What’s That Book? The Little Cafe by the Lake by Joanne Tracey

Title: The Little Cafe by the Lake

Author: Joanne Tracey

Genre: Contemporary Romance Plus

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s It About? I am a huge fan of Jo Tracey’s books. This has been my favourite one so far. If you are looking for a break filled with fun, friendship, food…and some sultry, fiercely independent characters, this book is for you. As a bonus, numerous mouth-watering recipes are included.

How Did You Hear About It? I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book (which was just released on November 4, 2021).

Closing Comments: As many of the main characters in this novel also appeared in ‘Happy Ever After’ and ‘Wish You Were Here,’ this reading felt like catching up with old friends. If you haven’t yet read any of Jo Tracey’s books, I highly recommend them. Although this book is part of a series, it can also easily be read as a stand-alone.

Contributor: Donna Connolly is a retired Middle School Principal/Deputy Director who spent fourteen years working in Beijing, China. Six years ago, Donna began to blog in order to document her retirement journey. Her site, Retirement Reflections, now includes two monthly collaborative features, ‘What’s On Your Plate?’ and ‘What’s On Your Bookshelf?’. You can connect with Donna via the following:

Blog  • Twitter • Linked In • Pinterest • Instagram

She’d love to hear from you.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

What’s That Book? The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

TitleThe Brothers Karamazov

Author:  Fyodor Dostoevsky

Genre: Classic/Literature

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about? I have wanted to read this novel for years but found it intimidating. I recently joined a read-along where we read one chapter a day of this amazing book. That was one chapter a day for 96 days! I am so glad I did as it was the best way to savour this incredible story. It is essentially a story of three, possibly four, very different brothers from a dysfunctional family, and how their actions affect each other and the people around them. One brother is a ladies’ man and a spendthrift, another an intellectual and the youngest, kind and religious.

The story covers everything, love, hate, family, religion, history, philosophy, mystery and much more. Every chapter makes you think, some make you laugh and others make you sad. The themes are timeless and as relevant today as they were in 19th century Russia.

As in many Russian stories, there are numerous characters with more than one name. But it doesn’t take long to sort them out and they all play an important part. There are many stories within the story, told by an unnamed narrator who lives in the village the Karamazov family live in and where most of the action takes place. The characters are well developed and the stories cleverly knit together. I was surprised at the humour scattered throughout the book.

At the end, the youngest brother tells a group of school boys, “You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home.” This is a book worth reading more than once. 

How did you hear about it? I heard about the Karamazov read-along through Rebecca Budd of Tea, Toast and Trivia. I realized that this was probably the only way I would ever read this book.

Closing comments: It is good for your soul to read a classic from time to time.  A great idea is to read a classic along with one or more readers for encouragement and discussion. Everyone should read The Brothers Karamazov at least once.

Contributor: Darlene Foster, a long time dreamer of dreams and teller of tales, is the author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky Amanda Ross, a Canadian girl who loves to travel. All ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in unique destinations. Darlene, an avid traveler herself, divides her time between Canada’s west coast and the Spanish Costa Blanca with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia. 


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Would you like to review a book on What’s That Book?

Hi Everyone,

Would you like to talk about a book you’ve read? Consider being a guest on What’s That Book, a great way to share your bookish opinions and connect with readers from around the world.

Maybe it’s a favorite book. Maybe it’s a book you just finished. Or maybe you have a different opinion about a book I’ve reviewed and want to talk about it!

Want to know more about it? Check out this recent post of What’s That Book? Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain here.

If you are interested, email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com and I’ll send you a template.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? In the Night of Time by Antonio Muňoz Molina

In memory of my brother Rick who passed away on August 9, I’d like to share this review he wrote for my blog, originally published in 2016.

Title: In the Night of Time

Author: Antonio Muňoz Molina

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What’s it about? The outset of the Spanish Civil War, as seen through the eyes and experiences of a married, middle-aged architect with 2 children, and his affair with a younger American woman. By the end of the story, Spain is mired in senseless violence and the main character has escaped to New York alone, with his estranged wife and children remaining somewhere in Spain, the affair ended and the future uncertain.

How did you hear about it? Several “best of” book lists. The book has received many favorable reviews.

Closing comments: Rich with detailed descriptions, the book is highly effective in conveying through small incidents, minor characters and specific observations a depressing impression of the Republic, the Nationalists, their respective supporters and an entire people and nation sinking into an abyss, while at the same time telling an ambiguous story of a man expanding his personal experience while betraying his wife and children. The book is beautifully translated from Spanish by Edith Grossman.

Contributor: Rick

Have you read something you’d like to share?  Consider being a contributor!  Contact bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

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What’s That Book? Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Austin Vitelli.

Title: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Author: Anthony Bourdain

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about?  Anthony Bourdain provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work in the food industry, highlighting many of the juicy details of what really goes on in a professional kitchen that’s surely to raise some eyebrows for those who have never worked in one. The thing is, he said he originally wrote the book specifically for chefs and figured no one else would find it relevant—almost like a series of inside jokes. But the book, which was first published in 2000, quickly became a New York Times bestseller, capturing the attention of millions of people around the world, whether they had experience in the food industry or not. It also catapulted Bourdain’s career as a “celebrity chef,” a term he begrudgingly adopted due to its negative perception.

The story itself surely captured such a wide audience for a reason—people naturally love gossip, and of course many people have a love for food. The book provides endless stories of people whom Bourdain worked with over the years, his countless jobs and relevant escapades in the industry, and most importantly, the truth about how many kitchens (at least at the time) functioned. Bourdain’s blunt and detailed-to-a-fault account of his experiences, including his battle with drug addiction, immediately establishes himself as a trustworthy storyteller. Other than a few people’s names, he basically holds nothing back. And mostly importantly, while “the times” in 2000 certainly were no stranger to sexist and otherwise questionable behavior in that industry, Bourdain still had the awareness to know that it was wrong, making sure not to glorify that type of behavior too much, even though he later worried that the book still somewhat normalized it.

How did you hear about it? I watched Bourdain’s CNN travel/food show Parts Unknown, which ran for 12 seasons until his death in 2018.

Closing comments: If you have any sort of curiosity about the food industry or what a professional kitchen looked like 20 years ago, I highly recommend this book. And if nothing else, Bourdain is one of the best non-fiction storytellers I’ve ever seen.

Contributor: Austin Vitelli is an editor for a medical publishing company in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism. You can learn more about him and his writing experience at austinvitelli.com.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow        

Author: Amor Towles

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about?  This book tells the story of the journey of the Bolsheviks and the Russian people from the Russian Revolution in 1917 to 1954 through the eyes of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, who becomes an ex-person, namely, a person who was previously a member of the Russian aristocracy.

Alexander was raised on an estate in Nizhny Novgorod province. His parents died when he was ten years old and he and his sister, Helena, were raised by his grandmother, the Countess. After the revolution in 1917 and the assassination of the Tsar, Alexander, who has been in exile in France due to rash and hot-headed behavior in his early 20s, returns to Russian to help his grandmother leave and go into exile in France. Alexander decides to remain in Russia and takes up permanent residence in the hotel Metropol in Moscow, across the road from the Kremlin.

Four years later, in 1922, Alexander is called before a tribunal of the Bolsheviks and sentenced to house arrest for life in the hotel because he had written a poem with a revolutionary subtext. Alexander believes the writing of this poem saved his life, although the Bolsheviks who questioned him are disappointed that he seems to have subsequently lost his purpose and ambition.

Alexander is forced to move out of his palatial suite of rooms and into rooms in the attic which were originally built to accommodate the servants of the gentry who were staying at the hotel.

Alexander’s journey of adjustment to his new circumstances as an ex-person begins and he finds the lack of freedom and the changes in the hotel under the new Bolshevik administration hard to bear. Alexander’s circumstances take a turn for the better when he meets Nina, the nine-year-old daughter of a Bolshevik leader and learns how to make the most of his life and situation.

Through his relationships with Nina, a movie star called, Anna Urbanova, who becomes his love interest, and interactions with his University friend, Mishka, Alexander stays abreast of life outside of the Metropol Hotel and the changes that are being implemented in Russian society under the new regime. Ultimately, his friendship with Nina has a far greater impact on his life than he could have ever imagined.

How did you hear about it?  I had not heard of this book which was recommended to me by a blogging friend who had recently read it. I must be honest, I am wondering how I have gone through such a large portion of my life without reading this amazing book, or even hearing about it.

Closing comments:  There are some powerful themes in A Gentleman in Moscow. I have identified them below with an appropriate quote to demonstrate how the them asserts itself in the book:

Change and adaptation: “For the times do, in fact, change. They change relentlessly. Inevitably. Inventively. And as they change, they set into bright relief not only outmoded honorifics and hunting horns, but silver summoners and mother-of-pearl opera glasses and all manner of carefully crafted things that have outlived their usefulness.”

Friendship, Family and Love: “This is where we part. Remember: down another flight and out the black metal door. Naturally, it would be best if you never mentioned to anyone that either of us were here.”

“Osip, I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Alexander,” he said with a smile, “you have been at my service for over fifteen years. It is a pleasure for once to be at yours.” Then he was gone.

Chance, Luck and Fate: “Suffice it to say that once the Count’s clothes had been gathered, the curtains were dutifully drawn. What’s more, before he had tiptoed to the door half dressed, he took a moment to ensure that the actress’s ivory blouse had been picked off the floor and hung on its hanger. After all, as the Count himself had observed just hours before: the best-bred dogs belong in the surest hands.”

Bolshevism and Class Struggle: “For pomp is a tenacious force. And a wily one too.

How humbly it bows its head as the emperor is dragged down the steps and tossed in the street. But then, having quietly bided its time, while helping the newly appointed leader on with his jacket, it compliments his appearance and suggests the wearing of a medal or two.”

Contributor:  Roberta Eaton Cheadle is an author of children’s books, historical fiction, horror and short fiction. She’s also an active WordPress blogger. You can find her at the following sites:

Website: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/
Blogs: Robbie’s Inspiration and Roberta Writes
Twitter:  @RobertaEaton17
Facebook: @robertawrites

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Nancy Blodgett Klein

Title: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, published in August 2020

Author: Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Genre: Non-Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s It About: This brilliant book is about the caste system in the U.S., and how the treatment of Blacks in America is similar to the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany and Dalits are still treated in India. Wilkerson defines caste as “the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.” A caste system, she writes, is “an artificial construction, a fixed and embedded ranking of human value that sets the presumed supremacy of one group against the presumed inferiority of other groups on the basis of ancestry and often immutable traits, traits that would be neutral in the abstract but are ascribed life-and-death meaning.” The way the author describes the caste system in the U.S. with Whites on top and Blacks on the bottom made me shake my head in wonder at the arbitrariness of racism. Why does skin color matter so much in America? Apparently, many White people want someone below them that they can look down on. They want to feel superior even if they are decidedly not.

In fact, early in the book, the author helped me understand the popularity of Donald Trump and explained much of his support among Whites as actually support of White superiority over Black, Latinos and other groups. White supremacists were threatened by the election of Barack Obama, an educated and articulate Black man, and felt Trump would support their values and understand their grievances.

I learned many shocking things about my country while listening to this book on Audible. For example, I discovered Nazis got some of their ideas about how to treat the Jews from researching the many race-related laws that existed in Southern States to oppress Black people. I learned that when Whites were forced by the federal government to integrate public swimming pools, many pools were closed and some even covered with concrete rather than integrated to allow Black swimmers. Wilkerson also talked about her own experience in this book, sharing how she tried to interview a store manager on Michigan Avenue in Chicago for a story she was doing for her employer, The New York Times. But the male store manager wouldn’t talk to her because he didn’t believe this Black woman worked for the NY Times.

Closing Comments:  This eye-opening book changed my impression of how bad racism has been in the U.S.  Being a member of what Wilkerson calls the dominant class, I now see racism is a much bigger problem than I ever realized. In the book’s epilogue, Wilkerson said “caste is a disease and none of us are immune.” She concluded that, “A world without caste would set everyone free.” I totally agree.

How did you hear about it? One of the people I follow in Goodreads reviewed the book and highly recommended it.

Contributor:  Nancy Blodgett Klein

Nancy Blodgett Klein is the author of the novel Torn Between Worlds: An illegal immigrant’s journey to find herself. A former journalist, magazine editor and public school teacher from the Chicago area, Klein retired to Spain in 2016 with her husband and now writes a blog called www.spainwriter.home.blog. She is a member of three book groups and one writers group. She enjoys traveling, singing in a choir and practicing yoga.

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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What’s That Book? Torn Between Worlds by Nancy Blodgett Klein

Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Darlene Foster.

Title: Torn Between Worlds 

Author: Nancy Blodgett Klein

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What’s it about?  A story about a 12-year-old Mexican girl who, with her father, comes to the United States illegally, in search of a better life. Isabel´s sixth-grade teacher suggests she keep a journal, where she can pour out the feelings she used to share with her mother. She encourages her to take the newspaper home to improve her English and learn about world events and politics. Isabel is horrified by the events that take place on September 11, 2001 in the US, witnesses a political demonstration in Oaxaca, Mexico where people are killed, and is forced to flee to Madrid, Spain to keep her and her mother safe from harm. This coming-of-age story, written in journal format, spans three years and three countries. Isabel grows from innocent child into confident young woman through turbulent times, desperately trying to find a place to belong.

How did you hear about it?  Through my writers´ group

Closing comments:  The author has done a great job of writing from the point of view of a young illegal immigrant girl sharing her innermost thoughts as she deals with trying to fit in, a new language and frightening current events. Isabel is living in the United States at the time of the 911 attacks. A scary time for all young people but even more so for immigrant children. She documents her fears, joys, ideas and hopes as she moves between Mexico, the US, and Spain. We learn about her friends, her first kiss and how she deals with her parents failing marriage. Growing up is never easy, but for Isabel, it’s especially difficult. I highly recommend this book.

Contributor:  Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster grew up on a ranch in Alberta, Canada, where her love of reading inspired her to see the world and write stories about a young girl who travels to interesting places. Over the years she worked in rewarding jobs such as an employment counsellor, ESL teacher, recruiter, and retail manager, writing whenever she had a few spare minutes. She is now retired and has a house in Spain where she writes full time. When not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, she enjoys spending time with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia. Website: www.darlenefoster.ca

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it? Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Share your thoughts on What’s That Book – an invitation to you!

Hello readers and bloggers! Some of you may remember What’s That Book?, an occasional feature by guest readers. (Here’s one from author Tammie Painter, reviewing The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick.) This feature has been dormant for a while and now I’m bringing back an updated version. So if you’ve read something good and want to talk about it, I’d love to have you as a guest on my blog.

If you are interested, please email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com and I’ll send you more information.

Hope to hear from you!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What’s That Book? A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

TitleA Prisoner of Birth

Author:  Jeffrey Archer

Genre:  Fiction, it’s categorized as a legal thriller but this is definitely NOT like John Grisham.


What’s it about?  A young man and his fiancée and her brother are out to dinner one night when a group of upper class guys start harassing the fiancée. The couple and the brother try to leave bu tend up cornered by the group of guys in a back alley. Despite all attempts to avoid a fight, the brother ends up murdered. The young man is convicted of the crime and the upper class guys go free (despite a clear cover up involving many people). The novel follows the young man into prison where he makes important connections and the efforts of his (very beginner) lawyer to clear his name.

How did you hear about it?  Having been a fan of Archer’s work in the past, I was thrilled to snag this as a used hardback copy at the local library’s annual book sale.

Closing comments:  Wow! Just wow. This is an amazing and clever reimagining of The Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike the original, this book (despite its length) never has a dull moment. Although you can kind of guess what might be coming next (especially if you’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo), Archer’s storytelling skills add an unexpected twist. Above all, you can’t help but cheer on the protagonist.

Contributor:  Tammie Painter – I turn wickedly strong tea into imaginative fiction – You can read about my adventures over at TammiePainter.com/blog

Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!