Punta Gorda’s Quaint Little Shops

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books is at the top of my list for visiting in Punta Gorda. But there are so many quaint little shops filled with just that special little something you do not even know you need, for yourself, or for gifting.  There is no shortage of eateries either.

Tiki’s Boutique is located next to the bookstore and is filled with special little trinkets and Brighton products. I discovered a softer than silk little leather bracelet that I just had to have. Now that I’ve found this cool little place I’ll be stopping by to buy gifts… My husband Jack found the wine… All from small vineyards and reasonably priced.

On to Copperfish Books where we browsed and oohed and aahed over all the books, both old and new. It’s such a pristine little shop with the cutest little children’s department.  I am looking forward to starting my little job there tomorrow. And check out the mural on the outside wall.

Karen, at Copperfish, turned us on to a brand new wine and chocolate shop just around the corner. So we hurried over to find them doing a wine tasting. And we met the nicest couple. The chocolates are not just beautiful, they are delicious! Punta Gorda Chocolate & Wine. 117 Herald Court, Suite 1112. They do tastings each Saturday until four.

We chose Punta Gorda for an overnight adventure because we had such a great experience several years ago. It was our anniversary! We booked a charming restaurant called The Perfect Caper for dinner. Our experience five years ago was dynamite. They had a lovely piano bar; the food was delicious and new. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed this trip. It was not horrible, but it was not nearly as good. No piano bar. And some of the food was just not up to par.  There aren’t many places that stand up to the test of time, unfortunately.  But all in all we had a good time.

Having said all that, we sure were anxious to get home this morning. And the kitties were happy to see us. That is, when they could be pried from their napping spots:)

Falling by Jane Green

Jane Green

Falling

FALLING, by Jane Green, is not just a love story; it’s a story about finding yourself. And about just what a family truly is these days.

Emma Montague is from Great Britain. Moved to NYC to follow a big time career in finance. Did the whole living large thing while working and living in Manhattan. The big apartment,  tossing one boyfriend over for another, and making scads of money in the meantime.  But it all got old. And so she left it all and moved to the scenic waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut where she has one friend.

Emma finds a fixer-upper near the beach and throws caution to the wind and rents it. She’s determined to put her stamp on the house even though she doesn’t own it. I love this about her. Her landlord is good with this. And he’s handy:) He’s also good-looking with a six -year-old son. Plus, did I say he’s a single dad? The boy’s mom ran off when he was a babe.

You can almost see the writing on the wall at this point. Girl meets boy, and so on. However, just when it all seems like a perfectly lovely story, well, then it isn’t. This is when Emma’s life takes a 180.  You can not see it coming.

I love what Emma does with the house. With all the hoopla over the shows on tv to redo fixer-uppers, this is going to appeal to a lot of you. I know I am hooked on these shows. I have gotten so many great ideas. Emma makes me want to move right into her special little nest.

author

Jane Green

My only problem with this book is the cover. It certainly does NOT do the story justice. But this is a really good story with good writing and is great for summer. Stuff it into your beach bag and go.

My finished hardcopy arrived from Berkley Publishing. Thank you so much! It’s a keeper.

What Is Copperfish?

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Copperfish is a fabulous little gem of an  independent bookstore located smack dab in the center of the unbustling unmetropolis of Punta Gorda, Florida.  This friendly local store actually sells books; all kinds, brand spanking new and gently used. They also have some very special antique books for those of you who are real bookies. Peppered throughout are the kind of gifts you just can’ t help but pick up. And you’re going to love chatting it up with the owners; two lovely ladies who truly know their stuff.

Copperfish has been in Punta Gorda for four years. They’ve just recently expanded and moved into a larger building near the waterfront. How cool is that! When they called out for a part-time bookseller, well, it made sense that I apply. After all, this has always been my fondest dream; to work in a small independent bookstore. So, I did just that. Guess what? They hired me! I can not tell you how excited I am. I will be working part-time with a small group of real book lovers.  I will be helping them grow their business. More fun!

I have worked for BN for almost eighteen years. I have met some amazing people. Many have become good friends over the years. These friendships will only be enhanced by this new development in my life.

I am still doing book lectures for clubs. I am busier than ever.  I love this aspect of my career. Meeting with all you wonderful book-loving readers every year thrills me to no end.  And I will continue to lecture about books.

I am even more in contact with publishers, agents, and authors than ever before. So don’t think I’m disappearing:)

I will also continue without interruption to work with Elaine Newton on her fabulous Artis-Naples lectures at the Naples Philharmonic.  I am so excited about the upcoming season. We’ve managed to procure two amazing authors at the top of their careers: Melanie Benjamin and Lauren Groff.

I am working in the BN store in Estero at Coconut Point tonight and on Friday until five. Please stop by to see me and find out what books are on fire right now.

I look forward to seeing you at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, soon.

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva

The Black Widow

I wait all year long with baited breath for the next Daniel Silva thriller featuring Gabriel Allon and his cast of characters who feel oh -so- much like family after all these years. Last week THE BLACK WIDOW went on sale. My copy arrived on pub date and I immediately dove right into it knowing it would keep me glued to the page, indefinitely.

On the book flap is this: Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.” Who is Saladin…

THE BLACK WIDOW

Daniel Silva

The paragraph above reads like a current day newspaper feature. Daniel Silva has always had his finger on the pulse of the world. He’s pinpointed many events way before they occurred.  He began writing this brilliant novel last summer way before any of the bombings in Paris or Brussels.  We all know what happened in Paris in November, then in Brussels.  So this novel hits home like a rocket. It will make the hair stand straight up on your arms as it scares you to death.

I love Gabriel Allon.  We get to finally meet his twin babies. And find his wife doing well. All the usual characters are in place. And the heart-pounding begins as Gabriel puts his sights on the most incorrigible terrorist of our time, and ISIS front runner who goes by the name of Saladin. This time Gabriel decides to bring a new operative into the mix, someone who is not involved with The Office when we first meet her. But she is perfect for the job. And what a job it is. To infiltrate ISIS, go into Syria and train to be a suicide bomber. Can you believe this?

This is what is  happening today, all over the world. As U.S. citizens we are certainly concerned with all over the world, but, we are mostly concerned with here at home. As you shall see Silva has done his homework. He explains how ISIS has spread, and why. It’s absolutely eerie as hell to read parts of this book. I found myself highlighting page after page. My heart was beating like a hammer and my mind was on fire.

I find myself wondering how Silva did his research of the inner workings of ISIS. I don’t know if he actually entered Syria. But he’s sure gotten my attention. Even Newt Gingrich is reading THE BLACK WIDOW. As well he should:)

I still shake my head whenever I think of our president’s speech about ISIS being the Javee team.  So does Gabrielle Allon. Our government looks inept over and over again in this novel, just as the governments of other countries do as well.

So who is the woman who is going into Syria? And why would she even think of doing something so radical? She is a doctor. She is also a Jew. I kept wondering how this would be done.

Who is Saladin? And where did he come from? And where does he want to take ISIS? He is on a mission of terror like nothing we’ve seen since 9/11. And what occurs in this novel will blow your mind. It’s far too real. Too close for comfort. Our world as we have known it has certainly changed forever. We now know that there are over a 1000 people in this country on a terror watch list. It makes my heart sad.

Back to the story. As Gabriel chases Saladin we get a front row seat of how it would be to tail someone planning an attack of this magnitude. And it’s not a pretty picture. No one is immune. We are shown how someone in this country can be radicalized. And how they can connect to the top dogs of ISIS through the internet. It’s powerful stuff that will knock your socks off. Over and over again.

It is very important to read the author’s notes in the back of the book. Silva makes note that at least four thousand Westerners have heeded the clarion call to come to the caliphate, including more than five hundred women. This, in itself, brings chills to my skin.

I took my time reading THE BLACK WIDOW even with my eager-beaver husband breathing down my neck the entire time. Last night I read 300 pages and almost blinded myself:) Now I have to wait an entire year for the next installment. Will be totally worth it! Daniel Silva is without a doubt THE best thriller writer alive today!

Thanks so much Leah at Harper Collins for my stunning finished copy. I LOVED it!

Mata Hari’s Last Dance by Michelle Moran

Michelle Moran

Mata Hari’s Last Dance

Most everyone has heard of Mata Hari. But how many of us truly know who she was ? MATA HARI’S LAST DANCE, by Michelle Moran, brings this infamous woman up out of the ashes for all to see.

I’ve  been doing some online sleuthing now that I’ve completed reading the novel. So much of the story is actually true. Moran has once again done meticulous research and used it well to drive the story behind one of the most misunderstood women in history.

Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod ( M’greet ) was born in Holland in 1876.  Even though she would love for you to believe she was born somewhere much more exotic like Egypt. Her father abandoned her and her mother and brothers when she was young.  When her mother died, she was sent away to a school where she was abused and her brothers were sent to work in abysmal factories. Desperate to flee a horrible situation she answered an ad posted by a much older man seeking a wife.  Off she went with this despicable  excuse for a man, all the way to Java. Ugh.

Java did not work for her either. After giving birth to two children, and losing one tragically, she fled this relationship as well. Living in poverty in Paris she was spied trying out for a dancing position which she failed at terribly. But, she was discovered by a man who would become her “protector” for life. His name was Edouard Clumet. And this is when the fun begins.

When Mata Hari dances everyone pays attention. And there’s certainly a lot to pay attention to.  She’s definitely exotic, and she’s also almost always nude. Sometimes she dances with a snake. And sometimes she wears a jeweled bra and dozens of magnificent jewels. At times if you are seated in the front row you may be treated to a special “peek” of Mata Hari:)

Clumet knows everyone in Paris, and Germany, and Spain. He books Mata Hari to dance for audiences who come to adore her. She is the toast of every city she visits. And she charms men right and left. Rich men are her forte, but what she really can’t resist is a man in uniform. They set her up in apartments and houses that she could only have dreamed of before. And she begins to take it all in. Never having had any money, she spends lavishly and doesn’t save. To say she’s a courtesan is a bit like saying Michael Phelps can swim a little. She’s a tramp! Let’s just put it out there… But it works for her, until it doesn’t.

As the first world war looms, Mata Hari is finding it harder to keep up.  Word on the street is that she’s spying. But is she really? I don’t think anyone will ever know. This is no secret. Was she a double spy? Some thought so.   She was formally accused of spying on France for Germany in 1917 and arrested. She was shot before a firing squad. Mata Hari was 41.

Michelle Moran has a way of combining fact and fiction that is mesmerizing. Makes you wish to delve deeper to find out more of the story. The story of Mata Hari is no exception.

author

Michelle Moran

My lovely finished copy came from Touchstone, a division of Simon& Schuster. Thanks guys.

To Paris!

Eleanor Brown

The Light of Paris

Ah, THE LIGHT OF PARIS, by Eleanor Brown. Just seeing the shape of the Eiffel Tower on the cover makes me smile. Makes me wish to hop on a plane and fly to France; to Paris.

Eleanor Brown is the NYT bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS. Much acclaimed and beloved, her first  novel proved just how powerful a writer Brown is. Now she’s back with THE LIGHT OF PARIS. And we get to fall in love with her all over again.

Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown

It’s 1999 andMadeleine is escaping her miserable existence with her husband as the story opens.  They’ve had words and she has decided to run home to Magnolia where her mother still holds court. She’s been unhappily married to Phillip with his perfect persona and cookie-cutter profile.  She needs to get away and think. What appears to outsiders as a perfect marriage filled with privilege and love, has actually become a prison full of mundane days and even worse nights.

In Magnolia, Madeleine finds to her surprise that her mother is putting her house on the market. She’s selling the only home Madeleine has ever known. Of course this threatens Madeleine’s psyche more than ever. Since they’ve never been close, this causes an even broader chasm.  But Madeleine digs in and decides to help mom prepare the house for sale, getting rid of unneeded artifacts and unwanted junk. As she’s pawing through the attic she comes across an old journal written by her grandmother during the three months she spent in Paris in the twenties. She tucks it away and takes it to her room to be read later, in private.

France

Tower Eiffel

Now it’s the twenties and Margie is getting to the age where her family thinks she should be married.  But she is not ready, and even if she were, no man has come forth to claim her hand. Her parents shuffle her off across the pond to be chaperone to her irascible cousin Evelyn. What a trial. This young woman is a terror. She’s hooked up with a wild crowd and  once they reach France Evelyn disappears with her new friends and leaves Margie high and dry in Paris. Of course Margie’s mother insists she immediately book passage and return home. But Margie has fallen in love with Paris and the light.  And she’s met someone…She’s not going anyplace, any time soon.

This novel began slowly for me. Almost too slow. But, as soon as Margie decided to throw caution to the wind in the City of Light, I was enchanted. When she meets a secretive young artist, my interest peaked potentially.

I love reading about strong women. Especially those who become strong over all the odds. There is such a message here.

Forward to 1999 again and find Madeleine settling into a new life in the small town of her youth.  Brown so brought this enchanting art community to life that I looked forward to its return.  A gleeful place filled with happy people doing what they love. After all, isn’t that what life should be about!

So, does Madeleine leave Phillip? Do Madeleine and her mother come to terms with their relationship? And what of Margie? Does she stay in Paris?

This is a story with a lot of heart. A lot of struggle. And it gives us a lot of reasons and answers. Life is not always filled with what we want. And we often times must do what is morally right. It’s a story of honor and yet insists you simply must strive to make your dreams come true.

I will be thinking about this story for a long time to come. I have the nice people at Putnam Publishing to thank for my review copy. Thank you, thank you! I totally enjoyed it.

When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel

When We Meet Again

WHEN WE MEET AGAIN by Kristin Harmel shows once again that just when I think I’ve read all I can possibly find about WW11, along comes a novel like this one to blow that theory straight from the water.

I love discovering new stuff.  I’m still reeling from this information. I feel as if I should have known this. Did you know that German prisoners of war were kept in internment camps, some in Florida? Right here in Florida on the edge of the Everglades. Yep, it’s true. These German  prisoners worked for farmers. In WHEN WE MEET AGAIN, the German prisoners are working cutting sugarcane on a farm near the center of the state.  Most Americans believed that all Germans were Nazi’s, however, it could not be further from the truth. So many of these young men got swept into the fervor of the times and were forced into the military.

Florida, Germany,

Kristin Harmel

Harmel’s novel moves back and forth in time to bring us the extraordinary story of Emily’s grandmother and the grandfather she never knew. Was not even told who he was. She only knew he never married her grandmother. She had the impression he left out of the blue and did not acknowledge her father’s birth. But, wait, there has to be more than that. Oh yes, there sure is.

Emily is living in Orlando, Florida.  She’s a writer just laid off her job as a relationship columnist.  When she receives an unexpected painting from Germany, she’s more than perplexed. The painting is of a beautiful young woman standing on the edge of a sugarcane field highlighted by the eerie violet sky. She knows it must be her grandmother.  But the note enclosed with the  painting simply say’s, “Your grandfather never stopped loving her.”  Not signed. But it spoke volumes.  And Emily begins to dig deeper. Now she is on a mission.

Emily lives in Orlando, Florida. But she branches out far afield in her search. She’s determined to find out who her grandfather really is and if he is still alive. Her grandmother never spoke of him. So this was bound to be a monumental challenge.  But since she’s newly unemployed she’s got plenty of time…

Moving to the bustling art scene of Atlanta to the city of Munich, Germany, then to the small town in the Everglades, Harmel  brings vividly to life the sweltering sugarcane fields that are being worked by the German prisoners. She offers relief from the oppressive heat by showing the sweet, cool,  violet sky of dawn. Then she throws in an epic love story.  Sense of detail is amazing. Characters are unique and unforgettable.

This little known chunk of American history just blows my mind. I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I am going to delve deeper to look for even more about German prisoners here in Florida during the war. It’s such an unknown..

This is not just a love story, or a history lesson. It’s much more than all this. You see, Emily is used to her loved ones leaving. It’s all she knows. Her father left her and her mother when she was young.  In turn, Emily left the young man she loved years ago when she was pregnant.  And her grandmother was left all those years ago by the grandfather she never knew. A life of leaving.

Eventually Emily and her father are reunited, but it’s not without angst.  They team up to try to finally solve the mystery of the disappeared person who was absent without notice. Not all candy and roses.

This amazing novel includes great art. It’s got secrets, and it will have you laughing and crying.  It’s quite realistic.  A father-daughter relationship.  This is something I can and yet cannot relate to as my father and mother were divorced when I was very young, and my father did not enter the picture again.  But I can tell you that it warms my heart to see my sons being such great fathers to their children.

Kristin Harmel is the author of THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING.  I fell in love with that novel and have been looking forward to this one. She’s done an even more stunning job with WHEN WE MEET AGAIN. This fabulous novel will be haunting me for a long time. I loved it.

I can thank the very generous publishers at Gallery Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, for my lovely review copy. This is one of those rare finds that you NEED to run out to get, as quickly as you can. It’s a real keeper!