A Red Hot Journey Through The Stacks With Susan Orlean

non fiction

The Library Book

April, 1986, the fire alarm goes off at the Los Angeles Central Library. The patrons leave their personal items and borrowed books spread out on tables and chairs and head for the exits. This is surely routine. After all, these fire alarms are always false. Or are they? Not this time.

Fire fighters fought the fire for seven agonizing  hours. It burned at 2000 degrees and destroyed 400,000 books, damaging another 700,000. The staggering numbers are mind blowing.  How could this happen? Was it arson? Or accident?

NYT bestselling author Susan Orlean delves deeply into the whys and wherefores of this tragic book event. Books and libraries are her passion and she manages to bring this to the page of her new book ‘THE LIBRARY BOOK.”

I’ve been enjoying the books of Orlean since she introduced us to the secrets of the ghost orchid in “THE ORCHID THIEF” in 1998. A bestselling movie was made using the book as a base.


Susan Orlean

So, back to the book at hand. Arson? Some immediately pointed the finger at a young man who had been seen in the library that very morning. Harry Peak was a young actor with a shady background. Orlean goes above and beyond with her search into Peak’s past. But to what avail?  Accident? Maybe.  It’s been more than thirty years and the puzzle is still not solved. But the story Orlean brings vividly to life in her new book is brilliant. I adore this book. It’s the perfect gift for the reader on your list.

Do you remember the news the day of the fire? Probably not. I have a vague memory of it. The big news item that day vastly overshadowed the fire. You see, Chernobyl blew its top that day and it was THE news item.

I’ve always loved spending time in libraries. I have my mom and grandmother to thank for it. I was twelve when they would send me down the street to our local library to pick out mysteries for them. We lived in a tiny town in Delaware and our library was housed in an old three-story house. I still recall standing on a stool to reach the books high up on shelves. I would  open the books up to the back and slide the library card out to see if their names were listed. Young people will not know what I am talking about. This was way before automation. People signed their names on the card and borrowed the books. I was always able to bring home mysteries neither of them had read.

I learned a lot about how libraries run, how the books arrive, how they’re distributed, and about the people who lovingly work in the libraries. Wonderful stuff for book nerds like me.

This unique book is coming along with me on my lecture tour this season. I want every book lover to know how wonderful and important it is.

My review copy came from SIBA and is published by Simon & Schuster. This is a major book and is one of my favorites this year!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We have gorgeous finished hard covers of THE LIBRARY BOOK at Copperfish Books. They are discounted 20% and are also available online.  Come on up to see us. We’d love to talk to you about books!


The Rain Watcher by Tatiana De Rosnay

Tatiana De Rosnay

The Rain Watcher

In 2003 Tatiana De Rosnay brought us a novel of World War Two called SARAH’S KEY.  It quickly became an International phenomena. Sits on the shelf in my personal library with my very favorites. To say I loved it is a gross  understatement.

There have been other novels by De Rosnay over the years. But, until THE RAIN WATCHER, none were comparable.  St. Martin’s has done a super job with the cover. It perfectly captures the setting and sets you up properly for what’s to come.

When it opens, Linden Malegarde, a world-renowned photographer, has just arrived in Paris for his father’s 70th birthday. The river Seine has been rising for five days, and the rain continues to come down, “a silver curtain, hissing, obstructing all daylight.” Still, Linden and his family ( no spouses, no children) gather at the Chatterton Hotel, determined not to let the catastrophic weather disrupt their plans for celebration.

Linden’s father, Paul, is a famed arborist. His mother, Lauren, is still a knock out at 61.  Lauren, an American, married Paul at a young age and moved to Paris.  Linden’s sister is jobless and in the midst of a midlife crisis and a very bad marriage.  Everyone has their own private hell.  And this torrential rain is just making it all so much worse.

This family is in crisis.  This city is in crisis. The tension  rises as the flood water of the Seine bursts its banks and floods the city.

The amazing back story for this novel is that the Seine has flooded in January of this year. The scenes in this novel could really have happened even though this story is fiction. The historical truth is that The City of Light does flood, and when it  does it’s  devastating.

This family reunion is wrought with secrets. Everyone has one. Linden has been keeping a secret from his father. Some secrets are even kept in trees.


Tatiana De Rosnay

De Rosnay has managed to make Paris come wildly to life. This is not the lively, gay Paris. This is a much darker Paris.  But, still, a Paris you will recognize and love.

I am thrilled to be able to add this novel to my speaking engagements this season. It’s a great book for discussion. Thanks St. Martin’s Press for the gorgeous finished hard cover! I’m all over it !

We have copies of THE RAIN WATCHER at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda that are discounted 20%. Come on up. We’d love to see you.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books



The Wildlands by Abby Geni

Abby Geni

The Wildlands

I had a sales rep from Ingram put this new novel in my hands at SIBA last month. When I picked it up to take a peek the other day, well, I didn’t put it down.

THE WILDLANDS begins with the most horrific portrayal of a cat 5 tornado landing in a small town in rural Oklahoma.  My heart is actually pounding just remembering it.  Four siblings run and hide in the cellar of their farmhouse while a tornado of monumental power hovers over their home and completely destroys it and everything in its path including all their animals and even their father. They never found any of the bodies.

While hiding in the cellar the two oldest siblings get into a fight. You see, Tucker tries to pry open the door and go after their father. But his older sister Darlene keeps him from leaving. Thank God, because he surely would also have been “disappeared” just like every other living thing. But Tucker is never the same after the storm. Something in his psyche  has gone awry.

While Darlene steps up and gives up her future to raise the kids, Tucker sets out on his own leaving his three sisters to fend for themselves. But in three years time Tucker returns. And this time it’s truly to the scene of the crime.  He convinces Cora who is nine now to come along with him on a trip into disaster. Cora is captivated by her older brother and  anxious to go with him. He’s wildly entertaining even as he descends deeper and deeper into something quite sinister.  He’s become an animal activist. But not in a good way.  Off they go on a trail of violence and terror and slowly Cora begins to realize that  this is not good.

I truly felt as if I was on a roller coaster racing into the unknown.  This book is a nail-biter, a page-turning literary thriller, and a helluva read.  I read it almost nonstop. The ending will totally blow your mind.

I love animals. Am totally against animal cruelty. But this is an over-the-top example of animal activism gone wrong.


Abby Geni

Abby Geni’s first novel THE LIGHTKEEPERS  was the winner for the 2016 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for Fiction.  When I saw she is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, I knew this novel would be a force.


A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler

Therese Anne Fowler

A Well-Behaved Woman

Fowler does strong women really, really well. I loved her  “Z”, a story of Zelda Fitzgerald.   I’ve been looking forward to this new historical novel based on the life of Alva Vanderbilt.

“When they asked her about the Vanderbilts and Belmonts, about their celebrations and depredations, the mansions and balls, the lawsuits, the betrayals, the rifts-when they asked why she did the extreme things she’d done, Alva said it all began quite simply: Once there was a desperate young woman whose mother was dead and whose father was dying almost as quickly as his money was running out. It was 1874. Summertime. She was twenty-one years old, ripened unpicked fruit rotting on the branch”

The novel begins with Alva Smith and her sisters left destitute after the Civil War. Their father is on his death bed. None of the young women is married. Marriage is the only thing Alva sees that will raise the family back up. It doesn’t matter if you have a good name; not when you have nothing to feed that family with.

Along comes William Vanderbilt, newly wealthy, actually filthy rich. Alva snags him with the help of friends.  Her good name, his big fat wallet.  But the Vanderbilts are ignored by society.  People such as the Astor’s will not give them the time of day; new money. But once Mrs. Astor shows up at Alva’s unbelievably stunning costume ball in her new mansion on Fifth Avenue, well the rest is history. I have to tell you that I’ve read a lot of books. I’ve read about a lot of parties, but, the party Alva throws back in 1883 is the most brilliant, sparkling, over-the-top, dazzling ball I’ve ever experienced. I think you’ll be dazzled too.

Oh, I almost forgot, when Alva’s family could not get a box at The Academy of Music, well, she founded The Met. Boom!! Money can buy so much. But can it buy happiness?

Alva’s world is filled with a cheating husband, lots of scandal, and finally a stunning divorce.

This is a great book for clubs as it has so much to talk about.  Power, love, women’s suffrage,  architecture, and lovely clothes, jewelry and furnishings.  It will transport you into such a lavish world of riches.  And it’s totally based on the real life adventure of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont.

“With a nod to Jane Austen and Edith Wharton, Therese Anne Fowler paints a glittering world of enormous wealth contrasted against desperate poverty, of social ambition and social scorn, of friendship and betrayal, and an unforgettable story of a remarkable woman.”

My finished copy came from St. Martin’s press in exchange for an honest review. Another stunning historical novel from Therese Anne Fowler.  We have copies of A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN at Copperfish Books. Discounted 20% off with in-store purchase,  and ready to be read. Hope to see you soon!

Winner Of The Winters

Lisa Gabriele

The Winters

Questions and answers with Lisa Gabriele:

THE WINTERS begins like a lot of books, with a handsome man sweeping a young woman off her feet. But at its heart, this is a story about women-our unnamed heroine, plucked out of her quiet existence; Rebekah, the dead first wife who haunts her dreams; and Dani, Rebekah’s vengeful teenage daughter. Did you set out to write a story about female friendships, power, and sexuality?

Yes, I’m obsessed with female relationships, sex, and power, and how they intersect. These are my favorite things to read and write about. The genesis of this book began with me thinking about the women in REBECCA, and all the ways modern female characters and a new setting would completely change their relationship with each other. Suddenly THE WINTERS became an exercise in demonstrating how much women have changed in contemporary times, and how some men, especially rich and powerful ones, really have not. 

Much of THE WINTERS is set at Asherley, Max Winter’s opulent estate in the Hamptons. Whey did you choose that setting?

I’ve always been fascinated with Long Island’s moneyed elite; a couple of my favorite books are set there. I loved the storied Gold Coast of THE GREAT GATSBY, and the deceptively serene town in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. I needed a place that combined history and horror and the Hamptons seemed like a natural choice. 


Lisa Gabriele has managed to bring a lot to the table with THE WINTERS.  One of her main characters is involved heavily in politics.  The aura surrounding The Hamptons coming alarmingly alive.  Women’s issues. Mystery, intrigue. This one has it all.

I have a winner. One copy of THE WINTERS by Lisa Gabriele will be sent to Patricia Olsen. Your beautiful book will be sent out directly from Viking, Penguin, Random House. Congrats! And many thanks go out to the generous publishing people at Viking. Thanks guys.  And many thanks also to those of you who took the time to comment. I can’t thank you enough.


House Of Gold by Natasha Solomons

Natasha Solomons

House of Gold

Great cover! Great story! Great writing!

What does banking have to do with war? Almost everything.  The Goldbaum family are a fabulously wealthy and wildly influential Jewish family who pretty much are in charge of the money in Europe’s banking system. With a chain of banks centered in all the big hubs of Europe, they are huge. London, Paris, Vienna, and on and on.  They may be super wealthy  and unbelievably powerful, however, they are also quite human and vulnerable.

Greta is a young Goldbaum who has recently become betrothed to a distant Goldbaum cousin. He lives in England; she in Vienna. They have yet to meet.  The wedding bells have all but pealed when the story begins.  She is not the type of young woman who bows down to tradition.  But she knows it’s her duty to marry this man and off she goes by train with family members. First stop is Paris where she is already in trouble when she accepts the gifts of designer duds made by an infamous dressmaker.  As the wedding date closes in on her she begins to panic.  No one can save her. Her brother is there for support. Her cousin Andre is by her side. She seriously starts thinking of escape…

Albert is the soon -to- be bride groom. How does he feel about the upcoming nuptials? Albert is only interested in his bug and butterfly collection.  He is the dutiful second son to the English Goldbaum fortune and banking hierarchy.  He does as he is told. What a boring guy. But he is very good looking.  And he totally steps outside his comfort zone the morning of the wedding…

So what sort of match is this, anyhow? Wait and see. What starts out slowly, begins to blossom. I am going to just say this: It took me some time to get into this book. But once I did, I loved it. I’ve not read a lot about World War One. And what I have read was totally different than this novel.  This is a very sophisticated story of love, duty, banking, and love. It shows how even though these people were filthy rich and  unbelievably intelligent, because they were of Jewish heritage, they were outsiders.

This is a story of women, and their plight to keep on going even with the threat of war on their doorsteps.  Gardening becomes a huge part of their lives. I loved the scenes in the gardens. Have never read anything so comprehensive about gardening yet fascinating.  The writing is superb.

As the relationship between Albert and Greta changes I became more and more entranced. Solomons has managed to create a world apart from war even while inside of it.

I became quite attached to both Albert and Greta, although I think I may have even favored Albert by the story’s end. Didn’t see that coming. This big fat saga will satisfy the biggest historical fiction lover out there.  Grab yourself a copy and curl up for a story to sink your teeth in.

My review copy came from Penguin Random House through Copperfish Books.  I loved it.

Sold On A Monday by Kristina McMorris

Kristina McMorris

Sold On A Monday

This wonderful new novel by Kristina McMorris had a cover worth a thousand words. It sure drew me in. The story and writing kept me reading…

SOLD ON A MONDAY was inspired by an actual newspaper photo from the 1930’s.  Times were tough then and that was a gross  understatement during the Great Depression.  McMorris decided to devise a story around the story. And boy oh boy has she got a winner.

Ellis Reed  is looking for a big story. He needs something to help him get out of writing a society column in the paper.  That’s women’s work.  He’s depressed.  He comes across a sign on a porch which says, 2 kids for sale.  He takes a photo. Never intending to actually expose these people in print. But the picture gets away from him and before he knows it this picture is getting a lot of attention.


Actual Sign

The photo to the left is the actual newspaper photo with article that ran in the local paper. There were 4 children here. The novel has two. Takes your breath away.

Who is Lillian Palmer? She works as secretary to the editor of the paper where Ellis works.  And she is harboring a secret that she fears could lose her her position at the paper.


Kristina McMorris

I have it on good merit that McMorris has been in touch with one of the children who was for sale. This woman is now in her 70’s and I sure hope we hear more about her.  What a story.

This novel is available in a trade paperback form; perfect for book clubs. I was able to pick up my copy at SIBA compliments of Sourcebooks Publishers.   We have it in stock at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda.  We would love to see you there soon.