Three Big Books I’m On The Fence About

The Lincoln Highway

Why on earth would I be on the fence about anything Amor Towles writes? I loved THE RULES OF CIVILITY and I absolutely loved A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. I enjoy the actual reading of the man’s writing. He’s got a gift. Jenna chose THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY for her bookclub pick. It’s a great choice for men and women. For me, I just did not get caught up in the story.

Matrix

Lauren Groff is not everyone’s cup of tea, not by a long shot. I found her FATES AND FURIES to be captivating and witty with strong and unusual characters. I really liked it. MATRIX is nothing like anything else she’s written. It’s possibly the darkest novel I’ve read in a long, long time. I did not make it through….. So there is that. I tried.

Harlem Shuffle

I am a fan of Colson Whitehead. His last two books definitely deserved to win all the great awards that they did. I have heard him speak about writing this novel. It is good. It’s certainly a different kind of a novel than the ones before it. Once again, just not my cup of tea. It’s a crime novel and I read some of those. This one just didn’t tickle my fancy.

So, there you have it. This fall is filled with books by famous big authors. I had to come to terms with the fact that I can not love them all. There are so many wonderful novels coming down the book avenue in the next six months. Amazing reads that deserve to be read. I will keep you abreast of them.

I welcome your thoughts on these books. We all can’t love the same books all the time. My job as I see it is to let you know how I really feel about the books I read. The best book discussions begin with disagreement. So I would love to hear what your thoughts are…..

Meanwhile, there’s a great little book coming out next week. I can’t wait to blog about it. Stay tuned.

2021 The Best American Travel Writing

I’ve always been a sucker for travel writing. I can be transported immediately to any place on earth in a matter of minutes by picking up a book and reading. So when the opportunity to review the most recent Best Of American Travel Writing came along, it was an easy decision to make. It didn’t hurt seeing that Padma Lakshmi was editing this edition.

This cover immediately gave me pause, reason enough to want to dive right in. The colors and suggestion of places other than my own back yard, brought a smile to my face. Let’s face it, we haven’t been traveling much lately. Most of us have not traveled outside the U.S. in well over a year. And we might not for sometime to come. But, we can travel anywhere through great writing and this edition is stuffed with entertaining, vivid, and engrossing locales peppered across the globe. And the grand thing is that ALL the writing is absolutely stellar.

The book begins with a Foreword by the Series Editor, Jason Wilson, who asks himself , exactly what is a travel writer who cannot travel? He goes on to explain where he was supposed to be traveling and how he now writes mostly in the past tense which so sums it up since we’ve been stuck at home.

Padma Lakshmi writes the introduction. She eases us into our new “normal” and gives us tidbits of information on many of the essays in this book. The first one is titled: Inside the Nightmare Voyage of the Diamond Princess. I didn’t think I really wanted to hear about it since everyone was taken on that journey for weeks on end at the beginning of the pandemic. However, I am delighted to say I found myself riveted to each page.

Paul Theroux pens an essay about times he’s spent all over the world during different sorts of lock downs. His prose is just so darned compelling.

Bill Buford remembers living in Lyon and becoming a baker. He’s another great who writes like a dream.

I could go on and on but, you can definitely get your travel fix while reading this entertaining book as you travel around the world and escape to many exotic locales. This is a book to keep on your nightstand. Open it to any chapter and quickly bring a smile to your face.

My review copy was sent in exchange for an honest review. I love it ! Sending many thanks to the great publishing people at Mariner Books, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers. Thanks a bunch!

Maurice Muses About October

Mimi’s Halloween

I was attempting to capture a photo of our idea of decorating for Halloween when our Mimi hopped onto the table and became the star attraction!

It’s a very quiet Saturday afternoon on our street. I love quiet. Peace and quiet are so welcome right now as we’ve had our share of drama the past weeks. Wyatt was rushed to the animal hospital a couple weeks ago and treated immediately for a urinary blockage. We are so grateful for the wonderful staff at Viscaya-Prado Animal Hospital. Their swift diagnosis saved our guy’s life. Three days later we brought him home. He was thrilled to be home. So happy. Then Great Aunt Tiny and Kiki, our two seal point Siamese, came down with some crazy stomach issue. Today is the first day in a while that every cat seems to be back to normal. We can only pray they stay well.

What am I reading right now? I have five books to read before my first speaking engagement of the season: first week in November.

I’m reading OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS by Gary Shteyngart. This author has a great sense of humor and writes with literary intent. This novel takes place at a manor house surrounded by Cottages in the countryside of New York. It takes place about a year ago when city folk were wild to get out of, well, the city. A gathering of unique characters and a family spend six months together during the pandemic.

Most of the BIG books this fall are written by men. This intrigues me as most years it’s difficult for me to find more than one or two books by male authors to add to my lists. I’m so pleased to have these additions this year. But I have to warn you, you might not be thrilled with all of them. Just saying.

I received some very good news lately. My daughter and her family from Asheville are coming for Thanksgiving. They’ve rented a house near us where we can all congregate for dinner. And they’re bringing their delightful dog, Willow.

I’ve read some really good books lately. Some are not going to be available until after the New Year and some not until Spring. I can’t wait to tell you all about them. I also, just yesterday, received a bound manuscript of a book not coming out until next summer. That is really jumping the gun.

People have been asking about THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY by Amor Towles.

The Lincoln Highway

I will post a spotlight about THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY later this coming week.

I am really looking forward to seeing people in person again, soon. It’s been a long time and I have so many books to talk about. To show off. To share.

There is a little something in the air these days. Could it possibly be a hint that the dog days filled with heat and humidity are finally coming to an end? Not yet, soon.

Mike’s magnificent sunflowers.

How I do love these statuesque and oh-so-happy sunflowers. My son Mike and his family have turned their yard into a paradise of plants and tropical trees. I have to say these sunflowers just scream happiness to me. Always make me smile. And remind me that we live in an area where it is perpetually summer……

Cheers to all you readers that keep me smiling and reading. I can’t wait to see you in the coming months!

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Cloud Cuckoo Land
Cloud Cuckoo Land

Anthony Doerr produces masterpieces. His last one appeared as ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, a marvelous epic novel filled with unforgettable characters and locales. He won a Pulitzer for it. As well he should have! I’ve been waiting for Doerr’s next novel. So when I started hearing chatter about it last year, well, I was excited.

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND is nothing like ALL THE LIGHT WE CAN NOT SEE. It will surely appeal to a broad audience. I see adults reading it. I see teens reading it. This is a vivid and magical story for all.

The story is told in three time periods. Get ready for it: Konstance opens up the story. She’s fourteen and sitting on the floor of a vault in a space ship named The Argos that is hurdling through space to escape earth; headed to the future, 2146.

We then meet Zeno in Idaho in 2020. He’s eighty-years-old and leading a rehearsal for a play about an ancient manuscript. He’s in the library in a small town with a group of young people. And we hook up with a troubled teenager named Seymour. Seymour is devastated because a group of developers are plowing over his world to build on it. He’s come to the library with a backpack filled with explosives.

We meet Anna who is a young orphan girl tending her sick sister on one side of Constantinople way back in 1439. Yes, a long time ago. And we meet Omeir, a boy born with what we now know is a cleft palate. You can only imagine his plight.He is only really able to relate to his two oxen named Tree and Moonlight.

You are now wondering what any of these people could possibly have in common. There is an ancient Greek manuscript in the middle of all this. The author was a real person but, the book is contrived by Doerr. The author is Antonius Diogenes. A book within a book.

I was dazzled by the virtual library onboard the Argos. I found myself engrossed in the ancient city of Constantinople with all its mysteries.

We are all connected by the desire for survival. Each character has their own unbelievable challenge. With short, concise chapters, Doerr brings their story into our world. Through the miracle and magic of reading and books, we come together to celebrate reading and the joy and knowledge it brings.

Nan Graham

Nan Graham is Anthony Doerr’s editor at Simon and Schuster. I loved hearing her speak about Tony and the new novel.

author
Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr dedicates his new novel to all the librarians; past, present, and future.

I received a review copy of CLOUD CUCKOO LAND months ago from the very generous publishing people at Simon and Schuster. I also received a gorgeous finished hardcopy just the other day. What a wonderful edition for the collection. Thanks so much Simon and Schuster!

The Duchess by Wendy Holden

The Duchess

If you’re a fan of DOWNTON ABBEY and all things Royal, you will want to check out Wendy Holden’s newest novel. I know I’ve long been intrigued with the legend of Wallis Simpson who caused such a shocking upset within the royal family. She was no beauty yet she changed the history of the English royal landscape. To think a king gave up his throne for her. That’s amazing. Holden puts a twist on the story that you are going to enjoy.

THE DUCHESS is the second book about what Holden calls “difficult women” in the House of Windsor. The first book was THE ROYAL GOVERNESS, about a young woman who taught the queen. These two books have no connection so can be read solo. And what is very exciting is that Holden is now working on a third called THE PRINCESS that will be about the early life of Diana, Princess of Wales. OMG! I can not wait.

What a treat to discover Wendy Holden. Looking forward to her next book.

Wendy Holden

I love when there is a readers guide at the back of the book and there is one in THE DUCHESS.

My review copy was sent digitally through Netgalley and Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House. Perfect for lovers of historical fiction.https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/652958/the-duchess-by-wendy-holden/

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

The Santa Suit

A good holiday book is not easy to come by. A GREAT one is rare. Mary Kay Andrews surprises us with this wonderful Christmas caper filled with hope and joy and love!

I didn’t know what to think when I heard what the title was going to be. I shouldn’t have been skeptical because Mary Kay never disappoints. She has so outdone herself with THE SANTA SUIT. This small book is so big on happy and has put a big smile on my face. It has also forced me to come to the conclusion that Christmas is truly right around the corner. Folks, it’s almost here.

Mary Kay Andrews
Mary Kay Andrews

Ivy Perkins has been cheated on by her husband her best friend. Kicked to the curb and now is on her own. Even the very successful marketing business she had with her husband is not doing her any favors. So, she throws caution to the wind and buys an old farmhouse in NC sight unseen. Off she goes with her dog and what belongings she can cram into her car; on the journey of a lifetime.

I love everything about this story. The characters are genuine and kind. The love interest is perfect: good looking but in a rough way, a real woman pleaser. All the quaint small-town people who love nothing more than to keep the Christmas season up and running as they have for many years.

The old farmhouse is definitely a character in and of itself. And as Ivy begins settling in I found myself thinking what a great idea to make this move.

With everything we have all had going on for almost two years now, I think it’s time for a holiday book like this. We need it now more than ever. It’s already put me in the mood for the upcoming holiday festivities, meals, and get togethers. I think you’re going to love it. It’s simply, well, cheerful!

I read this sweet story digitally through Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press. So you can imagine how wonderful it was to receive a finished hardcover of THE SANTA SUIT from the publisher. Thanks St. Martin’s.

The Speckled Beauty by Rick Bragg

The Speckled Beauty


Speck is not a good boy. He is a terrible boy, a defiant, self-destructive, often malodorous boy, a grave robber and screen door moocher who spends his days playing chicken with the Fed Ex man, picking fights with thousand-pound livestock, and rolling in donkey manure, and his nights howling at the moon. He has been that way since the moment he appeared on the ridgeline behind Rick Bragg’s house, a starved and half-dead creature, seventy-six pounds of wet hair and poor decisions.

Speck arrived in Rick’s life at a moment of looming uncertainty. A cancer diagnosis, chemo, kidney failure, and recurring pneumonia had left Rick lethargic and melancholy. Speck helped, and he is helping, still, when he is not peeing on the rose of Sharon. Written with Bragg’s inimitable blend of tenderness and sorrow, humor and grit, The Speckled Beauty captures the extraordinary, sustaining devotion between two damaged creatures who need each other to h
e
al.

Rick Bragg

The two paragraphs above capture the essence of Rick Bragg’s new book, perfectly. They are taken from Goodreads.

I love Rick Bragg. In fact, I might go so far as to say he is my favorite writer living today. Why? He always makes me laugh. He always tells me a story I can relate to. He is not afraid to make fun of himself. And he brings so much rightness to the page. His last book called WHERE I COME FROM had me in stitches, laughing so hard tears were flowing down my face like a faucet turned on full. I loved every moment of it. The book before that was cooking/biography. He wrote about his mama and her cooking. Wonderful. Everything the man writes turns to platinum.

Bragg lives in his mama’s basement. His desk is exactly eleven steps from where he sleeps. He loves his family. His mama features broadly in this book as in his others. I love reading about her. She sounds like such a tough old broad, but, then you hear about all her animals….So there is that. Bragg tells us about his brother Sam who is battling cancer during the writing of this new book. He tells us a little of his own challenges with cancer and other awful ailments that have tried to keep him down. Speck may have been rescued by Rick, but Rick feels rescued by Speck. I “get” that. All the animals in this book made my heart sing. The wayward donkeys and the mule. The stories will kill you. I devoured this book in one day. I needed it. I needed the laughter, the honesty, and a big dose of Rick Bragg medicine in the form of a book.

Thank you Rick Bragg for yet another wonderful heartfelt book that I will talk about until the cows come home. Don’t ever stop writing. You make so many readers so darn happy.

I read my review copy of THE SPECKLED BEAUTY digitally. It was made available to me through Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf, publisher. This in exchange for an honest review. It’s a wonderful book and perfect as a gift this holiday season. Give copies to everyone! I loved it.

You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad

The cover is splashed with plenty of colorful hints as to the content of this sweeping story. The mountains speak to me of Montana where the novel is set. The train gives you a good idea of the time period, too. The children huddled together on a suitcase certainly get my attention and already begin to tug at my heartstrings. And, then, there is the lone horse grazing in the background. When I settled in to read YOU BELONG HERE NOW, I already knew the story was set in the era of the orphan trains that brought orphaned children across the country from the east coast into the west. Along the way, the trains would stop at designated cities and people would or would not adopt them. Some of the reasons people took these children in were not always in the best interest of the children. So there was that. So, I knew that. I wondered how Rostad would present her story in a fresh new way. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. This historical novel will break your heart. Will open your eyes and will give you plenty of food for thought.

This is the photo of a flier at the train station. This is how the story begins. In a small town in Montana one family is just trying to keep their ranch going. Nara is unmarried and trying like hell to pick up the slack now that her father is past his prime and her brother has run away to “find” himself. She’s actually doing a pretty good job of it. But dad will not admit it and is still waiting for his son to come to his senses and come back to run the ranch. Mom is doing what she’s always done: keep the house running and practically live in the kitchen where she feeds and clothes everyone. We know something has happened to this family. Something tragic that keeps them from ever being happy.

Now, what of this orphan train? The train arrives in Montana from NYC. The three children who jump the train before it arrives in the town are fearful that they will not be adopted since this is the last stop. These three are Charles who is a troubled teen who has known more than his share of hardship and run-in’s with the law. He’s the oldest. Patrick is a red-headed Irish kid who’s smart as a whip but since he’s Irish he knows his chances are less than zero to be adopted with the unpopularity of the Irish at this time. Then we meet little Opal who is quiet little girl with bruises on her body and her soul. These three children are the basis for this novel.

I had no idea horses were going to be such a big part of this novel. But I am so glad they are. I learned so much. I am a huge animal lover and the plight of the wild horses totally made me mad and drew me in. I wanted to know more. Much more. Rostad gives you information about these horses and there are links to websites to learn more in the back of her book. Trust me, you will be interested.

We have such varied meanings of what makes a family these days. I enjoyed the journey of how this family was made. I loved the writing. I fell for the horses and the people. I can’t wait to read the next installment from this amazing new writer: Dianna Rostad.

Don’t miss the reading group guide at the end of the book. And, you will want to read more behind the scenes about how and why Dianna wrote this book. You’ll be impressed by the blurbs from many big authors such as Meg Waite Clayton, Kathleen Grissom, William Kent Krueger and Erika Robuck.

Dianna Rostad

My finished trade paper copy of YOU BELONG HERE NOW arrived from William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins. I have to thank Kathie Bennett of Magic Time Literary for prompting this mailing. And making me aware of this wonderful new author: Dianna Rostad. Rostad lives near me in Naples, Florida. I look forward to meeting her soon.

In Polite Company by Gervais Hagerty

In Polite Company

It’s almost impossible to believe this is a debut novel. Gervais Hagerty bursts onto the literary scene with an atmospheric novel of Charleston and the society within its very proper confines. What a great novel to round up your summer reading season.

Simons Smythe is not happy. We feel this right from the beginning of the story. She’s been engaged to Trip for years. They are perfect for each other. She’s part of Charleston society and so is he. He is everything her family has ever wanted for her. She thought he was too, until recently. Now she has one year to fall back in love with Trip. Simons Smythe has lived in Charleston, South Carolina for her entire life. She plans on staying there. Until her fiance Trip tells her he’s accepted a job with a law firm in Columbia and that’s where they’ll live. You can already see where this is going. Simons enjoys living alone in her apartment. She also likes her job as a news producer doing the local news on tv. She has no plans to move.

The Smythe family is very old Charleston money. They’re part of the city that has quietly ruled the roost of society seemingly forever. Certain things are expected of them and one is conformity. And this is where Simons fails miserably. She’s a strong and opinionated young woman who does not want to be held down. Women have a place and need to heed it. Her mother is all about this. Her sisters have accepted it. But Simons is yanking at the reins and straining to break away. The good old boys are not going to tame her. Where did she get this strong will you might ask? Her grandmother Laudie was a very strong woman. She’s managed to keep a very precious secret all her life and most of her family have no idea. She seems to be so meek and beholding to her husband of many years. But what really happened all those years ago before her marriage?

You’re going to be wowed by the attention to detail and the flora and fauna in this Lowcountry tale. I could almost smell the tangy aroma of the blue crabs as they were steaming their lives away in the crab pot. I grew up in Maryland and know the enjoyment of freshly cooked blue crabs. I loved the gardens in the city and the flowers. I especially loved Laudie’s tropical garden filled with all the Southern blooms and greenery that burst into bloom during their season. Zinnias are Laudie’s favorites and so Simons strives to keep them healthy and colorful.

There are several scenes throughout this novel that made me take pause. One such scene is where Simon’s sister Weezy is giving birth to her second child in a very special birthing center that is not in a hospital. Simon’s is attending. It took my breath away and reminded me of how very special giving birth truly is.

You’ll experience the excitement and beauty of a debutante ball, many society events, trips across the marsh to the Edisto River, and reverent visits to gorgeous gardens.

IN POLITE COMPANY is a vast story of family, strong women, what makes a real friendship, and breaking out to do the brave thing even if it’s not popular.

Gervais Hagerty

Gervais Hagerty lives in Charleston, South Caroline, with her husband and two children. She earned her MBA from The Citadel. She’s worked in tv production and she’s reported the news. She knows of what she writes.

MARY ALICE MONROE says: “The Southern charm, cobbled streets, and pedigreed society of Charleston are served up on a silver platter in this stunning debut.”

My finished trade paper copy of IN POLITE COMPANY was sent to me from the generous publishing people at William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins. This per request from Kathie Bennett at Magic Time Literary Agency. I send my humble thanks for providing this amazing debut novel by Gervais Hagerty who is definitely a novelist to watch!

Maurice Steps Into September, Carefully

It’s definitely September. How do I know this? Hurricanes are rolling off the coast of Africa like water off the back of a duck. Have to keep my eyes open wide in anticipation. We will get through this. The coverage of Ida is showing us just how awful these super storms have become. And they do not just affect Florida or coastal areas any more. The scenes in the north are shocking. Having said this, it’s a great time to escape from all the bad news with great books.

My friend, Kathie Bennett, from Magic Time Literary Agency recently sent me two amazing new books by authors she loves. I devoured both books and will be sharing my thoughts in more depth soon with reviews.

In Polite Company

IN POLITE COMPANY by Gervais Hagerty is a wonderful contemporary novel that takes place in Charleston, South Carolina. This new author is Mary Alice Monroe’s protege. I loved the story and I loved the writing. Review to run soon.

You Belong Here Now

YOU BELONG HERE NOW by Dianna Rostad is an amazing new historical novel that takes place in Montana in the time of the Orphan Trains. The chracters are unforgettable and the writing is so compelling and moving. Review to run soon.There are so very many great books coming out in the next few months. I wish I could clone myself in order to read more. It is almost overwhelming. The exciting part is that I am wild to visit your clubs and talk about them all. Well, most of them. Several BIG authors have BIG books coming. There will be some pretty fierce competition for the big literary prizes this year.

Everyone is going to be wild to read CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr. It’s a tome coming in at over 600 pages. And it’s a challenging read. Several time periods. Very complicated characters. But a wonderful message and must about reading and books.

HARLEM SHUFFLE by Colson Whitehead is another contender for big awards.

Colson Whitehead already has two Pulitzers to his credit. Will he add yet another with this new novel?

Lauren Groff is no slouch in the writing department either. Her upcoming novel will also be a tough contender. It’s a tough one for sure, but the writing is superb.

I’ve been able to spend some valuable time with my kitties lately. Wyatt is doing great and the girls are doing what they do best by lying around and napping and purring a lot.

Wyatt with flowers from garden.

I’m hard at work on my Fall event list. It will be November before I know it. I am keeping fingers crossed that all my in person events will be held in -person. I can’t wait to see all you Maurice followers.

Stay tuned for more reviews of great books!