What Is Maurice Reading Now?

essays

A Paris All Your Own

Coming in July, A PARIS ALL YOUR OWN, will quickly land you smack dab in the center of Paris. Essays written by amazing women authors who have spent time in Paris.

Paris

The Red Notebook

THE RED NOTEBOOK is  clever and fun French romance novel. Short and sweet.

WW!!

The Baker’s Secret

Coming soon is THE BAKER’S SECRET by Stephen P. Kiernan.  For the summer you can get your WW11 fix with this novel of courage set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Mid East

Salt Houses

“Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan  is one of my favorite novels this year. I fell head over heals for it. I think you will too.

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia  and her children; she also sees travel, and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to  pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967.

As you can see, this novel actually takes place in a time frame most of us are familiar with. Even though I have always been aware of this war, I knew so little about it. And certainly not enough of the specifics.

This novel begins in Nablus,

Palestine

Nablus

a city on the Northern West Bank of Palestine.  “Spanning five generations, siblings, cousins, grandparents, children– are displaced over and over again. From Palestine to Jordan,

Capital City

Jordan

 Lebanon to Kuwait, Boston to New York, and back to Palestine again, this is a story of people losing, finding, and making their way.  “Salt Houses” gives voice, body and love to people whose lives in this country tend, at most, to be featured anonymously in news accounts.”

Israel

Tel Aviv

I am using quotes more than ever here because there is no better way to explain this story.  There are many family members to remember and keep track of. They are all important.  Each person suffers great sacrifice and loss. And there are many secrets and wrong-doings. It’s all quite heart-breaking.

Hala Alyan was born in 1986 and has lived in various parts of the Middle East.  She’s an award-winning poet and lives in New York City now.

This lyrical novel is as timely as it gets. We’ve all watched the news over the years, never more so than now. We see what’s happening in the Middle East.  We know the truth of it. But we are so far from the action. Unless you have  family or friends living in the region, or are a journalist, you have probably missed a lot.  Hala Alyan brings it up front and puts it in our face. She’s done this in a way we can hopefully understand. And her musical prose is a joy to read. The people are people just like we are. These are not just some displaced poor retches. These people were considered wealthy. Thankfully, they were able to start over. There was money. Even having said that, what a way to live. And money can’t always save lives…

I found this heartfelt novel to realistically portray the plight of immigrants in the Middle East.  I think you will too.

Kirkus reports about “The Salt Houses.” “A deeply moving look inside the Palestine diaspora.” That sums it up beautifully.

I can’t remember a year filled with more diversity in novels than this year.  I love it.  Just fuels my mind to want to learn more.

I received a review copy of “The Salt Houses” by Hala Alyan

author

Hala Alyan

from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publisher in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely LOVED it!  It’s certainly worthy of the Artis-Naples Summer Reading list. Cheers.

Hardcover: 310 pages: Available now. Buy it:)

 

To Paris!

Ah, THE LIGHT OF PARIS, by Eleanor Brown. Just seeing the shape of the Eiffel Tower on the cover makes me smile. Makes me wish to hop on a plane and fly to France; to Paris.

Eleanor Brown is the NYT bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS. Much acclaimed and beloved, her first  novel proved just how powerful a writer Brown is. Now she’s back with THE LIGHT OF PARIS. And we get to fall in love with her all over again.

Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown

It’s 1999 andMadeleine is escaping her miserable existence with her husband as the story opens.  They’ve had words and she has decided to run home to Magnolia where her mother still holds court. She’s been unhappily married to Phillip with his perfect persona and cookie-cutter profile.  She needs to get away and think. What appears to outsiders as a perfect marriage filled with privilege and love, has actually become a prison full of mundane days and even worse nights.

In Magnolia, Madeleine finds to her surprise that her mother is putting her house on the market. She’s selling the only home Madeleine has ever known. Of course this threatens Madeleine’s psyche more than ever. Since they’ve never been close, this causes an even broader chasm.  But Madeleine digs in and decides to help mom prepare the house for sale, getting rid of unneeded artifacts and unwanted junk. As she’s pawing through the attic she comes across an old journal written by her grandmother during the three months she spent in Paris in the twenties. She tucks it away and takes it to her room to be read later, in private.

France

Tower Eiffel

Now it’s the twenties and Margie is getting to the age where her family thinks she should be married.  But she is not ready, and even if she were, no man has come forth to claim her hand. Her parents shuffle her off across the pond to be chaperone to her irascible cousin Evelyn. What a trial. This young woman is a terror. She’s hooked up with a wild crowd and  once they reach France Evelyn disappears with her new friends and leaves Margie high and dry in Paris. Of course Margie’s mother insists she immediately book passage and return home. But Margie has fallen in love with Paris and the light.  And she’s met someone…She’s not going anyplace, any time soon.

This novel began slowly for me. Almost too slow. But, as soon as Margie decided to throw caution to the wind in the City of Light, I was enchanted. When she meets a secretive young artist, my interest peaked potentially.

I love reading about strong women. Especially those who become strong over all the odds. There is such a message here.

Forward to 1999 again and find Madeleine settling into a new life in the small town of her youth.  Brown so brought this enchanting art community to life that I looked forward to its return.  A gleeful place filled with happy people doing what they love. After all, isn’t that what life should be about!

So, does Madeleine leave Phillip? Do Madeleine and her mother come to terms with their relationship? And what of Margie? Does she stay in Paris?

This is a story with a lot of heart. A lot of struggle. And it gives us a lot of reasons and answers. Life is not always filled with what we want. And we often times must do what is morally right. It’s a story of honor and yet insists you simply must strive to make your dreams come true.

I will be thinking about this story for a long time to come. I have the nice people at Putnam Publishing to thank for my review copy. Thank you, thank you! I totally enjoyed it. THE LIGHT OF PARIS by Eleanor Brown is now available in trade paperback.

One Good Thing by Wendy Wax

Wendy Wax

One Good Thing

“One Good Thing” by Wendy Wax is the 5th in her popular Ten Beach Road series.  I sure do love the cover!

This is the first in this series for me.  And I don’t feel as if I’ve missed a thing.  The characters are lovable and fun. The place is Florida, and I love that. She’s done a bang-up job setting up the story. I love a good book about friendship.

When four friends find themselves swindled and losing control of their Do Over TV show, they find themselves desperate to regain that control. Each woman is experiencing her own trauma. Maddie is dating a rock star who  is busy making a successful come back. She’s also got an ex husband hanging around.  Avery is dealing with family problems that are quickly escalating and out of her personal control. Nikki is hugely pregnant and experiencing a challenging health issue. She’s not sure she can even be a good mother to Joe’s twins… Then there is Kyra who is harboring a secret that could bring all the cards falling down. And she’s trying to finish a cottage to house their once very wealthy friend from Palm Beach, Bitsy. Bitsy has mysteriously appeared on the East coast in need of a place to live. You see, she had money, but her husband absconded with the money and a very young new girlfriend. Oh boy.

“One Good Thing” is filled with all the right things to support a great beach read. Plenty of good food. Plenty of drama. And lots of girl talk.  Throw in a surprise and a bit of a mystery and a good secret, and that pretty much ties it up.

Berkley Publishers provided my review copy. Now they’ve totally turned me on to a new author. Yippee. Great book.

author

Wendy Wax

“One Good Thing” goes on sale Tuesday, April 25. It’s trade paperback. And comes in at 368 pages.

Maine’s On Fire

Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire

“The Stars Are Fire” by Anita Shreve is based on the Great Fires of Maine in the late 40’s.  As wild fires rage just miles from my home, this novel resonates like a bomb.

I live in Cape Coral, Florida. Right now in Naples, Florida, there are two wild fires raging out of control just beyond city limits. It’s scary. Seeing the black plumes of smoke spiral high into the skies over Naples on the news makes one realize that nowhere is safe from fire.

Grace is an unassuming housewife living in a small coastal town in Maine. The year is 1947. She and her husband Gene have two small children, one just an infant.  All is not cozy in Grace’s home. The children are loved by both parents, and they are well taken care of. But Gene, Grace’s husband, is scared from the war. Their love life is brutal and one-sided. And after Gene’s mother dies suddenly of breast cancer he goes even more inside himself.  If not for Grace’s best friend Rosie who lives just across the street she would pull her hair out.

After a summer filled with drought and heat, the fall brings fires to the state. And as they close in we can’t help but wonder why the whole town was not evacuated. And then it was, but it was all too little too late.  As Grace prepares the children for bed, she notices something in the air. The wind has changed. She immediately thinks, “We’re saved.” And so do all the other members of the small town.  And then they’re awakened in the night to sounds of a bull horn telling them all to get out of their homes.  Grace sees nothing but fire in the treetops outside her window. She bundles the two children up  and runs toward the sea. She’s not alone.  A herd of terrified people and children are all running as swiftly as their legs will carry them. All with the wall of fire on their heels, literally.  What does a woman with two children do to escape death by fire? Go into the sea? Disappear into thin air? It is a harrowing scene. One that will stay with you for the rest of your life. And one that will compel you to turn those pages as fast as you can.

Of course some of you may wonder where Gene is. Gene left early to help build a fire wall, but he’s not returned yet….

So, there, I’ve set the tone for this commanding novel. It’s based on true history. I love that about it.

Some Anita Shreve books I like more than others. FORTUNE’S ROCK is my very favorite. Of course I like THE PILOT’S WIFE.  THE STARS ARE FIRE is right up there.

No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts

Stephanie Powell Watts

No One Is Coming To Save Us

One of my all-time favorite classics is “The Great Gatsby.” I’ve enjoyed reading it several times and will probably read it several more in my lifetime. So when I heard about “No One Is Coming To Save Us” by Stephanie Powell Watts I couldn’t resist.

Watts is taking on Gatsby through the voices of an African American family living in a small town in North Carolina.  J.J. Ferguson left town as a very young and very poor man. He’s now returned seventeen years later as a very rich man with an agenda. He’s building his dream home on the top of the hill. And he’s coming for the love of his life, Ava, even though she’s married.

Sylvia is Ava’s mother.  Sylvia’s been married to Don for forty years. Don’s a handsome, worthless cheat who Sylvia defiantly swears to hate, but secretly loves.  Sylvia is one sad woman. She’s lost her son Devon to a tragic accident and is not recovering well. Who would?

Then there’s Henry, Ava’s loser husband. All Ava wants is a baby. Of course this is something she can’t seem to have.  Henry is a beautiful man. But he’s such a loser… So when J.J. comes knocking Ava is tempted. How tempted?

I will say that I truly did not know what to expect with this story. And adding a black family to the mix caught me off guard. Actually, the story is almost entirely black characters.  But it works. Watts is a wonderful writer.  She manages to have me caring about these women right away.  At one point Ava is thinking about men. “What she knew was she had no attraction for any man anymore. They were too much trouble, even for sex the trouble just wasn’t worth it. In fact the whole enterprise of romantic love was just too hard to be worth it. Her grandmother had told her more than once that the thing about men was once you learn them you won’t want them. ”  Ava was just plain out tired of it all.

Told with humor and in several different points of view, “No One Is Coming To Save Us” is worthy of a lecture.  The dialog is spot-on. I felt as if I was being let in on conversations. And I did not want them to end.

Stephanie Powell Watts

author

Stephanie Powell Watts

has been teaching creative writing at Lehigh University  since 2004. She wrote most of this wonderful novel at the coffee house on campus. She has lived in the hills of North Carolina and understands the plight of the closing of the furniture factories and the lost jobs and empty parking lots. She knows of what she writes.  I think it’s a grand novel.

My lovely finished hard cover came from Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for an honest review.  I can’t thank them enough.  We added this novel to the Critic’s Choice summer reading list at Artis-Naples because it is lecture worthy.

How To Make a French Family by Samantha Vèrant

Samantha Verant

How To Make a French Family

I first met Samantha Vèrant in 2014,  when she wrote a spectacular memoir called “Seven Letters from Paris”  about reconnecting with the love of her life after twenty years apart. He, a Frenchman, and she, an American. They had met while Samantha was doing the whirlwind tour of Europe while in college. But it was brief. She was not ready for a commitment so when he sent her letters she never wrote back…

Fast forward twenty years, a divorce, a lot of debt, and feeling sorry for herself as well as being alone, Sam and Jean-Luc reconnect over a series of emails and phone calls.  They discover they still have the connection. It’s a dream come true. And so is the first book. So when this one appeared I just had to read it.

“How to Make a French Family” is a continuation of their love story. Now that they are married and Samantha has actually moved to France and is making it her home, what happens now? Will there be nothing but rays of sunshine and starry nights? I was afraid that’s what it would be. Vèrant does a great job of sharing her world. The world she’s in the middle of making with the love of her life and his two children. Children can be difficult. And these two have already got baggage.  Their mother died and their father remarried a young woman who was threatened by them. They were all miserable in the end. You can only imagine how they must have felt when Jean-Luc decided to marry yet again.  There are tears, fights, yelling, and a lot of misunderstanding as Sam gets to really understand the French language and the kids get to really know her.

Through all the red tape of moving to another country to live: the drivers license and bureaucracy,  I would get through it okay. It’s the not having friends who speak English that might grate on me the most. So when Sam discovers other ex-pats who are nearby and befriends them, I am so happy for her. After all, she needs them. They need each other.

This new family lives in paradise. They live just outside Toulouse. They’re near the  shore.  And they have luscious markets filled with fresh seasonal foods. Samantha is quite the cook. In fact, there are dozens of recipes in the book: both hers and Jean-Luc’s. And they’re good. Take advantage of them.  I think their love of food and cooking helped to bond the entire family.  Even though there were some missteps for the kids. After all, have you ever tried to make a meal for more than one kid? There is usually going to be at least one thing someone will not eat.

I really enjoyed reconnecting with Samantha and her new family. You can visit her website find out more about her life. I  was even able to watch a video of her wedding albeit a grainy one. Very cool. And you will simply want to dash right out and buy her first memoir if you haven’t already read it.

Author

Samantha Vèrant

I thank Sourcebooks for sending my trade paper copy.  It’s just super!