My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams

My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress
by
Rachel DeLoache Williams

Rating:

In 2017, Rachel Williams, a young woman working for Vanity Fair magazine in New York, made friends with a 26-year-old woman named Anna Delvey. Delvey was living in a swank hotel and claimed to be a German heiress. The two became fast friends and Anna brought Rachel into her world, treating her to expensive restaurants, nightclubs, workouts, saunas, and pedicures. Anna claimed to be negotiating a big idea – a private art club, housed in the historic Church Missions House on Park Avenue. A couple months later, Anna invited Rachel and two others to join her on a lavish, all-expenses paid vacation in Marrakech, Morocco.

That’s where it all went south. When Anna’s credit cards didn’t work in Marrakech, she persuaded Rachel to put the charges on her own cards, including a Vanity Fair American Express expense account, assuring Rachel she’d pay her back as soon as she talked to her bank. The charges totaled over $62,000 and Anna began to drag her feet. After two months of promises (my favorite line from these conversations: “Would Bitcoin be okay?”), Rachel began to understand that she’d been conned.

My Friend Anna is the story of how Rachel, 29, dealt with being duped out of a large amount of money, which included providing authorities with information and evidence that led to Anna’s arrest. The charges were grand larceny and theft of services from Rachel and others of more than a quarter million dollars. Rachel testified at her trial and wrote this book.

This story has gawkers’ appeal. You read it because you want to know how anyone could fall for a scam like this and you’re glad it’s not you! The author fell for her friend’s tales of wealth and billion dollar trust fund. And her fatal mistake was taking out her own credit card to cover the costs of their vacation. I didn’t feel too sorry for her, however. The book deal and HBO’s purchase of the story have probably taken the sting out of this friendship gone wrong.

That said, I tore through the story and enjoyed reading how it all unraveled. I especially liked the text message exchanges, which while they were repetitive and a bit whiny, reflected Rachel’s desperate attempts to get her money back. I would have liked to know more about Anna, whose past is revealed late in the book. For most of the story, she’s an enigma.

Of course, when I finished, I wanted to see just who these people were. To round that out, here’s a good interview from ABC Nightline:

So all in all, a good, fast read, a little light on substance, but entertaining.

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Social media book groups – are you in one?

About fifteen years ago, my college friends and I decided to start some kind of remote book club. We all lived in different places, but we were looking for a way to stay connected. This was before social media, back when email was the big thing. So we settled on an email book club. It was fun!

Emails can get cumbersome, though, so we eventually moved over to a Facebook group and lots of new friends and family joined. It was great to have a larger group and a much better way to talk about a book.

But life went on and, although we stayed in touch with each other through the group, the book reading fell off…

We’re back on track now and next month we are going to read Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. I just got my hands on the book and I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend!

Are you in a social media book group? Leave a comment and tell me how it works!

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In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood
by
Truman Capote

Rating:

A non-fiction novel. What is that, exactly? Many believe that the pioneer of this genre was Truman Capote. His best selling book, In Cold Blood, is a chilling depiction of a senseless murder. In a 1966 New York Times interview with George Plimpton, Capote explains his decision to write a book about the brutal 1959 murder of a Kansas family:

The motivating factor in my choice of material—that is, choosing to write a true account of an actual murder case—was altogether literary. The decision was based on a theory I’ve harbored since I first began to write professionally, which is well over 20 years ago. It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the ‘nonfiction novel,’ as I thought of it.

The result was In Cold Blood. Published in 1966, it became an instant success and is considered Capote’s masterpiece.

On November 14, 1959, Herb Clutter, his wife, Bonnie and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, were brutally murdered in their Holcomb, Kansas home. Their killers, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, were two ex-cons looking for fast cash. They’d heard that the Clutters had a safe full of money and drove over 400 miles across the state to rob the family. When they discovered there was no safe, and very little cash, the two men killed the Clutters in a rage.

I was curious about this book, but I had avoided it for many years. I don’t like reading violent crime stories, but as a Capote fan, I knew I had to read it. While the story is about the crime and the investigation, it is equal parts a picture of a small middle-American farming town and a psychological study of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith. While I had no sympathy for these men, I was fascinated with their back stories. Hickcock’s insistence on robbing the Clutters, along with Smith’s unpredictable reactions to people and situations led to killings that may not have happened on a different day.

Capote and his childhood friend, Harper Lee, went to Kansas to research the story and compiled over 8000 pages of notes. They were granted numerous interviews with Hickock and Smith, who by then, had confessed and were in jail awaiting trial. They moved to death row after their convictions, where Capote continued to interview them until their hangings. He became particularly attached to Perry Smith and related to his unhappy childhood.

In Cold Blood was first published as a four-part serial in The New Yorker in 1965. It was published in book form the following year. How Capote organized this vast amount of information and assembled the story is extraordinary.

Capote made a lot of friends in Kansas, but he also made some enemies. He was particularly close to the lead investigator, Alvin Dewey, but Duane West, a prosecuting attorney, hated Capote. West called the book “garbage” (but he didn’t read it) and claimed that it wasn’t factual. He said that Capote made Dewey into a hero, when the real hero was a man named Rohleder, who captured important evidence in his photographs. Some townspeople felt they were not accurately portrayed and others have criticized the account as being inaccurate. My sense is that there were a lot of big egos in town and readers need to decide for themselves.

What is definitely true is that Capote’s writing is excellent, as I expected. And as a side note, this book isn’t nearly as violent as current true crimes and thrillers. Have you read In Cold Blood? What did you think?

For more Truman Capote, visit these links:

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
“House of Flowers”
“La Côte Basque”
Who’s That Author? Truman Capote
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Who’s That Author? Truman Capote

I just finished reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, a book Capote termed a “nonfiction novel,” based on the 1959 murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote, with his childhood friend, Harper Lee, researched the story and Capote wrote what is considered his masterpiece. While I work on my review, here’s some background information about Truman Capote.

Book Club Mom

Truman Capote/Image: Wikipedia

Which Truman Capote do you know? The author who wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood? The life of the party and confidante of New York socialites? The host of the famous 1966 Black and White Ball in New York? The frequent guest on The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and The Mike Douglas Show? He was all of these.

Truman Capote (1924 – 1984) was an American author who wrote fiction, nonfiction and plays. Capote had a big personality and loved to mingle and gossip with high society. A flamboyant dresser with eccentric taste, Capote was open about his homosexuality. He was also a serious writer, dedicated to his craft.

Capote was born in New Orleans. His father was a con-man and his parents separated when he was a toddler. He spent his early years with relatives…

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Here comes fall – books to match the season!

It’s not quite fall, but I’m already thinking fall colors. Colorful sweaters and flowers are obvious, but have you seen these fall-colored books? What looks good to you?


Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson:

An unexpected teenage pregnancy pulls together two families from different social classes, and exposes the private hopes, disappointments, and longings that can bind or divide us from each other, from the New York Times-bestselling and National Book Award-winning author of Another Brooklyn and Brown Girl Dreaming. “Red at the Bone is fall’s hottest novel.”—Town & Country


Underland by Robert Macfarlane

From the best-selling, award-winning author of Landmarks and The Old Ways, a haunting voyage into the planet’s past and future.

Hailed as “the great nature writer of this generation” (Wall Street Journal), Robert Macfarlane is the celebrated author of books about the intersections of the human and the natural realms. In Underland, he delivers his masterpiece: an epic exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and the land itself.


The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett, the New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and State of Wonder, returns with her most powerful novel to date: a richly moving story that explores the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go.


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The author of Other People’s Houses and The Garden of Small Beginnings delivers a quirky and charming novel chronicling the life of confirmed introvert Nina Hill as she does her best to fly under everyone’s radar. Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.


A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman

From the author of the national bestseller The Submission comes the journey of a young Afghan-American woman trapped between her ideals and the complicated truth in this “penetrating” (O, Oprah Magazine), “stealthily suspenseful,” (Booklist, starred review), “breathtaking and achingly nuanced” (Kirkus, starred review) novel for readers of Cutting for Stone and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.


I always get excited looking at book covers and these all look good to me, especially The Dutch House and Red at the Bone. What would you add to your list?

Note: all links and descriptions are from Amazon.

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Who’s That Indie Author? Amy Tasukada

Genre:  Gay romance and thrillers

Books:
The Yakuza Path Series:
Blood Stained Tea
Better Than Suicide
One Thousand Cranes
The Deafening Silence

Would it Be Okay to Love You? Series and Book 1
Year One Book 2
Happy Merry Christmas Book 3
Year Two Book 4
Year Three Book 5

What’s your story and how did you become a writer?  I was an only child so would make up stories while I played with my toy horses. Soon I wrote those down. Eventually, I found I enjoyed writing Japanese inspired gay fiction most. I write everything gritty mafia thrillers to fluffy, contemporary romance. I enjoy weaving exciting tales of suspense, love, and gore.

How do you balance your work with other demands?  I try to stay really organized and break everything into smaller task so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. I also get up two hours before work to get the writing done before anything else.

Name one of the happiest moments in your life:  There was a tea house in my home town that I would go to almost weekly. All my friends would go and we’d get dressed up and drink proper British style tea.

What’s your approach to writing? Are you a “pantser” or a planner?  I am a huge planner. My last outline was over 18,000 words. I even have someone read over my outline and make comments to edit. I want everything already figured out when I start the rough draft.

Could you write in a café with people around?  More often people distract me when I’m at a café, but there’s a really good Korean café nearby. Their booths are built into the wall. So it feels like you’re in a cave. I can write there just fine.

Have you ever written dialogue in a second language? If so, how did you do it?  Though all of my books take place in Japan and with Japanese characters I do not write any extensive dialogue in Japanese.

What’s your favorite book and what are you reading now?  My favorite book is In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. It’s an epic French classic and I love the descriptions.  I recently finished Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro. It’s about a second generation Korean coming of age in Japan.

What’s your favorite way to read a book: hardcover, paperback, eReader?  I like eBooks because they are cheaper and I always feel like I read faster on them.

Do you think print books will always be around?  Yes, there are some people who enjoy holding a book.

Would you ever read a book on your phone?  I do this as a last resort like when I’m standing in line at the Post Office and it’s taking a long time.

What’s your go-to device? iPhone, Android or something else?  Does my desktop computer count? Give me a computer over a tablet or phone any day. I want a keyboard and mouse!

How long could you go without checking your phone?  During the weekend I never look at it. During the week I’ll poke around it.

Do you listen to audiobooks? If you do, what do you do while you’re listening?  I recently got into non-fiction audiobooks. I do about half an hour of stretching in the morning since I’ve herniated two discs in my spine about a year ago. It’s a nice way to get those non-fictions books I’ve wanted to read out of the way.

Do you like using social media to promote yourself and your book? If so, what’s your favorite platform? I spend a lot of time on YouTube, but probably do a bad job promoting my books there. I’m fond of Facebook, too.

Website and social media links:
Website – https://www.amytasukada.com/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/amytasukada
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/amytasukadaofficial/
Twitter: @amytasukada

Awards/special recognition:  My first two thriller novels won an honorable mention at the Rainbow Awards for thrillers.


Are you an indie author?  Do you want to build your indie author network? Get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author!

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book
by
Susan Orlean

Rating: 3.5

On April 29, 1986, a devastating fire tore through the hallways and stacks of the Los Angeles Public Library. It raged for over seven hours before firefighters could put it out. When it was over, 400,000 books had been destroyed and 700,000 books damaged.

The city’s Central Library, built in 1926, had no sprinklers, no fire doors and many fire code violations. That explains why it took so long to contain the fire, but what caused it? Was it faulty wiring? Was it arson? It’s never been determined, but for a while, a man named Harry Peak was a suspect. Peak was a charmer and a compulsive liar who enjoyed being in the spotlight. He claimed to have been there, then he changed his story, many times. Peak was arrested, but never charged.

The Library Book is a look at the “single biggest library fire in the history of the United States” and how the library coped with this major loss. It’s also a detailed chronicle of the city’s library system. From 1844, when the earliest library in Los Angeles was established, to present day, where library staff work at the beautifully restored Central Library.

I enjoyed reading The Library Book, but it wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was going to be reading a mystery about the fire, but discovered that the book is more of a sentimental history book about libraries and librarians, patrons and administrators. As a library worker, I related to a lot of the descriptions and agree with the author’s observation that libraries are much more than a place to get books. They are as much community centers as they are places of enrichment, learning and exploration.

I also liked reading about how the city saved many of the damaged books, by freeze drying them for two years, with help from McDonnell Douglas, Airdex and NASA. Library staff helped too, just days after the fire, by sorting through and packing books to be shipped off for restoration. I would have liked more on this part of the story and was frustrated to instead find many strung-together chapters with little connection to the fire.

To be fair, the book’s title is true to what’s really inside: a book about a library. But publicity and hype made it sound different to me. I’m glad I read it and learned a few things, but I thought it was a little boring. However, anyone who has special attachment to libraries or childhood memories about visiting them will enjoy the descriptions.

I found a very interesting video about the fire and you can watch it here:

 

Have you read The Library Book? What did you think?

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I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan

I just finished reading The Library Book by Susan Orlean and I’m working on a review. Meantime, to get you in the library mood, here’s a great book about what it’s like to work at a public library.

Book Club Mom

I Work at a Public Library
by
Gina Sheridan

Rating:

Here’s a great collection of library stories straight “from the stacks.” Gina Sheridan, a public librarian in St. Louis, Missouri, has seen it all at her job.  From unusual requests and confused questions to lonesome souls looking for conversation, she uses more than her library degree to guide her patrons. At my library job, I field a lot of questions, particularly about how to use the public computers, so I can definitely relate to this one:

A man using the public computer asked me for help.

MAN:  Yeah, what’s the difference between Microsoft Word, Google Chrome and a website?

ME:  Well Word is a program you use to type something up, like a letter or a resume. Chrome is an Internet browser you’d use to look at website. And a website is a space on the Internet to exchange information.

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Book Club Mom’s August recap – books, movies, authors and a mish-mash!

I’m not an organized blogger. Therefore I never know how a blog month is going to go. That’s how I like it. This month, I read Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. At over 800 pages, it took a lot of time and concentration to read and I had very few blogging ideas during that time. So I focused on the book and stayed away from the blog. Once I finished, I felt refreshed and then came the ideas!


I read three books in August:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Notes from a Public Typewriter – edited by Michael Gustafson and Obooksliver Uberti


I shared some football books:

Books for football fans, and anyone who likes a good story

What’s That Book? Football for a Buck by Jeff Pearlman


And I watched two movies! That’s unusual for me, but I’ve been in that mode lately. I’m also working my way through The Office and have finally reached the episodes I’d never seen.

What’s That Movie? Free Solo –
a film by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

The movie Charly and Flowers for Algernon


Indie Authors Wendy Koenig & Biff Mitchell

Have you met these indie authors yet? Be sure to check out their profiles!

Who’s That Indie Author? Wendy L. Koenig

Who’s That Indie Author? Biff Mitchell

If you are a self-published or indie author and would like to be featured, email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.


And while you’re at it, get up to date with romance writer Jill Weatherholt because she has a new book out – A Mother for His Twins!

BC Mom’s Author Update: new Harlequin Love Inspired novel
by Jill Weatherholt


Random and spontaneous book posts are lots of fun – that’s one reason I like blogging so much. It’s great to have full control over what I do. Sometimes I’ll get an idea while I’m brushing my teeth, taking a walk or talking to someone at my library job. Then it’s just a matter of typing it out:

 Book Talk – The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Grammar check – three word mistakes – let’s admit we aren’t perfect!

Creative book cover posts – have you noticed this trend?


I hope you had a good August! Did you read anything good? What was the best part of your month?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Talk – The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Welcome to an occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of books that catch my eye.

You never know when you’re going to hear about a good book to read. Today I traded texts with a friend of mine and she told me about a great book she’s reading right now.

The Last Days of Night is an historical fiction novel about the fight between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison over who invented the light bulb. You may remember that Westinghouse and Edison were fierce rivals back in the 1880s. This rivalry led to what was named The War of Currents, an intense debate between Westinghouse and Edison over which type of electrical current (alternating or direct) should supply New York’s power grid.

The Last Days of Night is about a young lawyer named Paul Cravath, who is hired by Westinghouse. Westinghouse is being sued by Edison over the light bulb debate.

Here is part of the book blurb from Amazon:

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.

The Last Days of Night was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

…and a little about the author, from his website:

Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

I’m going to have to make time for this one! What great books are waiting for you?

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