Category Archives: Reading

The Gypsy’s Promise

I finished writing a book.

The funny part is, it was never supposed to be completed.

The thing is, I fleshed out a couple of characters who became the basis of my first five chapters. Then the urge to actually complete the book passed and I moved on to writing other things.

But after the fifth chapter was done, the book sorta called me back and then the characters took on lives of their own. Before I realized it, there was a sixth, a seventh and an eighth chapter. I laid the book aside again for a while–months if I remember  correctly. But I kept being lured back to the unfinished manuscript.

Before I knew it, there were over 70,000 words written and I found myself composing an Epilogue.

It probably sounds like the hard work has been done, but actually the hard work has just begun–revisions and more revisions. That’s where the book stands until I deem it worthy to be sent to an agent. If I’m lucky, some day you’ll see The Gypsy’s Promise on a shelf in your favorite bookstore, or on Amazon as an eBook.

Wish me luck.

10 Recent Books I Have Read and Loved

  1. Stealing the Dragon by Tim Maleeny (suspense intrigue thriller)
  2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (sort of a historical memoir)
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (historical romantic time travel) My favorites in this series were the first and the second, Dragonfly in Amber
  4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin (fantasy) This entire series is not to be missed.
  5. The Other Bolelyn Girl by Philippa Gregory Don’t think history, think a really fine read.
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer Now if you DO like a little (history) mixed in with your (humor), try this book on for size. The entire book is written in letters. Sounds boring doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not.
  7. If you love Renoir, then you will love Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. (fictionalized biography) It’s not a book about his entire life, but instead covers the period during which he was painting the luncheon masterpiece, one of his most recognizable  works.
  8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (thriller) You’ve never known a character like Lisbeth Salander.
  9. Bloodsworn: Bound by Magic by Kathy Lane (fantasy romance suspense) What more can I say?
  10. If you’ve never read a Janet Evanovich book, run to the nearest bookstore or tiptoe to and start off with One for the Money If you like human, colorful, (laugh out loud) characters, you’ll love her books. Easy reading, don’t be expecting Pride and Prejudice. These are just fun books in a series.


The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

I must take a break from my “Places to Visit on a Budget” posts to tell you about a wonderful book I’ve just finished reading–The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. It is written completely in letter form, making it different from any book I’ve ever read, or if I have read one, I’ve long forgotten it. And the author’s humorous style that easily transforms into serious matters, namely the aftermath of World War II, is done seamlessly.

Here are some other kudos. This one from Mama Monkey

The title alone (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) was enough to have me hooked because I needed to know just want this “society” was.

…tells the story of Juliet Ashton, a British author, and her getting to know the people of Guernsey Island through their letters and eventual meeting.  The story takes place following the second World War.  The people of the island share their stories with Ashton, which eventually gives her the idea of writing a book about the German occupation of the island– and of their Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It has been a long time since I have been so captivated by a story.

From Teddyree in Australia

When Juliet unexpectedly receives a letter from Dawsey Adams, resident of Guernsey and member of the literature society new friendships are formed along with an idea for a new book. As correspondence between Juliet & Dawsey expands to include other members of the literature society, Juliet is captivated by the stories of life on Guernsey during the Occupation and of friends connected through a mutual love of literature and the trauma of war.

The character’s have an authenticity that makes them feel like old friends, I shared their sorrows and joys, laughing out loud, sniggered in places, & at times I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. Juliet, Dawsey, Sidney (Juliet’s editor), Amelia Maugery, Elizabeth & Kit McKenna, Isola Pribby, Eben Ramsey are portrayed with such humour and colour, they capture your heart, staying with you, like part of your family, long after the story is finished.

Try this one out.

Savannah, Georgia


Oglethorpe Square

If you’re looking for southern hospitality, try Savannah, Georgia. On the menu–candy for the eyes. It is chock full of quaint B&Bs, but the main attraction is its charming 22 park squares that are situated throughout the historic district of the city.  Surrounding many of the squares are historic homes and museums.

I found the best way to get acquainted with Savannah was to take the Hop On & Off Trolley Tour. You can spend your entire first day in the city using this trolley. It stops at most of the historic homes that are open to visitors, and if you’re a Girl Scout, you won’t want to miss the Julliette Gordon Lowe House (founder of the Girl Scouts of America). The trolley picks you up at your hotel or B&B, and then it stops every 20 minutes and runs all day until 4:30 p.m. That means if you get off to stroll a museum, or eat lunch, or just sit on a bench at one of the squares, you never wait for the trolley for more than 20 minutes. Excellent!

Be sure to walk along the river where you will find lovely boutiques, antique shops and restaurants. And you’ll also see Florence, the Waving Girl.

Speaking of girls, if you’ve read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, or if you just like visiting cemeteries (and believe it or not, many people love traipsing through an old cemetery), then you won’t want to miss Bird Girl.

Now that I have finished this post, it appears I’ve written a lot about girls: Girl Scouts, Waving Girl and Bird Girl. But Savannah is so much more. Go see for yourself. And if you’ve already been there, feel free to add a comment and let me know what you found exciting or beautiful about the city, because I plan to go back some day.

Good For The Waistline, Good For The Pocketbook, Too


It’s time to cut out some of the fast food drop-ins on your way home from work. Notice I say some, because there are days when you’re just too tired to cook, or you don’t have time to cook, or you’ve got to have a greasy cheeseburger, no matter what!

On those days when there’s no getting around it, be prepared. It doesn’t have to be a fast food burger. I buy a pound of ground beef, but instead of freezing it, I shape it into four burgers (very simple–nothing whatsoever added to it). Those individually wrapped burgers are always in my freezer. I freeze burger buns, too. Instant meal!

And if you want to make it healthier, smother every burger with tomato, lettuce, pickle, onion and a little cheese. The more lettuce, the better. It adds crunch.

Another thing you might want to consider is, once the kitchen is cleaned after dinner, put up the “Closed” sign. I don’t mean literally, but I remember my mother wiped and dried her kitchen sink. She shined the faucet and folded the towel and, believe me, you didn’t mess up her sink after that. It was her way of closing the kitchen for the night. It was a good policy. No one in our family had a weight problem back then.

And, incidentally, if you want to read a book about losing weight the fun way, try reading a book written by Janice Taylor titled All Is Forgiven, Move On. I mention her book because one of her suggestions is to close your kitchen at 9:20 p.m. every night.  My mom was doing that back in the 50’s.

Janice also has some nifty charts, some great recipes and motivation ideas for getting healthy and staying that way.

You might also want to visit Janice’s site It’s an interesting read.

“Dumbfounded” by Matt Rothschild

Before I even started reading this memoir, I had to chuckle over the Author’s Note. Matt wrote:

“I’m not going to feed you that same old baloney about how memory is imperfect…The truth is that while everything in this book happened, it didn’t always happen the way I say it did. Sometimes I changed names or descriptions of people and places. Big deal. Sometimes I altered chronology…made people look foolish when they weren’t so foolish, made people look good when they were fools…–I know you’ll love this one–said things happened in one place when they really happened somewhere else. Okay, so maybe that is a big deal…Some of this stuff is damn funny and some of it’s tragic. Just don’t take the window dressing too literally.”

I suppose Oprah would have apoplexy over that statement. It had the opposite effect on me. I wanted to read more.

You don’t expect a book written by a Jewish fellow to start off with a chapter involving Santa Claus, but this one does. The first chapter is titled Why I Don’t Believe In Santa Claus and it has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. As a matter of fact, Matt didn’t even know he was Jewish until he was in the second grade.

Abandoned as an infant by his mother, Matt was raised by his grandparents, while their daughter, his mother, chose to hobnob across Europe. If this makes the book sound like a tearjerker, pack that notion away. Although some chapters are poignant, for the most part, the book is fresh, humorous and, at times, uproarious.

His grandfather, who was a genteel, aristocratic gentleman, had the good luck to marry a woman who was a real firecracker. She jokingly referred to the Rothschild family as a crazy cult. Speaking to her husband, she made remarks like:

“…your cult’s had so much shock therapy that if they held hands, they could provide enough electricity to power New York City.”

Getting to know Matt’s grandmother through his eyes is an unforgettable trip you won’t want to miss.

Peppered throughout the memoir are other fascinating characters–Elaine, who once convinced him that since they spent so much money in FAO Schwartz they should be entitled to some free gifts, The Petty Thieves.  His short association with a reclusive old woman living in his building, who hadn’t been seen by any of her neighbors in thirty years, Greta Garbo Lives Next Door, leaves you wistful, wishing he had time to find out more about her.  And there was his third-grade teacher, Ms. Wood, who delighted in giving him D’s on his papers, which he hid from his grandparents until they were eventually found, All in the D’s. His grandmother didn’t pull any punches that day,

“Oh, Matthew, what the hell are these?”                                                            .

Although this book is written by a person who lived just steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, you never get the impression that it’s from the perspective of a rich kid. If anything, you feel Matt didn’t even realize he was rich until he reached puberty. (That’s another amusing story to read about).

What makes this memoir beautiful is that it is honest, in spite of what Matt tells you in the Author’s Note. His writing is witty, sincere, unerringly compassionate, hilarious and totally entertaining. Pick up this book; it’s a memorable read.

[Goodnight, Mr. Newman. We loved you.]