Tell Me A Story by Cassandra King Conroy

Tell Me A Story

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for any length of time already know that Pat Conroy is my all-time favorite author. Meeting him a few years ago is one of the greatest moments of my literary life.  Now his wife, Cassandra King Conroy, has honored us by sharing  the story of their married life. I feel both humbled and very grateful.

Cassandra King Conroy is an established and best-selling novelist in her own right. She’s written several award-winning novels that include THE SUNDAY WIFE which is my personal favorite.  Cassandra was actually married to a preacher at one time. So she certainly knows of what she writes.

Cassandra King Conroy

Cassandra King met Pat Conroy in 1995 at a literary event in Alabama where Cassandra lived.  Their relationship was almost strictly by phone for a while. They actually began dating in 1997 but the traveling between South Carolina where Pat lived to Alabama quickly became old.  So in 1998 they married, both were divorced and over fifty.  Cassandra moved to South Carolina and has been living there ever since.  They were married for eighteen years before Pat succumbed to pancreatic cancer a few years ago.  Between them they each wrote five books during their marriage.

When asked recently by Suzanne Van Atten of Atlanta Magazine about how she is coping with life after Pat’s death, Cassandra says,
 ” I keep thinking, okay, one of these days, this is going to get better. I never want to tell recent widows, but, it’s been three years since Pat died, and it seems like yesterday. I think maybe it’s because I’m still here, where he was. I see him walk in the house. I see him where he would usually be waiting. He would come down the stairs to greet me when I’d been out of town, or he’d be back in his room. And I’d stick my head in to tell him I was back. I see him everywhere. We have this beautiful creek here, and it looks like the cover of a Pat Conroy novel. Everyday, there are reminders. “

Those words  speak volumes about the relationship between Pat and Cassandra. I loved hearing about their passion for food, books, literature and the Lowcountry.  Pat Conroy led a  pretty tumultuous life before marrying Cassandra.  He definitely found peace with his King Ray. (his pet name for Cassandra)

Rick Bragg says  TELL ME A STORY is deep and moving and funny.

Mary Alice Monroe says,  TELL ME A STORY is the best memoir she’s read.

This book is her tribute to her larger-than-life Prince of Tides, her husband, Pat Conroy.  He passed away from the horrors of pancreatic cancer in 2016 at the age of seventy. It’s hard to believe there will be no more wonderful novels from Pat.

I met Pat Conroy one night in Miami when he spoke to a large audience of around 1000 avid readers and fans. He made all of us laugh and cry with his stories about his family.  And he stayed and signed his books until every last book was signed.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Cassandra King Conroy, for allowing us into the inner circle of your amazing life with Pat Conroy!

Cassandra King Conroy still lives in Beaufort, South Carolina where she is honorary chair of the Pat Conroy Literary Center. I look forward to reading her next novel.

My review copy of TELL ME A STORY was provided by William Morrow, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. What a great gift for the holidays. I loved it!

I have wonderful  news! Copperfish Books will be hosting an afternoon with Cassandra King Conroy on Monday, January 13th between 3 and 5. We are thrilled. You will have a rare chance to meet the author at Twin Isles Country Club in Punta Gorda and enjoy a glass of wine or tea and delicious appetizers. Truly an enchanting opportunity.  Of course your ticket price includes a copy of TELL ME A STORY.

You can purchase your ticket online  or at Copperfish Books. Don’t diddle daddle because these tickets are for the hottest event of the season.  You can also just call the store at 941-205-2560. Hope to see you there.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

We have copies at Copperfish Books. Come on in and get yours now. They are discounted 20%. I hope to see you soon.

 

 

 

 

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.

Bramasole

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!

Save Me The Plums by Ruth Reichl

Save Me The Plums

I love this pristine cover! I so enjoy good food writing. This is food writing taken to another level; one of the highest proportion. Filled with juicy tidbits from behind the scenes of Gourmet magazine back in the hay day when Gourmet was at the top of food magazine row. I so loved it and so miss it now.

Ruth Reichl is a name you know if you are in the restaurant business, or, if you’ve ever been in the business. If you love food, you probably are already a fan. This newest memoir is for you. I loved every word of it.

“Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.”

Ruth Reichl

SAVE ME THE PLUMS comes complete with signature recipes. Believe you me, they are such a welcome edition. The jeweled chocolate cake alone is worth the cost of the book!

Ruth turned down the initial offer to be editor in chief of Gourmet. She was a writer, not a manager.  Thank God she changed her mind. She brought so much to the table. Her story is witty and fun to read. Even though I knew where this story was going…… no good ending in sight,  I found it most compelling.

I worked in the restaurant business for much of my younger life. I waited tables, tended bar, and managed various successful businesses over the years.  It was during the time Ruth writes about. And, so, I am very invested in great food, celebrity chefs who worked their way up to stardom, and all the behind the scenes shenanigans that compete the circuit.  Ruth sure does know how to bring it all to life.

Toward the end of the life of Gourmet Ruth travels to Paris with a colleague. They are on a difficult journey to find budget lodging and great food at rock bottom prices. All this during the downturn in our economy. You need to keep in mind that Gourmet has always been the magazine that brings eliteness not just on the page but to the doorstep of their loyal and usually well-to-do readers. The question being asked is, will these same people go for this? This is a wonderful chapter titled MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.  You’re going to love it. The food, the lumpy mattresses, the amazing characters. Ruth had gotten used to being treated like food royalty. But what do you miss out on? You’ll find out.

In the early years, Ruth worked at the magazine and took care of the house and cooked for her husband and son. When a parent had to leave work because of a crisis at home, well, you guessed it, it’s always the mother who has to take the hit.  That hasn’t changed today as much as it could. Ask any mother.

It becomes quite poignant when Ruth writes about her experience with 9/11. She was working in the city that day and has a first-hand account.  It was such a difficult time. Who knew what tomorrow would bring. How the people of NYC came forward and took control is a  story of its own.

Magazines are certainly not what they used to be. So much is digital now.  And less and less is actual print. But I’m one of the ones who love print magazines. Nothing more relaxing than lounging on my lanai on a lovely day with a stack of colorful magazines filled with food and travel articles. What a way to escape this crazy world we live in now.

I have to thank the wonderful people at Random House who sent me this amazing memoir upon request. I am so grateful and I fell deeply in love with it at first glance. Thanks so much!

 

The Best Cook In The World by Rick Bragg

I love Rick  Bragg, everything about him.  Ever since hearing him speak in Tampa in September at SIBA ( southern independent book association.) I’ve become a huge fan! When I wasn’t laughing out loud I was listening attentively so as not to miss one single word the man uttered. Yes, that good.

Rick’s newest book is a food memoir. It’s part cookbook but mostly a collection of his mama’s mouth-watering recipes that have literally been passed down through generations of family stories. Yes, because recipes tell stories, ya know!

Margaret Bragg never owned a cookbook. Never measured any ingredients, never timed anything. Some of this, some of that.   Good food always has a good story. Always.

I found myself underlining and marking page after page of THE BEST COOK IN THE WORLD. Now I’m on the hunt for cracklin’. God help me, I know not where I shall find it. I am a reader of cookbooks. I’ve been known to take them to bed to read at night. And this one is one of those.

Now, of course, I find myself wanting to own all of Bragg’s books. First I found a used copy of his famous ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’. Now I’m after the rest. I will not rest until my library is complete. I love hearing Bragg’s voice. I recently heard a podcast Rick did with Mitchell Kaplan of Books and Books in Miami, Florida. And there it was, that wonderful voice I love.  Now I hear his voice in each book I read and I am beyond happy.

Rick Bragg

I have managed to turn a dear friend in New Orleans on to Rich Bragg. Now he’s reading all of the books, too. What I found is that the books are all wonderful. However, I believe Bragg found his voice after the first book. He just gets better and better with age like a fine wine…

I want to know what you, my readers, would think of Copperfish Books having Rick Bragg for an event?

What a great gift this book would make for the holidays. It’s pure joy and wonder!

My review copy came from Knopf Publishers through Copperfish Books. I absolutely adore it and Rick Bragg.  You can pick up a copy of THE BEST COOK IN THE WORLD at Copperfish Books right now and it’s 20% off just for you.

 

Brooklyn In Love by Amy Thomas

Amy Thomas

Brooklyn In Love

BROOKLYN IN LOVE is the second memoir written by Amy Thomas. Her first, PARIS MY SWEET, was a delicious romp through The City of Light. She regaled us with stories of finding divine eateries throughout Paris and making our mouths water with delight. On the last pages of PARIS MY SWEET Amy listed fabulous bakeries that would temp a non-flier to get on a plane and zoom on over to France.

In her new book, BROOKLYN IN LOVE, Amy has moved into a new phase. Amy was turning the big 40 when she was lured back to NYC. She needed a change. While not feeling the love initially, it did come along.  And then she got married and had a child.  Big life changing events. But, we’re along for the food ride. And we get it. The cafes, unique restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. They’re all here.  I love reading about food.  I love NYC. This book was definitely written with me in mind, and my entire family. We are all big foodies.

What I love most about this new book is the listing of great eateries  in the back of this book. Of course, the first thing I did when the book arrived was to turn to the back to see if there was a list of NYC eateries. YES! Your next visit to The Big Apple should include this list.  Not to disappoint. How fabulous to tuck this list in your purse or pocket. Nothing like great recommendations like this. And I love that she has listed Brooklyn eateries and then Manhattan eateries ,separately. I want to visit most of them on my next visit.

My finished trade paperback copy of BROOKLYN IN LOVE was sent from Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.  Really good. You need this book on your next trip to the city! Thanks go out to  Sourcebooks for sending.

l’appart by David Lebovitz

David Lebowitz

l’appart

Oh how I love reading about David Lebovitz’s life in Paris.  I totally enjoy living vicariously through David’s experiences. They are part tragedy and part comedy. Just when I needed to read something to make me laugh, along came David with l’appart!

My Paris Kitchen

David Lebovitz

When I was reading MY SWEET LIFE IN PARIS, his first memoir, I remember telling everyone I met about it. I LOVED it. So when I saw this one I rejoiced. This book is LOL.

David’s been living in a rental apartment for over a decade now. He’s managed to write cookbooks and keep up with his blog through all sorts of memorable challenges with ovens etc. Now he’s buying his own apartment, in Paris. Ooh la la.

MY PARIS KITCHEN is a must-have for those of you who love anything French.

David Lebowitz

My Paris Kitchen

Can you say trouble?! I know I’ve  often thought it would just be wonderful to own an apartment in Paris. I had not considered that the only one I might be able to afford would be one that needed extensive renovations and very deep pockets. I know now that it would be one giant headache. But reading about someone else doing it is pure entertainment.

I found myself highlighting any mention of the best markets, cafes etc. You never know when you might find yourself on an avenue in Paris. And I almost swooned at the recipes. Oh, the recipes.

The troubles begin right off the bat while attempting to find just the right apartment. Romaine, David’s partner, doesn’t think any of this is a good idea. He is a true Frenchman right down to his bushy mustache and his local attitude. You see, he already has an idea how painful this process is going to be.

Once the apartment is chosen, even more angst is thrown David’s way. He needs a contractor as the place needs an almost total gut-job. When a friend recommends Claude, he seems like the perfect fit. Seems like are the key words here.  Claude always seems to have everything under control. And each time David has a concern Claude’s answer is “pas de probleme.” We begin to see a pattern here and I began to worry.

From the miserable first trip to Ikea with Romaine to the delivery of the wrong windows, I found this story so straight forward that I have decided to NEVER even think of moving to Paris…Ever. Visiting, yes.  Waiting in lines that seemed miles long and that went on for hours at Ikea almost put me over the edge. I can’t even imagine actually living through such an ordeal. And David almost did not with his mind intact. Crazy stuff here.

David Lebovitz once again manages to write a very entertaining yet somewhat horrifying account of his experience buying and remodeling a Paris apartment.  You truly feel as if you’ve  been there with David and Romain after this ordeal. Cheers!

I received my finished hardcopy of L’APPART  from  Blogging for Books and from Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Great job!

You can purchase a copy of L’APPART by David Lebovitz at Copperfish Books. We are discounting at 20% since it’s a new hardcover book. Come on in and see us!

Hunger by Roxane Gay

memoir

Hunger

The inside flap of Roxane Gay’s new memoir tells us right out of the gate that this is a searing and intimate memoir. They have that right. It’s quite possibly the most frank and outspoken work of non fiction I’ve come across to date.

I discovered Gay a few years ago while reading a review of her novel ” An Untamed State.” Ron Charles was that reviewer, and he loved her disturbing book. I couldn’t take my eyes from the pages; it was like watching a train wreck. As I read the novel that takes place in Haiti, I began wondering how Gay was able to bring this story so realistically to the page. And then I guessed that something awful had also happened to her…

In recent years Roxane Gay

body image

Roxane Gay

is garnering the attention she well deserves. She’s a damned fine writer; of fiction and non fiction. I devour her work. It is disturbing and honest. It is up front and in your face. This new work is about how and why she became the person she is.  Why is she overweight?  And she will tell you honestly. And you will be horrified. It will be hard to read. But it’s her real story.  It was incredibly difficult for her to write this book. It’s harsh. What she endured is beyond belief for many of us.  Has she overcome it? Not really. But it’s a work in progress.

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows what a trial it can be.  I grew up a thin young woman. But over the years I’ve put on pounds that I struggle to rid myself of. I know I am not alone.  Food is not like other things that can be given up. After all, we do have to eat.  Gay’s weight is a problem because of trauma.  I think many people have issues with food for various personal reasons that they will not speak of. I get that.  I think this is an important book.  My issues are not Roxane’s issues. But reading about how she has suffered and how she’s dealt with the pain is enlightening.  She’s a wonderful writer. Memorizing.  This is an important book.

This book is not for everyone. I know this. But you might want to take a good look at it. Roxane Gay is a voice to be reckoned with in the book world. And rightly so.

Roxane Gay is the New York Times bestselling author of “Bad Feminist.” She’s published by Harper Collins.

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!

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Fixer Upper

The Magnolia Story

I became a huge fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines a couple of years ago when I started watching their wildly popular home show called “Fixer Upper.” It’s not even that we were looking to tear walls down in our home or, paint, or even get new appliances. It was just such an entertaining and fun show to watch. My husband quickly hopped aboard the Fixer Upper bandwagon too.

Waco, Texas. I wonder how many people have visited the once sleep town of Waco. Moreover, I wonder how many have actually relocated because of this show. I imagine we would all be shocked. Chip and Joanna are charismatic and smart. They are also hard working and down to earth. They are GOOD people, and in the crazy upside down world we live in these days, that’s HUGE.

You will love hearing about how Chip and Joanna met.  And how they started out small and worked their way up. Work. That’s what they do. Hard.

I love the farm house. I love the Silos. Their kids are sweet and smart. What’s not to love? When they first began selling stuff on their website I was excited. However, that does seem to be a bit over- the- top for me. Plus, I don’t need Joanna’s purse. You know.

My daughter is also a fan. I am concerned as they continue to get more and more popular that their appeal may wane. My husband is already a bit over them. But we will watch this upcoming season and hope for more of the same. Call it entertainment.  This book is a great gift for this holiday season.

A Conversation with Thad Carhart, author of Finding Fontainebleau

Finding Fonainebleau

Thad Carhart

I was sent this conversation from Viking, the publisher. I think it will give you some insight about  Carhart and his journey from America to France.

Q. Many parts of FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU are written in the same vein as THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK. What do you feel are the similarities, and the differences?

I’ve been very lucky with THE PIANO SHOP ON THE LEFT BANK, an international bestseller that is still in print. A writer is never entirely sure why a book captures the public’s imagination, but I think a big part of PIANO SHOP’S appeal has been the look at French life away from the familiar tourist circuit. It’s not that easy to get below the surface of things in France, and readers seem to have been hungry for stories about a French approach to things in Paris. In this respect, FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU has a similar voice and scope, though the setting of the little Parisian shop is replaced by our family’s big old rented house in Fontainebleau and the adjacent Chậteau.

Q. In FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU you recall events that took place when you were a very young boy living in France and America. How did you preserve and access these boyhood memories in order to write the book?

The clearest answer I can give is that it had to do with the intensity and focus that came with learning a new language at a young age. It wasn’t a matter of choice-I had to learn French in order to function in my new school, and so I did. This happens frequently in our world, but it’s still something of a miracle The immediate consequence for me, who learned to read and write French before English, is that I paid very close attention to just about everything: words, of course, but also clothes and games and food. Since we spoke English at home and French at school, it was as if everything was filtered in two languages, every day, as I learned to name the world around me. The effect on memory was direct and abiding.

An American Boy In France

Finding Fontainebleu

*************************

The interview goes on to speak of most of the great chậteaux of France which Carhart has visited. And asks why one is more popular with visitors than another. And to say that if a visitor to France wishes to understand the richness and breadth of French history, no structure tells the story better than the multiple winds and courtyards of Fontainebleau. Carhart does not regard himself as a missionary for things French, but he does enjoy telling stories that allow others to appreciate the human qualities that still set France apart.

I’ve long been interested in France. I’m not sure I know why. It just intrigues me. Greatly. I read a lot about France.  And feel like I’m a sponge when it comes to all things French. I find I am not alone. The past few years have seemed to bring a renewed interest to France, and mostly to Paris. If you are one of the many people who love to read and learn about French history and the amazing people and their heritage, this book comes highly recommended. Not only informative, it’s witty and fun to read. You can live vicariously through the life of Thad Carhart and learn as you immerse yourself in this vivid world of Carhart’s making. Enjoy!