Wiki says: A southern belle (derived from the French word belle, ‘beautiful’) is an archetype for a young woman of the AmericanOld South’s upper class.

RoadTrip Success!

Well maybe the definition of a Southern Belle is a little archaic and superficial, but I plan to become more intimately acquainted with those states who once made up a Confederacy.

For better or worse, Michigan has always been my home.  Although I often detested and felt limited by the small town I was raised in, heading back to MI from college, Chicago, and then NYC was always a trip that I looked forward to.  There’s a feeling of calm when you’re heading back to a world so recognizable – knowing every street, where the creaky floor board is, how to sneakily turn up the heat on the pool just enough that your dad won’t notice, and being able to walk to the bathroom in the dark without tripping and no fumbling for lightswitches, since hell, you’ve been in the same house you entire life (well, except for the first eight months but who’s counting).

Well as of last week, the life I knew has changed by… 692.77 miles and an 11 hour drive (Mapquest).

That’s right, folks, my parents, Northerner’s born and bred, have relocated to Tunica, Mississippi!  You may be familiar with the city (no judgments here) because it is the third most popular gambling destination in the United States, behind Vegas and Atlantic City!  My Dad is not a professional poker player and I doubt my mom will ever wear the costume of a cocktail waitress, but they will live a mere ten minutes from the lights of the casinos.

My mom and I road-tripped down to Tunica last week for the final move – the two of us, Skippy the dog, and a load of my mom’s favorite plants (the “greenhouse” had much more room than poor Skippy and I who had to share the front seat!).  Tunica is a very cute little town overflowing with nice, friendly southerners.  I got my hair done (note to self: always get hair done in South; much better pricing than NYC extravagance!) and in that two hours, was given a brief lesson in Southern etiquette and history.

Dad in front of the Tunica Times newspaper

But I need to know more.  The South truly is a different world. Not only do people have accents  (which is #1 on my Southern Belle list – I hope to pick mine up over the Christmas holidays) but a different history than what I grew up with.  So while I’m searching for all the light switches in our new house next time I visit (when I left after my stay, there were outdoor lights on that we had no idea how they came on, or how to turn off!), I plan to be educating myself on the life from my perch in NYC.

My Southern Book List:

Mom & Skippy in the MS living room pre-moving truck arrival

I wouldn’t even know where to begin to make this a Southern Belle Challenge, but I would love to hear if anyone wanted to dive in to the deep south with me!  Also, I’m sure I’m missing valuable southern literature so please y’all, feel free to make suggestions.

Advertisements

How serendipitous – I return from my own blogging disappearance to share my thoughts on the debut novel, THE ART OF DISAPPEARING.

My own disappearance is nothing like in the novel – I didn’t travel to another dimension or get lost in a hidden pocket of space or have a spur-of-the-moment wedding in Vegas (though I think my mom wondered when I called her quite late from the Caribbean!)… But we are not Toby and Mel.

Toby Warring and Mel Snow have a relationship that began unconventionally – having met in a desolate diner in a small town in Nevada, just outside the circle of the Vegas lights then married within 48 hours upon arrival in Sin City (sober, I’m compelled to add).  Toby is not merely a magician who pulls rabbits out of hats, but has the ability to create his own magic not relying on illusions and tricks of the eye.  Mel accepts Toby’s abilities/magic without reluctance (I’m a big fan of magic myself, but this was more than mind tricks and into the realm of paranormal – I would definitely have been a little more freaked out about his abilities – except white wine to red and vice versa sounds fun).

The paranormal comes from more than just Toby’s abilities. Though he has no malicious intent (no black magic here), he doesn’t always have control over his abilities. Most notably, he lost his past assistant and girlfriend Eva in the middle of a magic trick. Though Mel’s career seems more grounded in reality (less “woo woo,” as Catherine Coulter would say), she can hear fabrics sing to her.

The woman behind the beautiful prose

A little odd right?  A magician with real abilities and a consultant who can hear fabrics sing.  A story that may have unraveled or gone up in smoke (lame puns intended), debut author Ivy Pochoda has a way with words that keeps the story moving.  She lyrically and poetically describes magic in a way that makes this novel less “woo woo” (as Catherine Coulter would say) and crafts into a love story grounded in reality… if you’re willing to bend your imagination to contend with hidden “pockets” in the air, into which people and objects magically appear and also hide.

I think the characters were drawn together over shared loneliness.  Both were haunted by happenings in their past – Toby his missing assistant along with the tragedy that happened in Vegas, and Mel with her brother that feel too deeply in love with water.  I wanted more between the characters – it never clicked to me as to why they were together; what compelled them to love the other.  And maybe that’s why it ended the way it did (I don’t want to ruin anything – read it  yourself!) – because it was more a relationship of timing and the shared need to shed loneliness than a real partnership

I’m thrilled that TLC Book Tours introduced me to the writing of Ivy Pochoda – Marilyn Dahl of Shelf Awareness says it best with “Ivy Pochoda has written a lyrical novel that will enchant you with a love story and with poetic, evocative prose.”

You can connect with Ivy on her website or on Facebook, and I highly suggest you visit other reviews of this enchanting debut novel on the TLC tour found here.

I’m sneaking this post in just in time! It’s my last day at work before a four-day long Labor Day weekend, and I’ve been wearing white clothes all week.  I hate when it’s time to relegate my white pants and dresses to the back of my closet (er, shoved under my bed since closet too small), not only because it indicates the dismissal of summer, but I just love happy, bright colors.

But, if I wanted to  bring back the memories of summer – the sunshine, swimming pools, green grass, wine, cocktails enjoyed while watching sunsets from the patio <swoon>, all I would need to do is re-read Danielle Ganek’s latest novel, THE SUMMER WE READ GATSBY.

I read the iconic GREAT GATSBY post college, when I was in a selfish haze enjoying my first summer as an “adult” in Chicago.  I enjoyed the story and the fanciful clothing and setting, but think I missed some of the finer points of this “Great American Novel.”  Reading the importance (er, “influence on the character) of the novel in Ganek’s latest made me want to rush out and find a copy to read again (also, to discover that elusive first edition with dust jacket supposedly worth more than $100k!).

This is a fun read, starting off with highlighting the differences between two half- sisters, thrown together for a month in Southampton in the home of a now-deceased beloved aunt.  Pecksland (yes, that’s her name), better known as “Peck” is a 32 year old NYC society gal who’s a wannabe actress (I think we all know a few of these), while Stella Blue Cassandra Olivia Moriarty (who goes by Stella or Cassie) is a shy 28-year old brought up in with conservative European ways, with no living relatives other than the eccentric Peck.

The two sisters are both adrift in their lives, as Peck’s dreams have yet to be realized, while Stella recently went through a divorce and is still reeling from the death of her aunt.  The ramshackle bungalow in Southampton brings these two characters, along with a couple other “Fools” (their aunt was very supportive of struggling artists and allowed non-paying “fools” to live in the garage) and takes a fun romp through the bustling community that’s the Hamptons in the summer.  Obviously, their sharp edges towards each other become more like sea glass (how’s that analogy?!) as they warm up and end up actually liking each other.

Now I feel all nostalgia for my summer that’s over.  Ganek does a great job showing the dichotomy and place of the Hamptons – new money vs. old, and the huge new mansions though large in size may be small in taste.  There were fewer pool parties and wine tours than I would have expected – since really, what were these people doing all day!? But she did share friendships, love interests, family drama and a little bit of mystery.  This is truly a summer read (or a firelight read when you’re trying to bring back summer thoughts), best enjoyed on the Long Island Railroad, when you have a patio, pool and beach bonfire in your imminent future.

Oh yes, and the aunt’s name is Lydia so I think I see a Southampton bungalow in my future (dad, you reading this? It’d be a great 26th b-day gift/investment!).  I’ve already had quite the Southampton summer, thanks to my bf’s share house as well as Ganek’s sumptuous novel.

Good-Bye Hamptons, hello September.

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.

US jacket

Yes it’s Wednesday, and I’m skipping my Wordless Wednesday post (even though I have several fabulous doors to share!) because I told myself I wouldn’t  participate unless I had shared a review since my last WW.  So here I am; writing about vintage clothing instead of sharing some vintage doorways.

Last week while delayed in yet another airport, I went on a little Kindle buying spree (for conservative spenders, it’s really convenient that Kindle doesn’t give you a combined order total but charges for every title) and among the new Larsson, Evanovich and Roberts, I discovered a jewel in THE VINTAGE AFFAIR by the charming Brit,  Isabel Wolff.

While this novel has stories of romance, the protagonist Phoebe is an independent woman, who opens a vintage clothing store in London.

A warning to all you with a propensity to shop: be careful upon finishing this book! I happened to be in Newport, RI for a gorgeous wedding last weekend and found myself spending hours in the vintage store, determined to find the dress that spoke to me, as deliciously described by Wolff.  Unfortunately (fortunately for my wallet) I found no such dress, but I will keep looking.

UK jacket

Beyond the gorgeously described vintage threads, there is a story of two female friendships woven throughout.  One is that of Phoebe and her late best friend, Emma, and the other is through a connection discovered with an ill, elderly woman who lived during WWII.   The emphasis on the novel is strongly in the friendship camp, although there is a bit of romance (or discussion of the lack there of) in Phoebe’s dating life and the recent demise of her parent’s marriage.

This book isn’t life changing, though it definitely offers more depth than traditional chick lit.  It will make you think about some of your personal regrets you’ve been carrying with you, and may offer some insight on how to let it go.  Perfect read for a trip, especially if you’re escaping to a charming countryside with many vintage offerings!

Which jacket do you prefer? UK or US?

I was recently visiting the wonderful blog Whimpulsive (such a neat word – wish I had thought of it!) when I was utterly inspired to hop on the weekly post called “Wordless Wednesday.”  SuziQ’s photo that convinced me to play can be found here (wine tasting yes please).  But because I like themes, I am going to dedicate my weekly Wednesday post to doors.

Doors you ask?  Don’t ask me why, but I have a thing for doors.  I’m a walker, and I consistently find myself pointing out intriguing/cool/classy/gorgeous/gothic/hideous doors to my walking companion, who no matter it is, doesn’t seem to share my interest.  But come on, people, imagine the lives behind each and every door!  So my goal is to (hopefully not creepily) photograph the doors I walk by and enjoy.

Let’s begin here:

55 St. Marks Place, NYC

How cool are those carvings on either side?! And I only wish my shoddy iPhone camera could capture the veins trailing up the entire brownstone.  Gorgeous.

Hmmm is it still “Wordless Wednesday” if I write about it?  This weekly post reminds me of the “White Russian Wednesdays” we used to celebrate in college.  Not quite the same.  Maybe I’ll find a door that reminds me of kahlua at some point.

And a BIG THANKS to BethFishReads (check out her amazing W.W. post here) for pointing out that I need to link to the home of all these fabulous photos: http://www.wordlesswednesday.com/newhome/

I like to think I’m not a superficial book buyer or reader (I trust you fellow bloggers to tell me about books!), but if I were to buy a book for its cover, I definitely would choose 31 BOND STREET.

Beyond the jacket, the cover language of: “A Novel of Murder, Innocence and Power in New York City” is very compelling. Additionally (like I need another reason), I walk by Bond Street at least once a day, as it’s located between my current apartment in the East Village and just about every other place I go.

Though the house of the “society dentist” in this novel no longer stands, the intersection of Bond Street and Bowery is still a hive of activity, with pedestrians walking and cabs honking all day and well into the night.  Though in this novel, the setting of 31 BOND STREET was in many ways a simpler time of horse-drawn carriages, though the simple times didn’t stop evil from rooting.

Based around a murder that stole the newspaper headlines back in 1857, this novel introduces us to the widowed Emma Cunningham, struggling financially while trying to hold her place in society and raise her two daughters (less raising them than trying to rope good husbands).  When a summer trip to Saratoga (which sounded like an old-fashioned Hamptons!) introduces Emma to wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell, she thinks her future is accounted for.

Bond St & Bowery intersection today

Upon moving in to Harvey’s brownstone at (you guessed it) 31 Bond Street, Emma awaits the marriage proposal she thinks is imminent.  The short time in this abode, she alienates the servants while making the location more pleasant for her daughter’s suitors.  It doesn’t take long for her to realize that while she’s sleeping with Harvey, she may not be next in line to be Mrs. Burdell.

Then Harvey is found brutally murdered, his head almost detached from his neck.  With no witnesses, Emma is quickly the only suspect.

Filled with power, corruption and greed, this novel has many strands of historical significance weaving through.  From the “good” lawyers to political corruption to issues of slavery and power, it is not only a courtroom drama but a colorful fictional look at a different time.

Beyond the rough-edged paper, my other favorite unique aspect of this book were the fictional clips from The New York Times, which did a wonderful job setting the scene and lending a feeling of legitimacy to the time and place.

While I enjoyed the historical imagery, throughout the book I was disappointed by the lack of emotion felt by all characters.  Not once does Emma seem to consider falling in love with Harvey (or anyone else), nor does she seem to have many maternal affections toward her daughters beyond finding them a suitable husband.  I found the most feelings to be from the lawyer who seems to accept Emma’s case rather spontaneously and accept the loss of position with a prestigious law firm.  I also enjoyed the young character John.  Beyond those, I was surprised by how unemotional the book felt, when murder trials typically incite very passionate responses.

This is a wonderful book for readers who appreciate historical details and a setting painted with a talented hand.  It really did take me back to a different time period.  If you enjoyed Jed Rubenfeld’s THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER you should definitely pick up 31 BOND STREET.

You can find this debut novel for sale on Amazon, B&N, Borders and IndieBound.  I look forward to Horan’s next novel.

Thank you to TLC Book Blog Tour for planning this tour!  Hop over and visit the rest of the tour stops here.

My out of office is officially enabled, letting everyone who emails me know that I will not be returning until MONDAY, JULY 12th!!!!!

Off to the Hamptons for a long, idyllic 4th of July weekend before heading  home to MI to my childhood home for the LAST TIME! I don’t know if I’ve shared with everyone, but my parents are packing up our home of 25+ years and heading South – all the way to MISSISSIPPI!  Yes, of all the places in the world to relocate to, it wouldn’t have been my first pick either (hello, San Diego!?), but I’m very excited about the opportunity for my family and look forward to a warm Christmas.  I’ve never been to MS, so if anyone has any reading suggestions I’d love to hear them!  Of course I’ve read THE HELP and plan to reread again before my first trek down there, but would appreciate additional suggestions.

Then on to Chicago, for the wedding of a college friend. I’m at that age where everyone seems to be settling down, which is both exciting and rather scary!

No worries on reading materials; my Kindle is uploaded with lots of good stuff like the  upcoming BODY WORK by Sara Paretsky, GARDEN SPELLS that was suggested by many of you (thanks, Lisa!), THE GOOD WIFE, and also two physical books I’m in the midst of enjoying: IF YOU KNEW SUZY and the upcoming book of the fall from Kensington Books, FRIDAY MORNINGS AT NINE.

I look forward to enlightening you all on my “vacation” (though I intend to take a tropical one in the real future that involves more umbrella drinks and less packing) readings.  I wish you all a happy 4th!!

NovelWhore Tweets

September 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('6f7a561c-c271-445d-a120-8d99edb3e40d');Get the Penguin Classics book of the day widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info)