Happy Holidays, Y'all!
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly did. Though cooking and hosting for seventeen people was a bit challenging, nothing makes me happier than having friends and family gathered around my dining room table—or, in this case, two. I love getting the chance to pull out some of my trusted family recipes for the season. My grandmother’s cornbread dressing is always a favorite in our home. So is the Festive Cranberry Salad that my son, Alex, always demands as part of any family celebration. I’ve included the recipe at the end of this blog. It’s perfect for a Christmas dinner or brunch.
I don't know about you, but November seemed to fly by. I spent the month reading, cooking, traveling, writing, decorating, and, of course, editing my debut novel, WHERE THE GRASS GROWS BLUE which will be released in 2023 by Red Adept Publishing.
I have two very big pieces of news I want to share with you. One, I'm finally done with content revisions! Now, I’m waiting on my line edits. And two, and this is a big one, I'm delighted to inform you that Blackstone Audio has acquired the audio rights to WHERE THE GRASS GROWS BLUE! I’m still pinching myself. I'm extremely grateful to the Red Adept Publishing team, Lynn McNamee, Blackstone, and Liza Fleissig for making this happen. Also, in December, I’ll have another big announcement on the career front. Very exciting! Stay tuned.
This month I read five incredible and very different books. A campy mystery, a legal thriller, a Hollywood saga, a Christmas book (my first in that genre), and an all-time classic. Click the tabs for my reviews!
ONE OF US IS DEAD by Jeneva Rose
There’s a group of women in Buckhead who are beautiful, wealthy, and cunning. They ruthlessly call the shots around town, and have set up their own exclusive club in a salon. If you have enough money, mixed with the right connections, you are part of their world—only if you have the stomach for it. Shannon, used to be the queen bee of Buckhead. She ruled with an iron fist. However, all that changes when her politician husband, Bryce, leaves her for a younger woman. Now her coveted status is being threatened. Olivia, the usurper who despises Shannon, will stop at nothing to become the leader of the group. No one is spared from her viciousness—especially her friends. Crystal is the younger woman who happens to steal Shannon’s husband. She’s thrust into this world, not understanding just how precarious her situation is. Karen is the businesswoman and the only mother in the group. She loves her life, but deep down, she knows something is missing. Her marriage to the area’s top plastic surgeon isn’t what it used to be, and she can’t put her finger on it. Jenny, who owns the exclusive salon, has women in Buckhead dying to become clients. She sees everything and keeps their secrets. If you’re looking for an escape, a book that has gossipy characters, cattiness, and a dash of a good eighties soap opera—I mean that in the best way—ONE OF US IS DEAD is for you. I couldn’t put it down.
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I decided to revisit a classic. It’s been over three decades since I was first introduced to this book back in tenth grade English. Then, it was required. Now, I chose it for the love of reading. Set in the Jazz Age, this is the story of the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and his love, almost an obsession, for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Mix in over-the-top wealth, parties on Long Island, and a murder— it will keep you entertained. It’s surprisingly a very fast, well-paced novel that can be read in one sitting. Do yourself a favor and re-read a book from your high school days. You might find a new appreciation.
THE BOYS FROM BILOXI by John Grisham
I decided to go old-school with this pick. I wanted to revisit a friend. In this case, it is an author that I not only admire but who played a significant role in rekindling my love of reading decades ago. THE BOYS FROM BILOXI is the story of two families—the Malcos and Rudys—set in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. One family is on the right side of the law. The honorable district attorney, Jesse Rudy, an upstanding man and hard worker from an immigrant family, wants to clean up his Mississippi town. Biloxi is full of gambling, liquor, and prostitution rings that are running rampant. He’ll stop at nothing to do the right thing. The other family, led by Lance Malco, is knee deep in the seedier side of the coast—aka the Dixie Mafia. They are wildly successful and extremely dangerous if crossed. These two families are on a collision course with disaster. John Grisham masterfully crafts an intricate story. No detail is too small, and he flushes out complex backstories for every character he introduces. It’s full of vicious mob bosses, governmental corruption, bloody turf wars, and, of course, multiple courtroom battles. This is a very long book. It’s not for the faint of heart or someone who wants to fly through a book. It’s a slow burn, and I mean slow, but in the end, it’s worth it.
THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo is Hollywood royalty, a star of the silver screen dating back to the 1950s. Now, at the age of seventy-nine, she’s ready to be interviewed for the first time in years. Under the guise of a fluff piece, since she’s also selling some of her most famous dresses for charity, Evelyn chooses a young and relatively unknown reporter, Monique Grant, from the magazine Vivant to do the piece. However, Evelyn has her reasons for the curious selection—she’s ready to let the world know all about her salacious life and her seven marriages. Evelyn asks Monique to write her tell-all biography, holding back nothing. But why now? Why did she pick Monique? What’s Evelyn hiding? These are the questions that will keep you guessing at every turn. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO is everywhere on social media, including Instagram and TikTok. I decided to check it out for myself to see if it lived up to the hype. Wow! This book has it all. Historical fiction, secrets, betrayals, and a female protagonist who is not only larger than life but also has flaws. Taylor Jenkins Reid weaves together an incredible story. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, and you’ll find it almost impossible to put down.
THE CHRISTMAS BOOKSHOP by Jenny Colgan
Carmen Hogan has lost her retail job and is forced to move back home with her parents. She’s never been married and hasn’t made any real plans for the future. Her sister, Sofia, on the other hand, is a successful attorney. She’s the mother of three beautiful children, with another on the way. She has the perfect marriage, and lives in a charming house in Edinburgh. After struggling to find another job, Carmen’s mother suggests she move in with Sophia. Because she’s in the final stages of pregnancy and her husband is working overseas until Christmas, Carmen could lend a hand. But that’s not all that's expected from her. One of Sophia’s clients desperately needs help with his failing bookshop, and Carmen is tasked with assisting him during the holidays. Carmen struggles with her new life. Her flawless sister annoys her even more, as does the know-it-all nanny she shares a basement with. She’s also having problems connecting with her nieces and nephew. But her chaotic home life isn’t the only thing weighing her down—she has no idea how to make Mr. McCredie’s mess of a book shop profitable. If Carmen can’t help him turn things around by the end of the year, the old, sweet gentleman will be out on the street. If that’s not enough, she meets two men. One’s a college student, and the other is a famous author. Now she has to juggle her feelings for both while trying to keep her head and the shop above water. I have a confession to make...I’ve never watched a Hallmark Christmas movie or read a holiday-inspired book. I didn’t think it was my cup of tea, so to speak, but boy, was I wrong! THE CHRISTMAS BOOKSHOP is the ideal way to kick off the season.
FESTIVE CRANBERRY SALAD
1 (3oz.) pkg. Orange Jell-O
1 (3oz.) pkg. Raspberry Jell-O
1 (16oz.) can Whole Cranberry Sauce
1 (14oz.) can Crushed Pineapple
2 cups water
Dissolve both boxes of Jell-O in two cups of boiling water. Add the cranberry sauce and crushed pineapple with juice and Mix well. Pour into individual molds or a 9 inch casserole dish. Refrigerate overnight.
I found this in my grandmother’s Twilighter Homemaker’s Club cookbook that was published in 1978. Christine T. Willoughby submitted this recipe.
Until next time…