Tag Archives: #family

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

LAEL’S REVIEW

Dr. Trisha Raje brings modern day morés and an introverted personality to this Austen classic as she subconsciously creates problems from miscommunication. Unexplored emotions and hesitance toward introspection lead Dr. Trisha to misadventures. Dear Readers watch her spar with the sexy caterer, whose mother’s favorite book inspired her to name him Darcy—he goes by DJ. She attempts to reconnect with her family, guilt-ridden by a long ago transgression of her friend, who has shown up recently to lure in the caterer. Dr. Trisha remains focused on his sister, her patient, how she can aid her in reframing her outlook toward her future as an artist without sight. Dev’s work is, as usual, lush and gorgeous and emotional and sexy as hell, with complex, realistic characters in complicated situations in which they must untangle themselves, eventually giving in to intense feelings. A brilliant storyteller, she carefully weaves into a well-known story a contemporary character, her Indian-American culture, and a romance inspired by, well, gourmet food. Of course. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this wonderful story through Edelweiss.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award winning author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that let her explore issues faced by women around the world while still indulging her faith in a happily ever after. Her books have been on NPR, Washington Post, Library Journal, and Kirkus Best Books of the year lists, but Sonali is most smug about Shelf Awareness calling her “Not only one of the best but also one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” Sonali lives in Chicagoland with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog. Find more at sonalidev.com.

The East End by Jason Allen

ABOUT THE BOOK

A terrible tragedy unleashes a fateful chain of events for two families from starkly different worlds in a breathtaking new tale of suspense that doubles as a razor-sharp take on class conflict in today’s America.

In his remarkable debut, THE EAST END (Park Row Books; May 7, 2019; $26.99 U.S./$33.50 CAN.), novelist Jason Allen constructs a multi-layered story about the powerful and the powerless, about love and loss, and about self-destruction and the possibility of redemption. Set in the Hamptons over one explosive holiday weekend, this immersive must-read illuminates both sides of the socio-economic divide in a place where dreams of escape drive potentially catastrophic decisions. 

Unfolding from multiple perspectives, THE EAST END opens with the countdown to Memorial Day underway and recent high school graduate Corey Halpern in need of a fix.  A townie, he burns off his resentment of the affluent “invaders” who flock to the community in the summer months by breaking into their lavish mansions and pulling harmless pranks. Staring down a bleak future, he sees his hopes of going away to college vanishing. He can’t disappear, not when his troubled mother, Gina, is barely making ends meet, trying to get away from an abusive, deadbeat husband, and chasing pills with too much booze. Trapped in a downward spiral, she staggers towards rock bottom as Corey and his brother look on helplessly.

Before calling it a night, Corey makes one last stop at the sprawling lakeside estate where he and Gina work. There he intends to commit his first-ever robbery but nothing proceeds according to plan. Married billionaire CEO Leo Sheffield shows up to his ultra-exclusive Gin Lane property early, accompanied by his handsome, much-younger lover, Henry. In an instant, everything changes: Drunk, high, and all alone, Henry is the victim of a fatal poolside accident.  Unfortunately for a distraught Leo, Corey saw what happened—and so did someone else.

For this immensely privileged man who is not used to getting his hands dirty, his very existence now depends on containing the collateral damage. And time is running out. Leo’s overbearing wife and three grown children will be arriving soon, along with a house full of high-maintenance guests. Desperate to preserve his fortune and his freedom, Leo takes irrevocable steps that expose him to scandal and far worse. Over the next few tension-filled days, hidden entanglements, unexpected opportunities, and clashing loyalties propel Corey, Gina, and Leo to extremes—and ultimately, to shocking outcomes no one will anticipate.

Atmospheric, emotionally probing, and complexly unmissable, this kaleidoscopic narrative plunges its brilliantly realized characters into timely, all-too-relatable moral quandaries that defy easy answers and resound long after the final page.

LAEL’S REVIEW

Corey breaks into the houses of the wealthy who summer in the Hamptons, to play pranks on them as a way to vent his frustrations as a local serving these “invaders.” The night he chooses to enter the home of his mother’s employer Mr. Sheffield, he learns a scandalous secret and witnesses a tragedy, and then he falls in love. The weekend brings a multitude of challenges for the Sheffield family and Corey’s mom, who’s fighting a drug addiction and a violent ex, as well as Corey and his new love. Allen brilliantly portrays the blurred lines of integrity and honesty for the haves and have-nots in a scenario that flips dependency from one to the other and exposes everyone’s agenda. No character is truly endearing, nor is any character wholly evil, but all are complex, self-serving and compassionate in turn. Fans of “Somethings in the Water,” “Beautiful Bad,” or “Hunting Annabelle” will appreciate this story. It’s a peek at what we might do if we had the chance, and what happens when we involve ourselves in something that’s not our business. I received a digital copy of this fantastic story from Park Row Books through NetGalley.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing. THE EAST END is his first novel.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

At her local drugstore, Amy Byler runs into her husband, who went on a business trip to Hong Kong and stayed for three years. He’s returned to make things right and be the father his children deserve. School Librarian Amy signs up to present her reading program at a conference in NYC, where she plans to reconnect with her college roommate, during the kids’ week with their father. She meets a hot librarian, makes a new friend, and starts a movement. Harms cleverly uses the modern-day epistolary of email and texting in this humorous exploration of a single mom becoming her own woman. Fans of Ann Garvin, Katherine Center, and Kerry Anne King will appreciate Harms’ voice. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from Lake Union through NetGalley.

Indiebound Pre-order Link

Amazon Pre-order Link

What happens when an overworked, underappreciated single mother of two gets an opportunity to spend a week away from reality in NYC? What happens when that week turns into an entire summer? And, what happens when this rare gift of personal freedom, self-reflection, and fun comes to an end?

These are the questions at the heart of former editor and literary agent Kelly Harms’ delightful and empowering new novel, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER (Lake Union Publishing; May 1, 2019; hardcover), about a middle-aged woman’s much-needed Momspringa.* Full of wit, heart, bookish-references, and romance, THE OVERDUE LIFE OF AMY BYLER is next year’s feel-good read!

*Momspringa (n.): A period of time when moms are given time away from the demands of daily life, including their children, so they can recharge and reconnect with themselves as human women. Inspired by the Amish term Rumspringa.

Cover Reveal: What Holds Us Together by Sandi Ward—Coming December 31!

They say that cats don’t like change. But Luna, an imaginative tabby, understands that sometimes it’s necessary. When her owner, Annika, moved back to her small New England hometown six months ago along with her sixteen-year-old twins, Luna knew it was for the best. Ever since Annika’s husband, Peter, died suddenly, the family has been floundering. Luna, too, is guilt-ridden, sure she could have done more to save her favorite person. Luna also knows something the others don’t know. Peter’s spirit is still with them, and Luna believes there is something he needs her help to do . . .

Annika has been struggling to move on. It doesn’t help that her son, Donovan, blames her for his father’s death. Peter always told Annika that they had the best love story going, yet the fact is that much of their story has been hidden away, even from their children. When Annika’s first love, Sam, arrives to plow them out during an intensifying storm, the truth begins to emerge at last. And Luna—watchful and unwavering in her affection—may be her family’s best hope of learning how to forgive and to heal . . .

Connect with Sandy on her website here.

Pre-order now!

Blog Tour: I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

Synopsis

Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.

What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?

My Review

Penelope believes her life as a wife and mother inferior to her always perfectly put together friend Jenny, whose daughter is just as seemingly pristine as her mother. She is blindsided by the tragedy of her friend’s life, causing her to re-evaluate her own marriage and motherhood. Pagan brilliantly portrays the chaos that is raising children, with an opening scene of Penelope in the bathroom asking if she will ever have a moment of peace. The disconnect between spouses blares from the pages as they discuss who’s to blame for the lack of toilet paper, and Penelope notes that Sanjay barely looks at her to confirm that her appearance is satisfactory. Her re-evaluation puts them on a bumpy road back to each other and a cohesive family unit. Pagan juxtaposes the consequences of social comparison and lack of connection with an ever-increasing social problem in a credible and empathetic manner. This story is a reminder to pay closer attention to the ones you love. It’s a 5-star lesson in life.

Connect with Camille:

camillepagan.com

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Cover Reveal: Everything You Are by Kerry Anne King—pub date October 1

One tragic twist of fate destroyed Braden Healey’s hands, his musical career, and his family. Now, unable to play, adrift in an alcoholic daze, and with only fragmented memories of his past, all Braden wants is to escape the darkness of the last eleven years.

When his ex-wife and son are killed in car accident, Braden returns home hoping to forge a relationship with his troubled seventeen-year-old daughter, Allie. But how can he hope to rescue her from the curse that seems to be shadowing his family?

Ophelia “Phee” MacPhee, granddaughter of the eccentric old man who sold Braden his cello, believes the curse is real. She swore an oath to her dying grandfather that she would ensure that Braden plays the cello as long as he lives. But he can’t play, and as the shadows deepen and Phee finds herself falling for Braden, she’ll do anything to save him. It will take a miracle of forgiveness and love to bring all three of them back to the healing power of music.

Kerry Anne King lives with her Viking in a little house surrounded by trees, the perfect place for writing books and daylight dreaming.  She spends her days working as an RN in a clinic, spinning her tales early in the morning and in the evenings after work. She believes passionately in the idea of the “whole self” and is ever in pursuit of balancing mind, body, and spirit. She also writes fantasy and mystery novels as Kerry Schafer and provides coaching services to creatives who are experiencing procrastination, overwhelm, and other blocks that get in the way of their important creative work.

Flash Fiction Friday

Writing Bad prompt

“The ring, please.” Father Monahan turned to Jeffrey, whose gaze sent everyone’s eyes to the back of the room. Whatever he was looking at was not apparent, and all returned their attention to the couple.

“Jeffrey,” the groom stage-whispered angrily at his best man. He couldn’t be bothered right now that his lifelong friend’s unrequited love hadn’t shown. For god’s sake, it was his wedding. If Jeffrey ruined it, their friendship was in question. It had been faltering ever more as this obsession had grown.

Laila slowly opened the heavy church door, hoping for a quiet entrance. She was late, hadn’t been expecting to come at all. Susanna had begged her to come. Her little sister’s wedding was a must, but she understood that HE would be there. They agreed that no one wanted the commotion that would ensue from her presence. Yet she desperately wished to see her baby girl she helped raise marry the man of her dreams. The door squeak echoed around the three-stories’ tall ceiling. Acoustics were fantastic in here—as a singer, she was impressed. Then all eyes turned again to the back of the room.

Halfway up, Laila’s ex-husband Henri sat with two of their children, both of them excited about baby sister as flower girl. Upon seeing Laila in the doorway, with sunlight haloing her auburn hair, he stood up, snapped his fingers for the kids to follow, and headed to the door. As he walked down the aisle, he heard a gasp from the front, but didn’t turn to find out from who. In his peripheral vision, he noted a tall man in black on the left get up and head in the same direction. He did not want to know who this guy was. Henri reached back for his children. The sound of little feet running behind him assured him that all his kids were coming.

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

A time travel criminal shot Kin’s Temporal Corruption Bureau retrieval beacon, stranding him in 1996. In the two decades it took his colleagues from 2142 to find him, he built a life with a wife and daughter. Regulations force him back to the future, where he’s been missing for only weeks from his work and his fiancee. His inexplicable disappearance, and her mother’s death, sends his daughter spiraling downward. He breaches protocol, reaching out to her digitally, endangering both. Chen brilliantly maintains time travel integrity, with its possibilities and limitations, placing his main character in an organization enforcing law throughout time, with strict safety policies for agents preventing him from aiding his daughter. This is a family drama that just happens to have a time travel element—a well-written, speculative suspense novel. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher Mira Books through NetGalley.

Jessica Strawser—Writer, Editor, and Speaker

Photo by Corrie Shaffeld

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations material and abstract.

I’m an organic writer—I think a lot ahead of time about the characters and what my story’s central questions will be, but don’t outline in detail or swear by any particular tools or strategies, beyond reading voraciously, as much as I’m able. I’m very disciplined, with daily and weekly goals, and believe firmly in the power of forward momentum once I get going on a manuscript.

I wrote my first two novels by night, as my babies/toddlers slept, while working a demanding day job as editorial director for Writer’s Digest magazine. Not long after signing the contract for Forget You Know Me, I scaled back my role at the magazine and shifted to writing by day as my primary focus. A writing career involves a fair amount of evenings and weekends for things like book clubs, conferences and festivals, so this is a much more workable focus for my family, which always comes first.

Describe your publishing process, from final draft to final product, including publishing team and timeline. How did your work in the industry prepare you for the writing world as an author?

It’s been a little different for every book, particularly as staffing changes at my publisher have led to a few editorial team transitions, but I’m working at the pace of about a book a year. I refine a draft until I think (hope) it’s close to working as what I envisioned for the story, then get feedback from a few trusted readers and revise yet again before turning it over to my editor. Then comes another round to incorporate the excellent suggestions from her professional eye.

My work in the industry taught me what a team effort publishing is; I have enormous respect for my editors, having been one, and deep gratitude for the efforts of the hardworking support teams—marketing, publicity, design and beyond.

Who are your biggest cheerleaders online and IRL, and how did you get into the Tall Poppies (beyond being an excellent storyteller)?

My family and friends—who’ve seen firsthand my dedication to this craft since long before I ever got published—are my biggest cheerleaders, and their warm support means the world to me.

Also, at the start, were my colleagues at Writer’s Digest—we were all writers with a genuine love for the work we were doing there, and it was humbling to have them so enthusiastically in my corner—as well as a debut author group called 17 Scribes—it was invaluable to be tapped into a network of other authors publishing their first novels in 2017, and many of us remain connected today.

I’d met some of the Tall Poppy Writers through conferences, WD, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and online, and had admired their collaborative spirit and talented body of work for years; I was elated when they invited me to join.

How does your life influence your writing and vice versa? Please share fun details about being the 2019 Writer-in-Residence for Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

While I don’t write directly from life experiences, of course we all are heavily influenced by the phases of life in which we find ourselves and the beautiful (and not so beautiful) aspects of human nature that turn our heads. I’d find it impossible to separate the two!

It’s a wonderful honor to be serving as the newly minted Writer-in-Residence for the Cincinnati library system this year; it encompasses more than 40 branches, and I’ll doing community engagement with local readers (visiting library branch book clubs and hosting a podcast) as well as aspiring writers (teaching free workshops and holding office hours, for instance).

What do you love most about your creativity?

Through dreaming up a story from pure imagination, somehow, I end up feeling more like me.

Connect with Jessica:

Jessica Strawser

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Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman


Daphne Maritch inherits the yearbook that the class of 1969 dedicated to her mother, their teacher. Attending every class reunion of that year’s class, her mom dashed off judgment calls in that yearbook, while alienating her family further. Daphne has no use for it and tosses it in recycling, only to discover her neighbor has rescued it and has documentary plans for it, focusing on her mother’s life. In her attempt to repossess it, Daphne learns exactly how much she didn’t know about her mother, and how much better her father knows her than she realized. Secrets explode, Daphne explodes…romance ensues.

Lipman creates a character whose complexity makes her less endearing than interesting, leading dear reader to enjoy her ups and downs from outside the emotions, yet still root for her as she makes terrible life decisions. Choices made by all family members in the past reverberate in the presence, causing confusion and offering challenging choices. The integrity of the characters remains resolute as they fluffercate over “9/10 of the law” and “right to know.” This is an absolutely FUN story, whipping back and forth in allegiances, and up and down in storyline. I was fortunate to receive a copy of this fabulous book from the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through a Goodreads giveaway.