Cuba by Ada Ferrer

Cuba An American History

I’ve long been intrigued by Cuba. I think it really began in 1961 with the Bay of Pigs invasion. It really pushed forward the following year with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was living with my family in Delaware and I remember my mother making trip after trip to our basement, filling it with canned goods and water. She was preparing in case of disaster. Delaware is not far from Washington, D.C. and we all feared missiles would be deployed from Cuba and surely the nations hub would be targeted. I was only twelve and didn’t understand much of it. I just knew I was really happy when we didn’t have to go live in the basement.

What is it about the exotic island of Cuba that fascinates me? Almost everything. I have highlighted and underlined so much of the writing in the prologue of this book that it almost looks as if the pages have turned yellow. The writing is remarkably good. The author, Ada Ferrer, was born in Cuba but quickly left with her mother to join her father who was living in New York. They left behind her older brother from a former marriage. Ferrer’s heritage was always with her, buzzing just at the surface and nudging her to go back.

Ada did return to Cuba in 1990, for the first time. She totally immersed herself in its libraries and archives and began the process of constructing the island’s past, and her own. She wanted to tell the history of the life of the people and not just the well-known figures. This history she has unraveled is more than a history of Cuba, this book is also a history of Cuba in relation to the United States, a history of the sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive, always uneven relationship between the two countries.

Peppered with black and white photos of the country and the people, this book is a joy to behold. I recently watched a You Tube video of an interview Ada did with Ana Medendez. It’s superb and perfect to along with this book.

Interview with Ana Menendez

I almost got my chance to visit Cuba a couple years ago when we booked a cruise. But, alas, everything got shut down and we had to change our plans. I know that many of you probably did make it to this amazing island. We still hope to go but it will not be through cruise.

I love the book. It’s not only beautiful, it’s stunning in its palatial coverage of an island so near and yet so far from our shores.

My gorgeous finished copy arrived via Scribner which is an affiliate of Simon & Schuster Publishers. All in exchange for an honest review. Truly, I adore it and will treasure it always in my library.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

The Ballerinas

A gorgeous cover. Gives you a pretty good idea what the novel is about. But, does it really? Well, yes, the story is definitely all about ballet. In this case the ballet is in Paris and it’s the Paris Opera Ballet. Very prodigious and only the cream of the crop actually move up into star category. This is not your usual depiction of Paris. Nothing bright and shiny here. This is a dark and dangerous journey behind the scenes of three young women who have been ballerinas since childhood. It’s down and dirty. You are shown the “other” side of this dance.

The story begins when Delphine who is the daughter of one of the most famous ballerinas of all time, returns to Paris to be a choreographer after spending many years in St. Petersburg, Russia. Why did she leave in the first place? Her two friends who she has not seen in all those years are still dancing in the POB even though with their advancing age, they are past the peak of their careers. What happened to keep them apart. It’s a huge mystery and you will be blowing through those pages to get to the meat.

I took years of ballet as a young girl. But I only have a hint of an idea what it would be like to be on your toes for hours each day, ruining your feet. Actually crippling yourself. It takes a very dedicated and special dancer to make it to the top. It almost wore me out at times.

This book is being marketed as a thriller. I would not go that far but, it is definitely a mystery. It’s unique and it’s dark.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale spent years studying ballet so she knows of what she writes. She now lives in Paris.

Rachel Kapelke- Dale

My review copy was provided by St. Martin’s press in exchange for an honest review. It’s a complicated story of relationships between women and women and their mothers. And the cover is lovely.

Unsafe Haven by Lucy Burdette

Unsafe Haven

Even this cover is chilling. Burdette has written a heart-pounding thriller that is so compelling I dare you to put it down. I was almost wild while reading this new book about two oh-so-very different young women. Elizabeth is a young medical student from NYC. Her fiancee has just broken off their wedding a couple days before the date. She’s devastated. Addison is a sixteen-year-old teenager who is on the run for her life. The two women collide at a subway station after Addy gives birth alone in the filthy bathroom nearby. She, quite literally, shoves the baby she just gave birth to into Elizabeth’s unsuspecting arms. And then she disappears into the crowd. The baby is still bloody from the birth and is wrapped only in a tattered coat. In the pocket of the coat is a scrap of paper with a phone number on it….

Elizabeth calls the police to report the incident. But makes a big mistake and calls the number on the paper. And now the story truly bursts wide open. The man at the other end of the phone is named Rafe. And he is looking for Addy. So is someone else. OMG!

Lucy Burdette

Lucy Burdette is known for her wonderful Key West Food Critic Mystery series. They’re whimsical and fun and there’s always murder. But they are light. UNSAFE HAVEN is NOT light. It’s terrifying. The scenes are so realistic that you feel like you’ve been placed inside the story. The writing is amazing. And the two young women are both people you will be rooting for.

If you love a good thriller, this is for you. If you know someone who loves a good thriller, you might want to think about gifting them a copy of UNSAFE HAVEN for a holiday gift. It’s perfect.

My finished hardcover arrived from the author in exchange for an honest review. The publisher is Severn House. I absolutely loved it!

Latest in Key West Food Critic Mysteries.

Delicious December!

Christmas tree pizza from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman.

The entire month of December is all about food, glorious food! I just watched Ree Drummond put this little pizza tree together on tv. I love it. Perfect. I just had to post.

In our family, the feasting begins on Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s. There’s nothing like getting together with family and friends during the holidays to share a meal. We had an amazing Thanksgiving dinner. There were thirteen of us. So grateful. Watching the kids line up in front of the dessert spread was precious. We outdid ourselves with desserts this year. Pecan pie; pumpkin pie; pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin pie with chocolate ganache and marshmallow whipped topping. All home made and made with much love. Emerson who is twelve made the pumpkin cheesecake. Amazing. We were blessed to have most of our family in attendance.

December is a transitioning month for me. I’m working on events I will be doing in the New Year. I’m also trying to get caught up on reading. Really hard when I’m receiving so many review books that are not due until late spring. Yes, into summer. Some great books coming….

One of the books I’m working on right now will come out January 11. I have some great behind the scene info that I can’t wait to share, but for now, well, it’s all hush-hush. This is the kind of stuff I thrive on.

I’m also going to squeeze in at least one more Christmas book, maybe even two. Helps get the holiday spirit going. I think people are decorating earlier this year. People need festivity. Here in Florida, we have a lot of foreign visitors who are so grateful to be able to be here. And they are feeling blessed.

Cat Grass

Update on our Wyatt. A month ago Wyatt our orange tabby boy, had an operation to help keep crystals from blocking his urinary track. I am happy to report he is doing well and almost back to “his” normal. For a while there we did actually think we would lose our minds. It’s such a relief to see him playing again and watch him relax in his favorite spots. All the kitties love fresh cat grass. I found this yesterday and am pleased to announce Wyatt enjoyed some just this morning.

I’m making lists for gift-giving and trying to be more mindful this season. Books are always the BEST gifts, to give and to receive. The media is scaring everyone to death reporting daily that you need to shop early because of shortages. And we watch as container ships sit in the water outside large ports filled with goods that need to come ashore and get delivered across our country. I say shop local when you can.

The virus has mutated yet again. It will not be the last time, I’m sure. Instead of freaking out, just do what we’ve been doing for more than a year: wear a mask when in a crowd, distance yourself from others when possible, wash your hands often, and please get vaccinated. That’s the best we can all do.

I’m reading CHRISTMAS BY THE BOOK by Anne Marie Ryan. It’s simply delightful. In a small town in England, two booksellers facing tough times are spreading holiday cheer through the magic of delivering books anonymously.

I wish you all the magic of the holidays. I wish you time with family and friends. And, I’m always wishing you are reading something special. Happy holidays!

Thanksgiving dinner on the lanai.

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

The Postmistress of Paris

From the New York Times bestselling author of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON, comes a new novel of WW11,  set in France. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS  has all the right stuff: an indomitable main character, plenty of danger; romance; a gorgeous villa; and an atmosphere second to none. 

The opening pages are delightful as we find Nanée  flying the skies over her beloved Paris.  She’s doing what she loves best: flying her crimson Vega Gull with her sidekick, her little poodle, Dagabert. Slicing through the sky, following along the Seine, and feeling omnipotent. 

Nanée has been living in Paris and attending The Sorbonne. When the Germans storm into Paris and take over, she makes the decision to stay even though other Americans flee for home. Why would she do that? She’s always had a keen sense of adventure and she feels she can help. She joins the resistance delivering crucial information to those in hiding. She’s working with Varian Fry who smuggles artists and intellectuals out of the country. Nanée is based on a real life American Heiress named Mary Jayne Gold who did indeed help in the resistance. 

The scenery will blow you away. The sense of danger is constant and palpable. And when Nanée rents a palatial villa in Marseille to house her new friends and fellow helpers, well, it’s just wonderful. 

Some of the characters you will remember from actual history. However,  Edouard Moss, the famous photographer in the novel, is completely made up. He fled his homeland with his young daughter after his wife passed away.  He’s one of the artists under the roof in Marseille. He and Nanée are an unlikely pair but they fall in love and when Edouard is sent to a concentration camp it’s Nanée who takes his young daughter under her wing. 

There’s plenty of intrigue and lots of action in this historical novel that is also actually part thriller. It’s very sophisticated yet oh-so readable. I felt as if I was on the ground and following right along with these people. Of course I fell for the little poodle who steals everyone’s heart. 

Who will survive and who will not? You’ll be turning the pages as fast as you can as the novel gallops toward the gate. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS is going to be on everyone’s list of must-reads this season. Do not be left out. I loved it!

My review copy came from the author through Harper Collins, I was one of the extremely lucky readers who got to read first.

Meg Waite Clayton

Lucky me. THE POSTMISTRESS OF PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton will be published November 30, just in time for holiday gift giving. Harper Collins has done a great job with this book including providing a gorgeous cover! I received this book in exchange for an honest review. It was amazing!

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews: Giveaway

The Santa Suit
The Santa Suit

I’m offering my finished first edition of THE SANTA SUIT by Mary Kay Andrews for giveaway. I want to share this delightful novel filled with great characters and kindness with one reader. Please leave a comment below in order to enter the giveaway. I will choose one lucky winner on December 10. I will post that day. This giveaway is open to U.S. readers. No PO boxes, please. And please don’t forget to check your inbox on December 10. Good luck!

The Left-Handed Twin by Thomas Perry

THE LEFT-HANDED TWIN by Thomas Perry is just what I needed at a time of stress in our household. Our Wyatt recently underwent surgery. I didn’t know what to expect with this novel as it is part of a series and I had not read any of the previous books. Not to fear, I was immediately caught up in the story and trying to keep my heart from leaping from my chest on each page. Really fast-paced.

Jane Whitefield helps people disappear. Fearing for their lives, fleeing dangerous situations, her clients come to her when they need to vanish completely to assume a new identity and establish a new life somewhere they won’t be found. And when people are desperate enough to need her services, they come to the old house in rural western New York where Jane was raised to begin their escape.

When Jane discovers a young woman hiding in her house she’s not shocked, but she is surprised because she had no former notice. The girl is on the run from a boyfriend who is seriously trying to kill her. She makes a snap decision after a call to jump right in and help. And the terror begins as Jane brings the girl up to speed on what she must be willing and able to do. After all, this truly is life or death, and for them both.

Every chapter is filled with descriptive paragraphs of how to survive when the odds are so against you. I was all-in with this new character for me, Jane. She knows what she’s doing and that’s a total understatement.

With nonstop action, relentless tension, and great characters, this new novel will make thriller lovers lick their reading chops.

Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of over twenty novels. He lives in California. And boy oh boy can he tell you a story.

My review copy arrived via Mysterious Press/ Penzler Publisher in exchange for an honest review. I loved it! Hold on to your hat and get ready for a wild ride.

A Little Hope by Ethan Joella

A LITTLE HOPE is Ethan Joella’s first novel. You would never guess it. It’s a dream of a read. This is the exact reason I love doing what I do. To discover a writer like Joella is what I’m always hoping for. It doesn’t happen often which makes it all that much more rewarding.

We find ourselves in a small town in Connecticut. Life is throwing powerful challenges out for several of the townspeople. Every time I thought one character had the deepest story, well, I had to admit that they all were very strong characters who I began to care about. Tough life-changing choices had to be made. Everyday fears show up in each life. The way they handle the different circumstances will alter many lives each time.

A Little Hope

Did I mention that the writing is joyous? Well, it is. I simply loved it and can’t really say more or I will give it all away.

Ethan Joella lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, my old stomping grounds, many years ago. We lived nearby and so I spent many summers at the beach. Rehoboth is a delightful seaside town. And Ethan gets to live there. I asked him if he will consider setting a novel in Rehoboth. I am thrilled to tell you that he is writing a novel now set on the beaches in that area. Very happy.

The wonderful publishing people at Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster, sent me a gorgeous finished hardcover of A LITTLE HOPE. I’m telling every reader I know to JUST READ IT!

Ethan Joella

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes

A Magical New York Christmas

I rely on Anita Hughes to bring me a new Christmas book almost every year. She knows just what I like. I need something light, something magical, and something that totally transports me to a new world. Plus, and it’s a big plus, it has to be well-written. Bingo on all fronts. I loved A MAGICAL NEW YORK CHRISTMAS.

I got lucky at our local library and found this just sitting on the new title shelves. I can’t believe my luck. I love the cover. The holidays are so different here in sunny southwest Florida. We do not get snow for the holidays. And sometimes it’s not even chilly. But in this novel I was taken to The Big Apple, I was given snow, I was staying at The Plaza Hotel. And gifts were flying around like kites. Amazing meals were served at famous restaurants. I had my own personal butler. And love was in the air. Plus, wonderful art and jewelry peppered almost every page.

I try to read a couple holiday books each season. I rarely find more than one that I love. This year I ve already read two great ones. And I may have a third on the way. Trust me, you need light holiday reads this year. In fact, at this time of year, we are so stressed out. A beautiful, light, love story is a must read.

November Musings

Thanksgiving Dinner

My favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving. And turkey is always the star in our family. It’s all about gathering family and friends together to share a wonderful meal. It’s about quality time together. Putting any differences aside. Sharing stories and an amazing meal. Using old family recipes. Exchanging new ones, perhaps.

This November is starting out in a wonderful way: it was actually chilly this morning after months and months of nothing but humidity and heat here in SW Florida. I am grateful for this coolness.

November is always a good month for fabulous new books. This year is no different. I will be sharing some great new titles. And I begin my speaking engagements in just over a week. I am very excited about in person events this season. I am anxious to get back to sharing titles and author info to all my readers.

I’m hearing that we need to begin shopping even earlier this year because some items will be difficult to get, especially in time for the holidays. So many books are printed overseas. Get yours early. And don’t forget to shop your local Indy bookstores. They often have great gift items that you can’t just get anywhere.

I’ll be posting some good book lists that will make great gifts for the holidays, soon. This is a banner year for great books!

With the chill in the air this morning, I found myself happily puttering on the front porch, working with the plants and freshening it all up. So nice to be able to be outside without sweating up a storm. And Miss Mimi is actually racing through the house and feeling her oats this morning. It is all good.

The Sound of The Sea

I’m reading an amazing non fiction book called THE SOUND OF THE SEA by Cynthia Barnett. It’s fabulous. A lot of it takes place on our own Sanibel and Captiva islands. A great book for giving. I’m going to love showing it off at book talks, too!

I hope you all will be spending your Thanksgiving exactly the way you want to. And, as always, I wish you a great book!