The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

The Arsonists’ City

Hala Alyan’s first book THE SALT HOUSES was pretty wonderful. When I heard about this new novel I was thrilled. And, let me just tell you that it is even better…In fact, I’m just going to put it out there: THE ARSONISTS’ CITY is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Period.

I’ve long been interested in the area of the world that houses Beirut and Syria. Such beautiful places. Places I’ve never visited and most likely never will. But I am fascinated by the history and the wars and the people. Alyan brings all this vividly to life through her extremely moving story of a Lebanonese/Syrian family and their journey for truth and unity.

The powerful beginning to THE ARSONISTS’ CITY will blow you away. The first sentence is: “Tonight the man will die.” We’re in Beirut and the year is 1978. The man is beautiful and young and his name is Zakaria. He’s slaughtered in a revenge killing. Of course I was anxious to know all about him and why this had happened. So we move on to Part 1.

Now the story moves forward forty years. We meet Idris and Mazna who now live in California where Idris is a heart surgeon, and their three children. Ava is the oldest and is about to turn forty. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children. Mimi is the middle child, a son, and he lives in Austin, Texas with his girlfriend. Naj is the youngest and is a rock star in Beirut, with a secret she’s keeping from her family. Alyan manages to go extremely deep into each character until you are able to feel their pain and you know who they are.

The slow burn that simmers constantly just under the radar is what makes this family saga such a monster of a tale. I watched Mazna become enlightened when she visited Lebanon and Idris’s home for the first time. Mazna came from a poor family in Syria. There is a scene in the Lebanese family home in Ain Al Mraiseh, an upscale neighborhood near the sea, where Mazna locks herself in one of the bathrooms: “Once she locks the door, she takes one of the shell-shaped soaps wrapped in French paper and slips it into her pocket. She’ll use it every day back home, scrubbing her skin with it until only a sliver remains; the smell is floral and rich. ” This is like nothing she’s ever experienced.

Mazna’s relationship with Idris is complicated to say the least. What happens before they are married presses on your heart like a bull sitting on your chest. Alyan masterfully and slowly shows the reader young love at it’s most vulnerable. It’s heart-wrenching.

The relationships between the siblings is mostly strained at best. Once they all meet in Beirut, we realize just how thin the lines of communication have been all the years they’ve been apart living their own lives. We begin to understand why Mazna has become the almost shrew-like woman she is depicted as. And we get closer and closer to finding out the underlying secret she’s been keeping for forty years. And it’s a BIG one.

The writing is lyrical and simply wonderful. I was totally transported to the exotic and troubling city of Beirut in all its complexities. Take note: this is not a book about war. It’s not just about politics, but it does deal with issues of race, caste, class, colonialism and tribalism. Let’s face it, families are all complicated.

As the story nears the end, you’ll become more and more anxious. I was pretty sure I saw what was coming. The unraveling makes my heart hurt even as I write this. When I finished the book I was relieved I was alone and had the time to sit and reflect. I am still reflecting. Something you are going to want to do is return to the beginning of the book and reread that passage. I slowly decided that this is such an important book, such a wonderful story, and I knew I wanted to tell everyone to READ it. It’s truly one of the most important and best books I’ve ever read.

Hala Alyan

Hala Alyan is a clinical psychologist and poet living in Brooklyn with her husband. Her writing is simply divine.

My finished copy of THE ARSONISTS’ CITY by Hala Alyan arrived from the publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This is in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it truly is one of the best books I’ve ever read and I totally LOVED it.

We have copies of THE ARSONISTS’ CITY at Copperfish Books where they are discounted 20%. I would love nothing better than to put one in your reading hands. Come on up. I’ll actually be working the store from 11-2 today. I’d love to see you.

The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe

The Summer of Lost and Found

A perfect cover for a perfect summer book! Each spring I anxiously await the newest novel from one of my favorite authors: Mary Alice Monroe. She never, ever disappoints. In THE SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND she’s brought back more adventures with the Rutledge family, who I have grown to love over the years.

A bit of back- story to start with. This novel was written in real time, something Mary Alice doesn’t usually do, so it was challenging in ways not anticipated as no one knew that we would all continue to be pretty much shut in for so very long. Everything kept changing as did the writing direction. And, she decided to focus on human relationships more than wildlife. I’m so glad for this novel. I was so happy to read about the characters I love dealing with the same issues the entire world was. It was very settling to read.

When the story begins on Isle of Palm, the pandemic has just really reared its ugly head. Linnea is totally bummed out as she has just been laid off her dream job and sent home to roost. This is one of the challenges so many of us have faced this past year. So how is she going to deal with this set back? Lucky for her, she’s got her aunt Cara, who is able to help by allowing her to stay in the beach house rent free, for now.

“Mary Alice Monroe focuses on the challenges and changes families and friends face during unprecedented times of isolation, limited social interaction, economic strain, and health concerns brought on by a pandemic–creating a timely and compassionate family saga as the next generation of the Rutledge family calls the beach house home. “

What happens when family and friends are forced into close quarters for long periods of time? When Linnea’s old boyfriend, John, returns unexpectedly to the island, she discovers him suddenly infringing on her space as he is sequestering in place next door. Yikes. Really, and that close. She has to deal with her feelings. After all, their break up was not friendly. He’s come all the way from California, and why?

Meanwhile, Linnea is having to answer some questions about her new love interest, Gordon, who is stuck in England and not able to travel back to U.S because of travel restrictions during this pandemic. When last she saw him she imagined herself in love. Now, Hm. So there is that.

Even very strong relationships are strained to the breaking point during times of great angst such as these. Mary Alice manages to show great empathy while being absolutely honest. She even threw in getting a new puppy as so many people have actually done this past year. In this case the little cutie is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I had to chuckle as my mountain family adopted the same breed in December. Willow.

The beach is featured as always and I think you will enjoy and appreciate the maps of Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palm in the beginning of the book. I know I have. I kept going back to check out where certain landmarks are. Nice touch.

I have to thank the amazing team at Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, for sending me my gorgeous finished book! I adore this new novel. And am looking forward to selling it next week. I also want to thank Angela May for making sure I always get review copies of these fabulous books. And I can’t wait to read THE ISLANDERS that’s written by she and Mary Alice. Win/win.

Punta Gorda
Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books will have copies of THE SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND on sale on Tuesday, May 11. We will be discounting them 20%.

Mary Alice Monroe
Mary Alice Monroe

So now that this year’s novel is behind me, well, I find I have a young adult book coming from Mary Alice Monroe on June 15. So excited. It’s called THE ISLANDERS and is Mary Alice’s first book written for middle schoolers. And I loved hearing that her long-time colleague, Angela May, co-authored this book. It’s first in a series and takes place on Dewees Island which is a remote island off the South Carolina coast: a nature sanctuary. Young people are so ready for this book. It will be fun to hand sell. And all my grandkids will be reading it!

The Islanders (coming in June)

Maurice’s May Musings

Spring has truly sprung here in SW Florida. It’s hotter and very sunny. The humid days of summer are not far away. The mornings of sitting on the front porch to read the paper have almost expired for my husband as soon it will be too sticky for comfort. We are trying to fully enjoy every moment of this interim weather.

I was so pleased to discover that Reese Witherspoon has embraced one of my favorite new thrillers: THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave. It’s perfect for summer and unputdownable. Reese not only is reading it for bookclub this month, she’s making a movie and Julia Roberts is the starring actress. You are all going to LOVE this.

I am up to my last hair in books. Good books, great books. Books are everywhere. And I just discovered that The Buzz Books for Fall/Winter 2021 is ready for download. My excitement is surely palpable.

I’m loving the burrowing owls in our community. Cape Coral is known for its burrowing owls. This spring they are everywhere. I’ve never seen so many on the nest. We’ve been very lucky lately to see some of the baby owls. A real treat.

Peachy Keen Door
The Last Thing He Told Me

I got a wild idea the other day. Ran it by my husband and the next thing I knew he appeared with a can of peach paint, ready to paint the front door. Wow. Be careful what you mention. Be ready for action. Our front door is now a vibrant shade of peach. It has brightened up our porch and is not too bright from the road. I am still trying to decide which door knocker to choose to complete the look.

Mother’s Day is coming right up. This week. My husband will be working at the cafe that morning. I will have that time to read and relax. But he will be home in time to make us a nice celebratory dinner. Works for me.

I just booked a flight to Asheville for end of June. Will be first visit to the mountains in a long time. I am excited. We are both fully vaccinated and I am ready to go. I can almost smell the aroma of their freshly mowed lawn. Grass smells sweeter up there. Of course I’m excited to see the adults and grandkids. And I can’t wait to see the new puppy: Willow.

Beach Bag

My beach bag and hat are waiting patiently for me to use them again.

Great Circle
Great Circle
Orchid
Orchid with shells

My orchids are all blooming and just glorious even this little guy. He was begging for a snapshot.

The books for summer are plentiful and scrumptious. I could not be more pleased. And Jenna just announced she’s choosing GREAT CIRCLE for May. I already have it on my summer reading list. Yippee.

I’m also excited that Mary Kay Andrews will be visiting Copperfish Books next Wednesday; a fly-by to sign her new book THE NEWCOMER and meet and greet her fans. You can sign up right here.

The roads are beginning to clear up. If you use the library you will be happy to know the new books are once again quicker to find and sometimes right on the shelf on pub day. It is almost off-season.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

The Last Thing He Told Me

Take a look at the detail on the bottom of this great cover. I missed it when I cracked this book open the first time. Then a bookseller friend raved about the book and I picked it back up and REALLY looked. I do love houseboats. Just something unique that draws me in. There’s always at least one good story in each house…..

When Hannah opens the door of her home to a stranger on the first page of this OMG compelling thriller, she does not get good news. It’s very short. It’s not sweet. And the note she’s given by a twelve-year-old girl she doesn’t know, just says two words: protect her. But Hannah knows who she is supposed to protect. She just has no idea why yet or why her husband would send her a note like this through a stranger….And then we realize he has disappeared.

Owen Michaels is the husband and father who has disappeared. And without a trace is no joke. The company he works for is in big trouble. But is Owen involved in any way? The FBI have arrested his boss and are asking questions of employees.

Bailey is Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Her mother died tragically years ago when she was not yet three. She is Owen’s life. Owen married Hannah just a little over a year ago and she and Bailey have not bonded as is often the case with teenagers and stepmothers. But Hannah is determined to do everything she can to help the girl. The first thing she helps her with is hiding the backpack full of money that Owen left in Bailey’s locker at school….

Each chapter gives more information about Owen’s background and Hannah and Owen’s relationship. But when we learn that Owen is just not, well, Owen, this story becomes a page-turner and a half!! So compelling. Snippets of clues are provided that will keep you guessing.

Reese and Julia love THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave

The scenes from Sausalito and Northern California are not too shabby. Then there are scenes in Austin, Texas that are very authentic. Dave is great at writing fast-paced prose that is easy to follow and understand just when you need it.

Make sure you leave yourself plenty of reading room because once you start this novel, you will not be able to put it down.

Mysteries and thrillers are popular reads for summer. This is bound to a blockbuster! Reese Witherspoon has put her stamp of approval on the book and is already in the works to make a limited series show for Apple TV starring Julia Roberts. Oh my. Now we’re talking. We’ll have copies of this super book at Copperfish Books tomorrow which is the official on-sale date. They will be discounted 20%. And I can’t thank the amazing publishing people at Simon and Schuster for supplying Copperfish Books with review copies. Liz and I loved it!!

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline

Eternal

I was intrigued to learn that Lisa Scottoline was changing genres to write a historical fiction novel. After all, she is the queen of legal thrillers. Would she be able to pull this off?

The story begins in 1937 in Rome. We meet three teenagers who have been best friends since childhood. Elizabetta lives with her alcoholic father and works in a restaurant while dreaming of becoming a novelist. Her mother flew the coop early-on. Marco lives with his mother, father, and sister who own a very successful bar. And Sandro who is of brilliant mind lives in the Jewish ghetto with his well-to-do parents. Everything is about to change now that the young men realize they both have fallen in love with Elizabetta……

Scottoline begins the story before WW11 so that we see first- hand how everything takes a turn for the worst as Benito Mussolini rolls into Italy and takes the country down the wrong road. We watch in horror, knowing the outcome will not be good. Seeing the blind faith Marco and his father put in the dictator makes the story even harder to read. I kept wanting to shake them and say NO, NO. Danger.

The research for this novel is stellar. Every stone is turned. We are drawn into the bowels of hell and held captive while the Jews lose everything they have: their possessions; their jobs; family members, homes. The horrors of the camps loom. There are at least two scenes that have been taken from real events. The Nazi’s force their way into a synagogue and begin ruining precious artifacts and books; throwing them out the windows and laughing as Jews on the ground are racing around to try to save them. And then when the Nazi’s demand the community come up with 50 kilograms of gold in 36 hours or 200 of their members will be arrested. You can only imagine how that will turn out.

While Scottoline manages to administer a slow burn of hate and violence, we are kept on the edge of our seats as we watch this love triangle play out. I loved the food and the garden even through the rationing. The flowers. And the kitties. The old woman who takes Elizabetta under her wing might just be my favorite character.

Topics of morality, antisemitism, fascism and hate pepper the story from start to finish. If you are a WW11 buff, this covers areas of the war that are rarely heard of. Mussolini and Rome are featured in depth. Do not miss this one.

We have copies of ETERNAL by Lisa Scottoline at Copperfish Books right now. They are discounted 20% and ready to go. It’s a great addition for your summer reading.

Punta Gorda
Copperfish Books

Margreete’s Harbor by Eleanor Morse

Margreete’s Harbor

What a pristine cover. I like it already. MARGREETE’S HARBOR takes place in a tiny town on the coast of Maine. The story begins in 1955 when Margreete accidentally sets the house on fire. When her daughter who lives halfway across the country finds out, well, she makes the decision to drag her entire family back to Maine where they will move in with mom since she can no longer live alone nor will she agree to move.

“Margreete’s Harbor tells the story of ten years in the history of a family: a novel of small moments, intimate betrayals, arrivals and disappearances that coincide with America during the late 1950’s through the turbulent 1960’s. Liddie , a professional cellist, struggles to find space for her music in a marriage that increasingly confines her; Harry’s critical approach to the growing war in Vietnam endangers his new position as a high school teacher; Bernie and Eva begin to find their own identities as young adults; and Margreete slowly descends into a private world of memories, even as she comes to find a larger purpose in them. “

This beautiful novel set on the coast of Maine is still resonating in my mind months after I first read it. I love the strong but subtle writing. I love the cast of characters with all their imperfections. And I especially enjoyed being part of this family with all their realistic issues. I lived through this era and remember the Vietnam war and how it divided our country. Morse quietly adds the war to the story and it gives us all pause as we remember how it was. The scenes with the grandchildren and their grandmother who is slowly slipping away are poignant and tender. Even the pets seem to add so much to this novel. And the big house is a character in its own right.

If you’re a fan of Elizabeth Strout or Anne Tyler you are going to love this novel! It was an easy choice to add this fine novel to my summer reading list.

Thanks go out to St. Martin’s for sending me a review copy months ago. I love it! And we have copies of Margreete’s Harbor available at Copperfish Books. They are discounted 20% and ready to go. Come on up and say hi and peruse all our new books and gifts. Can’t wait to see you.

Punta Gorda
Copperfish Books

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

The Newcomer

Mary Kay Andrews knows how to put mystery and beach together to make a blockbuster novel. I know it’s really summer when a new novel by Andrews becomes available. THE NEWCOMERS is perfect for us right now. It’s got it all! I can’t wait to start hand-selling it at Copperfish Books.

In Trouble And On The Run:

With A Trunkful Of Emotional Baggage:

The No Vacancy Sign Is Flashing And The Sharks Are Circling:

When Letty Carnahan finds her sister dead in her upscale NYC townhouse, she has a real good idea who killed her. Tanya had warned her what to do if this ever happened. So without a second thought, Letty grabs the “go”bag; filled with cash and a big ole diamond ring, and her four-year-old niece Maya, and hits the road in Tanya’s Mercedes. Where’s she off to? She’s found an old magazine with an article about a mom and pop motel called The Murmuring Surf Motel. It’s set right smack on the white sand beach of Treasure Island, a tiny beach town on Florida’s Gulf coast.

When Letty arrives at The Murmuring Surf Motel she meets the owner who is a soft-hearted woman who falls quickly for both the young woman and the small child. Not only does she give her work, she takes them both in. And then there’s Joe. Who’s Joe? He’s Ava’s son. And he’s a police detective to boot.

The Murmuring Surf is full to capacity with the seasonal snow birds and retirees who have wintered on this spot of white sand for years. How do you think they feel about the “newcomer”? They’re eccentric and they don’t like change. And they sure don’t like a pretty young woman with a child. Too much drama. They are a truly colorful bunch of characters that bring much comedy and reality to the mix.

Mary Kay Andrews draws a sense of place that is second to none. I can feel the cool sand under my toes as the sun prepares to set. I can smell the earthy scent of the Gulf as the water trickles to shore. And I will always recall the feel of old time Florida when the times were slower.

My review copy landed on my front porch from the great publishing people at St. Martin’s Press by way of Meg Walker at Tandem Literary. I can’t thank you enough. You already know how much I love this book!

We, at Copperfish Books, are so very lucky. Mary Kay Andrews will be coming by our store in May to sign books and meet some of her fans. The event will be socially distanced and we all will wear masks. I will post more about this event soon!

THE NEWCOMER goes on sale May 4 and we will have copies in stock at Copperfish Books. You can preorder right now.

Mary Kay Andrews
Mary Kay Andrews

Maurice On Books Presents Summer Reading 2021

Literary Fiction:

  • The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan
  • Surviving Savannah by Patti Calahan
  • Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy (7/6/21)
  • The Mission House by Carys Davies
  • Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray
  • The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable (8/17/21)
  • The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel (7/6/21)
  • Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkins (6/15/21)
  • Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri (6/4/21)
  • We Are the Brennan’s by Tracey Lang (8/3/21)
  • Among the Beautiful Beasts by Lori McMullen (June)
  • The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
  • Margreete’s Harbor by Eleanor Morse ( 4/20/21)
  • The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Outlawed by Anna North
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  • The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
  • Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
  • Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead (5/18/21)
  • Good Company by Cynthia D’prix Sweeney
  • Under the Wave At Waimea by Paul Theroux
  • We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida
  • The Elephant of Belfast by S. Kirk Walsh

Mystery and Thriller:

  • Northern Spy by Flynn Berry
  • The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (5/4/21)
  • Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan ( 6/1/21)
  • Eternal by Lisa Scottoline
  • The Cellist by Daniel Silva (7/13/21)
  • Our Woman in Moscow by Beatrice Williams (6/1/21)

Beach Reads:

  • The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews (5/4/21)
  • Blush by Jamie Brenner (6/22/21)
  • The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton (5/4/21)
  • The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe (5/4/21)
  • The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian
  • Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst
  • Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (5/25/21)
  • The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan
  • That Summer by Jennifer Weiner (5/11/21)

Non Fiction:

  • Finding Freedom by Erin French
  • Seed to Dust by Marc Hamer (May)
  • The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson
  • When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner
  • The Nine by Gwen Strauss (5/4/21)

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone:

  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
  • Good Neighbors by Sarah Penner

Summer Reading Coming Thursday, April 15!

I’ve been working furiously to provide my readers the best summer reading list I can possibly create. And this year I’ve decided to divide the list into genres for your reading pleasure.

Many of these books will become available later this spring and well into the summer. However, I know you always appreciate a great list and I believe this will be it! Obviously, as I continue to read through the summer I will be adding even more great titles and will love sharing them with you on the blog.

I know some of you winter residents will soon be packing up and heading north for the summer season. I wish you all a safe trip and look forward to actually seeing you again in the fall. I will be in touch with book clubs to confirm dates for lectures for the next season.

I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to comment during these challenging times. It sure helps to keep in touch and know that you are safe.

I am thrilled to present this upcoming list and hope you love it? Thursday.

The Girls In The Stilt House by Kelly Mustian

The Girls In The Stilt House

This is just the kind of cover that gets me going. Makes me wild to get into the novel. Makes my mind whirl. And makes me pray the story is as great as the cover. Yes, yes, yes, it is!

1920’s Natchez Trace. Swampland. You’ll read the prologue and know you are in the midst of a great story. I was itchy to keep reading. I mean, what a great hook. Two girls in the swamp burying a dead body. Boom!

Ada runs away from home. Her father is a ruthless drunk. Her mother is dead. She is invited to leave town with a carnival worker to escape her rotten life. Then she’s dumped. And has nowhere to go except to return to the horror of her life with her father.

Matilda is the daughter of a share cropper. Her life has been turned upside down and she is but a shadow of her old self when she meets Ada. She has huge issues. And she’s got revenge on her mind.

This is one of those stories that grabs you and holds you hostage. I found myself wanting to reach out and yell to the girls to get to safety. DO NOT DO THAT. It’s that intense. And talk about bad guys. There are two men who are true devils. And the harshness of the swamp itself is a real character. Mustian manages to send you into the depths of the murkiness of the odoriferous and frightening swamp. Nothing good lurks in this world. It harbors all sort of evils: bootlegging, murder, snakes, alligators, men with awful intentions, and every sort of natural and unnatural predator known and unknown to humans.

I have to mention Gerdie who is the midwife who brings so much to the story. There would be much less story without her wisdom and kindness.

There’s a reader’s group guide for clubs at the end of the novel. And a wonderful conversation with the editor gives real insight to the writing of this novel.

THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE is Kelly Mustian’s debut novel. She’s really nailed it. I will be waiting with baited breath for her next one.

I thank Edelweiss for the digital copy. And Sourcebooks who is the publisher. Loved the book.

We have a stack of THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE in trade paper on our table right now at Copperfish. Don’t miss this page-turner. One of my favorites this season.