Best Beach Reads of 2017

A lot of best of summer lists have books that release throughout the summer.  I want you to have access to these great reads NOW, so without further ado, here is my list for the best beach reads of 2017.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

This one has it all: heartbreak, romance, mystery, and even several beach scenes.  When you turn the last page and are disappointed it’s over: the sequel releases July 4!  You can preorder it here.  Both books are currently available on Kindle for less than $5!

 

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen

I blew through this book in less than 48 hours.  It’s a cute and quick read that features a unique cast of characters all with a relation to that little black dress.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

I feel like weddings in books make the perfect summer read.  Everyone can remember having or attending a quintessential summer wedding.  This book has that times 3!  3 weddings of 3 sisters  or 3 sisters sharing 1 wedding?  Either way, this one keeps dropping secrets until the end.

 

The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

We can’t get through summer without a psychological thriller to keep you turning the pages eager to find out what happens.  This one reminded me of a horrible car crash where you just can’t turn away.  Not everything in this idyllic neighborhood is as it seems.  Some disturbing characters lead to deadly consequences.

 

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Super excited to find out a movie is in the works for this one!  Imagine Thelma & Louise as office assistants in today’s world and you have this romp of a novel.  Anyone who has ever dealt with office politics will appreciate the humor of this debut.

 

Forks, Knives, and Spoons by Leah DeCesare

Aside from a throwback to the ’80s, this book made me reminisce about my college days.  The lovable characters navigating relationships both in school and the real world made this a hard to put down debut.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Regulars by Georgia Clark

If you enjoy a little magical realism thrown into a story, I hope you will give this book a try.  It is a smart and modern age fairy tale for Generation X and Generation Y.  You can read my full review here.

 

I would love to hear what you thought of these books and what others are on your summer reading list!  This post contains affiliate links.

Allie and Bea Review & Giveaway

Allie and Bea : A Novel


New From: $9.19 USD In Stock

Allie and Bea, or what could also be titled When Bad Things Happen to Good People, is Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest release.  If you have not read her before, get yourself immediately to a bookstore or library to pick up some of her novels.  You might know her as the woman who wrote the book Pay it Forward, in which the movie starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt was based.

This new book tells the story of Bea, a woman who had been easily making do living in her trailer since the death of her husband.  She lives on very little and is used to her lifestyle until one telephone call ends it all.

Allie is a teenager from a wealthy household who always has the newest gadgets and doesn’t need to beg for anything.  When her life is turned upside down, she is thrust out into the “real world” without any preparation.

Neither of them were prepared for an adventure or companionship, but it turns out they needed each other more than they expected.  I noticed myself smiling in many spots as I was reading this book.  It was such a joy for these two to experience new surroundings with each other.  But I was so impressed how they each taught each other to have a different outlook.

This novel is over 350 pages but I was quickly flipping pages to find out what was going to happen next on their journey.  After several thrillers, this was such a warm-hearted story, filled with two characters that I learned from.  Hyde easily writes two completely different age groups perfectly.

I’m eager to see what she writes next.  In the meantime, if you need a fast-paced story that will put a smile on your face, be sure to pick this one up.

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, I have one copy to give away to a lucky winner.  Continental U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Becoming Bonnie Release Day Blitz & Giveaway

Becoming Bonnie: A Novel


New From: $13.00 USD In Stock

Please join me in congratulating Jenni Walsh, author of Becoming Bonnie.  Here’s some info on the book:

From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh comes the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo.

​The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.

Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn’t know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Few details are known about Bonnie’s life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.

Jenni was nice enough to share the first chapter of the novel with us!

BECOMING BONNIE
Jenni L. Walsh

Chapter 1

But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

Hands in my hair, I look over the words I wrote on the Mason jar atop my bureau. I snigger, almost as if I’m antagonizing the sentiment. One day I won’t be poor with dreams. I’ll have money and dreams.

I drop my hair and swallow a growl, never able to get my stubborn curls quite right.

My little sister carefully sets her pillow down, tugs at the corner to give it shape, the final touch to making her bed. “Stop messing with it.”

“Easy for you to say. The humidity ain’t playing games with your hair.”

And Little Billie’s hair is down. Smooth and straight. Mine is pinned back into a low bun. Modest and practical.

Little Billie chuckles. “Well, I’m going before Mama hollers at me. Church starts in twenty minutes and you know she’s got to watch everyone come in.”

I shake my head; that woman always has her nose to the ground. Little Billie scoots out of our bedroom and I get back to taming my flyaways and scan my bureau for my favorite stud earrings, one of our few family heirlooms. Footsteps in the hall quicken my fingers. I slide in another hairpin, jabbing my skull. “I’m coming, Ma!”

A deep cough.

I turn to find my boyfriend taking up much of the doorway. He’s got his broad shoulders and tall frame to thank for that.

I smile, saying, “Oh, it’s only you.”

Roy’s own smile doesn’t quite form. “Yes, it’s only me.”

I wave him off, a strand falling out of place. Roy being ’round ain’t nothin’ new, but on a Sunday morning … That gets my heart bumping with intrigue. “What ya doing here so early? The birds are barely chirpin’.”

“It ain’t so early. Got us less than twenty minutes ’til—”

“I know.”

“Thought I could walk you to church,” Roy says.

“Is that so?” My curiosity builds, ’specially with how this boy is shifting his weight from side to side. He’s up to something. And I ain’t one to be kept in the dark. Fingers busy with my hair, I motion with my elbow and arch a brow. “That for me?”

Roy glances down at an envelope in his hand, as if he forgot he was even holding it. He moves it behind his back. “It can wait. There’s actually something else—”

I’m across the room in a heartbeat, tugging on his arm. “Oh no it can’t.”

On the envelope, “Final Notice” stares back at me in bold letters. The sender is our electric company. Any excitement is gone.

“I’m sorry, Bonnelyn,” Roy says. “Caught my eye on it in the bushes out front.”

My arms fall to my sides and I stare unblinking at the envelope, not sure how something so small, so light, could mean something so big, so heavy, for our family. “I didn’t know my ma hadn’t been paying this.”

Roy pushes the envelope, facedown, onto my bureau. “I can help pay—”

“Thanks, but we’ll figure it out.” I sigh at my hair, at our unpaid bill, at the fact I’m watching my sister after church instead of putting in hours at the diner. Fortunately, my brother’s pulling a double at the cement plant. Ma will be at the factory all afternoon. But will it be enough?

I move in front of the wall mirror to distract myself. Seeing my hand-me-down blouse ain’t helping. I peek at Roy, hoping I don’t find pity on his face. There he goes again, throwing his weight from foot to foot. And, sure, that boy is sweet as pie, but I know he ain’t antsy thinkin’ my lights are suddenly going to go off.

“Everything okay, Roy?”

“Yeah.”

That yeah ain’t so convincing.

“You almost done here?” he asks. Roy shifts the old Mason jar to the side, holds up the earring I’d been looking for.

I nod—to the earring, not to being done—and he brings it to me. Despite how this morning is turning out, I smile, liking that Roy knew what I was looking for without me having to tell him.

“Ready now?” he says.

I slide another pin into my hair. “Why’s everyone rushing me?”

Roy swallows, and if I had five clams to bet, I’d bet he’s nervous ’bout something. He edges closer to my bureau. He shakes the Mason jar, the pieces of paper rustling inside. “When did you write this on the outside?”

But I, being poor, have only my dreams.

I avert my eyes, being those words weren’t meant for Roy’s. “Not too long ago.”

“Ya know, Bonnelyn, you won’t always be poor. I’ll make sure of that.”

“I know I won’t.” I add a final pin to my hair. I’ll make sure of that.

“So why’d you write it?”

“I didn’t. William Butler Yeats did.”

Roy shoves his hands in his pockets. “You know what I mean.”

I shrug and stare at my reflection. “It inspires me, wanting to be more than that line. And I will. I’ll put a white picket fence in front of my house to prove it.”

“Your house?”

I turn away from the mirror to face him. His voice sounded off. Too high. But Roy ain’t looking at me. He’s staring at the wall above my head. “Our house,” I correct, a pang of guilt stabbing me in the belly ’cause I didn’t say our to begin with. “That jar is full of our dreams, after all.”

Really, it’s full of doodles, scribbled on whatever paper Roy had on hand. Napkins. Ripped corners of his textbook pages. The top flap of a cereal box. He shoved the first scrap of paper in my hand when we were only knee-high to a grasshopper: quick little drawings of me and him in front of the Eiffel Tower, riding horses with dogs running ’round our feet, holding hands by the Gulf’s crashing waves.

Our dreams. Plenty of ’em. Big and small. Whimsical and sweet.

But this here is the twenties. Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves. I’m no exception. Sure, I’ll bring those doodles to life with Roy, but I would’ve added my own sketches to the jar if I could draw. Standing at the front of my very own classroom. At a bank counter, depositing my payroll checks. Shaking hands with a salesman, purchasing my first car.

Call it selfish, call it whatever ya like, but after struggling for money all my life, my dreams have always come before ours.

Still, I link our hands. “I’m ready to go.”

* * *

“Hallelujah!”

The congregation mimics my pastor’s booming voice. The women flick their fans faster with excitement. Pastor Frank shuffles to the right, then to the left, sixty-some eyes following his every movement. From the choir pews off to the side, I watch his mesmerized flock hang on his every word, myself included. My ma is amidst the familiar faces. She prefers to use Daddy’s brown hat to cool herself, holding on to him even after he’s been gone all these years. I can’t say I blame her.

“Amen!” we chime.

Pastor Frank nods at me, and I move from the choir box to the piano. I bring my hands down and the first chords of “Onward, Christian Soldiers” roar to life. Every Sunday, I sit on this here bench, press my fingers into the keys, and let the Lord’s words roll off my tongue. Ma says Daddy would be proud too. I sure hope that’s true.

It’s another reason why I’ll make something of myself. In our small town or in a big city, it doesn’t matter much, but Bonnelyn Parker is going to be somebody. Wherever life takes me, whatever final notice stands in my way, my daddy will look down on me and smile, knowing I ain’t struggling, I’m thriving. I’m more than poor.

I push my voice louder, raise my chin, and sing the hymn’s last note, letting it vibrate with the piano’s final chord.

The congregation shouts praises to the Lord as Pastor Frank clasps his hands together and tells us all to, “Go and spread His word.”

Voices break out, everyone beating their gums at once. I slip off the bench, weave through the crowd. A few people are always louder than the rest. Mrs. Davis is having a potluck lunch. Mr. Miller’s best horse is sick. He spent his early morning hours in his barn, from the looks of his dirty overalls.

Ma’s got more pride than a lion and makes certain we’re dressed to the nines, even if our nine is really only a five. Still, my older brother’s vest and slacks are his Sunday best. And even though we’ve got secondhand clothes, my sister’s and my white blouses are neatly tucked into our skirts. We may be pretending to look the part, but our family always gets by. We find a way, just like we’ll make sure that electric bill gets paid. Though I don’t like how Ma let this bill get so late.

I rush through the church’s double doors, sucking in fresh air, and shield my eyes from the sun. A laugh slips out. There’s my brother, playing keep-away from my little sister with one of her once white shoes. Buster tosses the shoe to Roy. Roy fumbles it. No surprise there, but part of me wonders if his nerves from earlier are sticking ’round. On the way to church, he wouldn’t let me get a word in, going on nonstop ’bout the weather. I reckon the summer of 1927 is hot, real hot, but not worth all his fuss.

“Little Billie, those boys picking on you?” I call, skipping down the church steps, keeping my eyes on Roy.

He takes immediate notice of me, missing my brother’s next throw. “Say, Bonnelyn.” Roy wipes his hairline. “I was hoping to do this before church, but you were having trouble with your…” He gestures toward his own hair, then stops, wisely thinkin’ better of it. “I’ve a surprise for you.”

“A surprise? Why didn’t you tell me so? I could’ve hurried.”

He also wisely doesn’t comment on my earlier irritation at being hurried.

“Follow me?” Roy asks, his brown eyes hopeful.

“Not today, lover boy,” Buster cuts in. “Bonn’s watching Billie.”

Billie hops toward me on one foot, her voice bouncing as she proclaims how she’s eleven and doesn’t need to be babysat no more. I bend to pick up her lost shoe, letting out a long sigh. Roy sighs too. But Roy also looks like a puppy that’s been kicked.

“Will the surprise take long?” I ask him. “Buster doesn’t need to be at work for another two hours.”

“Actually an hour,” my brother says. “But Roy here probably only needs a few minutes, tops.” He winks, and Roy playfully charges him.

My cheeks flush, and not ’cause Roy and I have done that. Roy hasn’t even looked at me in a way that would lead to that.

“Let’s go.” I bounce on my toes and push Roy down the dirt-packed street, then realize I don’t know where I’m going and let Roy lead. Buster’s laugher trails us.

We go over one block, passing my house, nestled between the cemetery and the library. An old picket fence that Ma’s been harping on my brother to paint for ages stretches ’cross the front.

Cement City is barely more than an intersection, and there ain’t much farther to go; just the cement plant, a few farms, and the river. Then there are the railroad tracks, separating us from Dallas.

I glance up at Roy, confused, when we stop at a home just past the library.

He motions toward the house, his sweaty hand taking mine with his. He swallows, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

“What is it?” I ask him. “Why’re we here?”

“My father said they are going to tear down this old shack.”

With its crooked shutters, chipped paint, caved-in roof, I can understand why. No one’s lived here for years, and Ma doesn’t go a day without complaining ’bout its drab looks and how it’s bad for our little town.

I nod in agreement.

“But,” he says, “I’ve been squirreling away my pennies, and I’ve enough to save her.”

A cool heat rushes me, but I’m not sure how that’s possible. I wipe a strand of hair from my face. “You’re buying this here house?”

“I am,” he says, his Adam’s apple bouncing again. “For you and me. Our house.” Roy keeps talking before I can get a word—or thought—in. “Bonnelyn…” He trails off, digs into his pocket. “Here’s another one for your jar.”

My eyes light up, recognizing one of Roy’s infamous black-and-white doodles.

It’s our church.

It’s Roy.

It’s me, in a puffy dress.

I look up from the doodle. It’s Roy no longer standing in front of me but down on one knee.

“Bonnelyn Elizabeth Parker,” he says, “I’m fixin’ to take you down the middle aisle.”

I knit my brows. “Are you proposing?”

“Well I ain’t down here to tie my shoe.”

I’d laugh, but I’m stunned. Marriage? With Roy? I swallow, and stare at the drawing, his lovely, heartfelt drawing.

Sure, marrying Roy has always been in the cards. But … I’m not sure I’m ready yet. Some people wait ’til their twenties to get married, in today’s day and age, giving ’em plenty of time to make their own mark.

Roy taps the underside of my chin, forcing my gaze away from his doodle and down to him.

“I … um … I’m flattered Roy. I am. But we’re only seventeen—”

“Not now.” He stands slowly and palms my cheek that’s probably as flushed as his own. “We’ve got some growing up to do first. I know you got dreams for yourself.”

I sigh, in a good way. Hearing him acknowledge my goals relaxes me. Those jitterbugs change a smidge to butterflies. “You really want to marry me?”

“I do, Bonn.” Roy leans down, quite the feat to my five-foot-nothin’ height, and presses his lips lightly to mine. “When we’re good and ready. You tell me when, and that’ll be it. We’ll create a life together. How does that sound?”

I smile, even while my chest rises from a shaky breath. I curse my nerves for dulling my excitement. My boyfriend declaring he’s ready to build a life with me shouldn’t give me the heebie-jeebies. It doesn’t, I decide.

“We’ll finish school,” Roy says.

I force my smile wider.

“I’ll get a good-paying job as a reporter,” he goes on. “You can become a teacher, like you’ve always wanted. You can lead the drama club, be onstage, do pageants with our little girls.”

Now my grin is genuine. “We’re going to have little girls?”

“Of course. A little fella, too. ’Til then, I’ll fix this house up. She’ll be spiffy when I’m done with her, white picket fence and everything.”

“You think?”

“I know it.” He dips to my eye level. “You’re happy, right?”

Am I happy? I roll those five letters ’round my head. Yes, I’ve been stuck on Roy for ages. He made me happy when we were seven and he picked me dandelions, when we were ten and he stopped Buster from making me kiss a frog, when we were thirteen and he patched up my knee after I fell off my bike. The memories keep on coming, and I don’t want that happiness to stop. His proposal caught me off guard, that’s all. But, yes, we’ll make something of ourselves, and we’ll do it together.

I lean onto my tiptoes and peck his lips with a kiss. “Roy Thornton, I’d be honored to be your wife one day.”

He hoots, swooping his arms under me. Before I know it, I’m cradled against his chest and we’re swinging in a circle.

I scream, but it’s playful. “You better not drop me, you clumsy fool.”

He answers me with a kiss on the side of my head, and then another and another, as he carries me toward my ma’s house.

Freeze, I think. I don’t want the secure way he holds me, the way the air catches my skirt, the hope for what’s to come, to stop, ever.

Copyright © 2017 by Jenni L. Walsh

About Jenni:

Jenni L. Walsh spent her early years chasing around cats, dogs, and chickens in Philadelphia’s countryside, before dividing time between a soccer field and a classroom at Villanova University. She put her marketing degree to good use as an advertising copywriter, zip-code hopping with her husband to DC, NYC, NJ, and not surprisingly, back to Philly. There, Jenni’s passion for words continued, adding author to her resume. She now balances her laptop with a kid on each hip, and a four-legged child at her feet. Becoming Bonnie is her first novel.
Please learn more about Jenni and her books at jennilwalsh.com.

I also have 1 signed copy to give away to a lucky reader!  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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I Found You Review & Giveaway

I Found You: A Novel


New From: $9.68 USD In Stock

The last Lisa Jewell novel I read, The House We Grew Up In, I loved.  It captured family dynamics perfectly and made a dysfunctional family seem fun.  I was surprised to start her newest and find it to be suspense.  I didn’t realize she wrote those types of books, but, folks, she did it incredibly.

I Found You features three different stories, two of which happen concurrently.  We first meet Alice, a single mom of 3 who discovers a man on the beach.  Her charitable instincts take over and she invites him in for warmth and shelter. Next we meet Lily, a young newlywed new to this country whose husband doesn’t return home from work one evening.  Then we head back to 1993 and follow a family of 4 on summer holiday.  Are all these stories connected?  What ties them together?

As I was reading each chapter, I was so focused on the current story that when it ended in a cliffhanger, I was reluctant to move to the next character to continue their journey.  But then I’d start reading and find the same problem all over again!  This twisted read was very hard to put down.  Jewell is a master at building suspense, pulling you deeper into the mystery eager to find out what’s happening.

After reading I Found You and loving it, I hope Jewell continues to write more of this genre.  She has the knack of an original plot with sympathetic characters and a mystery that will keep the reader guessing.

A lot of this book reminded me of I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh.  If that was a favorite for you, I truly think you will enjoy this one.

Be warned: there are some dark elements to this story which may be a trigger warning for some.

You can follow the tour for more reviews,

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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: $7.26 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: $8.95 USD In Stock

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: $4.79 USD In Stock

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: $6.82 USD In Stock

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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