Great Novels Coming This Season

Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah  hits the shelves in February 2018. I was one of the lucky ones who have a review copy. I will publish my review much closer to pub date, but, I am here to tell you it is dynamite!!

Melanie Benjamin

The Girls In The Picture

January brings us the newest historical novel from Melanie Benjamin. Haven’t read it yet but, I’m about to.

Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach

MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer Egan is going to be on every bookclub’s list this season! My review will pub soon. I loved it. Comes out next month.

Isabelle Allende

In The Midst Of Winter

IN THE MIDST OF WINTER is coming out the end of October. She is back with a novel in present -day Brooklyn and Guatamala, then in 1970 Chile and Brazil.

Laura Lee Smith

The Ice House

I absolutely adored Smith’s first novel HEART IF PALM. She’s back with what looks like another winner. Love the cover. Soon.

As you can see there are many great new titles coming out in the next few months. And this is only a smattering of them. I will post more covers soon. Don’t want to overwhelm anyone.

I’m reading heartily now that our community has gotten back to almost normal. While the storm was coming, then while it was here, and then after, reading and concentrating was impossible. Impending doom is not a good situation. But now I’m feeling more like myself and reading and reading and reading. I hope you are too!

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Peppers Of The Americas by Maricel E. Presilla

peppers

Peppers of the Americas

This gorgeous big book all about peppers includes unique and powerful recipes for all you lovers of heat out there.

As Presilla details, peppers bring much more than fire to the plate. Their distinct flavors–fruity, sweet, floral, herbal–add nuance and depth to cooking that no other ingredient can conjure. Here, Presilla describes nearly 200 varieties of fresh and dried peppers, each one photographed to showcase it’s distinguishing features. Information on how to grow, buy, store, process, and cook peppers now available in markets everywhere. More than 40 pepper-forward recipes for everything from ground dried pepper blends, piquant vinegars, bright sauces and lively sides to memorable main dishes round out Presilla’s tribute to this inimitable ingredient. 

I love this book. It’s a great addition to our kitchen library and will make a great gift during the upcoming holidays for those on your list who love food and cooking.

My finished copy of PEPPERS OF THE AMERICAN’S arrived from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, I think it’s a must-have for those of us foodies! Published by Ten Speed Press.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

The year is 1997. The setting is Shaker Heights an affluent suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The Richardson family consists of mom and dad and four high-school age teenagers.  They’ve been living a near perfect life of privilege all their lives. Shaker Heights is a planned community that works well for Elena Richardson who likes everything planned. All is well until that certain summer when single mother Mia rolls into town with her 15-year-old daughter Pearl.

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”

What a first sentence! Wow.  If that won’t grab you, I don’t know what will. I was off and running right off the bat.

Mia Warren is one of those modernist artists with a mysterious past. .  She’s quite talented but something is very wrong with this picture.  She’s been moving from town to town with her daughter ever since her daughter’s birth. They drive an ancient VW Rabbit which they stuff with all their worldly possessions each time they move on.  Of course I was wild to know what was going on.  Pearl is shy but quite smart.

The Richardson family consists of  Elena Richardson and her husband. He’s a lawyer; she writes for the local paper. Elena has inherited the family home from her parents. Lexi, Moody, and Trip seem to be pretty normal teens. But Isabele, the one they call Izzy, is a problem child the likes you’ve rarely seen in novels.  The outcome of this novel leans heavily on her.

Mia rents a house from Elena and begins working as a housekeeper for them. Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson kids and the so the two families become enmeshed.

Izzy finds solace by spending time with Mia. Izzy has never had a good relationship with her mother and things have gotten even more strained lately.  In Mia, Izzy finds someone who is caring and sympathetic.  And Pearl gets closer to Moody. In fact, they become fast friends who are rarely seen apart. Until one day Trip and Pearl begin something they can’t stop.

When one of Elena’s close friends becomes involved in a heated custody battle over a Chinese baby, that’s when this story moves into a higher realm. Each family takes a side.  And the dynamic changes.

Filled with old secrets, moral issues of abortion and surrogacy, and adoption, this novel is bound to become one of the big ones for book clubs this season and far into the future.

Told in different perspectives, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE becomes a real page-turner.  It’s a great follow-up to her debut novel, EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU.

Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio.  I can’t wait to read her next novel.

My review copy came from Penguin Press. I really enjoyed it!

Should We Stay Or Should We Go

A few weeks ago when hurricane Harvey barreled into Texas and stalled over Houston for almost a week, I said to my husband, ” If a storm of this magnitude points its finger at us, we’re leaving. Period. End of discussion.” And he agreed.  Then along came Irma, charging at Florida and the speculation began. Where is it going to land?  It never really wavered much. I had friends who flew out of town days before landfall. And many others who were on the fence, not knowing what to do. Should we stay or should we go? That was the question on many pairs of lips.

hurricane

Hurricane Irma

Some would ask, ” Why on earth would you stay if you knew how dangerous it was going to be?” People have their own reasons for staying or leaving. I’ve long ago learned not to question it. If you have lived in Florida for any length of time you know that these storms can do the switch game at the very last second. And that is what this storm did. Many of us had let our guard down after being led to believe Irma was heading to the east coast of Florida. So, many of us stayed.  Then the broadcasters started to freak out and told people late on Saturday night to go to Lehigh Acres or even to the east coast to get away. They kept saying, ” You still have time to leave.” And if people had heeded that warning they might still be stuck in areas that are in deep trouble . Lehigh is buried in feet of water with no power and no way to get in or out of their community.

So what was I doing on Sunday when the power went out? We had spent the day before preparing our “panic” room.  Knowing the storm would be hurling at us from the northeast we chose a room with a huge walk-in closet on the other side of the house. We made a cozy nest that was almost totally sound proof.  We left the door to the room open so the kitties could wander in and out. Actually found our oldest cat sound asleep on a cushion in the dark in the closet. We moved two cat trees in the room and covered the inside of the one window with a large box spring mattress. Perfect. We had plenty of food and water and had stocked the freezer and fridge with plastic baggies filled with water to keep the cold food cold longer.

The power went out around one in the afternoon. And it did not come back on until Monday afternoon at six. I have two grown sons with families living nearby. We were able to keep in touch with our phones.  I knew precisely where the eye of the storm was and when it went over Naples and began crashing and pounding down 41, a main highway.  At one point before we went into the hiding space, I stood and watched the winds swirling and pushing huge amounts of rain down the middle of our street. Trees bent double.  And the noise. Imagine the sounds of a freight train for almost five hours. Thank God we could not hear it in the “room.”

We truly believed it was hopeless. It just seemed as if the storm was coming right at the Cape. We were imagining the storm surge which they had assured us over and over again would be over nine feet from street level. We were terrified. I know you probably thought what a great time to read. I could not concentrate on anything but the storm. So I played solitaire on my ipad and my husband played angry birds. The cats slept safely.

When we got the word that the storm was jogging slightly to the east as it passed Estero we began to be hopeful. Then we heard the eye was over Lehigh, the place we had been told to go for safety…. We could feel the storm turning. Eerie. We left the safe room because the noise was then coming from that direction. Two hours later the storm began to lessen and quiet. The winds continued through the night, but we knew it had passed. We did not leave the house. But we sipped a glass of wine by candlelight and breathed a sigh of relief. Still, knowing there could be surge of sorts and being on a canal, my husband listened to the radio before we went to bed. They said there would be no surge in our area.  I can not tell you the magnitude of our relief. No words.

My daughter says it was just as awful for her in Asheville, North Carolina. She could have lost her entire family. She had such a sense of hopelessness. It was an awful day for her too.

As soon as the sun came up the next morning my youngest son Mike arrived with French Press in hand. He and my husband Jack moved the BBQ grill to the patio and we made coffee.  Swapped stories and planned the day ahead. Later we walked the neighborhood and looked at the damage. Lots of foliage all over the place. Across the canal a couple tall palms down. Shingles on the lawns. We lost our mail box. Boo Hoo. We are so lucky. Even the pool cage sustained no damage. The pool is an unusual shade of green even now, but this is expected. The breezes throughout the day kept us pretty comfortable.  We laid on the lounge chairs on the lanai and it was okay. At six the power came on. Mike brought his family over. His wife Ana cooked us a big dinner. And we celebrated life and what is important in the big picture.

I read somewhere that hurricanes come to keep us humble. It rang a bell with me. I felt really humble. I looked around the house at one point right before the storm hit and discovered that not much was important. Family and our beloved pets. Friends. Our lives.

In the days since the storm we’ve gotten the internet back and even mail delivery.  UPS delivered a book. Normal. But there are still so many people without power, here on the Cape and in Lee County. I have many friends in Naples who are still dark. It could be a very long time for them to regain power.  My son told me we would be one of the first to get power because we share the same grid as the hospital. He sure was right.  I thank God.

Those of you living in our area who have gone through this storm feel free to leave messages and tell me about your experience. It helps to talk.

 

Late Winner Posting!

Jan Karon

To Be Where You Are

I was really under the weather in S.W. Florida on Monday. So I missed posting the winner of my giveaway. Please forgive me… But now that I my internet connection is up and running again..

Jill Ducatman, you are my winner today!! Congrats. Please send me  your mailing address which I will get right off to the publisher. Depending on where you live and what your weather is and has been, your book will come in a timely manner. If you are here in Florida you may see some delay. But it will come.

Thank you all for entering. And a big thanks to the generous people at Putnam and Penguin Random House for supplying this great novel. Cheers!

A Column Of Fire by Ken Follett

Ken Follett

Column of Fire

How exciting to discover a third book, a huge third book, in The Kingsbridge  Series. You will remember the first two books: PILLARS OF THE EARTH and WORLD WITHOUT END.  Historical fiction at its finest! Ken Follet

Follett, Ken

is the undisputed king of historical fiction. And, he’s back.

A COLUMN OF FIRE begins in 1558 in the shadow of the Kingsbridge Cathedral.  Ned Willard has come home. And he’s finding everything has changed. He’s a grown man of eighteen. He’s ached for his home and missed his mother far more than a young man might.  He’s anxious to see the love of his life: Margery.  But  Margery’s family is of a different faith and they have other plans for her that do not include Ned.  And thus the religious clash begins. You see, Margery and her family are Catholic to the last hair on their heads. While Ned is protestant and always shall be. Doomed.

Elizabeth I takes the throne and Ned becomes a very close advisor and eventually works as a big part of England’s first secret service. Boy did they need it. If someone wasn’t plotting to assassinate the queen someone else was being burned at the stake for being a heretic.  As I was reading this novel it dawned on me one morning that we have not come all that far in this world. Burning at the stake and chopping heads off for religious reasons. Decapitating and hijacking planes and plowing into buildings killing thousands of innocent people is how it’s all done nowadays. All in the name of religion. I don’t get it. I never will.

The families involved in this story are easy to become engrossed with. Treachery, spying, heretics, religious zealots.  Love affairs.  Children born out of wedlock. Revenge. All things that make for a great read. Plus, Follett brings us many true historical characters to bring even more value to the page.

The battle scenes between Spain and England were outrageous.  Vast and action-packed.  I felt as if I were onboard. Literally.

After reading this novel I’m not sure I can say who I think was the cruelest religion. But it sure seemed like the Catholics with their burning at the stake won the prize. However, the Protestants did their share of murdering as well.  It’s a bloody mess. But it’s an interesting rendering.

As the book ended I got the impression that Follett might take this series to another level.  I would guess there might be a number four in this amazing series. I sure hope so.

I received my gorgeous finished copy from Viking Publishers. I am deeply grateful.

 

 

Last Update

I will not be posting again until after the storm. Could be a while. By now everyone knows S.W. Florida is going to get a direct hit by Irma. People are making comments on Facebook and other social media sights that are uncalled for. We all need to pray and be nice. We are in this together. I am enjoying the cool air conditioning right this minute and not liking the thought of the heat without it.

Our local media are doing an amazing job. And they will keep us up to date on the storm until we have no power. That’s the part I’m not looking forward to. Now the storm is expected to fully impact us in the darkness of night. I hate that. Trying to stay calm.  A lot of friends and loved ones nearby. I pray we all stay safe.  Can you believe it, I can concentrate enough to read. Sad. Amen