A Dish To Die For by Lucy Burdette

What an inviting cover for the latest in the Key West Food Critic Mystery Series. I love everything about it. This is my favorite cozy series. It’s got all the things I love: Key West; great restaurants and amazing food; quirky characters, house boats, cats, and there is always a murder.

Hayley Snow is the food critic for Key Zest magazine in Key West, Florida. It’s not a bad gig if you can get it. Hayley is surrounded by a unique cast of characters who I have become very fond of over the years, and they’re all back. Octogenarian Miss Gloria who lives on a houseboat next to Hayley and her husband, is still very much alive and kicking. She’s so full of pepper and really brings so much to the story.

The city of Key West is a huge character in these books. I love to be taken back to the island paradise I love through reading these books each summer. And don’t worry, you can start with any of the books; they don’t have to be read in order. Of course I’ve read all of them so what can I say.

I love that Burdette has incorporated the local Women’s Club cookbook into the story. In fact, it’s a big part of the mystery. You’ll enjoy sleuthing out clues from among the pages. And some of the characters in this book are real people in Key West. How fun!

I also love that current issues that are happening right now in Key West are pinpointed and used to move the story along. Such as: the murdered man was not a beloved member of society but a developer with an awful reputation in the Keys who was also a known womanizer. He had so many enemies that any number of people could have had good reason to kill him. The cruise ship situation is brought to the surface and how it affects the working people of the city and the environment.

I love Key West. Visiting the island is like taking a valium. Everything slows down. Everyone can truly be themselves…

My Review copy of A DISH TO DIE FOR was provided by Crooked Lane Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I loved it and am already anxious to read the next one.

The Magic Of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden

THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE is, well, quite magical, and all in a wonderfully light and airy way.

I’d not read any books by Linden and didn’t quite know what to expect. I’m trying to wean myself from the lighter, fluffier books of summer. However, THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE drew me in and kept my interest throughout the entire book. Even kept me up one night. Wow.

Ten years after her mom’s untimely death, Lolly Blanchard is still stuck in Seattle. Still working day and night to keep the struggling family diner from going under. Still worrying about her father and younger sister. And, most of all, still missing the love of her life…

She’s about to turn 33 when her aunt gives her a gift of three magical lemon drop candies. When she discovers a list she made many years ago, she decides to give the candies a try…. For each item on her bucket list for life, she can use a lemon drop which is going to take her back to that time so she will see what she missed. This is when the page turning came for me.

What a wonderful, whimsical novel about second chances. It sure had me on the edge of my chair. A perfect read for summer’s end. Very enlightening.

My review copy was provided digitally through Netgalley and Berkley Publishing, a division of Penguin Random House, for an honest review. It’s so honestly enchanting. Loved it!

The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin

The Librarian Spy

I fell in love with THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON when I came across it last year. Madeline Martin quickly became one of my favorite historical fiction novelists. When I discovered she had written a new novel, well, I could not wait to get my hands on it. I am grateful to the publishing house of Hanover Square Press for sending me a gorgeous finished copy. And I love that it’s a trade paperback edition which makes it so great for bookclubs.

Yes, this is a novel of World War 11. And it’s amazing. I had no idea Portugal was neutral in the war. So this was a brand new tidbit for me. A large part of the novel takes place in Lisbon.

Ava, an American working in The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. during WW11, was enjoying working quietly with the rare books in the safety she was enveloped in here in America. When she was offered a position working undercover as a librarian in Lisbon, she didn’t have to think hard before jumping aboard. Suddenly, she’s a spy.

Elaine is living in occupied Lyon, France, and working as an apprentice learning how to work the printing press that makes the material for the resistance workers to distribute to the brave people who work behind the scenes, risking their lives and changing the odds the Nazis are working so hard to keep steady

What do these two strong women have in common? Coding. When Ava breaks the code from one of Elaine’s postings, a bond is forged that no one can break.

I loved the scenes in Lisbon. The food, the street scenes, the people. Reading and books and periodicals are the materials that bring the crucial facts into the world from behind the front that shields the war world. The truth will come out despite the Nazi’s mission to hide it.

There is a “Sarah’s Key” moment in the midst of this wonderful novel that shows the horrific doings of the Reich up front and very personal. If you have not read SARAH’S KEY, do so immediately. THE LIBRARIAN SPY is a fine historical novel that you can add to your ever-growing shelves of great WW11 novels.

You should know that Martin spent time in both Lisbon and Lyon doing copious research on the ground for this novel. She has managed to incorporate true history involving the librarians during WW11. Amazing job.

We spent some time in Lisbon several years ago. This novel certainly brings back the sights, the smells, and the reminders of how amazing the food and baked goods truly are. One early afternoon as we walked the streets of Lisbon, we stopped in front of a cafe that we had not heard of, looked in and saw the eatery filled with locals enjoying a luncheon feast. We decided on the spur of the moment to join them. We were ushered to the last seats and can still remember the opulence of the amazing fish stew served in a stunning copper bowl. And the bread. If you have never experienced the joy of Portuguese bread, you have missed a piece of heaven.

Lisbon Pottery

We’ve been enjoying this very colorful pot purchased in Lisbon for many years. The colors so bright that they totally punctuate the clay.

The very generous publishing people at Hanover Square Press sent me my finished copy in exchange for an honest review. This is easy: It’s wonderful! You absolutely need this in your TBR pile for right now.

August Musings From Southwest Florida

It sure is hot here in Southwest Florida. But not as hot as in many other parts of the country. We are most grateful for air conditioning.

I’ve been pretty lax about posting last month. I intend to make up for it this month. That is the intention.

Mercury Pictures Presents

The Many Daughters Of Afong Moy

I’ve been reading some very good but pretty light novels lately. That is coming to an end very quickly. In fact, I’m reading two very literary novels right now. MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS by Anthony Marra and THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY by Jamie Ford. I was happy to see Jenna chose THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY for her Today Show bookclub pick for August. It’s most interesting to hear Ford talk about the reasoning behind his novel. I love it!

I’m having issues with my phone and sending pictures to my computer right now so that is why there is a lack of new photos. Boo hoo. Also problems with the blog and sizing of font. Working to fix this now. But I really didn’t wish to put off posting the August blog post any longer. After all, the month is going to disappear in a wee moment as it is.

I’m already preparing for upcoming fall events. Once November hits I will be off and running around SW Florida as I begin my seasonal talks…. after all, it’s all about the books.

The Librarian Spy

I just finished a wonderful historical fiction novel set in Lisbon, Portugal and Lyon, France during WW11. It’s written by Madeline Martin, the amazing author of THE LAST BOOKSHOP IN LONDON. I am so excited about this new novel. And, yes, it’s absolutely wonderful! Review to post soon.

I received a wonderful literary surprise this week in the form of an email from my friend Abraham Verghese. Yes, that Abraham: the famous author. He had the BEST news. His novel, THE COVENANT OF WATER will be published soon by the great publishing company, Grove/Atlantic. Grove has published some of the most brilliant award-winning authors of our time. I will soon be receiving a bound galley of the new novel. I can not tell you how much this means to me. Almost fifteen years ago I spent the day at the Miami Book fair with Abraham while he spoke about his novel, CUTTING FOR STONE. It was a banner day. And now a new novel will come forth into the publishing world. Wonderful news.

I’ll be talking about some of the upcoming BIG books of this coming season during the next couple months. I’m trying to get more organized so I don’t miss anything important.

My husband and I had a great visit to Asheville to visit grown kids and almost grown grandkids last month. The weather cooperated and we were able to enjoy the several porches overlooking the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. We ate well and visited Black Mountain and had lunch. Lunch at Black Mountain Bistro was delicious as well as food for the senses. Outdoor seating under the trees was perfect as was the fried green tomato appetizer. Then we strolled from Sassafras on Sutton, my favorite bookstore in the area, up to my favorite clothing shop, C.W. Moose Trading Company. My husband and I both found the BEST tee shirts to bring home to remind us of our day on Black Mountain.

We loved hearing about the European vacation through the voices of the teenagers. And I love this photo of Emerson and Liam as they exit the most wonderful Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in Paris.

Emerson & Liam in Paris

I have plenty of catching up to do this month. I’m off and running, reading literary stuff and being grateful for everything bookish in my life as well as my amazing family. I’m sending out a huge thank you to my wonderful daughter-in-law, Ana for taking such great care of our kitties while we were away. I can’t thank you enough, Ana!

I promise to have some great reviews up very soon!! Happy reading.

The Second Husband By Kate White

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen murder mysteries. Her followers wait each year with baited breath for her newest release. Well, folks, here it is. Put everything aside and be prepared to keep turning these pages because you will be totally enthralled.

Emma is happily married to her second husband Tom. He’s handsome and well adjusted and seems to be just perfect. But is he?

Emma lost her first husband when he was murdered several years ago. The case was never solved, and so there is that. And when a detective arrives on her doorstep telling her they have new evidence in her husband’s murder, and that they are reopening the case, she is flabbergasted.

Emma’s mind spins. We discover things about family members. All is not wonderful any longer. This suspenseful new novel is perfect to toss in your beach bag or to pick up for your vacation flight to paradise. And it’s just as great to enjoy relaxing at home during your staycation.

My review copy arrived from Wunderkind PR Company through the publisher Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. You murder mystery fans are going to love this one. Cheers!

Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown, New York Times bestselling author of THE WEIRD SISTERS, is back with a wonderful story about families. What does the term “family” even mean?

I’m always looking for a unique story. I think this story qualifies as just that. Three families are raising four children, all adopted and with the same birth mother, a young woman who was almost a child herself when she gave birth to her first child. She and the birth father were not able to raise these children. So their grandmother stepped in. And then grams passed away. Brianna, the mother, is a very lucky woman. She is able to find three sets of parents who are willing and able to adopt. Not your traditional family, for sure.

Ginger is single when she adopts the oldest daughter. It’s a great match. Tabitha and her husband, not able to have a child of their own, are thrilled to take the twins. And Elizabeth and her husband, just coming off another failed bout of Invitro are blindsided by the offer of a new born baby girl. So now there are three families and the birth mom.

It’s all even more complicated than it sounds. But Brown does a flawless job of opening up these people’s lives and showing us how they each got to this point. Brown knows what it’s like to adopt as she has done just that.

You’re probably asking yourself this question: Why is Brianna getting pregnant over and over again and giving her children away? That’s a great question and I’ll let you figure out that one along the way.

Tabitha is a planner. She’s the glue in this complex family. She has made it her mission to keep everyone close. Sunday dinners at her house, birthdays celebrated together so the children truly feel connected. After all they are siblings. Ginger is feeling too much togetherness. And Elizabeth is still reeling from taking on a newborn. Even though she loves baby Violet more than life itself, she is beating herself up and questioning her ability to be a good mother.

In the midst of all this the “family” is away on a “together” vacation in the mountains of Colorado when they get a call from Brianna. Brace yourself. She is pregnant again. Her loser boyfriend has once again come back, and stayed just long enough to make everything even more over-the-top crazy. Another baby on the way. Who will parent? No one is stepping up. Fingers are pointed.

What a wild and crazy portrait of motherhood Eleanor Brown has given us. It makes you think. It made me mad. And it made me think.

The writing is superb. The story is unique. Let me know what you think.

I borrowed my copy from the library and am not indebted to anyone for a review.

Sugar And Salt by Susan Wiggs

Sugar and Salt

I think this cover is stunning. And I want a slice of that cake!

Last year I fell in love with Wigg’s THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP. Well, I was thrilled to discover she has set this wonderful new novel in San Francisco and right on Perdido Street. Some of the same characters are involved and the bookshop uses pastries from the new bakery. Yippee.

Margo Salton has left her sordid past behind in Texas. She’s determined to find just the right spot to open her own restaurant. San Francisco is far from Texas. But is it far enough?

Margo has a way with barbecue. She’s created her own brand that is out of this world. And she’s going to show the city how it’s done. When she comes across a space that has half occupancy, she snaps it up even though she’d be sharing a kitchen with the baker. She and the bakery’s owner Ida hit it off right away. No problem. Then there is the question of Ida’s grandson, the very handsome Jerome. Can they work together?

This novel goes back in forth in time so you can experience Margot’s horrific storyline. It’s shocking. No wonder she’s fled the area. No wonder she suffers set backs. And Jerome has his own demons.

I loved this novel. There are even recipes in the back of the book. You’ll find yourself licking your lips in anticipation of your next meal.

Be sure to read the author’s note at the end of the book. I was truly surprised to find that Margot’s character was inspired by real events. Hard to believe. That’s what makes it all the more intriguing.

Wigg’s has done it again! You need this book. Add it to your TBR pile and put it on top.

My gorgeous review copy arrived from the generous publishing people at William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins, in exchange for an honest review. Truly, it’s so wonderful. I loved it.

Portrait Of An Unknown Woman by Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva never disappoints. He’s back with another literary thriller. I am so pleased to tell you that in this new novel he brings the intrigue temperature up even higher than usual. Gabriel Allon recently retired from his position at the top of the Israeli Intelligence Agency. He’s living quietly in Venice with his beautiful wife Chiara and their twins, Raphael and Irene. Silva portrays the city of Venice as a character, one that is mysterious, lovely beyond belief, and filled with intrigue.

So what is Gabriel going to do with his days now that he’s not a spy? That all quickly comes to a head when he’s visited by his old friend Julian Isherwood, Julian of the art gallery in London. Julian needs Gabriel’s help. He’s recently received a letter from a woman who has information about a forgery of a master piece of art. And then she turns up dead. Will Gabriel take the bait?

Art forgery. Makes one wonder how many pieces of masterful art that appear on the walls of the most treasured museums in the world, are, in deed, actually, fake? So we are off and running along with Gabriel as he becomes completely enmeshed in this thrilling novel of forgery and art.

Some of the characters we have come to love are involved in this book. Some are not. I did not feel deprived of those who did not make the cut. I am sure they will return in future novels. Of course they will. The locales are exotic and many are familiar. Corsica is one of my favorites. And those wild characters on that island.

I had to rein myself in so I would not devour the book in one sitting. I stretched it out as long as possible. And loved reading the author’s note at the end.

Now I’m left eagerly anticipating the next thriller, next July, I hope.

My finished first edition was provided by the very generous publishing people at Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Once again, Silva has proven himself to be the most accomplished literary thriller writer of the century. I loved it!

Daniel Silva

Hurricane Girl by Marcy Dermansky

Hurricane Girl

Allison Brody spent her savings on a beach house on the coast of North Carolina. It’s small. She bought it for a good price in foreclosure. It’s all hers. She’s just left her abusive boyfriend in LA and has driven across the country to move as far from him as possible.

A week and a half is all the time Allison gets in her ideal new home. Literally! Along came a hurricane and swept it away. Thank God she had decided at the last minute to evacuate inland.

What can be worse than becoming homeless overnight? Being hit over the head with a big glass vase that leaves a hole in your head. Right!

Allison makes bad choices. She ends up back at her mom’s home in New Jersey where she hooks up with an old boyfriend who’s become a, wait for it, brain surgeon. The hook up is at the hospital where she ends up when mom whisks her to the ER for a look-see at the hole in her head. OMG.

This novel is short. So short I read it in one sitting. It’s witty and the writing is quite edgy. In fact, the scenes after the brain surgery seem so accurate. Yes, you would be forgetful, you would search for words, and you might not remember exactly how you came to have a hole in your head.

All this sounds confusing and odd. It is. But wait until the end. Oh, the end.

I borrowed this novel from the library. What did I think? I liked it. I loved the end.

The Midcoast by Adam White

The Midcoast

Maine. I’ve read more novels that take place in Maine this year than ever before. Most of them have been light summer reads or family sagas. This one is unique. It’s not quite a thriller. Not really a mystery, and certainly not a light summer read. However, it is definitely a character study of a small coastal town in Maine named Damariscotta. The town actually exists and I bet most of you have either been there or have heard of it.

The story begins with the prologue. There’s a party going on here. Big party. The richest family in the town is throwing it. The Thatch family is showing offa their wealth for all to see. But something is wrong here. And before we know it a long line of police cars is coming around the bend, lights atop the cars, turning and twisting for all to see. Trouble. This scene also shows up at the very end of the book. But there’s plenty in between to keep you turning the pages….

Andrew is doing most of the narrating in this book. He and his wife have recently moved back to Damariscotta. He’s teaching English now at the local high school and coaching acrosse. He had moved on years ago, felt he had to “get” away from Maine. Andy worked for the Thatch family as a teen and was bullied by Ed who was close to his own age. Their family business was the Lobster Pound. They were lobstermen.

Early in the book we watch Ed fall for Stephanie. This is not your usual teenage crush. He is totally obsessed with her. He makes a pact early on to give Steph everything she ever wants. So when she becomes pregnant soon after they meet, he marries her and starts down that fateful path to truly make sure she has everything she wants. EVERYTHING.

Ed has no high school diploma. But he has ambition. When push comes to shove Ed steals a valuable diamond ring from a yacht anchored just off shore, knowing the owners are on shore enjoying a leisurely dinner. He has the ring deconstructed and made into an engagement ring for Steph. She has no clue. And that’s just the beginning of his “new” lifestyle.

I love a coastal setting and the area around Damariscotta is breathtaking. Adam White takes clear advantage of the scenery to push his story into your mind. You have a page-turning story, a gorgeous setting and a criminal element that delivers a powerful punch.

I read this book in two sittings. I kept thinking, “the higher they rise, the harder the fall.” Watching the Thatch family rise to lofty heights, I knew it had to be a matter of time before the fall came down hard.

I’m still thinking about the ending. I’m still thinking about the whole story. It was a good ride. But I’m not sure how I feel about the end.

I borrowed this book from the library and am not indebted to anyone for a review! Boom.