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I have been reading quite a lot of excellent fiction and non-fiction lately. There is nothing like holding a sleeping infant to keep a person sitting as still as possible in one place with lots of time to concentrate.

Historical Fiction is not a genre I have explored much but I plan to read more because it is (for me) much easier to remember details from a period if they are connected to a heartfelt story.  The Vietnam War (1955-1975) is hardly ancient history.  I was a student at UC Berkeley in the late 1960’s and simultaneously marched against the war and kept up a steady correspondence with my cousin who was in combat there.  Nevertheless, when I traveled to Vietnam two years ago, the details of the war were hazy and the museums and war memorials in both the north and the south were obviously biased. 

I was delighted to come across a recommendation for The Mountains Sing  by Nguyen Phan Que Mai.  It is a fictional story of three generations of a Vietnamese family covering decades of the country’s history and insights into the differences among the north, south and central areas of the country.  You can read more about it here.

On a lighter note, I am at a point in Hallie Ephron’s Be Careful What You Wish For where I can hardly wait for my next NanaTime to get to the heart of this entertaining mystery.

For these and other recommendations for excellent reading, check out BuzzFeed Books and Goodreads.

And finally: a newsletter from Real Simple appears in my email every week and often its titles are so tantalizing that I can’t resist reading on.  This week’s edition, “33 Hostess Gifts That Actually Feel Special,” is a classic.  When I get together with friends for a meal, one of us usually brings a small “hostess gift” like a bottle of wine, a few flowers from the garden, or an interesting gadget.  I thought perhaps I would get some unusual hostess gift ideas and Real Simple didn’t let me down. Among the gifts recommended to “show how much you appreciate [your hostess’s] graciousness, generosity, and hosting know-how” are:  A Google Nest Audio Smart Speaker ($100); A KitchenAid 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Set ($200) and my personal favorite:  A Tineco Pure ONE S12 Stick Vacuum Cleaner ($570).  I can only imagine the expression on my friend Judy’s face if I showed up for dinner with a stick vacuum cleaner as a hostess gift.




About Alexis

Alexis Rankin Popik, author of Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in The Berkshire Review and Potpourri Magazine. She has penned numerous articles about local history that have been published in Connecticut Explored and the University of Connecticut School of Law and The Hartford Seminary publications. A former union organizer, Popik traveled the country educating shipyard workers about health and safety and founded a labor-management health plan before turning to writing fiction full-time. She lives with her husband in New England.
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