Monday, May 31, 2010

In My Mailboc/Mailbox Monday: Memorial Day

Story Siren hosts In My Mailbox where book bloggers offer a peek into the books that arrived in their homes over the past week. Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page has the same objective. These memes are great in that they offer us a chance to see what others are reading- it's like candy for book addicts!

I am a week behind with IMM and MM so I will cover my BEA books next week (don't worry - I missed the exhibits so it's not out of control at all!). Despite knowing I would be getting books at BEA, I still felt compelled to purchase the following two books:

This was my Waiting on Wednesday pick a few weeks ago and I just couldn't wait!

I was fascinated by this story as it was unfolding in the news so I was looking forward to reading more about it in this memoir. I finished it over the weekend and more review will be up shortly!
This book was a win from Serena at Savvy Verse and Wit (thanks Serena!) This will be my first novel by this author and I am looking forward to it!

What came into your home this week?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

TSS: May 30, 2010

The Sunday
Ahhh . . . a 3 day weekend! This is a very welcome break from far too much craziness at work and I am really looking forward to the extra day of rest.

Speaking of craziness at work - it unfortunately interrupted my BEA plans and I was unable to get over to the convention center at all during BEA. I have been so looking forward to all the festivities at BEA so I was very disappointed but tried to eke out what I could for the week. Here's a quick summary of what I got up to . . . .

Wed Night - Book Blogger Reception
The Book Blogger reception hosted by Harper Collins at the Algonquin Hotel and it was great to meet in person many bloggers whose blogs I read regularly including Marie of Boston Bibliophile, Megan of Leafing Through Life, Trisha from eclectic/eccentric , Amanda from The Zen Leaf, Jenny from Take Me Away and Jennifer from Crazy For Books. It was fun to put faces to names (and avatars)!

I also sat at a table with some book bloggers that were new to me - Alea from Pop Culture Junkie, Gail from Ticket To Anywhere, Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves and Deborah from Books Movies and Chinese Food - everyone was buzzing about what they had seen at the convention that day from other bloggers to authors and of course books!

Friday - Book Blogger Convention
Book Blogger Convention
The Book Blogger Convention was fabulous and I am glad that with limited free time during the week that this was one the one daytime event that I was able to make - the entire agenda was geared towards book bloggers so it was very relevant and chock-full of tips, advice and things to consider. I will post later this week on what I learned from the many panel discussions.

In addition to great book blogger topics, the convention, of course, offered the opportunity to meet many book bloggers and publishers. Throughout the day I met Jael from As I Turn the Pages, Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, Care from Care's Online Book Club, Terry from the Reading Tub and Carey from The Tome Traveller. I also met fellow NYC book bloggers Kari from The Five Borough Book Review, Diane from BookChickDi and Lisa Peet from Likefire - there are a lot of book bloggers in NYC - maybe we should have a get together sometime soon?

There were a lot of publishers, publicists and agents at the convention - I didn't meet very many because I wasn't mingling as much as I could - but I did have the pleasure over lunch of chatting with Erin from Peachtree Publishers and Libby and Caitlin from Unbridled Books. We had a great discussion about favorite books from our childhoods and how to track them down.

All in all, it was a great event and I will share some of my "learnings" in a post later this week!

Meanwhile back at the blog . . . .

My blog has undergone a makeover! Thanks to Staci from Blogging Bella Designs my blog has been redesigned with a fun NYC-themed header and footer and "chick with books" image! It amazed me how she took info from a questionnaire and came up with such a great design that really reflects my interests and sense of design. Thanks Staci!

Finished Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home by Laura and Lisa Ling
Reviewed The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Phew - this is a long TSS post. I hope you all are having a wonderful Sunday and enjoy Memorial Day tomorrow!!!

Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees is the fictional account of a summer spent in Walpole, MA by LMA and her family. The novel is an interesting combination of history and fiction - the Alcott family did spend the summer of 1855 in Walpole and many other elements of the novel are historically accurate but the story told in the novel is the author's creation . . . and it is delightful!

The Alcotts arrive in Walpole in July 1855. Because Louisa's father, Bronson, is absorbed by his philosophical pursuits and does not perform traditional work, the family is frequently in financial straits and they move often. The Alcott girls quickly settle into life in Walpole making friends with contemporaries and even taking part in the preparation for the production of a play by the area youth.

Like the character Jo in Little Women, Louisa resists tradition and doesn't settle in as easily as her sisters. In many ways, Louisa seemed ahead of her time in opposing the traditional roles assigned to women and in wanting to pursue a writing career. Her strident independence could not co-exist with romantic love and that presented conflicts for her as she felt her love for Joseph Singer growing. I found her independence admirable and impressive but was struck by how black and white it all seemed - I am thankful that women can now integrate love, a career and a family and are not forced to make such a stark choice between love and career.

I will leave the sketch of the plot there so as not to reveal too much - since this is based on LMA's life, you may know a lot of the plot from books about her life but I would rather not ruin it for anyone that is not as familiar with her life story. This book was a true delight - it brought back many fond memories of Little Women from my childhood. I never realized that Little Women was so closely based on Alcott's own life so I was pleasantly surprised to see how much this novel reminded me of my favorite characters from the classic novel. It definitely reignited by passion for Little Women and I will be going back to re-read it!

I was fortunate enough to read this book as part of a Reading Series hosted by Trish at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin? and she held a discussion with the author on her blog which you can see here. Kelly O'Connor McNees offered great insight into the characters, her research for the book and Louisa May Alcott's life during the discussion. I love how she turned an interest in and passion for this author into the subject of a novel; by the way, the passion pays off - the extensive research performed by the author is evident throughout even though the novel reads as a work of fiction.

I recommend this book to long time Little Women fans who will revel in the memories brought back by reading about the Alcott clan but also to anyone who may not know LMA or Little Women - the story is charming and more than stands on it's own!

Winners of Season of Second Chances

Congratulations! The winners of my new and gently used ARCs of The Season of Second Chances: A Novel by Diane Meier are:

Kristin from Always With A Book

Sunday, May 23, 2010

TSS May 23 2010 - BEA Here I Come

The Sunday
Hard to believe BEA is here already - it all seemed so far off when I registered in February and it was cold and snowy out - it has been in the 80's this weekend and BEA starts tomorrow.

Back then I had grand plans of attending every day of the conference - with it taking place cross-town at the Javits Center, I figured it would be no problem to make it there every day. Well life (mostly my job) has intervened and I will now have a difficult time making it there at all! I have managed to keep the Outlook calendar clear on Friday for Book Blogger Con and have defended that vacation day like a rabid dog so I hope to be in attendance for the entire conference on Friday without having to dive out for meetings and conference calls.

So my new scaled back BEA plan is:

Attend for a little in morning and hopefully catch the Brunonia Barry and Adriana Trigiani signings

Attend at the end of day and hopefully make the Julia Glass sigining

Attend the Book Blogger reception at the Algonquin hotel in the evening

I will be in CT for work all day so won't make any of the sessions . I am especially bummed about missing the Adult Author Breakfast which is being hosted by Jon Stewart (a fellow W&M alum) but there is no way around this meeting in CT so I hope to read a report from a blogger that was able to attend

I may make the Goodreads literary pub crawl if I get back to the city in time

It may be a much scaled back plan but I happy to make as much of it as I can!

Other blog happenings this week. . .

I did a little blog housecleaning and put up a navigation bar on the home page which includes links to all my reviews organized alphabetically by author and also by genre.

Posted my wrap up post for the NY Challenge - one challenge down, many to go!

Posted my review of Prospect Place West by Amy Sohn - this snarky examination of the Park Slope Brooklyn neighborhood full of SAHMs "makes Desperate Housewives look like amateur hour"

I just started Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home - Laura and Lisa Ling's memoir about Laura's captivity in North Korea. Their story of fascinating and so far I am enjoying the book. I will read for this month of the World Party Challenge hosted by Jill of Fizzy Thoughts for which we need to read a book set in or about a Communist country.

My giveaway of 2 ARCs of Diane Meier's Season of Second Chances is ongoing and closes May 26th at midnight so there are still a few more days to enter!

Have a great week and I hope to meet some of you at BEA or BloggerCon in NYC!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn

Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn chronicles the lives of four SAHM's in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. Park Slope is an area in Brooklyn filled with "bourgeois bohemian breeders" - it is a socially progressive enclave just outside Manhattan filled with couples with young children in classic brownstone homes.

Prospect Park West is not all Bugaboo strollers and trips to the Park - the four Moms whose stories are each featured in the novel are grappling with much more than just what to make for dinner and when to schedule the playdates. Lizzie, mother to her biracial son Manse, is a former lesbian and in the wake of her husband's frequent absences while he tours with his band she finds herself drawn to women again. Rebecca, a freelance writer working part time, mourns the loss of her once very active sex life with husband Theo - she loves her daughter Abbie but finds herself in competition with the toddler for her husband's attention. Melora is an actress married to her husband Stuart, a film director. They live in their mansion with their son Orion and their Swedish nanny while trying to walk the line of putting themselves in the public eye and live a private life. Finally Karen, slightly neurotic mother to Darby, dedicates herself to finding the perfect apartment in a brownstone in a coveted school district despite her husband's reluctance to spend exorbitantly to get said apartment. All this takes place against the backdrop of the Park Slope Food Co-op, Prospect Park and swanky 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.

I love the snarky tone of this novel - the author pokes fun at the neighborhood and its residents. I thought it was great that Sohn offers insight into the darker side of motherhood which can be filled with doubts and ambivalence. Although the main characters' stories seem outlandish at times, there is a lot of truth that runs through each storyline which makes it relateable while also entertaining. The entertainment factor is big in the novel - a quote from author Lauren Weisberger promises "Makes Desperate Housewives look like amateur hour" and the book does not disappoint! Warning - if you are easily offended by language or graphic sex scenes, they abound in this book. All in all, an engaging beach read!

Thanks to Sarah at Simon and Schuster for providing a copy of this book for review

Monday, May 17, 2010

Wrap Up Post: NY Challenge

Well, I have finished my first challenge!! Yahoo!! Ok - it only took one book to finish it but never mind - its an accomplishment!

Jill at Fizzy Thoughts hosted the NY Challenge to get people excited for BEA being held in NYC next week (next week - that came up quickly!). The rules were simple - read one book set in NY between the start of the challenge and May 15th. Jill also hosted 3 mini-challenges:

Feb: Create a list of ten things about NY - I wrote about my ten favorite places to read in NYC - maybe you can visit one or two if you are in town for BEA?
Heather from Age 30+ . . . A Lifetime of Books won the prize that month for her post on her ten favorite things about NY - her post draws attention to some of NYC's best so check it out before you come to the city for BEA!

Mar: Jill combined NY with women's history month and asked us to write about a "woman, NY, history" - I chose to write about Jackie Onassis and I won the prize that month! I received a lovely Strand coffee mug, pen and tin of mints. Thanks, Jill!

Apr: We were asked to compose a poem - my life at work fell apart that month and I could not summon any creative juices (there are few there to begin with!) so I did not participate in the April mini-challenge. But check out the poem written by Jenna from Little Bird - it was the winner that month!

For the challenge, I read a book I had been waiting to read for some time - Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (review here). It is a quiet story about an Irish immigrant living in Brooklyn in the 50's.

Thanks to Jill for hosting an excellent challenge and I look forward to welcoming everyone to the Big Apple next week!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday: May 17, 2010

Story Siren hosts In My Mailbox where book bloggers offer a peek into the books that arrived in their homes over the past week. Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page has the same objective. These memes are great in that they offer us a chance to see what others are reading- it's like candy for book addicts!

Received for Review




Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Brooklyn: A Novel by Colm Toibin

From Committed to a quiet life in little Enniscorthy, Ireland, the industrious young Eilis Lacey reluctantly finds herself swept up in an unplanned adventure to America, engineered by the family priest and her glamorous, "ready for life" sister, Rose. Eilis's determination to embrace the spirit of the journey despite her trepidation--especially on behalf of Rose, who has sacrificed her own chance of leaving--makes a bittersweet center for Brooklyn. Colm Tóibín's spare portrayal of this contemplative girl is achingly lovely, and every sentence rings with truth. Readers will find themselves swept across the Atlantic with Eilis to a boarding house in Brooklyn where she painstakingly adapts to a new life, reinventing herself and her surroundings in the letters she writes home. Just as she begins to settle in with the help of a new love, tragedy calls her home to Enniscorthy, and her separate lives suddenly and painfully merge into one. Tóibín's haunted heroine glows on the page, unforgettably and lovingly rendered, and her story reflects the lives of so many others exiled from home.

My Review: This slim novel is written in Toibin's signature spare style - on the surface it may seem like little is going on but the power lies in observations stated in simple sentences. In the first half of the book (approximately 125 pages), we meet Eilis in Co. Wexford and follow her across the Atlantic to 1950's Brooklyn where she lives in a boardinghouse and works in a department store on Fulton St. Eilis also meets Tony, a first generation Brooklynite, and without much enthusiasm begins a relationship with him. At times, I was frustrated by Eilis's lack of passion for Tony - he so obviously cared for her and she seemed indifferent at times. But as the novel progressed, it was clear that her love for Tony, although not wildly passionate, was certainly a slow burn. After a tragedy at home, Eilis returns to Ireland and grapples with the life she left behind including obligations to her mother.

This novel obviously deals with the theme of immigration. Toibin does an excellent job of depicting the life of an immigrant as one caught between two worlds. As Eilis tries to assimilate into life in Brooklyn, she also aches for the familiarity of her home and family in Ireland. In this quote, the Eilis's homesickness is palpable:

"She had been keeping the thought of home out of her mind, letting it come to her only when she wrote or received letters or when she woke from a dream in which her mother or father or Rose . . . appeared. She thought it strange that the mere sensation of savouring the prospect of something could make her think for a while that it must be the prospect of home."
And when she returns to Ireland, she finds she doesn't as easily fit there as she would have hoped:
"She had put no thought into what it would be like to come home because she had expected that it would be easy; she had longed so much for the familiarity of these rooms that she had presumed that she would be happy and relieved to step back into them, but, instead, on this first morning, all she could do was count the days before she went back."
As the daughter of immigrants with a grandmother who returned "home" to Scotland twice only to realize as much as she didn't feel settled in NY, she also no longer belonged back home, the loss of belonging and home experienced by immigrants resonates for me. Toibin's spare, bleak style only makes this loss that much more poignant in Brooklyn.

I am a fan of Toibin's work and Brooklyn is no exception - it is moving in a very quiet way and stays with you after you read the last page.

This book meets the criteria for the Ireland Reading Challenge , NYC Challenge,
"place" category of What's In a Name? "Win Win" category of Twenty Ten Challenge


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Giveaway:Season of Second Chances ARC

For some reason, I received two ARC's of Diane Meier's The Season of Second Chances: A Novel. As you can tell from my review of this book, I really enjoyed it and would love to share it with my readers. So . . . I am giving away a copy to two lucky readers. One copy is unread and one is gently used :)

Here are the details:

  • To enter, please leave a comment below with your email address so that I can contact you
  • Open Internationally
  • Enter by Midnight on Tuesday 5/26
Good Luck!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier tells the story of Joy Harkness and the new chapter she faces in her life. Leaving behind her relatively solitary existence in New York City as a professor at Columbia, Joy heads north and takes a position at a Massachusetts university. The novel chronicles Joy's transition to her new life and the self discovery that accompanies the transition.

Without acknowledging that she wanted or needed to, Joy leaves behind her NYC existence and is suddenly confronted with all kinds of complications to her previously straightforward life. Despite her best efforts to remain aloof, she is embraced by a group of friends and the rhythm of their reliance on each other. To many, this instant community would be welcome but to Joy it feels claustrophobic and she struggles to feel comfortable at weeknight dinners and daily lunches with her new friends. Joy reflects on the difference between her life in NY and her life in Amherst:

My time in New York hadn't exposed me to people who let you see their most intimate or ardent inner lives. I do remember thinking that life at Columbia was devoid of people of goodwill and benevolence. And I remember thinking that they must have had their kind and sweet human emotions removed before they took their jobs, or perhaps the pressures of their academic bred it out of them. Here in Amherst, in contrast, every day seemed to bring another heart onto another sleeve.

Along with new friends, romance also enters Joy's life. Actually, as opposed to the friends who she seems to feel have thrust themselves upon her, romance is welcomed in by Joy. She makes, in my opinion, some unwise choices in the romance department and these choices result in additional complications. Teddy, one of the men with which Joy becomes involved, is enmeshed with his overbearing mother and this limits his ability to fully be in a relationship with Joy. For all his emotional immaturity, Teddy also sees through Joy's aloof exterior to her fears and weaknesses and their relationship brings even more self revelation for Joy.

My assessment:
This book is excellent - it is smart and well written and the characters are complex and interesting. As much as Joy may not seem to always be the most likeable character, I think there is a lot readers can relate to in Joy's struggle to make changes to her life and the discomfort she feels with the changes. The book certainly gave me much to consider.

The genre of this novel is hard to pinpoint - fiction? women's fiction? After reading Diane Meier's blog post entitled "The Ghetto of Women's Lit", I wonder if the ambiguity really matters. In the post, Meier discusses a panel she sat on at the Empire State Book Festival with fellow "women's lit" authors Cathleen Schine, Elizabeth Noble and Sally Koslow. The panel (which I had also read about on Nomad Reader) discussed and debated the perils and benefits of classifying women's lit into "chick lit" and "beach read" as opposed to just fiction. Novels, like Season for Second Chances, that straddle these women's lit sub-categories, run the risk of disappointing those expecting something else from the novel based on the sub category in which they placed it based on relatively superficial criteria such as the cover art or the novels with which it is bundled by Amazon. My recommendation - Just read it!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

TSS May 9 2010: Sharing A Love Of Reading with Mom

The Sunday
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there - I hope you have had a wonderful day! I spent a great day with my Mom just catching up - my parents recently returned North after 6 months in Florida so this weekend was a bit of a reunion in addition to a Mother's Day celebration.

Reading was a big part of my childhood - I distinctly remember my Mom taking us to the library and reading us a book each night before bed. Eventually, I would go the library alone and was reading under the covers way past "lights out". Interestingly, I rarely saw my Mom read a book - she read the paper but not books so I never considered my Mom a reader. What I didn't appreciate then was that she couldn't fit reading into her demanding schedule of work, childcare and homemaker - reading became one of many sacrifices my Mom made for her family.

A few years ago my parents retired early and Mom found herself with more time than she knew what to do with so she began reading. Knowing how much I read, my Mom would ask me for recommendations and I discovered the joy of sharing books with my Mom. Our tastes are a little different but there is definitely overlap - we both enjoy books set in Ireland or by Irish authors so my Mom and I have shared the Irish Country Doctor series, books by Colm Toibin and Sebastian Dunne and many of Maeve Binchy's comforting novels. I recently read Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show and I look forward to sharing that with my Mom along with others by Frank Delaney. Mom also enjoys Dorothea Benton Frank, Jodi Picoult and Joanna Trollope - I like these too and am very happy to avail myself of her hand me downs!

Beyond hand me downs, however, my mother's and my shared love of reading brings so much more - it offers us a language in which we relate to each other as friends and peers as opposed to mother and daughter. I have discovered quite a bit about my Mom in our discussions about books - revelations I know would not have been shared in any other context.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In My Mailbox/Monday Mailbox: May 3, 2010

Story Siren hosts In My Mailbox where book bloggers offer a peek into the books that arrived in their homes over the past week. Mailbox Monday hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page has the same objective. These memes are great in that they offer us a chance to see what others are reading- it's like candy for book addicts!

As a form of comfort for myself after a grueling week at work, I made a stop on my way from CT to NYC at a little slice of book heaven - The Book Barn in Niantic, CT. I heard about this bookstore via the Spotlight on Bookstores feature on She is Too Fond of Books. The feature was written by author Sarah Pekkanen and she extolled the virtues of all the used books available at the barn and the variety of rooms and sheds dotted about the property each chock full of books. Well, the Book Barn didn't disappoint and I picked up 8 books! I could have brought many more home but I had to draw the line . . . I figure I can always go back!

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel by Lisa See - I have heard wonderful things about this author and may read this book for the May selection of the World Party Reading Challenge hosted by Fizzy Thoughts

The Young Wan by Brendan O'Carroll - I have read all the others in the Agnes Browne series so I was excited to be able to pick this one up.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - I somehow missed this classic growing up but definitely want to read it

A Minor Indiscretion by Carole Matthews - this looked like a fun beach read!

A Summer Affair: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand - I haven't read anything by this author yet but she seems to have quite a following and the cover made me think of the beach during the upcoming summer!

Rory & Ita by Roddy Doyle - I was looking for some of his fiction but saw this non-fiction work he wrote about his parents and thought it sounded interesting

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd - this was recommended on a list of Irish fiction I saw on Reading Matters

Forget me Not by Isabel Wolff - it appears this was never released in the US but I have a weakness for "Brit Chick Lit" so I had to snag it.

And the lovely STRAND mug and pen (there was also a tin of "NY mints" but I finished those before taking the picture!) arrived from Jill at Fizzy Thoughts - it was the prize for the March mini-challenge of her NY Challenge - thanks so much Jill!

What came into your home this week?

Sunday Salon: May 2, 2010 - April in Review

The Sunday

It feels good to have surfaced and joined the land of the living again! Work has been absolutely horrific over the past few weeks and I essentially dropped out of life as I pulled all-nighters and responded to one crisis after another at work. It has become clear that this the crazy schedule at work is now the new normal so I made a decision last week to stake out some boundaries and maintain work/life balance as best as possible. With that, I am headed back to bootcamp tomorrow morning and am back in the land of book blogs - yay!

April was definitely light in terms of reviews (see above) but I did do a lot of reading. Here is what I read this month - the links take you to my reviews if I have completed them:

Very Valentine: Adriana Trigiani
Brava Valentine: Adriana Trigiani
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott: Kelly O'Connor McNees
Hiking Through: Paul Stultzman
Alexandra, Gone: Anna McPartlin
The Guest House: Barbara Richardson

I am also remiss in posting my review of The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier but I will have that up (along with a giveaway of my ARC) this week.

On to a better month in May!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Review: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani introduces the Roncalli clan and the world of custom shoes, the West Village and the beauty of Italy. What a combination - the premise sounded irresistible to me and the book certainly delivered.

My Summary:
Valentine Roncalli lives with her grandmother in an apartment above the West Village shop that houses the Angelini custom shoe business in which Valentine works with her grandmother. The business has been in the family for generations and Valentine has a passion for her family, their history and for the artistry of making one of a kind shoes using luxurious materials. Amid the stresses of keeping a small niche business afloat, Valentine attempts a romance with a handsome restauranteur and tries to fit their lovelife into their crazy schedules. When Valentine accompanies her grandmother to Italy on her annual buying trip, she steps back into time and her passion for the art of shoemaking deepens. While there, she also begins to question work/life balance and the importance of trying to achieve it all.

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book! Valentine is a dynamic protagonist - she is pushed to taking her family business into the current century by financial pressures but then learns she has a real head for business and a true passion for the artistry of the craft of custom shoe design. I found myself rooting for her from the start whether in her struggles with the business or her relationship with the complicated and ambitious Roman Falconi. When she traveled to Italy (a dream of mine!) and observed how much Italians value work/life balance, I found I really related to her desire for a slower pace. This quote, spoken by Valentine, certainly gives me pause,

"You [her Italian friend] live a balanced life. You work, you eat, you rest. We don't. We can't. We live as though we have something to prove. There's never enough time, we eat on the run, and we sleep as little as possible. We believe the one who works the hardest wins."

What I really love about this book, however, is the boisterous Roncalli clan and the vivid descriptions of both New York City and Italy (especially the scenes in Isle of Capri). In addition to their matriarch, Gram, the Roncalli clan includes Valentine's two sisters, Tess and Jaclyn, her brother Alfred, her funny, larger than life mother and her drily humorous Dad. Despite their bickering and the fact that are all involved in each other's lives, their love for each other and the value they place on family is clear. Although not nearly as boisterous (or boisterous at all for that matter!), my family also places a lot of importance on pulling together and being there for each other above all so I could relate to Valentine's involvement with and true affection for her family.

The Roncalli's are from Queens, which is where I grew up, and I enjoyed all the references to local spots in the neighborhood including Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Forest Hills and Leonard's of Great Neck (I attended a prom there!) If I didn't know that author grew up in SW Virginia, I would think she hailed from Queens - her references were spot on! The level of detail she provides about locales - Queens, Italy, The West Village - really add to the novel and serve to draw the reader even further into her story.

This was one of those books where I was dreading the end because I didn't want to leave the characters or the life the author had created. Fortunately, this is the first in a 3 book series and I was able to quickly move on to the 2nd book Brava, Valentine (review will be posted soon) but it will be a long wait for the 3rd book due to come out in February 2010. If you want a little more from the author in the meantime, check out her website, or listen to her interview with Book Club Girl on Blog Talk Radio where she talks about Very Valentine.

I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours; although the author is orignally from SW VA, she currently lives in NYC and her book is decidedly set in NYC so this review meets the criteria for the Literary Road Trip