Wining Wife®

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This is 40

So, a few weeks ago, I turned 40.

Forty. 4-0.

It’s so strange. 

For one, I do not, at all, feel like I’m forty. I can still remember being a lot younger and thinking “gosh, forty…that’s so OLD!!!” I, for one, definitely do not think that I am old. I mean, I just had a baby like six months ago. By the same token, I have a kid who moved off to college at the end of the summer. 

It’s so strange. 

Of course, in true fashion to my birthday, I was sick with an icky cold, so it took me a few days to come here and update things. 

Celebrate Good Times

For my birthday, we did a lot of fun things. We ate at one of my favorite local restaurants, George’s Bistro. I had their French onion soup, and it was delicious. It paired well with the wine we selected. I also had their Steak Frites, also supremely delicious. I was so full afterward, that I couldn’t finish my dinner. Yay leftovers!

After George’s, we went to a place I’ve been wanting to explore, Dockum Apothecary. 

Before I tell you more about what Dockum is, let me tell you a little bit about what Dockum was. The Dockum Drug Store was one of the sites of the civil rights movement here in Wichita, Kansas. A sit-in protest began July 19, 1958 at the counter at The Dockum Drug Store when Black people gathered to protest the store’s refusal to serve their Black patrons. See, back then, Wichita was super-segregated (I actually have noticed that there is still a lot of segregation here, particularly along economic lines and job types), and a lot of places around the city would be “whites only.” A group of students sat quietly at the store’s counter, waiting to be served, every day for three weeks until finally the manager ordered his staff to serve the students. The sit in went a long way for desegregating many businesses across Kansas. There’s now a pretty awesome 20-foot bronze sculpture commemorating the awesome students who participated in the sit in. 

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So,  somehow, I stumbled across an article reviewing a Speakeasy-style bar hidden downtown.  The Ambassador is a hotel downtown that is housed in the restored Union National Bank Building – and  – Dockum Drug Store. In the basement of The Ambassador is Dockum Apothecary.  They serve alcohol and bar eats, and boy is it a neat place to go. Their cocktails are finely crafted takes on old classics. I had The Smoking Gun and The Duke of Earl cocktails. They were amazing. So good. If you live locally or you visit Wichita, you really ought to check them out. It was a lot of fun.

Running and Wine Tasting

After long last, I’ve re-taken up running – YAY! I joined a local running group that does couch to 5-k training. I’m really really excited about this. I have three races coming up – yipes! So my training program began the day after my birthday, and it was good to be moving again. I’m looking forward to running more and getting this extra baby weight off so that running is easier on my body and so that I can keep up with my three small goobers (and the big one who is off at college too). 

After the run, we came home, goofed off a bit, dropped small people with grandparents, and headed out to go taste some wine. YES! Wine! Kansas does have some wineries, and we decided that we wanted to try them out. We went to two: Wheat State Wine Company and Grace Hill Winery. I have to say, I was impressed with both. I was kind of expecting Kansas wine to taste like jam, to be honest, but the wines were good. I’ll be writing more specifics about them soon enough. For now, check out the photos I took while embarking on our tasting trip.

Wheat State Wine Company

 

 

Grace Hill Winery

Planning on a Good Year

In addition to picking up running again, I’ve been working on planning a lot more for my own success. In fact, I got these supplies from Happy Planner and Erin Condren (affiliate link) to help me do that. I’m looking forward to sharing more about how I’m going to go about using multiple planners soon. 

So that’s about what’s been happening here. I turned 40, the kids are all growing up more and more, I’m running, I’m planning, I’m doing. 

How are things on your end of the spectrum? Don’t be afraid to say “hi” in the comments!

Book Review: We Need to Talk by Celest Headlee

I can’t say how many times I’ve been in a conversation where either I don’t feel like I’m being heard or I realize that I didn’t hear a single thing the person talking just said. I hate admitting that, but it’s kind of a fact of life. Sometimes, I sit there, and someone is talking, and my mind just has wandered down the road a bit and is thinking about other things. I think it happens to all of us, no matter how vigilant we try to be to guard against it. Sometimes, I’ve poured my heart out or spoken about some great idea I’ve had – only to realize that the person may have been sitting there, but my words weren’t heard at all. It’s frustrating, but it’s also human. Celeste Headlee noticed these trends, and wanted to combat them head-on in her book, We Need to Talk. 

This book outlines how we can be better conversationalists – rather than being just communicators. Headlee wants us to really be present for the conversations we’re having with others, and she wants us to have meaningful connections with those around us. She notes that multitasking while conversing is undermining our relationships, and cites research that even the mere presence of a cell phone undermines our relationships:

“The researchers concluded that the presence of a cell phone hurt the quality of the conversation and the strength of the connection between the people talking. With a cell phone just sitting in the room! Think of all the times you’ve sat down to have lunch with a friend or colleague and set your phone on the table. You might have felt virtuous because you didn’t pick it up to check your e-mail, but your ignored messages were still undermining your connection with the person sitting across from you.” (27)

I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have more meaningful conversations with those I care about. I’d like to really be present for those I’m around as we all are on borrowed time and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. We Need to Talk is an excellent resource guiding us in making our interactions with others much more meaningful. 

About We Need to Talk

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (September 19, 2017)

“WE NEED TO TALK.”

In this urgent and insightful book, public radio journalist Celeste Headlee shows us how to bridge what divides us–by having real conversations

BASED ON THE TED TALK WITH OVER 10 MILLION VIEWS

“We Need to Talk is an important read for a conversationally-challenged, disconnected age. Headlee is a talented, honest storyteller, and her advice has helped me become a better spouse, friend, and mother.” (Jessica Lahey, author of New York Times bestseller The Gift of Failure)

Today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals.

And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication. For example:

  • BE THERE OR GO ELSEWHERE. Human beings are incapable of multitasking, and this is especially true of tasks that involve language. Think you can type up a few emails while on a business call, or hold a conversation with your child while texting your spouse? Think again.
  • CHECK YOUR BIAS. The belief that your intelligence protects you from erroneous assumptions can end up making you more vulnerable to them. We all have blind spots that affect the way we view others. Check your bias before you judge someone else.
  • HIDE YOUR PHONE. Don’t just put down your phone, put it away. New research suggests that the mere presence of a cell phone can negatively impact the quality of a conversation.

Whether you’re struggling to communicate with your kid’s teacher at school, an employee at work, or the people you love the most—Headlee offers smart strategies that can help us all have conversations that matter.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Celeste Headlee

Celeste Headlee is the host of the daily news show On Second Thought on Georgia Public Broadcasting. She has spent more than a decade with National Public Radio and has been a host for Public Radio International since 2008. Celeste has appeared on CNN, the BBC, PBS, and MSNBC. She’s also a classically trained soprano who doesn’t get enough time to sing anymore. She has one son and one rescue dog, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Find out more about Celeste at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Wine Down Box Review

Wine Down Box Review*This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I will receive compensation at no additional cost to you. All opinions in this post are my own.*

I’ve tried more than a few wine box subscriptions. The quality and presentation of said boxes can vary widely, so I’m always really excited when I come across a subscription box that I’m happy to recommend to others. Recently, through the ShareASale program, I was offered the opportunity to try out the Wine Down Box, and I was gifted a one-month subscription. 

Wine Down Box Packaging and Presentation

Wine Down Box Review

The Wine Down Box arrived still cold.

The box didn’t ship until October, because the creators of Wine Down Box wanted to ensure safe shipping of their products. The box arrived in a temperature controlled bag, inside the box. When I opened the box, everything was still cold. I was really impressed with that. When I removed the actual box from the packaging materials, I was really impressed with the presentation. This makes a nice gift. The items are in a black, sturdy box that one could use for storing mementos in later (or is it just me who upcycles everything?). There is packaging material that protects the wine bottle during shipping to ensure that nothing breaks in that process. 

What the Wine Down Box Included

The box had a bottle of wine – in this case, Cardella Winery’s 2011 Merlot. It also included Barolo Salami from Alle-Pia Fine Cured Meats, Peppercorn Garlic Cheddar from Plymouth Artisan Cheese, and some snacking crisps made of GMO-free wheat. There was also a sheet with tasting notes and information about why the proprietors paired the wine with the cheese and meat they chose. 

Tasting Notes

Wine Down Box ReviewOverall, this was a spectacular pairing. I really, really enjoyed trying it out with Wining Husband. Here are the notes from our taste test.

2011 Merlot from Cardella Winery Mendota, California (Approx. $18)

 This wine is six years old, but it has aged really, really well. It has a slightly green feel to it. On the nose, it was wet burning wood, sea air, and sour cherries. After a swirl, and a sip, you could taste pepper and fire as well as a note of hatch chilies. The wine was very smooth with a light body. It was a very nice Merlot. The grapes were hand harvested, and only 4650 bottles were produced. 

The winery is owned by the Cardella family, whose own history with winemaking dates back to 1902 when Carlo Cardella emigrated from Marlia, Italy to Firebough, California. You can taste the long history of family wine-crafting in each sip of this finely-crafted wine. 

Bolero Salami from Alle-Pia Fine Cured Meats (Approx. $12)

This salami was handcrafted using Barolo Wine and fresh spices. The tasting notes tell the story that this traditional artisan salami was first made in Piemonte in Northern Italy. It wasn’t greasy or salty. You could taste the quality of the ingredients that went into making it.  It brought out the pepper and hatch chili notes in the Merlot, and overall, it was a nice pairing with the wine

Peppercorn Garlic Cheddar from Plymouth Artisan Cheese (Approx. $10)

My goodness was this good. It was spicy and just delicious. It paired wonderfully with everything. Of course, I love cheese, but this is a very special cheese. It brought out the smokey flavors in the wine. 

Nita Chips – GMO Free Flattened Wheat  Bread Crackers ($8)

The Nita Chips were light, crisp, and not intrusive on the other flavors. They brought out notes of clove and spice as well as red current from the 2011 Cardella Winery Merlot. They were a fine accompaniment to the rest of the items in the Wine Down Box.

Wine Down Box Verdict

For a month-by-month subscription, the Wine Down Box costs $70. The total approximate cost of the items in the box (without shipping included from the separate vendors) was $48, meaning $22 applies toward shipping, the beautiful packaging, and the convenience of their well-thought-out curation. 3-month subscriptions cost $204 (making each month cost $68), 6-month subscriptions cost $390 (for a $65 a month cost), and the year-long subscription is the best value at $756 (just $63 per monthly box). For the quality of wine and pairings, as well as the beautiful box presentation and the quality shipping packaging, this is a very nice value and would be a nice way to treat yourself or provide for a very nice gift. 

Subscribe to the Wine Down Box Today. Use code NEW5WDB to save $5 off any order for new subscribers through October 31 or SHOP35WDB to save $35 on orders of $450+ through November 4th. 

 

 

Book Review: Dryland by Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Alcoholism is a killer. I know it’s ironic to write that statement on a blog I started to talk about wine tasting and wine pairing recipes. (And I do want to get back to the original purpose of this blog – and I will.) But I’ve watched too many people throw away lives on alcohol, and there can be a very fine line between drinking irresponsibly from time-to-time and outright alcohol addiction. 

I hate to admit that I can relate to Nancy Stearns Bercaw’s story in Dryland. But I can, a little bit. When I was a philosophy major, when I was a philosophy grad student working on my Ph.D.,  I knew who I was. It was easy. I was a single mom and a philosopher. Those two things kept coming to a head, though, and eventually, I made made a decision to leave graduate school and pursue another path.

At first, it was “easy.” I threw myself into an unhealthy relationship head first, I started writing professionally, I mommed so hard. That relationship came to a head, and I got safe. Writing took off for me in a big way around the same time. Life hasn’t slowed down since. I met the love of my life, got married, had three more kids, sent the big guy off to college, and I feel like it’s been a total whirlwind! In fact, it can feel like I’m flailing about trying to regain balance and figure out who I am as mom of four. I can see where someone might turn to alcohol to escape the deep existential questions that come up when you’re trying to find a new “box” for yourself. Especially when everything has happened so quickly – even when that “everything” is all good stuff.

Of course, because I’m breastfeeding, and because with three people under the age of four you always have to be on, I drink very, very rarely.

For Bercaw, though, once she left the swimming lanes, she wasn’t quite sure who she was. She fell into the alcoholic spiral and became dependent on the drug to handle life. It isn’t until she realizes that things are out of control that she starts to reign it in and that’s where her memoir Dryland, comes into play.  It’s at times a tough book to read but at the same time, it’s worth making the journey through the book with Bercaw’s words. 

About Dryland

• Paperback: 256 pages
• Publisher: Grand Harbor Press (April 18, 2017)

For swimming champion Nancy Stearns Bercaw, the pool was a natural habitat. But on land, she could never shake the feeling of being a fish out of water. Starting at age two, Nancy devoted her life to swimming, even qualifying for the 1988 Olympic Trials in the fifty-meter freestyle event. But when she hung up her cap and goggles after college, she was confronted with a different kind of challenge: learning who she was out of the lanes.

In this honest, intimate memoir, Nancy reflects on her years wandering the globe, where tragic events and a lost sense of self escalate her dependence on booze. Thirty-three years after her first sip of alcohol, the swimmer comes to a stunning realization while living with her husband and son in Abu Dhabi—she’s drowning in the desert. Nancy looks to the Bedouin people for the strength to conquer one final opponent: alcohol addiction.

Praise

“A brave, honest, adventurous memoir that keeps you turning pages as Bercaw travels around the world and rediscovers what it really means to win…at life.” —Leigh Newman, author of Still Points North

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million

About Nancy Stearns Bercaw

Writer and national champion swimmer Nancy Stearns Bercaw is a seventeen-time NCAA All-American athlete and was inducted into the University of South Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009. Her writing has appeared in publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post, the Korea HeraldU.S. News & World Report, Abu Dhabi’s Tempo magazine, and ScaryMommy.com. In addition to Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety, she is the author of Brain in a Jar: A Daughter’s Journey Through Her Father’s Memory and a contributor to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

Find out more about Nancy at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Book Review: It’s Messy by Amanda de Cadenet

Life is rough sometimes. It’s messy. It’s hard. People fail. People struggle along until they succeed. 

Right now, my life is colored by the navy blue glasses of postpartum depression where everything seems so tough and one action can send me into a spiral of anxiety. It’s one of the weirdest things, PPD. Here you are with the sweetest, most wonderful little tiny person – but you’re feeling like crud. I mean… but it’s not about me. At least, not this post. This post is about Amanda de Cadenet’s It’s Messy and how she weaves together essays about her own messy life in a way to make her stories relevant to women reading her book.

De Cadenet weaves her stories together in a candid manner that makes for easy – and fun – reading about not so easy or fun topics. Chapters like “How to Parent in the Time of Trump” go deeper into some of the conflicting situations that women find themselves in. I am certain I’ve read her essays on Huffington Post and in other places, and I’ve always enjoyed her writing style. It’s Messy is an essya collection you don’t want to miss. 

About It’s Messy

• Hardcover: 224 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (September 19, 2017)

In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture. Edgy, irreverent, poignant and provocative, It’s Messy addresses the issues, concerns, and experiences relevant to women today.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Amanda de Cadenet

Amanda de Cadenet is a creative force with a lifelong career in the media. She began as a host on British television at the age of fifteen and became a sought-after photographer shortly after—as a result her impressive photography career already spans nearly twenty years. She is the youngest woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover and has photographed many of the most influential figures in popular and political culture. As a media entrepreneur, Amanda is the creator of The Conversation, a series that showcases her in-depth interviews on real topics with celebrated women. Whether it’s in conversations with Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Zoe Saldana, Chelsea Handler, or Gwyneth Paltrow, or in discussions with devoted followers of her social channels, Amanda delivers an honest and authentic voice. The series has aired in eighteen countries and is featured online, with over ten million viewers. In January 2016, Amanda conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with presidential candidate Secretary Clinton. In February 2016, Amanda launched #Girlgaze, a digital media company utilizing user submitted content and highlighting the work of women Gen Z photographers and directors.

Find out more about Amanda at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Book Blitz: Diomere’s Exile

Diomere's Exile Tour Graphic
We are delighted to announce the PRE-ORDER AVAILABILITY of Diomere’s Exile by Sabrina A. Fish. Check it out and reserve your copy today.
Official release date: September 29, 2017.
Diomere's Exile
Series: The Gate Keeper Chronicles Book 1
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Add to Goodreads
An exiled woman seeking redemption, and the man who distracts her from finding it.
Five Gates. Five Sisters. Five Very Different Men.
Once there were two worlds connected by five magical gates. Then the Gate Keepers closed the gates and disappeared. The Gate Keepers have returned.
Nadia de Quinones was exiled when her nephew, the crown-prince was abducted on her watch. She’ll let nothing stand in the way of her redemption, not even discovering her heartbonded and a connection to an ancient magical gate.
Lord Gregor Cyrene is sworn to protect his country’s royal heirs. After the youngest prince’s life is threatened, Gregor sets out to discover who is responsible and suspects the answer lies with Nadia.
When fate forces their competing goals to align, neither are prepared for the irresistible attraction between them. Can they see beyond their pasts and a millennia old hate between their people? Or will they continue to distrust, allowing those plotting against them to win?

Giveaway

WIN $25 GIFT CARD AND MORE!
Diomere's Exile Giveaway Graphic
Prizes up for grabs:
$25 Gift Card (Winner’s choice: Amazon or Barnes & Noble)
2 Diomere’s Exile eBooks
3 Mystery Prizes
Contest runs from August 29 – October 16, 2017.

About Sabrina A. Fish

Sabrina A. Fish

Sabrina A. Fish lives in Oklahoma with her husband, son, and two cats, where she owns a trophy company and collects names for her novels from lists of award’s recipients. She loves all things chocolate and her husband is sweet enough to never let the candy dish near her computer become empty.
She loves and advocates being involved in the local writing community, and is President for the 2018 Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc (OWFI).
She is an annual featured speaker at The Rose State Writing Conference and has been a panelist at Wizard World Comic Con.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, she considers the three years she spent in a Texas high school to be a short trip down the rabbit hole that ended at graduation. She returned to Oklahoma where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma. BOOMER SOONER.
When she isn’t writing & promoting her novels or running her company, she can be found reading, scrapbooking, or spending quality time with her family.
To find out more about Sabrina and her books, visit her website https://www.SabrinaAFish.com
Connect with Sabrina A. Fish on social media:

About The Wild Rose Press

The Wild Rose Press

The Wild Rose Press has been publishing electronic and print titles of fiction for more than nine years. Our titles span the sub-genre spectrum from sweet to sensually erotic romance in all lengths to mainstream and womens fiction. To check out the latest and upcoming releases and more, visit https://catalog.thewildrosepress.com.
Social media: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Book Review: Bridges by Maria Murnane

It’s not easy when you’re almost 40 and you’re trying to make big things happen. It’s no secret that I’m a big dreamer and that I aim high. It takes a lot of perseverance to make things happen – no matter what age you are, and a lot of courage to battle against the “you’re how old and you’re still trying to make it?” gnomes. When you’re surrounded by people who appear to have more than you – whether you’re looking through the lenses of highlights reels on Facebook or you’re at a friend’s house in Manhattan – it’s even more important to keep your eye on the end goal. 

In Maria Murnane’s latest novel, Bridges, Daphne White is filled with big dreams – and a lot of envy of her friends. When she sees her friend Skylar living in luxury, she begins to experience self-doubt and she starts questioning herself and her dreams. After all the novel she finished hasn’t done anything but land in slush piles and recycling bins at publishing houses. The thing I like most about this fun novel about the power of friendship and dreaming big – and about how things are always more than what they seem when you dig down deep.

Bridges: A Daphne White Novel by Maria Murnane

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears. And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

About the Author

A former PR executive who abandoned a successful career to pursue a more fulfilling life, Maria Murnane is the bestselling author of the Waverly Bryson series (which received a starred review in Publishers Weekly), as well as KatwalkWait for the Rain, and International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane. Maria spent a year playing semi-pro soccer in Argentina, during which she wrote Perfect on Paper. It was initially turned down by several major publishing houses. In an effort to prove them wrong, Maria self-published and implemented a creative, grass-roots marketing campaign. Within a year Perfect on Paper attracted the attention of senior executives at Amazon, who chose it out of more than 10,000 self-published titles for the company’s venture into traditional publishing. They offered Maria a contract, and a year later Perfect on Paper reached #2 overall on Amazon.

Organizations that have invited Maria to speak include the Harvard Women’s Leadership Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the Baltimore Book Festival, the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Texas Conference for Women, and Temple University’s Fox School of Business. At her speaking engagements Maria shares the “story behind the story,” an entertaining tale of courage, passion and perseverance that has inspired audiences across the country to follow their dreams—no matter what. She’s been featured in Huffington Post, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Entrepreneur, Money, Shape, and PopSugar.

Maria was a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with high honors in English and
Spanish and was an Alumni Scholar. She also received a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from
Northwestern University. She currently lives in New York City and plays soccer four times a week.

Purchase Bridges

You can purchase Bridges on Amazon, here. (Amazon Associates link)

Book Review: Forty Autumns by Nina Willner

In 1989, the wall came down, but until then, there were some moving stories that surrounded those who were torn apart due to the Berlin Wall. A couple of my favorite movies – Goodbye Lenin and Das Versprechen – offer treatments of this time period. Forty Autumns is a memoir that adds to the narrative of families torn apart by the Iron Curtain. Nina Willner paints a picture of this tragic occurrence and shares the stories of five women and how they were reunited once the wall came down.

In a nation that stands divided due to ideology and discord, it’s important to look at lessons about division (and uniting) from our not-so distant history. It is these individual stories, like the ones Willner tells in Forty Autumns that help inspire us.  

About Forty Autumns

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (August 15, 2017)

In this illuminating and deeply moving memoir, a former American military intelligence officer goes beyond traditional Cold War espionage tales to tell the true story of her family—of five women separated by the Iron Curtain for more than forty years, and their miraculous reunion after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Forty Autumns makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two. At twenty, Hanna escaped from East to West Germany. But the price of freedom—leaving behind her parents, eight siblings, and family home—was heartbreaking. Uprooted, Hanna eventually moved to America, where she settled down with her husband and had children of her own.

Growing up near Washington, D.C., Hanna’s daughter, Nina Willner became the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Though only a few miles separated American Nina and her German relatives—grandmother Oma, Aunt Heidi, and cousin, Cordula, a member of the East German Olympic training team—a bitter political war kept them apart.

In Forty Autumns, Nina recounts her family’s story—five ordinary lives buffeted by circumstances beyond their control. She takes us deep into the tumultuous and terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences as an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.

A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation, and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love—of five women whose spirits could not be broken, and who fought to preserve what matters most: family.

Forty Autumns is illustrated with dozens of black-and-white and color photographs.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Julia Forsman

About Nina Willner

Nina Willner is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served in Berlin during the Cold War. Following a career in intelligence, Nina worked in Moscow, Minsk, and Prague promoting human rights, children’s causes, and the rule of law for the U.S. government, nonprofit organizations, and a variety of charities. She currently lives in Istanbul, Turkey. Forty Autumns is her first book.

Find out more about Nina at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Book Review: My Sister’s Bones by Nualla Ellwood

  1. I love books I can’t put down. I hate books I can’t put down. I both love and hate books I cannot put down. They’re so great, and they keep me enthralled – but I wind up reading all day instead of doing all the things I’m supposed to do.
  2. I have great admiration for authors who can write well about PSTD. It stinks. It’s a terrible thing to live with. Suzanne Collins does a good job with showing how PTSD can manifest in The Hunger Games.
  3. My Sister’s Bones by Nualla Ellwood combines both 1 and 2 to create a beautifully written book that delves deep into the psyche of someone who had experienced trauma. Bonus: You can’t put this book down.

 If you’ve ever experienced trauma (and I hope you haven’t), you have moments where you seriously question your interpretation of events. Trauma paints glasses on you that you can’t quite take off, and it creates a filter for the world that may not be accurate. In My Sister’s Bones, Kate, who has returned home after reporting on the Syrian war, is faced with the question of whether what she believes is going on next door is actually what is going on next door.

With three kids under four years old, it’s a rare day that I’ll sit and read an entire book from cover to cover in a single day. This book got that honor, and I’m glad. It was beautifully written, moving, and intriguing – the perfect read for a stormy Kansas day.

About My Sister’s Bones

• Paperback: 416 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (July 11, 2017)

“Rivals The Girl on the Train as a compulsive read (and beats it for style). — Observer (UK)

In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…

Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Nuala Ellwood

Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.

Find out more about Nuala at her website, and connect with her on Twitter.

Book Review: Red Year by Jan Shapin

Rayna Prohme is a stranger in a strange land, but she hasn’t let that stop her passion. At thirty three years old, she and her husband are in China when she becomes the lover of Mikhail Borodin. Her husband is there covering the failing Chinese revolution, and she comes up with a plan to try to continue her affair with Borodin. She wants to accompany Mme. Sun, the widow of the revolution’s founder, to Moscow. 

In Jan Shapin’s Red Year, the themes of passion, integrity, and justice are explored within the backdrop of a communist Russia and China. Rayna faces a huge choice after applying to a Soviet espionage school – does she spy on Mme Sun? Does she stand up for the widow? Does she go home with her husband to Chicago? The research Shapin put into the backstory of the novel is very detailed,and the tale she weaves is fascinating. If you enjoy historical fiction, check out this novel.

About Red Year

• Paperback: 286 pages
• Publisher: Cambridge Books (June 4, 2017)

Can a red-haired woman from Chicago single-handedly force Joseph Stalin to back down?

China, 1927. Thirty-three year old Rayna Prohme, accompanying her left-wing journalist husband, becomes the political confidant and lover of Mikhail Borodin, the Russian commander sent to prop up a failing Chinese revolution. In a bid to continue their love affair, Rayna hatches a plan to accompany Mme. Sun, the widow of the Chinese revolution’s founder, to Moscow.

But Moscow does not welcome the women. Borodin shuns them. Rayna’s stipend and housing arrangements are cancelled. “Go home,” she is told. But Rayna does not want to go home to an ordinary life, to her husband and Chicago. Instead, she applies to a Soviet espionage school that soon demands she spy on Mme. Sun. The Chinese widow is, by now, in grave danger as her exit visa is blocked. Rayna must make a choice — Borodin and Russia or Mme. Sun and China.

Praise

Set in Russian and China during the 1920s, this beautifully written novel tells the story of a true American dreamer—a woman who charged into danger in search of passion, justice and some money to pay her bills. A fascinating story. –Susan Breen, author, Maggie Dove mysteries

Purchase Link

Amazon

About Jan Shapin

Jan Shapin has been writing plays and screenplays for nearly thirty years, in the last decade concentrating on fiction. Shapin has studied playwriting at Catholic University in Washington, DC, screenwriting at the Film and Television Workshop and University of Southern California, and fiction writing at a variety of locations including Barnard College’s Writers on Writing seminar, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.

Her plays have been produced in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. She has received grants from the RI Council for the Humanities and has served as a juror for the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts screenplay fellowship awards. Two previous novels, A Desire Path and A Snug Life Somewhere, were published in 2012 and 2014.

She lives in North Kingstown, RI with her photographer husband. Learn more about Jan at her website, janshapin.com.

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