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Have I mentioned that I enjoy reading about different lifestyles/religions?  Polygamy, harems, leprechauns, eskimos and the like fascinate me (no disrespect intended).  A little closer to home are the Amish.

I grew up in a small town in rural Michigan.  With few stoplights, very little ethnic diversity (no edible sushi or falafel), one high-school (except for the “academy” to which you were sent if kicked out of public school or pregnant), but there was uniqueness since we had an Amish population.  We would pass them driving in their buggys, or visit nearby Indiana for a pie or the spontaneous quilt purchase (thanks, Mom).

It’s always been a fascinating lifestyle to me (when I visited Lancaster, PA with some new friends from NYC, I was determined to interact with the Amish, hence photograph below), and I’ve been searching for some good fiction on the topic.  I tried Mennonite In A Little Black Dress but it wasn’t different enough (the family used a computer!?).  I read the Beverly Lewis series, but they were a little too preachy for me.  Thanks to a review in People magazine and a friend at Macmillan, I arrived at the Kate Burkholder series by Linda Castillo.

As the rain came down yesterday evening, my shopping plans were swept away in the tsunami-like conditions,  so I excitedly pulled the first book in the series, SWORN TO SILENCE, from my overflowing TBR shelf.  This novel introduces the reader to Painters Mill, Ohio; a small, idyllic town with an English and Plain community.  Kate Burkholder is no Kay Scarpetta (though she is  a welcome edition to my fictional female badasses), wielding several advanced degrees as she solves crimes, but the first female Police Chief in the town she grew up in, when she was born Amish.

Me determined to capture the Amish experience while visiting PA

This is an intense thriller in which Castillo successfully weaves several intricate plots without losing the greater thread.  Burkholder is a very likable character, facing her own personal demons from a time, lifestyle and family she left behind, while trying to solve graphic and disturbing murders.  The supporting characters are well developed without overshadowing the protagonist.  The snowy setting and graphic murders remind me of the Finland depicted in James Thompson’s SNOW ANGELS (which I reviewed here), while the tying in of Amish life fascinates me.

I agree with the starred reviews awarded by Kirkus and Booklist when this book was first published, and I’m excited to begin the newly released PRAY FOR SILENCE during the next storm.  This thriller really made me appreciate my pretty lamp and air conditioner (aka use of electricity) as I was absorbed in the world of Painters Mill, Ohio.  I’m really interested in researching a weekend on an Amish farm to experience the lifestyle firsthand, anyone want to join?

Thompson St, SoHo, NYC - aka HOME!

FINALLY!  Not only did I earn this Wordless Wednesday post through two reviews since my first WW (I told myself no WW fun unless I write a review in between), but the blood, sweat and tears involved in this door make it a very deserving share.

I may or may not have mentioned that I abhor moving, but was doing so anyways due to our past landlord raising our already sky-high rent even higher (seriously, you non-NYC dwellers would be appalled).  So, after much debate my roommate and I made the big decision to move to a different, hopefully nicer, 650 sq. foot, er, palace.

Of course moving is never as easy as one would expect or hope – and I even anticipated difficulty – but I  had not foreseen being stuck in five days of moving purgatory/HELL when our lease ended slightly before our new one began.  With a couple very nice boyfriends, neither Liz nor I was sleeping in a box in Central Park, but we did pay more than $1k for storage for a meager half of our belongings.

Now, all of our stuff is contained within the lovely, but not exactly spacious, apartment inside the wonderful red door shown above! I love red doors, always have, so think it was very serendipitous of us to find this place. Now if only someone would come find space where there is none, so we don’t look like hoarders any more…

PS you should see my bookshelf.  I plan to post a picture soon! I got rid of so many books before I moved, but one visit to the Penguin giftshop and I’ve more than made up for it.

Sisters, City, Romance, Gay man friends, Family, Cocktails and… Waxing.

A story of NYC + Sisters seems like my type of novel, especially in these hot summer months when I need to escape the airlessness that can overtake my tiny NYC pad to go lie in a shady patch of green.

But even typing “patch of green” makes me cringe a bit, as I think of the Salon that this whole story is centered around.  I’m not easily embarrassed – I’m way too clumsy to blush over the occasional trip or the bruises that consistently appear from things hopping right in my way – but WAXED details some “below the belt” happenings that I would have preferred remained un-detailed.  I found myself to be rather distracted by the, er, unique setting that it was difficult to focus on the sisters.

From the publisher:

Waxed is the story of three relationship-challenged sisters working together at New York’s hottest waxing salon, catering to socialites, actresses, and regular folk alike.

Yank. On the surface, glamorous Carolina Impresario—big sister and owner of Impresarios—unapologetically wants it all, but secretly she is caught between her successful boyfriend and the only man she has ever truly loved.

Pluck. After a painful divorce, middle sister Anna reluctantly reenters the workforce and puts on a brave face while attempting to raise her children, one of whom is decidedly different.

Tear. Newlywed Sofia is a hybrid of her two older sisters: She loves the idea of a domestic life like Anna’s, but is entranced by New York nightlife and a new best friend, resulting in some major complications at home.

There was more than just hairless talk, as the three sisters had some complicated issues – I just wish I had been able to care more.  This book was a quick read, so we didn’t get to go in-depth with any of the characters but just skimmed the surface.  Carolina is a little too cold for comfort and I wish there had been a couple more cracks in her facade (and what happened with her “surprise” at the end).  Anna was sweet enough, but nothing stellar (though I did like her interactions with JJ and the way she accepted her children unconditionally).  Sofia was exploring herself and testing boundaries and was fun to follow along, though had some questionable behaviors that seemed to be in contradiction with other aspects of her described personality (which is totally allowed, just an observation… by far my favorite sister.  And wow, what a twist – yes, that’s intended to hook you!).

The winning character award goes to JJ, the eccentric elderly widow who is determined to live out The New Yorker’s “List of Things To Do in NYC Before You Die” before her terminal illness takes her.  Though Anna is written as the sidekick, the opposite is true – JJ was the highlight of this novel.

Side note – I tried to find this list, does anyone know if it really exists? The closest result Google delivered is the Facebook page called “New York Bucket List” here.

I’m more interested in the author than the characters, and I don’t really mean that as an insult.  His official bio is “Former New York City publicist, Robert Rave, has worked on numerous public relations campaigns and high profile special events in the lifestyle, fashion, nightlife and entertainment industries.  He is the author of SPiN and currently lives in Los Angeles.” But I suggest you visit his website at http://www.robertrave.com to learn more.  It’s so curious to me that a man chose to set a book around a waxing salon.  I enjoyed this book enough to want to pick up Robert’s SPiN when it comes out in paperback (which I think would be soon), as I think the public relations setting would appeal to my apparently prudish sensibilities more.

This book is the perfect pick for a beach read as it’s short enough to carry around without being weighed down and you can read it in one sitting – though be aware you may blush at some parts!  You can pick it up on Amazon here.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for hosting this book tour!  I invite you to take a look at the list of all blog hosts available here.

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