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The Golden Baker’s Cap

Nailed It!: A Family Cookbook by The Creators of The NETFLIX show, Nailed It! With Heather Maclean & Introduction by Jacques Torres (Abrams Books 2021)

October 15, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

As you know, I adore cooking and creating yummy concoctions in the kitchen with my family. I believe that more memories are made in the kitchen than anywhere else in the house.   I will tell you that the weeknight dinner grind does zero for me. However, while I despise fast cooking and rushed meals, I live for Sunday dinners, holiday meals, and creative baking, especially if my family is involved.  My son and I just had a wonderful night cooking something from the new cookbook, Nailed It!: A Family Cookbook by The Creators of The NETFLIX show.   Let’s take a look at why this book is a must-have addition to your cookbook shelves.

Have you seen NETFLIX’s show Nailed It!?  It is wicked cute and perfect for the whole family to watch.  The show is co-hosted by world-renowned pastry chef Jacques Torres (Mr. Chocolate) and comic Nicole Byer.  Three contestants come on each week and re-create a variety of edible masterpieces for a chance to win the golden baker’s cap and $10,000.  How fun is that?  This show is beyond entertaining with its less than skillful competitors.  We are currently watching season six and enjoying all of the kitchen mishaps and disasters. 

“At its core, Nailed It! is about the joy of the process. Because let’s be honest, doing anything with tons of butter and sugar and sprinkles is a good time. And whether you build a wedding cake worthy of Sylvia Weinstock or the Leaning Tower of Pastry, because of all that butter and sugar and sprinkles, the end result is going to taste amazing.”

My son and I took on one of the easier items, a double-layer chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream covered with decorative fondant for the win.  We made the cake and icing with ease. The tricky part was working with the fondant.  Fondant is kind of like edible playdoh in my opinion.  It’s very pliable, easy to roll out, and fun to cut decorations out of. The sky’s the limit with this stuff making decorating feel like an art form. It is very tricky to make it look SEAMLESS, but my son did an excellent job if I do say so myself.  Fondant is edible, but I prefer to pull it off my piece and just enjoy what is underneath.  Next up for us is something a bit more challenging…I can’t wait! I believe with all my heart and soul that we would have won the $10,000 for our cake…just saying.

Nailed It! is overflowing with step-by-step baking activities.  From cakes to pies, cookies to donuts, there is no shortage of delectable treats.  This book offers tips and tricks along the way to help perfect your creations. If you have a panic moment…there are little red boxes throughout the book with solutions to the most common dilemmas that will save you. It even has a section on how to host your very own Nailed It! Party and what recipes work best for different ages and party sizes.  And with the holidays right around the corner, there is even a Nailed It! Holiday chapter to get you in the spirit.    

I can not recommend this book enough for some family fun in the kitchen.  Happy baking!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Look what I just found at Walmart. A Nailed It! Alien Cupcake Kit.

Click on the book to purchase!

***Dear Mr. Hemingway, LLC  has proudly PARTNERED with Abrams Books and will be sharing their Fall 2021 & Spring 2022 Food & Beverage books as part of the #ABRAMSDINNERPARTY. 

My Rain Drenched Flower

Nora:  A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor (Harper Perennial 2021)

Jim Joyce is my love, but he’s also a bother to my heart and a sore conundrum to my mind.  I don’t think the day will come when he’ll grow to be the man he should be.  

October 11, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

There is something about you writers from the early 20th century that fascinates me. Especially all of your juicy personal lives.  I obviously started this journey with you and your four wives, then quickly became obsessed with F.Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda (click here to see my favorite book about these guys).  Today, I can’t get enough of Irish writer James Joyce and the lovely Nora Barnacle. The love, the lust, the writing, the atmosphere…I need to know it all.  Nora:  A Love Story of Nora and James Joyce by Nuala O’Connor is my latest historical fiction read.  O’Connor’s book opened my eyes to a whole new woman for me to explore.  Let’s take a look.

James Joyce first met his future wife, Nora Barnacle on June 16, 1904, in Dublin.  Their first encounter was definitely memorable and a little on the “risque” side.  I’ll let the first two pages of O’Connor’s book fill you in on all the juicy details.  This date also marks the start of Joyce’s book, Ulysses, for which Barnacle was his muse, and Bloomsday, which is celebrated every year in Ireland to celebrate Joyce’s writing.   Though they were not married until much later in their relationship, they lived like a married couple and had two children together.  

Don’t cry, Nora, when we reunite, I want your eyes to glow.  Take me in your arms, feel tenderness for me, and lead me right.  Look well for me, dear-have your hair clean and free of ashes, it’s not right to look slovenly at twenty-five young years!  Have something warm to eat ready for us, won’t you?  Let me feel happy from the moment I arrive, dearest.  I shall want a good cup of coffee in a nice little cup.  Have a salad for me, but don’t let onions or garlic into the house.  And, Nora, don’t, in your first words to me, mention money or debts, please.  

James Joyce (often referred to as Jim) was a tall order if I do say so myself.  Like so many, he lived for his writing and was determined to make it big, no matter the cost.  Nora was a Saint in my opinion.  She endured moving around Europe with their two kids to accommodate his writing.  She dealt with his constant drinking and financial irresponsibility.  She stayed by his side through all of his eye surgeries and health issues.  She embraced the fame from his writing while managing her growing children. She struggled with her son’s marriage and her daughter’s mental illness. However, even though she and Joyce didn’t always see eye to eye, they had some fiery chemistry that was hard to deny and I believe they truly loved each other. 

Before reading O’Connor’s book, I didn’t know much about James Joyce, let alone Nora Barnacle.  I even visited the James Joyce Centre in Dublin in my 20s and found his writing super boring.  I am quite a bit older now and would be willing to give his work another shot after reading O’Connor’s book.  She really brought to life  Nora and James’ relationship in her story. From Ireland to Trieste, to Zurich, to Paris, I felt like I traveled all over Europe with these two.  I particularly enjoyed bumping into Silvia Beach at her beloved bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris.  Just saying.  O’Connor had me consumed with Nora and Jame’s life, beset with their family unit, and in awe of Nora’s constant strength and perseverance, even during the darkest of times. There is a zero percent chance that James Joyce could have reached literary success without Nora by his side. He was blessed to have her.  

I loved, loved, loved this book to pieces. I literally gave it the biggest hug when I finished it.  My only regret is not reading it sooner.  It is everything and then some and will always have a permanent spot on my bookshelf.   I am now on the hunt to find out more about Nora Barnacle and her darling Jim Joyce.  Wish me luck.  

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly    

P.S. Did I mention that I ran into your first wife Hadley in this book.  If I am not mistaken, it was at Peggy Guggenheim’s party.  I feel bad saying this, but the talk of your behavior wasn’t all that great that evening.  Nevertheless, it was a brief encounter so no need to dwell on the past.

Click on this fabulous book cover to purchase.

Its Begining to Look a Lot Like Christmas

2021 Christmas With Southern Living:  Inspired Ideas For Holiday Cooking & Decorating (Abrams Books)

October 3, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Ahhhhh, fall is officially in full force here in Maine. Scarecrows are posted, mums are planted, and pumpkin spice lattes are flowing like a river.  I am in absolute heaven.  There is only one thing better than this time of year…CHRISTMAS!!!!!  And guess what?   It’s only a blink away.  I am already planning and plotting my holiday moves with my new book, 2021 Christmas With Southern Living.  I am literally drooling over all of their decorating ideas, holiday menus, and entertaining tips and YOU WILL BE TOO.  Let’s take a look.

I know what you are going to ask.  Do we need another Christmas-themed entertaining book?  My answer is 100% YES.  Yes, we most certainly do.  There will never be enough in my personal opinion and Southern Living’s holiday vibe is totally on point.  Decorating with red and green is officially a thing of the past.  Blue themes, sweet themes, and musical themes are all the rage and it’s time to keep up with the times.  The photos in the book will have you running to the nearest Home Goods for some baubles and candy canes.  Are you onboard?

The decorations may set the tone for the holiday season, but the grandest traditions are made in the kitchen and Southern Living has got you covered.  I have been making homemade cinnamon buns for Christmas morning for years and years and years.  I pound out the dough and prep the filling on Christmas eve and roll out and bake these treasures every Christmas morning.  I will never tire of these sticky treats, but I may have found an alternative to keep things interesting.  Can you say Christmas Morning Orange Rolls???? Swap out the cinnamon and brown sugar for a bit of orange zest, white sugar, and tons of butter and you have yourself a breakfast AMEN!  This citrus surprise was devoured by my three boys and husband and will now be a part of our holiday traditions.  

Christmas Morning Orange Rolls page 157

While Southern Living has breakfast ideas covered for the upcoming holiday season, they also provide menus for a Tasty Friendsgiving, a Cozy Winter Supper, and a Classic Christmas Feast.   Standing Rib Roast, Mulled White Wine, and Lemony Sauteed Broccolini with Garlic anyone???  And let’s not forget incredible side dishes, one-pot wonders, and tasty temptations to make this time of year even more delicious!

Here is the scoop Mr. H…I am obsessed with 2021 Christmas With Southern Living.  I have more sticky notes and dog-eared pages than I can possibly count, but I am going to fit it all in if it kills me and YOU WILL TOO!  As a lover of fantastic food, incredible drinks, and delightful decor, I can say with confidence that this book is an absolute mustPlease do not fear if you are overwhelmed with cooking and entertaining.  Southern Living’s latest book has calendars, planners, and checklists galore to make the holiday season relaxing, delicious, and one of a kind fabulous!  So while you sip your hot apple cider and carve your orange pumpkins, be sure to check out 2021 Christmas With Southern Living.  You will not regret it!

Until next time my friend!


Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Click on the book pic to purchase this holiday treat!

***Dear Mr. Hemingway, LLC  has proudly PARTNERED with Abrams Books and will be sharing their Fall 2021 & Spring 2022 Food & Beverage books as part of the #ABRAMSDINNERPARTY. 

Nutcrackers & Handsprings: Books About the Cutthroat World of Ballet and Gymnastics

Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguin (Henry Holt & Company)
The Turnout by Megan Abbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Happiest Girl in the World: A Novel by Alena Dillon (William Morrow)
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Books)

September 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Like so many young girls, I wanted to be a famous ballerina AND an Olympic gymnast.  I was little, so both professions seemed like reasonable career goals even though I could barely touch my toes. Images of me gracefully dancing across the stage in a white nightgown clutching a wooden nutcracker or sticking a round-off back handspring on a balance beam filled my wandering mind.  I, of course, only saw what was directly in front of me.  Beauty, elegance, strength, and perfection were what graced the stage and gym mats for all the dreamers like me who dared to dream.  Little did I know what the making of an elite athlete indeed looked like.  Today I am sharing four books that capture the fierce passion and wild side of ballet and gymnastics.  Scandal, abuse, injuries, eating disorders, and love fill the pages of today’s reads.   The lineup is dripping in all of the blood, sweat, and tears that we love to read about.   And GUESS WHAT?  Legwarmers and leotards are entirely optional.   You can be captivated by these stories from the comfort of your living room couch wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt.  How great is that!!!! 

Point shoes and tutus, anyone??? I LOVED Georgina Pazcoguin’s memoir, Swan Dive. Pazcoguin was the first Asian American soloist in the New York City Ballet.  Her story from leaving her small town in Pennsylvania at age 16 to train in New York City was mind-boggling.  Pazcoguin’s memoir is a backstage pass into the making of a true ballerina.  She is brutally honest with the highs and lows of the profession.  From bloody toes to dancing with injuries to the abuse and racism she experienced, Pazcoquin’s story of dancing in the ballet to performing in the Broadway musical CATS is exceptionally enchanting.  I could not put it down.

While we are still in the mood for tortured ballerinas and scandal galore, let’s move on to a work of fiction that takes place against the provocative backdrop of a ballet school and its yearly performance of The Nutcracker.  The Turnout by Megan Abbott is one heck of a page-turner.  Sisters Maria and Dara Durant run their family’s ballet school.  Things unravel when they hire a contractor to rebuild part of their studio that recently caught fire.  All I can say is that this man is more significant than he lets on. Nutcracker drama, family secrets, irresistible sexual encounters, razor blades in point shoes, and even a dead body fill the pages of this “un-put-downable” book.  I officially know what a “turnout” is and OUCH! The Nutcracker will never be the same again!

All you gymnastic fans out there will love Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein.  Avery’s Olympic dreams come to an end after an injury occurs during her Olympic trials.  To make matters worse, she is newly single and moving back to her hometown in Massachusetts.  In comes Ryan, Avery’s childhood acquaintance, and Olympic gold medalist.  When Ryan discovers that Avery is back home, he eagerly asks her to take the job as his assistant coach to Hallie, an up-and-coming gymnast.   As these two former gymnasts train the next Olympic star, sparks begin to fly on and off the mat.  Picture twists and turns, switch leaps and layouts, and maybe just maybe, some steamy fooling around on a sticky pile of mats.  Head Over Heels has it all…the love of gymnastics, the tension, the hot topics, and most of all, the romance.  Can you say perfect 10!

Alena Dillon’s book, The Happiest Girl in the World is a work of fiction reminiscent of the recent sexual abuse scandals in gymnastics.  Sera and her best friend Lucy are training for the Olympics.  Everything changes for these two when Lucy reports to the authorities that the team doctor sexually abused her during treatment sessions.  Sadly, Sera denies these facts to protect her career and destroys their friendship.  Dillon’s book is overflowing with dusty chalk and intense training but also takes a deep dive into the byproduct of sexual abuse and the ultimate drive for perfection in the cutthroat gymnastics world.  Reading this book felt very timely, especially with the 2021 summer Olympics still in the rearview mirror.  

Now that I have filled your To Be Read pile with pirouettes, flips, and spins, it’s time to get reading!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. When I was little, my sister and I used to pretend the black lane lines in our community pool were balance beams.  In between swimming around, we would put together gymnastic routines and perform them in the pool, making sure to always stick our landings on the lane lines.  So much fun!

Click on the book pictures below to purchase!

9/11 ~ 20 Years Ago

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff (Avid Reader Press)

September 10, 2021

Today there will be no letter to Mr. Hemingway. I have no words. I have been moved to complete stillness.

Kelly

Synopsis:

“Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower to The 9/11 Commission Report. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through firsthand.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, he paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker under the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from trying to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.”

NEVER FORGET 09.11.2001

Rural 207

Downeast by Gigi Georges (Harper Collins)

“Over time, “Downeast” became a catchall phrase for the geography, culture and distinct accent of the northern reaches of Maine’s coast.  Guidebooks will tell you that there is no precise southern or midpoint in the state where Downeast Maine begins; indeed, locals often use the term colloquially to describe any point east of where they are.  But by the time you get far enough north to the coastal county marked in gray on the map-Washington County-you’re universally acknowledged to have arrived Downeast.”

September 3, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Rural America!  Between recent presidential elections and the current pandemic, there has been no shortage of news covering this area in our country. I am not going to get into elaborate definitions of what constitutes a rural county in the United States, but for all intents and purposes…it is the opposite of urban (city) living. As you know, I have lived in Maine for over 15 years.  Even though I am not a “true” Mainer, I am intrigued by this magnificent state and how it ticks from county to county. I recently had the opportunity to read Gigi Georges’ book, Downeast. Georges follows the  lives of five young women who attended the same high school in rural Maine.  For four years, Georges interviewed, shadowed and immersed herself into these women’s past, present and future opportunities. She underlined the common hardships of living in a rural area in one of the most rural states in America while accentuating the hidden beauty that resides from within all through the lens of five women.  

Maine is often referred to as “vacationland” and “the way life should be”.  But let’s face it, it’s not all cozy cabins, lobster rolls and L.L.Bean. Rural Maine has its own set of challenges unique to its location that have impacted generation after generation.  In Downeast, Georges introduces her reader to Mckenna the softball star, Willow the photographer, Vivian the writer, Audry the basketball star and Josie the valedictorian.  All five of these young women went to Narraguagus High School in Washington County.  While Georges highlights drug and alcohol addiction, economic distress, and a variety of family dynamics that oftentimes serve as barriers for women living in rural Maine, she also showcases the true gumption and grit these five women possess that make their stories possible to tell.  

“The challenges faced by the rural swath of our nation run deep.  But hope is not lost in small-town America. Far from it.  True, places like Downeast Washington County are geographically isolated, continue to struggle with persistent poverty, and lose too many in their midst to opioid addiction.  But they also embody some of the strongest tenets of our American model-through their work ethic, closeness of community, deep social capital, devotion to the natural surroundings that help sustain them, love of country, and intense drive to improve their lot in life.  Not every girl will be a hero in the narrative of small-town America’s survival.  But the choices that rural girls make, and the paths they travel, lie at the core of what’s to come.  It’s time, at last, to allow these girls to speak for themselves.”

Georges opened my eyes to the sense of community,  family roots and values that have truly stood the test of time and are very much present to this day in Washington County.  These essential elements add simplistic beauty to the everyday trials that accompany the leading ladies in this work of nonfiction.  In Downest, Georges shares with readers the importance of being the messenger of these individual stories and what she hopes readers will take away when they finish. There is no shortage of details in her book and the number of people she talked to, interviewed and observed in order to write this is more than I can count. Her writing is crisp, well researched, full of compassion and captures the most personal moments with empathy, respect and heartfelt sensitivity.  Most importantly though, to all of the outsiders looking in…Georges’ book unveils the extraordinary sparkle that rural Maine has to offer. I hope you enjoy Downeast as much as I did.

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Be sure to check out Georges’ interview on Politics and Prose with Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Click on the book pic to purchase!

***I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

DIG HERE

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books) September 7, 2021

August 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am over the moon to share with you one of Fall’s most anticipated and buzziest new books.  This September, Lisa Jewell is back with her latest creation,The Night She Disappeared.   I feel like I write to you often about my love of dark mysteries and thrillers, and this is certainly not the first time I’ve written to you about this lovely author.  I always chuckle to myself with each of these letters because the books I share with you are pretty much the opposite of your writing.   However, even though your genre and style differ from Jewell’s, you both know how to create an atmosphere that brings out the very best in your stories. I believe you would enjoy Jewell’s moody vibes and dreary skies covering the English countryside that serve as the backdrop to her new chilling tale.  I most definitely did and today I am here to tell you why.  

The Night She Disappeared is set in a small English town between 2017-2019…basically right before Covid-19 hit and the whole world shut down.  Again, with mysteries and thrillers my plot summary will be cautious to keep every twist and turn from being spoiled.  One night in 2017, Tullulah and her boyfriend Zach (who is currently living with her at her mother’s house) decide to go out for the night and enjoy an adult evening of dining and hanging with friends.  They leave behind their young son with Tallulah’s mom Kim to mind.  Kim is alarmed when they do not come home that night or even the next morning.  She knows how strong Tallulah’s love is for her son and can’t fathom her disappearing by choice.  Tallulah and Zach are officially declared missing and a search begins.  Fast forward to 2019 and we meet Sophie.  Sophie is a cozy mystery writer who just moved to the area with her boyfriend who is a new educator at the Maypole House.  On her walk one day, she discovers something that opens back up the closed case of missing Tallulah and Zach.  Will this unsolved mystery finally be solved and at what cost?  

My summary may be sparse, but the story is surely not.  I loved how Jewell wrote this book using different timelines and from multiple points of view.  To me this created a well paced mystery that had me waiting with bated breath for 2017 to sync up with 2019. The back and forth between timelines generated the suspense I so desire and because of this, I was immersed in The Night She Disappeared from start to finish.  And let’s face it, short chapters with mini cliffhangers will always KEEP ME READING.  Jewell added a few of my favorite elements to her mysterious tale…the quintessential  private school and the ever so beloved “strange house”  that both hoard secrets and lies galore!  My perfect cup of tea! I loved the history of the Maypole House and all who dwelled there.  I was obsessed with Tallaluh’s temperamental friends and their unsteady yet eager behaviors. I was absolutely delighted with the eeriness of “Dark Place” and the neverending woods that encroached upon its morose existence (you’ll see).  I was entertained observing the characters take on the dangerous work of investigating a threatening affair even though the police and officials were already involved.  I was mesmerized by the darkness that seeped out of this story with each page I turned and tucked under my blanket a little tighter to absorb my chills.  I adored how fired up I was while reading and for the life of me… couldn’t predict the ending. I hoped for this kind of reaction and I am stoked that Lisa Jewell delivered me another fantastic reading experience.  So while I continue to chip away at all of her backlist books, I can say with confidence that I may just be…Her Biggest Fan! This book comes out September 7, 2021!  Be sure to grab yourself a copy!

Peace, Love and Reading…and a few dead bodies!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you haven’t read Jewell’s 2020 book, Invisible Girl….Let me convince you to do so.

Invisible Girl was an absolute clever read! I was instantly invested in all of Jewell’s characters from the very start. I desperately wanted to know EVERYTHING about them. Childhood trauma, family drama, strange neighbors, buried secrets, and a MISSING GIRL… this book had me at HELLO! Throw in some crazy twists and turns and a wicked moody vibe and I crossed the finish line with this book in just shy of two days. It’s fast and crazy and the perfect fall treat.

Click on my poolside reading pic to purchase. I spy my hubby in the hot tub 🥰🥰!
Click on this pic to purchase Invisible Girl!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Love Me Tender

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Penguin Random House)  August 17, 2021

August 12, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Never judge a book by its cover, right?  I can’t say that any of your first edition book covers (or even later ones) persuaded me to read your work (sorry 🤷‍♀️). However, the words you wrote made up for some wickedly boring covers. I will admit though that I was instantly seduced by the cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest sensation, Velvet Was the Night.   Luscious lips coated in a sticky pink gloss about to take a drag off of a tantalizing cigarette being gracefully handled by pointy manicured nails with a drizzle of smoke permeating the air!!!    Ummmmm, I had to see what’s inside! And guess what????  I am happy to report that the pages of this historical noir were just as mesmerizing as its cover.   Let’s take a look.

Moreno-Garcia’s latest work of art takes place in Mexico City during the 1970s, the start of the “Dirty War”.  Our leading lady Maite is for all intents and purposes, a bored and lonely secretary who enjoys her weekly romance comics with a small side of kleptomania.  When her neighbor goes missing, Maite is determined (out of sheer annoyance) to find her, which leads us to Elvis.  Elvis is a young gentleman who unofficially works for the government as a member of the HAWKS.  His position is everything he despises…attacking, torturing and basically killing protesters.  Elvis and Maite’s paths get tangled when they discover they are both searching for the same missing woman but for entirely different reasons. Maite is very surprised to learn the depths of this search. Government involvement, Russian spies and a whole lot of danger give this underwhelmed secretary an unexpected run for her money.   

Velvet Was the Night was 100% my cup of tea.  I loved how the setting was smothered in dimness with a heavy sense of danger lurking in the background.  I enjoy sunny stories with blue skies and laughter from time to time.  Who doesn’t? However, being engrossed in a slow burn mystery while drenching myself in inky vibes brings me tons of reading joy. I want to feel like I am somewhere different.  I read to learn, to escape, to bear emotions that are different from those in my own life. Moreno-Garcia invited me somewhere tense and unsettled while occupying my mind with an absorbing tale.  I just adore when my reading expectations are met. 

Maite and Elvis’ are not polished or shining brightly through the pages for that matter. In all honesty though, sparkly characters are not the ones who rock my literary world.  I prefer the dreamers, the characters with jagged edges. While I was wildly entertained with a weary secretary suddenly getting involved in such threatening affairs, I was also thrilled to be engaged in a setting/time period that opened my eyes to a part of history I knew very little about.  Lastly, Moreno-Garcia brings on the noir, lonely hearts and political “riff” with an incredible nod to vinyl and good old fashion rock n’ roll.  Authors who braid in the love of music (forbidden music in this case), always win me over. 

Velvet Was the Night comes out August 17, 2021.  Be sure to grab yourself a copy!  Now, “A Little Less Conversation” and a whole bunch of reading please!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to check out what I had to say about Moreno-Garcia’s previous book, Mexican Gothic.

Click on this incredible book cover to purchase!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

The Way You Look Tonight

Home Again by Melissa Grace (July 27, 2021)

July 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy Saturday! Do you remember when I told you about how much I loved Melissa Grace’s book, Home is Where You Are? Well guess what??? The sequel, Home Again, is coming out for all the world to read on July 27, 2021 and I am here to tell you how fabulous it is. Grace once again dazzled me with her passionate characters and heartfelt tale. The spotlight is on Ella and Cash this time around, and their love story does not disappoint. I am now impatiently waiting for book three ❤️❤️❤️.

“Ella Claiborne is ready to find love again. Long since widowed and with her daughter Grace leaving the country, Ella dives headfirst into the dating pool to ease her loneliness. After her date ditches her at her best friend’s wedding, Ella quickly realizes there’s only one man she’s truly interested in. There’s just one problem–he’s her daughter’s boss.

Cash Montgomery has already loved and lost. After losing his wife to cancer, he isn’t sure he’s ready to put himself back out there, but he finds himself drawn to Ella. After one unforgettable night, Cash begins to wonder if there could be a future for the two of them.

With one devastating phone call, Cash and Ella are tossed into a whirlwind of emotions. Once the dust settles, Cash must decide if he’s ready to let go of the ghost of his former love, and Ella is faced with the realization that grief changes us forever.

Home Again, the second installment in Melissa Grace’s Midnight in Dallas series picks up right where the first book left off. Liv and Dallas are still very much present in this book with their story continuing on in the background, but the main focus is on Ella and Cash’s journey. Second chance love is a trope that I LOVE reading and this magical story of love after loss melted my heart in all the best ways. This time around Grace turned the heat up on her bedroom scenes and I was pretty psyched to get a glimpse early on in the book. Cash and Ella’s chemistry was seeping off the pages and I happily absorbed every bit of it. While the passion was no doubt alive and thriving, so were the relationships between family and friends. The thing I love about Grace is she is extremely thoughtful when writing about all of her characters. She is constantly finding ways to nourish their relationships during times of change and does a beautiful job infusing life’s everyday challenges into their stories. Grace makes me want to jump into this book and hang out with this crew at Sunday dinners. Now that is a sign of a stellar story.

If you are in the market for a touching story filled with tons of hope after sadness, then I can’t recommend this book enough. I imagine you can read this as a stand alone, but I encourage you to read Home is Where You Are first. I am a huge devotee of reading book series in the order they were written 🤷‍♀️. Why skip around when you can read them all 🥰🥰!

Pre-order this book NOW…I INSIST!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Did you know that Melissa Grace was a Guest Writer on Dear Mr. Hemingway? Check out what she had to say to the big guy RIGHT HERE!

Click on this Gorgeous book cover to pre-order this book.

***I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Watermelon Queen

Passerby by Britney King

So here I am, standing over two dead bodies, surveying the blood splatter, wondering if I’ll ever be able to find wallpaper this pretty again.  It’s like two paths diverged in a wood.  I know this isn’t a Robert Frost poem, but bear with me, it’s my favorite, and at this moment, my mind is going to strange places.  

July 22, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today is a GREAT DAY!  One of my favorite/go to authors has a new book out and I had the pleasure of getting an early peek at it.  Passerby (Out Today), by the lovely Britney King was my perfect Saturday night read. King never fails to thrill me with her suspenseful tales and her latest did not disappoint.  Small town living and dead bodies wrapped in a bit of southern charm is what’s on tap today my literary friend.  Grab an ice coffee and your sunnies….the heat is on!

I personally find thrillers tricky to talk about without spoiling all the juicy surprises.  Because of this, I am sharing just the basic storyline and will tell you why it worked for me.  Jester Falls is the quintessential small town where you went to kindergarten with the local police officer and there is a life long feud between two of the big families in town.  Ruth Channing was born and raised here with her brothers and runs the Magnolia House, the most popular bed and breakfast around.  One of her brothers comes home with a random girlfriend that he quickly decides to marry. Ruth is on to her though.  After some digging around, she discovers that her sister-in-law, to be, has been lying about her name and her past.  To make matters worse, mysterious murders are happening under foot leaving Ruth suspicious and concerned for her family’s well being and the livelihood of The Magnolia House. 

It sounds lovely.   But it wasn’t all fun and games.  It takes an incredible amount of strength to hold a person under the water against their will.  Thankfully, not nearly as much to entice them to get sloppy drunk.  If you can imagine that, the rest is easy.

Now let me share with you the really good stuff.  The story is narrated by Ruth and the anonymous Passerby.   Let me just add real quick that I LOVE an undisclosed narrator.  Talk about fast paced and keeping me guessing !!!  King immediately presents two dead bodies and someone struggling with what to do about it right out of the gate. What I quickly learned was that King was teasing me with a scene that happens later on in the book, hooking me and reeling me in to the finish line.  The characters in Passerby weren’t exactly loveable, but instead hardened and even layered for that matter (side-effect of small town living).  As I was trying to figure out who was responsible for the different murders, I can honestly say, I was STUMPED! King threw me of course every step of the way and having that secret narrator made the journey way more fun.  In case you are wondering, yes there are murders and a few dead bodies, but the story is not overly graphic.  Passerby moves at a speedy pace, so plan on reading this in as close to one sitting as possible.  I promise, it’s easy to do.  

Enjoy this stellar read!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. See what I had to say about some of Britney King’s other books.

Kill Me Tomorrow

Savage Row

The Book Doctor

Click on this fabulous book cover to purchase!

***I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

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