Get Some

Hot Chocolate and Enjoy                                              


When you name a novel Better Than Chocolate, you better deliver something special and Sheila Roberts does. The Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company is in the hands of women who love it and want to keep it open, but a second husband to the matriarch may have already damaged their legacy beyond repair. Money, money, money. That’s what they need to save the small business and that is precisely what they cannot get from the local bank. So Samantha, the oldest daughter, gets inventive through desperation, and decides that a town-wide Chocolate Festival might rev up sales just in time to keep the company from being sold for debt.

Small businesses are not for the faint of heart and Samantha proves that a woman determined will not be stopped. Her small town, Icicle Falls, is a tourist town dependent on the snow that fails to appear and ersatz Bavarian shops with few shoppers. When even the weather fails you, you know you are in big trouble. But Samantha perseveres. Through all the roadblocks and mishaps she never wavers. It’s fun to watch her deal with the realistic business issues and still keep her mother and sisters happy and involved. While there is an element of romance (it is published by Harlequin), I liked the hard-working women characters the best. The book is a fast and delightful read, just the thing to curl up with on the first day you get the comforters out and the hot chocolate made. Better Than Chocolate is a five-marshmallow read.

Review of

Fat is the New 30

Fat is the new 30


Fat is the new 30

                 The Sweet Potatos Guide to Coping with

                 (the Crapy Parts Of) Life


H.R.H. Jill Conner Browne, The Sweet Potato Queen, has just published her ninth book, Fat is the New 30, The Sweet Potato Queens’ Guide to Coping with (the crappy parts of) Life. The book is as full of homegrown advice and humor as her previous books, but also reflects upon the not-so-funny issues of dealing with her mother’s end-of-life care, death and her own cancer scare, not to mention her total abhorrence of airline travel and the RV consequences for that. Then there’s the hip operation and the big question of what to do with the 3rd third of life. It is difficult to think you might actually find humor at some of these issues, but Jill manages to take us there.

One of my favorite chapters is The Holidays: Horrifying Tales of Human Sacrifice. Here Browne covers the holidays and what is wrong with each and how you cannot sidestep all the cracks in the cement no matter how hard you try. She talks at length about the Zippity Doo Dah parade in March in Jackson, Mississippi, where the Sweet Potato Queens and the Wannabes converge to “rediscover their God-given capacity for joy and the overwhelming spiritual Power of Play.” For me Jill’s genius is giving grown folks the permission we seem to need to dress up, act silly and basically wallow in play. What a great thing. If you have no idea what a Sweet Potato Queen looks like you must make it your mission to find out. Let’s just say, big boobs and bigger butts iced in satin spandex and fringe crowned with a puffy red wig and crown will give you an idea. You can see photographs at Enjoy.

As a Wannabe, I interviewed Jill way back in 2001 after her first two books. You can see the interview here at Interviews. She was funny then and is funny now. Her humor is for those of us who want nothing more than to see the lighter side of life, but not in a mean way. Bless our hearts, we just want to laugh and enjoy it. Case in point, see page 227 of Jill’s book for the tale of the obsessively clean woman who found time on a regular basis to clean underneath her house. You heard me, underneath her house. Roaring good fun. Plus there are recipes. The chapter “God Wants Us to Eat Up” will keep you in calories for weeks.

The book and all the ones before it are just good ole reads. I recommend sweet tea and a hammock, but if it’s cold, stay in bed. And since there is no index of chapter names, be sure and tear up some paper to mark the good parts to read again. I know you will.

Review of

The Blackest Bird

the blackest bird

The murder of Mary Rogers takes us back to the New York City of 1841. Edgar Allen Poe and John Colt (revolver) figure in this fascinating historical novel.

The Blackest Bird

                THE BLACKEST BIRD by Joel Rose
                (Canongate Books 2007)


Joel Rose says in his author's note that he spent seventeen years writing ‘The Blackest Bird’, his newest novel. It shows. He has packed historical detail, a zigzag plot line and several murder mysteries into almost five hundred pages of good reading.

‘The Blackest Bird’ is set in the New York City of 1841-1849. The population is exploding with new immigrants from Ireland and gangs of hooligans have divvied up territories based on national origin and religion. There is an underpaid police force headed by an astute high constable, Jacob Hays. Olga, his literary daughter, ably assists him, albeit behind the scenes. Together they try to solve the various murders in the city working to get the facts through Old Hays' interrogations and Olga's careful reading of the numerous newspapers and broadsheets then published in the city. This is not an era of scientific police work and the best Old Hays can hope for is a confession or jury-believable circumstantial evidence.

 The murder of the beautiful Mary Rogers opens the book. It is July 1841. Officials in New Jersey, where the body is found, do not want the case; neither does the Mayor of New York City. Old Hays cannot begin his investigation for several days. In the meantime, the case becomes the fodder of much gossip in newsprint and though eventually taken over by High Constable Hays, the case grows cold.



Review of

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2001)

Let's be honest. Let's complain. Raising a kid in your 20s, alone, is not easy. Most people keep it to themselves. Dave speaks for the rest.

Appealingly Self-Indulgent

Self indulgent, whiny, age appropriate: these are the words that spring to mind after reading Dave Eggers' new autobiographical book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But the book is very appealing anyway.

Dave Eggers, a founder of Might magazine in San Francisco, had previous seconds of fame by reporting a minor celebrity's death, deliberately falsely, claiming it was satire. "Why should some dramedy star moron loser be mourned by millions, when other people are not?"

Might magazine, and this sort of story, apparently appealed to the young, new media crowd. The magazine did not survive. Dave moved on to an editing job in New York with Esquire.

In Heartbreaking, young Dave, the Tragic Guy (his description), records his journey from college student, son of parents who both succumb to cancer within a month of each other, to guardian by default of his 7-year-old brother, Toph.

This is modern Peter Pan with an unresolved ending. Dave wants to be Peter and never grow up. He has all the hip reasons why he shouldn't have to. He is raising the "lost boy," Toph, a kid leading a kid. It works. Must work. Dave wills it to work. He loves his brother and is doing the best he can. We cheer, then reality sets in.

The single parent difficulties and the growing up without loving parents difficulties are recorded, joked about, raged about. Dave is bitter, angry, scared. He likes that. He likes the attention. Maybe his raw existential howling is a tribute to all of the young stoic single parents who had a stiff upper lip before him. Good! Let's be honest. Let's complain. Raising a kid in your 20s, alone, is not easy. Most people keep it to themselves. Dave speaks for the rest.