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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Tag: friendship

Soup To Nuts by Judith Deborah

What do you do when your best friend marries someone who isn’t you?

Romy Belkin—28, unrepentant English major, a Michelangelo in the kitchen—is the culinary genius behind viral YouTube channel A Dash of Paprika. Its star is the fabulous Pia Zimble, Romy’s dearest friend. But one day, a fan of the show materializes—a man Romy has to admit is perfect for Pia—and sweeps her friend out of their kitchen and into a whole new life.

Bereft but trying not to be, Romy throws herself into navigating her new landscape. But the stakes of her explorations are higher than she thinks. If she’s not careful, Romy could lose herself along the way—as well as the chance to love and be loved by a soulmate of her own.

A witty and warm-hearted comic love story, Soup to Nuts is a novel about deep and enduring friendship, love in its many varieties, and truly spectacular food.

 

Thanks to the author for this review copy!

SOUP TO NUTS is a sweet romantic comedy about Pia and Romy, two besties who work on a food blog together, happily ever after clearly in sight…. until Pia finds the love of her life. Romy needs to learn to live her life without being joined at the hip with Pia.

Told in Romy’s voice, SOUP TO NUTS takes us through Romy’s journey post-Pia. At first, she is in a type of mourning, as she misses Pia and also laments her own lack of male prospects. A friend of hers helps Romy find some blind dates that are fun, but short-lived. No one is clicking for her, and she keeps looking, even though there already is someone in her life that would be perfect for her. Will Romy realize this in time and open her heart, before he finds someone else?

The author hits the perfect blend of romantic and comedy – not too heavy on either side, which is perfect for me. Both Pia and Romy are developed well, and I was able to feel their emotions clearly, whether it was raucous girl fun or a quick flare of anger. The descriptions of Romy’s relatives, especially her mother, are to die for. The author creates the perfect Jewish mother with both love and laughter.

“What on earth are you doing with that silly man?” Ma asked. 

“You mean Chip?” said Romy.

“Chip,” Ma said scornfully. “Chip Scott. Never trust a man with two first names.”

“You’re prejudiced. If his name was Chip Rabinowitz, you’d be calling the caterers.”

At times the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny, other times it turns poignant. I truly felt as if I knew the girls well, and thus became invested in their future. Romy is a cook, and so the book is filled with descriptions of food, sumptuous and hunger-inducing. She turns to her kitchen in times of need, so there is a lot of cooking after Pia gets married and moves out. Her recipes are therapeutic, and we get to experience them one ingredient at a time. The author is skilled at creating images while stimulating the senses, and this is part of what makes SOUP TO NUTS so enthralling. There is so much delight in this little book that you must experience it for yourself. You will fall in love with these characters during the short period you are with them. Hurry – you can pick up your copy here.

A North Shore Story by Dean Economos and Alyssa Machinis

a_north_shore_story copy

For the teenagers of Chicago’s North Shore, everyone has something to hide.

In a daring attempt to impress the elusive Sophia, Michael makes the biggest decision of his life, stealing over a hundred thousand dollars from St. Theodore Community Church. That same night, Nichole’s insecurities are finally forgotten with a drug she soon won’t be able to control.
When Michael makes his getaway, he sees his friend Joseph cheat on his girlfriend with the priest’s daughter and knock over a candle that sets the church ablaze.
As the consequences of that night unfold, Joseph is blamed for the fire and the missing money. Can the teenagers of the North Shoreconfess their vices to help their friend? Or will their greed, infidelity and  jealousy change all their lives forever?

Thanks to PR By The Book for putting me in touch with the authors! We did a Q&A session about their debut novel, A NORTH SHORE STORY.

 

Dean Economos

dean

Give us some background, what did you do before writing this book? I went to college at Loyola University Chicago and received my undergrad in Biology and a minor in Biostatistics. I then went on to receive my M.B.A. from Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.

What were the events that inspired the book? The book was inspired by different experiences growing up. Those key events and experiences were then intertwined with the more current events of our church’s media coverage.

Some parts of your book are things you actually experienced, they must have stuck with you for you to want to write about them years later. Did you always know you wanted to tell these stories? I kind of had a premonition growing up that these events would be shared. My friends and I would always say we should’ve had a show like Laguna Beach, or something of that nature. So, in a way, I did think these stories would be told in one way or another, I just didn’t think I’d be the one to tell them. Like other stories of turmoil, we are drawn to A North Shore Story because we can relate to the characters.

Can you elaborate on what is relatable about the internal struggles of the book’s characters? What makes these characters extremely relatable to readers are the confidence and relationship problems each one of them goes through, whether it be friendship or romantic. Some characters go through other internal struggles such as underage drinking, drug use, and sexual peer pressure. I think that everyone at one time or another has been in one of these circumstances.

What was your favorite part of writing this book? Since this was my first book, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I was supposed to have a template or well-thought out plan before writing anything. Instead, I jumped into it head-first and developed the story as I wrote. I feel that doing it this way allowed myself to be more creative and not stick to a “script” per say. I was even surprised at what I was able to create.

What inspired you to write this story so many years later? What originally got my gears turning was the media’s coverage of our former priest and his embezzlement of church funds. I then started to think about our time growing up at our church and the events that our friends and I experienced. After pinpointing key events, I began formulating the plotline which now makes up A North Shore Story.

You know some of these characters in your waking life. Who was the most exciting to write? How have they changed because of what happened? The most exciting character to write about was definitely Kate. Kate, and the girl who she’s based off of, has a very exciting personality and a distinct attitude. When our friend read the story, she loved how she was portrayed in the storyline. I think that she, along with the rest of our friends, have changed in that we’ve learned how to tackle the problems that Kate and the rest of the group are dealing with right now.

Tell us more about your personal part in the stories. Are you in the book? How did you change your story for the fiction rendition? I am in the book. With my character, and with all the characters, I left elements of real life in the story and in the personality, but overall the fundamental qualities of each character are unique from their real life counterparts.

What strengths did you and Alyssa bring to the table to help one another write the book? I felt more connected to writing the actual story. I was able to figure out and connect the different subplots of the book, while Alyssa is very familiar with novels and creative writing. With those skills, she helped make the book come alive.

Do you anticipate a sequel? I’ve thrown ideas around in my head, and I’ve talked about it with Alyssa. We’re open to it, but haven’t started writing anything yet.

 


 

Alyssa Machinis

alyssa

Tell us about your background, what have you done since the events that occurred that inspired A North Shore Story? Well, I went to college at University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in Advertising and minors in both Business and Communications. Now I work at an advertising-technology company as a Digital Strategist.

What is your side of the story depicted in the book? Did you change the reality for the fiction version? My side of the story is depicted in the book, but it’s pretty separated from reality. The biggest and only consistency between my character and I are our driven personalities.

What was the most difficult part about writing this book? The most difficult part of writing the book was helping it come alive. The content was there, and the story was strong, but fostering the story from a passive standpoint into an active point of view was a challenge.

What do you think the most important lesson from the book is? The most important lesson from the book is to be confident in who you are. Don’t worry about what other people think because the fear of judgment can turn you into a person you don’t want to be.

What part of this story do you think appeals to young adult readers most? I think what appeals to young adults about A North Shore Story are the pop culture references mixed with struggles that I think a majority of teens have experienced or encountered at some point in their lives.

What clique were you in in high school? Can you tell us an event that happened to you and your friends that almost made it into A North Shore Story but isn’t included? I was definitely in the choir group throughout high school. There weren’t many events that didn’t make it into A North Shore Story, but we almost wrote in a choir sub-plot. However, we switched it to fashion as the story developed.

What were some of your favorite books in high school, when the story takes place? I loved the Harry Potter series and the Myron Bolitar series by Harlan Coben. He writes excellent mystery novels, and J.K. Rowling is a genius.

Who is your favorite author? What were a few books that inspired your writing? I don’t necessarily have a favorite author (I read a lot). However, I do think that J.K. Rowling’s writing style was very influential on my own. It’s also comforting to know that she had humble beginnings just like Dean and I have now.

Do you think you’ll write another book? Like Dean mentioned, we’ve talked about it a little bit. However, as of now we have not made any strides toward writing another book.

A NORTH SHORE STORY sounds pretty thrilling! Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B017N3U6UK” locale=”US” nw=”y” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

Jess Under Pressure by E. Graziani

JessREV_June_2015

 

You didn’t know? You seem like a perceptive, aware woman. You’re a doctor of psychology and sociology. You have a book on the bestseller list about women and coping – and you didn’t know?”

Dr. Jessica Britton’s life sparkles with the sheen of success and happiness. Her bestselling book, “Give More, Do More, Be Better!”, modelled after her own life experiences, inspires readers all over the world to achieve a perfectly balanced lifestyle that includes career, family, and happiness.

This happiness is shattered when Jess’s husband is killed in a fatal car accident, leaving Jess with the shocking truth that her perfect life was nothing more than a carefully veiled wall of illusion.

Consumed by grief for more than her dead husband, Jess unexpectedly leaves Toronto after a particularly grueling interview and finds herself in the small town of Gananoque.

Broken, impaired, and in desperate need of healing, Jess is rescued by Susie, who takes her home, and helps her deal with her situation by letting her know that no one has the perfect life, but everyone can work through their issues and come out stronger on the other side with the right kind of support.

Thanks to Jennifer at Morning Rain Publishing for offering me this book for review. You can visit the author’s page here.

Sometimes women spend their time tearing each other down, rather than building each other up. This book is delightful in that it shows strong women, bonding and spending quality time together,  in a real environment. Sure, there are those that delight in the character Jess’ fall from grace, but her new found friends give her the strength to ignore them and discover who she really is.

The first part of the book shows us Jess spending her time in the spotlight, talking about her book and the success it has been. Suddenly, her life spins into a tragic abyss: her husband dies and her children are angry and distant. Jess goes from the top of the world to the bottom, battling depression and self doubt. This could happen to anyone, and the author makes Jess a sympathetic character, someone who is able to help others easily but does not have the answers when it comes to her own problems.

I was quite touched by the love Susie’s friends showed Jess. There was a bit of shock, as Susie introduced the fallen idol to the group, but after a few false starts she was welcomed in and cared for. The scene where all the women shared their personal struggle was quite poignant–I could feel the love!

Graziani has composed a sort of self help book: by reading about the goodness of others and seeing how fictional Jess was able to heal herself, I was cheered up and had more faith in the human race. I know there have been many circumstances where strangers have been kind enough to care for someone struggling through a hard time, but this is such a good feeling way to read about it. The style is a bit different from Graziani’s other book, [easyazon_link identifier=”B00NMNQNOO” locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]ALICE OF THE ROCKS[/easyazon_link], but just as readable. The plot is not too complicated, so the message and the intent shines clearly through.

I hope others are able to feel hope and positivity after they finish JESS UNDER PRESSURE. It starts out sad and bleak, but finishes strong. The message is perfect, without being too heavy handed.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up [easyazon_link identifier=”B00WN3NEK0″ locale=”US” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″]here[/easyazon_link].

 

 

 

 

We’ve Always Got New York by Jill Knapp

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”yes” align=”left” asin=”B00OFLDTC6″ cloaking=”default” height=”500″ localization=”yes” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wf59rkN2L.jpg” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ width=”328″]

 

Thanks once again to author Jill Knapp for gifting me this book!

Amalia has returned from her trip to Brazil, and things are both different and the same. Cassandra is acting strangely distant, with no apparent reason why. Michael seems to be recovered from Amalia’s departure, since he has Angela hanging all over him. Olivia and Alex are on again, off again, NYC classes are as difficult as ever, and Amalia is trying to get accepted to a work study program. The one bright thing in her life is Hayden, who sweeps her off her feet and makes her feel special.

So why is she still hung up on Michael?

This book seemed a little less filling than the first one, kind of New York Lite. There is plenty of action, but it’s basic and what you would expect of 24 year olds–drinking, dating, drama. I did start disliking Cassandra for her bad attitude, and I’m very curious to see how the author explains her behavior towards Amalia. Olivia and Amalia have gotten a lot closer, and the book is told in both their perspectives; each chapter alternates with occasional overlapping of stories. New York looms large, as always, with familiar locations and hip restaurants described beautifully. Amalia seems more sure of herself, despite her confusion over the Michael/Hayden situation. You can see her maturing and thinking about her future, and not letting the drama rule her life.

We’ve Always Got New York purrs along smoothly until the ending, which is a CLIFFHANGER! Knapp knows how to generate tension, and there was definitely plenty of this throughout the book, with breakups, arguing, and even a bar fight. Readers of this series will be eagerly awaiting installment # 3, and I will too.

Want your own copy? Click [easyazon_link asin=”B00OFLDTC6″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”gimmethatbook-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”yes” popups=”yes”]here. [/easyazon_link]

 

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

nest

I received this advance reader’s copy from Net galley in exchange for this honest review.

Touching. Poignant. Real. Funny. Heartbreaking.
There are not enough superlatives to describe this treasure of a first novel by Esther Ehrlich, written for young readers. Don’t let the designation fool you. This story will resonate with everyone–those who have a family, those who have felt alone, those who have tried to be a “good girl”, those who have been 11 years old and forced to sit in a sweltering classroom while their heart is breaking.

Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein lives in Cape Cod, circa 1972,  with her parents and older sister. She got her nickname from her love of birdwatching; I love how the author sprinkled avian facts throughout the book. Chirp’s world is turned upside down one summer when her mother is diagnosed with MS, and the dynamics of the house abruptly change. Her dad is less than comforting; Dr Orenstein, the psychiatrist, would rather open a dialogue about feelings and why they are there rather than just give Chirp a hug. Her sister Rachel is becoming distant as she is discovering boys and spending more time with her friends, instead of playing “baby” games with Chirp. And next door neighbor Joey comes from a family that finds it easier to be demeaning than understanding.

As Chirp’s mom encounters more difficulties (I can’t write any more details without avoiding spoilers) the 11 year old turns inward, sneaking away to watch her beloved birds and ponder life. Ehrlich’s prose is right on the money, capturing perfectly the emotions and fears of a girl poised on the far edge of adulthood. At times Chirp is wise beyond her years, other times she just wants her mom. The relationships between all the characters is believable and true to life, even down to the authentic banter between Joey and Chirp.

One day Chirp gets sent to the principal’s office for opening a classroom window.  Her classmates show their support on the bus ride home in a fabulous little scene that is written perfectly. Told from Chirp’s perspective:

When I sit in the bus seat next to Dawn, she says, “Want me to open the window?”, and then she pinches the locks and pushes the window down. She turns around and says to Sally, really excited, “Open your window for Chirp. Pass it on.” Sally passes it on to Tommy, who passes it on to Sean, et cetera, et cetera, and soon the whole bus is filled with the eeeeee of everyone shoving down their windows. Mr Bob, the bus driver, doesn’t say anything;  he never does. He just reaches for his blue wool cap on the dashboard and puts it on while the wind whips everyone’s hair around. 

“Heck no, we won’t go! Heck, no, we won’t go! Yay, Chirp!” Joey yells from the back of the bus. 

I know I’m in big trouble, because I got sent to the principal’s office, but I feel happy with everyone’s windows open for me. 

About 70% into the book, there is a twist that is exquisitely painful and delicate, and Ehrlich makes her writing sing like pure birdsong. There was not a page that went by that was out of place or awkward, from the first to the last. I dare anyone to read this book and not feel as if they are alongside young Chirp as she navigates through her life.

What a rare book Nest is. Read it, and come up with some superlatives of your own to describe it. It goes on sale September 9th, 2014. Buy your copy here. 

 

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