Author spotlight: Leslie Zemeckis

Leslie Zemeckis is a best-selling author, actress, writer, and award-winning documentarian. She is the founder of the program “Stories Matter,” female storytellers mentoring the next generation of female storytellers in partnership with SBIFF. In 2021, she will be awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for “sharing and preserving stories of women who were once marginalized and stigmatized,” but are now celebrated. Follow her on IG @lesliezemeckis or visit www.lesliezemeckis.com

The Month of Her-Stories
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   February 6, 2024

Kristin Hannah has a sure winner with The Women. Hannah expertly crafts a heartbreaking, emotional story about love and loss. From a family of “heroes,” Frankie follows her brother to Vietnam feeling she wants to do her part for her country. It is 1965. Frankie comes from a conservative family where she is expected to […]

New Year. New Books.
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   January 9, 2024

Happy New Year. My hope for all of us in the coming months is that we embrace more stories, smart stories, entertaining and transportive stories. I’ve set my reading goals high to bring you even more recommendations. There is power, solace, and joy that comes from books and I think this month I have found […]

Holiday Stories for Everyone
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   December 5, 2023

Meet the Benedettos by Katie Cotugno is exactly as the cover promotes – The Kardashians meets Pride and Prejudice. Five famous sisters, famous for being famous, are living in a crumbling mansion when the man (or men) of their dreams moves in next door. It’s light, it’s funny. Lost Hours is Paige Shelton’s latest mystery. […]

The Leaves of Fall and Books
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   November 7, 2023

As a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, author Vanessa Lillie’s compelling Blood Sisters is based on a real crime involving multiple missing indigenous girls and women. Syd, an archeologist for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, finds herself back in her small-town home in Oklahoma to solve the mystery of a recently discovered skull. […]

Fall Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   October 3, 2023

The Leftover Woman by Jean Kwok is the story of Jasmine, a Chinese girl who has fled her small village to escape an abusive husband and to find her daughter that was taken from her and sent to America. With no legal credentials, Jasmine must work in a sleezy bar, turning herself into an object […]

Mysterious Setember
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   September 5, 2023

Amy Chua’s The Golden Gate is a thriller packed with historical tidbits, exploring race and class in San Francisco in the 1940s. When a presidential candidate is found murdered in a lux hotel, Detective Sullivan is called in to cull between the many suspects. Is it possible one or all three beautiful heiresses are involved, […]

Late Summer Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   August 8, 2023

There are plenty of summer reads still to be read and I love a good Nordic thriller. When Stieg Larsson introduced Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I was all-in following her violent, damaged journey as she battled a host of bad guys. The saga continues, minus Larsson, with the second writer […]

Women on a Role
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   July 11, 2023

It is time for the annual Memorial Day party in an elite cul-de-sac in Jamie Day’s The Block Party. The group of close friends and neighbors gather as they always do, only this year’s party will end with gunfire and someone dead. Revenge is the name of the game, a game seemingly played by all […]

Summer Stories
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   June 13, 2023

In The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop, do not expect a light “beach read” but rather a dark exploration of what many young women experience. On an idyllic Greek Island, 17-year-old Rachel falls hard for aloof older man Alistair – rendering her blind to his manipulation and intimidation of the girls working for him. […]

May Bouquet of Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   May 9, 2023

Ivy Pochoda returns to the dark side of life in Sing Her Down with some very violent women. Two women are released early from prison. One returns to California and her mother’s home, pursued by the other woman. Florida and Dios circle each other like wary gunslingers in this cowboyesque drama. Dios wants to force […]

Springtime Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   April 4, 2023

Where Yellow Flowers Bloom: A True Story of Hope through Unimaginable Loss by Kim Cantin is honest, heartbreaking, and inspiring. Cantin and her daughter survived Montecito’s 2018 debris flow, but her son and husband did not. In vivid detail she recalls that night, and the subsequent months as she recovered and desperately sought the remains […]

March Madness 2023
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   March 14, 2023

Strangers in the Night by Heather Webb chronicles the heart-pounding love affair between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Told from both Frank and Ava’s points of view, the book spans the whole arc of their tempestuous romance, from the slow burn, through the sizzle and the fireworks that ultimately blew the couple apart. This is […]

Bracing February Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   February 14, 2023

Fans of Bret Easton Ellis will be thrilled with The Shards, his first book in 13 years. Bret (fictional Bret) is 17 years old, attending a preppy academy, taking massive quantities of drugs, and obsessing over Robert, the new kid in school – handsome and a threat – and a serial killer roaming around Los […]

Let’s Travel
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   January 10, 2023

With the holidays behind us, if you’re like me, you long to travel. Well, this month’s list of books will send you from Havana to Singapore, and all from the comfort of your couch. In Armando Lucas Correa’s tremendously moving The Night Travelers, we arrive in Berlin in this story spanning three generations of women. […]

Holiday Stories for Everyone
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   December 6, 2022

‘Tis the season for gift giving and there are a variety of excellent reads for family and friends. For the dancer in your house, Misty Copeland’s The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson, is an inspiration. It is not only the story of Copeland’s rise to become […]

Crunchy Fall Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   November 1, 2022

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks takes an ingenious idea – the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping as seen through the eyes of the woman in charge – and turns it into a compelling book. Betty Gow is the nanny who comes under intense scrutiny after the baby is taken in 1932, a crime that shocked the […]

Intriguing Equinox Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   October 4, 2022

In Skirts: Fashioning Modern Femininity in the Twentieth Century, author Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell confesses to an “obsession” with the garment, from rising and lowering hemlines and all that they say about the women that wore them throughout history. The book is beautifully illustrated. My favorite – two women in skirts, mountain climbing in 1908; proving, whatever […]

Late Summer Thrills
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   September 6, 2022

September is a big month for publishing, which means lots of great reads. Barbara Bourland’s The Force of Such Beauty knocked me out. Bourland weaves a dark fairytale about Caroline, a former marathon runner, now sidelined by an injury who marries a handsome prince. The fairytale quickly turns dark, when Caroline learns the rules she […]

Stories Matter: Back-to-School Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   August 16, 2022

As the temperature rises… so does the current crop of sizzling reads. First up from Elaine Murphy is I Told You This Would Happen, a pithy, hilarious thriller that will have you rooting for at least one serial killer. Sisters Carrie and Becca are siblings that just barely get along, and it might have to […]

July Firecrackers
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   July 5, 2022

Set on the shores of Southampton in the summer of 1957, On Gin Lane by Brooke Lea Foster is a charming story about Lee, a young socialite, and her handsome fiancé who sweeps her off her feet to a vacation amongst Society where he presents her with a hotel he has built and named after […]

Summer Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   May 31, 2022

Time to load up those beach totes as June brings a tidal wave of captivating books.  The Scent of Burnt Flowers by Blitz Bazawule is a mystical, magical read. Set in the 1960s, Bernadette and Melvin, a young Black couple, flee a racially divided America for Ghana where they hope to obtain asylum from Melvin’s […]

A May Book Buffet
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   May 3, 2022

Imagine yourself, a newly married woman who wakes in Lisbon to find your husband has vanished, the police don’t believe you are innocent, and suddenly danger lurks around every corner. That is the opening of Chris Pavone’s Two Nights in Lisbon. What follows is an unpredictable, twisty story that will have you guessing to the […]

Spring Travels
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   March 29, 2022

First off, let’s visit a small town in Texas. In Samantha Jayne Allen’s Pay Dirt Road, waitress Annie is drawn into her family’s private investigation firm after a fellow waitress disappears from a party they both attended. Allen slowly builds her characters and the atmosphere of a recession-hit town with hardscrabble characters in grimy honky-tonks […]

Mysterious March Madness
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   March 1, 2022

March Madness begins with Lisa Barr’s Woman on Fire. Jules Roth is a journalist given the assignment to find a painting stolen by the Nazis 75 years earlier. The piece? Ernst Engel’s Woman on Fire. Meanwhile, a ruthless heiress is determined to find the painting first. What follows are secrets, love, the aftermath of war […]

February Must-Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   February 1, 2022

Sorry not sorry, but I have many excellent reads this month.  Let’s start with The Cicada Tree, a debut novel by Robert Gwaltney with its melt-in-your-mouth prose, is a Southern gothic novel in the tradition of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. I was enraptured with the story of eleven-year-old Analeise, a piano protégé living in […]

January’s Best Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   January 4, 2022

I plan on starting the new year exactly as I ended it: diving into a stack of great books. I ended with 150 books for 2021, reading everything I can to help you readers navigate interesting, entertaining, and diverse books, from memoir to thriller to everything in between.  Put Shauna Robinson’s Must Love Books on […]

Great Reads for December
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   December 7, 2021

Whether “naughty” or “nice,” I’ve got something for everyone on your list for the holidays. First, Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s Executive Director Roger Durling has a gorgeous coffee-table book called Cinema In Flux: A year of Connecting Through Film, filled with essays and mouthwatering photos of Durling’s movie recommendations, all started during the pandemic. […]

Must Reads for November
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   November 2, 2021

Truman Capote specialized in characters who weren’t what they seemed to be. Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a happy-go-lucky party girl who struggled with the “mean reds.” In Cold Blood about ruthless killers, who were more pathetic than masterminds. And in his unfinished Answered Prayers, society women, “swans,” as he called them, envied for their wealth, beauty, […]

A Trio of October Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   October 5, 2021

When I first met Santa Barbara transplant Susan Orlean of The New York Times bestselling The Library Book, she had two friendly dogs in tow and was clearly “animalish.” It is no surprise her new book On Animals is a series of essays about our connection (and sometimes disconnect) with animals. With her wry wit […]

September’s Scintillating Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   September 14, 2021

Nadia Denham runs a curio shop in a “rundown Santa Barbara mall.” Mickie Lambert works for a company that creates “digital scrapbooks” for those wishing to preserve their precious trinkets. When Nadia dies, Mickie sets out to fulfill her last wish to curate twelve mementos that cause a dormant serial killer to surface. Mickie receives […]

From Showgirls to Quirky Libraries, August’s Best Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   August 12, 2021

Beach reading is heating up as we move into August. Where the Truth Lies by Anna Bailey is a shatteringly emotional story with soaring prose; a page-turning thriller. Set in a remote small town in Colorado, Emma’s 17-year-old friend Abigail disappears, stirring up a town filled with decades-long secrets, fanatics, and racists. Emma forms a […]

From Rogue Ballerinas to Meg Tilly, Here are a Few Must-Reads
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   July 15, 2021

You do not have to be a ballerina, or a dance mom, as I am — quick shout out to Gustafson Studios for managing an end of year, in-person ballet show — to enjoy Georgina Pazcoguin’s memoir Swan Dive: The making of a Rogue Ballerina. Pazcoguin’s rise from ABT Summer Intensive student to NYCB’s first […]

Offset June Gloom with Some Great Storytelling
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   June 3, 2021

It is time to start our beach reading, even with June gloom hovering. Finding Tessa by Jaime Lynn Hendricks is a thriller with an unforeseen twist that will keep you turning pages. Tessa and Jace are in love. When Tessa goes missing, evidence against Jace mounts: blood, a gun, and an affair with a co-worker. […]

Finding Hope in the Dark
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   May 6, 2021

Deep in the sewers of Kraków dwell humans, hiding, starving, barely surviving.  NY Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff (The Lost Girls of Paris) has finished another taut historical fiction. Imagine living in darkness and filth for over a year? That is the premise – based on true events – of The Woman with the Blue […]

Dark, But Optimistic: Paula McLain’s ‘When the Stars Go Dark’ Addresses Reality of Child Abduction
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   April 1, 2021

It is every parent’s nightmare. Their child goes missing. It is 1993 and young girls are disappearing in Northern California.  The New York Times bestselling author Paula McLain (The Paris Wife) makes an abrupt departure from her popular historical novels to delve into the world of suspense and crime mystery in When the Stars Go […]

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (St Martin’s Press)
By Leslie Zemeckis   |   March 4, 2021

“The four winds have blown us here, people from all across the country, to the very end of this great land.”  For those of us who live in Montecito we are all too familiar with the land we love. Though lush and verdant, it has on occasion betrayed us with drought, fires, and mudslides. Still, […]