Fantastic Firsts Ladies Lunch and Literacy

Ladies, Lunch & Literacy began in 2008 as a program that introduced debut authors to readers over lunch at independent restaurants and venues in Los Angeles and San Diego. Not every worthy debut author can come to lunch. Subscribe to this book club and be the first to know about an upcoming writer of merit.

  • Customers have the option of purchasing a 3, 6, or 12-book subscription to any of our clubs to receive books we highly recommend and believe are likely to be collectible ... books you’ll value having on your shelves.
  • Subscribers receive 20% off cover price of selected titles through the cost of each subscription, which can be picked up in store or scheduled to arrive in a special FFBC box shipped by the 20th of each month.
  • You may pick up your new book at either Mysterious Galaxy San Diego or at the Redondo Beach satellite office.
  • Many, but not all selections will be signed.
  • And don't forget: FFBC memberships make great gifts!

To sign up, or for more information, contact the staff in San Diego (310-542-6000). The Ladies, Lunch & Literacy Club membership list will be maintained by the Redondo Beach location, but all fantastic titles can be picked up in either store, or shipped to you!

A new title will be revealed each month!


The Women in the Castle Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062563668
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: William Morrow & Company - March 28th, 2017

April 2017 



-Moving . . . surprises and devastates.---New York Times Book Review

-A masterful epic.---People magazine

-Mesmerizing . . . The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history's most tragic eras.---USA Today

Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined--an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany's defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband's ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband's brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin's mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister's wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband's resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war--each with their own unique share of challenges.

Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah's Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck's evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.



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The Lonely Hearts Hotel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735213739
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - February 7th, 2017

February 2017 

Staff Reviews


I am sure that comparisons will be made between The Lonely Hearts Hotel and The Night Circus. Both have a sense of magic hovering in the background and introduce fascinating protagonists with unique talents and personalities. In The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Pierrot and Rose are raised in an orphanage in Montreal in the middle of the Great Depression. Both suffered early childhood trauma at the hands of the nuns who ruled the orphanage with iron fists. But in the midst of dire despair, they find each other, discover their (almost magical) gifts, and make plans for their future. None of this plays out smoothly and their lives take discouraging turns and twists away from each other and into the depths of the Montreal criminal underworld. Ultimately, they will reunite and move toward their dream of creating entertainment that will wow their world. This book is captivating and joyful and romance rules much of the plot despite some of the dark subject matter.

— From Terry's Traffic Light Delights




With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans - in love with each other since they can remember - whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.

The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one's origins. It might also take true love. 
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1914. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen. 
Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city's underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes - after years of searching and desperate poverty - the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they'll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same. 
With her musical language and extravagantly realized world, Heather O'Neill enchants us with a novel so magical there is no escaping its spell.


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A Gentleman in Moscow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670026197
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - September 6th, 2016

September 2016



From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel 
In all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight . . .this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility." Kirkus Reviews(starred)

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style. Readers and critics were enchanted; as NPR commented, Towles writes with grace and verve about the mores and manners of a society on the cusp of radical change. 

A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. 
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.


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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250074133
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Thomas Dunne Books - August 9th, 2016

August 2016 

Staff Reviews


If I told you the storyline of All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, you may not think this is a book for you. But if I tell you how much love and compassion are poured into the characters and the writing, you may change your mind. Despite the setting, many taboo subjects, and the huge age gap between the two main characters, this is a love story that will draw you in and stick with you long after you turn the last page.

Wavy meets Kellen when she is just 8 years old and Kellen is a young man of 21. They both have complicated and violent backgrounds and are immediately attracted to one another. Wavy’s parents are drug addicts and meth dealers who are beyond inept in taking care of both Wavy and her younger brother, Donal. As a result of her childhood abuse, Wavy refuses to communicate with almost everyone in her small world of family and school. Kellen was brought up in a life of violence and drugs, but has a heart of gold and intelligence that few notice or care about. They form an unbreakable bond through their shared history and the circumstances that make up their lives. This bond is strengthened and tested in ways beyond imagining and this is the storyline of this dazzling, page-turning debut.

— From Terry's Traffic Light Delights




A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things "challenges all we know and believe about love.


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Modern Lovers Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594634673
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - May 31st, 2016

June 2016 

Staff Reviews


Emma Straub writes about families and relationships and how we navigate our life decisions. She draws you in so that you feel that you are part of the story, and in fact, you are. After all, she is writing about us.

 In her third novel (after The Vacationers), three college friends are united by their past history when they were members of a college band. They still care about each other as extended family and live near each other in Brooklyn, which is as much a character in this novel as the three of them. In fact, Elizabeth Marx is a realtor and knows every inch of their town and most of the inhabitants in the neighborhood. Andrew is Elizabeth’s husband and fellow band member, along with her best friend Zoe Kahn-Bennett. The fourth member of the band, famed singer Lydia Greenbaum who died in her 20s, is a presence much felt in this novel. Zoe is married to her long time love, Jane and together they have a daughter, Ruby who is the same age as Harry, the son of Elizabeth and Andrew.

When the remaining three band members are contacted about making a movie about Lydia, some of their past becomes part of the present and some of their long-held secrets are forced to surface. At the same time, the two teenagers begin to develop a relationship, the two marriages hit rough spots, and the three former bandmates begin a period of readjustment to middle age. Alternatively told from each character’s point of view in short, poignant chapters, this is a novel to savior and share. – Terry

— From Fantastic Firsts Ladies Lunch and Literacy




An NPR Best Book of 2016
An Entertainment Weekly Best Book of 2016
Slate Best Book of the Year
Washington PostNotable Fiction Pick 
Ms. Straub writes with such verve and sympathetic understanding of her characters. . . An] entertaining novel. . .deftly and thoughtfully written. Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times 
It's Friends meets Almost Famous meets the beach read you ll be recommending all summer. TheSkimm 
Straub serves up a perfect slice of the zeitgeist with this entertaining novel about former college bandmates raising their precocious children while grappling with marital tensions and midlife crises. People, Named one of "Summer's Best Books"

From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Vacationers, a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college and what it means to finally grow up, well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band's heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them can never be reclaimed. 
Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions be they food, or friendship, or music never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.


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Dear Fang, with Love Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101875773
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - May 24th, 2016

May 2016 

Staff Reviews


Fully realized characters, a great setting, an interesting historical backdrop, and beautiful language set the stage for an amazing sophomore entry from Thorpe. I don’t know how I missed The Girls from Corona del Mar, but it won’t be long before I correct this oversight.

In Dear Fang, with Love, 17-year-old Vera and her 35-year-old father, Lucas, have traveled together for an historical tour of Vilnius, Lithuania, with hopes of enhancing their relationship, which in the past has been almost non-existent. The trip was motivated by Lucas’ concern for Vera and her recent psychotic episode, which resulted in her hospitalization and diagnosis of bipolar disorder, as well as his desire to discover his roots which originate in this small town on the edge of Western and Eastern Europe. Fang is Vera’s boyfriend, and the title refers to her letters to him during their trip, allowing us to see her point of view about this first-ever foray for father and daughter.

The majority of the narrative is from Lucas’ perspective, an absentee father who would like to make up for his past mistakes. The backstory includes the romance between 18-year-olds Lucas and Katya, the history of Lucas’ family, and the truth behind Vera’s breakdown. By the end of this trip, no member of their family is left untouched by the experience and we are better for having discovered this amazing writer.

— Terry Gilman




This month's Ladies, Lunch & Literacy pick is a novel so different and compelling that it had to be shared. Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years later, after a decade of absence, Lucas is a weekend dad, newly involved in his daughter Vera's life. But after Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic break at a high school party, Lucas takes her to Lithuania, his grandmother's homeland, for the summer.

There, in the city of Vilnius, Lucas hopes to save Vera from the sorrow of her diagnosis. As he uncovers a secret about his grandmother, a Home Army rebel who escaped Stutthof, Vera searches for answers of her own. Why did Lucas abandon her as a baby? What really happened the night of her breakdown? And who can she trust with the truth?


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The Nest Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062414212
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - March 22nd, 2016

April 2016 

Staff Review


Family angst. Financial woes. Interconnected lives. The New York Literary scene. Coming of Age. Surprises, turns, and twists. This is The Nest, an engaging debut about one family told from multiple points of view, centered on the four siblings in the Plumb family. The oldest is Leo, who is the catalyst for the current financial woes of his family. Leo’s appetite for excess, driven by an unhappy marriage, results in tragedy for an unsuspecting woman. When the inheritance their father left  (nicknamed “The Nest”) is used to bail Leo out of the resultant mess, his siblings struggle with the prospect of losing the funds they have planned on inheriting -- and in some cases, already spent -- for years.

The question of whether Leo will reimburse his siblings leads the narrative, but it is the journey and ultimate growth of each family member that makes this an endearing story to treasure. The buzz is already in the air and this is a book and author to watch.  

— From Terry's Traffic Light Delights




Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, The Nest, which they are but months away from finally receiving. Meant by their now-deceased father to be a modest midlife supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest's value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and two looming college tuitions for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can't seem to finish her overdue novel.

Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the futures they ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

The Nest is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend on one another, and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.


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The Madwoman Upstairs Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501124211
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Touchstone Books - March 1st, 2016

March 2016 

Staff Review


The Madwoman Upstairs is both a reference to the insane first wife of Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, and to Samantha Whipple, who is the last remaining descendant of the Brontë sisters. It is not a coincidence that Samantha finds herself living in the Tower of Extinction (originally built to house quarantine victims of the plague in 1361) at Oxford University. She is studying English literature with a (also not coincidentally) good-looking, older English professor who is strictly off limits to her officially, intellectually, and due to their age discrepancy. Like her foresisters before her, she is young, inexperienced, and totally out of her league here. She was home schooled by her father and is attending Old College at his request, though he died seven years prior (not coincidentally) in a fire which claimed all of his literary pursuits. This exciting literary debut is in part a study of literature, specifically the Brontë sisters’ works, and in part the mystery of their legacy. Samantha cannot escape her past history with their work, the world’s interest in her inheritance of previously undiscovered family treasures, and the current puzzle of artifacts mysteriously appearing in her room … which may or may not answer some of her questions. For mystery and Brontë fans alike, this is a delightful romp and an (very clever) author to watch. - Terry




In Catherine Lowell’s smart and original debut novel, the only remaining descendant of the Brontë family embarks on a modern-day literary scavenger hunt to find the family’s long-rumored secret estate, using only the clues her eccentric father left behind, and the Brontës’ own novels.

Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.

Yet everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from the past begin rematerializing in her life. Her father’s distinctive copy of Jane Eyre, which should have perished in the fire that claimed his life, mysteriously appears on Samantha’s bed. Annotated in her father’s handwriting, the book is the first of many clues in an elaborate scavenger hunt derived from the world’s greatest literature. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha must plunge into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own writing.

For readers who devoured The Weird Sisters and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Madwoman Upstairs is a suspenseful, exhilarating debut by an exciting new talent who offers a moving exploration of what it means when the greatest truth is, in fact, fiction.


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Breaking Wild Cover Image
ISBN: 9780425283783
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley Books - February 9th, 2016

February 2016 

Staff Review


While the story line is about a missing hunter in the Colorado mountains and the search effort to find her, it is more poignantly about two women whose pasts are complicated and parallel in many ways. Amy Raye Latour has come to the mountains with two friends to hunt elk. She sets off early one morning, with a bow and arrow and a few other supplies, while her fellow hunters are sleeping, and makes her way to a specific place with a specific plan for making her last kill of the season. We know that she is running both to and from her past and it is this backstory that joins the narrative about her experience hunting and ultimately getting lost in the mountains. 

Pru Hathaway is a single mom whose 17-year-old son lives with her in Rio Mesa, Colorado. Her job working for the Bureau of Land Management as an archaeological law enforcement ranger also qualifies her to do search and rescue missions. And, like Amy Raye, she has been brought up in the outdoors and is comfortable and competent in nature and survival. Her backstory of love, loss, and hope is also intertwined with the current mission to find Amy.

The wilds of Colorado are as much a character as a backdrop to this adrenaline-rich race against time, not just to find Amy Raye, but for both women to find themselves.  -- From Terry's Traffic Light Delights




This month's Ladies, Lunch & Literacy pick tells the story of one woman missing and another hell-bent on finding her, all against the backdrop of the Colorado wilderness. It is the last weekend of the season for Amy Raye Latour to get away. Driven to spend days alone in the wilderness, Amy Raye, mother of two, is compelled by the quiet and the rush of nature. When she doesn't return to camp, ranger Pru Hathaway and her dog respond to the missing person's call.

After an unexpected snowfall and few leads, the operation turns into a search and recovery. But the more Pru learns about the woman for whom she is searching, and about Amy Raye's past, the more she suspects that Amy Raye might yet be alive.