Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Rewind - Kristin Rockaway, Author of The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World

It's been awhile since I've done a Sunday Rewind, so I'm happy to be getting back to it.  Today's post is about my interview with Kristin Rockaway on Episode 18 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast.  The day Kristin and I did the interview GSMC had just moved offices, so I remember sitting on the floor of an empty office with nothing but the phone and my notes.  Kristin is very easy to talk to, though, and her book was really enjoyable, so the surroundings didn't matter, it was still a fun interview.

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she’s got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn’t quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it’s secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls’ trip, and Sophie falls for Carson, a free spirited, globetrotting American artist. He begs her to join him on his haphazard journey, but she chooses responsibility and her five-year plan.
Back in New York, that plan feels less and less appealing. As Sophie recalls the dreams she’s suppressed, the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips no longer feel like enough. Carson isn’t ready to let her go either, but as they try to figure out their relationship, Sophie realizes she may have to pursue her passions with or without him. (Source)
The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World reminded me a lot of one of Sophie Kinsella's novels.  Sophie (the character, not the author) is a professional woman who travels a lot for work, but most of the other areas of her life are in a bit of a disarray.  She isn't completely content with her job, but it pays her bills, lets her travel, and fits into her neatly mapped out life-plan.  Then she meets Carson and her plan gets turned upside down.

Eventually Sophie begins making changes in her life, but one thing I really appreciated about the book is that she doesn't meet Carson and her life suddenly, and miraculously, turns in a new direction.  In fact, Sophie and Carson end up having an impact on each other in various ways, and each learns more about themselves from being involved with the other.  The book is romantic, funny, well-written, and gave me a serious case of wanderlust.

  • Women's Fiction
  • Romance
  • Travel

What I enjoyed:
  • The descriptions of places Sophie and Carson visit on their travels.  If I can't travel myself, then reading a book set in an interesting location is the next best thing, and you can tell that Kristin herself loves to travel from the way she writes.
  • As I mentioned above, Carson doesn't swoop in and save or rescue Sophie.  They develop a relationship and from that both begin to learn things not only about the other, but themselves as well.  Because of this learning curve each has to make some decisions about where they see their lives going and if they think the other might be a part of that future.
  • The humor.  It's not zany or slapstick, but like Kinsella's novels, Kristin gets her characters into (and out of) some crazy situations that are guaranteed to make you laugh even if you might also be rolling your eyes.

Who should read The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World?
  • Fans of Women's Fiction.
  • Fans of travel (or just reading about travel).
  • Fans of romantic comedies.
You know I normally put some of my favorite quotes in this section, but sadly this is another book I loaned out and haven't gotten back yet so I can't look up those quotes.  (Note to self:  STOP lending out books until you write the quotes down somewhere!)

Where you can find Kristin online:
Twitter: @KristinRockaway
Instagram: @kristinrockaway
Amazon Author Page:

Author Bio:

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker and recovering software engineer. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of code. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, browsing the aisles of her neighborhood bookstores, and planning her next big vacation.
Her second novel, Start Me Up will be released from Graydon House/HarperCollins in the Summer of 2019. Her debut, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, is in stores now.
To hear the interview with Kristin please click here.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Not Just Me by Lisa Jakub

On today's episode of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I interview Lisa Jakub about her book Not Just Me: Anxiety, Depression, and Learning to Embrace Your Weird. I read her first book, You Look Like That Girl several months ago (on the train commuting to work where I got a LOT of weird looks because I was laughing, and occasionally snorting, while reading) and greatly appreciated not only humor but how open and matter-of-fact she was in writing about her issues with anxiety and depression.  so when I saw that she had written an entire book on the subject I knew I wanted to read.  When she agreed to be a guest on the podcast it was icing on the cake.

Lisa Jakub has always been a little weird.
Sensitive. Emotional. Introverted.
What else would you expect from a former child actor turned writer?
But the issue wasn’t just an artistic temperament; Lisa was constantly trying to hide her debilitating anxiety and depression. She assumed that retiring from her eighteen-year acting career and leaving Hollywood was going to be the cure for all of her issues. Guess how that worked out?
Lisa was still having three panic attacks a day and found it hard to leave her house. But when anxiety-induced vomiting claimed the life of her iPod—she knew it was time to get help. It was time to talk about the things that are hard to talk about.
She started to embrace her weird.
In searching for a deeper understanding of mental wellness, Lisa explored her own history and reached out to others to learn how anxiety and depression impacted their lives. She interviewed Veterans with PTSD and ten-year-olds with sensory integration issues, people with eating disorders and cutting habits, those whose lives were saved by medication and those who found yoga to be the answer. She went to Colorado to learn about the effects of cannabis on anxiety, and attended a meditation retreat in North Carolina to sit quietly for hours and hours and hours in “noble silence.” Without a phone.
Not Just Me is a hopeful, entertaining, enlightening look at the root causes of anxiety, the latest research on mood disorders, and ideas for how we can all live authentically with more peace, power, and purpose. Part memoir, part journalistic exploration—this book reminds all of us that we are not alone. (Source)
The book description alone gives you a glimpse of how great this book is, equal parts humor and factual information.  As someone who has gone through my own struggles with both anxiety and depression I had so many "yes!" moments while reading.  It reminds us that no matter what that voice tells us, we aren't alone and we aren't weird in how we are feeling.


· Memoir

· Non-Fiction

What I enjoyed:

· The way Lisa writes.  The book is full of humor, facts, and it gives a lot of incredibly helpful information while remaining engaging and entertaining.

· The stories of the people Lisa interviewed, who share their own difficult experiences and what they have learned from those experiences.  She interviews people with eating disorders, PTSD, those with substance abuse problems, former cutters, and more, so there is a wide range of struggles that readers might resonate with.

· Lisa's passion about this topic, her honesty about her own experiences, and her willingness to do whatever she can to help others who are struggling.  She gives concrete methods throughout the book of things to try, from yoga and meditation, to breathing techniques, to form letter that can be downloaded to help you talk to your doctor about your experiences.

Who should read Not Just Me?

· Anyone who is or has gone through anxiety and/or depression.

· Families, friends, and support networks of people with anxiety and/or depression.

· Anyone who has ever wondered what it is like to live with anxiety and/or depression.

    • "But I've learned that there are actually a bunch of us that feel like this. And not one wants to talk about it. Until someone else brings it up. And then it's all they want to talk about. Anxiety is real."
    • "What I really want is for all of us to go sit in a coffee shop and talk about our struggles so we feel less isolated, but there isn't a coffee shop in the world big enough to hold us all. So this book is the next best thing I could come up with."
    • "Here's why it's okay for you to be okay: Happy, grateful people are good for everybody. It's more effective to help the world from a place of inner peace than to suffer in solidarity. Greatness does not need to come from suffering; it comes out of being awake to the intricacies of life."

    Where you can find Lisa online: 
    Facebook: @lisajakub108
    Twitter: @Lisa_Jakub
    Instagram: @lisajakub108

    Author Bio:

    Hello. I’m Lisa – a writer, speaker, writing teacher, traveler, yoga teacher, and wife. I also make really good spinach gnocchi.
    I began my acting career at the age of four in Toronto, Canada. For the next eighteen years, I worked consistently in the film industry in Los Angeles, in projects that ranged from Hollywood blockbuster to cutting room floor.
    At the age of 22, I realized that there must be more to life than premieres and pretending to be other people. I suspected that there was something outside of movies that would feel more authentic to me. I left the film industry under the guise of following the man I loved to Virginia. Luckily, the man I loved really was in Virginia, so it all worked out and we lived happily ever after in our own version of a Hollywood ending.
    While figuring out how to be a normal person, I have dedicated myself to my lifelong love of words and my profound respect for a well-told story.
    My memoir, You Look Like That Girl, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or by requesting it from your favorite independent bookseller. Personalized signed copies are available here. It is the story of growing up in the film industry and making the decision to leave in search of some peace.
    My second book, Not Just Me,  is a hopeful, entertaining, enlightening look at the root causes of anxiety, the latest research on mood disorders, and ideas for how we can all live authentically with more peace, power, and purpose. Part memoir, part journalistic exploration—this book reminds all of us that we are not alone. Personalized signed copies can be ordered here.
    My writing has appeared in Newsweek,, Huffington Post, Yoga Magazine, US Magazine, Elephant Journal, Thought Catalog, Vanichi Magazine, ASPCA, and Hello Giggles, where I am a contributing writer. I’ve appeared on HuffPost Live, MSNBC, CNN, BBC, and CBC. I do speaking events at high schools, colleges, and conferences and run weekend workshops about writing, yoga, and living an authentic life. (Source)

    To hear the interview with Lisa please click here.

    Thursday, February 8, 2018

    Co-Parenting From the Inside Out by Karen Kristjanson

    For episode 55 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast I chatted with Karen Kristjanson about her book, Co-Parenting From the Inside Out: Voices of Moms and Dads.  I was contacted initially about having her on the GSMC Relationship Podcast, but wanted to include her on the Book Review Podcast as well.

    Effective co-parenting, or sharing significant parenting time with an ex-spouse, is one of the best gifts separated parents can give to their children. The interviews in Co-Parenting from the Inside Out are with real moms and dads in diverse circumstances, showing them making choices, sometimes struggling, and often growing. Their stories offer insights into wise decision-making, as well as practical strategies that strengthen families. Parents can see that they are not alone as they navigate their feelings and build a future. While pain exists in most stories, there is also hope. Co-parents often feel that they have become more confident and compassionate, and parent better than before. The effects of their personal growth and their children’s are the silver lining in the dark pain of divorce.
    Karen L. Kristjanson has brought together real life co-parenting stories that inspire separated parents and help them understand co-parenting better, offering practical tips and tools that directly benefit families. (Source)
    Karen wrote this book after her own experience with co-parenting her 2 sons with her ex-husband.  She had wished at the time that there were more resources available that would help them through the process and be a source of support, so when she was in a position to do so she wrote the book she had needed herself.  Karen is passionate and compassionate about the subject and wants to advocate for families to have the best resources possible when making difficult decisions about the future of their family structure.

    Karen interviewed 14 fathers and 28 mothers who had gone through or were in the process of Co-Parenting with their ex-partner.  The families involved were fairly diverse from those with special-needs children, both hetero- and homosexual parents, as well as families with financial, addiction, or mental issues.

    • Parenting
    • Family and Relationships
    • Non-Fiction

    What I enjoyed:
    • The stories from the moms and dads Karen interviewed.  The stories are often difficult, but reading them gives a sense of the obstacles, challenges, and successes that can come through the process of Co-Parenting.
    • The way the stories were divided into categories based on types of families and experiences.  Anyone reading the book will be able to find situations and families that resonate with their own experiences.
    • Karen's passion about this topic, her honesty about her own experiences, and her desire to offer other families a resource to help them through and emotionally charged period in their lives.

    Who should read Co-Parenting From the Inside Out?
    • Anyone considering or already co-parenting
    • Families, friends, and support networks of couples who are co-parenting
    • Anyone with questions about this process or who might be wondering under what circumstances co-parenting should or should not be pursued
      • "The forty-two parents who told their stories ranged in age from twenty-seven to sixty-five.  Some were straight and some gay. Some struggled financially, some were well off.  Some endured high conflict situations, while others had minimal strife in their separations and divorce. Some parents had children with special needs, and some parents themselves had mental health problems.  Fourteen were fathers and twenty-eight, mothers."
      • "We can teach our children only what we have already learned ourselves.  This is a central truth of being a parent."

      Author Bio:

      Karen L. Kristjanson, MSc, MA is a professional life coach, writer, and member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting. A co-parent herself, she has over thirty years’ experience supporting adults tackling change, to help them both survive and grow. Kristjanson writes for Divorce Magazine and the Huffington Post Canada. She lives in Surrey, British Columbia.

      For the interview with Karen please click here.

      Tuesday, February 6, 2018

      Forks, Knives and Spoons by Leah DeCesare

      Today's interview on the GSMC Book Review Podcast came about thanks to social media.  Leah DeCesare is one of the 17 Scribes authors and we follow each other on Twitter and Instagram.  I kept seeing her posts and thinking she was hilarious.  I also kept seeing her book, Forks, Knives and Spoons, and thinking I should invite her to be a guest on the podcast.  Then one day it happened.  She posted that she had just shown the move When Harry Met Sally... to her daughter for the first time.  I love that movie, have loved it for years, and quote it all the time.  I posted a quote in reply to the tweet, Leah answered, and the rest is history.  I contacted her about the podcast, she said yes, and here we are.

      Now, I *could* just spend this post writing quotes from the movie but as much as Leah may or may not appreciate that, I think I'll talk about the book because it is just as enjoyable with as many quotable quotes.

      There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond.
      Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys—from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life. (Source)
      I was in 8th grade in 1988 and have absolutely no desire to go back to that age for myself (ugh...Junior High), but it was a lot of fun to go back to the era of big hair, no cell phones or email, and, um, interesting fashion choices.  Amy and Veronica reminded me a lot of my college roommate-turned best friend and myself and it was fun to watch their collective stories unfold and evolve.

      • Women's Fiction
      • Romance

      What I enjoyed:
      • All of the details that Leah includes in making the time period come alive. From Aqua Net to crimped hair to Crest Flouristat toothpaste and beyond I was reminded of so many little things I hadn't thought about in forever.
      • The sometimes ridiculous and often amazingly accurate details of the UCS.  I never would have thought to include as many categories as what evolves throughout the book.
      • The friendship between Amy and Veronica and it's consistency throughout the story.
      • The overarching theme of learning to believe in yourself.  Yes, this book is in many ways a romance, but above and beyond relationships and the UCS it's about learning who you are as a person and believing in that person.

      Who should read Forks, Knives and Spoons?
      • Fans of Women's Fiction.
      • Fans of books about female friendship.
      • Fans of romance.
      • Fans of When Harry Met Sally...
        • "Veronica hesitated, unsure if Amy was seriously evaluating this guy with a code of cutlery she'd assumed was just a lark."
        • "'Do you really think it's true that men and women can't just be friends?  We're friends,' Amy said. 'Don't you think Harry is totally wrong?'" -Amy
        • "'You should make each other better...It took some time to figure out that I needed to truly be myself, and even longer to learn how to do that.  Arthur has always been my best friend.  I wish that for you, sweetheart.'" -Amy's Aunt Joanie
        • "Believe you are worth being loved and don't ever settle." -Amy's dad

        Leah DeCesare’s childhood dream was to become an author though she never expected her first book to be about parenting. The Naked Parenting series stemmed from her main gig as mother of three and she writes between car pools and laundry.
        Forks, Knives, and Spoons is her debut novel. (SparkPress, April 2017).  Leah has also written articles for publication in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, The Key, and other online outlets and local publications.
        More than 25 years after her father used a fork, knife, and spoon to give one final lesson about boys before sending her off to college, Leah DeCesare shares the Utensil Classification System.
        “I met my perfect steak knife even though he wasn’t in the package I’d expected. I have the most amazing husband and I want to let other young women know that they shouldn’t settle,” DeCesare says. “It’s important for women of all ages to be true to themselves and believe in themselves.”
        Married for over 22 years, Leah’s current parenting adventures revolve around kids, tween and teenagers, creating the basis for her Mother’s Circle parenting blog, where she shares perspectives on parenting from pregnancy through teens.
        Her pre-baby professional experience was in public relations and event planning and for the past fifteen years, her career has focused on birth, babies, and early parenting as a certified childbirth educator, a birth and postpartum doula.
        In 2013, Leah spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda and co-founded the nonprofit, Doulas of Rhode Island, in 2008.
        She parents, writes and volunteers in Rhode Island. (Source)

        For the interview with Leah please click here.

        Wednesday, January 31, 2018

        Fight Game by Alistair Hendrie

        Today's author interview on the GSMC Book Review Podcast is a little different from previous interviews because the book falls into a genre I don't normally talk about:  Sports Non-Fiction.  Which, frankly, is awesome.  I keep saying as I go through this process that I enjoy being exposed to and reading books I might not otherwise read. Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain by Alistair Hendrie isn't necessarily a book I would pick up for a little light reading.  I actually watch MMA, Women's MMA in particular.  I didn't used to.  I'm not a huge sports fan, and Mixed Martial Arts didn't seem like something I would ever watch.  Then I got married to a man who did Martial Arts and boxed in college and who watched a variety of combat sports.  I started watching it with him, and while I'm not sure I would watch it on my own, I have grown to appreciate many of the women who participate in the sport, and I am learning about the strategy involved in this complex sport.

        But enough about me.  When Alistair contacted the Women's MMA Podcast about possibly doing an interview to promote his book, Tate (the host of the WMMA and MMA Podcast) and I readily agreed.  We asked if we could put the interview on all 3 podcasts, and had a really great time chatting with Alistair from his home in Reading, UK, even though we had major Skype technological problems.

        When Rosi Sexton fought Alexis Davis in 2013, she made history and became the first British woman to compete in the UFC.  FIGHT GAME reveals how Britain's female fighters broke down barriers, offering interviews from stars such as Sexton and the UFC's Joanne Calderwood.
        With its intimate take on the grow of the scene, landmark moments and the personalities within the sport, FIGHT GAME is an inspiring tale of dedication, sacrifice, and, ultimately, acceptance. (Source)
        As I said, this isn't my usual genre, but I do always love learning new things, and I was amazed at what my brief foray in to the world of Women's MMA had already taught me.  You can tell Alistair is passionate about this sport through his writing, and Fight Game gives a great overview of Women's MMA in Britain, especially showing how the earliest women to join the sport had to struggle to gain a foothold. The book details the evolution of MMA as a sport as well as the evolution of the roles of women fighters within that sport.
        • Sports
        • Non-Fiction
        • Women's MMA

        What I enjoyed:
        • How Alistair's passion for the sport and the people involved in the sport clearly shows in his writing.
        • Learning more about a group of fighters I was not that familiar with.
        • Learning more about the evolution of MMA as a whole, Women's MMA more particularly, and Women's MMA in Britain most especially.
        Who should read Fight Game?
        • Fans of MMA, especially Women's MMA.
        • Even if you aren't currently a fan but are curious about the sport, this book would give you a good introduction to the world.
        • Fans of Sports Non-Fiction.
          • "Whenever I asked Britain's earliest female fighters about their MMA debuts, I heard variations of the same response - they didn't have a clue what they were doing.  British women were still working out the sport but more crucially, the sport was also struggling to find its identity."
          • "The women's scene was still growing and as Sexton attested, women would suffer from lack of competitive, sustainable matchups, which in turn led to inactivity.  'In order to get picked up by an international promotion, women needed to have a record against decent opponents.  Accumulating that was a real problem because you'd have limited people to fight.  You'd have girls where, if they were a male fighter with the same level of dedication, commitment and training, they'd be 6-0 or 7-0. But simply because they were female they might have struggled to get their first or second fight.'" -Rosi Sexton
          Where you can find Alistair online:

          If you want to read an excerpt of the book and learn a little more you can do so here:

          Twitter: @allyh84
          Author Bio:
          Alistair Hendrie is a freelance sports journalist with experience writing for publications such as Boxing News,, Fighters Only and MMA Plus. (Source)

          Monday, January 29, 2018

          In Wolves' Clothing by Greg Levin

          Episode 52 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast has me chatting with Greg Levin about his newest book, In Wolves' Clothing.

          On his best days, Zero Slade is the worst man you can imagine. He has to be. It's the only way to save the Lost Girls.
          During his seven years on a team fighting child sex trafficking, Zero’s become quite good at schmoozing with pimps, getting handcuffed by cops and pretending not to care about the children he liberates. But the dangerous sting operations are starting to take their toll on his marriage and sanity. His affinity for prescription painkillers isn’t exactly helping matters.
          When the youngest girl the team has ever rescued gets abducted from a safe house in Cambodia, Zero decides to risk everything to find her. His only shot is to go rogue—and sink deeper into the bowels of the trafficking world than he’s ever sunk.
          It’s the biggest mission of his life. Trouble is, it’s almost certain death. (Source)
          Given the rather heavy subject matter, and the fact that it was billed as dark comedy, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book.  It's really good, though.  I was immediately sucked in, I found the humor to be appropriate with just the right level of snark and sarcasm, and following Zero on his journey was oddly satisfying.  Yes, Zero's job sucks.  Greg's details of the child sex trafficking world are never gratuitous or overtly graphic.  They are used to further the story and also raise awareness of the issue within the context of the story.  The book is really more about Zero's journey as he struggles to come to terms with things he's been ignoring or denying for too long in his life, including his relationships and addiction.  Like every book in every genre, this one isn't for everyone, but don't skip it because you aren't sure of the underlying subject matter.

          Also, if you want to read the book AND help the cause you can!  January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and Greg is donating 100% of his profits from the sales of In Wolves' Clothing to Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that works on anti-child trafficking efforts throughout the world.  (The organization that Zero works for in the book is based on OUR)

          • Dark Comedy
          • Crime Fiction (Noir)
          • Transgressive Fiction

          What I enjoyed:
          • The humanness of Zero as a character.  He's a hero, an anti-hero, and something in between. 
          • The witty humor.  Is it dark?  Yep.  Is it sarcastic?  A lot.  Does it fit the tone of the book?  Perfectly.
          • The secondary characters surrounding Zero, especially his wife and his colleague Caleb.  Caleb brings some much-needed lightness to the book, and is unintentionally hilarious.  Zero's wife, Neda, is fierce and loving and a force in her own right.
          Who should read In Wolves' Clothing?
          • Fans of transgressive fiction.
          • Fans of crime fiction, especially in the noir genre.
          • Fans of books that raise the consciousness but still allow for a measure of hope.  (as opposed to some books that I've read that have raised my consciousness so far I simply want to curl up in the fetal position and weep for eternity)
            • "The point is, you'd be hard-pressed to find a finer, fiercer group of failures than the crew we've managed to assemble. Not to brag."
            • "When your life bears a resemblance to a trailer park following a Category Five hurricane, you  don't want to be depended on to bring out the best in others."
            • "There's nothing better than being the bad guy.  Long enough to do some good."
            • "It's why you rarely hear of anyone breaking into a Zen center or a yoga studio in search of a mindfulness fix.  It's why nobody ever sells family heirlooms or their wedding ring or their body for thelatest instructional CD by Thich Nhat Hanh."
            Where you can find Greg online:
            Facebook: @greglevintheauthor
            Twitter: @greg_levin
            Instagram: @greglevinauthor

            One more website:  Greg is currently hosting an autographed novels giveaway for fans of transgressive fiction and dark humor.  The prize is a package of four book from authors Chuck Palahniuk, Monica Drake, Craig Cleven, and R.D. Ronald.  Click the link for more information:

            Author Bio:

            Greg is an award-winning author of transgressive thrillers with a dark comedic tinge. He’s gone from being read merely by immediate family and friends to being read also by extended family and Facebook acquaintances.
            Greg’s novel The Exit Man was optioned by HBO and later by Showtime for development into a TV series, and won a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award (a.k.a., an “IPPY”). He earned a second IPPY with his next novel, Sick to Death, which Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook) called “a tour de force dark comedy.” Greg’s new book, In Wolves’ Clothing, was just published in October 2017 and is his most dangerous work to date. He wrote much of it during a ten-week-long workshop led by the great Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club and lots of other books Greg sleeps with at night).
            Greg resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas. He is currently wanted by local authorities for refusing to say “y’all” or do the two-step. (Source)
            To listen to the episode with Greg please click here.

            Thursday, January 25, 2018

            Meet Me in Milano by Mariuccia Milla

            Episode 51 of the GSMC Book Review Podcast is a conversation with author Mariuccia Milla about her debut novel, Meet Me in Milano.  It is the first in a planned set of 5 novels that will intersect between locations and some characters, although they won't be a series per se.  This first book tells the stories of Jonathan and Melinda, a former couple who have both come to Milan for different reasons. Their social circles and lives begin to intersect in various ways throughout the book and both of them learn more about themselves through the communities in which they become involved.

            Meet Me in Milano is about a young architect who leaves her boyfriend and New York to look for a job and a new life in Milan, Italy. But her ex is not giving up so easily, and follows her there. The people they meet, the places they visit, and the things they learn about themselves during their separate adventures will bring you right there with them as they navigate the Milanese scene. The reader will meet successful and charming Milanese men like Alberto and Pierpaolo, the wise Lella, the beautiful Elena, and aspiring creative types who, like Melinda and Jonathan, have come to Milan to realize their dreams. Meet Me in Milano weaves Italian culture, food, language, and personalities into a delightful mosaic. Weekend trips for work and play in the beautiful Italian landscape provide deeper dives into the conflicts and opportunities that bring the characters together...or make them change direction. This is a book about the discovery of life and of self, through connection with place and other people. (Source)
            I've never been to Milan, or even Italy, but Mariuccia does a really wonderful job of describing not only the places, but also the people and the culture.  This is a travel book in the sense that the 2 main characters move from New York to Italy for a period of time, but it's more than just a book that shows another place.  The reader truly gets to experience what it feels like to be a newcomer/outsider living in an unfamiliar place and learning to navigate the people, culture, traditions, and geography of that place. 

            Melinda and Jonathan are young and still finding themselves.  Mariuccia presents them as fully human, with flaws and contradictions.  Melinda is both incredibly brave, and remarkably timid.  Jonathan tends to fix things and situations around him, but can't seem to fix certain aspects of his own life.  They are multi-dimensional characters, and I found myself both liking them and being frustrated by them in turns, pretty much like any relationship.

            • Travel
            • Romance
            • Urban Fiction

            What I enjoyed:
            • What Mariuccia calls "Italy porn."  Nothing in appropriate, just the things you expect from a book about Italy:  Food, beauty, art, architecture.
            • Watching Melinda learn and evolve in a way that was relatable and human.
            • The incredible variety of secondary characters who make up a rich tapestry of community which surrounds Jonathan and Melinda.
            Who should read Meet Me in Milano?
            • Fans of romance.
            • Fans of books featuring travel.
            • Anyone who wants to go to Italy or has already been and wants to relive some of that experience.
            • Fans of risotto.  No really, there's a lot of risotto made and eaten in this book and it all sounds fantastic.  (also fans of gelato and cappuccino)  I was hungry for most of my reading.
              • "A parade of dull gray bins marched through the black fettuccini curtains, loaded with shoes and phones and Clinique free gift sets  This was her limbo between New York and the rest of the world."
              • "She was attracted to his pluck, thinking it might be contagious."
              • "Italians have an expression, gallina vecchia fa buon brodo, old chickens make good broth."
              Author Bio:

              Mariuccia Milla had a dream of going to Italy. After her first post-college job in New York City, she bought a one-way ticket and set out on her first adventure. Mariuccia stayed in Milan, where she worked in the field of architecture and interior design, for ten years. Afterward, she lived in Tuscany, and later near Lago Maggiore, before returning to the USA for graduate school after a total of eighteen years abroad.
              Mariuccia is currently living in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, and plans to split her time between there and Italy.
              Trained as a designer and a landscape architect, Mariuccia is particularly tuned in to the physical environment and how it influences people and their relationships.

              To hear the interview with Mariuccia please click here.