absolute center of everyone’s universe and it shows. She’s so infantilized by her family that she can’t do anything for herself. When the shooting starts a person realizes that she has a cell phone on her and they tell her to call 911. She does not. She texts her father. He doesn’t answer because he’s busy but instead of then calling 911 she proceeds to leave him over 50 text messages. Not a helper. She endangers people over and over and does in fact get people killed.

The father is an arrogant jerk. Once he realizes that he has family in the building he doesn’t tell anyone. He knows that he is required to do this and to step aside as negotiator for very good reasons. He does not because he feels that this shouldn’t apply to him.

Also, (I feel the need to shout this part)

YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR DAUGHTER’S SEXUALITY!

I got no tolerance left for this trope.  I don’t want to hear about how you wanted to beat up a three year old boy who held hands with your daughter in preschool.  I don’t want to hear about how you want to know who your daughter’s boyfriend is so you can intimidate him.

Then this fool is talking to his ex-wife on the phone and says, “Take care of yourself” when he gets done.  He’s all proud of himself because he considers this a horrible insult to say to a woman because it implies that her man can’t provide for her.  First of all, there is no human in the universe who would interpret that statement that way.  Second?

Take it away, Emma.

He can get out of my sight until he can act right.

The aunt thinks she has some huge secret that is obvious from the first few chapters.  She gets shot (not a spoiler for reasons we will discuss) but all she can do while she is laying on the floor bleeding into her chest is mouth Wren’s name because Wren is a pretty, fragile princess who is the center of the universe in case you forgot.  (Don’t worry, they will discuss this ad nauseum in the book.  You won’t forget for long.)

Personally, I was driving my car around listening to the audiobook, yelling, “Someone needs to shoot Wren!” for days.  But, no one shoots Wren.  I did not have any hope whatsoever because of the warped structure of the book.  It starts a few hours after the shooting when all the hostages are released except for Wren.  The father then trades places with her so he is the only remaining hostage.  (In case you didn’t know, she is the center of his universe.)  From here it jumps back and hour in time and tells the story.  Then it jumps back another hour.  You literally start out knowing who lives and who dies and then meet them all as you move backwards in time.  I keep trying to figure out why this choice was made.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  If you took the chapters as written and just rearranged them you’d have a much more powerful story.  You would meet all the characters.  The author does a good job of making you care about everyone else (except Wren and her family).  If she had built up all this care and empathy for the characters and then they were killed unexpectedly it would have been much more effective.  You would have the suspense of hoping that the characters were going to make it.  Now you find out about people and think, “She was a nice lady.  Too bad people have been stepping over body since chapter 1.”

 

 

My Women In Translation TBR list
12 Aug, 2019

My Women In Translation TBR list

/ posted in: Book DiscussionReading

August is Women in Translation month!  I wasn’t going to formally do anything for it but found myself picking up some translations at just the right time.

The Murmur of BeesThe Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia

“From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.

Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.”

I finished this one already. It was pretty good even though I felt like it dragged a little in the middle.


Memoirs of a Polar BearMemoirs of a Polar Bear by Yōko Tawada


“Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son―the last of their line―is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away…”

This one just came in from the library.


This next one is my current audiobook. I know that it isn’t written by a woman but it is a translation so I’m mentioning it because you should read it.

If Cats Disappeared from the WorldIf Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

“The postman’s days are numbered. Estranged from his family, living alone with only his cat Cabbage to keep him company, he was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. But before he can tackle his bucket list, the Devil appears to make him an offer: In exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, our narrator will get one extra day of life. And so begins a very bizarre week…”


I’m always on the lookout for fun translated books. I feel like most of what gets translated is Very Serious Literature and isn’t what I want to read. Where are the urban fantasy, light sci-fi, chick lit, romance?

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance
08 Aug, 2019

Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mrs Sommersby’s Second Chance Mrs. Sommersby's Second Chance (The Sommersby Brides #3) by Laurie Benson
on July 16, 2019
Pages: 288
Genres: Fiction, Love & Romance
Published by Harlequin Historical
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

She’s played Cupid for others

Now she’s met her own unlikely match!

Widowed society matchmaker Mrs. Clara Sommersby thinks handsome, self-made businessman Mr. William Lane is just the man for her neighbor’s overlooked daughter. He’s successful and confident, if somewhat emotionally distant, until suddenly—shockingly—his attention turns to Clara herself! She thought her days of romance were over, but is this younger man intent on giving her a second chance?

Goodreads

I’m an absolute sucker for older female protagonists in fiction.  As soon as I saw the description of this book, I was all in even though she is only in her 40s. Bring me all the older ladies!

Clara entertains herself but selecting a young woman each season in Bath and working as her matchmaker.  She’s not looking for romance for herself.  She is a widow and honestly, she’s doing quite fine on her own, thank you very much.  Her husband wasn’t much of a business man.  He never listened to her ideas.  When he died she bought a hotel for gentleman that she had had her eyes on.  She set up a male relative as the supposed owner but she actually runs the business. 

She meets a man in the pump room and gently flirts with him.  What she doesn’t know is that he just bought the property next door to her hotel and is looking to buy her property also if he can just figure out who owns it.

I loved this book for its description of all the locations in Bath. I visited there a few years ago and could visualize most of the places they discuss.  It added to the story to have all these famous places as background. 

This was a great storyline that you don’t often see in romances.  This woman isn’t pinning all her hopes on finding the right man.  She is living an independent life and she needs to consider the real risks to her freedom of allowing another man in her life.  She will lose all her legal rights if she remarries.  Is it worth it?

 

America for Beginners
06 Aug, 2019

America for Beginners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading America for Beginners America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
on July 24, 2018
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Recalling contemporary classics such as Americanah, Behold the Dreamers, and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a funny, poignant, and insightful debut novel that explores the complexities of family, immigration, prejudice, and the American Dream through meaningful and unlikely friendships forged in unusual circumstances.

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkata to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week “working” vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pival, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

A bittersweet and bighearted tale of forgiveness, hope, and acceptance, America for Beginners illuminates the unexpected enchantments life can hold, and reminds us that our most precious connections aren’t always the ones we seek.

Goodreads

I loved this book that brought together several people who are new to America.  I love reading books that give you a new perspective of America.

Mrs. Sengupta is newly widowed.  She has lived a sheltered life in Kolkata, constrained by what was expected by her husband’s traditional family.  Now her husband is gone and she is going to take this opportunity to do what she wants to do and no one will stop her.  Her only child moved to America.  He called home and told her husband that he was gay.  Soon afterwards her husband told her their child had died.  She never knew if he was lying or not.  Now she is going to go see the country that her son loved and find out for sure what happened.

Ronnie Munshi is a Bangladeshi man who runs a tour company catering to high class Bengali tourists.  He doesn’t want anyone to know that he and all his tour guides are just pretending to be Bengali. 

Satya is his newest hire.  He’s never seen anything outside of New York but he has his guide books.  What could go wrong escorting one widow on a country-wide tour?

Rebecca is an American struggling actress who is hired to be a companion to Mrs. Sengupta.  She knows when Satya is making things up.  Is she going to bring the whole scheme down?

Mrs. Sengupta, Satya, and Rebecca take off across the country enduring bad Indian food, multiple tourist traps, and subpar hotels all while each is confronting their ingrained biases and attitudes.  They rub against each other’s sharp edge and find themselves reshaped into people they didn’t imagine that they could be.

This is a character driven novel that is beautifully written.  Suspense comes from wondering what she is going to find when she gets to Los Angeles and the last known address of her son. 

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Priyam Dhar

About Leah Franqui

Leah Franqui is a graduate of Yale University and received an MFA at NYU-Tisch. She is a playwright and the recipient of the 2013 Goldberg Playwriting Award, and also wrote a web series for which she received the Alfred Sloan Foundation Screenwriting award (aftereverafterwebseries.com). A Puerto Rican-Jewish Philadelphia native, Franqui lives with her Kolkata-born husband in Mumbai. AMERICA FOR BEGINNERS is her first novel.

Find out more about Franqui at her website, and connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

Review Stops

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Law and Addiction
05 Aug, 2019

Law and Addiction

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Law and Addiction Law and Addiction by Mike Papantonio
Genres: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: West Virginia

One week before Jake Rutledge is scheduled to graduate from law school, he receives the devastating news of the death of his fraternal twin, Blake. What makes this death even more terrible for Jake is that his brother died of a drug overdose. Until hearing of his death, Jake had no idea his brother was even using drugs.

When Jake returns home to Oakley, West Virginia, he takes a hard look at the circumstances of his brother's death. In the five years Jake has been away for his schooling, his hometown has drastically changed. Because of the opioid epidemic, and the blight it has brought, many now call Oakley Zombieland. Jake can see how his town's demise parallels his brother's.

Undeterred, the newly minted lawyer takes on the entrenched powers by filing two lawsuits. Jake quickly learns what happens when you upset a hornet's nest. The young attorney might be wet behind the ears, but is sure there is no lawyer that could help him more than Nick Deke Deketomis and his law firm of Bergman/Deketomis. Deke is a legendary lawyer. When he was Jake's age he was making his name fighting Big Tobacco. Against all odds, Jake gets Nick and his firm to sign on to his case before it's too late.

Goodreads

I was interested in reading Law and Addiction because I work in a town that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.  Every week I read the local paper purely for the police blotter.  In between the entertaining tales of some really stupid criminals there is report after report of officers treating overdoses.  I find it interesting to see how many dose of naloxone they need for each person.  The record I’ve seen so far is 14 doses.  (That person then woke up and refused all other medical treatment.)  So when this book describes the cost to towns of treating all these addicts and overdoses I understand what it is talking about.

I’ve also had a few people bring their dogs in who they claim are on mega doses of tramadol for their arthritis.  Usually an in-depth conversation about alternatives to controlled medication and a discussion of the dispensing schedule we will have them on to make sure they aren’t getting too many means we never see those people again. 

In the middle of reading this book I actually had to put it down to go pick up some opiates from a pharmacy.  The husband had had surgery and was prescribed opiates even though it was fairly minor.  He took some prescription NSAIDS and iced the area and did well.  Opiates were a bit of overkill in this instance.  (He asked how we were going to get rid of them.  I said I’d take them to work.  He slowly questioned again, “What are you going to do with them?”  Yeah, he knows the town I work in.  “Getting rid of them” there can be interpreted a few ways.  For the record, I am going to put them in the Drug Destroyer solution.)

On the other hand, my doctor side comes out and I don’t really want more regulation on access to them by doctors for people (and animals) who really need them.  They have a place in medical care.  Proper dosing and monitoring are the key. 

Down the street from my house there is a place with a chalkboard in the front lawn with a running total of people who died from overdose in the city since they started keeping count.  I think they are in the 600s. 

All of that means that I can relate to the setting for this story.  Jake is a new lawyer who has lost his twin brother to an overdose.  He decides to try to get local governments to let him sue pharmacy companies on their behalf for the cost of treating the addiction crisis. 

The book does a good job explaining the various causes and effects of the problem.  Some of them I hadn’t thought of before.  I hadn’t tied together economic collapse due to decreased business in affected communities with the ability for other people to buy up real estate cheaply potentially leading to gentrification and large profits. 

A lot of this book consists of lawyers sitting around and discussing how they are going to build their case.  It is a lot of exposition.  That is interesting if you want to see how people put these kinds of large cases together.  It is also how you get the information about how opiates came into these towns and what it causes.  I think this book works as an educational piece but it doesn’t really work as a thriller for me.  There is a bit of mystery but it never really gets intense and “can’t put it down.”  Use this as primer on opiate addiction and the economic effect on towns more than a nail biting story.

 

The Undertaker’s Assistant
02 Aug, 2019

The Undertaker’s Assistant

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Undertaker’s Assistant The Undertaker's Assistant by Amanda Skenandore
on July 30, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Set during Reconstruction-era New Orleans, and with an extraordinary and unforgettable heroine at its heart, The Undertaker's Assistant is a powerful story of human resilience--and of the unlikely bonds that hold fast even in our darkest moments.

"The dead can't hurt you. Only the living can." Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies--and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer's shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters--with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline--introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place . . .

Goodreads

The Reconstruction period after the Civil War was a time when the hopes of the newly freed African-Americans were built up and then dashed by the resurgence of white supremacy.  This book looks the life of a black woman during that period.

Effie is a fish out of water.  She escaped slavery as a child.  Her first memory is being taken in by a Union army camp.  She was cared for by an Army doctor who took her home with him to Indiana after the war.  She was raised as his ward and trained to help him with his new career as an undertaker.  Now as an adult she is drawn back to New Orleans to try to find out more about her life.  Did she have family?  Can she find them?

Her instinct is to stay to herself.  She has an introduction from her guardian to an undertaker who was a Union officer in the war.  She gets a job that takes up most of her time but she slowly starts to meet new people.  She gets involved in Republican politics after developing a crush on a black state senator.  This exposes her to the ambitions of people who were formerly enslaved.  She also meets a Creole woman and her mother.  They are biracial upper class women who mourn the loss of status and wealth that has come about because of the war.  These two groups of people allow the author to explore the effects of the end of slavery on several different classes of black and mixed race people.

I would have liked to known more about her employer.  He was a southerner who chose to fight the for Union and then came back south to his hometown.  Stress from the war and his unwelcome reception back in town have started him drinking.  Over the course of the book he works on acclimating back into upper class white society.  He needs to abandon the beliefs that would have led him to fight for the north to do this.  Because we don’t see his point of view, it appears very random and arbitrary.  I would have like to have seen this change explored more deeply.  

I loved this book.  It shows how historical fiction can be used to explore many points of view and experiences in the same time frame.  Using Effie as an outsider to all of them is a good device to see everyone clearly.  


About the Author

Amanda Skenandore is a historical fiction writer and registered nurse. Between Earth and Sky was her first novel. She lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Readers can visit her website at www.amandaskenandore.com.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 23
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, July 24
Review at Coffee and Ink
Review at Reading the Past
Interview at Jathan & Heather
Review at Suzy Approved Book Reviews

Thursday, July 25
Review at Jennifer Tar Heel Reader
Interview at Let Them Read Books

Friday, July 26
Review at Orange County Readers

Saturday, July 27
Feature at Donna’s Book Blog

Monday, July 29
Review at Macsbooks
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Tuesday, July 30
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at Melissa Reads

Wednesday, July 31
Review at McCombs on Main
Interview at Jorie Loves A Story

Thursday, August 1
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at Clarissa Reads it All

Friday, August 2
Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, August 3
Feature at Mama’s Reading Corner

Monday, August 5
Review at Bibliophile Reviews

Tuesday, August 6
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Review at LadyJ’s Bookish Nook

Wednesday, August 7
Review at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, August 8
Review at Comet Readings

Saturday, August 10
Feature at What Is That Book About

Monday, August 12
Review at Cover To Cover Cafe

Tuesday, August 13
Review at Reader then Blogger
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, August 14
Review at Amy’s Booket List

Thursday, August 15
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Giveaway

During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two signed copies of The Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on August 15th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

The Undertaker’s Assistant

 

August 2019 Foodies Read
01 Aug, 2019

August 2019 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Foodies ReadReading

 

Welcome to August 2019 Foodies Read!

 

Need some ideas for books about food to read?

The Best American Food Writing 2018The Best American Food Writing 2018 by Ruth Reichl

 

 

Sweet Secrets (Sweet Cove Cozy Mystery, #3)Sweet Secrets by J.A. Whiting

 

 

Vietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors: A CookbookVietnamese Food Any Day: Simple Recipes for True, Fresh Flavors: A Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen

 

 

 

 

Every entry is entered into a monthly drawing to win a gift card.  Once you win a prize you are not eligible to win for 6 months.

We had 28 links in July.  The winner of the drawing for a gift card is Claudia for Next Year in Havana.


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


31 Jul, 2019

July 2019 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

I finished 9 books in July.

The books I read were:

  • 3 nonfiction
  •  3 audiobooks
  • Set in the U.S., England,  and Canada.

What were my favorites?


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Sign-up info

What I added in July:

Whoops.  That’s what happens when I’m not reading mindfully. 

 

What I’ve read so far in 2019:

  • Righteous by Joe Ide
  • Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
  • The Class by Heather Won Tesoriero
  • North by Scott and Jenny Jurek
  • Internment by Samira Ahmed
  • Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
  • Bury What We Cannot Take by Jean Kwok
  • Instant Indian by Rinku Bhattacharya
  • The True Queen by Zen Cho
  • Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
  • A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
  • Spices and Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

I’m aiming for 21-30 books to be at the tapir level.  15/21 so far

 


Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

Nothing.  Sad.

 

 


 

Becoming Superman
30 Jul, 2019

Becoming Superman

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Becoming Superman Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
on July 23, 2019
Pages: 480
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Published by Harper Voyager
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

With an introduction by Neil Gaiman!

In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5, Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.

For four decades, J. Michael Straczynski has been one of the most successful writers in Hollywood, one of the few to forge multiple careers in movies, television and comics.  Yet there’s one story he’s never told before: his own.

Joe's early life nearly defies belief. Raised by damaged adults—a con-man grandfather and a manipulative grandmother, a violent, drunken father and a mother who was repeatedly institutionalized—Joe grew up in abject poverty, living in slums and projects when not on the road, crisscrossing the country in his father’s desperate attempts to escape the consequences of his past. 

To survive his abusive environment Joe found refuge in his beloved comics and his dreams, immersing himself in imaginary worlds populated by superheroes whose amazing powers allowed them to overcome any adversity. The deeper he read, the more he came to realize that he, too, had a superpower: the ability to tell stories and make everything come out the way he wanted it. But even as he found success, he could not escape a dark and shocking secret that hung over his family’s past, a violent truth that he uncovered over the course of decades involving mass murder.

Straczynski’s personal history has always been shrouded in mystery. Becoming Superman lays bare the facts of his life: a story of creation and darkness, hope and success, a larger-than-life villain and a little boy who became the hero of his own life.  It is also a compelling behind-the-scenes look at some of the most successful TV series and movies recognized around the world.

Goodreads

I’ve seen a lot of J. Michael Straczynski’s work.  I watched He-Man and She-Ra in the 1980s.  I’m a huge fan of Sense8.  But I didn’t know who he was until I read this book. 

Becoming Superman refers to many things in the author’s life.  He eventually was able to write the Superman comic which fulfilled a lifelong dream.  More importantly, it refers to his ability to survive and then thrive despite of his chaotic home life. 

He was raised by very manipulative people.  His family tree is a list of people who did what they wanted in order to get ahead with no thoughts to how their actions would impact anyone else.  Content warnings for this book would include genocide, rape, kidnapping, murder, domestic violence, and animal abuse – and that is just talking about his father.  Michael built his life on the simple premise that he was going to do the exact opposite of what he believed anyone in his family would do.  It has served him well.  He was able to build a successful career (or four) as a writer in journalism, television, movies, and comics.  He deliberately distanced himself from his family but curiosity about the secrets that he knew his family was keeping made him dig a little deeper.  What he found out shocked even him. 

This isn’t an easy book to read but it is worthwhile.  Pick it up if you like stories of people overcoming horrible childhoods or if you just like some of the shows that he was written.  You’ll be amazed.


 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

About J. Michael Straczynski

J. Michael Straczynski has had one of the most varied careers of any American writer, penning hundreds of hours of television, comic books for Marvel and DC that have sold over 13 million copies, and movies that have grossed over a billion dollars.

Follow him on Twitter.

 
Tuesday, July 23rd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 24th: Bibliotica

Thursday, July 25th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Friday, July 26th: The Desert Bibliophile

Monday, July 29th: Jennifer ~ Tar Heel Reader

Tuesday, July 30th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, July 31st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Thursday, August 1st: Literary Quicksand

Monday, August 5th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, August 6th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, August 7th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, August 9th: Instagram: @happiestwhenreading

Water Time
29 Jul, 2019

Water Time

/ posted in: FamilyHometown Tourist

June was cold and wet.  (RIP my garden.)

July turned sunny and we are trying to get some summertime fun in.

Last week we headed to Pennsylvania for my uncle’s wedding reception and we added in some beach time.

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This is at Presque Isle on Lake Erie. It is nice because you get a sandy beach and there are no sharks in the water.

I’ve been threatening to buy myself a burkini for a few years. I burn through SPF 100 and I was envious of suits that cover you all up. I finally got one that isn’t quite as covering a some I’ve seen on Muslim ladies but it works wonders.

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It is short sleeved and goes to mid thigh. Love it!


This week we went tubing in the Cuyahoga River. It is the 50th anniversary of the river catching on fire. It is much cleaner now. I live near the National Park that was made to protect and help clean the river. Only one thing worried me about being in the river. I’ve been on the scenic train in the park a few times. Each time while parked on a trestle high above the river I’ve looked down and spotted huge water snakes. I don’t do snakes. I did not want to come innertube-to-face with one. (It didn’t happen as you know because I am writing this and am not dead.)

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Operation Don’t Burn worked well with my special swimsuit, lots of sunblock, and a hat.

It was a really pretty day. (Don’t mind the blinding glare off my white legs.)

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I remember now that tubing frustrates me because I want to have a paddle or a stick so I can push away from the bank or trees or rocks.

Next I want to go kayaking. I’ve always thought I’d like to be a person who goes kayaking. I’m going to rent one first to see if I like it. It just occurred to me (because I am slow) that we have lots of rivers and lakes around here to kayak in. For some reason I thought that since we don’t live really close to Lake Erie that we don’t have any water. Not sure why.

What are you doing for summer fun?

22 Jul, 2019

What Am I Reading?

/ posted in: Reading

Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America's DadChasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad by Nicole Weisensee Egan

“Bill Cosby’s decades-long career as a sweater-wearing, wholesome TV dad came to a swift and stunning end on April 26, 2018, when he was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. The mounting allegations against Bill Cosby–more than 60 women have come forward to accuse him of similar crimes–and his ultimate conviction were a shock to Americans, who wanted to cleave to their image of Cosby as a pudding-pop hero.

Award-winning journalist and former People magazine senior writer Nicki Weisensee Egan was the first reporter to dig into the story when Constand went to the police in 2005. Other news organizations looked away, but Egan doggedly investigated the case, developing ties with entrenched sources and discovering incriminating details that would ultimately come to influence the prosecution.”

New audiobook! 


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I picked up this one because I need a physical book to read while at the beach. I can’t take my iPad there. This was sitting on the counter.

America for BeginnersAmerica for Beginners by Leah Franqui

“A widow from India travels to California to learn the truth about what happened to the son who was declared dead shortly after he revealed his sexual orientation to their traditional family.”

That’s not a very good description of the book. I’ve got this one for a review in a few weeks. So far I’m really enjoying it.

Flamingo Quilt
16 Jul, 2019

Flamingo Quilt

/ posted in: Quilting

We have a finish!  I know, I know, I can’t believe it either.

I’m a fan of Elizabeth Hartmann’s animal patterns.  I’ve made the hedgehog and the fox and the whale.  I really liked the flamingo pattern too.   About a month ago it occurred to me that the neighbors across the street where having a baby.  They have two flamingo statues in their yard.  They are apparently really into 1950s decor, according to my husband who has talked to them.  They painted their front door a bright blue.  I realized this was a perfect excuse to make the flamingo quilt.

I made the small size with just 2 flamingos.

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One had to be pink to be traditional (or natural). I made the other one blue because they were having a boy.

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I quilted it with just straight (ish) lines in a varigated pink and blue.

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I was actually sad to see this one go. I liked it.

I made the husband deliver it. I’ve never even seen these people but he’s had conversations with them. Now I think I’m considered the Boo Radley of the neighborhood who only comes out to go to work and spends the rest of the time making quilts in the basement.

15 Jul, 2019

What Am I Reading?

/ posted in: Reading

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing by Bill Clinton

“As the novel opens, a threat looms. Enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing…”

I’m still listening to this because I need it to finish off a bingo card square but it is painful.  The narrator is a famous actor but his voice work is not strong.  Specifically, his female voices are robotic.


The Best American Food Writing 2018The Best American Food Writing 2018 by Ruth Reichl

““Food writing is stepping out,” legendary food writer Ruth Reichl declares at the start of this, the inaugural edition of Best American Food Writing. “It’s about time…Food is, in a very real sense, redesigning the world.” Indeed, the twenty-eight pieces in this volume touch on every pillar of society: from the sense memories that connect a family through food, to the scientific tinkering that gives us new snacks to share, to the intersections of culinary culture with some of our most significant political issues. At times a celebration, at times a critique, at times a wondrous reverie, the Best American Food Writing 2018 is brimming with delights both circumspect and sensuous. Dig in!”

I’m still working my way through this one.  The husband has picked it up too.  We’re leaving it in the bathroom so we don’t fight over who gets to read it when.


I’m needing to reboot my reading life.  I have to take everything back to the library and start over.  I’m scared to even look and see what my fines are at. In theory I want to read all the books I have out but realistically I keep picking up other books instead.  Time to let these ones go.

I have a lot of book tour reviews coming up so I need to get started on these books.  Here’s what I hope to get to this week.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to HollywoodBecoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski

“In this dazzling memoir, the acclaimed writer behind Babylon 5, Sense8, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling and Marvel’s Thor reveals how the power of creativity and imagination enabled him to overcome the horrors of his youth and a dysfunctional family haunted by madness, murder and a terrible secret.”


The Undertaker's AssistantThe Undertaker’s Assistant by Amanda Skenandore

“The dead can’t hurt you. Only the living can.” Effie Jones, a former slave who escaped to the Union side as a child, knows the truth of her words. Taken in by an army surgeon and his wife during the War, she learned to read and write, to tolerate the sight of blood and broken bodies–and to forget what is too painful to bear. Now a young freedwoman, she has returned south to New Orleans and earns her living as an embalmer, her steady hand and skillful incisions compensating for her white employer’s shortcomings.

Tall and serious, Effie keeps her distance from the other girls in her boarding house, holding tight to the satisfaction she finds in her work. But despite her reticence, two encounters–with a charismatic state legislator named Samson Greene, and a beautiful young Creole, Adeline–introduce her to new worlds of protests and activism, of soirees and social ambition. Effie decides to seek out the past she has blocked from her memory and try to trace her kin. As her hopes are tested by betrayal, and New Orleans grapples with violence and growing racial turmoil, Effie faces loss and heartache, but also a chance to finally find her place .”


The Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food Is Transforming the American CityThe Taco Truck: How Mexican Street Food Is Transforming the American City by Robert Lemon

“Icons of Mexican cultural identity and America’s melting pot ideal, taco trucks have transformed cityscapes from coast to coast. The taco truck radiates Mexican culture within non-Mexican spaces with a presence–sometimes desired, sometimes resented–that turns a public street corner into a bustling business. Drawing on interviews with taco truck workers and his own skills as a geographer, Robert Lemon illuminates new truths about foodways, community, and the unexpected places where ethnicity, class, and culture meet. Lemon focuses on the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Columbus, Ohio, to show how the arrival of taco trucks challenge preconceived ideas of urban planning even as cities use them to reinvent whole neighborhoods. As Lemon charts the relationships between food practices and city spaces, he uncovers the many ways residents and politicians alike contest, celebrate, and influence not only where your favorite truck parks, but what’s on the menu.”

Cormoran Strike Series
10 Jul, 2019

Cormoran Strike Series

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading by J.K. Rowling, Robert Galbraith
Genres: Crime & Mystery, Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible

I’d been low key wanting to read the Robert Galbraith mystery books ever since it was revealed that they were written by J.K. Rowling.  I finally started them and then I couldn’t stop.  I’ve listened to the four books on audio one after the other.  Here’s why I think you should read them.

Great Characters

Cormoran is an ex-Army investigator who lost a leg in an IED explosion.  He is now a private investigator whose firm is failing.  When the first book starts he is breaking up with his toxic on again off again girlfriend of 16 years.  He’s also the illegitimate (and unrecognized) son of a major rock star and a famous groupie.  He grew up shuttling between a stable life with his aunt and uncle and a peripatetic life with his drug addicted mother.

Robin is new to London and newly engaged.  She is working at a temp agency who sends her to Cormoran’s firm for a week.  He forgot he signed up for a temp and can’t afford her but she makes herself too useful to get rid of.

Rowling is also still great at secondary characters.  Each person is unique and has a well thought out backstory.  They aren’t just a stock bad guy or witness.

Detailed Stories

Much like the Harry Potter books there is way more detail in these books than you actually need.  I think this is a good thing but I’ve seen some people complain about it.  I think if you are used to very spare mystery writing this will seem excessive.  There are definitely lots of red herrings and clues that never develop into anything just like it would be in real life.  Not everything is important to the story line.  That makes these books pretty long but I like that.  I like exploring the world that she is making and I don’t want them to be over quickly.

There is a TV show (if you like that sort of thing)

There is a film adaptation of the first three books.  The first book is three one hour episodes and the rest are two episodes.  I find them frustrating.  I think the main characters are well done but everything is so condensed.  Secondary characters are dropped.  Secrets that are hours in the teasing out on the audiobook are dropped casually in exposition.

I watched The Cuckoo’s Calling and the first hour of The Silkworm.

Everything you ever wanted to know about London transportation

Transportation is a major consideration in these stories.  That amuses me for some reason.  They are always running around the city but instead of just saying they went here and suddenly they are there, transportation problems are factored in.  The Underground is always used because they can’t afford cabs.  The time it takes to get anywhere is always discussed.  Having to walk far between public transit stops is a problem because Cormoran’s stump hurts and he has multiple untreated injuries during the series that make walking more and more problematic. 

What I’d like to see next

I’d love to see his father need his help.  Cormoran has met his famous father twice and neither time went well.  He has a little bit of a relationship with his father’s other children.  I want to see someone in the family get into trouble and need to come to him to sort it out.  Then he’d have to dive into all the family secrets and relationships whether they want him to or not.

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think?

08 Jul, 2019

What Am I Reading?

/ posted in: Reading

The President Is MissingThe President Is Missing by Bill Clinton

“As the novel opens, a threat looms. Enemies are planning an attack of unprecedented scale on America. Uncertainty and fear grip Washington. There are whispers of cyberterror and espionage and a traitor in the cabinet. The President himself becomes a suspect, and then goes missing…”

This is my new audiobook. I’m reading it for the Written by a U.S. President or First Lady square on my bingo card.


Hither, Page (Page & Sommers, #1)Hither, Page by Cat Sebastian

“A jaded spy and a shell shocked country doctor team up to solve a murder in postwar England.

James Sommers returned from the war with his nerves in tatters. All he wants is to retreat to the quiet village of his childhood and enjoy the boring, predictable life of a country doctor. The last thing in the world he needs is a handsome stranger who seems to be mixed up with the first violent death the village has seen in years. It certainly doesn’t help that this stranger is the first person James has wanted to touch since before the war.

The war may be over for the rest of the world, but Leo Page is still busy doing the dirty work for one of the more disreputable branches of the intelligence service. When his boss orders him to cover up a murder, Leo isn’t expecting to be sent to a sleepy village. After a week of helping old ladies wind balls of yarn and flirting with a handsome doctor, Leo is in danger of forgetting what he really is and why he’s there. He’s in danger of feeling things he has no business feeling. A person who burns his identity after every job can’t set down roots.

As he starts to untangle the mess of secrets and lies that lurk behind the lace curtains of even the most peaceful-seeming of villages, Leo realizes that the truths he’s about to uncover will affect his future and those of the man he’s growing to care about.”

I’ve loved all of Cat Sebastian’s books but I’m not really getting into this one so far. Hopefully it will pick up.


The Best American Food Writing 2018The Best American Food Writing 2018 by Ruth Reichl

““Food writing is stepping out,” legendary food writer Ruth Reichl declares at the start of this, the inaugural edition of Best American Food Writing. “It’s about time…Food is, in a very real sense, redesigning the world.” Indeed, the twenty-eight pieces in this volume touch on every pillar of society: from the sense memories that connect a family through food, to the scientific tinkering that gives us new snacks to share, to the intersections of culinary culture with some of our most significant political issues. At times a celebration, at times a critique, at times a wondrous reverie, the Best American Food Writing 2018 is brimming with delights both circumspect and sensuous. Dig in!”

Well obviously I’m going to love this one. It is perfect for Foodies Read. I just started it.

The Day The World Came to Town
05 Jul, 2019

The Day The World Came to Town

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Day The World Came to Town The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
Genres: Historical, Nonfiction
Published by HarperCollins
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Newfoundland, Canada

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

Goodreads

I had heard the story of a small town in Canada where many airplanes had to land on 9/11 but I didn’t know the details.  

The reason all the planes went there was because Gander used to be a major airport.  When planes had to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, they went to Gander.  Private planes still do.  The U.S. military had a lot of planes here.  Because of the history of military use, the runways are long.  This allows it to be listed as a secondary landing area for the space shuttle in case of trouble on takeoff.  

This book details the lengths that people went to when they needed to suddenly accommodate an influx of people on an island.  They weren’t allowed to get their luggage off the planes so medications had to be found.  Clothes and toiletries were in short supply.  Bedding was collected from houses all around the island.  People opened their homes to let travelers take showers.  

All kinds of people were stranded.  There were government and military officials who needed to help coordinate emergency response so they needed to get out of Gander.  An executive for the clothing company Hugo Boss was horrified to have to buy new underwear at WalMart.  Refugees settling in the U.S. were confused to find themselves in a whole different country.  

I was particularly interested in the stories of the animals on the planes.  There were two bonobo apes moving to a new zoo.  They weren’t allowed out of their transport cages but they helped out by cleaning their own cages for the handlers and entertaining themselves by watching the dogs and cats near them.  

I’d recommend reading this book to take a glance at a little known slice of history.


Next week I’m going to see the musical Come From Away which is based on this story.  I wanted to make sure I finished this book ahead of time so I could be properly obnoxious with stories of, “Well, actually, what had happened was…”  I’ll report back with how close the musical is to the real story.

02 Jul, 2019

June 2019 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

I finished 14 books in June.

The books I read were:

  • 1 nonfiction
  •  2 audiobooks
  • Set in the U.S., England,  The Netherlands, and Germany
  • 1 reread
  • Honestly just Julia Quinn over and over

What were my favorites?


sign-up-post

 

Sign-up info

What I added in June:

 

What I’ve read so far in 2019:

  • Righteous by Joe Ide
  • Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
  • The Class by Heather Won Tesoriero
  • North by Scott and Jenny Jurek
  • Internment by Samira Ahmed
  • Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder
  • Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
  • Bury What We Cannot Take by Jean Kwok
  • Instant Indian by Rinku Bhattacharya
  • The True Queen by Zen Cho
  • Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
  • A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
  • Spices and Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya
  • Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

I’m aiming for 21-30 books to be at the tapir level.  15/21 so far

 


Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

I’d like to thank Jean Kwok for moving to The Netherlands so I can add that country after reading Searching for Sylvie Lee.

 

 


 

July 2019 Foodies Read
01 Jul, 2019

July 2019 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Foodies ReadReading

 

Welcome to July 2019 Foodies Read!

 

Need some ideas for books about food to read?

Free Food for MillionairesFree Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee

 

Vegetables and Vengeance (Peridale Cafe Cozy Mystery Book 17)Vegetables and Vengeance by Agatha Frost

 

Beau Cook's Food Porn: The Food Porn CookbookBeau Cook’s Food Porn: The Food Porn Cookbook by Beau Cook

 

 

 

Every entry is entered into a monthly drawing to win a gift card.  Once you win a prize you are not eligible to win for 6 months.

We had 32 links in June.  That is amazing!  The winner of the drawing for a gift card is Stephanie with her review of A Feast of Serendib.

 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


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