Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

Maggie Shipstead

Astonish Me

ASTONISH ME, by Maggie Shipstead, is her second novel.  I’ve been waiting anxiously for it.  I loved SEATING ARRANGEMENTS, her first very successful novel set on a fictitious island off the coast of New England. It was full of witty writing and characters that could very well have been right out of anyone’s family.

Now with ASTONISH ME, Shipstead is bringing us a story of ballet, defection, desire, and betrayal. All the behind-the-scenes of the world of dance. And she has even created a character quite like an infamous male ballet dancer from the real world of dance.

The characters in ASTONISH ME  act like real people. The writing is easy to read. Glides right off the page. Shipstead has written with real depth and feeling. She’s made bold decisions and executed them brilliantly. Brave.

There’s nothing I like more than a story of lies and consequence.  Secrets hidden in plain sight.  I kept thinking I wanted to tell one character “the truth.” How could this person NOT know what was happening?

When I was in grade school my mom enrolled me in ballet. I was clumsy and she thought this would help me be more graceful. Not so much, but I will say I learned how to stand tall with my head up; no slouching. But I did get a glimpse into the world of ballet for a couple years. I loved the costumes. My teacher was a retired prima ballet from Russia. Her name was Lanada.  I was not inspired to be a dancer, however, I do find the art of dance to be intriguing.

Grab your copy of ASTONISH ME by Maggie Shipstead. Be prepared to be wowed.  It is psychologically intense, provocative, and the perfect read for summer.

My gorgeous finished hard copy arrived compliments Knoff publishing. Thank you ever so much!

The Island Of Doves by Kelly O’connor McNees : Give Away.

Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Island of Doves

Look at this gorgeous cover! And I love the blurb by Stephanie Cowell, author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE.

I have one copy for giveaway. Please leave a comment below to enter my contest. I can only accept U.S. addresses, and no P.O. Boxes, please.

THE ISLAND OF DOVES is set in nineteenth-century America.  Susannah Fraser escapes an abusive marriage with the help of a strong woman.  Moving from Buffalo to Mackinac Island, this moving novel is based on a true story. My favorite kind.

Good luck to all of you. Tell all your friends. And thanks to the generous people at Penguin Publishing for the giveaway. Giveaway ends Sunday, April 27. Good luck!

Home Sweet Anywhere by Lynne Martin

Lynne Martin

Home Sweet Anywhere

HOME SWEET ANYWHERE by Lynne Martin is a hoot. What a great summer read for those of us who can not get away right now. I have been living vicariously through Lynne and her husband Tim for almost a week now. And what fun it is!

Lynne and Tim Martin sold their home, most of their cloying belongings, and tossed caution to the wind. All this to get away from it all and travel the world while they still have their good health.

The one thing they decided to part with that bothered me was their dog. I can not imagine finding other homes for the four cats we’ve saved and lived with for twelve years.

Most of us can not imagine giving everything up, for any number of reasons.  But it did cross my mind while reading the first chapter. Mostly, I find myself getting great ideas and crossing places to visit or not to visit off my list. And Lynne writes with a humorous vein that will have you in stitches throughout. In fact, you may find yourself laughing out loud in a public place, piquing the interest of many a stranger.

Even though I have no desire to live or even visit Mexico anytime soon, I have to say I loved the home Lynne and Tim stayed in while there. The scenes with the animals and birds especially made me smile. But the visit to Turkey gave me the itch to add it to our list of must-sees. And on it goes.

I was a bit disappointed in Lynne’s response to my comment on her facebook page.  I made a very positive statement saying I would put this lovely book on my table at the store and sell it like candy bars. She asked me to make a comment on Amazon. I told her simply that I work at Barnes & Noble. Alas, Amazon has no tables at this point, and they are our direct competition.  I do hope the Martins understand how important it is to support brick and mortar stores, the only stores that can offer books immediately.

 

 

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, and The Pulitzer Prize!

Donna Tart

The Goldfinch

The GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt has risen to the glory that it so deserves. Winning the PULITZER for fiction is a huge deal. I saw it coming. I was one of the first readers. I felt this coming. Congrats go out to Donna Tartt for this amazing book! A classic, it has already become.

Author

Donna Tartt

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman

Love & Treasure

I have become quite fussy about World War Two novels since there are so many out there these days. However, I have found one with new information; at least, new to me. LOVE & TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman is decidedly full of stellar research. And it is written with a loving hand.

Jack Wiseman served America during World War Two.  He was part of the group of  American servicemen  who captured  the Hungarian Gold Train, just outside of  Salzburg, Germany in 1945.  Jack was put in charge of guarding all the treasure; a daunting task to say the least. What is this gold train, you may ask, as did I? I had heard nothing of this in all my reading of World War Two.  The Jews of Hungary were lightened of all their worldly goods before being prodded onto boxcars and whisked away to atrocious places such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. All these belongings: gold, jewelry, art work, silver, diamonds, anything of value, were gathered up and transported on this Gold Train.  Ostensibly, these valuables were on their way to be returned to their rightful owners now that the war was over. Right. And I have some land to sell you, too.  The truth is that none of these things ended up in the right pockets.

LOVE & TREASURE begins in modern time. Jack Wiseman is a dying man. He’s going to visit his granddaughter Natalie Stein.  When Jack gives Natalie a pendant with a peacock on it, we begin to become suspicious. As we should. Jack needs Natalie to promise him she will locate the owner of this intricate piece of jewelry.

This novel is full of strong characters filled with guilt and love.  I love learning through fiction. And learn I did. I will be on the hunt for more information of the Hungarian Gold Train.

But wait. There is much more to this novel than the story of the train. It’s the story of people  who have survived great loss. It makes you want to look back at your own family and see what is ripe for discovery.  This complex novel  has so much richness to it. There is even a nod to feminism.

Ayelet Waldman has now entered the hall of great World War Two novelists. I salute her.

Thanks go out to my friends at Alfred A. Knopf, for sending me a finished hardcover of LOVE & TREASURE.

Elaine Newton- Critic’s Choice Summer Reading List 2014-Artis-Naples

Here it is !!! Elaine Newton’s Wildly Famous Summer Reading List 2014. Enjoy!

Artis-Naples

Elaine Newton’s 2014 Summer Reading List

Empress Of The Night by Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak

EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT

Just when I’d begun to wonder if there ever would be a second book of Catherine The Great, it finally arrived. EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT, by Eva Stachniak, impresses with more than just a lovely cover. I loved it!

The novel opens with the demise of the great Empress. Empress Catherine is in the throws of death.  It’s actually a bit disturbing. I’m sure it’s meant to be.

THE WINTER PALACE is the first novel Eva Stachniak wrote about Catherine The Great.  The story was told from the point of view of her servant. And the story actually stopped right at that pivotal point when Catherine takes up the throne.  EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT is told totally through the voice of the Empress, herself.

Anyone with any knowledge whatsoever about Catherine will tell you she led a scandalous life full of lovers and excess. So that part of this novel is certainly no secret. But hearing it come from the Empress herself is another story. Told in a no nonsense way, EMPRESS OF THE NIGHT shows you the life of a woman torn from her family as a child, forced to marry a simpleton with a title, and then maks the best of it for both her own self and the lives of her fellow countrymen and women.  She was notorious, tough-minded, and strong. She was also weak when it came to the men in her life. She went through many “favorites.” But one stands out above all others.

Yes, she had jewels, and servants, and art work. She had sumptuous palaces. Her family enjoyed a life of luxury. Yet all of them fought and suffered in many ways.  Her oldest son Paul was weak and undeserving yet he went on to rule after her death. She would have risen from the grave to dethrone him if humanly possible. But in the end Catherine The Great died just like all other mortals. I am convinced she suffered from diabetes for years. In the end it was the stroke that did her in.

Empress Catherine

Catherine The Great

I can’t help but think how lucky we are in this century. We have such great medical services. If you had cataracts in the 1700′s you slowly went blind. If you had diabetes they bled you and did not know what it was. And your teeth just went bad and turned black and either fell out or were pulled. And to think Catherine was still entertaining a young lover in her sixties. Shocking.

Eva Stachniak has certainly done her research! I kept referring back to my copy of Robert Massie’s CATHERINE THE GREAT.  I kept finding fact after fact that was true. I loved how the author incorporated so much fact into her novel. It’s a great novel. I truly loved it. I think it surpasses THE WINTER PALACE.

A novel of Russia is appropriate and quite timely. We’ve just enjoyed the thrilling escapades of the winter olympics. And now Russia is in the news each and every night.

Thanks go out to my publishing friends at Bantam Books, a division of Random House, for the beautiful finished book.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Herman Koch

The Dinner

Herman Koch has written a dark satire that is more tragedy than anything else. THE DINNER has become an international sensation.

I put off reading THE DINNER for a long time. I had heard that it was dark, very dark.  And that it was quite disturbing. Why bother, I told myself. Then Elaine Newton decided chose it for one of her six seasonal lectures at Artis-Naples this year. Finally, I bent. And then once I read it, off I trotted to hear Elaine’s lecture. Only then did I totally “get” the book.

I read this novel in the space of 24 hours. I found it very compelling. Very. And dark. And disturbing. All the things I had heard already. But I have my own take on this book. I believe Koch has shown us a side of humanity that we choose to ignore. And one that we do not like because we may even see a side of ourselves in it.

This novel takes place over dinner. Hence the name. Not just any dinner. A dinner shared by two brothers and their wives.  They’ve come to this very upscale and snobbish eatery to discuss their fifteen-year-old sons. You see, the boys have been bad. You might even say they’ve been evil.  They’ve committed a crime that they may not be able to come back from.  How to deal with this?

The meal takes place over five courses. Elaine Newton likened the five courses to a tragedy. Five acts. Over each course the selections were eked out in tedious detail. At times even becoming obnoxious. The tension mounts as dinner progresses.  And Paul, the unreliable narrator, becomes less and less reliable, even becoming unhinged.  What began as a somewhat edgy encounter between Paul and his brother Serge, subtly becomes surly and mean.

There are flashbacks of events leading up to this point in Paul’s life.  They are especially disturbing and we begin to feel uncomfortable with his story. Koch is the master at this. And I find myself turning the pages quicker and quicker.

The question arises. How far would you go to protect your child? And why? It is a question no parent is comfortable even contemplating. But that is the question at hand in this novel.

Herman Koch has based his novel on an event that occurred in Spain a few years ago. To think that something of this magnitude actually happened is unbearable. But it did, indeed.

You will have plenty of questions when you finish THE DINNER.  You may even feel haunted. You will most definitely wish to discuss it with someone. What a great book for clubs! This story gives a whole different face to You Tube. Read and wonder.

Be Careful What You Ask For By Jeffrey Archer

Jeffrey Archer

Be Careful What You Wish For

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR by Jeffrey Archer is the fourth volume in the Clifton Chronicles.

Archer left us with quite the cliffhanger last year when he ended THE BEST KEPT SECRET. Harry Clifton and his wife Emma were not certain who died in a fatal car crash involving their son Sebastian. We had to wait a year to find out.

Well, there’s never a dull moment in an Archer novel. The story hits the street running right from the start. We’re off, just like a shot. Thank God that we don’t have to be kept waiting.

One of the things I love the most about Jeffrey Archer’s novels is the quick pace and the depth of the characters. I know I feel like I know them quite well after four novels.  Some of the characters are well-loved, while others are just despicable.

In this novel Harry and Emma’s daughter Jessica comes to the forefront. Her love of art and her talent are extraordinary in someone so young. She’s so full of life. And love. But evil rains down on the family. And they are once more the prey of Don Pedro Martinez.

Just when you think you can feel what is going to happen next, pow, Archer inserts a twist or a turn. And you’re left shaking your head, wondering what happened.

As the Clifton and Barrington families enter the sixties, you will find them in love, seeking revenge, and striving to keep all their heads’ above water.

Not to be missed. The fifth and final novel in this fabulous series will arrive next year about this time.  I’m sure the end will be a blockbuster!

My review copy came from St. Martin’s Press. Thank you so much!

The Hotel On Place Vendome By Tilar J. Mazzeo

Paris Ritz

The Hotel On Place Vendome

THE HOTEL ON PLACE VENDOME by Tilar J. Mazzeo is a fabulous historical biography of the famous Ritz hotel in Paris. From the date of the opening in 1898 to the end of World War Two, the story of this amazing hotel and its visitors and residents will amaze and entertain you to no end.

You may remember Mazzeo’s THE WIDOW CLIQUOT. A wonderful true rendering of a woman made famous through my favorite champagne. Isn’t it the ONLY champagne!

The book begins with several pages filled with interesting information about the cast of “characters” in THE HOTEL ON PLACE VENDOME.  It may astound you to see so many of the world’s rich and famous named here. The place housed the “lost” generation of Papa Hemingway and his cronies. The artists and authors we all know. Then along came the forties and the war. The owner of the Ritz decided to keep the famous hotel open. While other hoteliers were fleeing Paris,she remained. As did her staff. They graciously opened their doors to the likes of Herman Goring, who we discover was not just a  nazi, but a morphine addict as well. You’ll see Coco Chanel and her famous lover. You may ask yourself if the Parisians actually fell in with the Germans, or, pretended to. Good question. Lots of subterfuge going on within the walls of this amazing hotel. Secrets abounded in every salon and bar. Bartenders were bearers of hidden information. People were hidden as well. Lives were threatened.

I loved hearing about Hemingway and his antics. Yes, he was right there at the end of the war when they opened up the wine cellar of the great hotel. And what a night that was.

This famous hotel on Place Vendome has seen the likes of stuff we can not even imagine in our wildest dreams. I know where I will be sitting at the bar having a cocktail the next time I am visiting P