Alan Bressler often reviews books on this blog. His last review, Fifty Shades of Grey inspired lots of comments. He is an  entrepreneur, avid reader, businessman, philanthropist and kayaker.

We both recently read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and agreed it had great characters, unexpected twists and a compelling plot. I couldn't put it down...and now an earlier book by Flynn titled DARK PLACES (according to Alan's review) is another must read.

Alan Bressler says:

I would like to recommend a mystery/whodunit whose title embodies the book in a very apt manner- “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn, the author of “Gone Girl”.

No detective heroes, neither alcoholic, drug addicted brilliant poet or otherwise lead us on an interesting trip of discovery. I was so impressed by Gone Girl that I googled the author and came up with DARK PLACES. Firstly, you must understand that the title is not an exageration and to get into this book you must be willing and able to derive enjoyment from a story well told.

 Libby Day, the sole survivor of a bloody massacre of her family when she was only seven, is now 34, a troubled young woman who has never been able to get past the fact that her testimony led to the conviction of her brother as the perpetrator of this massacre. Down to her last money, (that came from a trust set up for her by public donations at the time of the trial), Libby is contacted by a “kill group”, a wierd fringe group whose activities are centered around delving into gruesome murders that they believe have been poorly investigated by the police.

When offered money to contact people who were involved in the case and whom the group believed to be possible alternatives to her brother’s guilt, Libby sets out upon a journey of discovery that leads her back to the town where the events took place.

Moving back and forth between 1985, when the crime took place, to the present where Libby’s current inquiries take shape, we are led to a day by day retelling of the events leading up to the crime itself as seen from her brother Ben’s eyes as well as the views of others.

Make no mistake, IT IS DARK, but a really good story, well constructed and gripping as you click or (for those who like to feel the book) turn pages. The book escalates to the final act with the appropriate twists and turns necessary to a good mystery.

About Gillian Flynn

DARK PLACES is Flynn's second novel and in 2009 was selected by the New York Review as Reviewer's Favorite. Publisher's Weekly selected DARK PLACES as the Best Book of 2009.

Flynn's work has been published in 28 countries. She lives with her family in Chicago and is working on a third novel... hopefully.

REMINDER: Click on the Amazon Search Box in the sidebar to order anything on Amazon.


Blog reader and friend Marlene P. recently recommended LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson.

She said "I just finished reading one of the most hysterically funny books ever! It takes dysfunction to a new level! A must, must read!"
Ok..I just downloaded it..love dysfunction..the funny kind.

To Order Click on the Amazon Search Box
 This book is labeled "a mostly true memoir" and the author, Jenny Lawson is a legend on Twitter. Her blog, http://www.thebloggess.com/ has between 2 and 3 million page views (and I was excited with 12,000..)

LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED unveils a quirky Texas childhood, a husband, and a life filled with sometimes harsh but curious and funny events. If you're easily offended don't buy this book.. Check her blog to see if the writing appeals to you.

And by the way, there's illustrations...
One reviewer said "Jenny Lawson is hilarious, snarky,witty, totally inappropriate, and like Mother Theresa, only better."


To order click on Amazon Search Box

Once in awhile I like to review a cookbook. Coincidently, Joan Nathan, a cookbook author, is a member of my kayak group. The group is called the MV Kay-Yakkers because we yak as much as we paddle.

Joan fits right in, and her recent book called QUICHES, KUGELS, and COUSCOUS demonstrates her gift for gab as well as a wonderful combination of stories interlaced with innovative recipes. 

Joan is the author of numerous cookbooks, two of which won the James Beard Award and the IACP Award. She was the host of a nationally syndicated PBS television series and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and other publications.

This latest collection of recipes and stories is more than just couscous and kugel. It combines history, cooking tips, culture, and photography resulting in  a recipe for good reading.


What is Jewish cooking in France?

That is the question that has  haunted Joan Nathan over the years and driven her to unearth the secrets of this hidden cuisine.

Now she gives us the fruits of her quest in her latest extraordinary book, Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, a treasure trove of delectable kosher recipes and the often moving stories behind them, interlaced with the tumultuous two-thousand-year history of the Jewish presence in France.

In her search, Nathan takes us into kitchens in Paris, Alsace,
and the Loire Valley; she visits the bustling Belleville market in
Little Tunis in Paris; she breaks bread around the observance of the
Sabbath and the celebration of special holidays.

All across France she finds that Jewish cooking is more alive than ever. Traditional dishes are honored, yet many have acquired a French finesse and reflect regional differences.

The influx of Jewish immigrants from North Africa following Algerian independence has brought exciting new flavors and techniques that have infiltrated contemporary French cooking, and the Sephardic influence is more pronounced throughout France today.

This book is for cooks and non cooks. Beautiful photographs, great recipes and lots of stories mixed together make this a fun read. (You don't have to be Jewish or like to cook either...)


Before I add these upcoming releases to the LOOK WHAT'S TRENDING feature (at the top of this blog) I wanted to get your attention. The following authors are my favorites...all with new books debuting in a few months...many already heralded by critics...Click on the Amazon Search Box in the sidebar to get summaries. (I'm breathless!)....

Here's a partial list: (In no particular order...)

NW by Zadie Smith                                     September 4, 2012
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan                         November  13, 2012
Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe                         October     23, 2012
Ancient Light by John Banville                       October     2, 2012
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver             November 6, 2012

On the sidebar, in alphabetical order is every title mentioned in this blog. Click on a title and the review will appear. (Ah,the wonders of technology)....


To Order Click on Amazon Search Box

GHS calls himself a "history nerd" but he's a lot more scholarly than he cares to admit.(I know!)  MAYFLOWER was released in 2006 and was an immediate best seller. The following review posted by GHS will give you a fresh insight into an old story. 

MAYFLOWER: A story of Courage, Community and War

By Nathaniel Philbrick

When I travel for leisure, I really enjoy reading books that connect me to the location I am visiting. So, this summer when my travels took me to Provincetown and Martha’s Vineyard, I dug through my book shelf and found an un-read paperback called Mayflower.

I selected the book thinking a paperback would be good for the beach but what I discovered was a story of discovery and conflict in Provincetown, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and of course, Plymouth Massachusetts.

To my surprise, I found myself reading this book at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, less than a mile from the location that the Mayflower first landed (pretty cool for a history nerd like me!).

What makes the book so fascinating is the way Philbrick shakes up and de-mystifies the myths of the Pilgrims and the story of Thanksgiving. He does this through extensive research (100 pages of chapter notes and bibliography and the end of the book) and connecting the story into four parts called; discovery, accommodation, community and war.

I think if you ask most people about early American history, they will tell you that it started with Columbus, then the Pilgrims and then the American Revolution. A large portion of Mayflower is written about King Phillips war (no, he was not the king of England), that started in 1675—about 55 years after the Mayflower landed (by that point, many parts of ‘New England’ were settled by the English).

King Phillip was the ‘king’ of the many Indian ‘nations’ and the war was crucial to founding of the future country called America (as well as the destruction of the native cultures). The war was brutal and decisive. When it was over, “Plymouth had formalized the process of removing potentially dangerous Native men and boys” by shipping them off serve as slaves.

For the Pilgrims, religion played a dominant role at first, but “by forcing the English to improvise, the Indians prevented Plymouth colony from becoming a cult of religious extremism”.

Nathaniel Philbrick
Author Nathaniel Philbrick is a National Book Award winner. Philbrick is a champion sailboat racer and an expert on Nantucket and its surroundings. He's written several prizewinning books and resides on Nantucket.

BOOK ALERT! (07/22/2012)

Book Alert!!!
Are you interested in new releases? What's coming out this Fall?  LOOK WHAT'S TRENDING at the top of the blog has inside info on titles soon to be released.   

Blog readers are also recommending books and you'll find the titles and brief descriptions listed below.

Joyce S. (not me)  highly recommended SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones. Now in paperback, the novel revolves around two families, the public one and the private one. "An absorbing novel with a vivid cast of characters"...

Blog reader Lillian G. praised THE BRIGHT RIVER by Patrick Somerville, a story of redemption as well as a well crafted mystery. Two characters on a "perilous personal journey cross paths in this richly funny engrossing novel."......

Click on the Amazon Search Box in the sidebar for more details.

If you have any book suggestions, please let me know.  Write a comment below or send me an email. Let's get interactive!!

ANOTHER VONNEGUT? (07/26/2012)

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box

Are you looking for a fast, furious, and fun thriller? THE TRUST by Norb Vonnegut offers a peek into the fast lanes of high finance. Vonnegut (a distant cousin of that other Vonnegut) built his career with Morgan Stanley, so the reader is getting plenty of inside information.

Without giving away the twists and turns of this fast paced novel, you'll be exposed to the "shark pool of Wall Street's hedge fund industry." The characters, the dialogue and the intrigue will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Vonnegut's writing style is original and cynical..a little like the Wall Street types he portrays. Greed plays a part in this tale(naturally)...but Vonnegut gives it a fresh new twist. This is no Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but a unique and novel plot that stands on its own.

About the Author

Norb Vonnegut writes thrillers and non-fiction about Wall Street "behind closed doors." His other books are Top Producer and The Gods of Greenwich.
A Harvard graduate, he lives in New York and Rhode Island.

Coincidently, Janet Maslin (my favorite reviewer) reviewed The Trust in a recent issue of the  New York Times.
She called it "inventive" along with other positive comments.

OLD BUT GOOD (07/19/2012)

To Order click on Amazon Searchbox
My book group will be reading In the Garden of Beasts next month.  Coincidently, I recently received the following review from Monica G. from Naples, Florida. She poses some serious questions, and if you've read the book, please leave a comment.

(See Below for Erik Larson's Reply)

The book focuses on two people during the first years of Hitler's reign: William E. Dodd, the American Ambassador to Hitler's regime and his carefree daughter, Martha.

Monica G. says;

"I just finished reading IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS by Eric Larson. I only wish history courses in school had been as interesting, I would have retained a lot more! Every time I put it down, I could not wait to get back to it.

I did, however wonder why Mr Larson did not cover more about what happened to the Panovskys (his Jewish landlord) who lived above the Dodds* after 1934, although he did mention that the daughter lived in Chicago after the war.
What happened to the rest of the family?  When did they move out of the residence, what was the effect on the Dodds?
If anyone has read this book and knows the answers, leave a comment.

I definetly recommend IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS... It shows apathy to what was going on in Germany and an inside view of politics in America at the time."

As to details about the Panofsky family: My notes are now safely tucked away in my spider-filled garage. What I can tell you, though, is that Panofsky and his immediate family survived, and made their way to America. The son, in fact, became a professor of African studies at Northwestern University. I met the daughter in northern California, where she lives still, quite happily.


About The Author

Erik Larson is the author of several
The Devil in the White City and
Isaac's Storm.
He resides in Seattle.

HOLOGRAM FOR A KING (07/14/2012)


Goodreads is a free website for readers and book lovers. You can read reviews, get book ratings, see what friends are reading and actually organize your books into virtual bookshelves

Barbara A, a friend on Goodreads wrote this review of HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, a new book by by Dave Eggers. I thought it was worth posting.

Barbara wrote:

First things first: I love Dave Eggers's work and admire all that he has done as a writer, publisher, public intellectual, social commentator, brother, savior, and believer in the the power of books.

I also loved the physical book itself. Holding the beautifully textured linen cover of 'Hologram' was great. Incised and dusted with gold, its feel was a tactile pleasure not often found in today's reading universe, and it was a marvelously apt visual image for the story within.

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box
Ah, but the story within: an admixture of Scherazade ; Waiting for Godot; Death of a Salesman; Lost Horizon; Moby Dick; and the biblical stories of Jonah and Job---with a little Emerson, Thoreau and Michael Moore thrown in just to round things out. Dizzy yet?

Maybe it's the endless heat of Saudi Arabia, maybe it's the spinning of Eggers's endlessly creative mind, or maybe it's just too much. For much, much better Eggers, read anything, and everything, else he has written.

About the Author
Dave Eggers is the bestselling author of Zeltouin, winner of the American Book Award and Dayton Literary Peace Prize. He was born in Boston, Ma. and is the author of the memoir A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS. Eggers is known for his most recent work as a screenwriter. He currently lives in San Francisco.

The Book Review Section of the New York Times on Sunday, July 15th features an interesting Q and A with Eggers.
Also check out the review in the July 22nd edition.


OLD BUT GOOD 07/14/2012

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box
THE SUBMISSION by Amy Waldman was one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month in 2011. Blog reader, NES from Boston called it a "must read".

It's a first novel for author, Amy Waldman, a NY Times Bureau Chief. NES said the story focuses on an American Muslim architect whose anonymous design is selected for the 9-11 site.

The aftermath of that choice results in political confusion and conflicting emotions resulting in a fascinating examination of a grieving America.

 If you haven't already read THE SUBMISSION, NES highly recommends it.

About the Author

Amy Waldman was a co-chief of the South Asia bureau of the New York Times. THE SUBMISSION is her first novel. She resides in Brooklyn with her family.


A blog reader recommended WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOPHIE WILDER and so did the New York Times. Here's a review....

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box

Christopher R. Beha has written a first novel and it has been labeled "an auspicious debut." It's short, intellectual and moving. Gina B., a blog follower and voracious reader called this novel a "definetly should read."

WHAT HAPPENED TO SOPHIE WILDER is a touching story of two vivid characters, moral dilemmas and personal tragedy but the outstanding feature is the prose. Reviewers labeled Beha's words the work of a "master craftsman."

Gina B. found she was "unable to skip a single sentence and devoured the book in a day." WHAT HAPPENED TO SOPHIE WILDER is a multilayered, emotional fictional debut by an author whose writing is unpretentious and thoughtful.

Christopher R. Beha is an associate editor at Harper's Magazine and the author of the memoir, THE WHOLE FIVE FEET. He is a New York Times book review contributor.


Be sure to check LOOK WHAT'S TRENDING at the top of this page.

J K Rowlings is debuting her first ADULT fiction...Should be an immediate best seller!

You'll find new releases for the next three months...even a new John Grisham.
(Does he ever miss a month?)


To  Order Click on Amazon Search Box

Sadie Jones, a prizewinning novelist is the author of THE UNINVITED GUESTS.

This novel is a comedy of manners which takes place on a spring evening in 1912. Over the course of the evening all hell breaks loose and without exposing the plot, readers are treated to an absurd romp and plenty of suspense.

THE UNINVITED GUESTS is well written and imaginative and the blog reader that recommended this book said that "fans of mystery, dark comedy, drama or romance would find this book enjoyable."

Labeled by reviewers as a "madcap, atmospheric black comedy" it's a bit eerie and strange..

I'm not a fan of Edwardian humor, I don't think...
but some readers may be....Give it a try.

BOOK ALERT (07/08/2012)

FUGITIVE COLORS by Lisa Barr focuses on artists who suffered under the hands of the Nazis.
Betsy Sheer, a blog reader recommended this book and I immediately asked her to write a review. Happily (for me) she obliged...

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box

Betsy Sheer is the owner of Sheer Communications. She is a philanthropist, a teacher and  holds leadership positions with political and non-profit organizations...and she reads my blog!

FUGITIVE COLORS by Lisa Barr reviewed by Betsy Sheer

Art, passion, betrayal, conciliation: these are the themes of journalist Lisa Barr’s debut novel, set in the art world of Europe in the 1930’s. It is a gripping story, well-paced and evocative of a time and a place that celebrated and tested the limits of art, friendship and conscience.

The opening section of Fugitive Colors echoes the premise of The Wedding Singer: Budding artist flees his constrictive Orthodox environment to seek the freedom he needs to breathe, to paint and to find his true colors. With the increasingly loud, methodical stomps of Hitler’s footsteps and a slowly-descending curtain of impending doom as back-drop, Barr writes of a circle of idealistic young artists in Paris whose lives and choices impact each other and the future of the art world.

The history feels credible, giving life to Hitler’s determination to stamp out “degenerate” artists and to the small, secret efforts to save the art if not the artists. The protagonist is sympathetic: we care what happens to Julian Klein. We feel for his friends and their complicated family relationships. Our hopes are raised and dashed as the story unwinds.

Fugitive colors are not lightfast or permanent. This reader feels that the rawness of this story and the emotions it evokes will not fade over time so fast. I very much recommend this book. 
Betsy S.
Chilmark, Ma

Author, Lisa Barr has been a journalist for twenty years. Most recently she served as staff reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. Her work ranges from covering terroism and politics to celebrities and lifestyle. She resides in a suburb of Chicago with her family. 



For immediate access to a current title, go to the BOOK INDEX on the SIDEBAR, click on FICTION or NON-FICTION. Otherwise every book mentioned in the blog is listed alphabetically.

Be sure to check out the new book releases in LOOK WHAT'S TRENDING at the top of the blog.



Frank Nappi, the author of "The Legend of Mickey Tussler" and "Sophomore Campaign," is donating part of the proceeds from the books to Best Buddies International.

In a blog, Nappi said, "In an effort to support greater autism advocacy and awareness, I am pleased to announce that with the sale of each paperback copy of The Legend of Mickey Tussler or Sophomore Campaign between Friday, July 6 and Friday, July 27 on Amazon.com, I will donate a portion of the proceeds to Best Buddies International - a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

You can read more about Nappi's efforts by going to: http://bestbuddiesblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/best-buddies-truly-rewarding-on-so-many-levels/.

Books can be ordered on Amazon directly from this blog.
To see a review of SOPHOMORE CAMPAIGN, click on the BOOK INDEX in the Sidebar.

WHAT AM I READING...OR NOT? (07/05/2012)

My Book Group selected HOUSE OF STONE by Anthony Shadid. It's an interesting selection as we haven't done a memoir, however it's extremely slow to engage....and that's putting it mildly! 

HOUSE OF STONE is a posthumous publication by the well known journalist Anthony Shadid and he writes in detail...in great detail... about rebuilding his house in Lebanon. There's lots more involved.. but like the house, I'm done. 

CANADA by Richard Ford

I had abandoned CANADA by Richard Ford after Part One. Am I the only person that didn't appreciate this book? I know it's beautifully written but  I found the work flat and often repetitive.. I'm giving it another try so stay tuned...
(To read more about CANADA, click on the title in the BOOK INDEX on the sidebar)

GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

This is a tale of marital strife..barbed and brilliant. The writing is razor-sharp and it's an ingenious thriller. Scroll down for more about GONE GIRL or click on the BOOK INDEX.

To Order Click on Amazon Search Box


 To Order Click on the Amazon Search Box

Remember LITTLE BEE by Chris Cleave? Well, GOLD is his new one..another fast paced emotionally rewarding book. It's a story of athletes, sacrifice and determination. Three  characters are intertwined in a riviting story of Olympic bicycle racing.

GOLD by Chris Cleave is also a story of friendship. Lots of back stories about the characters complicate the current dilemmas and there's an abundance of dramatic dilemmas.

ALthough GOLD doesn't live up to CLeave's first book in terms of originality, it's  an interesting read, and well written. Like bike racing, it moves at a quick pace but.... with several stops in between.

Chris Cleave
Chris Cleave is the author of LITTLE BEE written in 2009. It was  a number one New York Times Bestseller. Cleave resides in Kingston-on Thames, England with his wife and family.