Book Review: MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS by Cara Black

Book Review written by Kate Farrell

Murder-BookCoverCara Black’s mystery novel, MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS, to be released March 3, 2015, is the 15th in the Aimée LeDuc Investigation series set in Paris—and it is irresistible! The indomitable, ever chic Aimée LeDuc faces new challenges as a single mother estranged from her six-month-old infant’s father. More than a thriller or a tour guide to Paris, Murder on the Champ de Mars brings us fascinating Gypsy (manouche) characters who intensify the tension of Aimee’s unresolved family secrets: who murdered her father and why.

  Cara Black’s mystery novel, MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS,  Book ReviewOn the day her baby, Chloé, is christened, Aimée is confronted with a poor Gypsy boy whose mother is dying and who insists on speaking to Aimée to reveal the truth of her father’s death. Compelled to keep her father’s promises to the sick mother and to seek justice for her father, Aimée agrees to visit the dying woman only to find the woman missing from her hospital bed. Aimée begins a search that will take surprising twists and turns, as suspense builds and unknown dangers surround her.

Aimée enters the maze of Parisian society, the hard edges of its stratified class culture where status is everything, where those on the inside cling with desperation. From the despised outsiders, the Roma, newly arrived Eastern European Gypsies, to the ancien régime types in the elegant, old money seventh arrondissement and inside the marbled halls of ministries, Aimée explores the shadowy borderlands of secrets, scandal, and cover-ups.

Cara Black’s mystery novel, MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS And she does all this while worrying about nursing her bébé and wearing the right designer outfit to gain entrée to upscale events. Cara Black ratchets up the anxiety by adding the needs and vulnerabilities of an infant under Aimée’s care. Black skillfully builds suspense in a tightly structured plot, giving away frightening glimpses of the murderers.

Throughout it all, the city of Paris is a transcendent character in this brilliant mystery, a shining place of beauty and history. Black allows us to experience the many facets of Paris with cinematic descriptions and sensory images. For example, when Aimée is to meet the Gypsy boy, Black describes their meeting place:

 “Now La Pagode was an art-house cinema with ivy trailing the walls. Drooping willows canopied the tea tables nestled in the Japonese garden. It lay quiet and deserted, apart from Michel, the projectionist, who waved to her while sweeping the lobby. Maïs, the house cat, slinked past the pair of ceramic dragons guarding the stained-glass door to the cinema.”

A book of many dimensions, MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS is a tantalizing Parisian mystery with a captivating heroine.

Better yet! If you win the KILLER TRIP TO PARIS, you’ll travel with the author, Cara Black, this fall. Contest entry forms are inside a limited hard cover edition, in stores or online March 3rd.

For more information about the book and contest, visit:

Members honored by Pulpwood Queens Book Club

Kathy Murphy & Marsha Toy Engstrom

Kathy Murphy & Marsha Toy Engstrom

Marsha Toy Engstrom (AKA: The Book Club Cheerleader) received the 2014 Doug Marlette Award last month from Kathy L. Murphy, founder of the Pulpwood Queens (PWQ)—the largest ‘meeting and discussing’ book club in world, with more than 550 chapters internationally. According to Murphy, “The award is given to a person for the Lifetime Achievement of Promoting Literacy, and Marsha fits that to a T….Doug Marlette was my good friend…and a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist who was killed in a car accident in 2007. We wanted to honor him, with the blessing of his wife, in a way that he and his books would not be forgotten.”

What is Engstrom’s reaction to this honor? “This is just another example of Kathy Murphy paying it forward!” said Engstrom. “She’s always promoting literature through something or someone: a book, indie bookstore, author, journalist…or even a Book Club Cheerleader.”

A career coach with over 20 years in the HR and staffing business, Engstrom uses her background in coaching and team dynamics to help put the ‘group’ back in book groups. She also writes about all-things-book-club on her blog, Book Club Cheerleader, spoke as a Panelist at Book Expo America (BEA), and was recently quoted in Woman’s Day as a book club expert. And of course, she’s a member of the San Francisco chapter of Women’s National Book Association (WNBA, SF)—where we all promote literacy every day!

Tracy Guzeman, Marsha Toy Engstrom, Kristen Harnisch

Tracy Guzeman, Marsha Toy Engstrom, Kristen Harnisch

At the same ‘Girlfriend Weekend’—the PWQ’s annual book club convention, held in East Texas—Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds was honored to learn that in addition to her debut novel’s other critical acclaim, it has been selected by the Pulpwood Queens as a book club selection for February! Tracy’s previous work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Vestal Review, and Glimmer Train Stories, and she is also a member of WNBA, SF.

I’m sure that fact must have something to do with these two recent achievements! Okay, perhaps Kathy Murphy helped…

Editor’s note: Marsha Toy Engstrom and Tracy Guzeman contribute to WNBA in many ways. Engstrom has served on the Great Group Reads reviewing committee more than once and participated in a panel on Women’s Fiction at Pitch-O-Rama 2014. Tracy was a panelist during National Reading Group Month 2013, both in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was the panel moderator for NRGM-SF in 2014. SF Chapter is honored to have them both as members!

Winter 2015 WNBA-SF Chapter Newsletter

Dear WNBA-SF Chapter Members,WNBA-SF chapter fall newsletter

Does a brand new publishing company intrigue you with books written by and for women? Would you like to read high-quality short e-books you can’t find anywhere else? Even more, would you like to be an author of one of those books, distributed on a digital platform based here in the SF Bay Area?

Click here to read entire newsletter.

Digital Storytelling: 
New Opportunities for Women Writers

Saturday, January 10, 2015
10:30 am – 12:30 pm
Meeting & Mixer for Members
Oakland Main Library,
Meeting Room
125 14th Street, Oakland, CA  94612
Coffee, Bagels, and Pastries

Featured Member Interview:

Dorothy Hearst
Interview written by Catharine Bramkamp

Holiday Book Drive for Children 
ages 0 – 5, 
a success!

Holiday Highlights: 
Hobnobbing on the Hill

Written by Carla Danziger

ONLY two weeks left to enter the WNBA contest!

WNBA Third Annual Writing Contest

 A fundraiser for our national initiatives.

2014_Writing_Contest_01_WebBegins: 8/14/2014, Ends: 1/15/2015

Flyer Click here for download.





Pitch-O-Rama 2015

12th Annual Pitch-O-Rama: Meet the Agents and Editors

Women's Building

Women’s Building




Saturday, March 28, 2015, 8:00 am – 12:30 pm 
For men and women!
Women’s Building, Auditorium, 
3543 18th Street
(b/t Guerrero & Valencia Streets)
San Francisco CA 94110 
Continental Breakfast 
Free pre-pitch coaching and ongoing mentoring 
Two one-hour pitch sessions and more!
After the sessions, a panel presentation explores “Steps to Publishing: Editing”

Click here to see the list of agents and editors!

Pre-registration required, space limited!
Cost: $65 WNBA members, $75 non-members, $90 walk-ins, if space available

A rare opportunity to pitch to literary agents and acquisition editors in a private, supportive setting and receive feedback from some of the best publishing professionals in the Bay Area.

This year we are pleased to announce rental of a vast, 2-story space with acoustical panels: the Auditorium in the Women’s Building, heart of the Mission District. With plenty of space for sound to diffuse, we promise to make this an exciting and productive event for all.

Help us promote this event, our annual fundraiser, by downloading this 2-page flyer!


Holiday Highlights: Hobnobbing on the Hill

Carla Danzinger, Joyce Roschinger, Peter Roschinger, Ana Manwaring

Carla Danziger, Joyce Roschinger, Peter Roschinger, Ana Manwaring

Written by Carla Danziger

Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen hosted the annual WNBA holiday party at their cozy home on Nob Hill on Tuesday, December 9th, a special perk for members. New members and old, newly-published and veteran authors, poets, songwriters/musicians-turned-fiction writers, editors, librarians and booklovers enjoyed the warm hospitality, delicious potluck refreshments, and WNBA camaraderie. Each guest brought a charming children’s book to donate to the Living Room, our chapter’s literacy partner.

President Kate Farrell welcomed all, thanked our hosts, and facilitated the round robin in which members shared interesting projects in progress and some authors announced newly launched books: Fiction: Dorothy Hearst, Spirit of Wolves; Martha Conway, Thieving Forest; Poetry: Jeanne Powell, Two Seasons; Non-Fiction: KJ Landis, Superior Self―Reaching Superior Health.Kate Farrell told us she recently was on the editorial team of Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence, whose sales will benefit the YWCA of Sonoma County.

Kate announced that WNBA will celebrate its 100th anniversary of supporting women’s voices in publishing and the world of books in 2017. Wishing everyone a happy new year, Michael and Elizabeth reminded everyone of the upcoming San Francisco Writers Conference, Feb. 12-16, 2015.


WNBA Author Showcase: New Fall Books

Bookshop West Portal

Bookshop West Portal

Celebrating Member/Authors
of San Francisco Chapter

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
7:00 — 9:00 pm

Bookshop West Portal, 80 West Portal Ave.
San Francisco 94127
Refreshments, Free and open to the public

 Moderator: Joan Gelfand, WNBA Past President, author, The Long Blue Room, who will introduce a stellar group of five outstanding authors.

Cassandra Dunn

Cassandra Dunn

Cassandra Dunn is the author of The Art of Adapting (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster), which Publishers Weekly called “a lively, engaging, and heartfelt tale of learning how to cope with change.” She received her MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers.

Sarah Granger

Sarah Granger

Sarah Granger, author of the book The Digital Mystique is a nationally recognized digital media innovator, author, and journalist whose writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and The Huffington Post. Her lectures and keynotes have been delivered to a global audience at universities and conferences around the world. A frequent media commentator, she has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS, Mtv, and ABC.

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch

Karen Lynch, author of the memoir, Good Cop, Bad Daughter: Memoirs of an Unlikely Police Officeris a native San Franciscan. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she joined the San Francisco Police Department in 1981. She lives in Novato with her husband and their three children, including Kyra, who was the subject of an essay that won the 2012 Notes & Words national essay contest. Her memoir, Good Cop, Bad Daughter, is the story of how growing up with a bi-polar mother trained Karen to be a cop. Facebook page.

Christina Nichol

Christina Nichol

Christina Nichol, author of the novel Waiting for the Electricity, grew up in the Bay Area and received her MFA from the University of Florida. She received a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award in 2012. She has traveled widely, worked for nonprofit film companies, and taught English in India, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, and the republic of Georgia. She has been published in Harpers, Guernica, Lucky Peach, and The Paris Review.

Jane Ormerod

Jane Ormerod

Jane Ormerod is the author of Welcome to the Museum of CattleRecreational Vehicles on Fire, the chapbook 11 Films, and the spoken word CD Nashville Invades Manhattan. Jane’s work also appears in numerous US and international anthologies and journals including: Have a Nice NYC, Maintenant, AND / OR, Marsh Hawk Press Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Ambush Review, and Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts. She is a founding editor at great weather for MEDIA, an independent press focusing on edgy and experimental poetry and prose.




CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlante | Book Review

Written by Sherry Joyce

CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlanteI will be thinking about this book for a long time and talking about Alice LaPlante’s clever psychological thriller to friends and book clubs that enjoy this genre. Perhaps because a suspicious death of a prominent plastic surgeon takes place in Palo Alto, the mid-San Francisco Peninsula where I spent thirty-six years, I found myself delighted to be mentally musing and walking in the familiar area. I imagined myself in Samantha’s shoes, the smart, young detective unwilling to accept the plausible answers for why Dr. John Taylor was most likely murdered and who killed him. 

Certainly when not one, not two, but three simultaneous wives are implicated in the crime, you would shake your head at the implausibility—a dedicated plastic surgeon managing to maintain sanity while juggling three wives and a lucrative practice. Yet, when reading the story, you begin to feel empathy for the dead corpse. That’s masterful writing at its best.

As each wife is introduced, you are simultaneously fascinated and shocked as you feel compassion for Deborah, his first and legal wife, then MJ, the second wife, a free-spirited accountant with a difficult past, then Helen, wife number three, an oncologist whose work frequently requires her to deliver devastating news to parents that their child is dying. You are pulled into this complex web, almost certain one of these women killed her husband. However, there are plenty of clues with possible motives implicating Taylor’s partners in his surgery practice. So, maybe it was not one of the wives who was guilty of murder.

It’s not a book so much about “whodunit” as it is about motive. “Whydunit” is what propels you rapidly forward, turning pages of interview transcripts with Samantha and each wife, speaking in the first person, so that you are completely in their heads as you read. You are likely to ask yourself, “What would I have done if I were one of these wives?”

You think you will figure it all out with your detective-sleuthing reading skills. You won’t. You’ll guess, and guess wrong and then guess again.  Alice LaPlante’s writing is that good. Not only will you be unable to put this book down, you want, as the reader, to be a smarter detective than Samantha. You applaud yourself for thinking you could never be complicit in allowing your husband to have two other wives, but then you begin to understand Deborah, MJ, and Helen—perhaps even accept their choices and sacrifices. But then there is Claire who really thickens the plot, and the unusual relationship between MJ and her brother Thomas.

LaPlante creates a young detective, Sam, with insecurities and unwavering determination. Despite her own shaky, ten-year relationship with her boyfriend, Peter, she puts work first. Samantha is likeable, tenacious and unwilling to accept what appears to be the obvious.

Not many authors can keep you reading long into the night, thinking about how the victim died and who would have benefited most from his death. LaPlante plants (pun here) clues that make logical sense, and then they don’t, part of her writing skill. During Samantha’s multiple interviews with the three wives throughout the novel, you think you will see the flaw in the perfect crime.  However, you won’t see the plot twists coming, and they keep surprising. You’ll shake your head and say, “I didn’t see that coming.” That’s what makes CIRCLE OF WIVES a thrill ride of marital deception, betrayal, and discovery.

                                    —Sherry Joyce, Author of The Dordogne Deception

Meet Alice LaPlante and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event
 Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

Voices Behind the Veil: The Afghan Women’s Writing Project

Lori Noack

Lori Noack

November 1st — Saturday, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Temescal Branch Library 

Meeting Room, Oakland

Speaker: Lori Noack, Executive Director

Lori Noack will discuss how AWWP provides a platform for Afghan women to share the stories of their lives. From 10 writers in 2009 to more than 220 in 2014, over 1300 poems and journalistic essays are published on Lori will share highlights of AWWP’s new projects, including an oral history initiative with illiterate women, a monthly radio series, and online writing workshops in Dari. From stories about child marriage to the high-stakes 2014 election, from love poems to war diaries, Lori will read chosen highlights from AWWP’s second collection of poetry and prose to be published in late 2014 by Grayson Books. Q&A will follow. Learn how you can participate in this important project! See attached, AWWP Opportunities

Lori Noack, Executive Director, Marketing and Development, brings to Afghan Women’s Writing Project several years of writing, editing, arts management, and nonprofit leadership experience as executive director of the Sunriver Music Festival (Oregon) and Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), editor of the Sunriver Scene; founder of Lori Noack Arts Management and of the Written Word. In 2009, she earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of San Francisco. 

*The Afghan Women’s Writing Project was founded in 2009 in defense of the human right to voice one’s story. Online writing workshops partner international writers, educators, and journalists with English-speaking women in six Afghan provinces. Poems and essays are published each week at In support of this central focus, AWWP’s program also includes a women-only Internet café in Kabul, training workshops, online Dari workshops, radio broadcasts of AWWP writings in Afghanistan, laptops, Internet, and publication opportunities. AWWP believes that empowering Afghan women creates possibilities for economic independence and instills leadership abilities as in reinforces freedom of speech.

*Founder of AWWP Masha Hamilton was the winner of the 2010 WNBA Award! “Her activism reveals the depth of Masha’s commitment to the world of literacy and books beyond her own career. She is a sterling example of what the WNBA Award truly intends to honor—meritorious work in the world of books beyond her profession,” states Valerie Tomaselli, WNBA New York Chapter President

Mix and mingle after the talk, snacks provided. FREE to members and guests.

Temescal Branch Library, 5205 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA  94609
(510) 597-5049

(Close to BART, AC Transit, metered and free parking)

Please RSVP in the form below so we can plan for you and your guest.

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Abroad by Katie Crouch: Book Review

AbroadhiresWritten by Sherry Joyce

Katie Crouch’s new psychological thriller, Abroad, will keep you reading long into the night, but may interfere with your sleep. The riveting story of a young college woman on an Enteria study program in Grifonia, Italy will make you ponder the all-important merits and detriments of belonging to a group, what one sacrifices to feel needed and loved. Many women have observed cliques in college, but perhaps none was as secretive, manipulative, and destructive as the one described in this novel. Yet readers will understand how easily one can be pulled into a realm of quicksand-like darkness even when one’s better judgment should have given off warnings. The need to be accepted, on any level, is as strong a motivation as is the fear of being rejected and alone in a foreign country.

Crouch’s superb writing portrays a cathartic journey of discovery and deception in the main character’s exploration of self-image, and how she presents that image to those she encounters. Her journey abroad gives Taz the freedom to abandon the confines and security of home, to explore being someone other than herself—a naïve, terminally responsible girl from Ireland, fluent enough with three years’ of Italian, to be studying in Grifonia, Umbria, chosen merely because it was purported to be safer than Florence.

Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch

Crouch masterfully weaves a historic dimension to the fictional town, Grifonia, rife with the secrets of a malevolent organization, illustrating numerous early century deaths of young women. You feel their spirits lurking in the dark alleyways, longing to tell their stories. The Etruscan mythology is mesmerizing, pulling you deeper and frightfully close to the edge of a precipice. As a reader, you have considerable omniscient knowledge and insight as the story unfolds, with danger lurking on the heels of Tabitha, the young innocent abroad. Taz is caught up in a web of treachery, reminiscent of the recent headlines of the Amanda Knox trial, giving razor sharp insight to what might have really happened.

Perhaps there is no seduction as strong as believing you are needed, and no addiction as powerful as maintaining the feeling you are loved. Abroad will shatter wistful illusions about leaving the comforts and banality of one’s routine existence at home, so easily traded for the lure of the possibly illuminating, life-changing experience of studying in a foreign country.

Sherry Joyce

Sherry Joyce

The exploration into the complexities of contemporary friendship, with its functional and dysfunctional maladies, strikes at the humorous and painful cords of this novel. It will undoubtedly spark vociferous debate in book groups as they contemplate whether parents should encourage their daughters to study abroad and the vulnerability of young women. I highly recommend this novel for lovers of crime with its dark psychological undertones, who perhaps have taken a leap into the abyss themselves, and have survived unscathed.

Meet Katie Crouch and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading
October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm
Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107


MIchelle Wing

MIchelle Wing & Ripley

MIchelle Wing & Ripley

Written by Catharine Bramkamp

Welcome brand new member Michelle Wing!

Michelle finds volunteering, “incredibly enriching in so many ways. I serve as a board member and the public relationships director for Redwood Writers, coordinated two teen poetry slams for the Sonoma County Book Festival, acted as assistant editor on two anthologies, and served as a judge for a poetry contest. I also am a board member for the Healdsburg Literary Guild. And, outside of writing groups, I volunteer with YWCA Sonoma County, with my ‘Changing Hurt to Hope: Writers Against Domestic Violence’ program.”

The YWCA project is close to her heart. While brainstorming for projects to highlight Domestic Violence Awareness Month (October), Michelle came up with the idea of holding public readings around the Sonoma County focused on Domestic violence.

“The program’s success exceeded my expectations, in that writers responded from all walks of life, came forward to share their words, and were transformed by that sharing. By the third year, I knew I wanted to somehow capture what was happening beyond the nightly readings by creating an anthology, but I didn’t have the personal resources to act on that desire.

“In Fall 2013, Ann Hutchinson and Kate Farrell approached me, saying they wanted to help me as co-editors of a ‘Hurt to Hope’ book. We completed the manuscript of Cry of the Nightbird: Writers Against Domestic Violence on, fittingly, Independence Day of this year, and expect an October release.

“The pieces in Cry of the Nightbird are often a step on the path towards healing for the writers who penned them, since many of them are written by survivors in one form or another.” (Profits from the book will go directly to YWCA Sonoma County).

Like many of us, volunteering is not only its own reward, but also the acts of volunteering often enhances our own work. “Being a PR director taught me valuable lessons when it came time to build my own author platform. Diving into the world of slam reinvigorated my own poetry style. Being a judge fine-tuned my reading skills, and the anthology work enhanced my ability to edit my own writing. The additional bonus, of course, is that I found community—a place to read my work, share my successes (and frustrations), learn more about craft, social media and branding, and simply grow as a writer.”

Michelle personally relates to the “Changing Hurt to Hope” project and is thrilled to be able to contribute to the community in this way. “I know that each time I can write about a particular painful memory, and place it into the contained box of a poem, I gain distance. It is as if I have taken away some of its power, plucked it from that burning pit inside my chest, and put it inside a jar up on a shelf. I can then look at it, even shake it, read it to an audience—but the memory no longer hurts in the same way. I am the one in control now. I hope that Cry of the Nightbird will do this not only for our contributors, but also for readers—that they will find themselves in its pages, and even as they grieve, they will see the hope written between the lines. This is survival, as manifested by the very words on the page.

Michelle’s first book of poetry, Body on the Wall, was released this May from Saddle Road Press. “I went from being a timid, unsure, not-writing wannabe, to being a writer with two books released in one year, confident reading in public, struggling to find time for all of the projects I want to work on. It’s been one heck of a ride.”

To learn more about Michelle, visit her website: