Die Around Sundown by Mark Pryor

I’m always happy to see a new mystery by Mark Pryor. I’ve been reading his wonderfully atmospheric murder-mysteries since coming across THE BOOKSELLER years ago. He began a fabulous new series with that novel set in Paris. I was all in. Over the years I’ve become a huge fan. I was pleasantly surprised this summer to come across DIE AROUND SUNDOWN which is the first in a brand new series set in Paris, but the time span is WW11. A new character is introduced: Inspector Henri Lefort. Great name. And he has his own set of issues from his involvement with the past war. And they’re not pretty.

The setting is Paris. Pryor has a way of walking the avenues and rues of the always ethereal and beautiful City of Light. He takes you along in his pocket. Of course Henri is immediately involved in solving a murder. He’s chosen by the Nazi’s to lead an investigation into a German’s murder. Wait a minute. He’s IT. Meaning he is to work on this case alone. He has one week to find the killer. He’s not allowed to visit the crime scene, the Louvre, and the body has already been moved…. So there is that. If he fails at his mission he has been reminded he will face huge consequences.

Throw in some famous people: Picasso and Sigmund Freud, and you’ve pushed the story up several notches. It doesn’t hurt that we are subjected to fine wines and French dining.

I’m looking forward to the next installment of this intriguing new series already.

My beautiful review copy arrived via the great publishing people at Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin, all in exchange for an honest review. I was held captive for two days as I read DIE AROUND SUNDOWN, peeking down the dark alleys and enjoying the history of Paris!

Gorgeous Cover Reveal!

COMING: 5.2.23

Cover reveal! Behold THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA by New York Times bestselling author @Patti Callahan Henry – Patti Callahan. The award-winning author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis delivers an enchanting story that Christina Baker Kline calls “transporting, heartfelt, and atmospheric” and that Jamie Ford describes as “a fantastical tale of myth, wartime history, and true heartache.” Mark your calendars and start planning your Spring 2023 reading early. THE SECRET BOOK OF FLORA LEA will be in stores everywhere on May 2, 2023 from @Atria Books. Pre-order NOW! https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Secret-Book-of-Flora-Lea/Patti-Callahan-Henry/9781668011836 

#TheSecretBookofFloraLea #coverreveal #historicalfiction #patticallahanhenry #pch #atriabooks 

SYNOPSIS: When a woman stumbles across a mysterious children’s book, long-held secrets about her missing sister and their childhood spent in the English countryside during World War II are revealed in this “gripping, magical tale” (Fiona Davis) from the New York Times bestselling author of Surviving Savannah and Becoming Mrs. Lewis. 

1939: Fourteen-year-old Hazel and five-year-old Flora evacuate their London home for a rural village to escape the horrors of the Second World War. Living with the Aberdeen family in a charming stone cottage, Hazel distracts her young sister with a fairy tale about a magical land, a secret place they can escape to that is all their own: Whisperwood. 

But the unthinkable happens when Flora suddenly vanishes after playing near the banks of the River Thames. Shattered, Hazel blames herself for her sister’s disappearance, carrying the guilt into adulthood. 

Twenty years later, Hazel is back in London, ready to move on from her job at a cozy rare bookstore for a career at Sotheby’s. With a cherished boyfriend and an upcoming Paris getaway, Hazel’s future seems set. But her tidy life is turned upside down when she unwraps a package containing a picture book called Whisperwood and the River of Stars. Hazel never told a soul about the storybook world she created just for Flora. Could this book hold the secrets to Flora’s disappearance? Could it be a sign that her beloved sister is still alive after all these years? Or is something sinister at play? 

For fans of Kate Morton, Janet Skeslien Charles, and Kristin Hannah, this is a “lyrical and supremely satisfying” (Paula McLain) celebration of sisterhood and the magic of storytelling wrapped up in a “heartrending, captivating tale of family, first love, and fate” (Kristin Harmel). 

I don’t know about you but I’m a huge fan of Patti Callahan Henry. I jumped at the chance to help with marketing this upcoming novel. The story sounds amazing and the cover is beautiful! Sending a big thanks to Meg at Tandem Literary and all the amazing publishing people at Simon and Schuster!!

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

I was thrilled when I heard Anthony Marra was coming out with a new novel. Honestly, I really didn’t care what it was going to be about. His first novel, A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA was so brilliant that I could barely believe it was his first novel. And he was only 28 years old. Expectations were high for this new novel.

MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS is nothing like CONSTELLATION. This new novel begins in the 1940’s in Los Angeles. It’s set in Hollywood. And it’s set in Italy and Germany during WW11.

Maria Lagana escapes Rome with her mother. Maria’s activist father is left behind and condemned to a life of confino (internal exile) after some of his writing is found by the government. We discover that it was Maria, at the age of twelve, who was the one who brought attention to these writings, and she will live with this guilt the rest of her life. Mother and daughter flee to Los Angeles where they are taken in by three of her mother’s sisters. Talk about characters. And this is where Marra shows his ability to inject amazing wit into his stories. By the way; the aunts are named after Marra’s own aunts.

Now we’re in Hollywood and Maria is hired by Art Feldman to be a producer at his studio, Mercury Pictures. Art and his twin brother are running the show. The brothers are like oil and water. And they only grow farther apart as the story unfolds.

With a vast cast of unique characters, Marra is able to address a myriad of issues that actually echo some of the same issues we are dealing with right now. Issues of race, politics, war, women’s rights, and even immigration. Some things change, yet seem to stay the same.

I’m going to be honest and say that this is not an easy novel to read. But the writing is brilliant. Marra’s sense of wit and cast of characters is so bright that you will keep thinking of them long after you’ve turned the last page.

Anthony Marra

Marra traveled to Calabria where so much of the novel is set. He spent time in Germany. And he’s able to portray L.A. so well because he lived there at one time. Sense of place is tantamount to plot for me and Marra has done a super job of it. He always does.

I read MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS digitally through NetGalley and Hogarth publishing in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, this novel should be on every book club’s line up for this season! And now I’m already anticipating Marra’s next novel.

The Many Daughters Of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford

This cover does not do justice to Jamie Ford’s beautiful new novel. I was so glad to see that Jenna chose this new novel for the Today Show Bookclub pick for August. I was watching last week when she announced the book and had Ford on the show, remotely. It was perfect for him to explain how this book came to life.

Come to this novel with an open mind. Read every page, beginning to end. You may be confused in part, but keep at it. The span of this novel is 250 years and that’s a long, long time. We follow the lives of seven generations of Chinese women. The story is not told in chronological order. We are back and forth in time.

In 1836 we meet Afong Moy where she is being presented in a carnival-like act in front of paying audiences. She is the first Chinese woman to emigrate to the United States. With her bound feet she’s quite the attraction. And she’s being exploited by a man and his wife.

We meet Dorothy in 2045. She’s a poet and descendant of Moy, living in Seattle and dealing with not only a super typhoon, but visions of her past being brought to life through epigenetics. She hopes to end the troubles that have run through her family so her young daughter is spared.

This novel is Jamie Ford’s first foray into speculative fiction. Ford says, “When it comes to genetics, we think of inherited traits–hair or eye color, things that are observable.” But epigenetics has opened the discussion that we possibly inherit behavioral and psychological traits that impact how we react to pain and to other people we love, Ford goes on to say his book is about inherited trauma, but it’s also redemptive and hopeful and it’s a love story.

My interest was certainly piqued about epigenetics as I had never even heard of it. It will make you think. It might even have you online doing your own research. It has certainly moved Ford up many notches in the fiction writing realm.

This novel is sure to make it onto the list of must-reads for bookclubs.

Jamie Ford is the bestselling author of ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET. He lives in Great Falls, Montana.

Jamie Ford

My review copy arrived from the generous publishing people at Atria, a division of Simon & Schuster. All in exchange for an honest review. This is literary fiction at its best! A great book for discussion. Ford has outdone himself. Not to be missed.

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.