Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Secrets of Worry Dolls" by Amy Impellizzeri, Served with Guatemalan Rice & Beans with Coconut Milk (and a Giveaway!)

It's my last TLC Book Tour Stop for 2016 and it's an especially good one. Today I am reviewing the novel Secrets of Worry Dolls by Amy Impellizzeri, a story about secrets, loss, and love. I am pairing my review with a creamy and delicious bowl of Guatemalan Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk, inspired by my reading. Finally, just in case you don't get a good book for the holidays, you can enter to win a copy of the book a through the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Publisher's Blurb:

According to Mayan tradition, if you whisper your troubles to the Worry Dolls, they will do the worrying instead of you–therefore, it follows that Worry Dolls are the keepers of a great many secrets . . .

On the eve of the end of the world–according to the Mayan calendar–Mari Guarez Roselli’s secrets are being unraveled by her daughter, Lu.

Lu’s worry dolls are at-capacity as she tries to outrun the ghosts from her past–including loved ones stolen on 9/11–by traveling through her mother’s homeland of Guatemala, to discover the painful reasons behind her own dysfunctional childhood, and why she must trust in the magic of the legend.

Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (December 1, 2016)

My Review:

Amy Impellizzeri wrote Secrets of Worry Dolls based on her fascination for them as a child, as well as two incidents that impacted her and the Bell Harbor, New York neighborhood she lived in; the terrorist attacks on 9/11 (where the small community lost over 70 residents) and the crash of American Airlines Flight 578 into the neighborhood, just two months later (all of the passengers and crew aboard and 5 of her neighbors perished). Impellizzeri was at home on the day of the crash and her house was used by the emergency response team (many leaving shifts at Ground Zero) as the command center for the recovery efforts. That mix of gratefulness for being alive with a still-standing home, mixed with the guilt for those who did not make it, give Secrets of Worry Dolls and its characters heartfelt and personal tone that permeates the book. 

In the novel, Lu is about to take off for Guatemala on the urging of her distant mother Mari, to meet the nun that essentially raised her and to hear Mari's story and the secrets that she has kept in her life. Lu does not get on the plane, which turns out to be a fortuitous decision as it crashes after take-off in her Rock Harbor neighborhood, leaving Mari who was home at the time in a coma. Having lost her father and twin sister Rae, ten years prior in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Lu is once again left with survivor's guilt and a feeling of abandonment. The story goes back and forth between Lu's thoughts about what is happening and her memories of her childhood and Mari's viewpoint, told while in her coma. Both Lu and Mari have worries, secrets, and guilt about their pasts and there may be far too many for both the worry dolls that Mari keeps and the ones she gave to Lu.

This is my first book by this author (her second novel) and I was impressed with how well she told both Mari and Lu's story and wove them back and forth in short chapters that kept the story flowing along to the end. Along with the worry dolls, the meaning of the purported end of the world on 2012 according to the Mayan calendar and the violence and heartbreak of the country's violent political history gave me insight into Guatemalan folklore and history. I liked that the folklore and magical realism has a deft balance in the book, it makes sense in the story and comes off as believable rather than fantastical. I found Secrets of Worry Dolls to be a multi-layered and wonderful book that captured both my imagination and my heart. Although there is tragedy, pain and heartache--and certainly much of it--in its pages, it manages to convey a feeling of hope and the future.  

(Side Note: I had a tiny set of my own worry dolls growing up and I think they are still in an old jewelry box in a closet. I thought about looking for them, although I think they may be too small for all of the worries this past year has brought. Thankfully I received a couple of slightly larger worry dolls with the ARC of the book, so I'll give them a try.)
Author Notes: Amy is a reformed corporate litigator, founder of SHORTCUTS Magazine, and award-winning author. Her first novel, Lemongrass Hope (Wyatt-MacKenzie 2014) , was a 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Bronze Winner and a National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist. A favorite with bloggers and book clubs, Lemongrass Hope was named the #1 reviewed book in 2014 by blogger, The Literary Connoisseur, and topped several bloggers’ “Best of” Lists in 2015. Amy’s second novel, Secrets of Worry Dolls is releasing December 1, 2016 by Wyatt-MacKenzie.
Amy is also the author of the non-fiction book, Lawyer Interrupted (ABA Publishing 2015). She is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers and President of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Amy currently lives in rural Pennsylvania with her husband, three kids, and one energetic weimaraner, where she keeps up on all of the latest research confirming that caffeine is, in fact, good for you.


Food Inspiration:

There was some food inspiration to be found in Secrets of Worry Dolls like steaks, scrambled eggs, coffee, gazpacho, pork dinners, ice cream, and Frozen Hot Chocolate and Humble Pie from Serendipity in New York City

I thought about making a traditional Guatemalan Day of the Dead salad of vegetables, cheeses, olives, deli meat and flowers. "There was "a funny looking salad we made every November called fiambre, that looked a heck of a lot like antipasti." Being a non-meat eater though, it seemed like it wouldn't be the same without the cold cuts. 

I decided to make a simple rice and beans dish as Lu is fed "a heaping dish of rice and beans each night" while in Guatemala. I found a few different recipes online and decided on Gallo Pinto con Leche de Coco or Rice and Beans with Coconut Milk. 

Note: I doubled some of the spices in the recipe--noted in red below. 

Guatemalan Rice & Beans with Coconut Milk (Gallo Pinto con Leche de Coco)
Adapted slightly from DiningforWomen.com
(Serves 4-6)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 small red sweet pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup long grain white rice, soaked 20 minutes and drained until dry
1/8 (1/4) tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
pinch chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 (1/2) tsp dried oregano
1/4 (1/2) tsp turmeric
1/2-3/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cup water
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1 (15 oz) can small red beans, drained (I used pinto beans)

(I added chopped fresh cilantro to garnish)

In a medium‐large heavy‐bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add spices (thyme through salt) and stir. Add water and coconut milk and stir well.

Bring to a boil and stir in beans and return to a boil. Lower heat to low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, covered. Stir every 5 minutes to avoid sticking and add more water if needed to prevent it from drying out. (This is more like risotto than a fluffy rice.) When rice is finished cooking, stir one more time, scraping the bottom if necessary, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Notes/Results: I loved how creamy and delicious this rice and beans turned out--very much like a risotto in texture, only less fuss. I did increase the amount of the spices I added as I like lots of flavor and between the coconut milk, spices, bell pepper and jalapeno, it had plenty. To be more authentic, it should probably have small red beans but I didn't have any in the pantry so I used pinto beans--although black beans would be another good substitution. It made for a satisfying dinner and I popped a fried egg on top for breakfast this morning. Yum! I will happily make this again.  

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "Secrets of Worry Dolls" was provided to me by the publisher, Wyatt-MacKenzie and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway!***

The publisher is generously providing a copy of Secrets of Worry Dolls to giveaway (U.S. and Canada addresses, please) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment please (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me about a favorite family or cultural tradition or why you would like to win a copy of the book. 

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Amy Impellizzeri (@AmyImpellizzeri), and/or Publisher Wyatt-MacKenzie (@wymac)
on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author or publisher on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is Wednesday, December 28. 

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. My family loves t bake cookies together at the holidays.We bake&laugh&enjoy being together.

  2. This book is now on my TBR list. I love reading about people in other countries, their daily lives, and customs.
    My family has gotten very small in number so holiday traditions have fizzled. I doubt I'll be given any books this year. The recipe is also on my 'to make' list as I'm constantly trying to improve my diet. Especially adding more beans (and rice). Thank you!

  3. we love saturday morning breakfast with fresh bagels where we all relax and then go back to sleep! delicious!

  4. Fun that you got worry dolls with your ARC. Love that. And your beans and rice are perfect. The books sounds good as well -- but the idea of letting the dolls take all my worries away is wonderful.

  5. What an interesting idea letting the worry dolls take my troubles away. I'm with Beth a fish Reads, the beans and rice are very good and we sure eat a lot of those here!
    I hope you are having a good Christmas!

  6. I would love to win this book because this sounds like an inspiring book and one I would love to read!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

  7. Thanks so much,can't wait to read it,😍


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)