How About Never – Is Never Good For You? By Bob Mankoff

how about never - is never good for you?

  • Title:  How About Never – Is Never Good For You? My Life in Cartoons
  • Author:  Bob Mankoff
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  March 2014 – Henry Holt and Co.
  • Dimensions:  10.3 x 8.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  If you read The New Yorker then you’re familiar with the cartoons in each issue. They are subtle reflections of daily life that are mostly relatable to the majority of readers (I would guess). I’m a fan.

Bob Mankoff is the “longtime cartoon editor” of The New Yorker. How About Never is his story of turning a love of drawing into becoming a contributor to the magazine and finally its cartoon editor. Sprinkled with anecdotes and more than 250 cartoons, How About Never is an enjoyable memoir that also includes tips on how to get your cartoon accepted for the magazine and how to win the cartoon caption contest – neither are easy to do.

Mankoff has a playful, self-deprecating style that had me chuckling as I turned the pages. If you enjoy cartoons (especially those in The New Yorker) and amusing stories about the cartoon biz you’ll want to read this memoir.

Recommended. It’s on my gift list this year. My thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy.


Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Widow’s Guide To Sex And Dating: A Novel by Carole Radziwill


Synopsis: Claire Byrne is a quirky and glamorous 34-year-old Manhattanite who is nicely married to the renowned sexologist, Charles Byrne. He’s a man of contradictions: equal parts Alfred Kinsey and Warren Beatty; pompous yet charming; loyal yet unfaithful, and a firm believer that sex and love can’t coexist. Even though Charlie does little to hide his affairs, Claire can’t deny that her life with him is interesting. In a bizarre and comedic twist of fate, on an unassuming Monday, Charlie—fresh from a lover’s bed—is struck dead on a city sidewalk by a falling Giacometti statue.

With this deliciously irreverent opening, Claire sets out to reinvent herself and find the answer to a vexing question – Are widows the new virgins? The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating: A Novel is a wry take on death, sex and love, in that order, by New York Times best-selling author Carole Radziwill.

Taking place over the course of a year, Radzwill’s protagonist Claire sees two shrinks and an oracle, hires a “botanomanist,” follows a griot, eats too little, drinks too much, dates a hockey player and a billionaire, and has a heady affair with the movie star Jack Huxley. As she grieves for Charlie and begins to find her footing, Claire comes to realize that she has an opportunity to find something bigger and better than she had before: real, authentic, passionate love.



“One of the richest, most deeply satisfying stories I’ve read in a long time…[Radziwill’s] spare writing and wry voice make The Widow’s Guide an exhilarating, insightful and moving story about loss and identity.”

“Witty and charming, Carole Radziwill’s first novel is a delight. I fell in love with the character of Claire—a modern-day Holly Golightly.”
—Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City and The Carrie Diaries

“Carole Radziwill writes like a cross between Sophie Kinsella and Christopher Buckley. Widow’s Guide is a sharp, flamboyant New York novel that revels in the tragicomic absurdities of the city. It’s a smart take on Hollywood, too, with gorgeous movie stars and a quirky cast. Cautiously romantic, unexpectedly moving, and funny!”
—Susan Sarandon

“Glib, comic… [a] novel about a young Manhattan widow looking for love in all the wrong places… This may be a grief and recovery story for the privileged, but sharp-fanged Radziwill can be pretty funny…. Think Sex and the City in black.”

“Claire never thought about the odds of losing her husband. But after a freak accident abruptly ends her husband’s life, she is forced to wrestle with the question, “What next?” For the next year, Claire’s life takes a wild turn… and somewhere in the middle of the madness, she begins to realize that her old life wasn’t so perfect and perhaps this is all a blessing in disguise—a second chance at life and love. Verdict: Fans of authors such as Jane Green and Madeleine Wickham will enjoy this.”
—Library Journal

“Radziwill’s delicious debut novel… is a poignant tale of love and loss.”
—Publishers Weekly

“The book’s witty humor and Didion-esque raw language provide for a gripping read that triumphantly announces a profound new voice in literary fiction.”

“A hilarious account of a young widow’s journey to find herself and re-establish her identity.”
—PW Show Daily



Carole Radziwill grew up in upstate New York and earned a BA at Hunter College and an MBA at New York University. She spent more than a decade at ABC News, reporting from around the world, and earned three Emmys. Her first book, What Remains, a memoir, spent over twenty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. She has written for many magazines, including Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Town & Country and Porter. She currently is a star of and “the voice of reason” on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York. – See more at: The Widow’s Guide to Sex & Dating.


US Giveaway

One copy for a US reader

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Spotlight on Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History by Paul Schneider

old man river

  • Title:  Old Man River: The Mississippi River in North American History
  • Author:  Paul Schneider
  • Genre:  History
  • Published:  September 2013 – Henry Holt and Co.
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America’s rich history—the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent’s interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln’s attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.

In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.

Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox—a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder.   (publisher)

My take:  I grew up in a small Wisconsin town along the Mississippi River so when I was invited to read Paul Schneider’s book about the Mississippi I happily accepted.

What I found was a fairly comprehensive look at the history and importance of the Mississippi River in US history. Schneider’s conversational style of writing made the pages fly. I loved all the art and photos depicting life on the river as well as important historical events.

I really enjoyed Old Man River. I especially appreciated the inclusion of source notes, bibliography and index at the end of the book. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about US history and geography.

*  *  *

The Mississippi River


This photo was shot from the Iowa side of the river. You can see Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin in the distance.


Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth

Title: Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War

Author: Deb Olin Unferth

Genre: Memoir

About: (from the book flap) … a new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this utterly unique and captivating story of the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.

My thoughts: I finished reading this memoir and thought there is no way I would have liked a guy so much I’d have dropped out of college, become an activist and move with him to another country to fight the good fight.  If nothing else, I admire her tenacity and her willingness to be a good sport.

Our main ambition was to help the revolution.  George and I wanted jobs, what we called “revolution jobs,” but it turned out that few people wanted to hire us and if they did, they almost immediately fired us. (p.10)

Deb and George moved from country to country following revolutions, wanting to be a part of the action.  The conditions were deplorable and they fought illness often. Personal safety was always a concern but they seemed to thrive on the danger – that or their naiveté blinded them.  At one point I found myself wondering why Deb didn’t go home when she was so sick.

The two went from being a couple of kids with a dream to a pair showing signs of discontent. Deb’s journal entries showed her observations of the collapse of their relationship.

He began to develop a caught-bird look, an intensely lonely air, which would stay with him, would become his trademark look for the rest of the time I knew him. (p. 144)

Deb Olin Unferth’s memoir seems heartfelt and although I could relate to very little, it’s a pretty amazing story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Recommend? Yes, it’s an unusual memoir.

Source: Henry Holt

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

The Season of Second Chances: A Novel
Joy Harkness receives an offer of a dream job. She’s ready to leave the snobby academia of her current job to be part of a new program at Amherst. After the decision to accept the new job is made she makes the surprising decision to buy a fixer-upper. And even more surprising is Teddy Hennessy, the remodeling contractor who becomes much more.

Teddy and Joy seem as opposite as two people can be but it turns out they have a few things in common. They both experienced the loss of a loved one when they were quite young and were left unable or unwilling to have long-lasting relationships. After a brief marriage, Joy left St. Louis for New York and never looked back. She built her career and thought she was happy. As a young man Teddy started fixing things around his mother’s house and then those of her friends. He built quite a reputation for quality work and an eye for color and detail. When Joy bought her dilapidated house everyone pointed her toward Teddy.

After a few disaster dates with some of the University’s resident coyotes and a spectacular error in judgement (on Joy’s part), she and Teddy fall into a comfortable relationship. Together they become part of a larger group of friends who help each other when tragedy strikes. Joy learns the truth of “there’s the family your born with and then there is the family you choose”.

This is truly Joy’s story. One of the many lessons she learns is that it’s a good thing to really care about people – that they may actually care about her, with no ulterior motives. She learns this at the tender age of 48. Diane Meier’s debut novel is filled with interesting, sensitive, and humorous characters. I think a book group would find a lot to discuss about The Season of Second Chances.

Author website:

Review copy from Henry Holt & Co.