February 3, 2021 | Issue #27
Five Facts from Our Friend, Ann Napolitano
The one thing you’ve learned you can’t live without during the pandemic:
A specific pair of jogger sweatpants from the Gap. I have them in two colors and I wear them literally every day.
Your perfect day:
I’d drink an oat milk latte, and then go for a run in Prospect Park. I’d write and read for the remainder of the day, with breaks to snuggle my kids. I would have dinner with my girlfriends, and we’d eat excellent sushi or excellent pizza and I’d drink one margarita (more than one and I can’t sleep).
Your favorite independent bookstore:
This is an almost impossible question, because each independent bookstore is its own special kind of wonderful. However, I feel deeply grateful to live within walking distance of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn. This store, and its owners—including the fabulous and talented writer Emma Straub—are magic.
The last book you raved about:
Deacon King Kong by James McBride
Your next book in ten words or less:
Two sisters marry the same man, at different times.
Bookseller of the Week
Our guest this week, Ann Napolitano, chose her favorite local indie—Books Are Magic in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn—as our featured independent bookseller of the week. Born in May 2017, Books Are Magic is the third child to bestselling novelist Emma Straub and her husband Michael. With perhaps the world’s most Instagrammable book-themed wall mural outside, Books Are Magic is home to exciting new releases and beloved classics; hidey-holes for children and books to read them in; readings, panels, and storytimes almost every day of the week; and yes, plenty of magic. Get 10% off this week with the code FRIENDS10 on Ann's Dear Edward and A Good Hard Look as well as on recent and upcoming books by the Fab Five.  SHOP NOW!   
Up Close and Personal with Mary Alice Monroe

The other day I journeyed to my mountain house in North Carolina. The clouds overhead were thick and gray and I hoped to get to my destination before the rain hit. I hate driving in the rain. My eyesight isn’t the best in good weather. When the rain falls, my hands tighten around the steering wheel and my shoulders tense. It’s just a miserable, slow trip. As I passed the border from South to North Carolina I think I might just make it.

At last, I exit the highway and my body sags in relief as I wind along the curving mountain roads at a slower pace. I take in the changes in the scenery up in the mountains. It’s still deep winter and I don’t come north often in this season so I’m curious to see the broad expansive views of mountains often cloaked by heavy foliage. I think about stopping at my favorite coffee shop as I pass. A heady, steaming brew would be nice after the long drive, but I push on. Covid discourages my getting out of the car, but too, I’m eager to get home.  I recognize a few of my favorite farms. See a few horses in the fields. 

My dogs have been asleep in the back seat for the past several hours. I hear a rustling in the back seat as Vega, the Bernese Mountain Dog, rises lugubriously to look out the window. Cosmo and Luna, my King Charles Spaniels, follow suit and from the front I hear their excited pants. How do they know we are getting close, I wonder? Have their bodies memorized the twists and turns of the road? Or are they picking up on the excitement thrumming in my own veins? Because I feel like them, looking out the windows expectantly, my heart rate accelerating. I think of the line in the John Denver song, “I should’ve been home yesterday.” Now I see cross the river…my river… and see the mountain…my mountain… and finally the big wooden gates of Windover, yawning open now in wide welcome.

The car churns and groans in low gear as we climb the mountain driveway to the house. I note the condition of the road, the stone wall covered with moss, see where tree limbs have fallen. No spring buds yet but there’s beauty in the gray stillness. Then I see the sienna-colored roof tiles and my face breaks into a grin. There’s my cottage in the trees, stone and stucco, white and brown, with yellow light flowing from the windows.

I park the car and the great engine settles. The miles still roll in my veins. Taking a breath, I push open the car door and am met by an icy moist air that both chills and refreshes me. I open the back door and Vega leaps like a lion to the ground, landing on huge paws, then runs in joyful laps. Yapping and pacing, the cavaliers paw at the crate until, set free, they chase the big black dog across the icy grass. 

That’s when the first snow begins to fall. Big, fat, soft flakes, a few at first then a steady swirling mass that float in the breeze like feathers. Snow! I hadn’t seen snow in several years. It is so unexpected. So beautiful. The snow is a gift. I lift my face to the sky and feel each flake on my skin like a kiss. I stretch out my arms and begin to twirl with wonder. I am the character in Edward Scissorhands, awash in wonder. All the miles, the worries, the pending work, and decisions, slide away in the centrifugal force of joy. 

An hour later the snow stopped and there was no sign left of the surprise snow. But even still, as I write these words, my smile breaks into a grin and my heart dances in memory.
And Now a Word from our Sponsors
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Latest News From "The Fab Five"

MARY ALICE MONROE was featured in Charleston Style and Design Magazine where she talked about her books, past and coming! Also! Her book, THE BOOK CLUB, is only $1.99 on Kindle this week! Download it at this great price ahead of the March 15 F&F Official Book Club discussion.

PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY is polishing up all the exciting details of her upcoming virtual book tour. Next week she’ll be giving all of us at F&F a preview of her Surviving Savannah trailer along with a pre-order giveaway! Five more weeks until release! Patti’s publisher is hosting a GoodReads giveaway for copies of Surviving Savannah. CLICK HERE to enter!

MARY KAY ANDREWS is still autographing tip-in sheets to be bound into finished copies of her May release, The Newcomer. She and Mary Alice Monroe recently interviewed Marie Benedict, author of the instant New York Times bestseller The Mystery of Mrs. Christie for an upcoming original Friends & Fiction podcast. She and Mr. MKA are spending the first half of February on Tybee Island, working on their latest fixer-upper beach house, Coquina Cottage. You can catch all the news about the cottage reno--and photos of her thrift store finds on her Instagram feed.

KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY’s publisher is hosting a giveaway for 50 COPIES of Under the Southern Sky on Goodreads! ENTER HERE!
KRISTIN HARMEL is glad it's February; this month, she'll celebrate her husband's birthday, her son's 5th birthday, and the 15-year anniversary of the publication of her first novel, in February 2006. She's a firm believer that good things happen in February -- and she's excited to see what this month brings.
News from the F&F Official Book Club
Mark your calendars for these upcoming book club discussions!

Feb. 15: The Winemaker's Wife with Kristin Harmel, plus a guest appearance by Patti Callahan Henry to preview Surviving Savannah
March 15: The Book Club with Mary Alice Monroe, plus a guest appearance by Kristy Woodson Harvey to preview Under the Southern Sky
April 19: Surviving Savannah with Patti Callahan Henry
May 17: Under the Southern Sky with Kristy Woodson Harvey
June 21: The Newcomer with Mary Kay Andrews
July 19: The Summer of Lost and Found with Mary Alice Monroe
Aug. 16: The Forest of Vanishing Stars with Kristin Harmel

We kicked off our first 2021 book club discussion on Monday January 18th with Mary Kay Andrews discussing of Ladies Night. Click HERE to see the replay.

We are so excited that our book club has reached 4,000 members! Click here to join The F&F Official Book Club!  We would love to have you!
Listen to the F&F Podcast!
In a brand new episode of the F&F podcast just posted yesterday, Patti and Kristin discuss Modern Takes on Literary Classics. They interview Michael Farris Smith about his novel, NICK, about Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby, and Rachel Hawkins about her novel THE WIFE UPSTAIRS, a modern retelling of Jane Eyre.

LISTEN to our latest episode here:
or wherever you listen to podcasts.

At the end of this week, another episode will be live in which Mary Kay and Mary Alice interview author Marie Benedict about her new novel, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie.

Coming soon, Mary Alice has an episode planned about audiobooks with a narrator and producer as her guests, and Kristy is working on one about bookstagrammers with a couple of great influencers joining her.

We hope you enjoy the podcast. If you do, please subscribe, rate, share, and leave a review. We might feature your review on a future episode!