Armchair BEA Giveaway Day! James Madison By Lynne Cheney


Armchair BEA

Armchair BEA is for those people who cannot attend Book Expo America in NYC.  It’s a way for them to stay connected and join in. Today is day 4: giveaway day! We’re all giving away great books. After you enter my giveaway, then go have a look at the rest.

I have one finished hard copy of JAMES MADISON by Lynne Cheney for giveaway! How cool is this! The wonderful people at Penguin Publishing are furnishing this amazing biography just in time for Father’s Day giving.  What a great gift.

Lynne Cheney

James Madison

Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author or co-author of twelve books, including six bestsellers about American history for children and their families.  She holds a Ph.D from University of Wisconsin, and  has been studying Madison since 1987.  She is no slouch, as you can see.


Lynne Cheney

In order to be in the running to win this amazing history book, please leave a comment below. And, as usual. no P.O. boxes, please, and only residents of U.S.

This giveaway will end Friday, May 30. I am extending it so that the bloggers at BEA will have a chance for this great giveaway.

Good luck to everyone!

Murder on the Ile Sordou by M.L. Longworth: Giveaway!


Murder on the Ile Sordou

MURDER ON THE ILE SORDOU, by M.L. Longworth, is the fourth in the Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal mystery series.  I will tell you that I don’t usually begin a series on the fourth title, however, I could not resist this one. And now I want to read them

M.L. Longworth

Judge Antoine Verlaque and his girlfriend, law professor Marine Bonnet, are hoping for a relaxing holiday at the Locanda Sordou, but someone has other plans.

The setting on an island off the coast of Marseille, France, is breathtaking and then some. With subtle wit and a keen eye, Longworth brings this island paradise to life. She tosses in mouth-watering food, luscious wine, natural flora and fauna, and a cast of characters that are both unique and baffling.

The description of meals and landscaping are just divine. And just when you think you know who “done”it….

I love the story of Longworth’s arrival in Aix-en-Provence. It’s a lovely story that shows you why she writes of the area as she does. I know I will be reading the other three in this series, as soon as I can squeeze them in.

I have one copy of MURDER ON THE ILE SORDOU, by M.L. Longworth, for giveaway. The very nice publishing people at Penguin are offering this novel. Please leave a comment below. No P.O. addresses, please, and only U.S. addresses. With a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, everyone will want to read this.  Good luck! I will post my winner next Monday, October 6.

Announcing The Winner Of My Mother’s Secret By J.L. Witterick.

A.L. Witterick

My Mother’s Secret

I am pleased to announce the winner of MY MOTHER’S SECRET by J.L. Witterick: Alexis, you are my winner! Congratulations! You are going to love t his little gem. I will be sending off an email to you today so you can send me your mailing address. Your book will come straight from the generous publishing house of Berkley/Penguin.

Once again, I’m sending out a big thanks to all of you who took the time to leave comments. This is what keeps the giveaways going! In fact, tomorrow looks like a great day for another giveaway. Stay tuned.

Thanks, Penguin!

Eat By Nigel Slater

Nigel Slater


EAT is a cookbook written by one of my favorite food writers: Nigel Slater. When I discovered this was being offered through Blogging For Books, well, I was beside myself with excitement.

I received EAT, by Nigel Slater, from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is a more compact cookbook than Slater’s others. It’s meant to be.  It’s like he says,” Sometimes, we just want to eat.” And this smaller book is for those times.

With over 600 recipes, it doesn’t seem small. But compared to the other tomes, it is. He starts with a list of main ingredients, then moves on to recipes from soup to nuts.  Small photos accompany each recipe.  And I like that.  However, this is not my favorite of Slater’s cookbooks. The cover is dull. U.K. cover has his photo. This one is just dull. And so many of the recipes are a bit over the top for our country. Even though this edition of EAT has been edited especially for an American audience, I fear this is not enough. Mind you, I see some recipes in this book that I will give a try but,  this book is a disappointment for me. I hate saying it, but there it is.

I own two other cookbooks by Nigel Slater.

Nigel Slater


I received TENDER  a couple years ago. The photos in this fabulous book are beyond amazing. The recipes are both unique and wonderful.

Nigel Slater

Notes From The Larder

Then came NOTES FROM THE LARDER. Of course I had to have that one last year for Christmas. I Love it.

Nigel Slater


And, now I believe I simply must have RIPE to complete my collection!

The Children Act By Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan

The Children Act

At 221 pages, THE CHILDREN ACT, by Ian McEwan is McEwan pure and at his best.

I love this compact novel. I love Mr. McEwan’s smooth and sophisticated prose. I love the story. And even though at times the story-line was difficult to read, I loved it still.

Fiona Maye and her husband Jack are at a particular point in their marriage where there may be reason for pause. Or not. Jack thinks so. What of Fiona?

Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London.  She presides over family cases. Some of the cases Fiona has presided over have been difficult to say the least. Presently she is working on a particularly unique and trying case where the seventeen-year-old son of Jehovah’s Witness’s is suffering from leukemia. Without a blood transfusion he will surely die, or possibly be left in a situation where he would wish he was dead.  This beautiful young man’s life is now left in the hands of Fiona. For it is she who will make the final decree: with or without the parent’s consent. And the boy is just a few months shy of his 18th birthday where he could legally choose for himself.

I love Fiona’s character: strong, brilliantly intelligent, and still in love with her husband of over thirty years but, she is no pushover. And when Jack tells Fiona in blunt English that he wants to have an affair, I applaud her handling of the situation! The way McEwan sets up this scene is brilliantly sly. And I will never, ever forget it.

Faith, love, and the law; all huge portions of this spare novel. Spare but full, almost to bursting. I feel McEwan has pulled from personal experience here. And it works for him.  No one could write such heartfelt scenes of a 35-year marriage without having experienced some of the angst.

This is a novel I will reread. It would be worth it just for the outstanding, understated prose; sentence after pristine sentence. But then there is the story. Oh, the story. I loved it.

Nan A. Talese/ Doubleday provided my review copy. Thank you so much!

Give Away: My Mother’s Secret by J.L. Witterick

A.L. Witterick

My Mother’s Secret

MY MOTHER’S SECRET by J.L. Witterick is a wee novel based on a true story of the Holocaust. You know me: I’m a sucker for WWII.

This little book is filled with a powerful story based on real people in real life or death situations. Most of the story takes place in Poland, right before and during the war. The chapters are extremely short, sometimes only a few paragraphs. But the message is huge.

It’s a subject we’ve all heard about over and over again. Hiding persecuted people  from Hitler and most certain death. The Jewish community is doomed to their demise. But we find good Christian people willing to risk everything to help them escape. In this case it is a strong woman living a seemingly simple life.

I have one copy of MY MOTHER’S SECRET by J.L. Witterick, for giveaway. Please leave a comment below in order to enter. No P.O. boxes, please. And only residents of the U.S. will be eligible.  This giveaway is made possible through the generous publishing people at Penguin, Random House publishing. Thanks so much!

I will choose one winner Monday, September 29. Good luck everyone.

Down South By Donald Link

Donald Link

Down South

Donald Link is the author of DOWN SOUTH. Link is a chef and owner of several restaurants.  He considers himself a Southerner and a cook.

You’ll find luscious cocktails photographed to dazzle in the first chapter.  Ever heard of a Louisiana Hayride? I hadn’t before getting this cookbook. Named after a radio show in the 1930’s that featured music legends, this bourbon infused apple and cinnamon drink is perfect for fall.

Moving on to the appetizer section I came across  Uruguayan spicy baked cheese. OMG! Cooked in a sizzling hot cast-iron skillet this stuff can be eaten with a spoon but, you’re probably going to want to dip some good bread in it, but you don’t have to.

Just look at these gorgeous New Orlean’s BBQ Shrimp! YUM! Cooked up with rosemary, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper, the aroma is divine.

Southern food

New Orlean’s BBQ Shrimp

Then I came across Parmesan Bacon Gougeres. I wanted to lick the page. These  little devils are shaped to pop into your mouth. Yum!

Down South

Parmesan Bacon Gougeres

Then I moved on to the Blue Crab Beignets.  I immediately flagged that page.  These sumptuous balls have  a full pound of blue crab. Now, I am from blue crab country; Baltimore, Maryland, originally. So I know blue crab. I can not wait to try these.

Cauliflower sometimes gets a bad wrap.  Cauliflower and Gruyere Gratin will win over even the most finicky eater.

With countless recipes in over 250 pages, you are going to want to try your hand at most of these goodies.

Donald Link

Blue Crab Beignets

DOWN SOUTH is both entertaining and a good read. Laced with great recipes and fun vignettes about Donald Link’s behind the scenes escapades, DOWN SOUTH is sure to present you with not only a cookbook, but, a fun read.  He’s the chef-owner of Herbsaint, Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche, and Calcasieu in New Orleans.

I am one lucky girl. I received this yummy cookbook from Blogging For Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased opinion. Believe me, it was easy. You’re going to love it. Thanks guys!

The Garden Of Letters By Alyson Richman

Alyson Richman

The Garden of Letters

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS, by Alyson Richman, came along just in time for me to add it to my lecture series. A historical novel taking place in the Portofino area of Italy; a must read for those of us who are WWII fans.

THE GARDEN OF LETTERS begins in October of 1943 with Elodie Bertolotti standing on the deck of a boat heading toward the cliffs of Portofino, Italy. She’s escaping the ruin of her life after Mussolini’s monsters have destroyed her family and the man she loves.

When Elodie steps off the boat onto the soil of Portofino, her fear is palpable. Enough so that Angelo Rosselli, who is standing nearby, calls out to her, “Cousin! Cousin!” he cries. “Thank goodness you’ve come. I’ve been waiting for you for days!” And thus begins a new life in a new world for the young woman who now answers to the name Anna Zorzetto.  And off she goes, with the only village doctor,( a complete stranger ) to his home and refuge on the side of the cliff that is part of Portofino.

Elodie was born to a musician father who helped her become a cello prodigy at an early age. Not only was she amazing at the cello, she actually heard music and had an extraordinary mind.  This will be of monumental help to her as the boots on the ground come closer to her small world.

When Elodie falls in love it’s with Luca, the young and exciting bookstore owner in her village.  He is involved in the resistance, as is her friend Lena. And you can envision the consequences of this already.

Angelo Rosselli is a haunted man. His story is one that made me flip through the pages of the book to continue it. The chapters go back and forth to Angelo and Elodie. But Angelo’s story begins further into the novel.

This is a unique story of WWII. I continue to be amazed when I find even more about this era than I already know.  But Richman has managed to add a depth and dimension that didn’t already exist. Romance (√), new historical information (√), amazing sense of place(√), and deeply fleshed out characters I cared about(√).


Alyson Richman

I fell deeply in love with THE LOST WIFE a few years ago. And it appears a film adaptation is coming soon. Yippee!  After reading the first couple chapters of THE GARDEN OF LETTERS, I knew without a doubt that Richman had another winner on her hands. And, yes, she sure as heck does!

I purchased my copy of THE GARDEN OF LETTERS. I will pass it around our store to make sure we all get a chance to read this one.

TLC Book Tour: The Summer Of Long Knives By Jim Snowden

Book Tour

TLC Book Tours

Jim Snowden

Summer of Long Knives

THE SUMMER OF LONG KNIVES, by Jim Snowden, takes place deep in the heart of Hitler country, in 1936. To say the sense of place creates a feeling of tenseness and unease is putting it lightly.

For Kommisar Rolf Wundt and his wife Klara, it has become quite unbearable and they are planning their leave-taking of Nazi Germany while they still can.  Then, a horrendous crime is committed and Rolf finds himself unable to leave.

Jim Snowden has created a murder mystery full of memorable characters that keep you turning the pages late into the night. I am not a huge murder mystery fan. Most of you familiar with my blog know this.  But I can recommend this one for those of you who are fans.  And for you fans of WWII, this one is for you too.

Jim Snowden even manages to bring humor into a story that is fraught with serious scenes that command attention. I thought he was a German author at first. Then read that he lives in the Seattle area and just loves telling stories.

I will say that I do not like the cover of the book, at all. This can be a problem with  small presses that are mostly print on demand books. In this case, I believe this book deserves a better cover. And I wish the book was available in stores. But it is a print on demand title meaning they print it when you order it. I checked out data base at the BN store where I work. I can order it, but none of our stores have it on the shelf.


Jim Snowden

Jim Snowden received his MFA from the University of Washington in 2004.  His debut novel, DISMANTLE THE SUN, was published by Booktrope Editions in 2012 and won the David Guterson award for new fiction.

My copy came from the people at TLC Book Tours. Thanks guys.

This would not be considered a book tour without links to other reviews. So here you go.

Nightly Reading

The Year In Books


Edge Of Eternity By Ken Follett

Finale of The Century Trilogy

Edge of Eternity

Finally, the third and final tome of The Century Trilogy: EDGE OF ETERNITY. Ken Follett has outdone himself, again.

First came FALL OF GIANTS where we learned about WWI. Then came WINTER OF THE WORLD and WWII. Now Follett sets us down smack dab into the sixties and seventies: it’s the Cold War.

It’s the 1960’s.  The United States is dealing with civil rights, Viet Nam, The Berlin Wall, Cuban Missile Crisis, impeachment of a president, assassination of a president, Russia and the Cold War, and all the craziness of rock and roll.

We were introduced to five families in FALL OF GIANTS. These five families hale from America, Germany, Russia, England, and Wales. We’ve followed them through hell and high water for three generations. We’ve come to love them and have been eagerly anticipating this finale. Now these five families are so fatefully enmeshed that they have become a blur.

I absolutely adore Ken Follett’s writing. I think he’s a genius.  He was able to bring these characters back to the page in a way that I could pick up where I left off in WINTER OF THE WORLD, without feeling like I needed to go back and reread it. So I took right off running with the first page.

Ken Follett has managed to tell the story of the twentieth century in a trilogy of more than three thousand pages. But do not feel daunted by the sheer number; the pages fly through your fingers as you find yourself reading as quickly as you can.  These characters have become so familiar over the years.

EDGE OF ETERNITY begins in 1961 in Berlin, Germany. Rebecca Hoffman, an East German teacher, discovers she’s been spied on by the Stasi for years and changes her life and her family’s lives forever by escaping to the West in a harrowing experience you will never forget.  The video above gives you a good idea what the Berlin Wall was like. I learned so much about this tumultuous time that I feel as if it is all true. Now, mind you, Follett does his research. Most of this is true. He only makes up the characters.

Dimka Dvorkin is an aide to Nikita Khrushchev, when he finds himself in the middle of U.S.-Soviet nuclear power plays; while his twin sister Tanya travels to Cuba and beyond as a journalist during the Cold War. We find Tanya in Cuba during the Missile Crisis.  Yes, Follett traveled to Cuba during his research.

But the majority of this novel takes place in America and is about civil rights.

George Jakes, the son of a black woman and a high-powered white man, is unforgettable as he works with the Freedom Riders and then works with Bobby Kennedy in the Justice Department.  As George Jakes flies into Birmingham, Alabama.  “The most racial city in America was probably Birmingham, Alabama. George Jakes flew there in April 1963.

“Last time he came to Alabama, he recalled vividly, they had tried to kill him.  

Birmingham was a dirty industrial city, and from the plane it had a delicate rose-pink aura of pollution, like the chiffon scarf around the neck of an old prostitute.

George felt the hostility as he walked through the terminal. He was the only colored man in a suit. “

America is also a hotspot for drugs and rock and roll. A small group of English ragamuffins become one of the hottest groups in the world. While the escapades of President Kennedy pepper the pages with intimate details about his womanizing. Actually, none of our presidents are seen favorably in this novel. At times, it was almost like a  personal and political tell-all.

So while I was reading about the civil rights movement, and the rioting in the streets, I was also hearing of the rioting in this country in our midwest, right now. It was unsettling to say the least to read about rioting so many years ago, then turn the news on and find the same sort of rioting going on HERE, NOW. It did take the wind out of my reading sails, at times.

I will say that my favorite parts of the story are behind the scenes in Russia with Khrushchev, and everything about The Berlin Wall. I learned so much that I did not know. And Follett made me feel as if I were a fly on the wall. Not only the warm and endearing characters, but the unique inner stories, brought this part of the novel to the forefront for me.

Maybe I didn’t enjoy the parts about the civil rights as much since I remember vividly living through a lot of it. It was a rough time to be a teenager. I had friends who went to Viet Nam.  And I remember the song playing on the radio about Bobby and Martin and John. It still makes me quite sad as I can hear it ringing in my ears right now.

However, saying all this, Ken Follett is a brilliant writer. I would read anything he writes: essay; grocery list, etc. You know what I mean.

This finale to a larger than life trilogy ties up the twentieth century into one fine knot. Do not miss it.

My review copy came from the fine publishing people of Dutton books. You know how much I love you guys! Thanks so much.


A Conversation With Ken Follett About Edge Of Eternity

Finale of The Century Trilogy

Edge of Eternity

EDGE OF ETERNITY, by Ken Follett, bursts  into the publishing world on Tuesday, September 16th. And everyone is gnashing their teeth, biting at the bit, to get at it. I thought a conversation with Mr. Follett might fuel the fire even more. So here you have it.

With the Century Trilogy, you set out to write a sweeping historical epic of the twentieth century; what does it feel like to have just complete it?

Mainly I feel relieved that it worked. When I embarked on the project I was not sure that I could tell the story of an entire century in fiction. I thought I might read some similar books by other authors and found that no one had ever tried to do this-which made it all the more daunting. But readers have loved the trilogy and I’m very happy about it.

Remind us, where did the idea for the Century Trilogy come from? Why the 20th century?

I wanted to recapture the magic of WORLD WITHOUT END but, fond as I am of the Middle Ages, didn’t want to become a “medieval writer.” At some point, in trying to figure out how to do that, I thought of the twentieth century-the most dramatic and bloodthirsty century in the history of the human race; an ongoing drama of war against oppressive regimes and of people struggling for independence. It’s a thrilling story and it’s our story, one that has touched us all either directly or through our parents or grandparents.

Why did you choose the title EDGE OF ETERNITY?

Throughout this period we all knew that nuclear war could break out at any minute and bring the human race to an end. In that sense we were living on the edge of eternity.

Unlike the previous two books in the trilogy, FALL OF GIANTS and WINTER OF THE WORLD, EDGE OF ETERNITY takes place in a more recent era, one that you grew up in. Was it more difficult to ear the historian’s hat in this case? Did you let your own memories guide any of your character’s experiences? Are there any autobiographical details tucked into the narrative?

Like my character Dave Williams, I learned to play the guitar in the early sixties. I was also a pretty cool dresser! Like Jasper Murray, I went to university in London and worked for the college newspaper-which was my first experience of writing for readers other than my school teachers. Like Walli Franck, I was thrilled to achieve success in America.

You did some unique research for this book, including personally retracing the Freedom Riders route via Greyhound Bus and visiting monuments like the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. How did these experiences help shape your writing, and how did they affect you personally?

Most of the cities are familiar to me-Berlin, Moscow, London, Paris-but I did make a research trip to Cuba, as I have a character in Havana during the Cuban missile crisis. I also visited cities in the Deep South of the USA where the great events of the Civil Rights era took place. Retracing the steps of the Freedom Riders was a profoundly emotional experience for me and for anyone who has any personal connection  with the issue of freedom and discrimination. In the sixties, civil rights leaders were vilified by the press and conservative politicians. When they were beaten up and killed, many people said they deserved it. Now there are statues to them all over the Deep South.

You also interviewed first-person witnesses to the era, like civil rights leader Congressman John Lewis and former White House intern Mimi Alford. What did you learn from them, and how did you incorporate it into EDGE OF ETERNITY?

John Lewis gave me insight into the almost saintly behavior of nonviolent civil rights protestors who did not retaliate when abused and even beaten. Mimi Alford told me what it was like to have sex with President Kennedy. Frank Gannon, who worked in the Nixon White House, convinced me that Nixon was not quite as bad as I had thought.

Like the previous two novels in the trilogy, EDGE OF ETERNITY has a number of real historical characters, including several heads of state. What are your thoughts on the key leaders of the era?

I came to admire both Kennedy and Johnson. I found that Nixon was a better president that I had previously thought. Both Reagan and George W. Bush were ineffectual in foreign affairs, despite the propaganda to the contrary. I have nothing but contempt for leaders in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe before the Gorbachev era.

Do you still read the reviews of your work?

I do read my reviews.  I particularly love it when readers-whether a reviewer in a national paper or someone I meet on the street-says once they started reading they couldn’t stop. It makes me feel like I must have done a pretty good job. 

So there you have it Just a little tidbit of what’s to come. My review will come on Monday, September 15. Stay tuned!

Ken Follett

Ken Follett