May 25, 2010

May 23, 2010

(84) The Ocean Inside by Janna McMahan

Well, my Property & Casualty exam is scheduled for June 1st. With any kind of luck, I will pass and be licensed to sell Property & Casualty insurance in Wyoming. Just in time for the Summer Reading to swing into full force. I am excited to get licensed, but I am so sick of that stupid book I am ready to throw it at a wall.

Yesterday after studying for six hours I said screw it, I am going to read a real book. I picked The Ocean Inside off of my Library Book pile and whipped through it really fast. It was a GREAT book, but to warn you it has a child with Cancer. My wonderful Aunt lost her battle with Cancer on May 3rd. It was hard to read about the destroying disease affecting such a young child, but it was tastefully written.

The Ocean Inside is about the Sullivan family on Pawlsey Island in South Carolina. Their world falls apart when nine year old Ainslee is diagnosed with cancer and Emmett discovers their new insurance company is denying the claims, calling it a preexisting condition. Their world becomes juggling bills, staving off the collectors and trying to keep their daughter alive. Each of them handle this trying time in different ways. Emmett drinks, Lauren lives in denial, and teenager, Sloan hooks up with a "rich kid" playing a dangerous game. Will the family be able to hold it together and survive what Cancer is putting them all through?

In The Ocean Inside, Janna McMahan introduces to a real family with real struggles facing a real disease. Their reaction is human and the writing makes you feel as if this were a family you know from your own hometown. The familiarity of the Sullivan's is what makes this book so real and touches your heart. The Ocean Inside was my first introduction to the works of Janna McMahan, but it won't be my last. I am off to search B&N for more of her books!

May 18, 2010

May 17, 2010

May 16, 2010

(83) My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster


I am soooo ready to be done with this Insurance Exam. So many of my favorite my favorite authors have books coming out this Spring. It has been difficult finding time for pleasure reading in between my studying.

I did manage to find time to read Jen Lancaster's new book, My Fair Lazy. I do believe it is the best she has done since Bitter Is The New Black. Not that her other books weren't wonderful, but with My Fair Lazy, my husband actually said to me "You are not hooked up right" when I started laughing so hard I literally had tears running down my face.

The following was said to Fletch, who was wearing an "Old School Conservative" Ronald Reagan t-shirt in the middle of a Howard Dean booksigning.
Drop the magazine, we have to go! I hiss.
What? Why? He asks.
Because we are accidentally committing a hate crime.


I swear to God my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. I love Jen Lancaster. In an industry where being a Liberal is a pretty much given, finding someone who shares my ideology and my sense of humor automatically makes her a Goddess in my eyes. But no worries, unlike other memoirists, Jen does not shove that ideology down your throat.

In her new memoir, Jen is trying grow culturally. She wants to "achieve cultural enlightenment". From trying new restaurants to going to the opera and attending art house plays, Jen is open to just about anything during her hilarious "Jenaissance" and she takes us along for the ride.

If you have not read Jen's books, I encourage you to start with Bitter Is The New Black, just so you can understand Jen's history. But after that there is no need to read them in any order. They will make the perfect beach read or frankly the perfect bathtub read. Grab a glass of wine and enjoy. Your funny bone will thank me.

May 15, 2010

May 14, 2010

May 13, 2010

May 12, 2010

(82) Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay


It has been several years since I watched the first season of Dexter. I developed a morbid crust on the serial killer that we all know. I finally got around to reading the book that the television series is based on, Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

I was thrilled to see that the show stuck closely to the book. From what I remember of that first season, it appears as if they really stayed true to the book.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Showtime series, Dexter Morgan lives by a code. A code his late adoptive father instilled in him to survive living with the "Dark Passenger" the voice that urges him to kill. Thanks to Harry, Dexter only unleashes his urges on those deserving of dying. The lowest of the low, the scum that have eluded the police. They may elude the police, but they don't elude Dexter. The irony being that Dexter himself is a member of the Miami Dade police force as a blood splatter expert.

Jeff Lindsay has a dark, twisted sense of humor, and I LOVE it! Even though his subject matter is macabre and ugly, he writes about it in away that finds you even starting to LIKE the serial killer. I got rid of Showtime after the second season, but I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series. I will be curious to see where Jeff Lindsay goes with Dexter and his dark urges.

May 11, 2010

(81) The Journey Home by Michael Baron


As anyone from a large family will tell you, food is the center of every family function. From holidays to summer bbq's, where one or more are gathered, there is inevitably food. I can attest that many a memory have been made around a table full of family and food or in the kitchen that prepared the food. For me, most recently, it was last week after my Aunt's memorial service, 22 members of my family gathered around a table in a famous Omaha steakhouse. There was laughter, tears, and a toast to my beloved Aunt. As I looked around the table, I truly felt like I was blessed in numerous ways and the memory of that night will stay with me for the rest of my life.

In Michael Baron's new book, The Journey Home, he illustrates that the bonds formed breaking bread is not exclusive to large families. Warren is at a crossroads in his life. He has recently lost his job and is divorcing his wife. He has nothing, but all of the time in the world to hang out with his ailing mother at the assisted living facility she calls home. It is during this time that Warren tries to bring his mother back to life, mentally, with old recipes of hers. Warren, whose cooking abilities are very limited, learns a lot about himself and his mother during this time that he spends cooking for her.

The Journey Home is a very poignant novel about family history, memories, and unconditional love. It is very sweetly written in a way that could be compared to Nicholas Sparks or Charles Martin. This is the second book I have read by Michael Baron and I must say that I really enjoyed the heartfelt story.

At this time, I would like to welcome Michael Baron to my corner of the web. He has agreed to write a guest post for me about one of his most memorable meals.


My newest novel, The Journey Home, is both a love story and a rumination on the nature and meaning of home, a subject that means a great deal to me. It is also a novel about food. This happened organically because I have come so strongly to equate home with food. My parents were both excellent cooks and our house was the place where people came to eat. There seems to be a meal involved in every happy memory I have of growing up.


I invented all the dishes and food scenes in the novel, but in the process, my mind went back to a number of memorable food events in my life. One such event happened when my two oldest kids were in their early teens. As they had the previous few years, they’d gone off to summer camp for four weeks, and my wife and I went up to visit them for the mid-session parents’ weekend. In previous years, we’d stayed in a hotel and eaten in the many restaurants in the area. That year, though, my sister had moved to a house about an hour from the camp. She happened to be away for the weekend and told us we could stay in her house.


Since the kids had been living on a steady diet of cafeteria food for two weeks (the highlight being all the grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup they could eat), they asked that I cook dinner for them Saturday night. My daughter picked the main course (pasta with broccoli rabe and olives) and my son chose the dessert (chocolate pudding pie). The tenor of the day was decidedly different because of this. We did many of the things we always did on parents’ weekends – lunch at the place by the water, shopping at the nearby college town – but going to a supermarket for food and then going to my sister’s place to cook made the entire thing seem less like an interlude and more like...home. That night, while I was cooking, my daughter came up to me and hugged me for no particular reason. She had always been affectionate and we’d always been close, but spontaneous hugging was not in her repertoire. I realized then that, in spite of the litany of camp stories she’d been telling all day and the camp friends she claimed to be missing so much, that she’d been a little homesick.


The meal that night was purely casual – dishes I’d made dozens of times and would certainly make dozens, if not hundreds, of times more. What I realized that night, though, was something I’d never really acknowledged before: that “home” was a portable thing. You could carry it wherever you could bring the people you loved and the items that brought you pleasure. Interestingly, both kids had a harder time separating at the end of that parents’ weekend than they had in years past. I think that, as much as they loved the camp (they continued to go for several more years), the reminder of home underscored what they loved more.

May 10, 2010

May 9, 2010

May 8, 2010

(80) The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

The Map of True Places was the 80th book of the year for me. And the year is not even half over. Granted, I was unemployed for most of the year. So I suspect my reading, as you all have noticed, has considerably slowed down.

I was one of the few people who enjoyed The Lace Reader and was thrilled to get my hands on The Map of True Places. For those people who felt The Lace Reader was a bit far fetched, The Map of True Places may be more your speed. It is also set in Salem and there is even a brief reference to the main character, Towner, of The Lace Reader, yet the mystical storyline is kept to a minimum.

Thanks to the love of her father, Finch and his partner, Melville, Zee survived her rough childhood. Her mother, Maureen, committed suicide because of her mental illness. What her mother went through prompted Zee to help others like her and she became a therapist. When one of her patients commits suicide Zee goes home to Salem. There she finds Melville gone and her father being destroyed by Parkinson's disease. Can Zee work through her unfounded guilt to live the happy life that she deserves? Or is she destined to repeat her Mother's history?

I have found myself growing enchanted with Salem and it's unique history. Because of this, I tend to enjoy books set in or around the historical town. I really enjoyed The Map of True Places. There was just an underlying hint of the witchcraft that Salem is known for, but Zee's story is a captivating one. The characters, including Zee, are enjoyable and have a depth to them that make them interesting. If you liked the Lace Reader or the Physik Book of Deliverance Dane, I think you would enjoy The Map of True Places.

May 7, 2010

May 6, 2010

May 5, 2010

May 4, 2010

May 3, 2010

(79)On Folly Beach by Karen White

On Folly Beach by Karen White is going to be a must read for the beach this summer. Set on Folly Beach, South Carolina, Ms. White expertly weaves the past with the present in her new book about love lost and the pain of moving on.

Emmy is mourning the loss of her husband, killed in Afghanistan. At the insistence of her family, Emmy packs up her life in Indiana and buys a bookstore in Folly Beach. She finds herself in the midst of a Southern community steeped in tradition that reluctantly welcomes the outsider to their beach. While digging through ancient boxes of books, Emmy stumbles across a love story that was the center of a mystery involving members of the family that Emmy bought the bookstore from. Will Emmy be able to put the pieces together to solve the mystery while putting the pieces of her heart back together as well?

The South is rich with history that many of us Yankees will never be able to understand. Traveling between 2009 and 1942, Karen White does an amazing job of telling the story of what life was like in the South during WWII. I have been lucky enough to have Karen White, author of On Folly's Beach to write a Guest Post for this blog. So, please, welcome Karen White to my little corner of the Web.


North vs. South Round 2


Last Friday I received a phone call from my publicist in New York. My new book, ON FOLLY BEACH (set in Folly Beach, South Carolina), will be out on May 4th and my publisher is sending me on a book tour to publicize it. My publicist had been working on my travel schedule (all in the southeast) and was calling to go over my travel arrangements. That’s when I realized that one-hundred and forty-five years after the War Between the States, the north and south remain divided: divided by a common language.

My realization really began last year when my publisher was gearing up for my November 2009 book, THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET. How many people in the offices of Penguin Publishing in New York City knew that it’s pronounced “Lagree?” Apparently no one until I stepped in to gently educate. It wouldn’t really matter to a sales person selling the book to an account in Poughkeepsie, but it would be in Charleston. Charlestonians are touchy like that, bless their hearts.

Then I received the copy edits for my November 2010 release, FALLING HOME. It’s set in the fictional small town of Walton, Georgia and is populated by the people I know best: southerners. And southerners don’t talk like northerners or really anybody else. My husband (born in Brooklyn) will sometimes request a translator when visiting my relatives in the Mississippi Delta. It really is that different.

Anyway, the copy editor assigned to my book had apparently never been further south than South Bronx and appeared confused by several of the colloquialisms and expressions used in the book and kept trying to make them grammatically correct. For instance, “that dog won’t hunt” became “it’s broken,” and “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” was replaced with a series of question marks. It took me a while to correct all of her “corrections,” bless her heart, but I think we both emerged relatively unscathed.

So now my publicist is trying to send me to places like Mobyle and St. Simmuns. It wasn’t until I sat and thought for a while that I figured I was heading to Mobile, Alabama and St. Simons, Georgia. I also had to let her know that even though she can probably drive from Manhattan to New Jersey and Connecticut in a few short hours, to get from my house in Atlanta to St Simons is a half day’s drive. The states are bigger down here. And no, I can’t sign in Dallas and Houston in the same afternoon unless I took the Concord. Yes, Texas really is that big.

No, I don’t have anything against Yankees. I married one, didn’t I? And my daughter was born in Pennsylvania, bless her heart. But there are fundamental differences between northerners and southerners—thank goodness! Homogenizing these great fifty states would be an awful thing. It’s the regional idiosyncrasies that make life interesting. My favorite television show was Newhart about a couple running a bed and breakfast in Vermont. That story couldn’t have worked if it had been set in Poughkeepsie or Atlanta. It was region-specific and locals enjoyed it for its familiarity and the rest of us enjoyed it because we wanted to go visit.

I write what I call “grit-lit”: southern women’s fiction, described so because all of my books are set in the south since that’s what I know. I receive lots of letters from readers and it’s gratifying to see that they’re from all over the country—from California to Vermont to Alaska and even from Canada and Tasmania.

I think it’s because people are interested in reading about people and places outside their own four walls and own experiences—just as I was mesmerized by the Hollywood version of Vermont in Newhart. Whether or not you can identify with the characters and their situations, you can still be amused and entertained by lives and settings that are foreign to your own.

I’m toying with the idea of billing the city of Charleston for a “finder’s fee” since I’ve had many readers tell me that they’ve traveled to Charleston and the Low country after reading my books. What a compliment! My next book will be set in New Orleans, a city like Charleston with its own brand of southern uniqueness. As a little caveat for those of you from above the Mason-Dixon line: if you plan to visit New Orleans, make sure you pronounce it “N’awlins” so you’re not spotted right off the bat as being one of those tourists with fanny packs and dark socks with sandals, bless their hearts.

May 2, 2010

(78) Some Nerve by Jane Heller


I picked up Some Nerve at the library because I saw it was basically set in Missouri and I was feeling a little homesick so I picked it up. Jane Heller is a fun author. Her books are brain candy for those of us who have been stuck on a diet of meat and potatoes.

Ann Roth is a small town girl trying to make it as a Hollywood reporter. Her boss has commanded that she get an interview with *the* hottest movie star, Malcolm Goddard. When she refuses to confront her fear of flying just to get the interview she is fired and forced to go home to Middletown, Missouri with her tail between her legs.

Through an old high school friend, Ann learns that her nemesis, Malcolm will be entering the hospital for a heart procedure. Ann decides that she will "volunteer" to get close to Malcolm and prove to her LA editor that she does have what it takes to be a Hollywood reporter. But what she doesn't count on is that she starts to care for her patients and their problems, including hotshot Malcolm Goddard. Can she get the guy and still get the story?

Some Nerve was EXCACTLY what I needed today to keep my mind off of some serious family issues. It was light and fluffy, but with an intelligent and friendly heroine. I liked the development of the story and I liked how Ann grew from being this woman bent on revenge to genuinely caring about her patients, including Malcolm. Some Nerve was a fast read and the perfect kind of brain candy for a cold, dreary Sunday afternoon.

May 1, 2010