10/24/14

Juliet's Nurse Offers a Unique Perspective to a Timeless Treasure


Over the years, my daughters have each read a form of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  My younger girls have performed parts of the play under the guidance of locally trained drama teachers.  The draw of the fated love story and a familiarity with Shakespeare's characters attract me constantly to works from other authors based on the piece.  I was recently offered the opportunity to read and review a copy of Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen.  I could not resist peeking, once again, into Juliet's life from the eyes of her nurse.  What was my review of Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen.

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  We have also been asked to participate in a book giveaway for this novel.  Readers may enter at the end of this post.

Quick Summary of Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen.  In Verona, a city ravaged by plague and political rivalries, a mother mourning the death of her day-old infant enters the household of the powerful Cappelletti family to become the wet-nurse to their newborn baby. As she serves her beloved Juliet over the next fourteen years, the nurse learns the Cappellettis’ darkest secrets. Those secrets—and the nurse’s deep personal grief—erupt across five momentous days of love and loss that destroy a daughter, and a family.

By turns sensual, tragic, and comic, Juliet’s Nurse gives voice to one of literature’s most memorable and distinctive characters, a woman who was both insider and outsider among Verona’s wealthy ruling class. Exploring the romance and intrigue of interwoven loyalties, rivalries, jealousies, and losses only hinted at in Shakespeare’s play, this is a never-before-heard tale of the deepest love in Verona—the love between a grieving woman and the precious child of her heart.

In the tradition of Sarah Dunant, Philippa Gregory, and Geraldine Brooks, Juliet’s Nurse is a rich prequel that reimagines the world’s most cherished tale of love and loss, suffering and survival. - See more at SimonandSchuster.biz.

Juliet's Nurse offers a unique perspective into a timeless treasure. Certainly, I have not read every piece related to the Shakespeare tragedy; but, Leveen's Nurse Angelica offers a different perspective for me.  Angelica brings an insider's look at the world of Juliet--all the while her servant class keeps her painfully on the outside of her wealthy charge's family as well.  Told through a descriptive, heartfelt, first person narrative, Angelica opens readers' eyes to not only Juliet's life of privilege and pain--but, to the stark realities of a servant during the time period.

Juliet's Nurse appeals to drama and history lovers--regardless of any affinity for Shakespeare.  I will be honest--Romeo and Juliet was never necessarily my favorite Shakespeare work.  In fact, the incessant reworkings of his piece only lessened the appeal of the original for me.  Leveen changed that with Juliet's Nurse.  Angelica's story--and her experiences with Juliet's family--offered much more than a Shakespeare "spin".  I think fans of historical dramas should adore this book--even without a love of Shakespeare.

Juliet's Nurse sets old characters into new light.  As readers take inside looks into the lives of Tybalt, Juliet's parents, and her nurse--those supporting characters take on new lives and significance.  I remember reading Romeo and Juliet--and focusing simply on Romeo and Juliet.  I remember the other characters--but, I did not develop a passion for those characters.  Leveen has now inspired me to reread Romeo and Juliet from a different perspective.

Juliet's Nurse quickly scaled my list of the best books I've read this year.  Quite honestly, although dark and painfully realistic at times--Leveen's writing is some of the best that I've read in a long time.  After a few pages, I was so drawn to Angelica's story--which was so intricately woven into Juliet's life with detailed accounts--that I was unable to put the book down.  The book isn't for everyone--but, for those with an interest and love for Juliet's setting and storyline--this book is certainly for those reading lists. 

Would you love to read Juliet's Nurse?  Enter to win a copy at the end of this post!

About the Author:
Photo by John Melville Bishop
Award-winning historian, author, and former college professor LOIS LEVEEN holds degrees in history and literature from Harvard, UCLA, and USC. She traveled to Verona, Italy, to research JULIET'S NURSE, as well as apprenticing herself to an urban beekeeping group in her adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon, to write accurately about the life cycle of hives.

 Lois has given talks in Finland, France, and throughout the US about the historical research behind JULIET'S NURSE, and about how she approached challenging themes of teen violence, suicide, and plague epidemics in adapting Shakespeare for contemporary readers. Her first novel, The Secrets of Mary Bowser, based on the true story of an African American woman who spied for the Union during the Civil War by posing as a slave in the Confederate White House, was a 2012 Target Book Club pick and is currently being developed into a Broadway musical.

Connect with Lois: Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter

Buy Juliet's Nurse by Lois Leveen.



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Hexed by Stephanie Nelson Book Blast and Giveaway


Hexed While I would love to read this book--I am always drawn to Angels of Death with a heart--my reading list is overflowing at the moment!  So--you'll have to read it for me and let me know what you think this time!  We are pleased to participate in the book blast for Hexed by Stephanie Nelson--and to offer our readers  chance to win a signed set of Stephanie's books in the book blast giveaway at the end of this post!
 
A Quick Summary of Hexed by Stephanie Nelson.  Everything and everyone has an expiration date, including Gwen Sparks. When Dorian, the Angel of Death, saved her, he did more than bend the rules: he shattered them.

When Gwen’s memories are stolen, the balance of life and death shifts, and magic goes on the fritz. Dorian realizes that even the angel of Death must face consequences for his mistakes. Everything and everyone has an expiration date, and time is running out for Gwen. If they don’t find a solution, Gwen’s borrowed time will come to an end, and Dorian will lose the woman he risked everything for.

Both will have to make a life-changing decision. Dorian’s choice will result in either altering his very existence or losing Gwen forever. Gwen will risk everything to right Dorian’s wrong, and her decision may just result in her death.

This book includes an Aiden Blake short story. You've heard Gwen's side. Now hear his.

Buy the Gwen Sparks Series..

Craved - Amazon

Deceived - Amazon

Coveted - Amazon




Hexed -  Amazon

Note:  Due to sexual content and language, this book is intended for readers 18+  

Enter to Win
Stephanie Nelson is giving away a signed set of her series to one lucky winner. Open to US residents ends Nov 7 @ 11:59 PM EST a Rafflecopter giveaway

10/23/14

York Buffet in Pittsburgh, PA Offers a Family Friendly Mix of Buffet Food


My family travels a lot--as a family.  Therefore, we must eat out a lot--as a family.  With one picky eater in our midst--and two adults who prefer small local restaurants over large chains; dining out is out is not all fun and games.  On a recent trip to Pittsburgh, we decided to skip the chains and visit a local Asian Sushi/Grill/Buffet spot: York Buffet near the Robinson Mall.  My husband loves seafood and Asian flavors.  I love Asian food...and tolerate seafood...but generally avoid buffet style dining.  The youngest loves seafood...but, not Asian foods.  The middle daughter hates seafood and will pretty much only eat lo mein noodles from one certain Chinese restaurant in town....but, pizza and chicken offer her safety nets.     The menu for the York Buffet seemed to offer a family friendly mix of buffet food ranging from sushi and frog legs to prime rib and lamb to General Tso's chicken and pizza.  How did York Buffet in Pittsburgh, PA stand-up to our review?

York Buffet makes great use of the location.  After driving around the area near the Robinson Mall surveying the food options--we spotted the York Buffet in a fairly busy strip mall.  The parking lot was pretty full--but, we arrived a bit early for the dinner rush; so the York Buffet had a lot of open seating--and full buffet bars.  While some of the eatery's decor has a rich, Asian feel--the atmosphere is quickly downplayed by well-worn seating, dated tabletops and napkin dispensers loaded with cheap, non-absorbent napkins.  The area was large enough so that most of the tables were away from the buffet area.  The arrangement made me happy as my primary complaint about buffets is that I hate wandering around tables repeatedly (or having people wandering around me!) while dining.


The service at York Buffet was attentive--yet limited.  Empty plates disappeared quickly, and drinks constantly seemed  full.  Questions; however, either went misunderstood or ignored by the servers.  At times, I felt that there was a language barrier--at other times, I felt like there was a personality barrier.  Luckily--it was a buffet, so there was little need for interaction or servers beyond cleanup and drink refills.

York Buffet offered a little bit of everything
.  The buffet bars remained stocked fairly well during our visit.  Several workers carried hot pans about, restocking low dishes. 



 Dishes such as Baby Clams with Black Bean Sauce and a Crab Parmigiana emptied quickly.


The ribs and the prime rib were both very good. The prime rib and the leg of lamb were both available as "serve yourself"--so both were a little mangled and improperly cut--but, the prime rib was still tender and flavorful.


A bar of fried, "American" foods served to appease our middle one with chicken tenders, chicken wings, pizza, fries, and fried cinnamon donuts.


The seafood bar held everything from crawfish and mussels to crab and frog legs.


The sushi bar plates held a few pieces at a time--and the "good" ones emptied quickly.   The offerings were similar to the fresh sushi bars in many grocery stores--nothing fancy or overly done.

We were  little disappointed that the grill station where guests could choose meats/vegetables/and sauces for an entree was not operating during our visit.

The dessert bar was disappointing.  I didn't realize that I hadn't bothered to take a picture of it until I sat down to write this post.  The kids liked the ice cream--but, I wouldn't waste the calories on the cakes, cookies or desserts.  We did like the fried, cinnamon sugared donuts from the fried hot bar--so I would probably skip the dessert trays and have one of those instead next time!

Final thoughts about York Buffet?  All in all--everything was good.  There wasn't any truly outstanding, "I HAVE to eat there again for the XYZ" dishes.  Everything was hot and a little better than average buffet food.  I would eat at York Buffet again.  It was an easy way to satisfy everyone in the family for dinner--and break slightly away from the beaten path of chain restaurants.  Pricing varies depending on the day of the week--and whether you visit for lunch or dinner--and they do not serve alcohol.  We paid $15.99 per adult--and the girls were discounted by age to $7.99 each.  Nothing special or extraordinary--just a nice dinner.  We would return for dinner.

To learn more about the restaurant featured:
York Buffet Sushi & Grill
6302 A Robinson Center Dr.,
Pittsburgh PA 15205

Visit  York Buffet Website

York Buffet Sushi & Grill on Urbanspoon


Disclosure:  We were not compensated for this post.