Delicious December!

Christmas tree pizza from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

The entire month of December is all about food, glorious food! I just watched Ree Drummond put this little pizza tree together on tv. I love it. Perfect. I just had to post.

In our family, the feasting begins on Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s. There’s nothing like getting together with family and friends during the holidays to share a meal. We had an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. There were thirteen of us. So grateful. Watching the kids line up in front of the dessert spread was precious. We outdid ourselves with desserts this year. Pecan pie; pumpkin pie; pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin pie with chocolate ganache and marshmallow whipped topping. All home made and made with much love. Emerson who is twelve made the pumpkin cheesecake. Amazing. We were blessed to have most of our family in attendance.

December is a transitioning month for me. I’m working on events I will be doing in the New Year. I’m also trying to get caught up on reading. Really hard when I’m receiving so many review books that are not due until late spring. Yes, into summer. Some great books coming….

One of the books I’m working on right now will come out January 11. I have some great behind the scene info that I can’t wait to share, but for now, well, it’s all hush-hush. This is the kind of stuff I thrive on.

I’m also going to squeeze in at least one more Christmas book, maybe even two. Helps get the holiday spirit going. I think people are decorating earlier this year. People need festivity. Here in Florida, we have a lot of foreign visitors who are so grateful to be able to be here. And they are feeling blessed.

Cat Grass

Update on our Wyatt. A month ago Wyatt our orange tabby boy, had an operation to help keep crystals from blocking his urinary track. I am happy to report he is doing well and almost back to “his” normal. For a while there we did actually think we would lose our minds. It’s such a relief to see him playing again and watch him relax in his favorite spots. All the kitties love fresh cat grass. I found this yesterday and am pleased to announce Wyatt enjoyed some just this morning.

I’m making lists for gift-giving and trying to be more mindful this season. Books are always the BEST gifts, to give and to receive. The media is scaring everyone to death reporting daily that you need to shop early because of shortages. And we watch as container ships sit in the water outside large ports filled with goods that need to come ashore and get delivered across our country. I say shop local when you can.

The virus has mutated yet again. It will not be the last time, I’m sure. Instead of freaking out, just do what we’ve been doing for more than a year: wear a mask when in a crowd, distance yourself from others when possible, wash your hands often, and please get vaccinated. That’s the best we can all do.

I’m reading CHRISTMAS BY THE BOOK by Anne Marie Ryan. It’s simply delightful. In a small town in England, two booksellers facing tough times are spreading holiday cheer through the magic of delivering books anonymously.

I wish you all the magic of the holidays. I wish you time with family and friends. And, I’m always wishing you are reading something special. Happy holidays!

Thanksgiving dinner on the lanai.

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

The Postmistress of Paris

From the New York Times bestselling author of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON, comes a new novel of WW11,  set in France. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS  has all the right stuff: an indomitable main character, plenty of danger; romance; a gorgeous villa; and an atmosphere second to none. 

The opening pages are delightful as we find Nanée  flying the skies over her beloved Paris.  She’s doing what she loves best: flying her crimson Vega Gull with her sidekick, her little poodle, Dagabert. Slicing through the sky, following along the Seine, and feeling omnipotent. 

Nanée has been living in Paris and attending The Sorbonne. When the Germans storm into Paris and take over, she makes the decision to stay even though other Americans flee for home. Why would she do that? She’s always had a keen sense of adventure and she feels she can help. She joins the resistance delivering crucial information to those in hiding. She’s working with Varian Fry who smuggles artists and intellectuals out of the country. Nanée is based on a real life American Heiress named Mary Jayne Gold who did indeed help in the resistance. 

The scenery will blow you away. The sense of danger is constant and palpable. And when Nanée rents a palatial villa in Marseille to house her new friends and fellow helpers, well, it’s just wonderful. 

Some of the characters you will remember from actual history. However,  Edouard Moss, the famous photographer in the novel, is completely made up. He fled his homeland with his young daughter after his wife passed away.  He’s one of the artists under the roof in Marseille. He and Nanée are an unlikely pair but they fall in love and when Edouard is sent to a concentration camp it’s Nanée who takes his young daughter under her wing. 

There’s plenty of intrigue and lots of action in this historical novel that is also actually part thriller. It’s very sophisticated yet oh-so readable. I felt as if I was on the ground and following right along with these people. Of course I fell for the little poodle who steals everyone’s heart. 

Who will survive and who will not? You’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can as the novel gallops toward the gate. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS is going to be on everyone’s list of must-reads this season. Do not be left out. I loved it!

My review copy came from the author through Harper Collins, I was one of the extremely lucky readers who got to read first.

Meg Waite Clayton

Lucky me. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton will be published November 30, just in time for holiday gift giving. Harper Collins has done a great job with this book including providing a gorgeous cover! I received this book in exchange for an honest review. It was amazing!

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews: Giveaway

The Santa Suit
The Santa Suit

I’m offering my finished first edition of THE SANTA SUIT by Mary Kay Andrews for giveaway. I want to share this delightful novel filled with great characters and kindness with one reader. Please leave a comment below in order to enter the giveaway. I will choose one lucky winner on December 10. I will post that day. This giveaway is open to U.S. readers. No PO boxes, please. And please don’t forget to check your inbox on December 10. Good luck!

The Left-Handed Twin by Thomas Perry

THE LEFT-HANDED TWIN by Thomas Perry is just what I needed at a time of stress in our household. Our Wyatt recently underwent surgery. I didn’t know what to expect with this novel as it is part of a series and I had not read any of the previous books. Not to fear, I was immediately caught up in the story and trying to keep my heart from leaping from my chest on each page. Really fast-paced.

Jane Whitefield helps people disappear. Fearing for their lives, fleeing dangerous situations, her clients come to her when they need to vanish completely to assume a new identity and establish a new life somewhere they won’t be found. And when people are desperate enough to need her services, they come to the old house in rural western New York where Jane was raised to begin their escape.

When Jane discovers a young woman hiding in her house she’s not shocked, but she is surprised because she had no former notice. The girl is on the run from a boyfriend who is seriously trying to kill her. She makes a snap decision after a call to jump right in and help. And the terror begins as Jane brings the girl up to speed on what she must be willing and able to do. After all, this truly is life or death, and for them both.

Every chapter is filled with descriptive paragraphs of how to survive when the odds are so against you. I was all-in with this new character for me, Jane. She knows what she’s doing and that’s a total understatement.

With nonstop action, relentless tension, and great characters, this new novel will make thriller lovers lick their reading chops.

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. He lives in California. And boy oh boy can he tell you a story.

My review copy arrived via Mysterious Press/ Penzler Publisher in exchange for an honest review. I loved it! Hold on to your hat and get ready for a wild ride.

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella

A LITTLE HOPE is Ethan Joella’s first novel. You would never guess it. It’s a dream of a read. This is the exact reason I love doing what I do. To discover a writer like Joella is what I’m always hoping for. It doesn’t happen often which makes it all that much more rewarding.

We find ourselves in a small town in Connecticut. Life is throwing powerful challenges out for several of the townspeople. Every time I thought one character had the deepest story, well, I had to admit that they all were very strong characters who I began to care about. Tough life-changing choices had to be made. Everyday fears show up in each life. The way they handle the different circumstances will alter many lives each time.

A Little Hope

Did I mention that the writing is joyous? Well, it is. I simply loved it and can’t really say more or I will give it all away.

Ethan Joella lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, my old stomping grounds, many years ago. We lived nearby and so I spent many summers at the beach. Rehoboth is a delightful seaside town. And Ethan gets to live there. I asked him if he will consider setting a novel in Rehoboth. I am thrilled to tell you that he is writing a novel now set on the beaches in that area. Very happy.

The wonderful publishing people at Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster, sent me a gorgeous finished hardcover of A LITTLE HOPE. I’m telling every reader I know to JUST READ IT!

Ethan Joella

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes

A Magical New York Christmas

I rely on Anita Hughes to bring me a new Christmas book almost every year. She knows just what I like. I need something light, something magical, and something that totally transports me to a new world. Plus, and it’s a big plus, it has to be well-written. Bingo on all fronts. I loved A MAGICAL NEW YORK CHRISTMAS.

I got lucky at our local library and found this just sitting on the new title shelves. I can’t believe my luck. I love the cover. The holidays are so different here in sunny southwest Florida. We do not get snow for the holidays. And sometimes it’s not even chilly. But in this novel I was taken to The Big Apple, I was given snow, I was staying at The Plaza Hotel. And gifts were flying around like kites. Amazing meals were served at famous restaurants. I had my own personal butler. And love was in the air. Plus, wonderful art and jewelry peppered almost every page.

I try to read a couple holiday books each season. I rarely find more than one that I love. This year I ve already read two great ones. And I may have a third on the way. Trust me, you need light holiday reads this year. In fact, at this time of year, we are so stressed out. A beautiful, light, love story is a must read.

November Musings

Thanksgiving Dinner

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. And turkey is always the star in our family. It’s all about gathering family and friends together to share a wonderful meal. It’s about quality time together. Putting any differences aside. Sharing stories and an amazing meal. Using old family recipes. Exchanging new ones, perhaps.

This November is starting out in a wonderful way: it was actually chilly this morning after months and months of nothing but humidity and heat here in SW Florida. I am grateful for this coolness.

November is always a good month for fabulous new books. This year is no different. I will be sharing some great new titles. And I begin my speaking engagements in just over a week. I am very excited about in person events this season. I am anxious to get back to sharing titles and author info to all my readers.

I’m hearing that we need to begin shopping even earlier this year because some items will be difficult to get, especially in time for the holidays. So many books are printed overseas. Get yours early. And don’t forget to shop your local Indy bookstores. They often have great gift items that you can’t just get anywhere.

I’ll be posting some good book lists that will make great gifts for the holidays, soon. This is a banner year for great books!

With the chill in the air this morning, I found myself happily puttering on the front porch, working with the plants and freshening it all up. So nice to be able to be outside without sweating up a storm. And Miss Mimi is actually racing through the house and feeling her oats this morning. It is all good.

The Sound of The Sea

I’m reading an amazing non fiction book called THE SOUND OF THE SEA by Cynthia Barnett. It’s fabulous. A lot of it takes place on our own Sanibel and Captiva islands. A great book for giving. I’m going to love showing it off at book talks, too!

I hope you all will be spending your Thanksgiving exactly the way you want to. And, as always, I wish you a great book!

Beneath The Veil Of Smoke And Ash by Tammy Pasterick

Beneath the Veil of Smoke and Ash

It’s 1910, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A family of Eastern Europeans are struggling to survive. Janos is working in the mill twelve hour days, sometimes seven days a week, just to put food on the table. His wife, Karina, works as a housekeeper for a manager of one of the mines. They have two children. They’ve come to America for a better life. So why isn’t it better? They are poorly treated in the community and just want to make it better. Ever since giving birth to her oldest child, Korina has suffered postpartum depression. They didn’t call it that back then. They just knew something was not right. She has grown more distant from both her children and her husband. It isn’t helping that the manager she works for expects much more from her than mere keeping house. She is expected to take care of his sexual needs as well. She has kept this from her husband. But she longs to escape this life. Although she loves her husband and children, she dreams of leaving….

One day everything falls apart. A man is murdered in their town. Several people disappear. Karina disappears without a trace. Lucas, their young son, has a tragic accident that leaves him with a horrible disability. So Janos decides to take what is left of his family and find another, better place to live.

There are many characters involved in this story. The voices are vast. But it’s not hard to keep track of them. The disparages between the wealthy and poor are marked. Sophie is Janos and Karina’s daughter. Her childhood friend, Pole, is a delightful character. His story is filled with strength. And we meet a young woman of means named Edith that totally enchanted me.

My mother and grandmother were born in this area of the country so I have heard stories all my life about the immigrants. My husband was actually born and raised in Pittsburgh. Most of his family still live there. So he has his own stories and stories about the mills. The research Pasterick has done is stellar. She’s used stories from her family to enrich this book. She has not spared any feelings in the telling, either. It is sometimes harsh to read. But it’s a wonderful story filled with secrets and longings and important information about mental illness and postpartum depression.

My review copy was provided by She Writes Press through the offices of Spark Point Studio in exchange for an honest review. I think it’s absolutely stunning. I look forward to Pasterick’s next novel.

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen

Crossroads
Crossroads

I am so very happy to report that Jonathan Franzen has outdone himself with his new and very ambitious novel. I loved it. I enjoyed reading every page. He’s set the story in the suburbs of Chicago. One of the main characters is actually a youth group. Yes, characters. The time frame is the 1970’s. I lived through this wild and crazy time. The atmosphere leaps from each page and brings back memories.

This story revolves around a family of six: mom and dad and their four children. The Reverend Russ Hildebrandt is an assistant pastor of a Protestant church. He’s recently fallen from grace and been banned from the church’s youth group called Crossroads. He’s filled with hatred for the young and very hip Rich Ambrose who has taken over the leadership of the group. The kids all love Rich and so Russ avoids Rich at all costs. This hatred has metastasized until now it’s gotten to the point where he’s taking it out on his family, especially his wife.

Marion is Russ’s wife who has gone from being a pert little sex pot to a dumpy and very plain housewife. Russ is utterly bored to death with her and even embarrassed by her. But she does not deserve what is happening. Russ is dancing circles around a younger widow who is showing interest in both him and the church.

Becky is Marion and Russ’s only daughter. She’s pure and smart and extremely popular. When the story begins she’s just finding God and about to get involved in the youth group much to her father’s dismay.

Perry is a tortured soul to say the least. He is the middle son, the one most like his mother although he does not know this yet. He’s a mess. He’s not only using drugs, he’s selling them. His story is riddled with wildness and sorrow.

Clem is the oldest child. He ends up leaving town and getting involved with an older woman who he falls in love with and has unbelievable sex. It all is too much for Clem who was, at one time, against the Viet Nam war. But that changes too.

There is a third and much younger son but he has a very modest part in this the first of a trilogy. I expect Franzen to flesh his character out fully in future tomes.

All the characters are dealing with deep issues of faith, sin, shame, and even love. When I read Marion’s background I was shocked. A minister’s daughter, her mother all but disappeared early in her life. Marion is the strongest character in this book and her story is probably the most interesting. She reveals things about herself that help us understand why Perry is like he is. And why she worries so for him.

Clem agonizes over the Viet Nam war. And his faith. And feels terrible guilt about his decisions. But he loses himself so totally in the body of his first love that we must wonder how he will come back.

Jonathan Franzen

Franzen is at his best when using sarcasm to move dialogue along. He is also great at dialogue, period. One of the masters. He hasn’t missed a beat in bringing us into this time period either. I remember well the temperature of the country during the years of the Viet Nam war. Tempers were hot. People were mad. Everyone had an opinion.

Church is a big part of this novel but, it’s not a “churchy” novel. Does that make sense? It will once you get into it. It’s witty and smart and filled with great secondary characters that stand out and make the story so darn readable.

There are several very long books out right now by important authors. Most of them are either difficult or just plain avoidable. Like Ron Charles said, thank God for Jonathan Franzen.

I am so looking forward to reading the next two installments of this trilogy. These are characters that stick with you.

My finished copy of CROSSROADS came from the great publishing company of Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I loved it!!

Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout

This pristine cover filled with white tulips calls to me. It’s the third in a three book series featuring Lucy Barton. Whether you like Lucy or not, the writing is the star here.

Who is William? William is Lucy Barton’s first husband. They had two daughters together and have stayed close friends over the years even though they divorced and both remarried other people.

When Lucy’s husband, David, dies, she finds herself grieving not just for David, but for William as well. It’s complex. But grief is like that.

This fine novel is a character-driven story about loneliness and betrayal. And about not really ever knowing anyone. Strout is famous for this. And it always bites straight through to the quick for me because I truly believe it.

Lucy narrates the entire story. She’s become a successful writer. Although, to tell you the truth, I would like to have felt that more. In not one chapter is she actually writing a book. William still works at New York University even though is past retirement age. He’s an Einstein lookalike with wild white hair, a big fluffy mustache, and he’s tall.

There’s a lot of looking back on their marriage. Reflections, both good and bad. And when the story turns to a secret William discovers about his mother that’s rather shocking, we see how even secrets uncovered later in life can change the actual perspective of the memories. Who are we? Life is such a mystery. Strout always manages to make me think. Her work is so subtle yet so very deep. Her characters take on lives of their own and run away with the story.

Strout has won lots of big awards and one was the Pulitzer for Olive Kitteridge. I knew that was a fabulous book. She has gone on to win many, many other awards. So we literary readers tend to watch for her next book. I devoured this story flawed characters and all. I know it’s going to be one of the most important novels of the season!

Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout

MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON went on to become a Broadway Play starring Laura Linney who is one of my favorite actresses.

My review copy of OH, WILLIAM! arrived from Random House in exchange for an honest review. She’s done it again. Another big winner.

Cheers!