Jul 18, 2021

Sunday Salon: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

 Last thriller read: 

The Last Flight by Julie Clark, June 23, 2020, Sourcebooks Landmark

Genre: thriller, mystery

Source; library book

Two women at the airport, running away from unbearable lives, find each other in line and decide to swap plane tickets, purses, suitcases and coats, thus discarding their own identities, hoping to disappear on reaching their new destinations. Will their plan work?

I read this book nonstop and seemed to finish it in a day! It was that suspenseful and riveting. The plot and characters were unique and their dilemmas grabbed me as a reader. A little twist at the end too didn't hurt the interest of the novel. 

And now for an historical novel: 

 China: The Novel by Edward Rutherford, May 11, 2021, Doubleday

Genre: historical novel

Source: library book

The cover grabbed my attention, together with the single word title. It promised a history of modern China in novel form, easier, in my opinion, to read and grasp the complex history. The book description helped: 

The story begins in 1839, at the dawn of the First Opium War, and follows Chinese history through Mao's Cultural Revolution and up to the present day. Rutherfurd chronicles the rising and falling fortunes of members of Chinese, British, and American families, as they negotiate the tides of history.....a deeply researched portrait of Chinese history and society, its ancient traditions and great upheavals, and China's emergence as a rising global power.

I plan to start this soon, at the same time finishing a new literary novel, My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee. 

What are you reading this week?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jul 16, 2021

Book Beginning: My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee


Title: My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee, Feb. 2, 2021, Riverhead Books

Genre: literary fiction
Publisher description: a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure 

Book beginning:

I won't say where I am in this greatish country of ours, as that could be dicey for Val and her XL little boy, Victor Jr., but it's a place like most others, nothing too awful or uncomfortable, with no enduring vistas or distinctive traditions to admire, no funny accents or habits of the locals to wonder at or find repellent. 

Would you read on? 

For more of this meme, visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.


Jul 10, 2021

Sunday Salon: Havana and A Sea Island Community in SC

New books arrived: 

Death Under the Perseids by Teresa Dovalpage, December 7, 2021, Soho Crime

Genre: A Havana Mystery
Source: Soho Crime ARC

Publisher description: There’s no such thing as a free cruise in Cuban American author Teresa Dovalpage’s  new Havana mystery. Cuban-born Mercedes Spivey and her American husband, Nolan, win a free cruise to Havana and meet others with the same deal. One disappears on the cruise and the other is killed after arrival. Mercedes wonders if she is next when her husband Nolan disappears. 

The Marsh Bird by Anne Brooker James, July 27, 2021

Genre: novel, romance

Source: Saichek Publicity 

Publisher Description: a young, orphaned, multiracial girl from Louisiana and a white teen abandoned as an infant and raised by a local white fisherman, both embraced by the residents of a rural, Gullah Geechee sea island community. Set among descendants of those once enslaved in the lush marshes of the Lowcountry coast of South Carolina and Georgia, this is an unforgettable love story, and a tale of survival that proves it is the bonds of love and care that create a family.

What are you reading this week?

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jul 5, 2021

Tender Is the Bite by Spencer Quinn: It's Monday

 Meme: It's Monday: What Are You Reading

Tender Is the Bite by Spencer Quinn, Chet and Bernie Mystery #11

Publication: June 1, 2021. 

Source: NetGalley

I'm enjoying another Chet and Bernie mystery, narrated by the clever PI dog, Chet, in his limited but very smart and observant  way.  Chet rescues Bernie in more than one instance while the detecting duo solve murders and find missing persons. Another entertaining and suspenseful read.

Description: Chet the dog and his partner in solving crimes, PI Bernie, are contacted by a terribly scared young woman who seems to want their help. Before she can even tell them her name, she flees in panic. But in that brief meeting Chet sniffs out an important secret about her, a secret at the heart of the mystery he and Bernie set out to solve.

Also still reading: 

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

Hidden Treasure by Jane Cleland

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

You can see I have several books by Asian and Asian Pacific authors! And they are quite good!

What are you reading this week? 

Jul 4, 2021

Guest Post by Sherry Quan Lee, author of Septuagenarian

 A poetic memoir

Poetic Book Tours presents a guest post on writing, by poet and memoirist, Sherry Quan Lee. 

Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die is a memoir in poetic form. It is the author’s journey from being a mixed-race girl who passed for white to being a woman in her seventies who understands and accepts her complex intersectional identity; and no longer has to imagine love.

 It is a follow-up to the author’s previous memoir (prose), Love Imagined: a mixed-race memoir, A Minnesota Book Award finalist.

The Writing Process by Sherry Quan Lee, guest post

 A student once said to me that she appreciated me telling the class to keep everything.  Keep each and every draft of your writing, your manuscript.  Did I say that?

 Actually, I save nothing.  Okay, next to nothing.  When did I start letting go? It’s not about keeping what brings me joy.  My writing isn’t joyful.  Although, someone once said it had sass.

 I have always decluttered.  Every two or three months I purge-this includes not only things, but sometimes people (sometimes they purge me).  But since the Pandemic, actually even before, I started a momentous purge—maybe it was when I turned 70 and knew any day now could be my last and why make my children go through my things, things they wouldn’t want. 

 My office files are fairly pristine.  Sorted, labeled, shelved:  insurance, taxes, car, condo, publications—mine and those of my friends.  Yet, as the piles of my essays and poems thin, I am heart struck to notice a journey of words that repeat, that sail forth, that bring me to my writing/life today at the age of 73.

 Septuagenarian: love is what happens when I die was published March 2021. Now that’s a scary title if not understood as a metaphor.  The mock-up of the cover has the sub-title in small font size.  What does that mean?  Are we afraid of death?  Actually, the title came from a poem within the manuscript and it stuck, the line in the title, not the poem.  It’s a metaphor.  Clarissa Pinkola Estés said What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life? I say, what must I let go of to generate love, be love, give love, get love.

 As I fumble through boxes of what I have not yet been able to discard, I discover a few poems that haven’t yet found their way to the trash.  One poem in particular, but there are others, starts out like this:


“I woke up knowing I was dead.  The first thing I’ve been sure of all my life.  The marks stretched, some visible and some invisible.  Stretched past cardboard boxes.  None of them empty,  Each box filled with an arm or a leg.”


The two-page poem contain boxes each labeled by a decade. It ends with:  “This was love.  She had finally gotten what she wanted.  But she was no longer who she was. She didn’t recognize herself….”

 The poem was dated October 15, 1999.  Only three years after I earned an MFA. There are hand-written revisions.  There is a short version printed in red.  A note says Vulva Riot.  There is a chorus that reads:  “Stretch marks, mark time, highway marks, passing marks, remarks, earmarks, market, marker, question marks, magic markers, grave markers, stretch marks.”

 Sometimes we don’t know why we say things, do things, save things—write things.  But there is significance to our actions.  I am glad I saved this poem. If I had come across it earlier, it would be in my book.  It would be the Introduction, the Foreword.  I am going to edit the poem.  This poem will not be discarded.  There are no rules I told my students.  Save all your drafts or don’t.  Discard everything so future generations won’t be bothered, or save what has been your life line and hope someone will embrace it.

 WRITING EXERCISE:  choose a word, such as mark and explore it and all related words by sound, by meaning, or both.  Create a chorus/a short verse.  Let it be the pattern that emerges.  How do you fill the empty spaces in-between?  Are they boxes marked by decades such as:

 “One box, marked 1953-1963, contained Hostess Cup Cakes.  Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.  Barbie dolls.  Captain, May I.  Sorry.  Sugar and Spice.  Axel and His Dog. Captain Kangaroo. Nancy Drew. Bobbsey Twins.  The Little Engine That Could.  Pop Beads,  Roller Skates.  Crinolines. Hula Hoops.  Red Rover.  Pony Tails.  Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Kool Aide. “Go Tell Aunt Rhody the Ol’ Gray Goose Is Dead”. The Salvation Army Book Store on Nicollet Island. Government Surplus.  A metal Grocery Cart.  Trading Cards.  Air Raid Drills.  Standish Elementary School.  Woolworths.  Wonder Bread.” 

I probably did tell the student to save all of her writing.  I probably meant it.  Much of my writing, however, my former life was left behind when I made, yet another relationship move.  This one sudden.  Sometimes things aren’t saved because we can’t take them with us.  But sometimes, a book authored and signed by you to another poet will show up on a Google search and you know not everything is lost, it just might have found a new home. 

Sherry Quan Lee

June 26, 2021

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jun 27, 2021

My Grape Year by Laura Bradbury: Armchair Travel and Romance: Sunday Salon

 rom-com memoir set in a French vineyard in Burgundy.

Title: My Grape Year by Laura Bradbury

September 23, 2015, Grape Books

Genre: YA, rom-com, travel memoir

And this is only the beginning. There are others after this book, making it a series of at least 8 books! Laura first travels to France as an exchange high school student, nearing 18 years-of-age, hoping for adventure and romance. She lands up staying with four different families during a year in wine making Burgundy. 

I have only just started Book 1 but it satisfies my armchair travel inclinations, and the writing is so delightful, I'm sure I'll be reading the rest of the series, in due time.

Currently also reading: 

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu, January 28, 2020, Pantheon Books 
Genre: contemporary Asian fiction, multicultural
Setting: USA

It's a funny book full of Asian stereotypes the author is trying to debunk. 
Willy Wu describes himself as Generic Asian Man dreaming of being Kung Fu Guy.

That's how he is seen, except by his mother who tells him, Be more.

Lots of chuckles. Am looking forward to reading on. 

Someone should write Generic Asian Woman. That should bring just as many chuckles. 

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jun 20, 2021

Sunday Salon: Japanese Authors and a Mystery

 Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. Intellect having "heart"

Klara and the Sun was easy to read for a literary novel of such magnitude and celebrity, I found.  A very much anticipated new book this year from Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro, the novel is set in a dystopian-like society, where Artificial Friends, computerized individuals or robots, are available for sale and purchased as companions to lonely teenagers. 

Klara is bought by Josie, a teen with a serious illness, who chose her specifically to become her artificial friend. At home, Klara sets out to try to save her charge, Josie, from succumbing to her illness and to find a way to have Josie restored to full health and life. 

The novel shows us empathy, love, hope, and sacrifice among the characters and especially from Josie's Artificial Friend, Klara, who seems more real than ever, even though only using her mind for her objective commentary and observation of her limited world. 

The book leaves you wondering if Klara's intellect and objective mind shows that doing what's beneficial for her charge Josie is a rational thing and not just an emotional response? 

Klara and the Sun did bring tears to my eyes.  Another mesmerizing novel from Ishiguro. 

Currently reading:
And now for a completely different book that I am enjoying.

A longtime fan of this antiques mystery series, I've started reading and getting hooked on Jane Cleland's new novel, Hidden Treasure . 

Josie Prescott, owner of an antiques store, is asked to find a lost trunk belonging to Maude, the previous owner of the Victorian house Josie and her husband have just bought. Set on the New Hampshire coast, the mystery has already hooked me into the case of the lost trunk and the significance of its contents. 

Another great read, found at the library, is Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a book of short interconnected stories that I am really liking. The setting is an old fashioned coffee shop and the stories are about the customers who are featured in four long stories. 

I have finished the first story, a romance in which the coffee shop becomes a magical world for one new patron, and am looking forward to the next three stories. 

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jun 14, 2021

The Jetsetters: Sunday Salon

 Found at the library and finished reading:

The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward, March 3, 2020, Ballantine Books
Genre: family drama, contemporary fiction

I give a five to any book that has me in tears! And this one did, in several parts. A European cruise from Athens to Barcelona alters the relationship between 70-year-old Charlotte and her adult children, Lee, Cord, and Regan. It also reveals secrets and resolves family issues that had made them a dysfunctional family.

Well written, with interesting descriptions of Greece, Italy, and Spain to please armchair travelers, and an unusual story for the romance and family-drama loving reader. Well worth reading.

Finishing up: 
Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim
The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

Jun 7, 2021

It's Monday: New Novels by Asian Americans

 More Asian-American and Asian-Canadian authors are surfacing with light romantic comedies and cozy mysteries. On my TBR list:  


Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim, August 4, 2020, Berkley

Genre: romance, comedy

Setting: Paris

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups.... To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai. 

Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines by Jennifer J. Chow, November 10, 2020, Berkely
Genre: light mystery, cozy    Setting: Los Angeles

When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line. She sets out to solve the crime and save her sister. 

(See my review of the author's first Mimi Lee mystery, Mimi Lee Gets a Clue.) 

Meme: It's Monday: What Are You Reading? 

Jun 5, 2021

Sunday Salon: the Humorous and the Serious

 Asian rom-com, set in Southern California, with the Chinese-Indonesian community. 

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto, April 27, 2021, Berkley Books 

Genre: romance, contemporary Asian American fiction
Setting: Southern California
Source: library

Five stars for inventiveness in character and plot and for a humorous and entertaining book about a Chinese-Indonesian young woman who must fend off her "interfering" but loving aunts in order to find true love in her choice of career and love life. When Meddelin later becomes entangled in an accident that looks like a murder, the aunties come to the rescue to save their niece. Their antics carry the day. 

No surprise that the book is slated to be made into a Netflix movie!


On a much more serious note, here is a book from Saichek Publicity, a very candid memoir that comes with a warning that it contains possible triggers as it describes violence, childhood abuse, rape, etc. 

Brain Storm by Shelley Kolton, MD, January 2, 2021, FLR Press
Genre: memoir

Brain Storm is the heartbreaking account of a mind, fragmented and broken, ultimately made whole by one woman's incomparable strength and courage. (publisher)

"You will not emerge unchanged from Brain Storm. It is a harrowing, hallowing experience and a triumph of the human spirit" - Robin Morgan, bestselling author of Sisterhood is Powerful, former Editor-in-Chief of Ms. Magazine.


On the mystery side, I am re-reading Of Mutts and Men, a quirky but fun novel about Chet, a canine, and his companion in crime solving, Bernie Little, who comprise the Little Detective Agency.

Of Mutts and Men makes for light humorous reading as we follow Chet's thoughts and observations, a dog's point of view,  as he helps Bernie solve mysteries and find and bring "perps" to justice. 

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

May 29, 2021

Sunday Salon: Singapore, India, and Southern Italy

 My latest books have come from the library, which is welcoming patrons into the building once again. This means I'm ignoring my ereader, for the time being, and going with paper books!

Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho, published June 9, 2020, Putnam

Genre: contemporary women's fiction, romance

My goodreads review:

Refreshing take on career, romance and marriage, pulling the main character in two directions at once. Andrea Tang is a successful corporate lawyer in Singapore, working overtime to achieve her goal of making partner in the firm.

However, her relatives, in particular her mother, are after her to find a husband and to provide grandchildren. How Andrea manages these two conflicting, for her,  goals are the main theme. The novel is written with humor and interesting insights into  women and careers, especially among the well-to-do in Singapore. Last Tang Standing was fun to read and more than a great beach read.

Recently arrived in the mail: 

The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey, June 1, 2021, courtesy of Soho Crime

Genre: historical mystery set in India, 1920s

Description: India’s only female lawyer, Perveen Mistry, is compelled to bring justice to the family of a murdered female Parsi student just as Bombay’s streets erupt in riots to protest British colonial rule

The Measure of Time by Gianrico Carofiglio, April 8, 2021, from Bitter Lemon Press
: legal thriller set in Southern Italy

Description: The setting is Bari in Southern Italy. Defense attorney Guido Guerrieri takes on an appeal against what looks like an unassailable murder conviction. The alleged perpetrator is the son of a former lover. A taut legal thriller and a meditation on the ravages of time.

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Readingand Sunday Salon

May 21, 2021

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan: Book Beginning


Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan, June 2, 2020, Ecco

Genre: contemporary fiction, romance 

Setting: Hong Kong

An intimate, bracingly intelligent debut novel about a millennial Irish expat who becomes entangled in a love triangle with a male banker and a female lawyer (publisher)

Book beginning:

My banker friend Julian first took me for lunch in July, the month I arrived in Hong Kong. I'd forgotten which exit of the station we were meeting at, but he called saying he saw me outside Kee Wah Bakery and to wait there. It was humid. Briefcase-bearers clopped out of turnstiles like breeding jennets. The Tannoy blared out first Cantonese, then Mandarin, and finally a British woman saying please mind the gap. 

Page 56:

You were ironical with him, also with yourself. It was wild. 

Would you read on?

The Friday 56. Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% of your eReader. Find any sentence that grabs you. Post it, and add your URL post in Linky at Freda's Voice.
Also visit Book Beginning at Rose City Reader.

May 18, 2021

The Bitter Taste of Murder by Camilla Trinchieri: A Taste of Tuscany

It's already Tuesday at 2:15 a.m. and I'm late for It's Monday! 

I have a box of library books, recently borrowed, but am still reading 

The Bitter Taste of MurderA Tuscan Mystery by Camilla Trinchieri

The setting and characters are delightfully interesting. There is a murder mystery and a love interest as well as clever minor characters, in a Tuscan setting. I am reading in fits and starts, what with better weather to entice me into the garden, or out into the parks. 

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Reading Sunday Salon, and Mailbox Monday

May 10, 2021

It's Monday: Books Set in Cleveland and Tuscany, Italy

 New books from publishers/publicists

2207 South Green Road by Janice C. Spector, 

Two Bairns Press (June 22, 2021)

Source: Saichek Publicity 

Description: A poignant and humorous story of love despite dysfunction among an assimilating extended Jewish family riddled with secrets in suburban Cleveland during 1961.

The Bitter Taste of Murder: A Tuscan Mystery by Camilla Trinchieri

Genre: mystery series

Publication: August 10, 2021, Soho Crime

Description: The follow-up to Murder in Chianti. Ex-NYPD detective Nico Doyle is recruited by Italian authorities to investigate the murder of a prominent wine critic.

What are you reading this week? 

Memes: The Sunday Post hosted by The Caffeinated Bookreviewer. Also,  It's Monday: What Are You Reading Sunday Salon, and Mailbox Monday

May 6, 2021

A September to Remember by Carole: Review, Giveaway, and Guest Post:


Premier Virtual Author Book Tours presents A September To Remember by Carole Bumpus

A September to Remember: Searching for Culinary Pleasures at the Italian Table (Book Three) – Lombardy, Tuscany, Campania, Apulia, and Lazio (Roma) (Savoring the Olde Ways Series, 3) by Carole Bumpus

Publisher:  She Writes Press (April 27, 2021)
Category: Culinary/Travel Memoir & Non-Fiction
Tour dates: April 12-May 31, 2021

A September to Remember


This culinary travel memoir is an invitation to join in on a month-long trek through Italy, all in the search of the true Italian experience. Sprinkled with unforgettable characters, you will sup on sumptuous traditional foods, sip regional wines, and enjoy vast panoramas of extraordinary beauty. You may find yourself dancing at harvest festivals, climbing through Etruscan tombs, traipsing among Roman ruins, or bathing in ancient Roman termes (hot springs).

You may also enjoy climbing to the heights of wonder in Capri or to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. Or delight in soaking up the ancient and cultural history in Milan, Firenze (Florence), Amalfi, Pompeii, Lecce and Rome. You can bask in the sun and rugged beauty of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Adriatic Sea, or the gorgeous Amalfi Coast. Or you can chat for hours over family meals while collecting a compendium of regional and traditional recipes (cucina povera), while you capture a rare glimpse inside the secrets to the Mediterranean psyche. It is truly a trip of a lifetime.


A month-long trip through Italy starts in Milan and then ventures down to Florence, Tuscany, and finally to Rome, with many stops in between. Carole Bumpus and her husband Winston are true adventurers and travelers, savoring the local cuisine, customs, and enjoying the people and places they encounter along the way.

Local history, festivals in many towns, wine tasting, tours, resorts, all these are covered in historic detail by the author, who is not only interested in the cuisine and wines, but in the history of the buildings, cathedrals, palaces, architecture, and also the history of parts of Italy during WWII and the stories of how the local people fared. 

Let's not forget their trip to Pompeii, which in history was buried under ash during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Nor their trip down the scenic Amalfi coast.

Lovers of Italian history, food and wine, and the remarkable geography of the country will delight in this travel and culinary memoir. Mrs. Bumpus includes many recipes in her book, plus maps of the areas they visited during their month-long trip.

This is a comprehensive memoir, in that detailed history of the places are included, in addition to descriptions of the buildings and monuments and of the people themselves.

Lovers of travel, and especially those who love or are curious about Italy, will m ore than enjoy Carole Bumpus's observations and her unique experiences. 

About Carole Bumpus

September To Remember by Carole Bumpus

Multi award winning author, Carole Bumpus is a retired family therapist, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She began writing about food and travel when she stumbled upon the amazing stories of women and war in France. Her historical novel, A Cup of Redemption, was published in October 2014, and her unique companion cookbook, Recipes for Redemption: A Companion Cookbook to A Cup of Redemption, was released in August 2015.

Books One and Two of her Savoring the Olde Ways series, Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table, were published in August 2019 and 2020; her third book in the series, A September to Remember: Searching for Culinary Pleasures at the Italian Table is due out April 27, 2021. All five books have been published by She Writes Press which is part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC.

Website: https://carolebumpus.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolejbumpus
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CaroleBumpus
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carole.bumpus/

Giveaway: September To Remember by Carole Bumpus

"This giveaway is for 3 copies of 'A September To Remember', one copy per winner. Open to Canada and the U.S. only and ends on June 1, 2021.  Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only. http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e23ee71d1450/?




Leaving the coastal dunes of the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west and heading east through Tuscany, your eyes widen at the pastoral beauty of the verdant rolling hills. Towering cypress trees march along roadways and over hillsides, as vineyards, sunflowers and olive orchards carpet the plains. Upon entering the Arno River Valley, you are surrounded by mountain ranges to the north, east and south, where you will discover the wonderous Renaissance city of Firenze. Florence, Italy.

Whether arriving by train, plane or car, the excitement for me has always been the same. It’s almost a physical assault of the senses: the wonderous scent of grilled meats like Bistecca alla Fiorentina or spiedini, skewered cuts of meat, sausage, and vegetables, or the savory aromas of rosemary-infused breads like pan di romarino, pizzas-by-the-pound, or herb-enhanced pasta sauces. Beautiful pasticcieria (pastry shop) windows feature pyramids of dolci (sweets) piled high in colorful arrays. Buttery tarts, bursting with custard-cream fillings, such as gianduja (hazelnut) or chocolate with orange zest, call out suggestively. And, then there are the robust wines from the nearby hills of Chianti. What to sample first?

Yes, Florence contains all of my much-loved passions: sumptuous foods, delectable wines, incredible history, art, architecture, and literature. Oh, my! Did I mention that Michelangelo walked these same streets? Or Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, or Botticelli? Did you realized their exemplary works of art helped to lift the pall of the Dark Ages to create the Age of the Renaissance? You can see many of their sculptures, paintings, and frescoes throughout the City, but especially in churches, cathedrals, and the Uffizi Art Museum. And don’t forget writers such as Dante, Petrarch, and Machiavelli also called this city home. Walking along the same streets as these historical figures makes history come alive. Come for the beauty and the sentient qualities of place. You will love it too. 

* * * * *

My favorite foods from Florence are: Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a succulent two-inch thick cut of beef steak or the delectable tagliarini al limone - pasta with a light yet piquant lemon sauce rises to a place with the gods.


* * * * * * *

Another favorite Italian city is Amalfi, which is tucked along the rocky coastline of the Salerno Peninsula facing exquisite azure waters. Although the drive to Amalfi is definitely an exercise in girding one’s loins, it is a drive worth experiencing. Yes, the narrow, circuitous road which climbs up, up and over craggy rocks and cliffs, then catapults you down and around a hundred hairpin turns and can suck the breath from your body as you peer over a sheer precipice to the sea a thousand feet below can give you pause . . . What was the question? Yes, driving is the only way to get there, unless you charter a boat.

Upon arrival, you can see you’ve arrived in Paradise. The entire city of Amalfi begins at the sea but immediately clambers up those same sheer cliffs where the residents live. There are wonderful, historical explanations for why locals enjoy living while clinging to hillsides, but the easiest explanation is to say it’s to avoid pirates! Yes, from the time of the Phoenicians, two thousand years of marauding pirates and traders have tried to force their way into the fortress of Amalfi.  

Lower Amalfi is a gorgeous seaside resort, with clean sandy beaches festooned with colorful beach chairs, umbrellas, and bar service. A smattering of waterfront restaurants caters to the many tourists who pile off buses or boats in order to sip a glass of wine, dine on supremely scrumptious seafood, or relax as they gaze out over the crystalline blue sea. Breathe!

As one heads up the steep streets into the walled city, a confluence of brightly decorated shops catches your attention. Here, the artistic flair can be seen everywhere, painted on walls, plates, dishes, cups, and across individual bottles of—oh, the town’s most famous drink, the glistening golden goodness called sfusato amalfitano or limoncello. You look around yourself, but you are surrounded by walls. “So where do the lemons grow?” you wonder.

You are standing in a tightly compacted city where many of the streets, known as alleys, are no more than one person wide and weave around and about like the inside of a pinecone. (Again, to ward off pirate attacks.) At the center of town is the Piazza Duomo, where one can stop for a bite to eat or drink. You are at the bottom of the stairs of a stunning black and white cathedral, the Duomo of Saint Andrew, which rises sixty-two steps above you. The Duomo appears to be a riot of stripes, arches, and mosaics with architectural touches gifted to Amalfi by conquering influences: The Moors, the Byzantines, and the Normans. Oh, plus a splash of Baroque.

From the Piazza, all hotels, restaurants, homes, and shops wend up the steeply terraced hills and continue along the narrow Mulini Valley where monumental cliffs rise 4,300 feet. Ah, there they are! In addition to homes and hotels perched precariously along terraces, are the lemon trees—a thousand lemon trees with their luminous and brilliantly verdant leaves and sunny yellow fruit catching the light from a scintillating sun.

Making your way past the Piazza, you may discover stalls offering a profusion of ripe purple plums, dark figs, and enormous peaches, plus garlands of garlic, and string upon string of bright firecracker-red dried peppers. You will gasp at the size of the bright yellow lemons—definitely as large as grapefruits. You are offered a slice to taste and cower at the thought of sinking your teeth into an acidic nightmare. But, no, they are sweet! Who knew? And then, of course, you find yourself in a queue at a boutique filled with shelves of this world-famous limoncello.  You’ve waited long enough! It’s time. Buy one, or two! They’re small and oh my goodness, there is nothing better as an after-dinner drink than icy cold limoncello. And your tour in paradise has begun.

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In addition to limoncello, one of my favorite dishes from Amalfi is a marvelous seafood dish called Risotto alla Pescatore -- risotto made with homemade seafood broth then piled high with plenty of cooked shellfish, such as shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari. Oh, my! So delectable!

Sunday Salon: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

 Last thriller read:  The Last Flight  by Julie Clark, June 23, 2020, Sourcebooks Landmark Genre: thriller, mystery Source; library book Two...