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WELCOME HOME DINER: A Foodie Novel ~Peggy Lampman

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Cousins Samantha and Addie are hoping that they have made a good bet on Detroit.  They are going into business together by purchasing an old diner and an old house in Detroit proper.  They are hoping that they can revitalize the neighborhood with good homegrown food and delightful delights from their Polish Grandmother’s wealth of yummy recipes.  Addie is handling the business end and Samantha is the cook extraordinaire.

Their garden plot, crusty neighbors and a church with a Gospel Choir surround their WELCOME HOME DINER.  The food is getting rave reviews from folks traveling in from the suburbs but they are not pulling in the locals.  Also someone is writing untrue reviews on YELP.   They hire local people to work and the diner is feeling very much like a family.  The products they purchase are locally made also and come with interesting characters to discover.

I loved the recipe for Potlikker Broth as that is a family recipe at our house as well, but we call it Potassium Broth (without Ham Hock) and it does cure what ails one, as the cousins will testify to as it helped to heal their conflict.  Home celebrated food with panache and I did not gain any weight.  Now that is win-win!

This is a fine story and just a cozy good read as these dynamic women work out success in their new environment and with each other.  New, old and modern problems are resolved and help readers to find new ideas that might just change their circumstances.  The writing is perfect for the type of story and I am sure this will make a successful gift during the holiday –winter season for the reader on your list.  Be sure to read before you wrap it!

Peggy Lampman was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. After earning a bachelor’s degree in communications—summa cum laude—from the University of Michigan, she moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter and photographer for a public-relations firm. When she returned to Ann Arbor, her college town, she opened a specialty foods store, the Back Alley Gourmet. Years later, she sold the store and started writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News and MLive. Lampman’s first novel, The Promise Kitchen, published in 2016, garnered several awards and accolades. She is married and has two children. She also writes the popular blog www.dinnerfeed.com.

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tlc-logoTLC Book tours sent me a copy of this book for an honest review.

GHOST HORSE: a Novel ~Thomas H. McNeely

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

“’Divorce,’ she said, “is a disease caused by the lies of feminism and secular humanism.’” (Catholic school teacher’s words to middle school boys; early pages of uncorrected, advanced copy)

GHOST HORSE is a book I found hard to read and yet very worthwhile.  It came in the loveliest package, with a folder full of publicity material and extra resources.  The font was precise and extremely small on my review advanced copy and there were no page numbers.  I thought it was a young adult book, now I know this book needs discussion because there is a surface story and then the recording of societal change which is impacting our current lives with tremendous relevance.

Buddy is a 12 year old boy who is being torn apart with the normal feelings of the changes in a boy’s life, by his Catholic education, by his physician father’s return after 12 years of being away, by his sparing, controlling grandmothers, and by the transitions the USA was making in the turbulent 1970s.  He can see how hard his mother is working and how smart she is and well trained as she runs a pathology lab and teaches.  Margot supports her own mother and is buying a house for her.  There is not adequate childcare or transportation for her son and she must work extremely long hours because her pay is not equal to men’s income.  Dad wants a divorce and custody of Buddy, Jimmy is a physician wanting a huge, fancy house and he runs his own cancer/pathology lab.

GHOST HORSE is about a time when the folks in Houston, Texas were just exploring big changes in expectations and culture and yet it is a place where one could delineate the classes and futures clearly.  The Mexicans lived in one area, the whites another, the wealthy even another location and the Negroes had their own place on this earth.   There were even more categories such as conservative Christians and trailer trash; people spoke one way at home and the well-educated spoke another way in public.  The Priests and teachers were eager to spread the message of anti- change, violence and hate.   How is a boy to find himself and figure out who he is and what his true relationships are; Buddy becomes extremely confused trying to make sense of who he is and what he needs to do?

Thomas H. McNeely is a writer and a professor and he grew up in Houston during this time of turmoil.  It took him 14 years to write GHOST HORSE.   The boy’s confusion comes right off the page and into the mind with the concise puncture of incredible words and feelings exquisitely placed on the page.  Racism, sexism, homophobia, fundamentalism, bigotry, economic inequality, hatred and violence coming at Buddy at every moment of this boy’s day haunting him like the GHOST HORSE – where is the escape?  Would it be in making a movie about the GHOST HORSE with your Mexican friend?

TLC Book Tours and Gival Press  sent me an advanced copy to review of GHOST HORSE.   The story pushed a great many personal feelings to the surface for me.  I was back working at as an Adult Educator in the South and thinking about all the threats I received and how angry people were and how many refused to even acknowledge the problems – how quick to blame and hold on to their perceived values.  Paula Dean, the southern chef, reminded me last year when she said, “we used the ‘N’ word at home all the time”;  she was ostracized.  Our feelings are just masked now and we can see the backlash to change with the election of President Obama.   Baby!  We have not come a long way.  We need these reveals and yet we cower like a 12 year old boy and keep it to ourselves until we find a point of outrage and release.

Thomas H. McNeely is a very interesting person and the winner of numerous awards.   GHOST HORSE has been nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has won the Editor’s Choice award at Amazon.

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NO LONGER AND NOT YET: Stories ~Joanna Clapps Herman

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

“Death, when you weren’t actually faced with it, was something like that.  A small boat in a large body of water going toward a vague line that never came any closer-death always the same safe distance from your boat.  No matter how long you moved toward it, it continued to move off ahead of you.  Then when someone you knew died, death appeared in your boat, and you were supposed to contend with its abrupt, confusing arrival, for which you had no talent, no gift.  It was never as if you came to believe it.  You were just very confused.  Full of refusal.  After a time of stunned confusion it moved back out there far away where it belonged.  And wasn’t considered again until it had to be again.  The horizon what is not yet.”  (Page 102)


NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a collection of 26 stories which are all connected to the Upper Westside of New York City. As of late, I have been reading a number of books that for varied reasons keep me reading long into the night and wanting to savor and finish them right away.  As much as I love short stories and like to read one a day when partaking, this was an exception to my rule for the fact that I have a fixed review date and because the stories touched each other in ways that made the reader want to know.

Tess, Max and eventually Paul were the thread that held the weave of the stories together.  Tess has a wealth of friends right in the neighborhood and they then became their own stories and found connection back to Tess for advice and support.  Tess told the stories of living and what she is aware of and then interpreted these ideas to the reader to get the whole picture.  Her best friend Naomi lived in a building on Riverside Street and the residents within added the breadth of the friendships. The reader is able to get a clear picture and attend to the day’s experience.

It made a section of NYC cozy and connecting and the writing and details brought clarity with the exquisite use of words. The reader is connected and feels present; for me particularly about the “mother thoughts” going on inside each woman during her day or excerpt.  The problems seemed normal and not overblown and were infused with moments of wine, a sigh of relief and laughter.

These are everyday stories which make sense in our everyday and yet we are privy to the thinking and the actions in a way which reminds us that we are not alone.  There are others living plain lives and having questions and concerns just like ours and yet they are drawn together because of their communications and sharing.  The words tighten the threads of connection and understanding.  There are two thinking about the crazy flower woman in the park and two attempting to help the box man not freeze to death on a rare cold snowy night.  Can you imagine being the only mother and son playing in a NYC park – no one else on the swings?  Is the teacher always right or does she say the wrong things to your child?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and it was so wonderful to have a summer rainy day to wander and walk through years with these delightful characters into their lives and resolutions.  NO LONGER AND NOT YET is a 5 star read.

tlc logo  TLC online book tours  sent me a copy of NO LONGER AND NOT YET for review and it was a pleasure to share this book with you

“Joanna Clapps Herman teaches creative writing in the MFA Graduate Program at Manhattanville College and at the Center for Worker Education, a division of City College of New York, CUNY.  She is the author of THE ANARCHIST BASTARD:GROWING UP ITALIAN IN AMERICA, also published by SUNY Press; coeditor (with Carol Bonomo Albright) of Wild Dreams: The best of Italian Americana; and coeditor(with Lee Gutkind) of OUR ROOTs ARE DEEP WITH PASSION: Creative Nonfiction Collect New Essays by Italian-American Writers.  She lives in New Your City.” (Cover)

Joanna Clapps Herman Online 
Joanna Clapps Herman on Facebook

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