Summer Reading: Mini-Reviews

I have begun reviewing books to a small group, mostly womem, at our condo. For the next review, I picked what we call a “Beach Book,” something you can read that isn’t heavy or scientific or deep, so you can put it down and jump in the water and come back without forgetting what you were reading. So here are a few titles, a couple of which may be a little more serious than a beach book, but still easy reading. Enjoy!

Angelo, Maya. Mom & Me & Mom:Random House, 2013. This 200 page small (in size) book is an intimate “portrait” of Maya Angelo’s mother, Vivian Baxter, told in what I call a conversational tone. I could almost hear Ms. Angelo in my mind while reading it. Her mom’s life was almost as fascinating as Maya Angelo’s and is worth learning about this part of the famous writer’s early andlater life. Maybe not her best writing, but still enagaing.

I was leaning on the book while doing the cryptoquote the other night and lo and behold, the quote turned out to be by Maya Angelo and mirrors the auto-biographical information in the book. Here is the quote:

My mission in life is not to merely survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.   Right on, Maya!



Baldacci, David, One Summer, Grand Central publishing,NY, 2011.  Most of the books by David Baldacci are “thriller” books, but after reading his book, Wish You Well, I realized his range was more far-reaching. One Summer is a tear-jerker novel about a young father dying from an incurable disease. His wife goes to the drug store to get his meds in bad weather and is killed in a car accident. The father miraculously recovers and learns how difficult raising three children is.  There are many mini-crises and a custody battle and teenage trauma, but he manages to overcome the obstacles and even fall in love.  Purely a beach book, but engaging reading.


Davidson, Diane Mott: Crunch Time, Avon Books (Div. of William Morrow). 2012. THis is one of many culinary mysteries, with caterer Goldy Schulz stepping in as a savvy sleuth without the training of her non-complaining hubby Tom, a certified policeman/ detective. This mystery involves a young Mexican woman and friend who is working with Goldy. Crafty Colorado caterer Goldy unravels the mystery of their mutual friends’ murder. Like all her books, Davidson puts caterer Goldy in impossible situations which may lead to cuts and bruises. Of course, she is key to solving the mystery, while all the while whipping up cakes and main dishes for her catering business. Recipes at the end reflect dishes she makes in her food gigs. (I made the Crunch Time cookies and they were very good, but too much sugar! es)



Davidson, Diane Mott: The Whole Enchilada, Avon Books (Division of William Morrow), 2014.  A sequel to Crunch Time (Davidson has written more than a dozen in this series.), this book is about the sudden death of a dear friend, and Goldy’s frantic need to find the murderer. Gulping down double shot espressos and with the help of her friend Marla, she does of course, solve the mystery. All her standby characters are in the book: her son, her husband, her neighbors and friends. Marla is especially close. Both she and Goldy had been married to an abusive husband who dies in a previous book. Glad he and his abuse are out of their lives, Marla and Goldy are really good friends. Davidon’s descriptions of the weather and landscape in Colorado are authentic, since the author spends part of the year there. The book can get very convoluted, because Davidson has mastered the art of combining recipes, mystery, and non-stop events in all her books. Definitely a fun beach book!

Summer Reading: Fiction & Non-Fiction

NOTE: I have been reading fiction and non-health related non-fiction like it’s going out of style. Since I read a great deal of non-fiction in the health field, novels and biographies or similar fare are my antidotes for my “compulsory” reading. I thought I would share with you some of the books, (fiction and non-fiction unrelated to health) I have been enjoying in case you are looking for some summer reading pleasure.


Bracco, Lorraine. On the Couch,G.P. Putnam’s & Sons, 2006. I happened to be reading this autobiography by the actress who played Dr. Jennifer Melfi on the HBO series, The Sopranos, when James Gondolfino died a few days ago. Thus, the book took on more significance than it might have for me. Each chapter starts with a quote by Dr. Melfi, taken from the series. For example, the first quote is “Hope comes in many forms.” But the actress/author uses these quotes to explain her own spiraling journey into depression and climbing back up with the help of psychiatry, or couch talk.
Bracco’s descent is linked with her eight-year stormy relationship with actor Harvey Keitel and a brutal custody battle for her younger daughter. Through it all, Bracco is brutally honest, letting us see the seamy side of her depression. Like her honesty and her willingness to share her pain and recovery with her readers.( I actually wished I had read this in May, because it would have been a perfect choice for Mental Health Month.) I was inspired by her tenaciousness and grit. Now she plays Angie Harmon’s mom in Rizzoli & Isles and I have a greater appreciation of her as a woman and an actress.


Edwards, Selden. (Historical Fiction) The Little Book and The Lost Prince. I call them fantasy reality, because they involve time travel, yet I feel the events are real. The books span several decades from the end of 19th century Vienna & the USA to WWI. It is a love story, a historical journey, and a heart-wrenching search for loved ones. The first book took 30 years to write and is complex, yet mesmerizing. The second novel draws on the first.  (My friend Marilyn and I read both of these books, but in reverse order, so please read The Little Book first.) The description of Vienna brings this city to life and the scenes of the war are difficult but enlightening.  The main character in both books is a woman who is strong and compassionate. We follow her from her early twenties to her death at a ripe old age. Both books captured my heart, and I am sure they will capture yours. Together, these would make a great movie!


Note: I emailed Selden Edwards about reviewing his books and received this reply:

The paperback of THE LOST PRINCE goes on sale today.  Look for it in bookstores. (The Little Book is already in paperback.) And pass the word.
If you know anyone in a book group interested in using it, please also pass the word that the author does Skype “appearances.”  Very Satisfactory!


Ireland, Kathryn M. Summers in France, Gibbs Smith, 2011. I love this largish (7 ½” X 10 1/2 “)photo-journal book because it celebrates life in words and pictures. The author writes about her and her (now) ex-husband’s purchase of an old, country homestead in France 20+ years ago, and how she uses her creative designer skills (her career is in this field) to transform the home into a casual, summer B & B for friends and family while keeping the country style integrity intact. The text is done in the old-fashioned typewriter font and the photos are from her albums as well as the friends who visit. The book is delightful from cover to cover, with the text supporting the photos and vice-versa. As a lover of laundry lines, I enjoyed her page on the clothesline where Ireland writes: “Detergent manufacturers have spent millions trying to infuse their products with ‘fresh’ scents. Sorry—no substitute for the real deal.” (I agree!) After reading this book, you will wish you could be invited to her summer home.


Ray, Jeanne. Calling Invisible Women, Crown Publishers, 2012. This book is hilarious and at the same time somewhat serious. Suspend any semblance of reality, because in this book, women going through menopause become invisible. Why? Because a pharmaceutical company in Philadelphia (my home, no less!) has developed three “remedies” for menopause that cause these older women to become invisible. But they already feel invisible to their growing or grown children and husbands, so the family never notices their mothers are invisible. Clover Hobart, the main character, joins a support group of other invisible women who have taken the three menopausal medicines and decide to storm the company wearing t-shirts that say Invisible—Indivisible. You will have to read it to find out if they succeed, but you will enjoy the read/ride!

P.S. Just finished Ray’s novel, Eat Cake, which is more serious than Calling Invisible Women, but engaging nonetheless. Story is about a family beset with crises that main character Ruth handles by baking cakes that are so delicious, she considers baking to handle one of the crises (money). The characters feel real and I could identify the struggle Ruth has in dealing with all the family issues. A quick read that is almost as satisfying as her cake recipes! Several years ago I read Step, Ball, Change about two tap-dancing sisters. Also enjoyable.

Rayner, Sarah. One Moment, One Morning, St. Martin’s Press, 2010. This is a tender love story that takes place in England about a woman whose husband dies quite unexpectedly on a commuter train while they are traveling together. Another passenger witnesses the event and later shares a cab with a woman who, coincidentally, is the new widow’s best friend. The bulk of the book spans one week, from the day of the husband Simon’s death until after the funeral, and then ends a few months later. The lives of the three woman are forever changed by the death of Simon: the new widow who is left with two very young children, the best friend, and the witness. Each faces her own demons and is supported by the other. The author’s dialogue seems to indicate some first hand experience in the death of a husband. Very touching.





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