Elaine Newton-Critic’s Choice 2019-20

Critic’s Choice:2019:20

Here it is folks! This is what you’ve been waiting for. The six titles Elaine will be lecturing on this coming season are:

Washington Black

Beginning the lecture season is :

WASHINGTON BLACK by Esi Edugyan ( Thursday, November 14 and Saturday, November 16.

Sigrid Nunez

The Friend


THE FRIEND by Sigrid Nenuz ( Thursday, December 5 and Saturday, December 7)



Sarah Blake

The Guest Book

THE GUEST BOOK by Sarah Blake ( Thursday, January 23 and Saturday, January 25)

Sarah Blake will join Elaine on stage.

Machines Like Me


MACHINES LIKE ME by Ian McEwan ( Thursday, February 13 and Saturday, February 15 )


Sally Rooney

Normal People


NORMAL PEOPLE by Sally Rooney ( Thursday, March 19 and Saturday, March 21 )

Flight Portfolio


Last but not least is THE FLIGHT PORTFOLIO by Julie Orringer ( Thursday, April 9 and Saturday, April 11 ) Julie will join Elaine on stage both days!

There you have it. Your upcoming seasonal lectures with Elaine Newton.


The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel

The Winemaker’s Wife

Champagne, 1940: At the dawn of the Second World War, Inès is the young wife of Michel, owner of the Maison Chauveau, a picturesque champagne house nestled among rolling vineyards near Reims, France. It should be an idyllic life, but Inès–who’s often treated like a child by her husband, his chef de cave, Theo, and Theo’s wife, Céline– is increasingly unhappy. She’s determined to make a change, but then the German’s arrive.”

New York, 2019: Recently divorced Liv Kent has lost everything when her French grandmother arrives unannounced, whisking her off to Paris straightaway.  What Liv’s grandmother  is about to share with her will quickly make her question everything else in her life.

Kristin Harmel

I have long been a fan of Kristin Harmel’s writing. I quickly fell under her spell while reading THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING  some years ago. Then again with WHEN WE MEET AGAIN.  THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE is outstanding and brings yet another side of the Holocaust  more brightly to the surface.

The story begins with a short chapter set in the Champagne country of France in 1940. Then quickly moves to the present day and introduces Liz who is about to make a trip of a lifetime with her 99-year-old French grandmother. I’m in.

There are always secrets embedded in the best novels. This one is no exception. And it’s a whopper. At times I wondered if anyone was really who they thought they were.  Harmel uses the Champagne area of France to tell the story of a group of winemakers during the war that were working to help their country in ways the Germans never suspected. Even the most timid and shy of these people did monumental things to foil the enemy and mostly in plain sight.  All this in a part of the country we have not heard so much about, until now.

Harmel interviewed extensively for this novel. She spoke at length with Isabelle Pierre, the heritage manager for

Veuve Clicquot

Veuve Clicquot, Krug, and Ruinart.  Many other historians offered insight as well.  Many winemakers in the region were involved in the resistance.  They did what they could, even using dirty bottles, bad corks, and second-rate cuvées in Germany-bound shipments.

Did you know that in order to qualify as champagne, a wine must come from the Champagne growing area, less than a hundred miles from Paris in northeastern France?  My husband and I love champagne. Our very favorite is Veuve Clicquot. Ooh la la.

After reading THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE I have been wondering how many hidden stashes of wine and spirits are still buried in areas throughout the war zones of Europe. It’s a fascinating thought.  I also can’t help but wonder how many identities were switched, how many families are living lies today. It’s so much food for thought.

We, at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida, have been very lucky to have had Kristin grace our bookshop twice with her new books.  We are so pleased that Kristin will be showing off her new book, THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE, at a special wine event with us in November. I will keep you posted about time and date. And, yes there will be bubbly!

We at Copperfish Books will have copies of THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE for sale on pub date, Tuesday, August 13. They will be discounted 20%.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

My gorgeous hardcopy was furnished by the very generous publishing people at Gallery Books a division of Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Of course, I loved it! You will too. Thanks, guys.



Maurice’s August Musings


Bright orange ixora plants are bursting with color this month.  I’ve been taking advantage of their multitude by keeping fresh cuttings on the kitchen counter.

August is being ushered in with storms that come at any given time of the day or night. Most mornings have arrived with distant rumblings and even great downpours. I truly feel as if I live in the tropics this summer.

I’m reading some great stuff.  Just posted my review of THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY by Mary Doria Russell.

The Women of the Copper Country

An absolutely stunning adaptation of life in Michigan in the copper mines. Loved it!

Olive, Again

OLIVE, AGAIN by Elizabeth Strout is coming in October. You are in for a treat. I love this cranky old woman named Olive Kitteridge and was happy to have her back!

My husband Jack and I took our six-year-old granddaughter, Alana, shopping for back to school supplies. How fun was that? I really am kicking myself for not getting a photo of her as her sisters had dressed her up and plopped a unicorn tiara on her lovely head.

Unicorn Backpack

I’ll be doing the back to school shopping again next week, this time with the Asheville grandkids.

Writing candle






My daughter gave me this lovely inspirational candle for Christmas. With its divine aroma it’s perfect for setting the tone. I’ve been lighting it a lot lately.

Have I put a book aside recently? I have. I am cringing even writing this. Ugh. Sadly, THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett didn’t do it for me.  I carefully set it aside after 200 pages. To tell you the honest truth, I was bored to death.  I am a Patchett fan, but not of all her books. This one, not so much.

Jack and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at an unlikely venue. Unlikely for a celebration. At 7:45 P.M. on July 23 we were at Viscaya-Prado Animal Hospital with our senior cat, Siena, who we call Tiny. She is twelve and very sweet. But she was sick and so off we went. They gave her a  shot to fix her up. Bladder infection. We got Chinese food and made a big cocktail and called it a successful night. Cheers! Priorities change over the years.

The Winemaker’s Wife

One of my favorite authors, Kristin Harmel, releases her new novel, THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE next week. I am wild about this book. In this year filled and overflowing with WW11 books, this is the stand out. Kristin has honed her craft and brings  a novel of France and its wine country to the table. Her ability to infuse her stories with memorable characters continues to shine here. Review next week.

Quasi Maximus

I tried to enlarge part of this photo so you could actually see the HUGE lizard behind our house near the canal. We have named him Quasi Maximus. He is deserving of the title since he’s so much larger than the smaller one from last year. My husband saw him first.  I ran to the lanai and got this picture. Honestly, he was  five feet long and fat. In our backyard. Ugly, too. And he sure can run.

We’ve been watching YELLOWSTONE on television this summer. Have fallen head over heels for it and now I am ready to visit cowboy country in a big way.

Summertime in S.W. Florida always seems to fly by. This summer is no exception. I already have bookclub leaders checking in making sure they are booked for the upcoming season.  You know I’m reading far ahead. You know you can count on me to bring you all the amazing information about great books.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We, at Copperfish Books, are also working hard behind the scenes to bring you extraordinary events throughout the upcoming season. Just wait until you hear our line-up. Happy reading!

Life And Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

Life And Other Inconveniences

Looking at this cover  you might think you are about to begin reading a very light, maybe even silly, romance novel. Well, nope, you would be wrong.

I had not read Kristan Higgins before accepting this novel for review.  My copy is a bound manuscript and has no pretty cover. Sometimes that is for the best. Certainly this time.

Emma London is living in Chicago and raising her sixteen-year-old daughter singlehandedly. Well, there is her maternal grandfather, Paul, who took her in all those years ago when she was kicked out of her other kingdom.  It’s a long story, so let’s shorten it.   What other kingdom? The one where her paternal grandmother, Genevieve London, ruled the roost.  And Gigi decided Emma would have to fend for herself now that she had  gotten herself pregnant.

Emma has worked hard. Taken the best care of her daughter, Riley. And now is  a respected therapist with a solid education as her foundation.  But suddenly everything changes on a dime. Genevieve calls after sixteen years. Wants to meet her granddaughter, and wants Emma to come”home.” Why? She’s dying of cancer…

Emma gives Riley the option: go spend the summer with her great grandmother, or not. So off they go with Paul tagging along. Paul is convinced it’s all some sort of sham and he’s totally not a fan of Gigi.

This novel is chocked full of unbridled hatred, grief, humor, pride, and hope.  The story has tension. It’s even got a mystery at its core.  It’s perfect for end of summer.

You want to hate Genevieve. Oh, I did for a while. Then you find she has good reason to be mean and stubborn and opinionated. But Riley sees through this and they become fast friends.  The past has a way of biting us in the butt. A lot of butt- biting in this novel.

I almost forgot to tell you that Genevieve London became a very famous designer, of both fashion and home-goods. After her youngest son disappeared and her husband died of grief, she dragged herself from the pit of misery she was in and forced her energy into making a company into one of the largest and most successful in the world.  So, there’s that.

With a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, this novel will get noticed.  It’s not heavy, but it’s not light, either. It’s really well-written. I think the first half is stronger than the last. But these characters will resonate with you for a long time. I think Higgins is at the top of her writing game.

Kristan Higgins

My review copy arrived from Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Great for tossing in your beach bag. Just do it!

The Women Of The Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell

The Women of the Copper Country

THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY by Mary Doria Russell, is simply not to be missed!  This is book club fodder in a big way.

This novel is doused with history. Filled with wonderfully strong women. Seasoned with truth and  brought to life through tireless research. I love to learn through reading a great novel. That is what this is: a great novel.

I kept thinking of my friend Linda while I read as this novel takes place in her home state of Michigan. Russell takes us back to a time when the copper mines were alive and filled with immigrants who arrived on our shores ripe for work and filled with hope for a better future.

It’s 1913 in Calumet, Michigan. Life is very good for those at the top of the chain. However, most are far from the top and struggle to make enough money to feed their families let alone get ahead in this harsh world of mining.  The miners work underground from dark to dark, hardly ever seeing the light of day. The working conditions in the mine are deplorable. Most miners do not live long lives. And even those few that do are riddled with arthritis and deformed from the working conditions. The women of the Copper Country lead torturous existences. Their work is both backbreaking and filled with mental anguish.

Calumet Copper Mind

Big Annie Clements

Annie Clements is twenty-five-years-old when the novel opens. She’s spent her life in Calumet watching the miners work themselves to death. Annie is based on a real woman who marched for change. All Annie wanted was to make sure the miners and their families got an honest wage for honest work. So she got involved with the union.

There are scenes in this novel that will take  your breath away. For those of you who already know this history, you may know what is coming. I did not. I feared this novel might read too much like a history book. Fear not. It’s just wonderful. The writing is smooth and will keep the pages moving because you become so involved with the lives of the characters. I had to keep reminding myself that most of this actually happened. OMG. How much can a human endure?

The general manager of the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company is James MacNaughton.  A more convincing villain does not exist. I hated him right off the bat.  He truly believes that Europe is gleefully exporting its wretched refuse to America.  When a tragedy occurs involving some of the miners, he turns his head.

Meanwhile, Annie is relentless and has amassed an army of women who are just as determined as she is to make their lives better.  Challenging times. Trying to organize a union in the Copper Country is all but impossible…

Eva Savicki starts out as a love-sick teenager mooning over young Jack Kivisito who is also just a teen. He, at first, tries to avoid her. She is relentless. But by the time the story evolves everything has changed.

Come for the story, but you’ll stay for the wonderful reading experience that Russell provides. You might just learn a lot.

Mary Doria Russell

Mary Doria Russell is not new to novel writing. She’s graced the reading public with six novels, and now this new one. If you haven’t read her before, this is a great way to start!

We will have copies of this amazing new novel at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida. Pub date is August 6. They will be discounted 20% off.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

My beautiful finished hard cover of THE WOMEN OF THE COPPER COUNTRY arrived via the generous publishing house of Atria in exchange for an honest review. This novel is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Cheers!


See You In The Piazza by Frances Mayes

Meet Me In The Piazza

I’m always excited to see a new book by Frances Mayes. I love her travel writing. SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA  is about a trip Frances and her husband Ed took through parts of Italy they had not seen yet.  Their teen-age grandson joins them for a part of this journey.

Discovering new places in Italy certainly gets my heart thumping.  And these small places are mostly off the beaten path. I like that.  Taking a year and a half  to mosey through the backroads of a country I love, well, let’s go!

Frances Mayes

Frances Mayes won my heart and millions of others with her first memoir, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. Even the movie was just super. I still watch it on occasion.  Like me, Frances has grown older. And, of course, much wiser.  But she still has a home in Tuscany, the home she calls Bramasole.  She just decided that it was time to see the “rest” of this gorgeous country.


Before driving north to explore Piedmont , they stop at Porta Palazzo Market in Turin, the largest open-air market in Europe. I was totally up for this. Nothing like a great open-air market. A great start to your arm-chair travel.

Porta Palazzo

Torino is the real starting off point. And from there the movement is south.

Frances peppers the book with recipe favorites from each area. This is a big plus for me. You will also discover that pasta is not just pasta in Italy. Each small district makes their own very unique pasta.  We love to cook and found while we traveled through Italy that the recipes are not only delicious but simple, for the most part.

Included throughout are suggestions for traveling off the beaten path.  This is especially helpful for those of you who are shy about trying a new direction in another country.  I have done this time and time again while traveling in Italy and have always found the local people to be both welcoming and delightful. We have even been asked to share meals over the years.

Frances advises you to travel light as luggage is always a burden. I know over the years I have learned to pare down the bags. I can pack for several weeks in a carry on bag. Yes, you can too.

As I read through this book I found myself reminiscing about trips past.  All good. In fact, I’m working on some posts for the blog about my trips over the past few years. To post soon.

I have one criticism. And I hate to even bring it up. But I can’t help myself. Yes, Frances and Ed can afford the finer things in life. The inns and hotels they stay at are fitted with fine linen. The tables they dine at are all clothed in crisp cloth.   Everything is top notch and expensive. And this is wonderful for those who can well afford both the time and the money. However, I would have enjoyed finding a few places that were pure joy without being a drain on the pocket book. I know it can be done. Just sayin.’

I love good travel writing. I can go along and never leave the comfort of my reading chair by my window to the world. Frances does know how to bring it all to my little portion of the world. Thanks Frances. I look forward to your next adventure!

My gorgeous finished copy of SEE YOU IN THE PIAZZA was provided by Crown Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, what a great book for your summer reading. Loved it!

Chances Are by Richard Russo

Chances Are

Here comes Pulitzer Prize winning author,  Richard Russo, with yet another masterpiece!  More than ten years have passed  since Russo last graced us with a stand alone novel. CHANCES ARE is worth every minute of the wait, and then some.

Three sixty-six year old men meet for a long weekend reunion in September on Martha’s Vineyard.   It’s been forty years since their last meeting, a time that has been frozen in each of their minds. Something happened that Memorial Day weekend that changed them.

Who are these three men? Lincoln is a commercial real estate agent who just might need to sell the Vineyard home his mother left him because he really needs the money. Teddy is the publisher at a small press who has mental issues. Mickey is an aging musician who’s been married a couple of unsuccessful times.  They each have secrets.  All three loved one young woman: Jacy Rockafellow.  And where is she now? That’s the hundred thousand dollar question as no one has seen Jacy since that Memorial Day weekend forty years ago.

Forty years ago Lincoln, Mickey and Teddy were attending a liberal arts college on the East Coast.  That’s where they met and fell in love with Jacy.  Even though she was engaged to a guy named Vance at the time, they each thought they would be THE one to win her affection.

This novel is such a treat in so many ways. Men’s friendships are complicated. They don’t usually bare their souls to each other. They know how to keep secrets.  Russo is the king of writing about men’s feelings. He’s gone above and beyond here.

This novel brought back so many memories. There is a scene while the guys are in college. It’s Viet Nam era.  Early evening and the three are doing chores when they take a break to sit in front of the little black and white tv. A very important moment in history, one that changed my life and the lives of so many others. The draft numbers were about to be announced.   The tension in the air was palpable. I imagine they could practically hear each other’s heart beats slamming in their chests.  In this case, one of the three is given a number that is very low meaning his chances of going to war are a given. So, what were your choices? Serve your country. Flee to Canada? Life changing.

I found CHANCES ARE to be wonderfully engaging, troubling, mysterious, page-turning, and most of all filled with the gorgeous writing of an author I have come to love. I give this novel an A+.

Richard Russo

My finished copy of CHANCES ARE by Richard Russo came from Knopf a division of Penguin Random House publishing, in exchange for an honest review.  I did so love this novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Both men and women are going to eat it up!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

You can get your copy of CHANCES ARE by Richard Russo tomorrow at Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida.  We have a stack that won’t last long and they’re marked at 20% off. Come on up, or come on down, we want to see you and talk books!