Armchair BEA Giveaway Day! James Madison By Lynne Cheney


Armchair BEA

Armchair BEA is for those people who cannot attend Book Expo America in NYC.  It’s a way for them to stay connected and join in. Today is day 4: giveaway day! We’re all giving away great books. After you enter my giveaway, then go have a look at the rest.

I have one finished hard copy of JAMES MADISON by Lynne Cheney for giveaway! How cool is this! The wonderful people at Penguin Publishing are furnishing this amazing biography just in time for Father’s Day giving.  What a great gift.

Lynne Cheney

James Madison

Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author or co-author of twelve books, including six bestsellers about American history for children and their families.  She holds a Ph.D from University of Wisconsin, and  has been studying Madison since 1987.  She is no slouch, as you can see.


Lynne Cheney

In order to be in the running to win this amazing history book, please leave a comment below. And, as usual. no P.O. boxes, please, and only residents of U.S.

This giveaway will end Friday, May 30. I am extending it so that the bloggers at BEA will have a chance for this great giveaway.

Good luck to everyone!

Announcing The Winner Of A Pinch Of Ooh La La by Renee Swindle!


Pinch of Ooh La La

What a great looking cover! I had so many entries. Makes it even more exciting to announce my winner. And the winner is… Erin! I will send you an email this morning.  You can send me your mailing address. The publisher will send your book out from their offices. Congratulations!

I want to thank all my entrants. If not for you guys, there would not be these great giveaways. More to come, soon:)

And, Erin, you will have 48 hours to respond. Thanks so much.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

BURNT TOAST MAKES YOU SING GOOD, by Kathleen Flinn, is her third book. I absolutely loved her first two. In fact, I have been braising the heck out of chicken, pork, and beef for a couple years now since I read ,THE SHARPER YOUR KNIFE, THE LESS YOU CRY.

I  love reading about food. I love cookbooks. I also love reading about how families bond over food and cooking. Kathleen Flinn has it all.

Flinn manages to entertain as she is teaching.  Her writing style is right up my alley. And she writes for all ages. My daughter loves her. Has her copy of THE SHARPER YOUR KNIFE, THE LESS YOU CRY, all flagged and creased from use, as is mine.

What makes this memoir different from the former books is that it is not in Paris, or in a cooking school. Flinn is bringing you her family from their roots. They move around this country. They’re in the middle of the country. Then take off for San Francisco. And on to  Northern Florida. I kid you not when I say they move around. This is happening before Kathleen has her aha moment and flies off to Paris to cooking school.

There are some mouth-watering recipes in this book. I have permission to add one in my review. So here goes:

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp




















My finished copy of BURNT TOAST MAKES YOU SING GOOD by Kathleen Flinn, came from the generous people at Viking Publishing in exchange for an honest review on my blog.  Thanks again for another amazing book!



































After reading BURNT TOAST MAKES YOU SING GOOD, by Kathleen Flinn, you’ll want to read about her exploits in Paris while attending La Cordon Blue, the famous cooking school. Plus, after she wrote that one, she came up with my favorite: THE SHARPER YOUR KNIFE, THE LESS YOU CRY! You are in for many treats here, any way you look at it, or anyway you read the books.

My finished  hardcopy came from my friends at Viking Publishing. I can’t thank them enough!





We Are Not Ourselves By Matthew Thomas

Matthew Thomas

We Are Not Ourselves

WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, by Matthew Thomas, is not a book that I would normally have picked up. But there was something about this book that called out to me….

This is a big book in more ways than one. It’s a tome of a novel;  over 600 pages. I read that it is one of the Big books for fall. That means they have high expectations for it. And so they should. And so do I!

I’ve never read a more in-depth and realistic picture of the American middle class;  it pretty much covers the twentieth century. To say this is a dynamic  novel of the American dream is an understatement.

This is a character- driven novel, sweeping in  scope.  Thomas is the king of detail. He leaves no stone unturned.  I was so compelled to keep reading this amazing novel  because I felt like I knew these people. I  kept willing  them all to persevere.

WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, starts out in 1951, in Queens, New York.  Eileen Tumulty is in grade school. Yet,  it is she who takes care of her Irish working-class, alcoholic parents.  And she begins to aspire to something much  higher  even at this young age.

The story begins with Eileen being led by the hand to the bar where her father spends most evenings after picking her up from school. At Doherty’s Bar, Eileen’s father was larger than life; his body filled the doorway  and his presence hushed the occupants. Eileen always ran ahead to make sure her dad’s bar stool was unoccupied and ready for him. Once her father was settled in, Eileen sat herself down at one of the creaky tables up front. There she sat, doing her homework in her pleated skirt with her collared blouse, listening in to hear the conversations.

Just try to imagine a parent taking a child into a bar nowadays. Good lord. But I know people who were subjected to this very thing, time after tim as youngsters.

Eileen adds the Leary to her name when she marries Ed, the love of her life. The man who is going to help her rise above all that came before.  But even though Ed  has opportunities that reach far above the stars, he chooses to teach instead of work in the field that would make him a very rich man, and, ultimately, make her a rich woman. So we begin to see a dousing of the fire that burns in Eileen’s eyes.

We watch the lives of Eileen and Ed, and then their son Connell, slowly unravel. We wonder what is happening even as we can not help but know deep in our hearts.

I have to say that this is an epic story of love and devotion as much as a detailed account of striving for the American Dream.  It also brings Eileen Leary into the realm of one of the strongest women in contemporary fiction, today.  We live with Eileen for six decades, and we come to know and care about her, intimately.

This is an important novel. But it’s not for the faint of heart. And as much as I did not want to read the horrors of this story, I could not put it down. I know people who are dealing with this horror even as I type this review. My hat goes off to them all.


Matthew Thomas

The writing is absolutely brilliant. It is impossible to believe this book is a debut. I am looking forward to reading an interview with Matthew Thomas, or hearing one. I’ll be thinking about this amazing new novel for a long, long, time.   I just know that this is a stunning major new talent that I will be keeping my eye on for a long time.

It speaks volumes when the publisher says  that WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, by Matthew Thomas, is,” quite simply and without hyperbole, the best novel Simon and Schuster will publish this year.”

I am so lucky to have received a finished hardcover of WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, by Matthew Thomas.  I will be bringing it along on my lectures this year, and proudly so! Thanks Simon & Schuster!

GiveAway! A Pinch Of OOh La La by Renee Swindle


Pinch of Ooh La La

This cover looks good enough to eat. Literally! A PINCH OF OOH LA LA by Renee Swindle, is fun, lively, and full of quirky characters who will have you in stitches.

The story is set in California. Abbey Ross owns her own bakery and is known around town for her “visually stunning wedding cakes.” But her personal ife has taken a dive. She just isn’t making good choices in relationships. But her friends are all there to help her out.

I have one copy of A PINCH OF OOH LA LA, by Renee Swindle, for giveaway. Just leave a nice comment below. No P.O. addresses, please. And only U.S. addresses. I will choose my winner on Friday.

I have New American Library to thank for the giveaway. As always, I send them a big thanks!

The Visitors by Sally Beauman


The Visitors

THE VISITORS, by Sally Beauman, is a historical novel based on one of the most exciting events in Egypt:  Combing The Valley of the  Kings and unearthing the tomb of the boy king, Tutankhamun.

The story of Howard Carter’s quest for King Tut’s tomb is not news. However, Sally Beauman manages to tell the tale using real and fictitious  people making it fresh. The voices of the two young girls are just delightful.

Our story begins in January of 1922. Eleven-year-old Lucy has arrived in Cairo to visit the pyramids with her guardian. Recovering from a deadly bout with typhoid fever, which has claimed the life of her mother, Lucy finds herself in the company of a group of scientists, their wives, lovers, and a whole host of snoops. Her academic father has decided to hide himself away in his writing, and has stayed behind in England. Add a high-profile disappearance, and you even have  a mystery.

What an exciting time to be in the Valley of the Kings.  Howard Carter had been digging for years so sure he was just on the verge of unearthing the biggest find of all: King Tutankhamun’s final resting place.

Linny's pic

Sphinx’s Paw ( photo by Lin Assink )

Among the pyramids of Giza, and enjoying luncheon at the paw of the Sphinx, Lucy finds herself enmeshed in more than a little history-making. But she’s caught up in the midst of a bunch of stuffy adults… Until Frances comes along to keep her company. Frances is the daughter of a wealthy American archeologist.  Their friendship is instant and forever.

A lot of time is taken to set this novel up. Once I was in Luxor and in the vicinity of the tombs THE VISITOR became a  page-turner. And by then, I wanted to soak up all the history. Beauman has truly done her research. She must have spent oodles of time and had a ball.  She has certainly presented the tale in a rich and entertaining way.

Going back and forth in time, most of the story takes place in the twenties and during the childhood of Lucy and Frances, however, the story does move to England in the present day as we find Lucy in old age and being prodded for information about the historic events concerning the finding of Tut’s tomb. The prodder is a young man who is making a documentary film about the find. He realizes there is more than meets the eye and is intent on finding the whole story. So it’s Lucy thinking back and remembering…

A lot is known about the discovery Carter made. But there is plenty of mystery still shrouding this dig.  And that is what makes this story so compelling. I loved this part of the novel. I pictured the gold and the artifacts as they were first set eyes on within the tomb.  And the tomb is actually much smaller than you would think. How do I know this? My friend Lin visited the tomb and the Valley of the Kings years ago. She took the picture of the Sphinx’s Paw above. In the novel Lucy and Frances and their group luncheon in the area by the paws. Amazing!!!

It is known that thousands of artifacts were in the tomb. And there were several rooms. It is all fascinating. Especially so, since we know most of this is true.  I asked Lin about the heat.  Yes, it’s as stifling as you can imagine. Almost unbearable, I would think.  These tombs have been here for three thousand years, and many of them have painting and writing that is still intact. The Sphinx itself appears to be in bad shape, but they have worked to support it.


Sphinx ( Lin Assink )

Lucy has to return to her home in England, eventually. She is schooled by a young woman who ends up being a very important person in her life.

And then she returns to Luxor to visit Howard Carter at the dig site. Yes, he’s still there after years. He’s been mentored by Lord Carnarvon, his financier and resident of Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame. Finally, news of an impending “important” find in the Valley is whispered in the media. And now the excitement has built to a clamorous height.  This is what we’ve been waiting for.

This tome of a book about a tomb is ambitious in both scope and story. It works. Give it time, though. I think you’ll be glad you did.


Sally Beauman

My gorgeous review copy is now dogeared and beaten up. I thank Harper Collins for sending. Thanks so much!

The Winner Of Dear Daughter By Elizabeth Little Is Announced!

Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

I have my winner! The winner of DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little is… Mary Teela. Congratulations Mary! You’ll receive an email from me shortly asking for your mailing address.  Your fabulous book will arrive straight from Viking Penguin, the publisher. Thanks go out to Viking for providing this book for my giveaway.

I have to thank each of you for entering. My giveaways have been very well attended this summer. Especially this one. It’s important. It’s what keeps the books coming. Thanks so much!

Stay tuned as more giveaways are coming my way …………soon!

Extra Virgin by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar


Extra Virgin

I requested this amazing cookbook for review. I choose cookbooks very carefully. Since we’ve visited Tuscany and enjoyed the food immensely, I figured this book would be a good fit for me. I sure was right!

Gabriel Corcos and Debi Mazar are a married couple with two daughters living in  NYC and the hills of Fiesole  just above Florence, Italy. Gabriele  grew up in Italy. Debi in America. Their story is romantic and fun to read about. But, it’s really all about the food. EXTRA VIRGIN is a compilation of authentic Tuscan recipes that are both easy and doable to make. The gorgeous photos leap and hop off the pages and propel you to the nearest market. 

Written with keen insight, EXTRA VIRGIN will transport you to another country, another world, where you can experience the beauty and flavors of Tuscany from the comfort of your own home.

From sumptuous appetizers like Heirloom Tomato And Burrata Caprese to rustic  pastas and sauces made from scratch like Lasagna Bolognese. And I can’t forget to mention the aromatic but simple soups and the fresh savory salads topped with their own simply made dressings. And, of course, the drinks and desserts!There truly is something for everyone.

Extra Virgin

Debi & Gabriele

The blurbs on the inside of this wonderful book are glowing. From Madonna to Anthony Bourdain, and Bobby Flay to Cat Cora. The spirit of Tuscany comes vividly to life with each page. Speaking of pages, the photography in this cookbook is second to none. I love pictures in cookbooks. But it’s the actual recipes that win the cooks over.

Under The Tuscan Gun is a blog written by Gabriele. 

My favorite recipe is for the Heirloom Tomato And Burrata Caprese.  This is the photo on the cover. It’s what makes most people pick this book up. Since I am a huge fan of a really good mozzarella and tomato salad, this appealed to me. I needed to know what the white substance in the center of the salad actually was. At first glance, I thought it might be a poached egg. But, alas, it is the mozzarella combined with cream that is called burrata. It is creamy and perfect for me. In fact, this salad is a complete meal when a hunk of rustic Italian bread is provided!

I also love the grilled peaches. Right now, here in Florida, we have peaches in season. They are ripe, juicy, and luscious.  Grill them up with a little olive oil drizzled over them, and add some sea salt and ricotta cheese. Oh my!

Then there’s the fried artichokes. Which brings to mind my trip to Tuscany, again.  I loved seeing artichokes growing wild in the fields surrounding one of the great hill towns: San Gimignano.  We visited in May a few years ago and stumbled upon them growing wild.


Tuscan Artichokes

This fabulous cookbook is already getting dog-eared and flagged to death. So many recipes I want to make. My husband is also into cooking, and he’s quite excited about this one.

At this very moment, Gabriele and Debi are having a blast in Fiesole, filming the fifth season of their wildly popular cooking show, “EXTRA VIRGIN.”

I could go on and on. But, do yourself a favor: buy this cookbook for your collection. I guarantee you that you will want to keep EXTRA VIRGIN on your countertop to use on a daily basis.

I received this book from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS in exchange for an honest review. I send out a big thanks to Clarkson Potter, the publisher, as well! Thanks so much.


Giveaway: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Elizabeth Little

Dear Daughter

DEAR DAUGHTER, by Elizabeth Little, is a heart-pounding, can’t-put downable thriller. This one is for fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL!

Inspired by the overturn of the Amanda Knox trial, Little is a huge fan of true crime and romance. She definitely uses all this to her advantage here. Little admits to sometimes actually getting lost in research…

I have one copy of DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little, for giveaway. Viking has generously supplied this page-turning new novel. Please leave a comment below. No P.O. boxes, please. And only U.S. addresses.  I will choose one winner on Monday, August 11th.  Don’t miss out on this one.


Marine Park by Mark Chiusano

short stories

Marine Park

Marine Park by Mark Chiusano is a book of short stories written by a promising young writer who has nailed the sense of place: the lesser-known area in Brooklyn, New York.

Publisher’s Weekly says, ” A promising debut…23-year-old Chiusanlo revisits his native Brooklyn-Brooklyn-specifically, Marine Park. The neighborhood, distinguished by its salt marshes, canals, and large waterfront park, serves as the collection’s focal point, bringing together a multigenerational cast of characters.”

I rarely read short stories. Most of you know this.  And, I will say, this book of shorts if geared more toward a younger audience, I think. However, having said this, I will say the writing is edgy and the characters are well-fleshed out. The sense of place is spot-on. And this is a quick read.

I was able to relate to the story called AIR CONDITIONING. Brought back memories of summertime in Delaware where I grew up. Most people did not have air conditioners in their homes in the late fifties and early sixties. I remember having a window fan in my bedroom that I would use only when needed. So when this family brought in first one air conditioner, then another, then another, it made me smile, and remember.  What on earth would we do without air conditioning here in S.W. Florida where I live now? Well, honestly, it would be a much less populated place.

If you’re looking for a quick summer read, and you love stories, this is for you.

My review copy came from Penguin. Thanks so much!

Amy Falls Down By Jincy Willett

Jincy Willett

Amy Falls Down

AMY FALLS DOWN, by Jincy Willett, snuck into my to-be-read pile. That’s a good thing.  It’s my first time reading Jincy Willett but, it won’t be my last.

Amy Gallup is a writer past her prime, or so she thinks. One New Year’s morning she’s padding out to plant a Norfolk Pine in her yard in southern California when her world turns upside down; quite literally. Amy falls down. And knocks herself out on the lip of her birdbath. She wakes sometime later to find her basset hound Alphonse dutifully waiting for her to wake.  All it takes is one moment to change your life. And that is what happens to Amy.

Amy hasn’t been writing for some time. She’s a writing instructor online. So different from having to actually appear in front of real people. She’s become quite the recluse over the thirty years since her divorce and relocation to California from the East coast.  She’s lost touch with her readers. And she had been touted as a writer with much potential.

The interview Amy had scheduled for New Year’s Day will go on. Even though Amy grants it, she does not remember it. But everyone sees the photo ( hideous) of her in the paper and reads it. And now that internet and social media immediately take things viral, you can only guess what happens next. When Amy gets a call from her long lost agent she is flummoxed.  And then everything changes, and Amy has some monumental decisions to make.

The characters we meet as Amy takes on a writers’ retreat, are zany and colorful. Some of the topics they are writing about are unbelievable. It takes all kinds.

This literary satire made me laugh. And that is a good thing. Yes, writers do mostly live quiet, sometimes downright lonely lives. And sometimes they need to be jolted out of their comfort zones. Amy and Alphonse will make you laugh, and give you a quick and satisfying read.