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.

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix

Good Company

I adored THE NEST, Sweeney’s debut novel. Have been waiting anxiously for this sophomore novel.

Sweeney is so good at creating characters with depth who are emotionally challenged. She is able to get into the heart and soul of moral issues, family issues, and issues of the heart.

Two couples in middle age are at the core of this novel. Each of the women who have been best friends for most of their adult lives are struggling with their careers. They each have unexpected issues with their marriages as well.

When Flora Mancini who’s been married to Julian for more than twenty years stumbles upon an envelope with his wedding ring in it, the one he supposedly lost fifteen years ago when their daughter was five, her gut clenches in abject fear, fear that her life is about to change forever. What really happened the summer?

Margot is Flora’s best friend. She’s a famous actress living and working in Los Angeles. She’s been very successful acting in a long-running daytime series on TV. But now she finds they’re going to kill her character off. Her physician husband is still recovering from a stroke he had and may never be quite the same.

As the tension builds and then comes to a crescendo, we watch as Margo and Flora become more and more estranged as Flora is convinced that Margo has betrayed her.

This new novel is perfect for your literary summer reading list. And, get a load of this: Jenna just chose GOOD COMPANY for the Today Show April read!

We will have copies of GOOD COMPANY at Copperfish Books this week.

April Brings Books And Birthdays And Easter

Lucas is FIVE

Lucas is fiercely in love with Sonic Hedgehog. He’s looking forward to going to kindergarten in August.

Our family celebrated several birthdays the past four weeks. And there are even more to come soon. Yesterday may have been Easter but it was also a big birthday for our twin granddaughters Tatiana and Yahaira. They turned seventeen. Their mother created an amazing black forest cake with layers upon layers of moist chocolate cake with a delicate and delicious white whipped topping slathered between the layers and on top. To die for. Both girls are big readers and so books and art supplies were the hits of the day.

My husband Jack also had a birthday recently. We met with good friends at Point 57 for a fun Sunday brunch. Great to be out and about with friends. One of Jack’s gifts was this fun and delicious coffee package from our mountain family. Imagine kitty themed coffee. So cute.

Kitty Coffee

It’s so nice to have light into the evening making the daytime hours longer. And we’ve so enjoyed the cool front that moved in over the weekend. We know it will be short-lived here in SW Florida and have been making the best of every moment.

Our Easter dinner was amazing yesterday. Our daughter-in-law roasted a perfectly charred leg of lamb on her grill. And for those of us who prefer something other than lamb, her salmon with fresh dill sauce was outstanding. My son Mike went to the garden and returned with fresh greens for a delectable salad that included a merlot lettuce and tiny everglades tomatoes that burst with a pop of flavor in our mouths. Ana’s twice baked potatoes were outrageous and reminded us of how popular they were years ago. Yum. A great event.

Merlot lettuce salad
Easter lamb and salmon

You might recognize the long olive dish. The kids in our family all LOVE black olives and as you can see this dish had already been vandalized long before we began enjoying the main courses.

I have finally gotten a new diabetes medicine that is absolutely wonderful. And it won’t kill me.. For over a year now I’ve been dealing with trying different meds that have caused some really bad issues. But this new one called Jardiance is amazing. I had to change insurance in order to get the cost down to a reasonable price but it’s all worth it. I have been losing weight steadily and feeling great. I’m starting back to work in the store at Copperfish on a more regular basis starting tomorrow. I can’t wait to see everyone. Oh, and another great piece of news: I got my second covid shot on Friday and the only issue I had was a very sore arm for a couple days. I am so happy. Most of my friends and coworkers have had at least their first shots and this is a wonderful thing.

Fresh spring flowers for our planter.

My husband decided that our Yard Ibis, Miss Iris, needed a partner. So he bought Arti who looks a lot like Miss Iris but with a bit shorter beak and broader face. What a wonderful addition.

Mr Arti

There are a lot of great books coming for spring and summer. I am so looking forward to sharing them with you. One book I’m writing about right now is GOOD COMPANY by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. And, guess what? Jenna just this morning chose it for Today bookclub. Good choice, Jenna! My review will post later this week.

I am working on a big summer reading list for the blog and hope to have it up for posting before the end of the month. You are going to flip out. So many wonderful book. Am trying to bring several genres into the mix.

I’m wishing you readers a relaxing spring filled with all the joys of reading, great books, and wonderful weather.

I’d love to hear from you. How are you doing? Are you staying in SW Florida for the summer? What are you reading? Any big plans for the next few months. I’m contacting book clubs in this next month to firm up dates for book talks for next season. It’s going to be the biggest one yet.

Cheers!

Finding Freedom by Erin French

Finding Freedom

When the publisher, Celadon Books, a Special Market division of Macmillan publishers, asked if I would be interested in receiving a review copy of FINDING FREEDOM by Erin French, to tell you the truth, I had never heard of her or her remarkable restaurant. What I do know is that my entire family are huge food enthusiasts and we have all worked in restaurants at some time in our lives. We LOVE great food and everything that it brings to the table.

Once I did a little homework and found out just who Erin French is, well, I was very intrigued, to say the least. Erin is a self-made chef and owns one of the most prestigious and unique restaurants in the world. Her story is not pretty. But it’s real and I loved hearing it through her voice. Not only is Erin an accomplished chef, she’s an amazing writer.

Her story began when as a child she began working in her father’s diner in the tiny backwoods town of Freedom, Maine. Erin worked grueling hours behind the grill in the diner while her father entertained his “buddies” and took advantage of her hard-working ethic. But Erin loved what she did and made the best of it learning everything she could about the business from a young age. But she thought she wanted out of the small town and so off to college she went, in the big city. But, alas, that was not meant to be. Soon enough she dragged herself back home with her tail between her legs, pregnant and not married.

Not to be deterred, Erin reinvented herself and this would not be the last time. You are going to be wowed by her tenacity putting together a small pop- up restaurant of sorts using every bit of determination along the way. And then a new restaurant evolves complete with a kitchen run totally by women.

But Erin meets and marries the wrong man. It’s a disaster to say the least. Bound to not end well. Booze is her husband’s downfall and then she begins popping pills and gulping wine to escape the pain, all the while working like a fiend while he is taking advantage: sitting at the bar after service and demanding a complete meal with courses. Instead of a helpmate, he became a total asshole.

After dealing with addiction, losing everything she has including custody of her young son, you have to wonder how she will deal with this. How on earth could anyone come back yet again? And, yet, she does. And this is the story of how her most famous restaurant came to be.

The Lost Kitchen is the name of Erin’s restaurant. It’s small and everything is fresh and unique. And perfect. Erin has been on such shows as: THE CHEW, NPR, CBS THIS MORNING, and THE TODAY SHOW. She’s currently being featured on a show on the new Discovery Plus channel along with Joanna Gaines. Another good reason to sit up and pay attention, people!

The Lost Kitchen is”one of twelve restaurants worth traveling across the world to experience: this from such and such newspaper….

So how do you even think of getting a reservation at this amazing place? Up until the pandemic they took reservations through post cards, only. And your chances were slim to none before this young woman became so famous. The first year they took these reservations 23,000 post cards were sent. Maybe more. On her webpage they say they are not taking reservations as yet, but will post when they know what they’re going to do. You see, they do know that it’s going to be CRAZY.

Erin French

This absolutely stunning memoir about the soul of a woman who is as tenacious as they get and adores food to distraction, is going to blow your mind. And you are going to want to visit The Lost Kitchen.

I can’t say enough about my love for this book. Just know I am already chomping at the bit to see what her next act will be. I’m all in.

My review copy of this very important memoir arrived on my doorstep from Celadon Books, a very small and specialized division of Macmillan Publishers in exchange for an honest review. This is the second great book I’ve read from Celadon in just a few months. These people know what they’re doing.

Punta Gorda

I hope you’ll choose to purchase your copy of FINDING FREEDOM by Erin French from us at Copperfish Books. We’ll have them on sale Tuesday, April 6, on sale day. Plus, they will be 20% off. Everyone is going to be talking about this book. You know you want it.

Come on in the browse carefully and see our book art!

Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

Our Italian Summer

Three generations of women-a trip of a lifetime to try to heal their relationships. Drop-dead gorgeous scenery. Everything you need to sweep you away to the wonders of Italy!

When I spy a cover like this one I stop whatever I’m doing and check it out. This cover transports me. I immediately want to be with that girl on the cover meandering along that path by the sea in Italy.

OUR ITALIAN SUMMER is pure fun. Yes, there are issues to be remedied. But the gondola rides at dusk in the canals of Venice, the hair-raising bus ride along the coast on the side of the mountain on Capri, the incredible culinary delights each and every day, the art in Florence, and getting lost in Rome along the hidden walkways off the main drag. And then there’s the “light”. All these things stack the deck and ensure the reading experience is fun and luscious.

What we need now, what we are crazy for, are reading experiences like this that actually take us away from our day to day sameness, the sameness we have been stuck in for over a year now. Yes, we’re coming out of it, slowly. But books like this give us hope, help us build our dreams and make us feel good.

So who are these three women? Sophia is the grandmother who has been dealing with some health issues and is watching as her daughter and granddaughter are at odds, over almost everything. Francesca is the mother who is a workaholic and has been experiencing panic attacks while basically leaving the raising of her only daughter, Allegra, to her mom. Allegra is a very discontented teenager who’s doing what she can to get her mother’s attention even if it’s doing drugs….. When Sophia offers a tour of Italy for a month during summer, they all end up on board, even if somewhat unwillingly, at first.

If you’ve traveled to or through Italy, you’ll immediately be transported by the absolutely stunning scenery and descriptions of food and wine and olives. If you’ve never been, well, buckle your seatbelt and hold on. You are in for one helluva ride. My husband and I have traveled through Italy several times. We have always found the people to be friendly and joyful. Our trip to the Amalfi coast( see the header for my blog. Yes, I took this photo from a yacht!) and Positano is a memory that rivals most others. I found the trip by bus along the cliffs to be spot -on as far as horrifying goes. But loved it. The food in Tuscany is amazing. The sights, smells and sounds are otherworldly. The sunset in the novel is so very colorful and makes you feel you are right there. Made me remember the actual striking sunrises in the hill town of Montalcino when we visited.

This wonderful book is not a literary tome to be sure. It’s simply a great novel for you to tuck into your beach bag or enjoy on your porch or poolside. It’s well-written and just lovely. You also might appreciate the romantic relationships as they will make you smile.

We have copies of OUR ITALIAN SUMMER by Jennifer Probst at Copperfish Books. The book is in the popular trade paperback version so it’s quite affordable.

The publisher, Berkley, provided a link through Edelweiss for me to read a review copy digitally. Thanks guys.

Copperfish Book Art

I hope you’ll come by and see me at Copperfish Books soon. I’m going back to work in the store next month.

Come Fly The World by Julie Cooke

Come Fly The World

I don’t know about you but when I was a young woman I thought the life of an airline stewardess was not only glamorous but a great way to travel the world. So when I was given the chance to read an early copy of COME FLY THE WORLD by Julia Cooke, I jumped.

COME FLY THE WORLD is a non fiction book about the early years of Pan Am World Airways.

In a Mad Men-Era of commercial flight, Pan Am World Airways attracted the kind of young woman who wanted out, and wanted up. Required to have a college degree, speak two languages, and possess the political savvy of a Foreign Service officer, a jet-age stewardess serving on iconic Pan Am between 1966 and 1975 also had to be between 5’3″ and 5’9, between 105 and 140 pounds, and under 26 years old at the time of hire.” And that’s just the beginning.

So well researched. Cooke truly did her homework and then some. She interviewed amazing retired women who had flown the skies with Pan Am. Their stories shine through in this iconic book. Cooke’s father worked for Pan Am until she was nine. She’s long been wanting to write this book. She tells the story through the eyes of five woman, all stewardesses with Pan Am. All with fascinating journeys to convey.

Historic scenes and famous people abound in this book. Lots of behind the scene true adventures that these women experienced are brought finally to the forefront. They all deserve many accolades for their work.

Here in America we celebrate Women’s History Month in March. Let’s hear it for these amazing women who flew the skies from the beginning.

I had never given a whole lot of thought to all the tasks these stewardesses handled. Not only were they ambassadors for the United States, they performed all sorts of services. Being able to stir a perfect cocktail was just as important as scrambling eggs while in the air. Making passengers comfortable while assuring those first time fliers that all is well with just the right tone….so important for a smooth flight.

Oh how things have changed over the years for the airline industry. Now men are attendants, and people of color. Age requirements have been updated and marriage is not forbidden. Imagine the outrage of those old rules! They would never “Fly” now.

As I was reading the titles of the other books Julia Cooke has written, one title stood out. And I realized I had it on my shelves. THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE is a non fiction account of life in the new Cuba. Published in 2014, this is a great way to read about what it’s like in Cuba nowadays. I just love Cooke’s writing.

My stunning review copy of COME FLY THE WORLD arrived for review from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. Guys, this is so wonderful. I so enjoyed learning what it was truly like to fly the skies through the honest eyes of the very women who did the flying. Opened the skies to the future. Loved the book!

Punta Gorda
Copperfish Books

Copperfish Books has copies of COME FLY THE WORLD on their shelves right this minute. They are new hardcovers and are discounted 20%. You can also purchase a digital copy or even audio if that is your reading preference. Don’t miss this one. You will enjoy every minute of it!

The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

The Kitchen Front

This cover is pristine. What a great entrance for this story.

You may recall Jennifer Ryan’s novel THE CHILLBURY LADIES CHOIR a few years ago. It was a huge success and now she’s back with another novel set in another small village in England.

Two years into WW2 the people of Fenley Village just outside London are exhausted by the war efforts and trying to get by with the meager food rationing that’s taken the country be storm. In hopes to help housewives come up with more recipes in this trying time, the BBC- run cooking show called THE KITCHEN FRONT is running a cooking competition. It will be done in three parts, one month apart. The winner will become the new host, or I should say, hostess, for the show. They decided the man who currently hosts should really be a woman. And, the beauty of this is that there really was a cooking show on BBC back in the day. And some of those real life people are fictionalized here in this novel.

Four women are in contention for the position. A young widow with three small children is barely holding on to the home that has been falling down around her. Her pie baking business is not enough. She needs this position. Her sister is the lady of the manor in town and decides she deserves the position since her husband is so important. The kitchen maid at the manor is quite mouselike but has been taken under the wing of the current head chef. She could be the dark horse. Then out of nowhere, well, actually, from London, comes a truly experienced and trained chef who is hoping to rise to the occasion. But she’s got a secret…

I don’t know about you but we adore the British Baking Show on tv. So this was a refreshing treat of a novel for me. A novel of women fiercely in competition for a big prize. Each deserving and competent in her own way, and each needing to escape some sort of prison.

It truly was challenging bordering on impossible to come up with healthy meals with the rationing during the war. Oft times meat was just not to be found. You had to be truly enterprising. It was quite enlightening, to be honest with you. The recipes are included in the book. I will warn you right now that you are not going to be tempted to try some of them. Whale meat and mushroom pie is not something I would recommend. But the wild mushroom soup sounds divine. The fruit scones and the eggless chocolate sponge cake are on my list to try. Three recipe cards arrived with my review copy and I look forward to trying them out.

Jennifer Ryan gives these characters just enough challenge to make you root for them. Some characters were very likable from the get-go. Others not as much. But by the end of this delightful story the woman all came together, as women truly should, and you will love the end! We especially need upbeat stories like this after the year we’ve muddled through.

THE KITCHEN FRONT is such a soothing read. I read it a few months ago while we were still not doing a lot outside of the house. I needed an uplifting read, something I could recommend to others like myself. Not too light, not too heavy, just right!

Jennifer Ryan was born in Kent, The United Kingdom She grew up listening to her grandmother tell hilarious stories about WW2.

Jennifer Ryan

My gorgeous finished hard cover edition of THE KITCHEN FRONT arrived for review by Ballantine Books. I loved it.

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Look closely at this cover. Makes me wonder what this woman is thinking. Gives you a good sense of the waterfront in Savannah in 1838.

The story begins as an elite family of eleven board the luxury steamship Pulaski in Savannah. They’re headed north to escape the heat of a Southern summer. This is a novel but this family is based on a real one.

Present day; Everly Winthrop, a Savannah history professor, is approached by someone from her past to guest curate a new exhibit. The wreckage of the Pulaski has recently been discovered just off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina. She’s long been curious about the secrets kept hidden beneath the ocean all these years. Has heard stories from her family for her entire life. You can almost feel the beating of her heart quicken as she contemplates this amazing opportunity, even if it is presented by someone very much estranged from her life.

Then we are swept back into history as the families board the ship and begin to settle in. We meet them all. Two women stand out: Augusta Longstreet and her niece, Lilly Forsyth. Augusta is a survivor. Lilly is never found, nor is her child. This is their amazing story.

Dubbed the “Titanic of the South” the Pulaski has pretty much avoided publicity until recently. Now that I know of it I am utterly fascinated and think you will be too.

There is nothing as intriguing as learning history through reading a great novel that has been meticulously researched. This is that novel. There are a lot of “what ifs” inside this story. It’s what keeps the pages flying. We know quickly that Lilly Forsyth is being abused by her rich and well-known husband. Of course it’s all hush-hush.

What happens to the people on board? The scenes after the explosion are harrowing. So realistic I found myself holding my breath. Not since seeing the movie TITANIC have I felt such a sense of urgency in print. Callahan leaves you gasping for air.

Come for this amazing story. Stay for the characters who simply will not let you go! I loved this book. Put it at the top of your to-read list this season.

Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan is the New York Times bestselling author of fiction and short stories. Her most recent book is the wildly popular BECOMING MRS. LEWIS.

My gorgeous finished copy of SURVIVING SAVANNAH by Patti Callahan arrived from Berkley publishing in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it’s over-the-top amazing. Thank you Berkley. Copperfish Books will have copies of SURVIVING SAVANNAH on their shelves tomorrow morning when it goes on sale. They will be discounted 20% and we sure hope you purchase from us. I will be on hand in the store on Friday to hand sell this title. Can’t wait.

Punta Gorda
Copperfish Books

Maurice’s March Madness

We have three important birthdays in our family during March. Emerson, my Asheville granddaughter, is the first. Her big birthday was yesterday. I love this happy picture of her taken on the middle deck at their home. Nice background. My grandson Lucas will be five at the end of the month and my husband Jack will be celebrating his birthday the day after Lucas. More about those guys later this month.

Today is a big day for Copperfish Books and for me at Maurice on Books. Erika Robuck is joining us this afternoon for bookclub. We will be discussing THE INVISIBLE WOMAN. It’s Erika’s newest novel and it’s unbelievably good!

Erika Robuck

Some amazing books coming this month. Today we have VERA by Carol Edgarian. Set in the San Francisco of 1906, complete with the devastating earthquake and consequent fires that destroyed the city. Toss in a brothel and two girls on the run…and you’ve got a sure hit.

Coming next week is the highly anticipated SURVIVING SAVANNAH by Patti Callahan. I am soooo excited.

I’m busy zooming these days and creating lists for commentary for book groups. And the upcoming books keep on coming…

Surviving Savannah

Kiki is pictured above on the top of the cat tree here in my office. We call her the little snorer because, yes, she actually snores. The smallest cat who snores. It’s unusual to be able to snap a photo of elusive Miss Kiki, so this is a treat. She’s great company while working.

The biggest thing I’m looking forward to this month is the time change. I am so excited about it. Longer days. I’m loving watching each evening come later and later. And the mornings are coming earlier. YES!

Vera by Carol Edgarian

Vera

Look closely at this magnificent cover and you’ll see San Francisco, burning. The year is 1906 and the big earthquake has come and gone and left the entire city in flames. People are displaced. Everyone is in turmoil. Some have fled the city and the left- behind are scratching through the rubble and searching for a new way of life.

Vera is the illegitimate daughter of Rose, the most notorious madam in San Francisco. Rose tried unsuccessfully to raise Vera but once the toddler was able to walk and talk even Rose knew a brothel was no place for a child. So she found a nice widow woman with a child Vera’s age to raise her. Then we discover that the nice widow lady is not so nice, is actually mean and has a drinking problem along with a tendency to gamble. So there is that.

The early morning hours of the earthquake that pretty much ended up destroying San Francisco finds Vera wandering the streets of the great city with her so-called sister, trying to make sense of the tragedy and looking for a way out. It dawned on Vera that she must find Rose. Rose could help them. Save them.

The scenes of the devastation are uncanny and seem very realistic and frightening. Rose is nowhere to be found. But then Vera remembers that Rose has a big house on the hill and surely they would be safe there as it was farther from the fires.

Everyone is thrown together as they all flow away from the fires that threaten to destroy everything and everyone in their path. Immigration issues are addressed as we find the Chinese people who were living in the area were struggling to survive even before the disasters.

This is an amazing story of survival and humanity. Great for bookclubs. Wonderful characters to explore. Not to be missed.

My review copy arrived from Scribner in exchange for an honest review. I loved it! You can order your copy from Copperfish Books and receive 20% off. Cheers.