Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The Best Is Yet to Come

An emotionally immersive romance about two grief-stricken people struggling to open up their lives to love again.

The aftereffects of war on two people trying to rebuild their lives anchor The Best Is Yet to Come, a deeply moving, compassionately drawn contemporary romance by Debbie Macomber (It’s Better This WayA Walk Along the Beach).

Los Angeles native Hope Godwin relocates to Oceanside, Wash., after her twin brother, a soldier, is tragically killed in action. Longing to reconcile her grief and live simply--teaching at the local high school--Hope’s plans are complicated when her pushy landlord ropes her into volunteering at the local animal shelter. There, she meets injured ex-Marine, John Cade Lincoln Jr. “Cade” may have been awarded a Purple Heart, but a sordid past keeps him standoffish. Having witnessed his army buddies “blown to bits,” he is a recovering alcoholic and loner dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and serious anger-management issues that sent him to jail for a year. Cade is performing community service at the local animal shelter when Hope crosses his path. He becomes intrigued when “Shadow,” an abused, human-averse canine takes eagerly to Hope. As the fearful dog warms up to Hope, so, too, does Cade. The couple slowly--and awkwardly--get to know each other until the past suddenly resurfaces, testing what’s in their hearts and challenging their romance.

Memorable, fully fleshed-out characters--including a suspenseful, very well-drawn subplot involving students at the school--round out an emotionally immersive story. Debbie Macomber is a master of depicting the nuances of smalltown life and how romance can rally and recharge the human spirit with hope.

The Best is Yet to Come: A Novel by Debbie Macomber

Ballantine Books/Random House Books, $28.00 hardcover, 9781984818843, 304 pages

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 15, 2022), link HERE


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Louise Marburg: Exploring the Many Facets of Human Nature

The Writer’s Life

Louise Marburg is the author of You Have Reached Your Destination (2022; Eastover Press; click HERE to read my review), which won the Eastover Fiction Prize, as well as two previous story collections--No Diving Allowed (2021; Regal House Publishing), which won the W.S. Porter Prize for Short Story Collections, and The Truth About Me, (2017; WTAW Press), which was the winner of the Independent Press Book Award for short story collections and was shortlisted for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. Marburg's work has appeared in Narrative, Ploughshares, Story Magazine, The Hudson Review, The Southampton Review, Cimarron Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, and many other publications. Louise studied design at the Kansas City Art Institute, is a graduate of New York University’s Gallatin Division, and holds an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has been supported by the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Kenyon Writing Workshops, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A native of Baltimore, she lives in New York City. You can visit her online at louisemarburg.com.

How do you start a story? With a character? A plot idea? What is the seed? 

I do often start with a character in mind, or really a sketch of a character—the fleshing out comes later on. But almost as often it can be a visual, an object, a phrase overheard that gets my mind going toward that special something that snags my imagination and makes me want to explore.

This collection features stories about women at every age from 12 to 91. Did you set out at any point to purposely include such representation? 

I did not set out to write about women of all ages. In fact, I didn’t set out to write specifically about women at all. But as is often the case when I write with a view to a collection, the theme emerges, and I find myself writing toward it almost as if guided by the writing gods! I think what’s on my mind either consciously or unconsciously (usually the latter) finds itself onto the page and often surprises me, which is the magic of it and what all writers live for, the surprise. 

Your stories have been described by Erin McGraw as places in which “characters’ destinations are unexpected, remarkable, and beautifully memorable.” When you begin writing a character’s conflict, do you already know it will be resolved? Also, you never end on a punch line or "wrap it up." How do you determine when the story has ended?

When I begin writing I have no idea what’s going to happen even a few paragraphs later, and I tend to take my time at the beginning of a story to let the plot emerge. The resolution of a story is never planned though sometimes I think maybe it might be resolved in one way only to find it resolves in another way. As to my endings, it’s true that I don’t wrap them up in a bow, I prefer to let my stories end quietly and leave a little something for the reader’s imagination. It never fails that my stories end sooner than I anticipate. I think I have much farther to go, and then boom, I see it, and know I’ve come to the end. So to answer the question, I determine how a story ends by not determining how it ends.




Why do you write short stories as opposed to novels?

The great story writer and novelist Lorrie Moore is quoted as saying, “A short story is a love affair, a novel is a marriage.” I think that describes the difference between the two perfectly. I love reading stories and always wanted to write them. Writing a novel is a long project. To me, a story is a fascinating puzzle: each piece must fit perfectly into the whole, there is no waste, and I like that. And though I’ve been happily married for more decades than I’d like to admit, in my writing I prefer the affair, it’s more exciting.

Your stories often explore what a character presents as a fa├žade versus what lies beneath. Why is does this interest you?

Growing up I was interested in the many faces adults could present, being sweet to one random person and nasty to the next. Now, as an adult, when someone says to me, “oh isn’t so and so terrific” about someone who I don’t think is so great, I think, or even say, terrific to you. And probably that person has been terrific for whatever reason, but they are not terrific all the time to everyone; nobody is. I’m intrigued by the many facets of human nature, the dark and the light.

Some authors have rituals that help them get into writing, others listen to music, or even clean the house before they can begin to write. What is your process? Do you write every day?

I don’t write every day; when I am in a story, I take my time and might let days pass while I digest what I’ve written. And then there is the excruciating gap between stories when I don’t know what to do with myself!  My process is simple.  I sit down and write.  I have, luckily, the ability to immediately focus.  So, I may write for four hours, or I might sit down for fifteen minutes before I go out to dinner and bang out some sentences. I’m ready to write whenever the mood strikes!   

Writing is often described by authors as painful and difficult. Is that your experience?

I’ve never understood why some authors feel that way. I feel grateful that I’m able to write and have the time to do it. What else would I rather do? What else might I be doing?  I can think of about a million things I would really rather not do. I’m doing what I’m best at and what I love the most. How perfect is that?


Link to INDIEBOUND to learn more about books by Louise Marburg:

You Have Reached Your Destination

A stellar collection of literary short stories tracing the lives of twelve women who grapple with tests of their character and the meaning of life.

Louise Marburg truly understands people and the human condition. Her prize-winning collections of literary short stories, The Truth About Me and No Diving Allowed, offer deeply perceptive, telling stories of ordinary people, good people, who face tests in life (challenges often thrust upon them), forcing them to navigate complex emotional landscapes.

Building on her strengths, she continues to travel a similar path in You Have Reached Your Destination, a stellar collection of twelve short stories that won the 2021 EastOver Prize for Fiction.  

Marburg mines the lives of women protagonists of various ages who face myriad dilemmas that elicit unexpected twists, turns and life detours: In “Alouette,” a 32-year-old woman faces the travails of conceiving a child she’s not even sure she wants—counseled by modern medicine and a psychic. In “The Weather of Menopause,” a female artist--affected by the angst of middle-aged--becomes riddled with insecurity that totally exasperates those around her. Family hierarchies take center stage in “Even-Steven,” where an adult stepdaughter tries to help reconcile the life of her terminally ill, 59-year-old step-mother—the two resent, but also like each other. The story, “June,” centers on an apparently thriving 91-year-old widow and mother. When a young couple moves into her apartment building, right next door, the contentiousness of the couples’ relationship brings back feelings from June’s past and forces her to question herself. What could have been and what actually is collide in “Dance, Rockette,” where a dinner party points up disappointments in how life turned out for a married couple with young children: the husband longs to return to his former glory days, while the wife invents an exciting (hilariously fictitious) past for herself. In “Double Happiness,” a happy accident reroutes a rather disoriented young woman who had fallen for a new love on Tinder… until she meets another man at a party—one who might or might not be who and all he claims to be. And in the title story, “You Have Reached Your Destination,” a single woman from New York City is summoned to Baltimore to be with her older brother after he suffers a debilitating heart attack. A judgmental, rebellious niece and a visit to the home where she once grew up suddenly reframes the past amidst the chilling reality of the present.

Marburg’s concise, wry storytelling is first-rate. Each protagonist experiences a controlled chaos of loss and grief that is buoyed by Marburg’s unique brand of levity--levity that illuminates absurdities of the human condition on the road to enlightenment.

You Have Reached Your Destination (Short Stories) by Louise Marburg

EastOver Press, $20.00 paperback, 9781958094006, 168 pages

Publication Date: November 10, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE


Click HERE to read my interview with Louise Marburg

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Thief of Fate

The final installment in a time-travel romance trilogy about an Irish rogue and thief from 1844 Ireland who, in order to gain eternal life for his troubled soul, is tasked (a century later) with devising a plan to bring two people together in love.

Life doesn’t always turn out according to plan…and in the case of Liam O’Connor, choices he made in 1844 Ireland continue to haunt him. When Liam fell in love with Cora McLeod over 100 years ago, their intense romance changed both of their destinies in tragic ways.

But time marches on…or does it?

In order for Liam to save his soul, he sent back to earth to alter the course of Cora’s current romantic destiny. In 1844, Cora was never supposed to fall in love with Liam. And 100 years later, she doesn’t remember her Ireland life or the brief, yet intense, romance she and Liam once shared. Back then--as now--she was/is destined to end up with Finley Walsh—her always intended soul mate.

Cora is a head-strong, independent police officer in Providence Falls, North Carolina—a far cry from the woman Liam fell in love with a century before. She works with Finley, who is also a cop. Finley loves Cora, but Cora is taken and falling hard (again) for Liam, whose covert job (in this century) is to finally bring Cora and Finn together. As Cora, Finn and Liam all work to together to solve a murder case, old romantic feelings stir between Liam and Cora. Will Liam repeat history and make the same mistakes that interfere with destiny? Or will he stick to his quest, do the right thing and fulfill what fate always designed for Cora and Finn?

Each book in this spellbinding, mystical epic by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets (Chance of a Lifetime, An Impossible Promise) delivers well-plotted mystery and suspense—and stunning cliff-hangers. In Thief of Fate, fans of romance, historical fiction and time-travel stories will be treated to an exciting, passionate conclusion to this inventive, imaginative series.

Thief of Fate by Jude Deveraux and Tara Sheets (Book 3 of 3: Providence Falls)

MIRA (Harlequin), $16.99 paperback, 9780778386551, 320 pages

Publication Date: October 25, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Departure Stories: Betty Crocker Made Matzoh Balls and Other Lies

A collection of powerful essays--filtered through the traditions of a Judaic perspective--that shed light into the life of a writer/journalist and her complicated relationship to family.

Departure Stories by Elisa Bernick--a writer/journalist from Minnesota--is an inviting, deeply poignant first memoir that offers an intergenerational smorgasbord of well-balanced, well-portioned personal stories, anecdotes, jokes, Jewish history and heritage—and insight.

Growing up in white, Christian, New Hope, Minn.--a suburb of St. Paul--during the tumultuous 1960 and 1970s, Bernick was basically well-assimilated, but always felt “different.” It’s these glimpses of alienation--along with episodes of "Midwestern antisemitism" and a striving to be like others--that set the foundation of this memory-driven narrative. Short chapters weave together fascinating personal stories peppered with remembrances of her ancestors, grandparents and parents. Spiritual aspects of Judaism are largely absent from the book. However, traditions of Jewishness--along with humor--pervade the entirety of the literary landscape. Her mother, Arlene, with blazing red hair, was a fiery--dynamic, yet difficult--presence. Stricken by mental illness, Arlene’s abusive volatility pervaded the folds of family—along with Bernick’s own experiences and rebellions. The emotions generated from such incidents--however sad and burdensome--ground Bernick. They ultimately shape her personality, her sensibilities, her fate and how she has thus, lived a life trying always to understand.

Identity--and Bernick’s search for it--is forefront. There are many telling stories, but the most pivotal stems from Bernick as a rebellious five-year-old: she ran away from home (rode a bus for hours) and upon her return, faced a harsh berating from her mother. This incident becomes a larger metaphor—Bernick continually trying to escape “home,” to keep an emotional distance from the deep-rooted tendrils of family, yet always being drawn back beyond the boundaries of its angering influence.

The story of her relationship to her family eventually comes full circle delivering a poignant conclusion. Older, wiser and more deeply enlightened Bernick (The Family Sabbatical Handbook) and her easy-going narrative style--her regaling readers with evolved consciousness and reinterpreting memories 50-years in the making--ultimately coalesce, granting Bernick enlightenment, while also making the world, via Departure Stories, a better place.

Departure Stories: Betty Crocker Made Matzoh Balls by Elisa Bernick

Indiana University Press, $22.00 paperback, 9780253064073, 246 pages

Publication Date: October 4, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Hello, Molly!

Molly Shannon, an SNL alumnus, shares tender heartfelt stories of how her quirky, wholly original brand of comedy grew out of tragedy.

 

Hello, Molly! is a multi-faceted love story—a genuinely candid, touchingly honest memoir written by Molly Shannon, an Emmy-nominated actress and comedian.

 

Shannon was a six-year cast member of Saturday Nite Live, and her inimitable humor has always been steeped in paying close attention to the people in her life. Her psyche was imprinted at the age of four when a fatal car crash claimed the lives of her mother, her younger sister and a cousin. The tragic accident was caused by her father—his being over-tired and driving under the influence.

 

Adventurous from an early age, Shannon’s innately cheerful, positive disposition saved her. She drew upon humor to lighten her load—and also help dispel bouts of depression and guilt that plagued her usually colorful, open-minded father. The two serve as cheerleaders, confidantes and touchstones for each other. A beautiful father-daughter story is woven throughout many funny anecdotes of Shannon’s hard work, dedication, resilience and sacrifice on her road to stardom. She employed many laugh-out-loud, creative career strategies enroute to SNL where she honed memorable, quirky characters like Catholic school misfit, Mary Katherine Gallagher, among others.

 

Shannon’s conversationally styled narrative reflects her wholly original brand of comedy as she expresses sincere gratitude for those who believed in and boosted her career. However, the story of Shannon’s enduring love for her absent mother and sister--as well as the attentive bond shared with her big-hearted father and revealing insights into his life--casts Shannon in a whole new light that beams radiantly with heartfelt sensitivity.

 

Hello, Molly!: A Memoir by Mollie Shannon

Ecco Press/Harper Collins, $27.99 hardcover, 97800630556237, 304 pages

Publication Date: April 12, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (April 12, 2022), link HERE

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Lizzie Blake's Best Mistake

A flirty rom-com about a passionate young woman with ADHD who falls hard for an Australian visiting Philadelphia -- a man who suddenly upends her life...and his own.

As in her prior novel
,
A Brush with Love (see my review below), neurodiverse author, Mazey Eddings returns to share another lively, edgy rom-com about a young, single woman grappling with life, sex and love. In Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake, Eddings introduces readers to Philadelphian, Lizzie Blake, a woman with great intensity and passion struggling with a slew of faux pas that prohibit her from having stability in her life – be it via employment, the acceptance of her parents or beaus. Afflicted with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), down-on-her-luck, Lizzie, who prefers one-night-stands to serious relationships, succumbs to a romp with Rake, a “hot Australian” she meets at a bar, whose past romantic baggage has made him swear off relationships and hook-ups, too, for that matter. But Rake finds the passionate, sexy charm of madcap Lizzie irresistible—and vice-versa. Their one-night stand leads to two, which then leads to an unwanted pregnancy—all of which forces the impulsive couple to rethink who they are and what they really want out of life.

Eddings has professed that her “personal mission in life” is to “destigmatize mental health issues and write love stories for every brain.” In her creation of Lizzy Blake, she proves, yet again, she has the knack for capturing the true essence of marginalized characters who cleverly come into their own—with many adventures and surprises along the way. Once again, Eddings delivers a lusty, snarky, “lovers-to-friends-to-soul-mates” romantic comedy that greatly entertains while mining hot-button contemporary issues in a fun, accessible way.

 

Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake (A Brush with Love Book Two) by Mazey Eddings

St. Martin’s Griffin, $16.99 paperback, 9780778312000, 336 pages

Publication Date: September 6, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 

Romance

A Brush with Love

by Mazey Eddings

Only a writer as creative and perceptive as neurodiverse author Mazey Eddings could have made a dental school in Philadelphia, Pa., the perfect place to set an edgy romantic comedy. In A Brush with Love, her first novel, she plumbs deep roots, both literally and metaphorically, exploring challenges faced by two young dental students. Their unexpected chance meeting upends their lives.

Harper is an intense person, a driven perfectionist, whose battle with a general anxiety disorder stems from the sudden loss of her parents when she was only 12. She has succeeded in being a top student at Callowhill University's School of Dental Medicine, channeling protracted sorrow by throwing herself headlong into her medical studies. As a senior near graduation--though she intends to continue studies in oral surgery--one day she falls down a flight of stairs onto a freshman named Dan, completely destroying a 3D model made for one of his courses. Dan wanted a career in finance but, faced with familial expectations, he begrudgingly enrolled in dental school. Their meet-cute collision ignites a spark that turns into a romance. Their attraction, however, brings their individual sordid pasts and emotional scars to the fore, challenging what they know about themselves, each other and the push and pull of their lusty passions.

Eddings's energetic story appears, on the surface, entertainingly frothy. However, as she focuses on her quirky characters--revealing who they truly are and why--readers will discover much deeper, thought-provoking emotional issues. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: In this lusty rom-com, two dental students are tested by the truth of who they are on their road to love and self-actualization.

St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, paperback, 336p., 9781250805980

NOTE: This review for A BRUSH WITH LOVE was featured on Shelf Awareness for Readers on Friday, March 4, 2022. To read the review as originally published link HERE

 

 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Attitude of Gratitude

Very grateful that an essay of mine is featured in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology. The book offers inspiring true stories about ordinary people who have chosen to focus on thankfulness in order to find deeper joy and happiness...And I'm even more grateful that my story, "The Rolls," is the first one in the collection. Pleased and proud to be included in another Chicken Soup for the Soul project.

Order a copy today!


Chicken Soup for the Soul: Attitude of Gratitude - 101 Stories About Counting Your Blessings and The Power of Thankfulness edited by Amy Newmark

Chicken Soup for the Soul, $14.95 paperback, 336 pages, 9781611590937

Publication Date: August 16, 2022


To order this book on Amazon, link Here

To order this book on Barnes and Noble, link HERE

To order this book on INDIEBOUND link HERE

Click here to learn more about all Chicken Soup for the Soul media! 



Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Messy Lives of Book People

A feel-good story about a cleaning lady--with writerly aspirations--secretly tasked with completing a novel by one of her literary heroes.

British author Phaedra Patrick (The Secrets of Love Story Bridge) consistently treats readers to stories with heartfelt plots and memorable, quirky characters. In her fifth novel, The Messy Lives of Book People, Patrick sticks with that winning formula, telling the story of an ordinary woman who is stretched beyond her comfort zone and is challenged to build a better, more fulfilling life.

Liv Green, middle-aged wife and mother of two adult sons, is a British cleaning lady whose postponed dreams of writing are suddenly reinvigorated when she lands a gig working for one of her literary heroes, bestselling author--and notorious recluse--Essie Starling. When Liv is caught secretly reading a work in progress--the 20th entry in Starling's popular Georgia Rory series--the standoffish, enigmatic author puts Liv on the spot, asking for her honest, writerly opinion. Nervous, Liv gives a tactful yet unabashed opinion. Later, she second-guesses being so forthright. Essie's lawyer contacts Liv soon after this: Essie has died after a surgical procedure. She left specific instructions that she wanted Liv to finish the novel in progress with the stipulation that Essie's death and Liv's ghostwriting be kept secret. This sets Liv on a confidential quest to conjure what Essie might have had in mind for her latest novel, the projected last in the series. However, it's Essie's real-life story that Liv ultimately unravels, one filled with unpredictable twists and turns that are as adventurous as the Georgia Rory novels themselves.

Patrick adds more entertaining, feel-good fiction to her growing body of work.


The Messy Lives of Book People: A Novel by Phaedra Patrick

Park Row (Original Edition), $16.99 paperback, 9780778312000, 352 pages

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 17, 2022), link HERE


 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Hotel Nantucket

A compelling, juicy romantic drama about patrons and staff embroiled in the relaunch of a storied old hotel in Nantucket, Cape Cod.  

In The Hotel Nantucket, Elin Hilderbrand (Golden Girl; 28 Summers) brings readers an exciting, multi-plotted, genre-bending drama set in a storied old hotel on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts that's been spruced up and is ready to make a glorious comeback. The large-scale renovation of the once-derelict hotel, which had its heyday in the 1920s, is financially backed by a billionaire developer in London. He spares no expense and aims to put the hotel on the map as a top vacation destination.

The developer lures Lizbet Keaton, who just ended a long-term romantic relationship, away from her job at a competitor. Her job is to hire local staff to transform the old hotel into a first-class operation offering the finest in hospitality--a sterling spa and a celebrity-crewed kitchen and bar. What sets the hotel apart is its history, namely its resident ghost, a former chambermaid. Funny and often judgmental, she served at the hotel during the Roaring '20s and met a tragic death that's kept her spirit active on the premises.

While the hotel strives to regain its former glory, a large cast of characters--hotel staff and patrons--juggle romantic entanglements while unraveling mysteries and secrets in their own lives. Plotlines about scandalous affairs, extortion, assault and sordid pasts enliven Hilderbrand's obvious appreciation for the ins and outs of the hotel industry and for Nantucket culture. Readers in search of page-turning escapist fiction will be immensely intrigued by checking into The Hotel Nantucket and checking out all it has to offer. 


The Hotel Nantucket: A Novel by Elin Hilderbrand

Little, Brown and Company, $29.00 hardcover, 9780316258678, 416 pages

Publication Date: June 14, 2022

To order this book on INDIEBOUND, link HERE

 

NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 17, 2022), link HERE