The Promise of Pierson Orchard Review, Giveaway, & Guest Post

The Promise of Pierson Orchard


New From: $11.00 USD In Stock

Imagine the story of Erin Brockovich set in the small town of Friday Night Lights’ Dillon, Texas, and you have this debut novel.

Brandes captures small town life perfectly with a rotating set of narrators to push the story along.   The book starts out with Jack Pierson, apple orchard owner, as he’s mourning the separation between him and his wife, LeeAnn.  Jack’s younger brother, Wade, and LeeAnn’s first love has been gone from town for 20 years and decides to return to get folks in town signing leases over to his new company so they can start earning money.

So imagine how well that goes over considering all the family issues between these two brothers.  On top of it all, LeeAnn is struggling with her desire for a child and coming to grips with the fact her mother is dying of cancer.

As an environmental scientist, Brandes could have easily bogged the readers down with technical terms and textbook-like writing, but the story flows for these characters as we yearn for happy endings for them all.  Their motivations and feelings are front and center.

The last quarter of the book had me racing to see how the chilling climax would play out.  No matter how much time has passed, will the bond between blood relatives hold amidst small town struggles or is what they say true, that money makes the world go ’round?  Be sure to pick up your copy to find out.

A special thanks to Kate Brandes, who is sharing with our readers what it’s like to write her debut novel!

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When You’ve Never Written Fiction Before, How Long Does it Take to Write a Novel?

The Promise of Pierson Orchard is my first novel. This story is Erin Brockovich meets Promised Land, about a Pennsylvania family threatened by betrayal, financial desperation, old flames, fracking, and ultimately finding forgiveness.

I’ve spent my career working as an environmental scientist not as a writer, so my biggest hurdle to writing a long work of fiction was not to learn to write beautifully, but instead to learn how to tell a compelling story in the written form. In order to do that, I worked for seven years on countless drafts and shared my novel with anyone I thought would provide helpful feedback.

I kept a novel writing log over the years of drafting this first book from concept to publication.

Sometimes it takes many failures to develop something good.
Novel Log

2010 to 2011: Write what I think is first draft of novel, but is really just a concept.
2011 to Mid-2012: Write what I think is first draft of novel, but it’s really just me avoiding the story because I’m afraid. I set the whole thing aside and start from page one.
Mid-2012 to Early 2013: Write first draft.
Early 2013 to Fall 2014: Change premise because I finally realize what the heart of the story is about. Rewrite first draft entirely.
Fall 2014 to Spring 2016: Change main character of the story. Another major rewrite. And more rewrites. And more! Query many agents and publishers. Get rejected over and over and over.
Spring 2016 – But then….Get publisher! Get agent! More rewriting!
Spring 2017 – A published book

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Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Lilli de Jong Book Blast

Lilli de Jong
by Janet Benton

Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Nan A. Talese
Hardcover & eBook; 352 Pages

Genre: Fiction/Historical/Literary

 

 

READ AN EXCERPT.

A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid lifelong poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, left behind by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a home for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overtakes her heart. Mothers in her position face disabling prejudice, which is why most give up their newborns. But Lilli can’t accept such an outcome. Instead, she braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive.

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family’s home to the streets of a burgeoning American city. Drawing on rich history, Lilli de Jong is both an intimate portrait of loves lost and found and a testament to the work of mothers. “So little is permissible for a woman,” writes Lilli, “yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.”

Available for Pre-Order at
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | iTunes | IndieBound | Kobo | Powell’s

Praise for Lilli de Jong

“Lilli de Jong, discharged from her teaching job and banished from Quaker meetings because of her father’s selfish choice, finds comfort in the affections of her father’s apprentice, Johan. The night before he leaves to embark on a new life, she succumbs to his embrace with his promise that he will send for her. Soon thereafter, a pregnant Lilli finds herself shunned and alone, her only option a Philadelphia charity for wronged women. Knowing that she must relinquish her newborn, she is unprepared for the love that she feels for her daughter. Lilli quickly decides to fight to keep her, but in 1883 that means a life of hardship and deprivation. Telling Lilli’s story in diary form, debut author Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.” – Library Journal, Starred Review

“A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history—a heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.” —Jamie Ford, New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

“Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute, Lilli de Jong is the story of an unwed mother in late 19th-century Philadelphia who, facing peril at every turn, will do almost anything to keep her daughter alive. Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.” —Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train and A Piece of the World

“A stunning ode to motherhood. Lilli de Jong reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.” —Sarah McCoy, author of The Mapmaker’s Children

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.” —Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“[A] gorgeously written debut . . . Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby is both devastatingly relevant and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love triumphing over a rigid society.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Is This Tomorrow

“The trials Lilli undertakes to keep her baby are heart-rending, and it’s a testament to Benton’s skill as a writer that the reader cannot help but bear witness. In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, she seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles . . . An absorbing debut from a writer to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.” —Publishers Weekly

“A harrowing look at the strictures of nineteenth-century American society. . . . [Lilli] is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.” —Booklist

“I loved this novel. Lilli de Jong is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. Janet Benton has an exceptional ability to bring history to life . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important . . . Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today.” —Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy

“Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr, debut novelist Janet Benton magically weaves a gripping narrative of hardship, redemption, and hope while illuminating a portrait of little-known history. The result is an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and, ultimately, the human bond. Stunning!” —Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl

“A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.” —The Millions

About the Author

Janet Benton’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Glimmer Train, and many other publications. She has co-written and edited historical documentaries for television. She holds a B.A. in religious studies from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and for decades she has taught writing and helped individuals and organizations craft their stories. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Lilli de Jong is her first novel.

Visit Janet Benton’s website for more information and updates. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Monday, April 17
Bookfever

Tuesday, April 18
So Many Books, So Little Time

Wednesday, April 19
Luxury Reading

Thursday, April 20
100 Pages a Day
The Never-Ending Book

Friday, April 21
A Book Geek
Caryn, The Book Whisperer

Saturday, April 22
History From a Woman’s Perspective

Monday, April 24
Creating Herstory

Tuesday, April 25
The Book Junkie Reads

Wednesday, April 26
SJ2B House of Books

Thursday, April 27
A Fold in the Spine
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, April 28
Just One More Chapter

Monday, May 1
Back Porchervations

Tuesday, May 2
Books & Benches
Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, May 3
The Lit Bitch
Unabridged Chick

Thursday, May 4
Beth’s Book Nook Blog

Friday, May 5
Brooke Blogs
Trisha Jenn Reads

Sunday, May 7
A Dream within a Dream

Monday, May 8
Book Nerd

Tuesday, May 9
Broken Teepee
The True Book Addict

Wednesday, May 10
What Is That Book About

Thursday, May 11
CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, May 12
A Literary Vacation

Monday, May 15
Passages to the Past

Forks, Knives and Spoons Review

Forks, Knives, and Spoons: A Novel


New From: $9.67 USD In Stock

I miss college.  And not the study for exams, write 12-page papers, ramen for dinner miss college.  But the camaraderie, freedom to explore, and those tight friendships you discover as you enter the world of becoming an adult.  So I was thrilled when I started Leah DeCesare’s debut novel and entered freshman year of college at Syracuse with roommates Amy and Veronica.

Before heading to school, Amy’s father gives her a pep talk about the Utensil Classification System: each boy she meets can be classified as a fork, spoon, or knife.  I’ll let Amy and friends elaborate on the differences but ultimately, they’re all in search of their perfect steak knife.

I loved sharing their college experience with them from the beginning, all the way through graduation, and moving to a big city to start their careers.  What made it more fun was college for them was in the ’80s.  So not only was it nice to see dating life without the world of smartphones, GPS, and email, but I enjoyed all the musical and fashion references to that decade.

Its’s easy to fall in love with Amy and Veronica and root for them throughout the course of the book.  We have all been through their ups and downs, trying to balance academics and first loves and heartbreak.  The characters really are fully cemented and the dialogue is spot on.  Their journey pulled at my heartstrings and made me smile when things went right.

My thanks to Leah DeCesare for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.  I would love to see these women again in a follow-up story, or even passing their utensil knowledge down to a future generation.  A perfect beach read, too!

About the author:

Leah DeCesare is the author of the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Her articles on parenting have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, and The Key, among others. In 2008, she cofounded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, DeCesare worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches, and volunteers in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family and talking cockatiel.

 

Marlena Review & Giveaway

Marlena: A Novel


New From: $10.00 USD In Stock
Release date April 4, 2017.

Sometimes when I feel very stressed and a glass of wine just won’t do, I find myself turning on a show like Intervention, because I know when watching it, I will realize whatever I have going on is not that bad.  Things could be much worse.  And sometimes I need that to make myself feel better.

Marlena acted in the same away for me.  It tells the story of Cat, a 15-year-old girl used to prep school and a nuclear family, only to be relocated to Michigan with her newly single mother and older brother.  Next door she meets 17-year-old Marlena, living with her younger brother and drug dealer father, living a life Cat could never imagine.  All too soon, she gets swept up under Marlena’s influence.

Like a slow motion car accident where you can’t look away, Cat’s perfect life is turned upside down in favor of hanging out with Cat and her friends by drinking, smoking, using drugs, and skipping school.  In losing her past identity and becoming lonely, Cat clings to Marlena and the comfort she brings of friendship and close connections.  The downhill spiral Cat takes upon meeting Marlena made me glad to be out of high school, knowing how self-esteem and loneliness play a huge part in making friends.

In Cat’s one year of meeting Marlena chronicled in this story, it is telling that her grownup life is affected and her decision-making as an adult is still heavily influenced by this teenage year.

This book reminded me in a lot of ways of Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman and The Girls from Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe.  If you’re like me and find books about destructive female friendships almost therapeutic, be sure to pick this one up.

 About the author:

Julie Buntin is from northern Michigan. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Electric Literature, and One Teen Story, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Marymount Manhattan College, and is the Director of Writing Programs at Catapult. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Marlena is her debut novel.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Widow’s House Review & Giveaway

The Widow’s House: A Novel


New From: $4.80 USD In Stock
Release date March 7, 2017.

I have read one book of Carol Goodman’s over the years and that was her debut, The Lake of Dead Languages.  It was a suspenseful mystery dealing with girls at a private school.  This new release from her really shows she’s grown as a writer as she enters the genre of gothic mystery and ghost story.

Looking for a fresh start and a way to stay out of debt, writer Jess Martin and his wife, Clare, leave the bustling city and head to the country of the Hudson Valley.  When they can’t find a dream home in their price range, they are given the opportunity to become caretakers at Riven House.  As they move in, Clare begins to hear noises, see figures, and question how much the house and the ghosts of its past are haunting her.

As I was reading, I kept picturing the movie What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.  A working husband, wife left at home, when mysterious things begin to happen and she sees things and questions what’s going on.  If this was a movie you enjoyed, the book is sure to intrigue you.

What’s impressive is Goodman is writing this book about three writers, all with distinctive voices.  She pulled it off brilliantly and managed to keep mystery enthusiasts turning the pages.

Riven House almost acts as its own character in the novel.  Is it haunted?  That’s what everyone in town likes to think.  Will digging up some town history make life worse or better for Clare?  One thing is for sure: Don’t turn your back on it.  I was eager to get to the bottom of the mystery and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed in the ending.

If you like a good ghost story or visiting haunted houses, add this book to your to-be read pile.

You can purchase directly through the HarperCollins website here.

About the author:

Carol Goodman is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen novels, including The Lake of Dead Languages and The Seduction of Water, which won the 2003 Hammett Prize. Her books have been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family, and teaches writing and literature at the New School and SUNY New Paltz.

Connect with Carol on Facebook.

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader!  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.

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Follow Me Down Review & Giveaway

Follow Me Down: A Novel


New From: $8.88 USD In Stock
Release date March 21, 2017.

When I saw one of my favorite thriller writers, Chevy Stevens, call this new psychological thriller “clever and remarkable,” I knew I’d be in for a fun ride.  And that cover!  This book was one I didn’t want to miss.  It lived up to the hype and made me a new fan of Sherri Smith.

Mia Haas gets a phone call from the police department in her hometown that her twin brother, Lucas, is missing and she needs to get there immediately.  When she arrives she finds out that in addition to his disappearance, he’s a suspect for murder.  Knowing in her gut that he is not capable of murder, she sets out to prove him innocent, find him, and uncover the truth.

Having grown up in this town where everybody knows everybody’s business, it makes it hard for her to investigate.  On top of that, the police seem to be holding a grudge against Lucas.

One thing I loved about this book was how each character was flawed in some way or multiple ways.  Including Mia.  Not one person was presented as perfect.  It was so true to reality that it kept me eagerly turning the pages.  As Mia gets closer to finding the truth, more and more secrets of small town life and the people living it come pouring out, which exceeded this thriller lover’s expectations.

This story was told in a linear fashion, too, and I know many readers don’t like going back and forth in time, so for those who don’t, be sure to pick this one up.  For a debut suspense novel, this has all the makings of a blockbuster.  I was genuinely surprised by the ending and think you will be too.  I’d love to see some of these characters return in a new book and eagerly look forward to what Sherri comes up with next.

Thanks to Tor/Forge for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thanks to the publisher, I have 2 copies to give away to lucky readers.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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The Orphan’s Tale Review & Giveaway

The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel


New From: $7.62 USD In Stock

If The Nightingale and Water for Elephants had a baby…Welcome to the world, The Orphan’s Tale!  Exquisitely written and researched with unforgettable characters, this is the perfect read if you have any interest in WWII fiction or stories from the circus.  Combine those two and you have this story, one you won’t soon forget.

It tells the story of Noa, a young Dutch girl who in the first chapter does something heroic, rescues a baby from a train car heading to what we can only assume is a concentration camp.  She takes the baby and runs, and luckily she finds a quick home in a German circus.  But in order to stay, she is forced to learn the job of an aerialist (trapeze artist) and to perform.

Her trainer is Astrid, a Jew who also is hiding among the circus performers.  As the two women spend more time together, secrets from both pasts emerge, threatening their livelihood and their lives.

Even though this isn’t a thriller or mystery, its intriguing plot will have you flipping the pages to reach the conclusion.  And I promise you’ll walk away with an appreciation for the performers of the circus who lived during this time.  I gained a new understanding of the struggles of performing during this era of history.  As soon as I finished, I went and grabbed a copy of her book previous to this one, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach.

Please be sure to follow the tour for exclusive excerpts of the book and more reviews.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the publisher, I have 1 copy of the book to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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2017 Fictional Valentines

Whether you’re a fan of Valentine’s Day or not, I know you all enjoy reading books.  And who hasn’t imagined a fictional character in a book treating you the way you deserve, whispering sweet nothings in your ear?

I have to admit that I’ve never read Pride & Prejudice, so no Mr. Darcy here.  Here are 6 newish releases I picked for this year’s fictional Valentines.  Men only and no YA.  Thought that might be a little awkward.  So without further ado…

Josh from The Hating Game

Currently $7.99 on Kindle

A workplace love-hate relationship that turns quickly to love.  You’ll enjoy the funny banter between the characters and whip through this read.

Alexander from The Bronze Horseman

Currently $1.99 on Kindle

This soldier will go to any length to protect his true love during war.  A sizzling romance follows in Book 1 of this epic trilogy.

Pat from Center Ring

Currently $4.99 on Kindle

A Hollywood actor who spends his days with the most beautiful women on the planet falls for a PR executive and treats her like royalty.

Dominic from Falling

Currently $12.99 on Kindle

You’ll discover that family comes in all shapes in sizes when this single father landlord falls for his new tenant.

 

Patrick from I Let You Go

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

While only in this book for a short time, he’s the one that treats Jenna as she deserves, without asking questions of her past and judging her.

Andy from Who Do You Love

Currently $11.99 on Kindle

From first meeting Rachel as a child, Andy realizes throughout his life that love at first sight can happen at any time.

 

So who did I miss?  Who would be your fictional Valentine?  Please let me know!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Clairvoyants Review & Giveaway

The Clairvoyants: A Novel


New From: $8.01 USD In Stock

In Karen Brown’s new novel, our protagonist, Martha is born with a unique gift.  She can see spirits of those who have died.  When the time has come for her to go away for college, in an attempt to begin a new and independent life, she moves to an apartment alone.  Until she comes across the spirit of a college girl who had gone missing years before: Mary Rae.

This story is billed as a ghost story, but I found it to be more of a coming of age experience for Martha, who is on her own for the first time, learning to unravel the mystery behind Mary Rae’s disappearance.  While doing so, she has to navigate her first love, her desire to study photography, and deal with the return of her sister.  In many ways, dysfunctional family shapes who Martha has become and how she deals with these situations.

Brown does an excellent job of having the reader question all the characters for their motives and choices.  We are left wondering how well we think we know someone.  They’re all mysterious but are one’s intentions more sinister than others?

If you’re looking for page-turning suspense, you won’t find it in this story.  Questions are answered but at a much slower moving pace.  If you’re looking for an engaging read with complex characters, be sure to pick this one up or enter to win a copy below!

About the author: Karen Brown is the author of a novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls, and two short story collections–Little Sinners and Other Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, the John Gardner Book Award, and was named a Best Book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly, and Pins and Needles: Stories, which was the recipient of AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has been featured in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, and Good Housekeeping.

 

Thanks to Henry Holt, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.

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The Dressmaker’s Dowry Review

The Dressmaker’s Dowry: A Novel


New From: $6.31 USD In Stock

Writing an engaging historical fiction novel with dual timelines is not easy.  I consider Sarah McCoy, Christina Baker Kline, and Ellen Marie Wiseman to be experts at it.  And now Meredith Jaeger can join their ranks.  Considering The Dressnaker’s Dowry is a debut novel, that is high praise.

This novel tells the story of dressmakers Hannelore Schaefer and Margaret O’Brien, both struggling to survive their fathers’ lifestyles and provide food for their siblings.  When Margaret fails to show up for work one morning, Hanna decides to take it upon herself to find out what happened with her new friend Lucas’ help.  As they set upon the Barbary Coast looking for answers, they come face to face with debauchery and evil.

In the present, MFA student Sarah Havensworth discovers a news article from 1876 about these two dressmakers and makes it her mission to find out their fate.  In doing so, secrets from her past bubble to the surface and she discovers not everyone in her life may be telling the truth.

As I read this, I couldn’t wait to get back to the historical section, which proves to me that the mystery was compelling.  The present kept it moving forward as the reader made discoveries along with the characters.

Any reader who enjoys a good mystery will want to pick up this novel.  And historical fiction fans will be thrilled at learning more about San Francisco during the 19th century, especially the antics found along the Barbary Coast.

I am eager to see what Meredith Jaeger writes next.  If this book is any indication, I know it will be a bestseller.

Thanks to Harper Collins for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:

Meredith is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area. She was inspired to write The Dressmaker’s Dowry by her own engagement ring, which is an heirloom from 1903.

Like the character Hannelore Schaeffer, Meredith is also the daughter of a European immigrant, who moved to California in search of a better life.

Meredith finds the urban immigrant experience a rich part of the fabric of American history, and is drawn to the lives of working-class Victorians.

She loves to wander around the Jackson Square neighborhood of San Francisco on her lunch hour, looking at the buildings which used to be dance halls, saloons, and brothels.

No matter how many startups move to San Francisco, its storied past will never be erased.

She can be reached via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.