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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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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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.

 

 

Say Goodbye for Now Review & Giveaway

Say Goodbye for Now


New From: $6.95 USD In Stock

I first heard of Catherine Ryan Hyde when the movie Pay it Forward was released, as I found out she was the author of the book the film was based on.  Since then I have marked all her books as “to read” but haven’t read one until now.  And after finishing this one, I don’t plan to wait so long until the next.

Say Goodbye For Now tells the story of Lucy Armstrong, a doctor who lives with the animals she rehabilitates and prefers to be left alone.  Right away we are also introduced to Pete, a 12-year-old boy who happens upon a wild animal and determines it’s up to him to keep him alive.  As Pete befriends a new boy in his rescue mission, the reader quickly learns that the 1959 time setting of this novel makes all the difference because Justin is African-American, and the townspeople in this Texas town do not treat newcomers so nicely, especially ones who look different from them.

A lot of this story reminded me so much of a favorite book of 2014, Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler.  Both tell of interracial relationships that were not approved of by outsiders.  You can even see the resemblance in both book covers.

I loved the character of Pete and thought he was so well fleshed out.  Even coming from an abusive background, he was a promise-keeper and knew better than what he learned from home.  Seeing as most of the book takes place with Pete as a soon-to-be teenager, this book would make a great read for high school students to get a glimpse of the prevalent racism of the ’60s.  Even the Loving vs. Virginia case is touched upon.

Book clubs will also have a lot to discuss, especially in the character relationships and choices that affect adult and child alike.  There’s also a list of questions ready to go in the back of the book.

Thanks to BookSparks, I have one paperback copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Sisters One, Two, Three Review & Giveaway

Sisters One, Two, Three


New From: $6.95 USD In Stock

Dysfunctional family?  Check.  Long-buried family secrets?  Check.  Mix it together and you have the makings of Nancy Star’s newest: Sisters One, Two, Three.  I had known I wanted to read it ever since Orphan Train author Christina Baker Kline said she was “riveted from the front page.”

This book tells the story of the Tangle family: matriarch Glory, patriarch Solly, oldest sister Ginger, second oldest Mimi, brother Charlie, and the youngest sister Callie.  Each character’s personality is thoroughly fleshed out as they’re introduced, so you always feel you know each of their distinct motivations.

When Ginger’s teenage daughter discovers a secret Ginger has kept from her family, it forces Ginger to remember the first family vacation as kids, where events took a devastating turn, one that would shape the future with more hidden secrets.

The reader is kept in the dark as much as the characters, which makes for an even greater reveal.  As the storyline alternates between the 1970s when the Tangle children were still young and the present, you get bits and pieces as to why everyone acts the way they do in the present.

I did have trouble to relating to Ginger because I felt bad for her as a child and thought she was overbearing and naive as an adult.  However, it did teach me to be careful in how I parent my own children.  One wrong decision or how you talk to your children can make such an impact on their futures.

You can visit Nancy online at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

imageThanks to TLC Book Tours, I have one paperback copy to give away to a lucky winner!  U.S./Canada only, please.  Enter through the Raffecopter.
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