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Lit Lovers Lane

Inveterate, incurable readaholic, who blogs about books and what's in 'em. If readaholism is a deadly disease, no problem. Couldn't imagine a better way to go.

Recipe Wars


Yesterday, I cracked open The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, and one of the first scenes involved recipe sharing, which brought back a lingering mystery from childhood and provoked a few questions.


As a child, we frequently visited my  great great Aunt Anna, whose sunny disposition, pure joy for our visit, and scrumptious cream cheese cookies more than made up for any ickyness attendant with the obligatory kiss on her cheek, which was so deeply wrinkled it felt like sandpaper and was home to a mole big enough to have had its own zip code.


Those cream cheese cookies were so good, my mother finally asked for the recipe, which Aunt Anna happily divulged. Time after time, my mom baked those cookies, but never once did they approach Aunt Anna’s.


Now, fast forward to The Sleepwalker’s Guide, where daughter Amina is skeptical when her mom says she shared a recipe with friends. “What did you leave out?” she asks. Her mother’s response. “Nothing. Cayenne and cilantro.”


And with that, I was transported back in time those cream cheese cookies and my older sister’s suspicion ---deemed preposterous at the time --- that dear, sweet, lovable, giving Aunt Anna had deliberately left out a key ingredient.  


Aunt Anna is long departed, so we will never know if she withheld a secret ingredient, but this scene got me thinking about recipe sharing.


Do people really do this?


Do you mind sharing recipes?


Why do some people not like to share?


Have you ever had the feeling someone didn’t spill all the beans (pun intended) when sharing a recipe with you?


What’s the best approach if one doesn’t want to share?

In Honor of Coco Chanel's 131st Birthday (Unbelievable, huh?!)


I just adore the excess book section of my local Hamburg library. Books  for sale, and no due date worries. So even though I couldn’t afford so much as the thread used in haute couture, I was happy to pay my 50 cents and be plopped in the middle of Coco Chanel’s Paris fashion world. Author Harold Carlton’s characters bring to life the trials and triumphs of young people struggling to make it in this seductive, but cutthroat industry, all the while looking for the promise of love’s happily ever after.


The characters are likable, well fleshed out, but I particularly liked the quirky American, Samantha. Between her odd nocturnal dreams of heading the Chanel Addiction Treatment Centre to cure her Chanel obsession, and her daytime sexual exploits calculated to further her ambitions, she was a comical, infuriating, and lovable mixed-up mess of a person.


Also, even when the story lagged a bit, particularly in the first half where not so much seemed to happen, I was hooked by Sophie’s story with its bit of family intrigue and pesky secrets from the past. I found myself as anxious as she to have the puzzle unraveled, and though the outcome was not at all what I predicted, the resolution was a satisfying surprise in keeping with the history of the times.


Though not mentioned normally when one reads about the book, two other elements were  as much integral “characters”  as the four young fashion hopefuls. First is 1960s Paris. Against the backdrop of Vietnam War protests and a changing society, the reader gets a colorful glimpse of two Parises: the old guard hanging on by its teeth to an old way of life and the new one battling to be heard. Also while reading, I wondered if some of the places mentioned were real, and sure enough, restaurants Angelina Tea Room on Rue de Rivoli and Café de Flore on the Left Bank, with their tempting confections, still exist and are waiting for me. What a delicious thought.


paris spots composite


The second element, which figures prominently, but not really as  a character is Coco Chanel herself. With her iconic status and mysterious life, the then already old designer appears only briefly, but casts a long shadow over the lives of the four characters.  Each of them is in love with her in their own way.


As I previously noted, the book did seem to lag a bit in the first half, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and am happy to recommend it for the fashionistas among us who want to be transported back to a pivotal era in fashion history.

E-Book Subscriptions Got You Confused? Try Your Public Library





For quite a while now, I have been toying with the idea of trying out one or all of the e-book subscription services: Oyster, Scribd, and new kind on the block Amazon. 


But I just read this article which says maybe I should forget all of them and head to my public library --- digitally, of course. Most likely, they will have a better e-book selection of bestsellers than these services.


Anybody out there have any experience with this? What's your take on it? 




The Moon Under Her Feet

The Moon Under Her Feet - Clysta Kinstler

Review @ www.LitLoversLane.com


This book was a gift a few years ago from my sister. I fell in love with it the first time I read it, and have read it more than once…a very rare occurrence for me. I don’t keep many books, mainly for space reasons. But this re-imagining of the greatest story ever told, which brings the role of women back into Jesus Christ’s story, is one that has never, and probably never will, leave my bookshelf.


Let me begin by saying, if you are a person with no wiggle room in your Christian beliefs and the Bible, this read is not for you. In fact, you may consider it heresy. As for me, I went to Catholic school from kindergarten on, but they pretty much lost me in 3rd grade…the day I was told any baby who died unbaptized would never see the eyes of God.


So, I am very open to reinterpretations, and author Clysta Kinstler has not only re-imagined just who the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene were, but she has stitched the story of Jesus Christ together with the myth of Queen Isis and the loss of her beloved Osiris to create a narrative which is bold, beautiful, and ingenious. As I read, I marveled at how the author intermingled such diverse “tales” into not only a coherent story, but a riveting one I could not put down.


This read also puts an intensely human face on many of the religious figures we know so well –Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joseph, Judas, and Jesus Christ himself. We are so used to revering them and seeing them other than as flesh and blood beings born with all the hopes, dreams, troubles and cares as the rest of us that they are almost unapproachable. Kinstler’s work served to remind me that, in the end, they were simply people just like the rest of us, which helps to make me feel closer, rather than simply in awe or removed completely.


Without hitting one over the head or having the story suffer for it, the author incorporates the divine feminine and invigorates the role of women in nascent Christianity, a role all but wiped out by modern churches. As priestesses, Mari Almah and Mari Anath worship the Goddess as Supreme. What I really appreciated about this is the inclusion and acceptance of ideas in the story, for even while worshipping the Goddess, they are Jewish women awaiting the Messiah, seeing no dissonance in the two beliefs, but rather connections.


Kinstler’s weaving of those connections, along with story of Isis and Osiris, is compelling and feels like a blueprint for mankind’s acceptance and validation of not just one belief system, but many.


Finally, lest one think this is simply a boring, tortured, perhaps angry feminist recasting of early Christianity, let me be clear. If simply viewed as a novel, this is a beautifully told story that grabs the reader and holds on till the end. It has a spellbinding plot and enough surprises to keep you entertained, whether or not you subscribe to its female perspective.


Simply put, I cannot recommend it enough.


Prevention Magazine Chooses 55 Books to Make You Happy

Click on the Picture for Full List


Have to admit this is a great list of books. Here's what I think about it. 


Eat Pray Love bored me to tears. Never finished it.


Absolutely loved A Year in Provence, The Happiness Project, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Pride and Prejudice, The End of Your Life Book Club, The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat, and The Alchemist.


Want to read Justice Sotomayor's and the Dalai Lama's books.


Read To Kill a Mockingbird as a child. Need to re-read it.


Not sure I would read or support anything of Woody Allen's.


What do you think of Prevention's picks? 





The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Every once in a while, one has the luck to stumble upon a truly gifted author. An author who can do it all: craft a spellbinding story that refuses to loosen its grip on the reader; conjure up a space-time continuum and transport the reader there; give birth to vivid, but nuanced characters that almost leap off the page to inhabit one’s minds’s eye; and wield the written work with as much artistry and flair as a master painter with his colors. In my humble opinion, I stumbled on just such an author when I picked up Diane Setterfield’s first novel.


Truly, I don’t know what I loved most about this book. First, the story was expertly molded. With the use of flashbacks, Ms. Winter spun her story to young biographer Margaret Lea, but the present time also had its twists and turns as Margaret conducted her own research into her subject’s life. The slipping to and fro between past and present was seamless and built excitement.


Just when Ms. Winter’s flashback story of her strange and somewhat disturbing childhood would ensnare me and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, the author would switch to present time, whetting my appetite, building my curiosity. But one didn’t mind the change in the time continuum because the present time story was just as compelling, just as spellbinding. I had very little clue where I was being led at any given point, but wherever it was I wanted to follow, and I never guessed the truth of Vida Winter’s life until the author laid it out. It was such a joy to be totally flabbergasted.


Secondly, her characters were multifaceted, believable, and vivid. I could envision them, wonder about them, care about them. I wanted to puzzle them out. For instance, as I read,  I didn’t know whether to like Ms. Winter or not. She never really lets people into her life, even the reader. She’s imperious and controlling, and one senses she has always gotten her way. She’s uninviting and not the least bit gracious or comforting in nature,  but one also senses vulnerability and that perhaps the superiority is all an act born of necessity… perhaps, she has built a wall around herself and her emotions to defend against anyone getting to close and learning her secrets.


Her young biographer, Margaret Lea, is rather like her, though much more approachable. Margaret has also closed herself off for reasons that are not apparent at first, but Margaret is not so off-putting. One immediately feels empathy for her.


Finally, simply put, Diane Setterfield has a way with words. Her prose is some of the finest in modern writing that I’ve seen, casting beautiful images in unique, creative ways. I was fascinated by the unusual ways she chose to describe the most mundane of things. For instance, here is a passage regarding memory lapses:


At the moment she first learned the facts of Charlie’s departure it had brushed her consciousness momentarily, but had not found a place to settle there. The passages, corridors and stairwells in her mind, that connected her thoughts but also held them apart, had been undermined. Picking up one end of a trail of thought, she followed it through holes in the walls, slipped into tunnels that opened up beneath her feet, came to vague semi-puzzled halts: wasn’t there something….? Hadn’t she been…?


In short, I have no problem giving this book 5 stars. I wish I had more stars to give. Ms. Setterfield is officially on my list of authors to follow, and I only pray she doesn’t disappoint after this first breakout novel.

Source: http://www.LitLoversLane.com/the-thirteenth-tale

The Husband's Secret

Fear of commitment has always prevented me from joining a book club. The idea of obligating myself to finish a read by a time certain unnerves me, mainly because I have enough obligations and one involving my me-time, de-stress pleasure always seemed to defeat the purpose of reading.


Nevertheless, when the non-threateningly named Goodreads group, Casual Readers, chose The Husband’s Secret to read, I thought it might be a good time to give book club reading a whirl. This was an easy read with a positively attention-grabbing  premise, but for me it was a tad too predicable and the story a bit padded with unnecessary, uninteresting storylines.


While there are several storylines featuring different characters, the glue holding everything together is St. Angela’s Catholic School, where Cecilia and John-Paul Fitzpatrick went to school as do their children. Of course, the Fitzpatrick’s story is the most compelling and dynamic , and I was immediately hooked by the dilemma Cecilia found herself in, and I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do in a similar circumstance.  My answers (like Cecilia) were not easily come by, and Ms. Moriarty did a fine job fleshing out all the issues and Cecilia’s torment. I could feel what this character was feeling, and what more can a reader ask for?


Another storyline that engrossed me was Rachel’s, an elderly woman working at the school. Without giving too much away, she is wracked with seething anger and sadness over a tragedy that befell her years ago. Rachel cannot let go, particularly because she does not know whom to blame for her misfortune.  I could also feel this character’s pain and anger quite easily and was quite interested in seeing if and how she resolved it.


Unfortunately, there was one storyline that didn’t impress me as much.  Tess, a former classmate of the Fitzpatricks, comes home to help her ailing mother and flee marital woes. Lord knows, I am a fan of parallel storylines, but Tess’ character and her dilemma really did not hold my interest and felt more like a somewhat clumsy contrivance to introduce the character of Connor, who helps add to the main mystery of the story. This wouldn’t be so bad except Tess’ story takes up quite a bit of time for someone not very integral to the tale, and it is a rather boring story. I simply didn’t care about her or her marriage.


So, if I liked 2 out of 3 storylines, what’s my beef, you might well ask. In a nutshell, predictability. It didn’t take a genius to figure out John Paul’s secret. It didn’t take a genius to figure out the source of Rachel’s pain. As I read, I simply felt I know how the story would unfold, and I was not proved wrong.


Still, because Cecilia’s and Rachel’s stories were so compelling, I did enjoy this book.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore



Review @ www.LitLoversLane.com


I would say it’s pretty difficult, if not damn near impossible, for a bookworm to resist a mystery set in a bookstore. At least, for this bookworm it was, so when Amazon recommend Mr. Penumbra’s, I immediately added it to my birthday wish list.

This solid read did not disappoint, instead delivering an intriguing story marrying an ancient mystery with today’s cutting edge computer technology. For me, the standout features were the narrator’s voice, the technology used to crack the mystery, and story itself.

Protagonist Clay Jannon quickly finds himself smack dab in the middle of a strange bookstore and a centuries-old puzzle. His character’s voice is perceptive, acerbic, and amusing as he describes the bookstore, Mr. Penumbra and the odd assortment of book shoppers, his own friends, and the situation in which he finds himself. I love nothing more than a quirky, slightly sarcastic sense of humor, and as I read, I felt I could have been in my own living room shooting the bull about people and events with my own BFFs. I really liked that vibe from the book.

Once Clay decides he’s got a mystery to solve, the techie resolves to use cutting edge computer technology to do so. I consider myself rather tech savvy, but I admit, it’s only from an end-user point of view. Reading the story and learning of the absolutely wild array of tech tools available to chase down information or solve a problem simply blew me away. It was like I was reading science fiction, but I knew I was not. This stuff exists! Simply from the standpoint of learning how technology can be employed these days, this was worth the read, though I must admit sometimes it became tedious and hard to comprehend.

The story itself is a fun one. What in the heck are all these strange patrons doing coming to a bookstore, treating it like a library, and reading a bunch of odd books no one’s ever heard of? The story caught my interest immediately, and held it completely throughout the entire book.

If I had any disappointment, it would be with the characters. Truthfully, I never quite connected with any of them, perhaps because the book was so driven by the mystery and the technology. In fact, it took me a long time to even remember Clay’s name. As for the other characters, particularly his friends, it seemed as if their only purpose was to add more and more fantastic technological, mystery-solving power to the mix. Their personalities and relationships were not explored in any real, in-depth way. Indeed, even the story surrounding Clay's love interest seemed superficial, uninteresting, and pretty much only there for the techie usefulness his “girlfriend” could bring to the table.

Still, this is a fun, fast-paced read that I enjoyed quite a bit. On my blog, I really gave this a 3.5, but on here I bump the rating up rather than down.

Hemingway Classics Sweepstakes


If you're a Hemingway devotee, this Sweepstakes might be just for you.


One grand prize winner will receive:

1) The complete library of Scribner Classics Hemingway titles
(see title list below)

2) The Sun Also Rises T-Shirt from Out of Print

3) A $100 gift card to OutofPrintClothing.com


One runner up will receive:

1) A copy of the new Hemingway Library edition of The Sun Also Rises

2) A $40 gift card to OutofPrintClothing.com


Enter to win here:


Word Crimes video set to Blurred Lines tune.

Love of Reading: Innate or Instilled?



Whenever I reminisce about my childhood love of reading, my beloved grandmother looms large. As a very young child, I remember climbing into her king-size bed on Sunday mornings and being mesmerized as she read me the funnies.


Once when I was older and had nothing to read, she directed me to her walk-in closet, where lay hidden, like the buried treasure of a sunken ship, a treasure trove of books. And though she no longer read by then, we still shared our love of books by talking about them.


Still, if pressed, I would not say my grandmother awakened or instilled in me a love of reading. Rather, I think she exposed me to it, and I took to it like a duck to water, simply because I had a natural affinity to the written word and stories. And while many might ask Why’s that matter, as a former NYC public school teacher, I think the difference matters tremendously.


child reading composite cropped



You see, for  the  4+ years I taught, I watched in dismay as books and reading were pretty much crammed down students throats from kindergarten on – all in the name of engendering a love of books and reading.


For almost the entire morning, 5 days a week, children were either read to, read by themselves, read with partners, or read aloud. After reading, their task was to write a response to what they had read in their journals. One could hear the collective groan as they set about their task.


And so I watched as children rather than developing a love of reading came to hate the process and see it as a chore to be gotten through as best they could. This got me thinking about the school district’s vow to instill a love of reading in every child. First, is it possible? Next, is it necessary? Does everyone need to love to read?


In my opinion, everything is not for everyone. Just like we cannot make someone love us, we cannot make all children love reading. Just like my father could not make me want to play a musical instrument, one can’t make a child want to read. We all have our likes and dislikes, and for me that is what make the world an interesting place. That is what has helped us progress. We all have our strengths and interests.


In my mind, children don’t need to love to read. They simply need to know HOW to read. They need to know how to read for comprehension, how to read for analysis, how to read for everyday life. None of that means they have to love to read.


Knowing how to read and loving to read are two different things, and for my money, schools should stick to accomplishing the former and let children decide what they love and what interests them for themselves. As adults, our job is to expose children to ideas and possibilities, not to mold and press them like a baker with a cookie cutter all into the same shape.


What do you think?



Win great prizes in the Int'l Authors Day Blog Hop:




Lit Lovers Lane is number 62 on the list and we're giving away a $10 Amazon gift card. Good luck to all!



Happy 4th of July!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day pursuing what means most to you.

When Words Go Horribly Wrong!

Books aren't the only thing being banned. What do you think of this Grey Poupon commercial being given the old heave ho?

The Guardian Readers' Fave Independent Bookshops

The Guardian asked readers to send in pics and memories of their favorite independent bookshops. They were swamped. Here is just a smattering of what they got. Certainly a few here I could while away a few hours in...


Click on the link  or pic to view more: 


Guardian readers' fave bookshops




What bookshops do/did you haunt happily?

Book of the Month at Schiphol Airport

Heading through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, I couldn't resist a peak in the bookstore. I don't beat myself up anymore. I simply cannot walk past a bookstore, even if most of the books are in a foreign language. :) So, what did I see?.






The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin was the Book of the Month. Click on the book title to read our review.