Christmas at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville, NC

Biltmore Estate

Here we are visiting  a little cottage in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. The Biltmore  is all decked out for Christmas right now. This is the best time to visit. Every fabulous room sports at least one  brilliantly decorated tree and there are more holiday lights and plants than you can shake a fist at.

We are accompanied by Emerson and Liam and their parents who so generously gave us  this experience for Christmas.


Biltmore With Grandkids

Even though the kids have been to the Biltmore on Christmas many times, they were still excited and enjoyed counting all the decorated trees: almost fifty.

The air on the day of our visit was crisp and quite chilly. But we were still able to sit outside and sip a hot apple cider and cocoa for the kids. The gift shops are filled with great stuff to remind you of your trip. There is even a bookbinding shop ….

I fell in love with the desk belonging to lady of the house.

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s desk.

I could easily replace my old desk with this much more charismatic one.  Don’t you think?



This bright and colorful fireplace lives in one of the guest rooms.  Look at the artwork. Lovely.

There are a lot of stairs.  Up and down and down and up. Worth every step. Very reminiscent of Downton Abbey. In fact, they had a Downton exhibit a year or so ago.

Giant Christmas tree

There was no way to get a photo of this entire tree.  It resides in the main dining room and is magnificent.

Banquet Hall

I have long been saying I would eventually visit Biltmore.  But I really wanted to wait until I could see it all dressed up in its holiday dressing. And so this was truly a magical time.  The best part was sharing  it my husband and the grandkids and my daughter and her husband, Chris, who so graciously did all this on his birthday: Christmas Eve. Thank you so much for this generous gift. An experience we will always remember as one of those great days! Merry Christmas everyone!

Note: I am working on my review of THE LAST CASTLE by Denise Kiernan.  This amazing new non fiction book is all about the building of the Biltmore.

The Last Castle

Now that I have been inside this amazing and magical place, I can offer a much more comprehensive post. The generous publishing people at Touchstone provided me with a gorgeous finished copy of the book. Wonderful.

You can purchase your copy of THE LAST CASTLE by Denise Kiernan at Copperfish Books in Punta, Gorda, Florida.  We have copies available in-store or online. See you soon!


Favorite Christmas Book This year!

Anita Hughes

Christmas In London

A couple of years ago I started choosing a Christmas book to read close to the actual holiday.  I’m looking for just the right book. Needs to be light and well-written. I don’t want to read anything with a big message. Nothing that is sad or political. Has to be just right. Last year I got really lucky and found CHRISTMAS IN PARIS by Anita Hughes. It was available in a trade paperback which also appealed to me. I read it over the holidays and was totally wowed. I was actively searching for a new holiday book by her this year when I came upon CHRISTMAS IN LONDON. Lucky me!

Louisa Graham is working late at the bakery in NYC. She’s just pulled a tray of her amazing cinnamon buns from the oven when a young man  enters the store. She’s forgotten to put out the closed sign.  Little does she know how this little mistake is about to change her life forever.

We quickly move from NYC to London where Louisa is warmly ensconced in a fairy tale suite at Claridge’s .  She’s about to star in a cooking show filled with celebrity chefs. CHRISTMAS DINNER AT CLARIDGE’S  is a dream come true and Louisa is about to live that dream.

Filled with detailed descriptions of edible confections that will make your senses swoon. Filled with the sounds and sights of Christmas in one of the most famous and lovely cities in the world. I am here to tell you that you are going to want to eat the pages.  The goodies served in the famous dining rooms throughout the elegant hotels are simply to die for.  The scenes of holiday decorations will make you want to hop on the first plane to London and sign yourself into Claridge’s right now.  And, yes, I even want the bright sparkly white tree with the shiny blue balls covering it. I want it in my suite when I arrive.

Yes, there is romance in this story. And, yes, at times it’s a bit silly. But it did what I wanted it to do: transport me to a different world. One where decadent cookies covered in spun sugar are the norm. One where I find myself peeking in the amazing window of Harrod’s and seeing a Lamborghini and an Aston Martin filled with presents, wrapped in bows, and pulled by reindeer.  The holidays need some fantasy and this fun novel will give  you this in spades.

I posted this picture of me holding both books in Copperfish Books on Facebook yesterday. We sold almost all the books.  If you hurry I think there is one copy left of CHRISTMAS IN LONDON.

I will be having  a blast selling my favorite books at the store on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. Hope to see you there.

Merry Christmas! And I wish you all at least one great book for the holidays.

Great Non Fiction Books For Gift Giving

David Lebowitz


L’APPART by David Lebovitz is sure to wow the foodie on your list. It’s witty and entertaining, as well as having recipes from David’s own pantry.

Craig Pittman

Oh, Florida

OH, FLORIDA! is just perfect for that person who is skeptical about Florida escapades. They’re true!

Walter Isaacson

Leonardo Da Vinci



LEONARDO DA VINCI is on fire!! Everyone wants to read this winner.

Prince Charles





PRINCE CHARLES is a full-bodied biography that can be taken seriously. Do put this on your list for the Royal lovers. Will he ever get to the top?

The Last Castle

The photo on the front of THE LAST CASTLE is of the Biltmore in Asheville, N.C.. Great gift for those who love Asheville, have or have not visited the Biltmore, and everyone in between. I’ll be visiting Biltmore as it’s all decked out in its holiday dress on Christmas Eve. Will have review of the book after the holidays.

Bobby Flay


This book is filled with not just healthy and great recipes, but, good advise from Bobby Flay who has discovered the secret to keeping fit after fifty.

David Grann

Killer of the Flower Moon

This one reads like a thriller; a novel. But, it’s the true story of the Osage murders and the beginning of the FBI. Winning lots of awards.



Last but certainly not least I give you Roxanne Gay’s very personal memoir. HUNGER is a tell-all. A must-read for anyone who struggles with who they are.

It’s not too late to pick one of these fabulous books up from Copperfish Books. Come on down. We’re open until six Monday through Saturday until Christmas. And we are even open on Sunday from 11-4 until Christmas! Come on down and see us. We have lots of recommends.

The Best Fiction Books Of This Season For Gift Giving

Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach

Right at the top of my list is MANHATTAN BEACH by Jennifer Egan. Whether you are looking for a gift for a guy or a girl, this literary tour de force is perfect!

Jesmyn Ward

Sing, Unburied, Sing

This amazing new novel by Jesmyn Ward has just won the  National Book Award  for fiction 2017! Doesn’t get better than that.

Mark Helprin

Paris In The Present Tense


PARIS IN THE PRESENT TENSE is sure to wow all of your reader friends. It’s bound to be a good fit for a man or a woman.

Ken Follett

Column of Fire

A COLUMN OF FIRE is a great choice for history readers. Although it’s a novel, it’s stuffed with so much truthful information.  Everyone on your list will be thrilled to find this in their pile.

Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

THE TEA GIRL OF HUMMINGBIRD LANE is one of my favorite books of the season. It’s a gift you will be thanked for over and over again.

Veronica Henry

How To Find Love in a Bookshop

You can’t go wrong with this novel. We all love an Independent Bookshop. This one is very special and it’s in England. And it’s Christmas time.


Anita Hughes


CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is a romance. It’s just for  us girls.  It’s the light novel that we need right now. Sweet and beautiful. This is the one book I bought for myself last year to read over the holiday weekend. I loved it.

Anita Hughes

Christmas In London

I just purchased a copy of CHRISTMAS IN LONDON for myself. Since I fell in love with CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, I figured this is a must-read for me. So, I will read this one during Christmas week.

I have many more books to show you for gift-giving. More posts to come soon. Non fiction. Cooking. Kids…

All of these amazing books are available for purchase at Copperfish Books. In the store the hardcover’s are 20% off. You can also purchase through the store’s website with free shipping.






The Ice House by Laura Lee Smith

Laura Lee Smith

The Ice House

Love the cover! Screams Florida.  Laura Lee Smith wowed us with her first novel HEART OF PALM. I fell head over heels for that one. Have been eagerly awaiting this new novel. It was worth the wait.

author of HEART OF PALM

Laura Lee Smith

THE ICE HOUSE is also set in Florida in and around the Jacksonville area. We also get to cross the pond to Scotland and that’s a big deal.

Johnny MacKinnon and his wife Pauline own an old ice-making factory in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s perched right on the edge of the seedier side of town. Across the street is a house with disreputable characters who may or may not be involved in the drug trade…

Lately, Johnny’s been struggling with his business. OSHA has slammed a claim of negligence against him because they discovered an ammonia leak that he knew nothing about.  And, the place needs a lot of work. He’s dealing with  toxic inner feelings concerning his 30-year-old son Corran who is a heroin addict. The family has spent wads of money providing rehab for Corran, over and over again, to no avail. Plus, while he was visiting them over the holidays a costly piece of jewelry went missing.. Corran is currently living in a stone cottage in Scotland raising his baby daughter alone.  His mother insists he’s clean now. Pauline and Johnny spend most of their days tip-toeing around the addiction.   Now, Johnny has been diagnosed with a cyst on his brain that just could be malignant. He’s scheduled for surgery soon. And so he decides to visit his son Corran and his ex-wife Sharon, seeking closure. In Scotland.

Everyone has some sort of stress going on in their lives. Sharon  is working a full-time job while caring partly for Corran’s baby daughter. She’s also the caregiver for husband number two who is in the beginning days of dementia. Good God, how much more can she take?

Johnny decides at the last minute to take a young man along to Scotland with him, the  neighbor’s son who is a real character and just the comic relief we need here.  Chemal will be Johnny’s driver. What a trip he is.  A delight.

In Scotland, Johnny comes to grips with his feelings about Corran.  Faces them.  But Corran is a hard nut to crack and  does not make it easy.  Johnny knows it could be his last chance to be part of his only son’s life, not to mention the baby’s.  This part of the novel is quite stunning and even harrowing. Some of the scenes will take your breath away.

HEART OF PALM, Smith’s first novel is a real favorite of mine.  The big rambling house is a character itself. But the family saga is what will grab your attention and  you will easily become a Laura Lee Smith fan.


I received a review copy of THE ICE HOUSE from Grove Press Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  We all loved it!

We will be hosting a special event with Laura Lee Smith on  Wednesday, March 7 at six o’clock in the evening at Copperfish Books.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

Please call ahead to reserve your spot.  941-205-2560. You are not going to want to miss this one. In fact, bring your friends.



Strangers In Budapest by Jessica Keener

Jessica Keener

Strangers In Budapest

One glance at this lovely cover and I was pulled right in. STRANGERS IN BUDAPEST by Jessica Keener is not for the faint of heart. I love reading about old European cities. There’s usually a great story waiting to be told. Here, there are many stories.

Will and his wife Annie sell their house in Boston and move to Budapest with their newly adopted infant, Leo. Wow, that’s a lot. They want to live like the locals. Will intends to make a start-up business in communications. Budapest is just coming out of the communist-era and everyone believes there is going to be a big boom.

But Annie isn’t settling in as she had once thought she would. The summer is insanely hot and humid and they have no air conditioning in their central apartment on the Buda side of Budapest. Budapest is divided into two parts: Buda is hilly and Pest is flat. A bridge spans the two at the Danube River. Locally known as Duna. Annie has not made any friends yet even though there is a fairly large expat community nearby.  And the business Will has  been trying to jump -start is not going so well. They have almost blown through their savings.

One day, they get a call from their old neighbors back in the states asking them for a favor. Would they please check on an old man who is staying in their apartment across the river in Budapest. They are concerned about his health since hearing of the oppressive heat in the city. And he has diabetes.

Edward Weiss is a Jewish American WW11 veteran who helped free Hungarian Jews from a Nazi prison camp.  He has come to Hungary to find the person who he believes murdered his daughter.

Annie helped out at a homeless shelter in America and can not resist trying to help Edward. But, things turn weird, then even weirder. And she begins fearing for her own and her family’s lives. Suddenly, the people she thinks she knows, appear to change. And  this story becomes deadly.

There are enough twists and turns in this story to keep you up late at night.  Keener knows the city and manages to show its seedy side as well as its beauty and history.  In fact, this complex city is filled with problems from its pollution and mostly rude and opinionated locals, to its corrupt city officials.  I have officially crossed it from my to-go-to list.


Jessica Keener

Jessica Keeneris the author of the bestselling novel NIGHT SWIM. She lived in Budapest in the 1990’s; she now lives with her husband in the Boston area, where she is a writing consultant for Grub Street.

If you’re looking for a unique tale in a unique place, this is your book. I thank Algonquin Books for the gorgeous finished hardcover in exchange for an honest review.  I enjoyed it and I think readers of suspense will be talking about this one for a long time.

Winner And Review: The City Baker’s Guide To Country Living by Louise Miller

Louise Miller

The City Baker’s Guide To Country Living

Just look at this great cover!  Makes me think of the holidays in the country.  This city girl moves to the country novel is just what you need to help you unwind over the next month and beyond as the holiday season officially kicks in right this very minute.

When 32-year-old Olivia Rawlings accidentally sets fire to the dining room of the ritzy club where she works in Boston, we know the end of  THAT career is in sight. The first sentence of this novel is: “The night I lit the Emerson Club on fire had been perfect for making meringue.”   And then the baked Alaska became a  missile….

Fleeing from the city, Olivia finds solace in a tiny town in Vermont where her best friend helps her find a new job as a pastry chef for an inn.  Of course as a graduate of Culinary Institute of America, she is way over qualified for the position but, is grateful for the work.  The owner is an eccentric woman who is prickly at best and we wonder how this relationship will survive.

Of course there is a love interest. And we find out about Olivia’s past. And how it affects her choices right down to her wild hair and sometimes coarse language.

Who will win the apple pie contest at the local fair this year? Is it going to be the same winner that it’s been forever, or, will it be Olivia? The recipe for the winning pie if at the back of the book.

Food is key in this novel. And Louise Miller knows food. She’s a pastry chef herself who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. This is her first novel and it’s a real winner. Her second novel , THE LATE BLOOMERS’ CLUB, is forthcoming from Pamela Dorman Books/Viking.  I can’t wait.

Linny Assink, you are my winner today!I will need your mailing address so the nice people at Penguin Books can send your copy of THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING to you.

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to enter my contest.  And, thanks for Penguin for providing my giveaway copy. Perfect holiday read.