The Whole Golden World Facebook meme – guest post by Kristina Riggle

In November, Kristina Riggle released what is my absolute favorite of her books to date, The Whole Golden World. I never got around to reviewing it, because I read it six months early and I am super lame, but it is really fabulous, written with her trademark empathy and humanity, and her acknowledgement that real life is a messy business. If you aren’t familiar with the book, here’s the description for you:

To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a cafe that’s finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it’s discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents – as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself – as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.

Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ’s wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.

I love Riggle’s work in general and have, in the past, hosted her for both an interview and a virtual book club and wanted to share The Whole Golden World with you all in some new and unique way. Luckily, Riggle is more creative than I am (this is why she’s the novelist), and suggested a post based on that Facebook meme going around where people share a certain number of things about themselves. If you haven’t yet read the book, this should give you a little taste of the three point of view characters; if you have read the book, here’s some extra insight! So now just sit back and pretend you were Facebook friends with all three of these women before all the drama went down between Morgan and TJ.


Morgan Monetti

OK, so Britney bugged me into doing this, which is not how it’s supposed to work because it’s only supposed to be if you “like” a person’s post, but whatever, here goes.

She wanted me to do eight things but I’m only doing five. That’s where I draw the line.

1) I wanted to play the string bass until I realized how incredibly boring those parts are usually (BOM, BOM, BOM… rest… BOM, BOM, BOM), so I went with the second biggest stringed instrument instead.
2) I’m really good at silent cello practice. I do the fingering and hold my bow above the strings, or just “air bow”. I do this because my cello is really loud and sometimes when I feel like practicing, other people are sleeping.
3) I’ve never read Twilight or The Hunger Games and probably won’t, just because I’m already tired of them without even opening the books. The Fault in Our Stars was great, though.
4) I love old episodes of M*A*S*H. Totally weird because that show was off the air before I was born, but it’s funny as hell.
5) I never want to get a tattoo because I have a scar already and would never do that kind of thing to myself on purpose.

(I’m not going to give you a number if you “like” the post. If you want to do one, make up your own number).


Rain Davidson-Hill

Some things about me. Like this and I’ll give you a number. I think that’s how this works.

1) My one brave thing I’ve ever done was go to Italy by myself.
2) That’s where I met my friend Alessia, who visited me back here.
3) Alessia married my husband’s brother so now we’re family. (I know I’m stretching that out for three things. Beverly gave me the number eight, and I can’t think of that many things people don’t already know.)
4) Even though I teach yoga, I really suck at meditating. But I try not to care that I suck at it, which I figure is in the same spirit of non-judgment and being at peace with myself.
5) My siblings’ names are Fawn and Stone. And people think because I have a weird hippie name, I must be a weird hippie myself. Which is funny because I didn’t name myself.
6) I met my husband at a sand volleyball game on campus at college, when a bunch of us chose up teams, and he picked me.
7) I bit my lip digging for a ball with far too much enthusiasm at that very volleyball game, and ended up with a swollen, bloody lip. I figured, “That’s what I get for trying to impress a guy.”
8) TJ Hill was worth a swollen, bloody lip. Love you, honey.


Dinah Monetti

I got the number 7 from Joe Monetti.

1) I met Joe at his family’s pizza place and at first I thought he was just a doofus.
2) Some alternate names for The Den, which demonstrate why it’s good that Joe came up with the name and not me: The Hangout, Teen Cave, Live and Let Latte. Yes, I almost picked that last one.
3) My first car was a Chevy Impala and had dents on three of the four corners. I’m really bad at parking.
4) My first nickname as a little girl was Sweetie and I was known for being shy. Yes, really. I don’t know what happened either.
5) Joe fainted when he found out we were having twins, though to this day he denies it and says he just chose to stretch out on the floor of the doctor’s office. To recover from the shock.
6) I love Christmas music and my favorite is “Carol of the Bells”.
7) My greatest treasures in life are my kids, and I will now embarrass them by saying so on Facebook. Love you times a million, Morgan, Connor and Jared!

This was fun! Like this and I’ll give you a number!

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Roaring Twenties Facts That Are Stranger Than Fiction – Guest Post by Renee Rosen, author of Dollface

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the industry launch party for a really fun new book, Dollface by Renee Rosen. We took a version of the Untouchables Gangster Tour which had been customized a bit to follow some of the characters of the book and then had food and drinks in an authentic 1920s speakeasy.


Our Untouchables tour guide

I had the opportunity to read Dollface before the party and it is a very fun book that provides a great look into 1920s Chicago and in particular the Northside Gang. I was able to chat with Renee Rosen a bit at the party, and she agreed to share a bit more about the Northside Gang with my readers. Check out her post, and then check out Dollface to bring their stories to life.

When it comes to Chicago during the Roaring Twenties, most people think of Al Capone. But when I began doing research for my novel, Dollface, I quickly discovered that the lesser-known gangsters from Chicago’s North Side were a far more colorful and fascinating bunch.

Take for example, Dion O’Banion, the big boss of the North Side Gang. He was a former alter boy and attended Mass every day. He was a florist and such a devoted Catholic that he even opened his flower shop, Schofield’s, directly across the street from Holy Name Cathedral. Now does this sound like a ruthless, murderous gangster to you? Yeah, well, don’t let Dion’s religious practices fool you. He may not have drank a drop of alcohol himself, but he was vicious bootlegger who carried a rosary and three guns and is believed to have whacked more than sixty men before Capone succeeding in gunning him down inside his flower shop.


The door to the speakeasy

With Dion O’Banion out of the way, Hymie Weiss was next in command and took over the North Side Gang. Hymie was another bewildering figured. Widely assumed to be Jewish, Hymie’s real name was Earl J. Wojciechowski. Rumor has it that he borrowed the name from a tailor’s label stitched inside one of his suit coats. Hymie was perhaps the meanest of all gangsters and was the only man Capone admitted being afraid of. Hymie even shot his brother during a family quarrel and was reputed to have shoved a sawed-off shotgun in a U.S. Marshall’s face. He was a somber fellow and like Dion O’Banion, Hymie was a God-fearing, Church-going man. So devout was Hymie Weiss that he supposedly went to church each day and on bended knee prayed to God to help him kill Al Capone. Unfortunately for Hymie, he didn’t pray hard enough because Capone got to him first, gunning him down in front of Holy Name Cathedral. Legend has it that a Bible in Hymie’s breast pocket was the only thing that kept a bullet from entering his heart. Of course it was the other ten slugs that took him out on his way to the hospital. If you go by Holy Name Cathedral today you can still see a bullet hole in the south east cornerstone from that bloody day.

With two North Side members down, it was up to Vincent “the Schemer” Drucci to run the show. Drucci was my favorite gangster and I probably could have written an entire novel just about him. He was an Italian and yet he belonged to the predominantly Irish North Side gang as opposed to the largely Italian South Siders. His nickname “the Schemer” was most befitting, as Drucci was a bit of a whack-a-doo. The best pranks pulled off by the North Side Gang can most likely be traced back to Drucci.

For example, it was Drucci who orchestrated the plot to sneak into one of Capone’s warehouse and replace all their whiskey barrels with barrels of water. One of Drucci’s favorite bits was donning a priest robe for grins and standing across the street from Holy Name, outside of Schofield’s, making lewd comments to women passing by or throwing punches at Dion as passersby looked on in shock at the rowdy priest. Drucci also had a bit of the acting bug in him and starred in a blue film, a.k.a. a porno flick called Bob’s Hot Story.

Drucci was the only gangster of the North Side Gang to die at the hands of the police rather than a rival gang member. And because Drucci had served as a doughboy during WWI and because he had been killed by the police, they felt it was only proper to bury him with full military honors including a 21 gun salute.

You can’t make this stuff up, right? So when people ask me why I chose to write about gangsters during Prohibition and why I chose to focus on the North Side Gang members, all I can say is that these characters were just too good to resist.

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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure – Pre-pub Preview, Part III

Today I’m previewing an October book for which I’m very excited for, The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure. Go on, check out the publisher’s description and tell me that you aren’t intrigued:

Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces-behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe-detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure will be released October 8. It is an October Indie Next Pick, a Library Journal starred review, and a National Reading Group Month Selection.

Barnes & Noble

I’m sharing part three of a four part excerpt. For the first two parts, visit Beth Fish Reads and Erika Robuck’s Muse. The final part will be on Linus’s Blanket tomorrow.

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
Excerpt, Part 3 of 4

Lucien checked his watch as he opened the massive wood door of 28 rue Galilee. It gave him a great sense of satisfaction that he was one minute early for his appointment. What other man could walk all the way across town, almost get shot by a German, clean a dead man’s blood off his jacket, and make it in time? The experience reinforced his belief that one should always budget an extra fifteen minutes to get to a client appointment. His prized Cartier watch, which his parents had given him upon his graduation from college, said 2:00 p.m., which was actually the time in Germany. The Germans’ first official act had been to impose the Reich’s time zone on occupied France. It was really 1:00 p.m. French time. After two years of occupation, the forced time change still annoyed Lucien, even more than the swastikas and ugly Gothic-lettered signs the Germans had plastered on all the city’s landmarks.

He stepped inside and was relieved to be in the dark, cool shade of the foyer. He loved these apartment blocks, created by Baron Haussmann when he tore down medieval Paris in the 1850s to re-create the city. Lucien admired the stonework and the strong horizontal lines created by the rows of windows and their metal balconies. He lived in a building on the rue du Caire that was similar to this one.

Since 1931, Lucien had abandoned all historical and classical references in his work to become a pure modernist architect, embracing the aesthetic of the Bauhaus, the style created by the German architect Walter Gropius that pioneered modern architecture and design (the one instance in which Teutonic taste definitely triumphed over the Gallic). Still, he admired these great apartment blocks that Napoleon III had championed. His admiration had grown when he’d visited his brother in New York before the war. The apartment buildings there were junk compared to those in Paris.

He walked to the concierge’s apartment, directly to the left of the entry. The glass door yawned open, and an old woman smoking a cigarette was sitting at a table covered with a garish yellow-flowered cloth.

Lucien cleared his throat, and she said, without moving a muscle and still gazing into space, “He’s in 3B…and the lift’s out.”

As Lucien climbed the ornate curving stair to the third floor, his heart began to race-not only because he was out of shape, but also because he was so anxious. Would Manet have a real project for him, or would this meeting lead to nothing? And if it was a project, would it be a chance to show his talent?

Lucien knew he had talent. He’d been told by a couple of well-known architects, whom he had worked for in Paris after graduating from school. With a few years’ experience and belief in his ability, he then went out on his own. It was hard to build up a practice, doubly hard because he was a modernist and modern architecture was just beginning to be accepted. Most clients still wanted something traditional. Nevertheless, he was able to earn a steady living. But just as an actor needed a break-out role to become a star, an architect needed a career-making project. And Lucien, now thirty-five, hadn’t managed to land that one all-important project. He’d come close only once, when he’d been a finalist for a new public library but had been beaten out by Henri Devereaux, whose uncle’s brother-in-law was the deputy minister of culture. Ability wasn’t enough; one needed the right connections like Devereaux always seemed to have-that and luck.

He looked down at his shoes as they scraped the marble treads of the great stair. They were his client shoes, the one good pair he wore to meetings. A little worn, but they still looked shiny and fashionable, and the soles were in good shape. With leather in short supply, once a Frenchman’s shoes wore out he turned to wooden soles or ones of compressed paper, which didn’t fare so well in winter. Lucien was glad he still had a pair of leather-soled shoes. He hated the sound of wooden soles clattering on the streets of Paris, which reminded him of the clogs worn by peasants.

Lucien was startled when he looked up and found a pair of very expensive dark brown shoes on the third floor landing right in front of his face. Lucien’s gaze traveled up the sharply creased trouser legs to a suit jacket, then to the face of Auguste Manet.

“Monsieur Bernard, what a pleasure it is to meet you.”

Before Lucien reached the top step, Manet extended his hand.

Lucien pulled himself up the railing until he stood next to a lean, white-haired man in his seventies, with cheekbones that seemed to be chiseled from stone. And tall. Manet towered above Lucien. He seemed even taller than de Gaulle.

“The pleasure is my mine, monsieur.”

“Monsieur Gaston was always raving about the office building you did for him, so I had to see it for myself. A beautiful job.” The old man’s handshake was strong and confident, something you’d expect from a man who’d made millions.

They were off to an excellent start, Lucien thought as he took an instant liking to this elderly, aristocratic businessman. Back in 1937, he’d done a building on the rue Servan for Charles Gaston, the owner of an insurance company. Four stories of limestone with a curving glass-stair tower. Lucien thought it was the best thing he’d ever designed.

“Monsieur Gaston was very kind to refer you to me. How can I help you?” Most of the time, Lucien was open to the usual small talk before getting down to business. But he was nervous and wanted to see whether a real job would come out of this.

Manet turned toward the open doors of 3B and Lucien followed. Even the back of Monsieur Manet was impressive. His posture was ramrod straight, and his suit was expensive and fit him impeccably-the German major would’ve wanted the name of his tailor.

“Well, Monsieur Bernard, let me tell you what I’ve got in mind. A guest of mine will be staying here for a while, and I wish to make some special alterations to the apartment to accommodate him,” Manet said as they walked slowly through the place.

Lucien couldn’t imagine what the old man would want. The vacant apartment was gorgeous, with high ceilings and tall windows, ornate wood paneling, huge columns that framed the wide entries into the main rooms, beautiful fireplaces with marble surrounds, and parquet floors. And all the bathrooms and the kitchen looked up to date with porcelain-on-steel sinks and tubs with chrome fixtures. The unit was large by Parisian standards, at least twice as large in floor area as a normal apartment.

Manet stopped and faced Lucien.

“I’ve been told that an architect looks at a space differently from the rest of us. The average person sees a room as it is, but instinctively the architect envisions how it could be changed for the better. Is that true?”

“Absolutely,” replied Lucien with pride. “A man would view a run-down, out-of-date flat as very unappealing, but an architect, in his imagination, would renovate that space into something quite fashionable.”

Lucien was getting excited. Maybe the old man wanted him to redo the place from top to bottom.

“I see. Tell me, monsieur, do you like a challenge? To solve a unique problem?”

“Yes, indeed, I love to come up with a solution for any architectural problem,” said Lucien, “and the more challenging, the better.” He hoped he was telling Manet what he wanted to hear. If Manet asked him to fit the Arc de Triomphe in here, he’d say it was no problem. You didn’t turn down work in wartime. Any fool knew that.

“That’s good.” Manet walked across the salon and put his hand on Lucien’s shoulder in a fatherly way. “I think it’s time to give you a little more background on this project, but first let us talk about your fee. I have a figure in mind-twelve thousand francs.”

“Twelve hundred francs is most generous, monsieur.”

“No, I said twelve thousand.”

There was silence. Digits formed in Lucien’s mind as if a teacher were writing them methodically on a blackboard-first a one, then a two, a comma, and three zeroes. After he mentally verified the number, he said, “Monsieur, that…that is more than generous; it’s ludicrous!”

“Not if your life depended on it.”


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Saint-Exupéry in New York—and in Studio Saint-Ex – Guest post by Ania Szado, author of Studio Saint-Ex

Ania Szado

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is one of my very favorite books of all time. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I heard that novelist Ania Szado had written a book about Saint-Exupéry. Here, she shares with us a little about the man himself.


On December 20, 1942, at his desk in eastside New York, French author-aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry pulled a stack of Le Petit Prince page proofs from a drawer to show to his English tutor, Adèle Breaux. Saint-Exupéry told Breaux that deciding upon the images’ ideal size and placement to best serve the story had been challenging, yet vital.

So it was for me as I poured over what I knew of Saint-Exupéry. I was determined to bring him to life in my novel, Studio Saint-Ex, but how to best do so? Which of his characteristics and circumstances had to loom large, and which could I seed in for minor illumination or just for fun?

Serving the story meant capturing the man Saint-Exupéry had been in early 1940s New York: a grounded pilot desperate to return to the war, a man conflicted in love, an author whose need for solitude fought against his love of companionship. He had come to the US to share his knowledge of the European and North African terrain with the American military and to convince them to let him accompany them overseas. He arrived a celebrity, poised to accept a National Book Award, but the French expats in Manhattan were tearing his reputation to shreds. His estranged wife was tormenting him. His beautiful American girlfriends couldn’t assuage his pain. In the midst of all this, he wrote one of the most beloved and beautiful children’s stories of all time.

Those were the broad strokes that needed full presence in Studio Saint-Ex, like the illustrations in The Little Prince that commanded their own page.

Then there were the details. Some, like a comment by fictional fashion designer Mignonne Lachapelle that the author has big feet, are a nod to real-life trivia: Saint-Ex’s feet could look huge because of his preference for too-large shoes.

Others are less innocuous. While showing the page proofs, Saint-Exupéry mentioned that the baobab tree, a significant threat to his Little Prince, was bright enough that it could be printed small. My “baobab tree” is the author’s identity bracelet, a seemingly little thing that looms large only in hindsight. In Studio Saint-Ex, Mignonne notices it glinting as the author makes love to her. Later, she refuses to accept it as a gift, insisting he should not be anonymous in the sky. This very bracelet, caught in a lone fisherman’s nets long after the time frame of my novel, became the first clue to the author’s whereabouts, more than 50 years after he vanished.

In 1942, Saint-Exupéry offered to give his tutor the proofs of The Little Prince. I hope he would be as generous to me: allowing me to draw him from a wealth of available information, to balance and highlight details to shape my novel, to bring him back to life.

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The Attraction of Cults – Guest Post by Peggy Riley, author of Amity & Sorrow

Peggy Riley is the author of the incredibly intriguing Amity & Sorrow. Although I have not reviewed Amity & Sorrow here on the blog, I did write it up as a feature for the She Knows Book Lounge. Peggy is here today talking about cults and utopias.

I was five when Charles Manson was given the death penalty for the Tate-La Bianca murders committed by his followers, The Family. I was too young to understand how a longhaired, crazy-eyed man could inspire such passion in his commune of young female hippies, but I wouldn’t forget his face. I was thirteen when I saw the bodies of nine hundred and fourteen worshippers strewn across the dirt of the jungle compound of Jonestown; they had drunk poison at the command of their leader, Jim Jones. In between there were catastrophes: earthquakes and oil spills, riots and serial killers, even as the Beach Boys still wished everyone could be a California girl, singing at rundown county fairs between hog calls.

When I was born in California, people were still moving west, still pursuing the American Dream at its very edge. Even before it was a state, California was the destination for dreamers: pioneers and gold diggers, wannabe movie stars and fanatics, Midwesterners and émigrés’ intent on political, economic, and religious freedom. It was also a hotbed for cults.

The Summer of Love filled California with utopian hippies, cut off from their families and looking to be a part of something. From the Midwest came Charles Manson and Jim Jones, both with their own troubled family backgrounds: Manson’s mother sold him for a pitcher of beer then put him into care; Jones’ mother believed she had given birth to a messiah. Both were intent on becoming charismatic leaders, creating new families through communal living, left-wing political activism, and lots of sex. In California, they found a state full of fresh-faced and down-and-out followers, people with a great capacity to believe and a greater need to belong. In Manson and Jones, in charismatic leaders throughout history, they found a modern messiah, able to be both father and God. We all want to belong to a person, a family, a group. I can understand the yearning, if not the commitment to the violent outcome when all that utopia goes wrong, as it always does – as it must.

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