A Week At Surfside Beach by Pierce Koslosky Jr.

A Week At Surfside Beach

This cover is a total WOW. It totally drew me in. In fact, since this is a book of short stories, I would probably never have  opened it if not for this great cover.

I don’t read many short stories. Why not? Good question.  I like a big story that I can get into and stay in. But this little book is an exception. I needed it. Did I get to go to the beach lately? Nope. And not a whole lot of people did. This pandemic has kept most of us at home and most of us do not live at the beach . Sadly…

When I was a teenager I lived in Delaware about a forty-five minute drive to Rehoboth Beach .  Each year I could hardly wait for the weather to warm up so my mom and I could spend a Saturday on the beach .  We usually got one entire week at a cottage several blocks from the beach as well. I can still remember the anticipation.  I can smell the salty atmosphere. And I can hear the waves crash to the shore. So you get the picture. I love the beach .

Koslosky brings us sixteen stories all set during a single rental season in a small community in South Carolina. The main characters range from a six-year-old child to an older gentleman who’s escaped his family and a retirement home.  Families come together, couples arrive, and even once in a while it’s just a single person staying for the week. No matter who the tenant, they each have their story. I loved the stories. Each  story is unique and each one  sporting some sort of angst as life tends to throw our way.  But the stories are filled with hope and fulfillment.  And that is one more reason these stories are so darn good.

I think this is a great book to hold close during the upcoming winter months. Coddle it. Care for it. Keep it close and pick it up and read one of these stories each time  you find yourself yearning for the beach .  Next year, maybe we all can go.

My copy of A WEEK AT SURFSIDE BEACH  was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. It’s just super! Thanks for sending. LOBA publishing.

Fifty Words For Rain by Asha Lemmie

Fifty Words For Rain

It’s not often I find a novel  that actually takes my  breath  away. FIFTY WORDS FOR RAIN did just that. And then some.

The novel is set in Japan and begins in 1948 in Kyoto.  Nori is eight years old when her mother drops her off in front of an estate, then takes off down the street at breakneck speed.  Nori is left standing in front of a gate with a letter in her hand. The letter is supposed to introduce her to her grandparents. She’s officially been abandoned. And so this remarkable debut novel begins.

Nori is a half black child born illegitimately to a mother who was Japanese royalty.  Nori’s mother left her husband and young son to be with her American born black GI father. They never married. And now Nori is in the clutches of her evil grandmother who is determined to keep her hidden away in the attic and away from public eyes. Nori is subjected to excruciatingly painful bleach baths in hopes of lightening her dark skin. She’s routinely beaten by a grandmother who is only interested in saving “face.” Saving her royal family name from disgrace. It is utterly unnerving to read.

When Akira, Nori’s half brother, comes to live with the family, Nori finds a kindred soul and finally begins to come alive. Akira is going to be the heir to all the family owns. He is so beautifully talented and his skills with the violin are becoming legendary.  Nori begins to learn about music . And grandmother becomes incensed to watch this closeness. It must end.

I knew next to nothing of this remarkable story when I began this novel. I’m so glad that is how I read it. I feel it will take away too much to go into any detail about the story. So my review will be short.

The gorgeousness of the story and the beauty of the prose only enhance the experience. You will find yourself turning the pages at the speed of light only to slow yourself to prolong the story.

Nori will live in my mind forever. What she endures is beyond the limits of reality.  Living with the knowledge that everything bad that happens to you and your loved ones is your fault was her fate.

I love novels that truly move me. FIFTY WORDS FOR RAIN by Asha Lemmie

Asha Lemmie

is one of those novels. You simply must add it to your must-read list. Right now.

I’m going to suggest to Copperfish that they need to copies, but, as yet, it is not on their shelves. Soon, though.

I borrowed my copy of FIFTY WORDS FOR RAIN from the .  I loved it!

Monogamy by Sue Miller

Monogamy

A new novel from Sue Miller is always a cause for celebration!

MONOGAMY is a sophisticated story of marriage and grief and betrayal and beyond. It’s haunting and  might even make you feel a tad uncomfortable.

Annie meets Graham  one spring evening at his  bookshop  in Cambridge, Massachusetts  when she wanders in to attend an event with another man, someone she sometimes has sex with.  There is an immediate attraction that quickly becomes more.

Graham is a larger than life man who fills every room he enters with his vibrant personality.  He attracts friends like the pied piper and he and Annie often have exuberant  parties after bookstore  events. Everyone loves Graham.  Annie is a quieter soul. She’s a photographer and so her private life is more subdued. They do say opposites attract….

Both Annie and Graham have previously been married. Graham to a woman who, even though she is his ex, is still a good friend and they share a son. Annie’s first marriage was brief with no children.  Graham and Annie have a daughter who lives in San Francisco .  Each character is grappling with an inner dilemma.

Kirkus Review says: A thoughtful and realistic portrait of those golden people who seem to have such enviable lives.  You know who they are talking about. We all do. The grass looks greener on the other side.  From afar Annie and Graham do seem to have an idealistic life together.  But we get to visit the innards and stir it around and see what’s really there. 

Marriage is complicated. Death even more so.  And, when, in the midst of grief an infidelity is discovered posthumously, you can expect to feel undisguised and unmitigated rage and the feeling of never-ending disaster.

Miller takes us behind the scenes in this thirty -year marriage and shows us who these two people really are. So we know what makes them .  They are both really just human beings. I have to say this: if only Graham could have kept “it” in his pants . He was never true to anyone, ever. Even though Annie was the love of his life, this “other” got in the way.  And so Annie has to deal with this betrayal after the fact and figure out if she ever really knew her husband. We, the reader, are shown his feelings. So we know. But Annie, the betrayed, does not know. It’s devastating. Was painful to read. But beautifully told.

Sue Miller writes with such deep empathy and  sharp insight.  MONOGAMY is sure to be on the top of every book club list this season and far into the future.

You can purchase your autographed copy of MONOGAMY at Copperfish Books where it will be discounted 20%.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

I have Harper Collins to thank for sending my review copy in exchange for an honest opinion. MONOGAMY  is honestly one of the finest novels I’ve read this year. I can easily see it climb the NYT bestseller’s list quickly. Very impressive.

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet

Maggie O’Farrell has magnificently  tackled a little-known story. William Shakespeare’s eleven-year-old son Hamnet died of the plague in 1596 in Stratford, England.  He was survived by his mother, twin sister Judith, older sister, and his father, as well as various other members of his family. But nothing was ever spoken of this. Was kept  silent.  Until now, when O’Farrell brings forth with this marvelous new novel that shows the depth of grief and the strength of the human spirit.

The story begins with Hamnet finding his twin sister Judith has suddenly become very ill. He goes for help but his entire family seem to have vanished just when he needs them most. Judith lies on a pallet in an upstairs bedroom falling deeper into the throes of the bubonic plague. But they don’t know this at the time.

O’Farrell manages to introduce us to Hamnet’s mother Agnes ( pronounced Ann-yis ) as she tends to her bees in a field a mile away not knowing her child is desperately ill and needing her attention. She’s well-known as a healer and can even see into a person’s  future ……all the while you, the reader, find yourself tensing up and wishing to God she would hurry even as you know the outcome.

Although William Shakespeare is never named as such in this story, we know it is he who is Hamnet’s father.  And why the name Hamnet? It’s a variation of Hamlet. We are shown the life of the most famous play- rearight who was first a Latin tutor who married a free spirit and mostly lived in London.

Judith and Hamnet loved playing tricks on their family by swapping identities. This is a pretty common way for twins to have fun with people who think they know them so very well.  So when Judith is lying dying, Hamnet decides to trick the Gods by pretending to be his twin. It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking.

As Agnes prepares her son’s body for burial any mother can not help but be brought to her knees with grief. And the thoughts that are careening through her head are brought to the page in a way that is so real it hurts. The grief, the guilt, the death.

I try to avoid books that deal with the death of a child. Too painful. And there are those of you who will avoid this book for that reason. But this story is one to wrap yourself up in. It’s important.  I believe this book is one of those that is bound for glory. It’s an OMG book.

About halfway through the book several pages are dedicated to the events that carry the pestilence to England and to the home of Judith and Hamnet.  These colorful pages, a dozen or so, will change the way you think about how disease is passed from person to person and from animal to animal.  Here we are going through a global pandemic of monumental proportions and I’m actually about the bubonic plague that took place four hundred years ago. Utterly up front and way too personal. I have read and reread these passages over and over. Amazing.

This is a book that will be widely read and should be on every bookclub list for discussion in the coming months.  I can almost smell a nod for Pulitzer or Man Booker or both.  Be sure to put it on your list.

You can purchase a copy of HAMNET from Copperfish Books. They are on the shelves right now and discounted 20%.  Just a heads’ up. Elaine Newton has read HAMNET and loved it!

Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell is an Irish born writer who has many a great novel under her , however, this is her best!

 

 

 

 

The Secret French Recipes Of Sophie Valroux

The Secret Recipes of Sophie Valroux

Six years ago I fell in love with Samantha Vérant when I read her memoir, SEVEN LETTERS FROM PARIS. Now, she’s married to her sexy rocket scientist and living in France  and cooking.  THE SECRET RECIPES OF SOPHIE VALROUX is Vérant’s fiction debut.

What a great cover! Covers can speak volumes when it comes to enticing readers to open a book. This one calls to me. I think it will also call to you. So, who is Sophie Valroux? She’s a young French chef working in a high-powered NYC  restaurant when she is blindsided  and ruined by false accusations from another chef . She’s devastated.  But off she goes to France when she hears her grandmother has suffered a stroke. She arrives in the village of Champvert where she spent her childhood in the southwest region of France to discover the place has changed: grown into quite an establishment with several starred restaurants.  Her grandmother needs her help and she reluctantly dives in. There’s nothing like hopping right back on the bike. Or in this case hopping into the kitchen.

Toss in Sophie’s old lover who shows up only to keep her at bay.  He’s a real hottie and we can feel the sexual tension begin to rise.  But we don’t know what caused their riff. Once they were so very close.

What a great novel to kick back and relax with at the end of the summer. You’ll enjoy the sweet story and the sense of place is stunning. After all, the author lives there….

Samantha Vérant

Just a warning; you are going to love all the recipes in the book.  And if you haven’t already read Samantha’s memoir, well, you will have to read it. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.

I read THE SECRET RECIPES OF SOPHIE  VALROUX digitally through Edelweiss. And I thank them profusely. What a treat.  The book is available now and is published in a trade paperback edition which is a great price value.  We have copies at Copperfish Books, but they are limited so hurry.  You need to add this sweet novel to your TBR pile.

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

The Exiles

Love the cover! Love the story! Kline has once again knocked it out of the book park . She did it with THE ORPHAN TRAIN years ago. Now she’s back with this wonderful novel of colonial  Australia and the convicts who made it what it is today.

The prologue introduces us to Mathinna  the 8-year-old orphaned daughter of an Aborigine chief.  Living quite wildly on the island of Flinders in Australia in 1840, she’s been hiding in the bushes for almost two days hoping to avoid the clutches of a visiting governor and his wife who have taken a fancy to her. You see, they plan on taking her back to civilization where she will be treated as a trinket.

Chapter one and we are in London where we meet Evangeline who has also been recently orphaned and is working as a governess in a big where her employer’s son has given her much  more than the “ring” that belongs to his family. When she is wrongly accused of stealing it, she’s  sent off to Newgate Prison and from there on to Van Dieman’s Land ( now known as Tasmania ) in Australia.

Evangeline meets Hazel on the ship. Hazel’s sixteen with plenty of hard-living under her young . Her crime was stealing a silver . And the worst part of it is that her own mother had set her to it. But Hazel has learned midwifery from her mother and even how to use herbs in healing.  The ship is filled with woman convicts and sets sail in a former slave ship. Months and months of horror. Kline’s attention to detail captures every single harrowing moment. I can not even imagine surviving a trip such as this in my wildest dreams.

This epic historical novel brings us a powerful and painful rendering that shows  us what it took to build a new world.  These three women each orphaned in their own way, find opportunity where none existed, and freedom of a challenging sort.

I read and loved THE ORPHAN TRAIN several years ago.

Aurhor

Christina Kline

I’ve been waiting for Kline to show us more of this brilliant I know she is capable of. And here it is. You will not be disappointed. You’ll be deeply moved and find yourself anxious to learn more about the building of Australia. Don’t miss this novel. It will be on every reader’s lips this season.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books has copies of THE EXILES on sale right now and they’re discounted 20%. You need this book.

My digital review copy of THE EXILES was provided by Edelweiss through Harper Collins.  I am grateful to them both for this opportunity. And what an amazing story. Thanks guys.

 

Falling Into Fall: September Is Still Summer In Florida!

I know it’s considered fall in many parts of the country. However, here in S.W. Florida it’s hotter than ever and nowhere near feeling like fall.  In fact, this September is a real scorcher. If I’m not on top of watering the plants on my porches they shrivel up and die, just like that.

Books? I visited Copperfish this past week and it was such a treat to drive up and see  a couple of my peeps. Cathy and Karen were working that day and we were able to catch up between the customers. Yes, the store is open for browsing now. But you still need  author to wear your mask and keep your distance. Is good. I enjoyed seeing the tables stacked with great new books and what a joy to see the many new books ready for pub day this Tuesday. I also stopped into Punta Gorda Coffee and Tea for a cup of their cold brew for the drive home, and, picked up a pound of their newest Colombia Chaparral, Tolima Red Condor beans. Sipping a cup right now and loving this smooth brew with a coco, caramel and molasses finish. Yum!

Anxious People

Serena, Karen and Liz have read and are raving about ANXIOUS PEOPLE by Fredrik Backman. He’s the author  of the wildly popular A MAN CALLED OVE years ago. Serena actually said out loud that this might even be BETTER. Holy cow . That is  so huge. I immediately downloaded a digital review copy and it will be my next read.

Of course I’m excited about the new Ken Follett novel, THE EVENING AND THE MORNING. Comes out in two weeks.

The Evening and the Morning

Prequel to THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH trilogy. This is going to be BIG. I don’t think anyone tires of Follett.

Wyatt De-stressed

And then there’s Mister Wyatt. My big orange boy. What’s he up to this month? Well, as you can see from the photo, he’s really stressed out. Ha ha.

Cat Door

And then there’s the amazing  cat door. This enables the kitties to come and go onto the back porch at their leisure. During the summer it’s been a lifesaver. Air conditioning stays in and heat stays out. Purrfect.

This past week I was feeling somewhat sorry for myself.  The virus, not spending time with friends and family. You know. Well, then I downloaded a review copy of

The Four Winds

THE FOUR WINDS by Kristen Hannah. It will be available for all of you to read in February of 2021. I know that seems like a long time in the future, but, trust me, it’s not. The feeling sorry for myself quickly disappeared as I got deeper and deeper into her amazing novel of the dust bowl and the great depression. We may think we have it bad now. Well, wait until you read this book. OMG! Talk about harsh. Talk about a strong woman. Hannah does her homework. She began writing this book far before our pandemic. You will not be disappointed. I feel blessed to have been able to read it so early.

I’m gearing up for fall and winter book talks. My first lecture is scheduled for Nov 9 and it’s going to be  outside the usual box.  This book club has requested to meet through Zoom and so we are going to do a Zoom event. They will host. Their clubhouse is not open yet. As we go forward for the season that begins after the New Year, we may be doing more of these events through Zoom if readers feel safer that way. I am keeping my eyes and ears open. And will keep you all posted.

Meanwhile, keep reading, stay in touch, and be safe and well!

Cheers!!

 

 

Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen

Squeeze Me

Squeeze Me

Carl Hiaasen is back with a new adult novel that is oh-so-timely and sure to be a huge hit. Hiaasen’s decided to take on the upscale Palm Beach community in South Florida.   It’s LOL funny right from the get-go.

When I saw the title I thought maybe it would be about oranges. After all, oranges are big here in Florida. When I realized the squeezing part of the title actually alluded to the outrageous number of invading pythons mostly in the Everglades, well, gulp, that sure did put a different light on things.

Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons might have been one of the wealthiest dowagers in Palm  Beach , Florida, but she was the most  unlucky woman period on the night she disappeared on the grounds of a swanky country club during a serious fund-raising gala.  She’d taken her martini outside for a break.  And that was that. No more Kiki Pew.  Gone. Disappeared.

Kiki Pew Fitzsimmons was a huge Trump supporter and the founder of the POTUSSIES, a group of women staunchly in support of their leader. They all had deep pockets  and  no problem supporting his cause. They were often seen enjoying events at Trump’s mansion nearby. So when our fearless leader was informed that Kiki Pew had disappeared he immediately did what he does best: blamed it on the immigrant hordes.  Of course, this is not what actually happened. But you can see where this might be going.

While everyone on the grounds of the club are searching wildly for a body, a huge python  is spotted on the limb of a tree near the pond .  Call for back up. And that is how Angie Anderson entered this story. Angie is a wildlife relocation specialist and they had to get this offensive snake   off these grounds before important people saw it. Angie overheard them all chattering about a missing person. Then she looked spotted the snake lounging on a limb of a tree where she sees the unmistakeable lump inside the body . And that is how we discover where Kiki ended up. But this is just the beginning.

Everything weird seems to find its way to Florida. We do have an influx of dangerous huge Burmese pythons living in and around the Everglades these days. In fact, each year there are times hunters are sent to capture them. They are taking over the  Everglades  and eating all the birds and small wildlife and everything else. This is true.  So for Hiaasen to stick pythons into this story is brilliant. A bit creepy but, brilliant.

Everyone knows our president has a home in Palm Beach . And he does visit as often as he can. Sometimes the first lady comes along. In SQUEEZE ME Hiaasen takes us over the top and uses his wild kind of humor to bring us a novel to squeeze us a bit out of our comfort zones. And he sure had me out of mine.

This fabulous satire brings back one of Hiaasen’s most beloved characters: Skink, the former governor of Florida who’s been living in The Everglades as a hermit for years. He’s definitely my favorite. I was filled with joy when he reappeared.  And I was not disappointed.

Razor Girl

Carl Hiaasen

Thank you Carl Hiaasen for giving us so much rich entertainment in these challenging times.  And please keep bringing back Skink.

I read SQUEEZE ME on my ipad available early through Edelweiss.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish  Books will be offering SQUEEZE ME discounted at 20% beginning tomorrow when it becomes available to the public.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations

MIGRATIONS, by Charlotte McConaghy, is certainly a novel for our times. In the not so distant future in a time of extreme climate change, a young woman named Franny Stone takes us on one of the harshest journeys any protagonist ever has. And so we begin.

THE ANIMALS ARE DYING. SOON WE WILL BE ALONE HERE.   This is the first line of the novel.  It was a total attention-getter for me. We begin in Greenland as Franny is hard at work tagging the tiny legs of arctic terns. You see, she’s bound and determined to follow what could very well be their last yearly migration from Greenland to Antarctica. Franny’s been out in the freezing cold and wet for six days before she finally decides its time to move on to the next step: finding a ship headed to sea . 

Who is Franny Stone? Nobody, really. She’s the wife of Niall who is a renowned ornithologist and we get to meet him throughout the book in spits and starts.  To say Franny is a lover of nature and birds in particular is a gross understatement. She’s totally infatuated.  To the Nth degree.  Niall has always had a special affinity toward the plight of the Arctic tern and so Franny is following his passion.  And she’s about to get the attention of a wild group of fisher people who spend the majority of their lives on the sea  and working in the most basic conditions.  Franny is able to coerce captain Ennis to take her on their journey by convincing him that she is his only ticket to finding  fish in these challenging times. Follow her terns, the fish  will appear.  And off they go; the most unlikely of  crews.

McConaghy shows us bits and pieces of Franny’s life over the chapters. And we come to slowly see where she came from. Abandoned by her mother at a young age, she spends the rest of her life trying to find her and who she was . This can’t help but affect how she lives her life and why she  can not stay anywhere for any length of time.  By the time Franny meets her husband it might just be too late for change…. And where is Niall anyway?

Every time I thought I knew all there was about Franny’s background, along some new reality would  bang down right in front of me smashing my thoughts to smithereens. This is a character I will never forget but I can’t say I liked her.

So, here we are, in a future so close we can almost touch it. Surrounded by desperate people doing mostly desperate things.  Climate change is a very real thing.  Animals are pretty much extinct in this novel and birds are going the same way.  Will people be next? I don’t usually read novels that are  apocalyptic. However, this story is so very important as well as not so very far in the future. I took a chance. It’s important. It’s timely.  It will move you and may change you forever.

McConaghy has written a haunting and visceral novel that is unbelievably ballsy and accomplished.  She’s a writer out of Australia who is writing  what we now call eco-fiction.  MIGRATIONS may remind some readers of STATIONS ELEVEN or FLIGHT BEHAVIOR.   Her attention to detail is second to none. Her sense of place is stunning.

I know I’ll be telling  everyone about this new novel for a long time. I feel it’s going to be one of the important books of the year!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We have copies of MIGRATIONS for sale at Copperfish Books right now and they are discounted 20% off.  My review copy came from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, one of the best books of the year!

You Still Have Time For A Great Summer Read!

It has just dawned on me that summer as we know it is almost at a close. Schools are opening, carefully, and with great care, September is lurking like a giant ogre just waiting to pounce.  And for those of you still hoping to get some great in, I’m posting a list for you to consider. I have not read all of these. I could only wish. But they are on my list.

  • MIGRATIONS by McConaghy (review coming soon )
  • THE WEDDING THIEF by  Mary Simses *
  • THE KEY LIME CRIME by Lucy Burdette*
  • THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE by Fiona Davis*
  • MOTHERLAND by Leah Franqui
  • 28 SUMMERS by Elin Hilderbrand*
  • THE HENNA ARTIST by Alka Joshi
  • THE ORDER  by Daniel Silva (review coming soon )
  • A WEEK AT SURFSIDE  by Pierce Koslosky Jr.*
  • WANT by Lynn Steger Strong
  • ON OCEAN  BOULEVARD by Mary Alice Monroe *
  • SEX AND VANITY by Kevin Kwan*
  • WELL-BEHAVED INDIAN WOMEN by Saumya  Dave

You’ll notice that I starred several of the titles. That’s because they are so totally suited for right now at end of summer. I’m currently reading  A WEEK AT SURFSIDE and I will say right off that I don’t usually read short stories. But I was immediately drawn into this book. It’s a trade paperback and it will have you at the and wading in the surf  in no time flat.

I sit here at my desk in my looking out over a colorful sky filled with shades of lavender and pinks and oranges into the setting sun. I am surrounded by stacks of books needing to be read or reviewed; some physical books, some digital review copies. It is always thus at summer’s end. I begin the summer thinking I will be able to catch up on and even get ahead. It’s never the case. And even in this challenging time of the pandemic, there are still books aplenty. That is a good thing. I have dozens of books to consider for reviews and talks. It is all good.

I’m discovering titles coming in the new year by authors you and I both love. How fun it will be to have these to look forward to. And a huge title by Ken Follett coming next month.

Okay, readers, go forth and read.  There is no better time to read than right this moment in time.