The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman

  • Title:  The Recipe Box
  • Author:  Viola Shipman
  • Genre:  Fiction; Food/recipes
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  March 2018 – St. Martin’s Press; Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Growing up in northern Michigan, Samantha “Sam” Mullins felt trapped on her family’s orchard and pie shop, so she left with dreams of making her own mark in the world. But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star’s New York bakery is not what Sam dreamed.

When the chef embarrasses Sam, she quits and returns home. Unemployed, single, and defeated, she spends a summer working on her family’s orchard cooking and baking alongside the women in her life—including her mother, Deana, and grandmother, Willo. One beloved, flour-flecked, ink-smeared recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.

As Sam discovers what matters most she opens her heart to a man she left behind, but who now might be the key to her happiness.  (publisher)

My take:  The Recipe Box is about a young pastry chef who leaves her job in New York when she can’t stand to work for her obnoxious boss one more second. She heads home to Michigan and her family’s orchard/pie shop where her mom and grandma will give her some much-needed TLC.

It’s a story about family, tradition, and learning to trust – yourself and others. Scattered throughout are scrumptious sounding recipes for various baked goods featured in the novel. I plan to try some so this book will go on my cookbook shelf next to my own family cookbook. Recommended to fans of charming, uplifting novels and foodie fiction.

About the author:

Viola Shipman is a pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his fiction. To date, The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest have been translated into over a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. The Charm Bracelet was named a 2017 Michigan Notable Book. Rouse lives in Michigan and writes regularly for People, Good Housekeeping, and Coastal Living, among other places, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.



Spotlight/US Giveaway: How To Love The Empty Air by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Vulnerable, beautiful and ultimately life-affirming, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s work reaches new heights in her revelatory seventh collection of poetry. Continuing in her tradition of engaging autobiographical work, How to Love the Empty Air explores what happens when the impossible becomes real―for better and for worse. Aptowicz’s journey to find happiness and home in her ever-shifting world sees her struggling in cities throughout America. When her luck changes―in love and in life―she can’t help but “tell the sun / tell the fields / tell the huge Texas sky…. / tell myself again and again until I believe it.” However, the upward trajectory of this new life is rocked by the sudden death of the poet’s mother. In the year that follows, Aptowicz battles the silencing power of grief with intimate poems burnished by loss and a hard-won humor, capturing the dance that all newly grieving must do between everyday living and the desire “to elope with this grief, / who is not your enemy, / this grief who maybe now is your best friend. / This grief, who is your husband, / the thing you curl into every night, / falling asleep in its arms…” As in her award-winning The Year of No Mistakes, Aptowicz counts her losses and her blessings, knowing how despite it all, life “ripples boundless, like electricity, like joy / like… laughter, irresistible and bright, / an impossible thing to contain.”


–Barnes & Noble:


“O Laughter”
O, Laughter, you are not forgotten.
My body is the jam jar you flew into.You thought it’d be so sweet. You didn’t
Realize it was made by crushing the most

gentle of things. O, Laughter, Grief sees
itself as a knife, carving out what needs

to be seen. See yourself as an ice skater,
the knives on your feet. Sometimes the pain

bursts out of me like a flock of starlings.
My throat releases everything but you.

Laughter, be the slyest magician. Make me
think it’s easy work: this levitation.

I’ll willingly step into the box, if you’d just
cut me in half, spin my parts around,

then make me whole again.

About Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of seven books of poetry, including The Year of No Mistakes, crowned the Book of the Year for Poetry by the Writers’ League of Texas. She is also the author of two books of nonfiction, most recently Dr Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which spent three months on the New York Times Best Seller List. Recent awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the ArtsEDGE write-in-residency at the University of Pennsylvania and the Amy Clampitt Residency. When not on the road, she lives in Austin with her husband Ernest Cline, author of the New York Times bestselling Ready Player One.


“Grief is one of the most impossible things to put words to…Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz does the impossible.”
Sarah Kay, author of No Matter the Wreckage

“Aptowicz is something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively thoughtful, and approachable, looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art and slam poetry can create.”
Jo Reed, NEA

“With candid couplets and tercets, lyrical repetition and a voice both rhythmic and unaffected, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz elucidates the hollows of grief, the beforelife, and the getting on with it.”
—Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces and Last Sext
“As a reader who understands the particular hole the loss of a mother leaves, and as a reader who understands how a particular relationship with geography can breed longing, How to Love the Empty Air sung to me. But it will sing to you, too. Because Aptowicz is so skilled about writing the specific with arms wide enough to welcome all. This is a book that will tattoo itself on all the places you love to look at most.”

—Hanif Abdurraqib, author of They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us

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Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)


Last week on Bookfan:


Reading plan for this week:


The Italian Party by Christina Lynch

  • Title:  The Italian Party
  • Author:  Christina Lynch
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. date:  March 20, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Newly married, Scottie and Michael are seduced by Tuscany’s famous beauty. But the secrets they are keeping from each other force them beneath the splendid surface to a more complex view of ltaly, America and each other.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher―a teenager with secrets of his own―disappears, her search for him leads her to discover other, darker truths about herself, her husband and her country. Michael’s dedication to saving the world from communism crumbles as he begins to see that he is a pawn in a much different game. Driven apart by lies, Michael and Scottie must find their way through a maze of history, memory, hate and love to a new kind of complicated truth.

Half glamorous fun, half an examination of America’s role in the world, and filled with sun-dappled pasta lunches, prosecco, charming spies and horse racing, The Italian Party
is a smart pleasure. (publisher)

My take:  This novel grew on me – little by little – until I couldn’t put it down. It’s about secrets and lies in a marriage, in government, in cultures – and the nuances involved in all.

It’s about Italy during the 1950s (post WWII years) when other governments (communists and democracies alike) vied to influence change in the country. Intrigue, mystery and glamour combine for a look at important changes that could have far-reaching effects throughout the continent.

I loved the characters, the descriptions and the historical references that seemed familiar yet were truly unknown to me. I would see the film if one is made. This was a nice change-of-pace novel for me and I find myself craving a Campari and soda. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for sending a copy.

About The Author:

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias. The Italian Party is her debut novel under her own name.





Praise for The Italian Party:

“Set in Siena in 1956, this debut novel is a spy thriller, comedy of manners, and valentine to Italy, spiked with forbidden sex and political skulduggery…The ending is unexpected, with the author displaying a sophisticated, nuanced view of love and marriage that feels very modern. Or maybe it’s just Italian.” —Kirkus Reviews


“[Lynch’s] affection for and knowledge of the Italian people and way of living are evident: her food descriptions in particular are droolworthy. Readers will be rooting for Michael and Scottie through the story’s many adventures and intrigue, while political and social commentary add an extra layer of depth.” —Booklist


“The story plays like a confectionary Hollywood romance with some deeper notes reminiscent of John le Carré and Henry James. Scottie is a resilient main character who might have been played by Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn in a 1950s movie adaptation of this entertainingly subversive take on that seemingly innocent period.” —Publisher’s Weekly


“In her gracefully written debut, as effervescent as spumante, Lynch dramatizes the allure and power of secrets – in politics and in marriage – while depicting with sly humor the collision between the American do-gooder naïveté and Italian culture. Italophiles and anyone interested in spying and the expat experience will love the spot-on social commentary.” —Library Journal (Starred Review)


​”This novel is dashing, fun, sexy and witty—a fun read on multiple levels.”​—The Historical Novel Society


“Imagine Beautiful Ruins plus horses; Toujours Provence with spies, a mystery and sex. The Italian Party is a fizzy, page-turning delight that begs for a Campari and soda!” —Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank With Me


“Christina Lynch has accomplished a rare American literary feat with this captivating novel whose keen political edge and historical resonance feel very timely.  Her grasp of mid-century Cold War culture, of sexual identity, the world of personal secrecy and intimacy, trust and betrayal, naive patriotism and profound national identity, are swirled into a page-turner that is both a genuine romance and a thoughtful spy story.” —Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter


“Tremendous fun! Wives with big secrets, husbands with bigger ones, swirling around a 1950s Siena teeming with seduction and spycraft.” —Chris Pavone, New York Times bestselling author of The Travelers and The Expats


“Christina Lynch’s hapless American newly-weds give us plenty to worry about as they dig their way into the dark heart ofItaly (1956) and into the even darker heart of the CIA. They give us plenty to laugh about, too, in this volatile mixture of old-world charm and cold-war politics.” —Bob Hellenga, author of The Fall of a Sparrow


Spotlight and US Giveaway: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

Description: (content provided by the publisher)

Sally Hepworth wrote THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR while pregnant, and edited it with a newborn at her side. So, naturally, being relatively housebound, she spent a lot of time wondering what her neighbors were up to. The result of Hepworth’s guesswork is a more suspenseful, more propulsive, and more secret-laden book than anything she’s written before.

Hepworth’s suburban-set story centers on the people of Pleasant Court. There’s Essie, a young mother grappling with its constant demands. Her mother, Barbara, is the perfect grandmother to her two young daughters, doting, and there to help at the drop of a hat. But it’s new-to-the-neighborhood Isabelle who proves a breath of fresh air for Essie. Their budding friendship, while just what Essie needs, sounds the alarm for those close to her. Because Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident… Then there’s Ange. Is her photographer husband’s client just that, or something more? Fran, meanwhile, is keeping her husband at arm’s length. She made a regretful decision during a lull in their marriage, and is now struggling to cope with the consequences.

You may think you have the people of Pleasant Court all figured out, but Hepworth proves otherwise, throwing in some serious curveballs.

About the author:
Sally Hepworth is a former event planner and human resources professional. A graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, Sally started writing novels after the birth of her first child. Sally has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the UK, and Canada, and now writes full-time from her home in Melbourne, where she lives with her husband and three young children. She is currently working on her next novel.

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