{Review}: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

Quick Review: Chick lit that hits the nail on the head with a likeable heroine, A fast-paced plot and an ending with a twist.

What is it about chick lit that lends itself so well to themes of redemption? Like Faithful by Alice Hoffman, here’s a story set against the backdrop of my favorite city, featuring a girl down on her luck after a traumatic experience that upends her very existence and forces her to question everything she took for granted.

As always, there’s a Small Admissions | Good Chick Litguy but it’s not about the guy…is it ever, ladies? (No, it’s about us!) Oh, and the OTHER guy, the one that surprises us all and proves to be the gem.
There’s the overbearing but well-meaning  family member, wearing a martyr crown and feeling misunderstood.
The best friends are there, at odds with each other and themselves, helping us readers out with backstory.
 Oh, and let’s not forget the patient sage that can see something in our heroine that we dear readers can’t.  And even he needed to be convinced.
Sounds good, right? It’s a perfect vacation read. You can start it on the plane, read it by the pool or in the ski lodge by the fire, and finish it on the plane ride home.
I love me some good chick lit, and Amy Poeppel hits all the right notes in this one.
Check out the book trailer for Small Admissions and enter to win a copy of this book! The  link to the Rafflecopter is below the trailer!

Enter the Giveaway Here!

 

More about Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel:

Small Admissions | Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. She lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of a prestigious independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into this novel.

Website: http://www.amypoeppel.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amypoeppelauthor/
Twitter: @AmyPoeppel
Instagram: @AmyPoeppel

 

{I received an e-book version of this novel for review purposes and to participate in this blog tour. The giveaway is administered and managed  solely by the publisher Atria Books. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. }

Where I’ve Been

Oh, heyyyyyy. Long time, no see. (Stop me if you’ve heard that before!)

But I have a good excuse. I’ve been working! Way back in the fall, when there was still light to be had and leaves on the trees, I started working as a VA for my friend NJ, who kept referring me to other clients, and before I knew it, I had a full-fledged BUSINESS going. Funny how that happens.

Just popping in here to say that I have some book reviews in the works, and I have a guest post up on NJ’s blog, about celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. Check it out here: http://www.acookiebeforedinner.com/2016/12/christmas-light-menorah-interfaith/

I’ll see you back here soon-ish with some book reviews. In the meantime, wishing you and yours a very merry holiday!

{Review}: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

Quick Review: A thoughtful, approachable, visually appealing cookbook that makes even The Most exotic recipe seem  within reach.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means when you click on a link, I get a small commission.)

Isn’t this book pretty? I’m definitely guilty of judging a book by it’s cover. The photographs and layout inside Home Cooked by Anya Fernald are gorgeous, too. A cookbook is more than just  recipes– good ones also tell a story (unless it’s the Joy of Cooking or How To Make Everything, my favorite go-to for regular old recipes).

Anya Fernald is the founder of Belcampo Meat Co., founded in 2011 with the mission of creating sustainable pathways to meat processing through its slaughterhouse, farm and restaurants. In writing this cookbook, Fernald showcases the simplest of ingredients and elevates home cooking without putting it out of reach for the everyday home cook.

I admit, though, not every recipe in this book is for me. There are a fair amount of recipes that involve ingredients that have never found their way into my kitchen, like pig feet (for trotter broth) or chicken hearts (to be sautéed in brown butter), but to Fernald’s credit, she makes even offal seem appealing. (Still not going to be made in my kitchen, though.)

There are plenty more recipes that I do plan to make!  So far, I’ve been able to try two of the recipes. One was the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake, which proved to be an excellent vehicle for almost anything. With only five ingredients, plus one optional ingredient (mortadella!), and a fast cooking time (ten minutes), it’s a simple, affordable, highly adaptable addition to my repertoire of dinner accompaniments.

The other recipe was for pickled beets, but instead of beets, I pickled beautiful radishes from my weekly produce box.

A quick flip through the book reveals that nearly all the recipes consistent of ten ingredients or less, which makes even the most intimidating-sounding recipe feel do-able. No fancy, hard-to-find ingredients (offal notwithstanding…) or specialty cooking tools needed here!

More about Home Cooked by Anya Fernald, from Penguin Random House:

A recipe collection and how-to guide for preparing base ingredients that can be used to make simple, weeknight meals, while also teaching skills like building and cooking over a fire, and preserving meat and produce, written by a sustainable food expert and founder of Belcampo Meat Co.

 

{I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.}

{Review}: Faithful by Alice Hoffman


Quick Review: A book about regret, transformation and redemption that will have you rooting for the main character.  

I’ve read quite a few Alice Hoffman novels in my day. (Will I ever read them all? I don’t know! She’s so prolific, I can’t keep up.)  This month, I read two of Alice’s novels back to back: 2011’s The Dovekeepers, and the upcoming Faithful, out from Simon & Schuster in November 2016. The Dovekeepers, if you haven’t read it, is an epic saga that tells the story of four women who sought refuge on Masada, escaping from Roman persecution after the destruction of the Second Temple.  Faithful, on the other hand, is short and sweet, with one endearing character.  Two books on opposite ends of the novel spectrum but here’s what I’ve come to learn about Alice’s novels: they are all about regret, transformation and redemption.

Faithful is the story of Shelby, who is left reeling from a tragedy and because she cannot forgive herself, she starts to self-destruct. In her journey back to herself, she is supported by a cast of characters that see something in her that she cannot see in herself. And once again, Alice is the queen of the plot twist. Shelby receives a series of anonymous postcards, and the reveal of the sender will surprise you, reader!

While Faithful is not the deep, profound prose of Alice’s longer, meticulously researched historical novels, it was easy to become attached to Shelby and become emotionally invested in the outcome of her path– I cried several times during the novel because I felt her pain acutely, thanks to Alice’s ability to give Shelby a voice that we can hear. We can all root for a  heroine that makes regretful life choices, flounders a bit in the aftermath, then struggles to overcome and ultimately redeem herself.

 

More About Faithful by Alice Hoffman:

Faithful by Alice Hoffman is available for pre-order on Amazon, and will be released on November 1, 2016, by Simon & Schuster. 

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.”  (via Amazon)

 

{I requested an ARC from the publisher, and was not obligated, nor compensated,  to write this review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. }

My Cochlear Implant Story: Part Two

Why a Cochlear Implant? Well, why not?

But let me back up. I had a list of reasons that kept me from getting a cochlear implant sooner.
1. Too old.
2. Too invasive.
3. Doing alright with my existing set-up.
It’s a pretty short list, yeah but I guess the whole list was also shrouded in fear, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
My mother, an AuD, had been urging me for a few years to think about getting a cochlear implant. I usually mumbled something along the lines of “sure, sure, maybe, someday,” which meant…well, never, really.
Finally, I agreed to go for a consultation at NYU. I knew the technology had come a long way, and my hearing was rapidly deteriorating. I let my mother make the appointment for me because why not? Just because I’m in my late 30s, doesn’t mean I can’t let my mother do stuff for me, right?! Mom came down to the city and together, we went to talk to Dr. Shapiro. After that consultation, I was more on board with the idea, especially after I found out I didn’t have to shave my head to get the implant. (Don’t give me side-eye. I know what you’re thinking but I have enough problems without having to walk around with a half-shaved head.)

To determine candidacy for an implant, I was evaluated by another audiologist at NYU (hi, Laurel!). It was your standard hearing testing, just longer and more thorough. One of the tests determined speech discrimination.

What’s the opposite of passing with flying colors? Failing with drooping, sagging colors? I listened to an audio recording of a nice fellow saying “Ready?,” followed by a sentence I needed to process and repeat. Of the ten sentences, I understood one: “The train is leaving the station.” And something about a banana.
Yup, right ear: useless. With an aid, I did not do much better, as far as speech discrimination goes.

May 9th:

A month after the surgery, my implant was activated. In those YouTube videos with people getting their implants turned on, it always seems amazing! And it is!  But you know…it wasn’t like that for me. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 34 years, so sound is not new for me, the way it is for people who have never heard anything. The activation appointment was exciting but not overwhelming. Laurel, my audiologist at NYU, tested my speech discrimination on activation day and I couldn’t really make out anything. What was REALLY exciting was the appointment where Laurel tested my speech discrimination again and I actually understood what she was saying–sounds, words, phrases, sentences. It wasn’t 100% but it was pretty good and a vast improvement over that first day.

There were also moments like this:

Screenshot of Facebook post about hearing crickets for the first time with cochlear implants
Yesterday, I heard a cicada for the first time, which my sister identified for me. It seems like such a small thing, hearing these sounds of nature but for someone who has never heard them, it’s a whole new world. These moments make me feel vindicated in my decision to get the cochlear implant.  A speech therapist I met with at Rusk Institute kept calling it a “baby brain,” and it really is, because so much is new for my brain.  The brain, you guys, is amazing and I never knew just HOW amazing the brain was until I got this implant. Just incredible.

Want to know more about how the cochlear implant work its’ magic? Check out this video from Cochlear America:

{Review}: The Girls

The Girls, out from Random House on June 14th, left me with the nagging feeling of familiarity. I’m only 36, so it’s not because I lived the heyday of the 60s and 70s. Set in Northern California, at the end of the 1960’s, Evie’s story hits all the hallmarks of teenage angst– friend drama, divorcing parents, sexual awareness, self-consciousness and endless navel-gazing.  But it has this particular heady sheen that seems gloss over anything set in the 60s and 70s.

We begin with two backstories: an introduction to the novel’s antagonists, a roaming band of gypsies that capture Evie’s bored imagination, and we get a glimpse into a sensational ending. From there, we go back to the beginning: Evie’s life fraying at the edges, her father out the door with a younger woman and her mother taking benign neglect to a whole new level.

After awhile, I began to realize where the familiarity came from. Last year, I read We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves, and The Interestings. Both of these books are about angsty adolescents in the 60s and 70s, and they convey that same sort of dream-like quality, a looseness that comes from an age where things were just plain weird and everyone was high and figuring out how to be liberated, in mind and in body.

Not that I have a problem with that. It works for this book. Evie has a lost summer before being shipped off to boarding school, taking up with the members of a cult living in a run-down house in a remote place. Her mother is too busy finding herself a man, and her father…well, her father is doing his own thing too, so where does that leave Evie?

Left to her own devices, Evie learns a thing or two about herself through compare and contrast, and developing a low-level sense of self-loathing, ashamed of her privilege. Her vulnerability is ruthlessly exploited as she tries to convince herself that she belongs. The shocking events at the end of her lost summer disabuses her of that notion.

When we meet Evie, she is in her 60s, approaching 70, revisiting some hazy time when she was 14 and it was the 60s in California, and some crazy stuff was going down and how did she even get swept up in all of it? But now her life is sad, lonely, aimless. And I can see her so vividly, thanks to Emma Cline’s gift for drawing characters with words that evoke a forlorn, pathetic mood, a kind of grayness over everything, even in sunny, bright, optimistic California.

{I received a copy of this book for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.}

My Cochlear Implant Story, Part One.


I have a pretty little clay bowl that my mom’s friend Sonny gave me last year. It took me a while to figure out how best to use it because it’s too precious to dirty up with food. It finally landed on top of my dresser, as a catch-all for my jewelry, which I take off nightly. I also keep my eyeglasses and hearing aids in it. 
On Sunday night, I dropped my right hearing aid in it for the final time. 
The following morning, I was up at 4am, waiting to be picked up by my dad and sister, ready to take me to NYU for what seemed to be the next logical step in this journey I’ve been on since I was born. 
A video posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

A photo posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

By 7:15, I was in the OR, with a mask over my face and counting down to sleep. 
I woke up some hours later with a huge bandage over my right ear, to a friendly nurse offering me water for my parched throat. 

A photo posted by The Real Nani (@the_real_nani) on

I guess I’ll call this Cochlear Implant: Part One. The surgery was a huge step but it’s not the most important step. That comes about a month from now, when the device is activated. As nerve-wracking as surgery is, it pales in comparison to the anxiety of waiting to find out what kind of effect, if any at all, the surgery will have.

Some things about how I’m feeling:

  1. When I burp, my ear pops. 
  2. I’m not supposed to blow my nose vigorously during the initial recovery period. Anyone who knows me knows this is impossible for me. But the stars have aligned this week, and I’ve suffered no allergy attacks since coming home, and therefore, have no need to blow my nose. 
  3. I wore no hearing aid at all for the first day or so of being home. I don’t know why. The silence was nice, though I’m sure it was annoying for everyone around me. 
  4. My bandage very quickly become a security blanket of sorts. I was hesitant to take it off and afraid of what would be underneath. 
  5. But I did take it off, on day 2, with Henry’s help. My ear is banged up, bruised and swollen but not nearly as monstrous as I thought it might look. When it looks prettier, I’ll show you a picture. 
  6. On Day 2, I was able to putter around a bit before feeling light-headed and going back to bed. Today, Day 3, I made lunch for the kids, and put together end-of-year gifts for the hebrew school teachers before I had to go back to bed. Progress. 
  7. Right now, the tip of my ear is numb and the inside of my ear feels stiff. But I don’t feel much pain, just soreness and discomfort. 
  8. I was sent home with Vicodin which is always fun. I’ve taken it twice so far, to help me sleep. 
  9. With or without the Vicodin, all this napping is giving me some funky dreams, and not really pleasantly funky either. 
  10. For the next few weeks, my brain will have no input from the right ear, not that it had much to begin with. Then, there’ll be lots of input. We’ll see how that goes. 
  11. Bonus: While I was writing this, I got an email from my audiologist with an order form attached, asking what kind of equipment I wanted and in what color.  I guess it’s time to countdown to activation day. 
PS I know some of you wanted to know why and how I made this decision, but that’s another blog post and I’ll do it, promise. xo