Book Recommendation: The Vintage Caper

The Vintage Caper

The comments to last week’s post got me thinking about the books I review on my blog and how I go about deciding which books to review. Here’s what I concluded: when I tell readers about a specific book, I shouldn’t really call that post a “book review” because I’m not a book reviewer. I’m just a reader who loves to share the books I think are great.

In other words, if I enjoy a book and I think there are other people out there who would enjoy reading it, too, then I’ll recommend it and write about it. If I read a book and don’t enjoy it, you won’t find it on my blog.

I keep it to myself. I know very well how a writer feels to read a less-than-positive review, and I’m not going to ruin another writer’s day by writing one.

So from now on, my book reviews will be called “book recommendations.” That’s because I won’t review a book that I can’t recommend.

That takes care of the housekeeping issues for this week. Let’s move on to the real reason for today’s post: my recommendation of A Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle.

I loved this book!

As its title suggests, this book is a caper, not a hard-boiled thriller. It’s a story that contains a bit of a mystery. There is criminal activity, yes, but there’s no violence, no sex, and I think the limited amount of swearing is in French. It’s a fun, light-hearted story that doesn’t take long to read and that peels back aspects of French culture in a way that reveals much about the differences between France and America. I found these parts of the book to be especially interesting.

A Vintage Caper is the story of Sam Levitt, a former lawyer-turned-criminal-turned-good-guy who also happens to be a wine connoisseur. He is hired by an insurance company to investigate the theft of a fortune in wine from the cellar of prominent LA lawyer Danny Roth, a thoroughly unlikeable character who uses bullying and threats to get what he wants.

In his search for the wine, Levitt travels to Paris, Bordeaux, and Provence, following leads that he finds with the help of Sophie Costes, a Bordeaux-based agent specializing in wine insurance. Their job is to find the wine, but they manage to creat a twist that makes for a surprising and very satisfying ending.

Peter Mayle is the author of quite a few books about Provence, an area of France I’ve always wanted to visit– even more so now that I’ve read this book. His other books include A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence, Encore Provence, Provence A – Z, Anything Considered, Chasing Cezanne, Hotel Pastis, A Good Year, French Lessons, Up the Agency, The Marseille Caper, and A Dog’s Life. I want to read all of them!

If you do check out A Vintage Caper, let me know what you think of it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Until next week,


P.S. The release of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is less than a month away! Stay tuned for links to my guest blogs and interviews!

5 Steps to Effective Book Promotion

This week’s topic is book promotion. As many of you may be aware, I am currently working on promoting my next book, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, which will be released on April 28th, so this topic has been on my mind lately. Actually, it’s been on my mind constantly. Even when I sleep.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor_ebook cover

When I first started writing, I had no idea how much work is involved in getting books into the hands of readers. I assumed that once a writer had a contract with a publisher, the writer could just sit back and wait for the royalty checks to start rolling in.

*Face Palm*

I couldn’t have been more wrong. While that scenario may be a bit closer to the truth for superstar writers (does anyone recognize the name John Grisham? How about J.K. Rowling?) who sell gazillions of books, the vast majority of writers toiling to get their names out there have a tremendous amount of work to do. I am one of those toiling writers, and this is what works for me.

1. Website and Blog

If you don’t have a website and/or blog, get one. Give serious thought to getting both.

I use WordPress for my blog, as you may have noticed. It’s free (you can pay for extra services, but I don’t) and once you’ve set up your blog the way you want it, it’s really very easy to publish your posts. There are other blog hosts, too, such as and, but WordPress happens to be the site that works best for me.

I use Wix for my website ( Wix has tiers of services with accordant fees; I use the free service. I do pay for my domain name because it looks professional and is very inexpensive. Since a website is where your readers (and potential readers) connect with you, learn about you and your books, and contact you, it’s a necessary part of your marketing repertoire. It cost me a bit of time and a hint of frustration to design my website myself, but I didn’t have the money to pay someone else to do it and I love a challenge. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

Once you have a website, periodically check to make sure your links work and that you keep it updated with fresh information.

When setting up a website, you should have a way for readers to contact you. I suppose you don’t have to, but I would strongly recommend it.  And I would also suggest that you set up a separate email for users of your website, rather than putting your personal email out there for anyone to contact you.

2. Social Media

I am on Facebook ( and Twitter (, but there are a number of social media outlets you could use to promote your work. Try any or all of these: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, and Vine. The list gets longer every day.

And if you only have a personal Facebook page, consider a Facebook fan page. It’s a quick and easy way to communicate with the people who want to know more about your books.

3. Cross-Promote

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met through Facebook and Twitter that have books coming out near the time of my book’s release. Many of these writers have books being released by my own publisher! When I find someone like that, I reach out to them and offer to cross-promote. It can be a great way for an author to get some exposure on another blog, thereby opening the door to lots of potential new readers. The possibilities are many: you can write a guest blog, do an interview (those are my favorite), host a giveaway, have a quiz, play a game, etc.

4. Author Swag

The first time I mentioned “author swag,” my family looked at me with utterly blank expressions. Then I said, “You know, postcards, bookmarks, stuff like that.” Then the lightbulbs went off and they got it.

It’s nice to have something handy to give to someone who’s interested in my books. I keep a stash of postcards in a special pocket in my purse and if I meet someone who wants to know more about my books, I simply give them one. No searching for a piece of paper and a pen to write down my website or blog (this is especially useful this week, since a package of Junior Mints melted in my purse a few days ago and the goo is all over everything).

And bookmarks–everyone can always use another bookmark. If you have pictures of some or all of your book covers on it, that’s great for readers who are new to your work. They don’t have to look far to find the names of your other books.

5. Promote Others

Always remember that an unending refrain of “Buy my book! Buy my book!” on your social media pages and on your blog is annoying and probably self-defeating. I know I’m not alone when I say that I am drawn to authors who promote other authors. For every tweet about my own books on Twitter, I try to promote at least five other authors. For every Facebook post about my own books, I repost and share at least five to eight things that other authors have put online. The very best place I’ve found for selfless promotion of authors is at And when I promote others, I find that they very often return the favor. It’s a win-win.

Do you have other ideas? I hope you’ll share them below.

Book Winners

Remember I told you last week that I wrote a guest post for Fifty Authors from Fifty States? Well, two commenters won copies of my books:

Congratulations to Mary Deal, who won a copy of The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and to Cara Marsi, who won a copy of Secrets of Hallstead House. I hope you both enjoy the books! If you didn’t get a chance to visit Fifty Authors from Fifty States, you can go there anytime for my virtual tour of the Island of Hawaii (aka the Big Island). You can find it

Until next week,


You (May Have) Heard it Here First!

Before my husband sends me one more email reminding me that I got the name of one book wrong in my post last week about deserted island fiction and I go berserk, I must make  a correction.

My favorite book by Alexandre Dumas, the one about love and revenge, is The Count of Monte Cristo. It is not The Man in the Iron Mask. I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote the post and proofread it three times, but there you have it with my heartfelt apologies. Incidentally, if I had a DVD player on my deserted island, I would also take with me the movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo–the one starring Gerard Depardieu. The movie is many hours long and I would probably be rescued before I could finish watching it.

But now for my news: I am thrilled to announce that I have just signed a contract with Kensington Publishing for my third novel! If you could hear me now, you would hear shouts of joy, dancing, and all manner of celebrating.

For now, all I can tell you is that the story is about a personal chef on the Big Island of Hawaii who stumbles into a household that is not as perfect as it seems. The working title is The House of Hanging Jade, but I fully expect that to change as time goes on. It’s due to the publisher on May 1st, and after that I’ll be starting work on a new project.

The book is scheduled to come out in March, 2016.

In the meantime, I have one guest post to tell you about. Annette Snyder has a blog called “Fifty Authors from Fifty States.” I was lucky enough to land the post all about Hawaii and it went live this past Sunday. As many of you know, I love Hawaii and everything about it, so I had a great time writing the post. I hope you’ll visit Annette’s blog and take a look. The states go in alphabetical order throughout the year, so if there’s any state you want to know more about, take a look at her archives. You’ll find fun information and travel tips from every state and the authors who live there. Or, in my case, an author who wants to live there. Here’s the link:

I’d like to thank all my blog readers for their kind words, their friendship, and their support. You are the reason I enjoy doing this every week!

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Are you celebrating? We made Irish Potatoes over the weekend and we’re having Reubens tonight. I made sure the Swiss cheese was from Ireland. And our milk will be green at dinner, too (I know, I really need to tone it down). Got any other ideas for me?

Until next week,




Deserted Island Fiction

For reasons that remain a mystery to me, there have recently been a glut of book lists on Facebook–you know, the fifty most important mystery novels, the twenty-five books your kid must read before he or she turns twelve, the hundred best novels ever written, etc. I even read a list recently of the ten books one author wishes she had never read. I love to read the lists and pick out the books I’ve read, the ones I liked, the ones I didn’t like, the ones I want to read, the ones I don’t intend to read, the ones with the best covers, etc.

So I thought for this week it would be fun to share the list of the ten books I call my “deserted island fiction.” These are the works of fiction I would want with me if I were ever stranded on a deserted island and I had to read the same books over and over again. The great thing about a list like this is that the books don’t have to be award winners, they don’t have to be critically acclaimed, they don’t have to be anyone else’s picks. They just have to be books that I love.

And books like “Shipbuilding” or “Long Distance Swimming” don’t count, because I wouldn’t enjoy them even if they could help me get off the island.

So without further ado,

10.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I like most of Hemingway’s books, but this one was always my favorite.

9. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. An epic love story. I loved it from the moment I started it. Too bad there’s no DVD player on my deserted island, or I’d insist on the movie, too, starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.

8. The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. An amazing story of love and revenge. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. My husband and I love the book so much that we named our son after the author.

7. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. Herriot, the nom de plume of a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England,  is actually the reason I majored in animal science when I went to college. Please note: he’s not the reason I switched to another major. The reason for that was and will always be organic chemistry.

6.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Though I have a daughter of the same name, she was not named after the title character in this book (I never read the book until after she was born). This is a wonderful gothic story complete with a beautiful mansion, a dead ex-wife that “haunts” the present (no real ghosts in this book), and a suspicious and thoroughly creepy housekeeper.

5. Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton. Agatha Raisin is hilarious–she’s rude, obnoxious, and needy, but she has a heart of gold and she finds herself in one jam after another in the Cotswolds of England.

4. Do I get to choose just one book of non-fiction? I guess so–we’re playing by my rules, right? So I choose Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing it in the Sandwich Islands by Mark Twain. This is a great read that shows the reader what life was like in the 50th state when it was still a sovereign kingdom.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. You have to read this if you haven’t. And if you have a young girl to read it to, then so much the better. It’s a wonderful story about a girl with big dreams, a big imagination, and a very big heart.

2. Black Amber by Phyllis Whitney. I would read anything by Phyllis Whitney over and over again (and have on many occasions), but I think this one is my favorite. It takes place in Turkey, and I think what drew me to the book is the exotic mystery of the place.

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Not only does this have the best opening line of any book ever (you’ll have to look it up yourself!), but the book is filled with wisdom and wit. My favorite of Jane Austen’s works.

Incidentally, when I started writing this post, I thought it would be a quick one. But it turned out to be one of the hardest I’ve done, because it was so hard to pick just ten books that I love most.

What books would you take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a deserted island? I’d love to hear!

Until next week,


P.S. As you may know, my second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, comes out on April 28th. Woo hoo! Beginning this coming Sunday, I will start posting more and more guest blog posts, excerpts, interviews, etc. on various websites and blogs. I will post on my blog whenever I’m appearing somewhere else, and I hope you’ll follow the links and visit! Thanks.



Mom haiku

This blog is from my friend and fellow critique group member Marlaina Gray. It’s very cute.

Marlaina Gray

I decided the exasperated things I say to (and about) my kids would sound better in haiku form. If you’ve got your own haiku, by all means post it below. Enjoy.

The house is spotless

The quiet calm soothes my soul

Then the kids come home

Where are you, school bus?

Shivering in winter winds

I’m too old for this

The answer is no

You may complain all you like

No no no no no

Yes, Mommy is mean

No, that does not bother me

Wait till it’s your turn.

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A Review: The Spymistress

I recently finished the book The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini. Though it was the first of Ms. Chiaverini’s books that I’ve read, it will not be the last. I can’t believe how much I learned from it (it’s a novel of historical fiction) and for days now, I’ve been regaling anyone who will listen with tales of Civil War spies. Luckily, I had four Boy Scouts in a car with me on a trip to Washington, D.C., over the weekend and they were more or less a captive audience for my stories.

The Spymistress is a book about Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman who actually existed. She was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, in a slave-owning aristocratic family. She was also a spy for the North during the Civil War and this book tells the tale of how Elizabeth became a spy, how she managed to remain a spy, and how she survived the Civil War as a spy in the South. There is also a very interesting note of Ms. Van Lew’s life after the War. I was quite surprised by the events of the later years of her life.

Elizabeth Van Lew was a brave woman who embodied the ideals of equality and freedom long before they became rallying cries in the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements. Though she and her mother technically “owned” slaves, it was only because a clause in her father’s will prevented his widow and daughter from selling them. They therefore paid their slaves and treated them well and showed them the respect they deserved. She was shrewd, too, managing to convince Southern officers and prison adminstrators that her kindness and charity for northern soldiers was because of her Christian duty to them and not out of any misplaced loyalty to a bunch of Yankees. And she used her wealth and social status to her advantage, gaining access to northerners who needed her help and managing to get other Union sympathizers into positions of authority in Richmond prisons.

I liked the rising tension in the book that came from the main characters living in a house of Northern sympathizers as the Civil War progressed and as their neighbors and the citizens of Richmond became increasingly entrenched in the fight for Southern independence. The author does a great job describing the atmosphere of Richmond as it goes from elation and hope to concern to desperation and despair, and she also conveys nicely the physical appearance of Richmond during the War. As was the case with the last novel I reviewed (Anything But Civil), it is obvious that a tremendous amount of research went into the writing of this book–not just research about Richmond, but also research about troop movements and prison conditions and Civil War heroes and villains.

I would recommend this book to readers of historical fiction and Civil War buffs.

Has anyone read any other good books lately? Share them in the comments!

Until next week,


P.S. Update from last week’s post: still no birds. But I will persevere! Also, thanks to the person-who-shall-remain-nameless who pointed out that robins are really wormatarians, not seed eaters. I should have known that.