The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

The Magnolia Palace

What a great follow-up from THE LIONS OF FIFTH AVENUE. Davis has managed to bring us another winner of a historical novel by delving deeply into the Frick family of NYC. Most of what Davis writes is based on fact.

Most families have some darkness in their attics. The Frick family had more than their share. The riches they possessed did not make up for the tragedy. The temperament of both the patriarch Henry and his daughter Helen did nothing to endear them to the world.

The secrets kept for years are unearthed through a series of puzzles that will keep you on your toes as you’re shown around the Frick mansion and all its artwork and massiveness. What happened to the great pink Magnolia diamond? And why was it such an integral part of the story?

Davis does much to show the vast differences between the way the “help” lived verses the extreme wealth of the rich. The relationships between Miss Helen and the people who work for her is tenuous at best. She, being high strung, was prone to strange bouts of edginess and fear. But who was she really?

The novel takes place in two time periods. And gives us a lot of information about the artwork in the Frick Collection, In fact, you may wish to visit this website. http://www.frick.org

It’s quite refreshing to find a novel so well researched and compelling with characters who sizzle and pop on the page.

I read my review copy digitally and have netgalley to thank as well as Dutton Books, a division of Penguin Random House. All in exchange for an honest review. It’s a keeper. It’s going to be a big hit this season!

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

The Paris Bookseller

This cover is a photo of the original SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY bookstore in Paris. The woman in the picture is Sylvia Beach who founded the store in the early 1920’s. She’s joined by her little dog

The moment I heard this book was coming down the book pike, my heart began pounding. Then I felt a bit nervous, fearing it might be too light. Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that it’s all I hoped for and much, much more. It’s so exciting to come across a book like this. For book lovers it’s got it all. For people who love to read about Paris, you are going to love it. And if you love everything about Paris in the twenties, you are going to lose your mind. It’s sophisticated. It’s got a fabulous back story. Most of the characters you will know, or at least have heard of. I folded myself into this book like disappearing into a favorite comfy chair.

Did you love the movie, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS? I sure did. Have watched it numerous times. Never get tired of it. All those quirky characters show up in this new novel. But Maher has gone deep and shows us sides of them that we never knew. She’s also managed to show us how difficult it was to publish a book in Paris that had been banned in other countries. And all this coming up onto World War Two. This story is before the war.

Disappear into the magical book world of SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY in Paris!

The relationships Sylvia has with all the famous and not yet famous authors of that time are brought so to life. I truly had to pinch myself at times to bring myself back into the here and now. Her troubled relationship with James Joyce gives us such insight. And the love readers and writers had for Beach was total. And they were all so thankful for what she did bringing an English language bookshop into Paris.

There’s also another very special story to this book. A love story between Sylvia and Adrienne. Two strong women, both owned bookstores in Paris, partnering in life and work. Everyone loved them.

https://shakespeareandcompany.com/35/history/95/sylvia-beachs-shakespeare-and-company-1919-1941

THE PARIS BOOKSELLER opens in 1917, as World War 1 ends and Paris is alive as a thriving center of culture and modernity. With new ideas rapidly taking the post-war world by storm, Sylvia Beach moes to Paris and opens the doors to her new English-language bookshop with the help of fellow writer and bookseller Adrienne Monnier. What starts as a partnership and friendship with Adrienne soon blossoms into a romance, and the women work together to create a haven for English writers and readers.

I loved THE PARIS BOOKSELLER. My gorgeous finished copy of THE PARIS BOOKSELLER by Kerri Maher was generously provided by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in exchange for an honest review. I truly believe this is going to be one of the top novels of this season and beyond.

Kerri Maher

Kerri Maher is the best selling author of novels: THE KENNEDY DEBUTANTE and THE GIRL IN WHITE GLOVES.

A New Year

It is a new year. I know it is. But with the omicron variation of the virus spiking all over the country, well, it doesn’t feel any different yet.

We spent New Year’s Eve as we always do; together at home with a nice meal and some champagne. It was quiet. Not too many pesky fireworks in our neighborhood, thank God. Everyone around us has pets we must respect that. We were grateful.

I’ve been reading voraciously and preparing for upcoming in person book events. I’ve been checking in with clubs that are booked for this month. So far, everyone is on board. However, I know that can change, and quickly. Just yesterday one of my largest clubs had to postpone their book talk until later in the season because of the uptick of the virus. I am hoping we can reschedule for sometime in March when surely it will seem safer. People are nervous. Even those who are fully vaccinated and boosted are edgy. Too much risk. My husband and I are both fully vaccinated and boosted. I am confidant that any clubs who are nervous now can reschedule… We can do this.

On a high note, I was thrilled yesterday when Reese announced HONOR by Thrity Umrigar was her January pick for book club. I had been told by my publishing contact at Algonquin that this book was going to be announced in a big way. And, he was right. He was sworn to secrecy so he could not tell me any more. But I guessed it would be a bookclub pick.

Honor

You simply must read HONOR. It is so important and so wonderful. It does give us insight into what is still happening in this day and age. So much just has not changed in the world.

Right now, I’m reading THE CHRISTIE AFFAIR by Nina De Gramont. It’s exciting. I was skeptical since another novel was written about Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance. However, it grabbed me from the first page. Review to come closer to pub date, February 1.

The Christie Affair

I made us a big pot of black eyed peas and collard greens for New Year’s day for good luck. Let’s hope it works. We all can use all the good luck we can get.

I wish you all a Happy New Year and a year filled with wonderful books for reading. I know I have stacks of good books to recommend this coming year. After all, I’m already reading ahead to summer. Crazy stuff.

Cheers!

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


HONOR by Thrity Umrigar is an important book, especially right now. We are all still in the throws of the horror of our recent debacle in Afghanistan. It brings to mind other countries such as the India of this oh-so-pertinent novel. When I say horror I am not exaggerating. The plight of one young woman in a tiny Muslim town deep inside India, tore my heart out. Hindi against Muslim. The Indian-American journalist who came to her aid did everything she could possibly do to try to rectify this awful situation. But sometimes it’s still not enough. With outstanding prose that will become so compelling you will not even realize the time….. A must-read, not-to-be-missed novel.

I can not even begin to explain how this novel affected me. It brought a lot of feelings to the surface. Let’s face it, since THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini arrived on the literary scene in 2003, many of us readers have been trying to make sense of the horrors of countries like Afghanistan and India etc. HONOR is one of those books that delves so deeply into the mindset and the history and the religious beliefs that are so very different from our own here in the United States. We want to fix the awfulness. We think we should try. But, first, we have to understand…..

When I say every book club will be reading this amazing and moving novel, I am so serious. And there will be so much to talk about…

My amazing review copy arrived months ago from the publisher, Algonquin, who assured me HONOR is that very special novel that is going to be huge in scope. Don’t miss it!!

Thrity Umrigar is the celebrated author of nine previous novels as well as a memoir.

Thrity Umrigar





Maurice’s Favorite Books Of 2021

In no certain order, here are my favorite books of this past year:

FINDING FREEDOM by Erin French

OUTLAWED by Anna North

THE INVISIBLE WOMAN by Erika Robuck

THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS by Susan Meisner

MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid

AMONG THE BEAUTIFUL BEASTS by Lori McMullen

THAT SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner

THE ARSONISTS’S CITY by Hala Alyan

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME by Laura Dave

THE ISLANDERS by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

MARGRETE’S HARBOR by Eleanor Morse

THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON by Madeline Martin

THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton

THE SOUND OF THE SEA by Cynthia Barnett

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

I’m reading way ahead into the new year and honestly into summer. Some amazing books coming.

Merry Christmas

What’s better than one ginger cat wishing you Merry Christmas? Two, of course. In this case this is what our Wyatt would look like if he wore glasses and sported a Santa hat. Too cute.

I’m totally enjoying the chilly weather. Really puts me in the holiday mood. But the kitties are not fond of the cold. In fact, they are all huddled up on various blankets throughout the house. Miss Mimi claimed the best blanket.

We have a number of Santas hanging out on book cases and tables throughout the house. But my favorite are the sprites.

Christmas Sprite

Tonight we will have a quiet dinner here at home. Lobster and shrimp come to mind.

Tomorrow we will have dinner with family at youngest son Mike and his wife Ana’s house. There are seven of them and it is very festive. Children make all the difference. And the fact that Ana’s an amazing cook adds to the mix.

Several years ago Southern Living published a most wonderful Christmas book called CHRISTMAS ALL THROUGH THE SOUTH. Each year I pull it out and spend quality time looking through it. Reading the forward by Rick Bragg and enjoying the eye candy of photos of beautiful places throughout the South as they are dressed for the occasion. I especially visit the pages about the Biltmore and remember walking these rooms a few years ago. The recipes and photos of food are second to none. I will be relaxing later today, sitting with this book in my lap, hearing the Southern voice of Rick Bragg.

Southern Living
Christmas All Through The South

I’m wishing all of you readers a truly Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a day filled with family and great food; truly a memory-maker! And peace, I wish you all peace.

The Interior Silence by Sarah Sands

The Interior Silence

Love the cover of this new book about tranquility. This would be the perfect gift for someone who loves to travel but hasn’t been able to lately: that would be most of us. From the deserts and mountains of Japan, Greece, France, Egypt and more, comes a dose of quiet and solitude. It might be just what you need right now.

My gorgeous finished copy arrived from Chronicle Prism books in exchange for an honest spotlight. It totally transported me to so many wonderful places here on earth, places I would never have found on my own. A book for gifting.

Books Make The Best Gifts!

Two non fiction books at the top of my gift-giving list are:

Cuba

CUBA AN AMERICAN HISTORY by Ada Ferrer

THE SOUND OF THE SEA by Cynthia Barnett

Recent great historical fiction:

The Postmistress of Paris
The Postmistress of Paris

THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton

Contemporary fiction;

A LITTLE HOPE by Ethan Joella

Mystery/Thriller:

Unsafe Haven

UNSAFE HAVEN by Lucy Burdette

THE LEFT-HANDED TWIN by Thomas Perry

And for the young adult on your list I have one amazing book:

The Islanders

THE ISLANDERS by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela Mary

The Hunting Season by Tom Benjamin

The Hunting Season

THE HUNTING SEASON follows on the tail of Benjamin’s first mystery, A QUIET DEATH IN ITALY. We were introduced to Daniel Leicester who is an English detective now living in Bologna. Through his eyes we discovered the atmospheric Italian city riddled in mystery and death. Now comes THE HUNTING SEASON and another murder mystery, this one loaded with exotic food.

I love reading books that sweep me away from everyday life. And I love Italy. Little has been written about Bologna so there is much to learn. The food, the people, and the dark underside are all fleshed out in a compelling story that puts our protagonist deep in the thick of it.

One of the best parts of traveling is discovering the food of each region. Here in Bologna, the hunt is on for the very elusive and legendary Boscuri White, a truffle that is priceless. And the guy who is searching for it is an American truffle supertaster who goes missing. So Daniel is on the hunt for Ryan Lee.

This is almost like reading travel writing. You get all the scents, tastes, and scenery, but from the comfort of your home. A book like this offers a getaway. And we can all use a getaway after our long pandemic stay-at-home time.

You’ll quickly find yourself walking the shadowy porticoes of Bologna in Daniel’s footsteps as you find yourself drawn deeper and deeper into the story. Will you be able to solve the mystery?

My review copies of both books arrived via Constable Publishing through Emily Keough Publicity in exchange for an honest review. They’re keepers and will make great gifts for the mystery lovers on your list!

Tom Benjamin grew up in London and began his working life as a reporter before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He now lives in Bologna, Italy.

Announcing The Winner!

The Santa Suit

And without further ado, the winner of THE SANTA SUIT by Mary Kay Andrews is….. Steve C.

Congratulations Steve and thanks for entering my giveaway. Your wife is going to love this sweet novel. I will be sending our an email to you asking for a good mailing address. Please respond quickly.

I want to thank all of you who took the time to enter the contest. And wish you a Merry Christmas!