What I Read This Summer


I had to wait until I returned from vacation, but here is my list of the 16 books I managed to read since mid-June.

This story about a journey through the South involves Boop and her granddaughter, Eve. The middle part of this family is Eve’s mother, Justine, who is Boop’s daughter. Filled with Southern charm, author Mary Helen Sheriff writes with true emotion and tells a funny but poignant tale about relationships, misunderstandings, and, ultimately, redemption. The best kind of story!

This wonderful novel by the fabulous Jennifer Weiner is about girlfriends, past and present, all wrapped up in the complexities of living in these trying times. It’s witty and moving. Weiner has the Midas touch when it comes to beach reads!

I am grateful to Lisa at Ink Fish Books for gifting me with a copy of this book. I spent many mornings at Colt State Park reading, and losing myself in the rich, gorgeous writing of author Maggie O’Farrell. If you don’t know, Hamnet is a novel inspired by the real-life son of William Shakespeare, who died in 1596. It’s absolutely brilliant and, in my opinion, a must-read for anyone who loves literature.

I was on a Jennifer Weiner roll this summer, as Good in Bed was the second of three Weiner novels I devoured. This was her debut novel, and it tells the story of an overweight Jewish female journalist, her love and work life, and her emotional abuse issues with her father. Apparently much of the novel reflects Weiner’s own life, and I know she has struggled with weight issues for much of her life. It became a NYT bestseller, and I can see why. Five big stars.

I can’t imagine a summer full of reading without at least one of Roisin Meaney’s books on my table. In this one, three couples are set to spend a weekend at a house by the sea. Lily and Charlie, who had been married for over twenty-five years, but are now nearly divorced, show up, each with their own partner – Lily brings Joe, her new fiancé. Charlie brings his way-too-young girlfriend Chloe. And Lily and Charlie’s grown children, daughter Poll and son Thomas. With her trademark charm and genius for telling a story, Roisin Meaney weaves a seamless tale about family, love, loss, and forgiveness. If you’re a fan of Maeve Binchy books, you’ll love everything Roisin Meaney writes.

I only recently become a Daniel Silva fan. This one did not disappoint! Fast-paced, well written, Silva takes the reader on a whirlwind journey through Venice, Vatican City, even my beloved Switzerland! Silva’s intrepid character Gabriel Allon always is central to his stories, and this one brings up an important question about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Marisa de los Santos! Definitely one of my favorite authors. She writes with beautiful prose and explores the emotions that we sometimes hide deep within our hearts. There are characters here that are in her earlier novels, but not to worry, you don’t have to read her books in any order. This one shifts between the present day and the 1950s, and the author handles the changes effortlessly.

I love this cover, too. Yes, I went on a little Marisa de los Santos binge, reading three of her books in a row. Well worth your time. The way she uses words is genius, and she really does paint a picture with words. In I’d Give Anything, de los Santos brings the reader the most genuine of flawed human beings, and I hated to see this one end.

Then I read this one. So, I think this was Book 2 of her series, Blue Sky was Book 3, and I’d Give Anything was Book 4. I still have to read Book1! But it really doesn’t matter. The characters in this book were so real, so well-drawn – Piper and Cornelia and Dev – Dev! – and Teo. You’ll love them, too.

This was a really good book. The main character, Daisy, receives emails that are meant for someone else (email address off by a letter – that can happen!). Daisy is somewhat unsatisfied with her life and is intrigued by this other woman, based on the emails, thinking her life is more glamorous and exciting. When Daisy finally lets the other woman know about the mix-up, they meet and become friends. But perhaps the mix-up wasn’t entirely accidental.

Here’s an anthology for every James Taylor fan – and yes, that includes me! In fact, I was asked to contribute to this compendium, and my little story about one of JT’s songs in included. Taylor’s fans have recounted their lifelong long of his music and lyrics, and every one of the stories is impactful. Compiled by Rebecca Gold, a mega-fan, this one is a true pleasure to read.

Sometimes I ask myself why I’d ever want to revisit the awful trump years – I mean, they were horrible. This book focuses on the final year of his failed presidency, during the Coronavirus pandemic that engulfed the country. From his refusal to take the pandemic seriously to his denial of the election loss and his lies about election fraud, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker offer stunning detail about the final year of this dysfunctional presidency.

Elin Hilderbrand’s novels are made for summer reading, and I’ve checked a few of them out of the library, to catch up. Vicki, Brenda, and Melanie head to Nantucket (of course!) to escape their own travails and forget about aspects of their troubled lives. A young man named Josh enters their worlds and everything is turned upside down. A great read!

Okay, maybe it’s not correct to include this one, but I did read it! I had to, I was the editor! Actually, for the third year, I chaired the committee that solicited and accepted submissions of prose and poetry from members of the Association of Rhode Island Authors for its annual anthology. In this volume, with its theme of GREEN, the writers interpreted that theme in their own way and have provided a varied take on the theme, with compelling poems and short stories.

Oh, this book! My husband read it last year and kept telling me I needed to read it. Meanwhile, I had all these other books to read first, but finally, we had vacation and I made sure to bring The Great Alone with me. And I devoured it. Set in remote Alaska in the mid-1970s. it tells the story of teenager Leni and her dysfunctional parents, stuck in the wilds of Alaska when it was still remote and mostly off the grid. Leni’s father, a Vietnam veteran plagued by PTSD and violent outbursts, dreads the onset of winter and darkness. And her mother has every reason to be concerned, as those violent outbursts are generally directed at her. You should read this one.

This one finished off the summer for me. Seemed like a good end-of-summer read, and The Beach Club was Hilderbrand’s debut novel. Here we have Mack Petersen, who manages a hotel on Nantucket – he’s been there for 12 years, since he was 18 and left the family farm in Iowa after the tragic death of his parents. Mack’s girlfriend Maribel wants to get married, after being with Mack for six years, and she’s growing impatient. Meanwhile, a mistimed encounter with one of the hotel guests leads the hotel’s bellman, Vance (who’s hated Mack for the past 12 years), to threaten him with violence. Mack’s feeling the pressure! There are plenty of other characters in this story, and what I love about Hilderbrand is that even the most minor character can be memorable. A great summer read.

Okay, that’s it! Summer’s just about over, time to get back to work. What did you read this summer? What’s in your To-Be-Read pile?

Coming Soon – A Green Anthology


After the annual A to Z Blogging Challenge, which ended on April 30, I generally take a break from blogging. Can you blame me? Although most of the work is done during the months of February and March (so that I don’t have to blog each weekday – believe me, I learned the hard way!), still, I keep up with the April posts, catching little errors here and there. Also, I like to visit as many blogs as I can during the month of April, so little else gets done.

However, again this year I was chair of an annual project involving my fellow Rhode Island authors. For the sixth consecutive year, the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) will publish an anthology of stories, essays, and poetry by Rhode Island authors. This is my third year chairing and editing the project. It’s always exciting!

For 2021, I chose the theme of GREEN. I do believe an anthology should have a theme, something to tie together the submissions, and GREEN can be interpreted in many ways. There were stories and poems about GREEN in its many forms – envy, money, grassy areas, green eyes, ecology. The was memory and fantasy and baseball! We have a multitude of talent within our group.

So, look for our anthology, coming soon. It’s presently with the publishing company we use (https://www.stillwaterpress.com/). Copies will be available both online and through Stillwater.

And if you’re looking for past anthologies, check them out here:

https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/shoreline-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-and-prose-aria
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/under-13th-star-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-and-prose-aria
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/selections-aria-anthology
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/past-present-and-future-selected-short-fiction-non-fiction-poetry-prose-association-rhode-island-aut
https://www.stillwaterbooksri.com/hope-aria-anthology

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Alison O’Donnell


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

 

Stupid Cupid Alison O'Donnell

Even experienced daters are often left with questions on the process and the games that are played. Over the span of 30 years I have been on well over 100 horrendous dates– and lived to tell about it!! I’ve learned much and impart that wisdom throughout the hilarious pages of Stupid Cupid as only a SWF comedian can! This is an easy read, written in snippets, each one immediately followed by a moral so others don’t have to suffer as I did! It took two years to complete and I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished, especially since people seem to LOVE it! The book currently has a 4.9-star score on Amazon.com!

Stupid Cupid ~ A Survivor’s Guide to Online Dating is a hilarious self-help relationship book offering practical advice for both men and women. A fun read for any adult, it chronicles 100 really awful dates I’ve been on, 100% true! Each snippet (easy reading!) is immediately followed by practical advice. Married folks tell me it gives them a new appreciation for their spouse (It’s a jungle out here!!). Online dating is the modern way for singles to meet– very topical!– but it can be daunting if you don’t know the ropes!

Alison O'Donnell

Alison O’Donnell was accidentally born in Connecticut, but is a lifelong native Rhode Islander. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Alison has been skydiving, bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, scuba diving with sharks, zip lining, exceeding the speed limit halfway around the world, and is the mother of one teenage daughter. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Rhode Island College, a Secondary English teacher certification from Providence College, and a Master’s from the School of Hard Knocks. A creature of the stage, she has performed comedy in the Southern New England area for more than half her life, and played with various local bands as a singer/musician. In her spare time, Alison enjoys hiking with her two bichons, Rhett and Scarlett. She has taught high school English for the past 17 years, and doesn’t really know what she wants to be when she grows up. Here is her website

Alison is giving away a print copy of Stupid Cupid – just leave a comment on this post to be eligible!

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 for the RI Author Expo!

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Julien Ayotte


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

Code Name Lily Julien Ayotte

World War II certainly had its share of deserving heroes and heroines, many of whom have received their due recognition.  But how many civilian women can say they saved the lives of at least 250 downed airmen in just over two years?

Code Name Lily takes you on an unforgettable journey from Belgium, into France, and over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.  An extremely clever and persuasive young Belgian nurse outsmarts the Nazis time and again, risking her life if she is caught, but protecting every airman she successfully aids to evade the Germans.

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Code Name Lily is based on the true story of Micheline “Michou” Dumon-Ugeux, a legend in the Comet Line escape network from 1940-1944 who went only by the name of Lily.  You too will fall in love with Lily.  She may have stood only five feet tall, but she was a giant of a woman.

 

Julien Ayotte

Julien Ayotte is the author of five novels, including the award-winning Flower of Heaven and Dangerous Bloodlines.  Code Name Lily is his first historical fiction based on a true story.  His mother emigrated as a child to the United States from Belgium just after World War I, so the themes and places in this book hold special meaning for the author.

Julien’s other novels include A Life Before and  Disappearance, all Amazon best-sellers and award-winners with hundreds of 5-star reviews.  To learn more about Julien and his books, visit his website, www.julienayotte.com.

Julien is giving away a print copy of his new novel Code Name Lily. Just leave a comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random next week.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the RI Author Expo!

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Karen Petit


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

Holidays Amaze

Holidays Amaze

Do holidays amaze, or are holidays a maze? They are both, as the book Holidays Amaze illustrates with its maze poems, prayer poems, shaped poems, sonnets, and narratives. The poems that look like mazes, in addition to the ones that use maze symbolism, make Holidays Amaze an amazing collection of poems to enjoy.

Dr. Karen Petit‘s inspiration for this book was two items: a chapter about Thanksgiving in Mayflower Dreams and a poem that she wrote in 2014:

A May Flower in November 1620

The flowers of May were blooming away

in summer’s great warmth and fall’s wintry air.

A petal broke off, went sailing astray,

into the wind, with a Separatist’s prayer.

It paused in the sky with the blue turning gray;

then continued its trip ’til wooden beams were near.

When one of them cracked, the petal did say:

“I fear for my life! This storm’s so unfair!”

“But I know, in this world, many are things unfixed.”

“’cause I trust in my Lord, to Him I’ll pray.”

With prayers and repairs, the beam was soon fixed.

“I thank thee, Lord, for strengthening my ‘May.’”

The voyage moved on; many problems eclipsed.

In November within a New World’s bay,

the flower became Mayflower in-mixed.

This poem first was posted on Petit’s Mayflower Dreams blog and is now one of the poems in Holidays AmazeThinking a lot about Thanksgiving as an amazing holiday helped the author to also think about other holidays as amazing. These connections resulted in her creation of Holidays Amaze and maze poems.

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Dr. Karen Petit is the author of four novels: Banking on DreamsMayflower DreamsRoger Williams in an Elevator, and Unhidden Pilgrims. She loves to write and loves helping others to write.at the Community College of Rhode Island.

Karen is giving away a softcover print copy of Holidays Amaze, her just-published book of poetry. Just leave a comment on this post!

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the RI Author Expo!

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author Dana Gambardella


Leave a comment on today’s post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize giveaway at the end of the month! (Print copies to US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of this book.)

Grandma's House Dana Gambardella

Pause for a moment.

Listen.

Take a breadth.

Extend your hand.

Imagine if what you hear, smell, and touch in this very moment stayed with you forever. As children, we live each experience in the moment, tapping into each of our senses without even realizing how our senses will shape our cherished memories well into adulthood.

Welcome to Grandma’s House.

My children’s book takes a nostalgic look at my favorite childhood place. The home that built me. I spent a lot of time with my paternal Italian grandmother, Angela Gambardella, before she passed in April of 1988. She unselfishly gave me her time, love, infectious laughter, conversation, and passion for creating authentic Italian cuisine simmered with love.

Still standing tall in Providence, RI today, my grandma’s house was lovingly built brick by brick by my father and grandfather in 1956.

The book cover and illustrations throughout the story are exact replicas of the house and items in the home. My series of vivid memories come alive through the light, impressionistic watercolor techniques on each page that lend itself to the story’s feeling of nostalgia for readers of all ages and cultures.

The story comes full circle, capturing how I process my childhood experiences in order to discover, as an adult, that my senses, thankfully, keep my cherished memories alive forever.

Sharing Grandma’s House with children at home or school, with families or teachers, provides a unique opportunity to encourage them to reflect on their own process and how their own experiences shape their choices and interactions with others. As a mentor text, it can support educators with cross-curricular connections, i.e. the five senses, sensory imagery, memoir and descriptive writing, and social emotional learning discussions. Truly a Read Aloud for all ages. Let’s help children connect through story!

Dana Gambardella

An avid young reader, raised in North Providence, RI, I became a reflective writer in my teens, processing and savoring memories, feelings, and experiences. As a reading specialist for nearly 20 years, I value using story as the one constant innovative practice that remains powerfully instrumental for learners of all ages.

I coined the social media handle @LiteracyChef in 2015 when I realized my passion to read, write and nurture children’s love of story and appreciation for the impact their own story has on their learning process, just had to evolve.

Equally passionate for the culinary arts thanks to Grandma Gambardella, I understand that to be an expert in both areas, I must combine the right ingredients and practices to create a successful recipe—one that reaches many individual palettes and learners. As a result, I am embracing a lifetime of literacy, living to learn, and loving my process.

Find out more about Dana by visiting her website. Dana has a print copy of Grandma’s House for one winner. Just leave a comment on this post to be eligible.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the RI Author Expo!

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Leah DeCesare


 

For the past few years, I’ve had intermittent intentions of getting a “real” job, but writing keeps winning out and dabbling in applying for corporate jobs fizzles away. Writing is all I ever really wanted to do and I’m finally living that dream. As I was updating my Linked-In profile and my resume a couple of years ago, I discovered a thread that links my divergent and seemingly unrelated career and volunteer paths: Empowerment. Before recognizing this life theme, I’d written my debut novel which is all about encouraging women to believe in themselves.

 I’ve carried the central idea of this book with me since 1988 when my own father sent me off to college with the advice that my character, Amy York’s, dad sends her off to Syracuse University with: There are three types of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That tidbit was true and when I shared this silly system with my college friends it took off, with everyone adding descriptions for new utensils and talking as if it were an understood concept, for example, “I met this complete fork last night.” 


That idea sat with me for decades, but there was no story around it, so when I finally sat to write this book, I had to build the characters and their arcs and let the Utensil Classification System (the UCS) become a backdrop and an organizing idea serving the characters and their growth. In the end, I had a story about friendship and learning to believe in oneself.

I feel strongly about bolstering and helping people to have true self-love and confidence, especially girls/women who often don’t get the same messages as boys/men from society, family, and media. How can we step out into the world and grab hold of what we want in life without believing in ourselves? It’s critical.
I’ve been a Big Sister to a young woman, now twenty-three, since she was seven years old and it’s something we’ve worked on consistently. I facilitate leadership experiences for collegiate women, middle school girls, and older women in various life stages and the time we share is often described as “life-changing,” and I know that’s because we all need to hear messages of empowerment and strength. Messages that tell us it’s not only okay to prioritize ourselves and our desires, but that it’s essential to our health and happiness. By going after our own dreams, we in turn model the way and empower our daughters, our friends, our peers.
As I’ve met with and heard from readers of Forks, Knives, and Spoons, I’m proud that I continue to hear sentiments such as: “This should be required reading for all young women,” “Every high school and college graduate should be reading this book,” “I will be getting this book for the young women in my life.” To me, that means the message I hold dear is coming through and being shared and that’s a joy to any writer.

Leah DeCesare is the award-winning author of FORKS, KNIVES, AND SPOONS and the nonfiction parenting series NAKED PARENTING, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. 

Leah’s articles have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula and The Key, among others. In 2008, Leah co-founded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, Leah worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches and volunteers in Rhode Island where she lives with her family and their talking cockatiel. 
Visit Leah’s website, find her on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsPinterestInstagramBookbub, and Amazon

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering one signed copy of Forks, Knives, and Spoons  plus one of the T-shirts pictured above (Men’s sizes M, L, or XL). Just comment below to be entered. Winner will be chosen at random and the author will contac you directly. Contest ends one week after publication. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

November is RI Authors Month! (well, at least on my blog)


Again this year, as a lead-up to the Fifth Annual Rhode Island Authors Expo, I’ll be featuring a different RI author on this blog. (The Year of Living Minimally posts will continue on Fridays, too.)

Here’s an opportunity to learn more about an author you may or may not know. Many of the authors are also giving away a book, and all you need to do to enter is comment on the post! Here in tiny Rhode Island we have hundreds of authors – some with one book written, some with many. Genres include romance, history, horror, literary, memoir. There’s something for everyone.

So I hope you enjoy the coming month’s posts and get to know some fabulous authors!

It’s December!


lamott

Isn’t that the truth? For those of us who have been connected way too much to every tweet, snipe, or carp, perhaps it’s time to pick up a book. A real book, with pages you turn.

I just finished my Book-a-Day #Giveaway here on the blog (although each post stays ‘live’ for a week, so you can go back to November 25 and still comment on any of the last six posts for a chance to win) – this November series has led us up to what we in the Association of Rhode Island Authors call our BIG EVENT – the Fourth Annual RI Authors Expo. It’s this Saturday, from 11:00am to 5:00pm, at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet http://www.rhodesonthepawtuxet.com/directions/

Come join me and about 125 other talented writers – we’ll have plenty of books, discussions, raffle baskets, and I hear there’s even a bar. 😉