Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Proposal


After a public marriage proposal goes awry, an unlucky-in-love writer on the rebound grapples with her attraction to a handsome doctor in this snappy romance.
Jasmine Guillory (The Wedding Date) opens her lively novel The Proposal at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Nikole "Nik" Paterson--a young freelance journalist and not a baseball fan--is sharing a day out with Fisher, her "perfectly nice, incredibly boring" beau of five months. Nik gets the surprise of her life, though, when Fisher proposes marriage to her on the stadium JumboTron. With a crowd of 45,000 baseball fans eagerly awaiting her answer, Nikole renders a rejection. That's when "perfectly nice" Fisher turns perfectly insulting and nasty. But Nik is rescued when Carlos Ibarra and his sister Angela swoop in, pretending to be long-lost friends of Nik, and usher her away.
The fortuitousness of this meeting soon sparks a fling between Nik and Carlos, a conscientious, handsome young doctor. Carlos is very much involved with the demands of his self-appointed responsibility to everyone in his family, especially a beloved cousin during her difficult pregnancy, marred with medical complications. For Nik, the fallout from the JumboTron disaster resurrects insecurity and self-esteem issues from painful past relationships. These respective dilemmas pull Nik and Carlos in opposite directions, creating impediments to their deepening romance. They must confront what they truly want for their lives, their futures and their relationship.
Through snappy dialogue and short scenes, Guillory explores the traps, pitfalls and triumphs of contemporary young love in the age of social media and viral videos. And Carlos's dynamic extended family and Nik's wisecracking girlfriends enliven and fortify the appeal of the fast-paced story.


Berkley, $15.00, Paperback, 9780399587689, 352 pages

Publication Date: October 30, 2018

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 (October 30, 2018), link HERE

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal


When a middle-aged Danish woman learns how to drive, she gains greater insight into who she is and her place in the world.

Sonya--unmarried, childless and in her 40s--is in a rut. Her learning to drive forms the basis of Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, a richly drawn novel by Danish author Dorthe Nors (Karate Chop) and translated by Misha Hoekstra. Sonya has never felt at home in metropolitan Copenhagen. She longs to return to the Jutland countryside, where she grew up--even more so now that her beau, Paul, has dumped her for a 20-something. Sonya is burned out in her job translating violent crime novels from Swedish into Danish. She suffers spells of vertigo exacerbated by stress. And she can't seem to connect with her sister, Kate, who is a happily married wife and mother with a "golden retriever and a membership in a gymnastics and fitness club. She bakes kringles and knits woolen stockings." Sonya is determined to conquer her fear of driving. However, her inability to shift gears becomes a metaphor for change in her life. And change is never easy--especially for someone as complicated and lost as Sonya.


The loose plot of Nors's compact, minimalistic story--her first novel to be released in English--is enlivened by flares of deadpan wit and a well-developed cast of secondary characters: two male driving instructors--abrupt Jytte and Folke, with whom Sonya flirts--and Ellen, an outspoken massage therapist, who prods Sonya for being a "tight-ass" with her feelings. Nors's exceptional writing and her insightful grasp on the human condition bolster the heartbreak of Sonya's isolated, solitary existence.

  

Mirror, Shoulder, Signal: A Novel by Dorthe Nors (Translated by Misha Hoekstra)

Graywolf Press, $26.99, Hardcover, 9781555978082, 192 pages

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

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 6, 2018), link HERE




Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Family Gathering


An army veteran reconnects with his extended family and falls in love with a woman who tightly guards her heart.
In The Family Gathering, third in the Sullivan's Crossing series by Robyn Carr, Dakota Jones returns to the States following an abrupt discharge from the U.S. Army after 17 years of service. Coming off a heartrending love affair with a Muslim woman he met in the Middle East and several years of wanderlust, Dakota hopes to reconnect with his family, who have settled in Timberlake, Colo. 
Dakota is warmly welcomed by his adult siblings in the tight-knit mountain town, and several local women take a shine to him. However, he is instantly smitten with Sidney, a smart and beautiful local bartender who protects her privacy and a broken heart of her own. The two are generous, caring souls--and deeply devoted to their respective families. But what will it take for Sidney to drop her guard and let Dakota in? His siblings, too, face challenges. Cal--oldest and a successful lawyer--and his doctor wife, Maggie, are new parents. Sierra--youngest and a recovering alcoholic--fosters an abandoned child with her sensitive firefighter beau, Connie.
Meanwhile, Sedona--the second child, visiting Timberlake from Denver--faces a harrowing mental health crisis. This harkens back to the scars of the Joneses' shared, shame-filled childhoods: their eccentric father suffered from untreated schizophrenia and their powerless mother was no help. A well-drawn cast and an intricately woven, romantic plot make for another engaging Jones family saga that will lure new readers to the series and keep already established fans eager for the next installment. 
The Family Gathering by Robyn Carr

Mira, $26.99, Hardcover, 9780778330769, 352 pages

Publication Date: April 17, 2018

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 (May 11, 2018), link HERE




Sunday, December 30, 2018

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good


Swedish crime takes a clever turn in five stories about an unassuming yet devious 88-year-old female retiree-turned-murderer.

Swedish crime author Helene Tursten is no stranger to creating strong-willed female heroines who are embroiled in the dark undersides of society. In An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good, Tursten adds comic relief to a murderous mix. In five brief stories, she shares the exploits of Maud, a never-married, 88-year-old woman who lives alone in a spacious, rent-free, first-floor apartment in Gothenburg, Sweden. Maud has long outlived her family. The retired language arts teacher has pressed on, undaunted and self-reliant--traveling the world, relying on the aid of a walker. With nothing to lose, Maud lives life on her own terms and doesn't let anything--or anyone--get in her way. Whether in her apartment, on the streets or in the shops of Stockholm and even aboard a Mediterranean luxury liner, Maud oils the wheels of justice. She capitalizes on--and oftentimes creates--"accidents" as retribution for those she distrusts and with whom she has an ax to grind. This includes antique dealers with designs on Maud's precious belongings; nosy, overbearing and disruptive neighbors; and a glamorous model, a star of Swedish soft porn on the brink of marrying a now 90-year-old man who was once Maud's one true love.
Tursten is best known for the hard-boiled Detective Inspector Irene Huss series of novels (Who Watcheth). However, the comic twists and turns she delivers in this compact collection are equally engrossing. Unassuming, murderous Maud--with her devious, pseudo-innocent charm--makes these concise stories wickedly funny and addictively readable.



An Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten

(Translated by Marlaine Delargy)

Soho Crime, $12.99 Hardcover,  9781641290111, 184  pages

Publication Date: November 2018

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 (December 21, 2018), link HERE

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Sadness of Beautiful Things


A wise and deeply affecting collection of vividly told stories centers on the inner lives of ordinary people shaped by personal tragedy.

In The Sadness of Beautiful Things, British-born and Brooklyn, N.Y., resident Simon Van Booy offers eight short works that focus on a host of ordinary people who suffer devastating life losses, but find ways to go on--dramatically changed.

Each of these haunting, at times mystical, fictions are, at their core, love stories in every conceivable sense of the word. A daughter tells of her absent, volatile father and the lengths her long-suffering, yet forgiving mother ultimately goes to for their star-crossed relationship. Familial love takes center stage when the mental deficiencies of old age lead an unfeeling father into a labyrinthine depression, and his devoted wife and their daughter connect with an eye doctor in Chinatown who offers a remedy.

"Not Dying," the longest and most inventively told story in the collection, probes a father's love for his wife and daughter--and their lives' meaning and purpose--amid impending fears of the apocalypse. Meanwhile, the kindness and loving generosity of strangers are central to another tale, about a mysterious shut-in with a heartbreaking past, who becomes an anonymous benefactor to a struggling family in town.

Van Booy is a wise, philosophical writer. His spare prose is incredibly illuminating and is further enhanced by unexpected resolutions that allow graceful themes to expand and flourish. What makes this collection all the more compelling is that Van Booy claims to have based most of the tales on true stories, told to him over the course of his travels. The dark, sad circumstances that germinate each of these poignant, unpredictable gems will lead readers to refreshing glimpses of transcendence and hope. 


Penguin Books, $16.00 Paperback,  9780143133049, 208  pages

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

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 (October 9, 2018), link HERE

This review was originally published (in a longer form) on Shelf Awareness for The Book Trade (August 31, 2018). To read this review on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade, link HERE




Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Thing Is: Ebook on Sale


eBOOK SPECIAL

I am pleased to announce that for a limited time
October 22 - October 25
the eBook
will be available for only $0.99!

If you haven't already read the novel, now is the time to purchase a digital copy for yourself, family and/or friends.

This heartwarming story--about a romance writer in grief and a crafty therapy dog named Prozac who rescues her--has 133 positive reviews (and counting) on Amazon.com

Click below to purchase the eBook for $0.99 at:

Also, if you've read the novel and enjoyed it, I'd be so grateful if you'd consider leaving a short review (just a sentence) about the book on Amazon, as the more reviews THE THING IS receives on their site, the more promotional opportunities the book will have to reach a wider audience.
Thank you for your help and support...Happy Reading!

To learn more about THE THING IS visit:

THE THING IS:
Readers everywhere are sure to benefit from a little Prozac in their lives!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

You Me Everything


An idyllic summer vacation to France becomes a turning point for a 33-year-old woman, her ex and their 10-year-old son.

Catherine Isaac is the pen name for British author Jane Costello (Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel), who chose a pseudonym for her American debut, You Me Everything. In Manchester, England, 22-year-old Jess is deep in labor. While facing the agony of childbirth with her mum at her side, Jess is furious that her boyfriend, Adam--a man whom Jess fell in love with in college, who is the baby's father--is markedly absent. By the time Jess cradles son William in her arms, Adam surfaces, reeking of stale booze and another woman's perfume. 
The timeline then leaps ahead 10 years. Jess, a teacher of creative writing at a local college, is a single mother. Adam--never wanting a child or to settle down--lives luxuriously, managing a beautiful hotel in the hills of Southwestern France. He is "not a neglectful father," Jess says. "He pays his maintenance on time, remembers William's birthday and Skypes when he says he will. But our son is no more than a small piece in the jigsaw of Adam's colorful life."
It is Jess's mother who insists that William needs to have a more substantial relationship with his father. Mother and son then make the long journey to Ch√Ęteau de Roussignol, Adam's stomping ground. There she hopes free-spirited, fun-loving Adam and inquisitive, bright William will finally form a tighter bond. What ensues is a tender and reflective story that covers a span of five weeks.
This is a multi-layered, heartbreaking story of abiding love. Isaac's graceful, nuanced storytelling gains an unexpected depth and clarity readers are sure to find riveting. 

You Me Everything: A Novel by Catherine Isaac

Pamela Dorman/Viking, $26.00 Hardcover,  9780735224537, 368 pages

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

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 (May 15, 2018), link HERE

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Mr. Gandy's Grand Tour


A washed-up, middle-aged British man sets off on a tour of Europe that changes him in unexpected, profound ways.
When Timothy Gandy's job as a graphic designer is made redundant, the 55-year-old Brit discovers that he's too old to find a new job and too young to retire. Taking stock, he realizes he's invisible in the shadow of his domineering wife--a woman involved with social and philanthropic causes, and to whom he's been married for 40 years. And he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with his adult children. Son Oliver is a successful barrister. He and his wife are highfalutin, materialistic intellectuals. Middle daughter Alice is single, a distant and reclusive librarian. However, good-natured Rosie, a schoolteacher, shares a bond with her father. She understands him. She and her conservationist, naturalist beau struggle to make ends meet, while happily raising their daughter together. 
The sting of unemployment followed by a shattering personal loss convinces Timothy to follow his long-repressed yearnings for travel. Despite staunch objections from his family--all except Rosie--he finally asserts himself. He sets off on a grand tour of Europe modeled in the style of those taken by young men of means in the late 18th century. Timothy leaves his Chichester, England, home and begins an exciting journey that takes him through France and Italy, where he makes unexpected new friends that change him and his outlook on life. 
Noted gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh (Bring Me Home) plants seeds of hope in another wholesome, richly entertaining story. Readers will be eager to accompany his sensitive, winning protagonist through an itinerary of many adventures.


Mr. Gandy's Grand Tour by Alan Titchmarsh

Hodder & Stoughton, $26.99 Hardcover,  9780340953075, 320  pages

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

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 (May 22, 2018), link HERE


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Rachel Kushner: Writing That Grows Out of Living


The Writer's Life

Rachel Kushner's novels The Flamethrowers and Telex from Cuba were both finalists for the National Book
Author Photo by Chloe Aftel
Award. Her fiction has appeared in the
New Yorker, Harper's and the Paris Review. Kushner's new novel, The Mars Room (Scribner; reviewed below), centers on the harrowing life of a young mother serving two consecutive life sentences in a California prison.

Why set the book in San Francisco?
Partly because I am from there. The main character, Romy Hall, is from the Sunset, the San Francisco neighborhood where I grew up. It's not a bad neighborhood at all, and yet it was a rather gritty adolescence there. When I meet book-learned people now, they always tell me they went to some fancy private school in San Francisco, and the conversation stops there, because we are basically not from the same city. Where I am from is very specific, a time and a place, and no one who didn't experience it might ever understand, which was my challenge: trying to transmute that experience, my knowledge of it, into literature.

Do you live in California now?
In Los Angeles, half a mile from the city jail complex and the criminal courts.

Did this proximity inspire the book?
Most of those who fill the state prisons in California come from metropolitan L.A. and the surrounding counties (Riverside, San Bernardino). Like many writers, I'm interested in other people and in the world around me, and that world, here in California, unfortunately includes a massive carceral system.

Your descriptions of prison life are richly detailed. How did you research the novel?
I'm sort of opposed to the concept of research, because I consider my process more organic. I live in a certain way, and my writing comes out of that. In 2012, I decided to try to learn everything I could about the criminal justice system in California, to understand the deeper layers of the carceral net, the penal zone of the world, which can very often be invisible to middle-class people, and can entirely dominate the lives of poor people. I went "under cover" on an extensive tour of state prisons in California (mostly men's) with criminology students who were effectively being wooed for jobs with the California Department of Corrections. The context meant that guards, prison litigators and public information officers spoke to us as if we were "of their own kind," and thus, I was able to see quite a bit into the mentality of the people who work at the prison, at all levels.

How much access were you granted?
I was allowed to roam prison yards, even maximum security yards, and to talk to people who were serving long, mostly life, sentences. I got to go in their cells, see the so-called "mental health" facilities, the so-called job training, the education programs, so-called, the prison industries like license plate stamping and registration sticker printing. Separately, I became involved, as a volunteer, with a nonprofit organization called Justice Now, which advocates against human rights violations in the women's prisons in California, and whose leadership is partly made up of people serving life sentences. I learned a great deal from the people I met inside who are involved with Justice Now and developed friendships with many lifers that way.

This exposure must have been helpful in creating the psyche of the main character and her difficult life.
It took me a long time to create Romy. I needed to be able to inhabit her fully, and I kept coming up against the irrefutable facts of my own circumstance: I have middle-class resources and would never go to prison, I probably wouldn't even go to jail.... If I did run into trouble, like if I just lost it and did something crazy, I have high-powered lawyer friends who would get me off. That's how it works.

What a leap, then, for you fully to envision her predicament.
I thought and thought into this, and eventually, I invented a girl who was with us growing up in San Francisco, among the girls I knew--I mean most of the people I knew, whose lives didn't turn out like mine, who had parents who struggled with poverty and addictions and who themselves nursed nihilist streaks. I had resisted that because I didn't really want to revisit anything from my own youth, but it rose up and demanded to be dealt with. And suddenly everything made sense about Romy--her past and future.

You divvy out the details of Romy's experiences with great suspense.
The creation of a narrator's tone has to be done delicately, factoring in the way people don't present information about their lives all at once. In fact, prison is not a place that leaves a lot of room to think into the worst thing you've ever done. The idea of a convicted person's remorse and pain and anguish over an irreversible act they themselves have committed, as I understand these things, isn't quite what a middle-class person imagines. Because you have to be closed up and hard in prison, there is no privacy, there's a lot of hostility and dysfunction, and people are trying to survive on a day-by-day basis. So it seemed natural enough that certain elements of Romy's old life--her memories, her regrets and some type of "account" of what happened that resulted in her life sentence--should leak out in parts.

How did the rest of the story, as a whole, take shape?
I wrote the book in parts. The book that resulted was from many years of my ruminating on what I saw, felt, thought, have learned and also read. Dostoyevsky was a help to me on some level, as was Nietzsche. The Doc character, the rogue cop, was the easiest and most fully formed right away. Honestly, he really wrote himself, in all his dirty outrageousness. The main character, Romy, was more challenging. It took me two years to write the first long chapter of the book, her bus ride on "chain night," when women are hauled up highway 99 to the Central Valley, because it had to have all of the foundational elements of her narrative, her tone, her cadence in it, her predicament. I had to push myself into certain corners to figure that out.

Your writing has been described as "persuasive" and "moving." What will readers take away from The Mars Room?
I write to please myself or grapple with my own unanswerable questions. In terms of what people take away, I can't claim to have a project in mind for the readers of my book, but if this book were to change the way someone thinks about, say, our society and how it's structured, about life, about class, race, America, women, poverty, dirty jokes, bad cops, all cops, literature, good, evil, God, violence, highways, dead ends, or justice--well, that would be just fine. 

This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness for Readers (May 18, 2018), link HERE 


The Mars Room


A gritty, authentic fictional account of a 29-year-old mother serving two consecutive life sentences at a Women's Correctional Facility.
Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) paints a dark and gritty picture of the U.S. prison system and the larger, contemporary world in her provocative novel, The Mars Room. The action is set at the fictional Stanville Women's Correctional Facility, in the remote Central Valley of California. A diverse cast of inmates--hardscrabble women who formerly lived on the margins of society, suffering from poverty, abuse, neglect, drug addiction and sex exploitation--are forced to adapt and make a life inside prison walls. 
The central protagonist is Romy Leslie Hall, a 29-year-old inmate and former lap dancer at the Mars Room, a notorious, seedy strip club in San Francisco. Romy is serving two consecutive life sentences for murdering a man who relentlessly stalked her. 
Romy--bright and well-read, despite having grown up in unseemly conditions--has a young son, Jackson, who becomes entangled in the child welfare bureaucracy. Although prison separates Romy from Jackson for four long years--and she is ultimately stripped of her rights to find him--her desperate longing and love for him endures. She goes to great lengths to learn more about his status and track him down.
Romy's tragic, hard-luck story is one of many explored in a complex novel that keeps readers off-balance yet fully immersed. Supporting characters and their sordid proclivities and recidivism--along with subplots about an incarcerated dirty cop and a sensitive teacher at the prison--provide an unflinching look at brutality and power plays within the perimeters of razor wire--and beyond. 

The Mars Room: A Novel by Rachel Kushner
Scribner, $27.00 Hardcover,  9781476756554, 352 pages
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
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 (May 18, 2018), link HERE


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Little Big Love


A lovable, determined, 11-year-old boy seeks to unravel a decade-long mystery in his family and finally find his birth father.
One night in June 2005 changes the lives of a family in Little Big Love by British author Katy Regan. Set in Grimsby, a small fishing village in England, the story is told from three distinct perspectives of the Hutchinson family. Zac is a precocious, inquisitive 11-year-old, who has blue eyes just like his father's. He is obsessed with food, the memory of his deceased Uncle Jamie, a chef who died a tragic death, and finding his father, Liam, who left before Zac was born.
Zac's mother, Juliet, is a single mom who has a tendency to overeat and to shoplift food from grocery stores. She still carries a torch for her old flame, Liam Jones. Her inability to get over his departure makes dating a challenge--often quite comical. Finally, there is Mick, her dad, ensnarled in the devastating situation that tore his family apart--a situation that has kept his daughter and his wife in a state of inertia for 10 years, and has burdened him with secrets.

The inability of the three narrators to move beyond the impact and implications of the night that changed everything--a night that, in its aftermath, has perpetuated lies and mystery--forms the impetus for this moving, bittersweet story that seeks to unravel the truth of what really happened and why.
Little Big Love is Katy Regan's U.S. debut; as in her U.K. releases (How We MetThe One Before the One), she delivers an affirming, buoyant novel populated by authentic, empathetic characters, young and old, who infuse her adventurous story with great poignancy, humor and heart. 

Little Big Love by Katy Regan
Berkley, $26.00 Hardcover,  9780451490346, 368 pages
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
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 15, 2018), link HERE