The Cellist by Daniel Silva

The Cellist

I’m a huge Silva fan. I love Gabriel Allon who is the main character of this long-time series of thrillers. Gabriel is an art restorer whose day job is being the Director of Israel’s Intelligence Service. I love the exotic locales and the sophisticated worlds of classical music and antique art. It’s easy to get lost quickly in the world Daniel Silva concocts.

THE CELLIST begins in London with a murder. A character from the past who once saved Gabriel’s life has been poisoned with a nerve gas. Dare we say it was a Russian deal? Of course it was. And so we are off and running from page one.

Several of Silva’s novels have been about Russia. And so you will recognize some of the Russian characters. Money is king and lots of it. Dirty money and how it’s laundered around the world. It’s definitely something to think about. I found it quite involved and learned an awful lot. It’s actually very simple, yet mostly incomprehensible for most of us everyday folk.

Several beautiful and very talented young women are not only lovely but have brilliant minds. They are very important to the plot.

The usual cast of wonderful characters, the spies I love so much, are not featured as much in this novel. I missed them to tell you the truth.

Moving from London to Amsterdam and then to Geneva, the novel ends in The United States.

I watched a wonderful interview from Daniel Silva’s Facebook page on Sunday afternoon. Daniel’s wife, Jamie Gangel, who works for CNN, did a bang up job. So informative. Just that edge into Silva’s life and the background for the book. In fact, Silva told how the book took an abrupt turn after January 6th’s insurrection. He rewrote the last part of the novel to include the civil disturbance our country is dealing with. Definitely makes this novel more political than any of his other books.

Sadly, there is no time for art restoration in THE CELLIST. Now that Gabriel is the Director those days have definitely gone by the wayside. I miss them, too.

However, having said all of the above, I love all the books. The writing is witty and sophisticated. The characters feel like old friends I get together with one time each year. I always look forward to seeing what they’re up to.

I have to thank Leah from Harper Collins for so generously sending this beautiful finished copy of THE CELLIST. And, of course, I’m already looking forward to the next one….

author
Daniel Silva

The Bookshop Of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser

Oh look, yet another bookshop book. I love it! I can’t seem to get enough of them. Now, they do have to be well-written and have plenty of interesting content with quirky characters who are unforgettable.

Thea Mottram is having a bad month. This is the first sentence. We find out right away that her husband of twenty years has left her for her friend. And then as if that’s not enough, she’s let go from her office job on Valentine Day. Thea lives in Sussex and is at a loss as to move on.

When Thea finds her distant great uncle has passed away and left her his cottage and vast library of antique books, she is out of Sussex and on the road to a coastal area of Scotland to check it all out.

The few weeks Thea expected to stay in Scotland is going to be longer, that’s for sure. There’s lots for her to do. And she wants to try to sell those books to the nearby bookshop. But the owner is a frosty sort who she just can’t seem to get along with….at first.

Fraser makes this part of Scotland very appealing. I was ready to pack up and go visit as she defined the countryside with such passion.

I love the cover of the book. And I love that Thea is a middle-aged woman. She’s still feeling her way around her life now that she’s alone.

There’s a bit of a mystery. The book owner and his brother, both very handsome, have been feuding most of their adult lives. Why? And will that be satisfied?

Will Thea stay in Scotland? Or will she return to Sussex? You’re going to just have to find out for yourself.

I borrowed my copy of the book from the library. I couldn’t help myself. It’s a super read and I am not indebted to the publisher, Ballentine Books, for a review.

It’s summer and I’m picking and choosing my reading material carefully. This is a lighter read. Just what I need right now. Lots of more literary books coming quickly down the pike, and right in my direction. I’ll be blogging about that list soon.

Cheers!

The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

The Islanders

lt’s unusual for me to blog about a children’s book. So you have to know how very special THE ISLANDERS is. It’s written with middle school readers in mind. But it’s really for everyone who loves a good story with lots of heart. And it takes place on a real island: Dewees Island just off Isle of Palm in South Carolina.

I’ve long been a fan of Mary Alice Monroe. Anyone who reads my blog already knows this. So when I heard about this book I was intrigued, especially when I discovered where it takes place and what it’s about. And one more plus is that Mary Alice’s longtime assistant, Angela May, co-authored this winner.

So what’s it about? Jake is eleven and not looking forward to this summer. You see his mom is shipping him off to spend the summer with his grandmother, Honey. Honey lives on Dewees Island. The island can only be reached via boat. There are no cars nor any paved roads. And his grandmother doesn’t believe in the internet let alone video games. Jake’s dad has been critically wounded in Afghanistan and his mom will be taking care of him. It’s serious and Jake is scared.

Jake has no idea of the adventures that are coming his way. He isn’t on the island any time at all before he meets up with two kids his own age: Lovie is an island girl who drives her own boat and Macon is on the island with his mom for the summer because she needs peace and quiet as she awaits the birth of Macon’s sibling.

Honey is still grieving the death of her husband and she’s let things slide around the house. Her house sure needs some love. And Jake may just be what is needed to lift her spirits.

Dewees Island is a nature preserve so you know there is lots of wildlife. Mary Alice brings the sea turtles into the story in a big way. How they are introduced to the new kids is just wonderful. And she manages to give us so much good knowledge. You’re learning so much without feeling like you’re being taught.

Friendship has healing powers. These three kids each have their own issues. As they come to know and trust one another I fell in love with them all.

Most kids are so involved with their phones and computers and video games these days. Eyes glued to screens. It’s refreshing to read about kids being outside and experiencing adventures. That’s what they should be doing.

Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

I hope Mary Alice and Angela continue this and make it into a series. I would look forward to that!

My finished copy arrived from Aladdin a division of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it’s absolutely wonderful and I enjoyed every single page!

Me With Kristin Harmel at Copperfish Books

Me With Kristin Harmel.

Here I am with lovely Kristin Harmel. We’re at Copperfish Books celebrating her newest historical novel, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS.

I’ve known Kristin for years. I fell in love with her wonderful writing and am just over the moon for her success throughout the years. It is all well-deserved. She works tirelessly and does scads of research for each book. In fact, she told the audience yesterday that she has to be reined in by her editor with the word count. I love this. You will always be sure you have a fabulous read when you pick up any of her many books.

Donna Williams of Gene’s Books on Sanibel, asked Kristin what she’s working on now. Her manuscript is due in November. Oh boy. Takes place in Paris and the tidbit of info she provided whet my appetite already. Her books typically pub in July. Kristin’s deep knowledge of France and especially Paris bring so much to her novels. I am already excited.

It was great seeing all my bookselling friends at Copperfish. It was also great to see and speak to so many customers who came out for the event. It’s wonderful to be able to see and be with people safely once again.

I look forward to attending more in person events soon!

Dodging A Storm Called Elsa

What was I reading as Tropical Storm Elsa skipped along our coastline, too close for comfort?

The Bookshop of Second Chances

When a storm is aiming toward my house, actually pointed straight in my direction, I don’t concentrate well. So I chose a little book called THE BOOKSHOP OF SECOND CHANCES to help keep me from freaking out. I didn’t know what to expect because the author is a first time one. But I loved that it takes place in Scotland and is associated with a lot of rare books and a bookshop. It’s well-written and am I’m almost halfway through. Review will follow soon.

The Islanders

Look what arrived from Aladdin? THE ISLANDERS is a novel written for middle grade readers. The authors are Mary Alice Monroe and her long-time assistant Angela May. I was thrilled when I heard they were collaborating on this awesome book for young people. First of all I love Mary Alice Monroe and everything she writes. Secondly, I know that Angela May is a very talented and able writer herself, and, thirdly, I love their setting. I have only read the first two chapters but it is a quick and delightful read and my review will be popping up soon!

Another book that arrived as a review copy is THE BITTER TASTE OF MURDER by Camilla Trinchieri. You will remember I recently wrote about the first mystery in this series: MURDER IN CHIANTI where I fell in love with the location and the quirky characters. This second in the series will be available for your reading pleasure in August. And my review will post then.

The Bitter Taste of Murder

You may be asking me what I’m doing with my time now that I’m no longer working at Copperfish. Well, I am busier than ever. And it’s not all just reading all day every day. There is much to do to prepare for the upcoming fall and winter speaking engagements. There are publishers to email, authors to be in touch with, book clubs to contact, and stacks and stacks of books to wade through so that I can prepare to bring you only the best of the best books going forward. Plus, I’m branching out and coming up with new “stuff” to talk about and places to visit. I’m having a blast and looking forward to seeing all of you in the coming months.

I’m also planning on another trip in a few weeks. This one will be to Isle of Palm in South Carolina, just off the coast of Charleston. My daughter will be celebrating her fiftieth birthday and we will be spending that week at her beach house on the island. How fun is that!!! May even be hooking up with favorite authors. Maybe.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer. You will not even begin to believe how many amazing books are coming out this fall. I will be able to present them to you right here on the blog, pretty darn soon.

Cheers!The Book Guru of Southwest Florida.

The Forest Of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel has done it again. She has managed to bring us yet another real page-turner. Last year we fell in love with THE BOOK OF LOST NAMES which went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. This year Harmel is back with a compelling tale of the harrowing experience one young woman makes while giving so much of herself to help save Jewish refugees in Eastern Europe during the Holocaust.

Yona was born to a wealthy German family. She was named Inge at birth. When she was barely two she was kidnapped by Jerusza, a clairvoyant who lived in the forest outside the city. She was only trying to save the baby from bad people. Jerusza teaches Yona how to survive in the forest. These scenes are almost unbelievable and very precise. If you pay attention to the detail you will also be able to survive in a forest. I don’t say this lightly. When the old woman dies at the advanced age of one hundred, Yona is left to live alone. And although she’s always been cautioned, indeed even threatened against it, when she comes across a group of Jews who have fled persecution, she throws caution to the wind and lets her guard down. Way down. She teaches this group how to live through the brutal winter. And in so doing she falls in love… A bad move.

Kristin Harmel always does very extensive research. She has outdone herself here. She interviews a Holocaust survivor and his wife and delves deeply into his family and their story. Its actually stunning! It will bring you to your knees.

As the story becomes a runaway tale and the Nazis are quick on the footsteps of the fleeing group of Jews, this staggering novel becomes flat out terrifying.

Kristin Harmel has become one of our most accomplished historical fiction novelists. I am proud to have been a big fan from the get-go when I discovered her THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING. And if you have not read it yet, you simply MUST.

My review copy of THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS arrived from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. It’s another game changer in the historical novel genre. A must-read!

Kristin Harmel

Kristin will be appearing at Copperfish Books on Saturday afternoon. Punta Gorda, Florida. From 4-6.

Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy

Shoulder Season

Christina Clancy wrote the very successful novel, THE SECOND HOME, last year. I loved it and have been eager for this new novel.

SHOULDER SEASON takes place in the 1980’s in a small town in Wisconsin. As unlikely as it seems, Hugh Hefner built a Playboy Resort on a large tract of land on Lake Geneva. He really did and Clancy has certainly done her homework.

Sherri Taylor is nineteen years old when she’s left orphaned when both her parents die within a short period of time. What will she do with her life now that she’s alone? It’s 1981 and Hugh Hefner has just built a Playboy Resort on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It’s very close to Sherri’s tiny hometown of East Troy which she considers to be nowheresville. Seems like such an unlikely spot for such a prestigious and world-renowned club. It is and Sherri is a very unlikely young woman. She’s naive and so vulnerable. We watch as Sherri becomes Bunny Sherri and succumbs to all the trappings of the job. We see Sherri dragged into the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

I remember being intrigued with Playboy magazine years ago. It was such a taboo. Looking back now I can see how “safe” it really was back then. The whole Playboy Bunny world was shrouded in secrecy and seemed so decadent. Well, it was. Clancy has gone beyond the norm in her research and brings us a novel with a lot of heart and a lot of reality. We get to go behind the secret world of the Playboy Bunny. Even into what they called the Bunny Hutch where the girls lived and were surrounded by fencing to keep the men out and the girls in. It was not all fun and games. Far from it, most of the young women were intelligent and using the experience to get to the next level in their lives. We know right from the prologue in 2019 that this is not just a novel, it’s truly a tragedy. But we do not find out why until way into the story. You will keep turning the pages as you manage the wild ride Sherri is on as she maneuvers through these tender years filled with towering ups and spiraling downs. And we feel Sherri’s pain as she truly discovers real love….

A coming -of-age story like no other. Christina Clancy will have you in the palm of her writing hands as you finish this superb summer novel.

Christina Clancy

My review copy arrived from the very generous publishing people at St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it’s just super. Add it to your vacation reads. You don’t want to miss this one!

My Recent Trip To Asheville

North Carolina Sunflowers

I love this picture of the vibrant sunflowers from North Carolina! they are so cheerful and make me smile! It was a perfect greeting as I entered the world of the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina.

Puppy Love

Look at this sweet face. It’s the face of Willow who is my new grandpuppy. She’s just over six months old and the cutest puppy ever. That face won me over immediately. She greeted me at the airport in the car with lots of licks and tail wagging. Immediate love. We had plenty of time to bond and play. And I must say she is very smart. I couldn’t believe it when they told me she would ring this bell with a paw picture on it when she needs to go out. It sits quietly waiting for her by the front door.

Puppy bell.

June is the perfect month to visit Asheville, North Carolina. Why? The greenery is lush and plentiful. Every single tree is in glorious bloom and they make a wonderful privacy scene. You can still see out over the amazing Blue Ridge mountains but the houses are shrouded in secrecy. I love it. Plus, there is that amazing aroma in the air; it’s the grass. Nothing like it around here in SW Florida. And then as evening approaches the fire flies begin to appear; flitting in and out across the lower part of the yard. Later in the evening they ascend to higher areas and land in the trees creating a breathtaking sight. We raced to the deck near the top of the house and gazed out in wonder at all the winking in the trees. Plus, the weather is delightful: not too hot, not too cool. Perfect. We even spent a couple hours hanging out in the hot tub and enjoying the evening air and fireflies.

Sweet tea on Black Mountain

One day we took a trip to Black Mountain. It’s really nearby. And the atmospheric streets are filled with quaint shops and tempting eateries. We popped into the little Indy bookshop called Sassafras On Sutton to see what was new with books. I even saw my Indy Next quote for THE NEWCOMER on their shelf. We chose a new place for lunch. Louise’s is in a big old house with a wraparound porch. There is seating in and out. And we loved how cozy it was. And the Southern menu was great. Alicia and I opted to give their pimento cheese sandwiches on sour dough bread a try. And, the sweet tea. Love the jars!

My daughter Alicia loves to bake. In fact, she is new a professional food blogger. So it’s no wonder that her daughter, Emerson, loves to bake as well. Emerson and Liam baked lemon bars one day.

Emerson & Liam making lemon bars.

Determined to cook an important cake, Emerson decided to try her hand at a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting as this is her mom’s favorite cake.

Emerson adding finishing touches.

,My favorite part of any trip to visit my family is to just “be” in the moment. I enjoy being part of their day. Listening to Liam talk about his day at work as lifeguard was so much fun. It’s his first job and he loves it. But it’s also filled with the day to day happenings of any work. I loved hearing about what my son-in-law, Chris, is doing within his work. He works for Epic Games and always has great tidbits to share.

On Saturday we visited downtown Asheville. We stopped in my favorite store: Mast General. And then a brief visit to French Broad Chocolate. We chose Asheville’s brand new Food Hall. S&W Food Hall is great. There are several eateries within the brewery that houses this greatness. You can have super tacos or Thai Food, chicken or dogs.

Thai Noodle Bowl with Thai Iced Tea. Yum!

As happy as I am to get away, I’m always ready to come home. Monday I boarded the plane and headed home. A very bumpy flight once we hit the Florida border. And it was a very wet landing. But I was very happy to be home, safe and somewhat sound.

Murder In Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri

Look at this gorgeous cover! It immediately drew me in. Nothing quite like a scene from Tuscany to draw my attention. I was all in from the getgo.

MURDER IN CHIANTI is the first in a new series called A TUSCAN MYSTERY. I can’t tell you how excited I am. My friend Karen at Copperfish turned me onto this book. Karen, I can’t thank you enough.

Nico Doyle is a retired homicide detective from New York City. After his wife died about a year ago, he decided to get away from it all and start over in his wife’s hometown of Gravigna in Tuscany, Italy. There he has her entire family to help him get through the pain. So he’s rented a rundown farmhouse just outside the small town of Gravigna. He helps out at his wife’s cousin’s restaurant and spends time cooking and settling into his new life. Then, one day, he hears a gunshot near his home and heads out into the woods to explore. There he comes upon a little white dog with blood on its paws. And then there is the dead body with a face that’s been blown away. And the gold running shoes that suggest the victim is American.

OneWag is the smart little dog he adopts. This name comes from the way he only wags his tail one time, no matter what. Fell for the dog right away.

Camilla Trinchieri

When the local maresciallo has trouble with the investigation and finds out Nico’s background, Nico finds himself up to his last hair in the murder mystery.

There’s plenty of family drama all over this story which is great because it gives the reader a lot of background for the future.

Stone cottage in Panzano

I am especially interested in this series because my husband and I have spent time in this region. In fact, we stayed in a stone house in Panzano and had dinner with the infamous Butcher of Panzano: Dario Cecchini. Some of the scenes in this book bring back so many memories. When we visited the Butcher’s famous shop, we had our first experience with lardo which was loaded like fluffy whipped potatoes in a silver bowl on a serving table right inside the door. It was to be spread on top of the local crostini fanned out on a platter next to it. A man in an apron served us each glasses of the local red to go with. We were so entranced that we made reservations to attend one of the meat dinners later in the week. We almost got thrown out of the shop, though, as my husband whipped out his video camera and proceeded to film the counter with the Butcher……But all ended well.

The luscious food of this region and the lovely Tuscan wines feature broadly in this mystery. I think you will love it. And, the good news is that the next in the series, THE BITTER TASTE OF MURDER, will be available in August. I was thrilled to know this.

I hope you’ll add this winner to your beach bag for summer. And you can always stop by Copperfish Books and talk to Karen about the book. She loved it, too

MURDER IN CHIANTI was published by Soho Crime, a division of Soho Publishing. I read this amazing book from a copy I borrowed from our library. Amazing.

Blush by Jamie Brenner

Blush

I’m always eager to get my greedy fingers on Jamie Brenner’s newest novel. Each summer she brings us perfect beach reads. Most of her novels are set in Provincetown, Mass. When I found that this new one is set on Long Island, I was intrigued.

My husband and I enjoy wine. We have even traveled halfway across the world and all across this country to visit wineries. This novel is a family saga within a winery. Lush countryside, delicious foods to delight your palette and books. What a grouping.

The Hollander Estates winery is in trouble; no money. What happened? Mismanaged and stubbornness are the two stumbling blocks. The patriarch will not listen to anyone’s advise especially from the women. Big mistake.

Three very strong women make this wonderful novel a delight to read. Vivian is the matriarch and is devastated to know they may have to sell the winery including the big house. Her daughter, Leah, is livid because she was never allowed to work in the winery because her inept brother was put in charge. And Sadie is Leah’s daughter who is not doing as well in school as the family thinks she is. And she’s become very interested in the family business.

Throw in a trashy bookclub from Vivian’s younger years and a library to die for….. Bring the book club back to life.

Throw in a mystery from the past that shows back up.

They all really want the same thing: to save the family business. A must-read summer novel that you will enjoy with a glass of wine, a glass of iced tea, or an ice cold beer.

Jamie Brenner

My review copy came from the generous publishing people at Putnam, a division of Penguin Random House, in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I loved it!!

Copperfish Books can’t wait to hand sell this book. They have them ready to sell on Tuesday, June 22. Discounted 20%, of course. These will not last long.