Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (Mailbox Monday)

Writers & LoversI’ve wanted to read this for a while so when it was a Kindle deal last week I grabbed it.

When Christmas Comesfrom Mysterious Press

Last week on Bookfan:

Reading plan for this week:

From my shelf:  Surviving Savannah


 

Audiobook Release Day Spotlight: You Spin Me

Happy release day to Karen Grey! Her newest book in the Boston Classics series is available in audio today!

You Spin Me by Karen Grey

YOU SPIN ME

a nostalgic romantic comedy

BOSTON CLASSICS #3

Narrated by Vanessa Edwin and Eric Michael Summerer

Description:

Some scars go further than skin deep…

1988 doesn’t end well for Jessica Abraham. In just one week she turns thirty, loses her day job, and loses the role of Ophelia to a younger actress. Rallying, she goes after a part at a theater outside of the city, but the director’s plan to hide her beauty behind hair, makeup and wardrobe from Cosmo’s “Don’t” column shakes her confidence to the core.

For the first time in her acting career, she won’t be able to rely on her carefully managed physical charms. Only her craft will count. 

On a snowy night early  in January 1989, a woman calls into DJ Callihan Alonso’s alt-rock radio show at the end of her commute. He asks her to call back the next night, and the next, just so he’ll know she’s home safe. There’s something about her voice that has him wanting more, but the longer they talk, the closer she gets. Compromising each and every wall he’s built around his heart. 

If two lonely people fall in love over late-night phone calls, will meeting face-to-face make them, or break them?

In this heart-rending but happy-ending retro romcom, it may be the end of a decade, but it’s the beginning of a love story.

Buy Links:

https://books2read.com/YSMKGrey

Audible

Put it on your Goodreads or Bookbub Want to Read list (and review it there, too!)

https://bit.ly/YouSpinMeGR

http://bit.ly/YouSpinMeBookbub

 Listen to the playlist on Spotify: https://bit.ly/YouSpinMeplaylist

Content guidance can be found at http://bit.ly/ContentGuidanceKarenGrey undefined

TAG Karen Grey on 

Facebook @KarenGreywriter

Instagram @KarenGreywrites

Twitter @KarenWhitereads

Narrators:

Vanessa Edwin is a multiple AudioFile Earphones Award and SOVAS Award winning audiobook narrator. She is also a classically trained actress and world traveler. There’s nothing she loves more than long rainy days which are optimal for nurturing her love of reading, drinking hot cups of tea, and dreaming of her next getaway.

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Eric Michael Summerer is a voice actor and producer who has narrated numerous audiobooks as well as countless instructional recordings and video games. He earned an Audie Award nomination for Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke and won AudioFile Earphones Awards for Burning Chrome by William Gibson and Master Assassins by Robert V.S. Redick. Eric also co-hosts the popular board-game podcast The Dice Tower.

Christmas in July – Spotlight

I’ve accepted a few Christmas review galleys that will publish in September and October so I thought I’d shine a spotlight on them today. I’ll hold off on reading for a while but have to say I’m looking forward to each book!

Description

From May Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author of Hello, Summer, comes a novella celebrating the magic of Christmas and second chances in The Santa Suit.

When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love—but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it. 

At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?

Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.

Description

The reigning legendary queens of Regency Romance, bestselling authors Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, and Mary Jo Putney, deck the halls with this delightful Christmas collection of three sparkling holiday interconnected romances, as stranded travelers find merriment, mistletoe, and holiday romance awaiting at a quaint country inn…
 

THE UNEXPECTED GIFT by Madeline Hunter
Jenna Waverly has closed her inn, anticipating a blissfully quiet Christmas, until a snowstorm brings the first of several strangers to her property. Lucas Avonwood, as charming as he is secretive, is on a mission to track down a scoundrel, but the inn’s lovely owner is giving him a more compelling reason to stay…

WHEN WE FINALLY KISS GOOD NIGHT
 by Sabrina Jeffries
When Flora Younger first met Konrad Juncker, she thought she’d found her match, only to have her hopes dashed. Konrad is now a famous playwright whose plays Flora has secretly panned in reviews. But a chance meeting in a secluded inn may help them rewrite this star-crossed romance…

WHEN STRANGERS MEET by Mary Jo Putney
Kate Mcleod is shocked to find that her fellow guest in the snowbound inn is the dashing soldier who may or may not be her husband. Daniel Faringdon barely remembers that long-ago night when he rescued her from disaster, but the desire they discover now will be impossible to forget, or to ignore . . .

Description

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart—and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them—this time, for good.

Description

“[Thayne’s] books are wonderfully romantic, feel-good reads that end with me sighing over the last pages.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

Celebrate the season with this sparkling holiday romance, perfect for fans of Debbie Macomber, Dorthea Benton Frank, and Nancy Thayer!

Ranch manager Annie McCade thought her twin niece and nephew could join her at the Angel View Ranch for Christmas with her absent employer being none the wiser. But when the ranch’s owner, Tate Sheridan, shows up out of the blue, Annie’s plans are upended. Soon she finds herself helping Tate make a Christmas to remember for his grieving and fractured extended family.

Sleigh Bells Ring is the latest heartwarming, festive Christmas story by New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne.

Description:

After a confession of murder, a sleuthing English teacher will need a Christmas miracle to prove a condemned man innocent

Colorful Christmas lights dapple the family homes in the idyllic lakeside town of Sweet Haven when Jennifer Dean, a young librarian at the local elementary school, is brutally murdered. There are witnesses and her boyfriend Travis Blake confesses to the crime… but something doesn’t quite add up. Blake is a third generation Army Ranger, awarded the Silver Star for his heroism in Afghanistan―how could a beloved son of this tight-knit burgh commit such a grisly deed?

As a community of military families a few miles down the road from an Army base, no one in Sweet Haven wants to investigate a war hero like Blake, not even the top brass at the police department. In steps Cameron Winter, a rugged and lonesome English professor haunted by the ghosts of his own Christmas past, whose former lover asks him to prove Blake innocent. The Sweet Haven murder reverberates in his mind, echoing a horrific yuletide memory from his youth, and Winter knows there are darker powers at play here than a simple domestic dispute. If he can solve this small-town mystery, just maybe he can find peace from his inner demons as well.

The thirty-sixth novel by two-time Edgar Award winner Andrew Klavan, When Christmas Comes is a seasonal tale of tradition, family, and murder; its chilling twists are best experienced curled up beside a burning Yule log.

The Last Commandment

Description:

A Scotland Yard detective tracks a serial killer from London to New York City

Christmastime in London. When three seemingly unconnected victims are murdered with matching sequential Roman numerals carved into their foreheads, Metropolitan Police Commander Austin Grant finds his answer in one of the last places he’d expect: the Holy Bible. Each of the deaths correspond to a transgression of one of the Ten Commandments, and Grant must find the killer before the remaining Commandments are commemorated with homicides.

Unfortunately for Grant, the next victim with a number on their forehead turns up not in London, but across the pond at the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, turning this English murder case into a transatlantic manhunt spanning two global metropolises, each with its own rich history and culture. Commander Grant must team up with a charming NYPD detective named John Frankel, as well as his own estranged daughter Rachel—a cunning investigative reporter with conflicting feelings about her father.

The Last Commandment is the third novel by acclaimed screenwriter and producer Scott Shepherd, whose decades of television writing experience shine through in the swift pace and character-driven storytelling of this devilishly fun, page-turning mystery. Flipping the “buddy cop” story on its head with a touch of Old Testament fatalism, this twisty tale leads from the seedy back-alleys of Piccadilly to the Grande Dame hotels of Midtown Manhattan and back again. (from the publisher)

My take:

I’m a casual and interested reader of the Mystery genre so when Mysterious Press offered a copy of THE LAST COMMANDMENT I happily accepted. And I’m so glad I did. From the first page I was caught up in the race to find a macabre serial killer (aren’t they all??).

Scott Shepherd’s screenwriting skills shone in this well-paced novel. The principal characters were engaging and had me looking forward to getting back to the book each time life interrupted my reading. I loved the ‘both sides of the Pond’ settings and plot as well as the exciting denouement. As I turned the last page I was hoping for another case for Austin Grant and John Frankel.

About the author:

Scott Shepherd is a veteran writer/producer/show-runner with years of experience running network series; his production and screenwriting credits include The Equalizer, Miami Vice, The Outer Limits, Haven, and Quantum Leap. Born in New York and raised in Los Angeles, he currently teaches television writing at the University of Texas in Austin. 

Praise for THE LAST COMMANDMENT:

“Scott Shepherd is a dazzling storyteller, whose authentic and richly textured characters and clever, pulsating plotting captivate. The Last Commandment is a riveting and wondrously satisfying thriller with that all too rare commodity: abundant heart and soul.” – May Cobb, author of THE HUNTING WIVES

“An enthralling mystery that will hook you on the very first page and keep you turning until the last. Shepherd’s signature storytelling is on full display in The Last Commandment.” – Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author of PIECES OF HER

“The intensifying, suspenseful investigation ends in a shocking, made-for-TV reveal…The fast-paced story and twisted villain will appeal to fans of crime dramas.” – Library Journal

“A fast-paced tale that weds its golden-age homage to some serious violence. Sinners beware.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A real corker […] Good idea, expertly executed.” – Booklist

“Written in taut, tight chapters that land like a hail of bullets. You’ll race through this story.” – Brian Freeman, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP, DEEP SNOW

“Scott Shepherd is a marvelous storyteller, and The Last Commandment is further proof of his abilities. Smart, funny, and layered with a terrific sense of time and place, the story rockets from one twist to the next while always deepening the questions of family, trust, and the weight of old sins. A gem of a thriller, not to be missed.” – Michael Kortya, New York Times bestselling author of NEVER FAR AWAY

“A twisty, turns, globetrotting tale filled with mystery and suspense.” – F.Paul Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of the REPAIRMAN JACK series.

“Ingeniously constructed and breathlessly told, The Last Commandment is Scott Shepherd at his gripping best.” – Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime

Spotlight: When We Meet Again

Happy Release day to Caroline Beecham – I look forward to reading When We Meet Again!

All content provided by the publisher

WHEN WE MEET AGAIN • By Caroline Beecham • G. P. Putnam’s Sons • Trade Paperback Original • On Sale: July 20, 2021 • ISBN: 9780593331156 • Price: $17.00 • Also available in e-Book & audio

Description:

In London 1943, as war and dwindling resources have taken their toll on the book publishing industry, young book editor Alice Cotton has only just seen her star begin to rise when she unexpectedly falls pregnant. Facing the stigma of being an unwed mother, Alice leaves her beloved job at Partridge Press and flees to a small town to give birth to her child, Eadie, whom her family has promised to help raise. Instead, her mother sells the newborn to “baby farmers,” who plan to give Eadie up for a private adoption. Alice begins her desperate hunt to find the daughter she never planned for but suddenly deeply loves. Alice’s story intertwines with that of Theo Bloom, an American editor tasked with helping Partridge Press overcome the publishing obstacles of the war. Theo and Alice are quickly drawn to each other during their darkest hours, bound by hope, love, secrets, and the belief that books have the power to change lives. By turns heartbreaking and hopeful,WHEN WE MEET AGAIN is an aching and unforgettable exploration of the bonds that buoy us during our darkest hours. 

About the author:

Caroline Beecham is the author of four historical novels. She studied the craft of novel writing at the Faber Academy in Sydney, with Curtis Brown Creative in London, and has an MA in film and television and an MA in creative writing. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two teenage sons. When We Meet Again is the first of her novels to be published in the United States.

Behind the book:

Beecham has long been fascinated by the efforts of the publishing industry during the Second World War, which saw publishers struggling to satisfy readers on the war and home fronts in the face of increasing paper rations and meager resources. One of the most infamous initiatives was the Council on Books in Wartime, a coalition of booksellers, publishers, librarians, and authors that sought to use books to boost morale, share information, and remind people what they were fighting for. But the engine of the story truly came to Beecham when she uncovered a long-held family secret: that a relative’s baby was sold to a childless couple in a nearby town. Shocked as she was to learn this, she was even more surprised to find that this practice of “baby farming” was quite common for the time, especially amongst unmarried mothers who were desperate to find a way of taking care of their illegitimate children. A law to protect children from unlawful adoptions was even shelved due to the outbreak of World War II, during which the practice ran rife as a result. Taken together, these historical threads form the carefully woven fabric of WHEN WE MEET AGAIN, which is centrally about the transformative and ultimately inspiring role that books can play in our lives.

Praise for WHEN WE MEET AGAIN:

“A compelling story of a determined young woman and her quest for justice set against the fascinating world of publishing—and even a zoo—during World War II.” —Rhys Bowen, bestselling author of The Tuscan Child

When We Meet Again is a poignant and absorbing novel about a young woman editor personally devastated by the historically true practice of “baby farming” during World War II-era London. Caroline Beecham’s emotional and beautifully written story is a testament to the enduring power of a mother’s love and to the power of books and stories themselves, in even our darkest times.” —Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of In Another Time and Half Life

“By turns heart-pounding and heart-tugging, When We Meet Again is a dramatic story of baby farming in WWII-era London. Following a mother searching for her stolen daughter, Caroline Beecham’s writing, rich with historical detail and filled to the brim with emotion, will pull readers in from the very first page.” —Molly Greeley, author of The Clergyman’s Wife and The Heiress

“An evocative and heart-warming story that reminds us of everything that is important.” —Belinda Alexandra, author of The Invitation and The Mysterious Woman

Excerpt: Kill All Your Darlings

Excerpt:

Now that it’s out, I feel agitated, restless. My thoughts are a jumble. “Do you want a drink or something?” I ask. “I think I need bourbon.”

“Sure,” she says. “I always drank when you paid.”

I go back out to the kitchen, Grendel at my heels. It’s cold out, and I’d turned the heat down when I left the house. But I feel flushed, sweaty. Almost like I have a fever. I open the corner cabinet and take down a bottle of Rowan’s Creek and two glasses. When Jake was born, twenty years ago, Emily’s brother gave me a bottle of Rowan’s Creek, so whenever I drink it, I think of my son. My hand shakes as I pour.

Grendel starts eating. I hear his chomping in the corner. 

“You were drinking a lot when I last saw you.”

I turn toward Madeline. She’s standing in the doorway from the living room, leaning against the jamb.

“I was,” I say. “I’ve cut back. A lot. I had to.” I hand her the glass, trying to control the trembling. “But I think I could use one or maybe two tonight.”

“I guess it isn’t every day that a ghost shows up in your house.”

I swallow and lean back against the counter. “They looked for you, Madeline. Searches all over campus and town. It was on the news. Some people thought you just up and ran off on a whim. Some students do that. Impulse trips.”

“Some kids can afford to do that.”

“Right. But they looked in your apartment. You left all your books and clothes behind. You were an excellent student, an honors student, a few months away from getting a degree. And you stopped coming to class. The police questioned everybody who’d had any contact with you, including me. Especially me because we were all at the bar that night.”

“And I left Dubliners right after you did.”

“Right. Some of this is fuzzy. How I got home . . . how I even man- aged to get my key in the lock and get inside . . . I kind of think you came with me . . . but I don’t know how far . . .”

“Out in the living room you were talking about the book,” she says, arms crossed, glass in front of her. “After you read it and wanted to talk to me and I was gone.”

I finish my first glass and pour another. This is it, I tell myself. Just two drinks.

“You know I have to publish to get tenure,” I say. “That’s the way to survive in academia.”

“I’ve heard about that.” “Publish or perish, they call it.” “It sounds awfully bleak.”

“It can be,” I say. “And I hadn’t published anything in the seven years I’d been here. That book of stories AutumnSunsetcame out when I was still in graduate school, so it didn’t count. If you don’t get tenure, you get fired. And if I didn’t get tenure here, I probably wouldn’t get hired anywhere else. They’d see I failed to produce, and no one would touch me. Why would they want a middle-aged guy with a huge blank spot in his publication record?”

“You could tell them about your family,” Madeline says.

“Sure. And the university here gave me an extra year for bereavement. I still couldn’t produce a book or even a few stories.” Grendel appears to be finished eating. He slurps some water, shakes his head, and goes back out to his perch on the couch. “Dr. White, the department chair, is a pretty good friend. And he really looked out for me. But he could only do so much. And he was really on me, reminding me what was at stake. He kept telling me, ‘Just produce something, Connor.’”

“No pressure, right? Hurry up and write an entire book while you’re grieving.”

“Life goes on at some point.” I drink some more. “The world doesn’t stop forever. Six months had passed after you disappeared. Six months. No one really said it out loud, but everybody was thinking the same thing. After a few days—a week, really—people were thinking the worst had happened. That you weren’t coming back. That you were dead. Murdered. Even your mom said it in an interview she did with the local paper. Does she know you’re—”

“I’ll call her soon,” Madeline says, her voice sharp. “You just finish telling me about the book and how all of this happened.”

We’ve reversed roles. She’s asking the questions. She’s playing the part of authority figure. And I feel compelled to answer her and give a full accounting of myself.

“I had your book,” I say. “Almost all handwritten. And you were gone. And I had an agent interested in my writing from years ago, although I wasn’t even sure she still knew I existed. I took your handwrit- ten book and retyped it on my computer.”

“You gave me a hard time about turning in a handwritten draft. I told you my computer died.”

“It turned out to be to my advantage. I made some of the revisions as I went along. I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to send it anywhere, that I was just going to type the book out as an exercise, a way to get my own creative juices flowing again. But the deadline was coming up for my tenure review. And I really wasn’t sure how I would handle it if I lost this job. On top of everything else, to be unemployed with nowhere to go.”

Madeline shows concern as she listens. She’s nodding, encouraging me to keep talking. And it feels good, really good, to finally unburden myself of the secret I’ve been carrying around for the past eighteen months. Even if I am unburdening myself to the person most directly harmed by my actions.

“It’s so hard to get a book published,” I say. “What are the chances for anyone? It was a whim. A Hail Mary play. But my agent loved the story. And within a few weeks, an editor loved it. And bought it. I kept telling myself to speak up, to tell them it wasn’t mine. But the train just kept gathering momentum and . . . I have to be honest . . . after every- thing that had gone wrong for me, after all my struggles with writing, to hear people saying such nice things felt really, really good.”

I look at her, and she swallows some of her bourbon. The look on her face has shifted, from concern and understanding to something I can’t really read. Her eyes look flat and cold, pale marbles staring back at me.

“I’m sorry, Madeline,” I say. “I really am.”

She takes her time responding, and then says, “Don’t worry. I didn’t show up here without a plan for how you’ll make this all right.”

“Excerpted from KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS by David Bell, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by David Bell”

The Summer of Lost and Found

The Summer of Lost and Found

Description:

The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired readers for decades. (publisher)

My take:

I’ve read a few of the books in the Beach House series and love it because of how author Mary Alice Monroe includes themes of family dynamics and ecology, and the continuation of story lines with familiar characters from previous books. It’s like going home and catching up when I read these books. The Summer of Lost and Found hit all the notes and had me flipping the pages. It takes place during 2020 so was even more relatable because we’ve all been through the pandemic and all that it involved. It was the perfect summer read but if you need to catch up with the series (because that’s how you read) this book will work in any season.

Recommended.

Spotlight: The Personal Librarian

Description:

The remarkable story of J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, the Black American woman who was forced to hide her true identity and pass as white to leave a lasting legacy that enriched our nation, from New York Times author Marie Benedict, and acclaimed author Victoria Christopher Murray.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

About the authors:

Marie Benedict is beloved for writing the untold stories of women throughout history, and Victoria Christopher Murray is heralded for her strong African American heroines. During the pandemic and as the Black Lives Matter movement evolved, the pair become close friends, a black and a white woman speaking daily on Zoom about the world around them and forging a friendship that both women describe as transformative.

Shoulder Season

Description:

The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.

Living in the “bunny hutch”—Playboy’s version of a college dorm—Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle—and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.  

From the Midwestern prairie to the California desert, from Wisconsin lakes to the Pacific Ocean, this is a story of what happens when small town life is sprinkled with stardust, and what we lose—and gain—when we leave home. With a heroine to root for and a narrative to get lost in, Christina Clancy’s Shoulder Season is a sexy, evocative tale, drenched in longing and desire, that captures a fleeting moment in American history with nostalgia and heart. (publisher)

My take:

Sherri Taylor spent most of her high school years caring for her sick mother. When she died Sherri had no idea what the future would hold. College wasn’t an option so when her best friend announced she was going to interview at the Playboy Resort in nearby Lake Geneva, Sherri went with her on a whim. That interview set the course for her life. Sherri’s story is that of a small town girl moving into a fast paced life style. Bunny culture was a world apart from the first 18 years of her life. A naive, innocent and trusting girl, newly orphaned, finds a new family with her co-workers and staff at the resort. Shoulder Season is a look back at the devil-may-care early 1980s. It’s a coming-of-age story that kept me turning the pages. I loved the local Wisconsin mentions as well as pop-culture references. I appreciate that Christina Clancy neatly wrapped up her story with a where-are-they-now ending.

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for an advance reader copy and Macmillan Audio for the audio via NetGalley. Narrator Karissa Vacker did a fabulous job with the narration – especially the perfect pronunciation of the names of various Wisconsin towns! I’ve listened to several books narrated by Vacker and, as with Shoulder Season, her performance is always top notch.

About the author:

Christina Clancy is the author of The Second Home. Her writing has appeared in The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe Chicago TribuneThe Sun Magazine, and in various literary journals, including Glimmer TrainPleiades, and Hobart. She holds a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her family.

Praise for SHOULDER SEASON:

Shoulder Season is a delightBriskly plotted, the book moves like a river through time, sweeping the reader along for an unexpected, humorous, and surprising journey of friendship, exploration, and discovery.”

––Nickolas Butler, bestselling author of Shotgun Lovesongs

Shoulder Season shines a bright light on a neglected moment in history and tells a coming-of-age story I’ve truly never read before. In Sherri, Christina Clancy rescues the Playboy Bunny from ridicule and illuminates her inner life with all of the richness and complexity she deserves.”

 ––Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe

“Christina Clancy’s story of a young woman’s difficult road to independence hums with contemporary resonance. Clancy is a gifted storyteller, and Shoulder Season is a riveting tale of ambition, romance, friendship, heartbreak and hope.” 

––Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party

“I adored the story of Sherri, an unlikely Playboy Bunny, and her wild and poignant adventures inside the Lake Geneva Playboy Resort. Both a tender coming of age novel and a sun-drenched ride through the 1980’s poolside and in Hugh Hefner’s glamorous suite, Shoulder Season is an absolute pleasure.”

––Amanda Ward, author of the New York Times bestseller The Jetsetters

Shoulder Season is a triumph of heart, of courage, and of resilience — and a message that the tragedies that spark our journeys don’t decide their endings. I loved it.”

––J. Ryan Stradal, bestselling author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest

Shoulder Season is a beautifully-written, thrilling, heartbreaking story of a bumpy coming of age. A page-turner full of twists and surprises, Bunnies and bad boyfriends, and lasting sisterhood found in unexpected places. I loved it.

––Julia Claiborne Johnson, bestselling author of Be Frank With Me

Expertly researched and flawlessly executed, Shoulder Season has a bit of everything: adventure and excess; love and heartbreak; shocking tragedy. You’ll start reading for the wild ride of the Playboy Resort but stay for Sherri, the complex protagonist at the heart of this exquisite novel.”

—Amy Meyerson, author of The Bookshop of Yesterdays and The Imperfects

I tore through this vibrant coming-of-age tale of small-town girls seduced by a new life of sex and glitter just miles from their quiet Wisconsin towns. Clancy’s vulnerable characters come roaring to life in full eighties glamour—before spiraling toward a central tragedy that will define their adult lives and the very definition of home.”

—Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus

Sunday Post

Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)

The Last Commandment (from Mysterious Press and Tandem Literary)

Dinner on Primrose Hill (from Kensington/Zebra and NetGalley)

Write My Name Across the Sky (from Lake Union and NetGalley)

I’d Give Anything (from Wm. Morrow and Goodreads)

Last week on Bookfan:

Review: What a Happy Family

Review: Home to Texas

Spotlight: Fox & I

Review: Cooper’s Story

Reading plan for this week:

Cooper’s Story

Description:

A brand new Puppy Tale from the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the A Dog’s Purpose series, W. Bruce Cameron!

When Cooper — a Malamute-Great Dane puppy — is taken to an adoption fair, he finds the perfect forever home with a boy named Burke. Soon Cooper discovers his very important purpose: to help Burke by pulling his wheelchair, fetching things for him, and assisting him in and out of his chair. 

A heartwarming, pup-tastic story, Cooper’s Story is not only absolutely adorable but it will inspire young readers to embrace everyone around them. Published following W. Bruce Cameron’s latest adult novel, A Dog’s Courage (Forge Books, 5/4/21), the whole family can enjoy these captivating novels about the relationship between dogs and humans, and the many roles these canines play in our lives. (publisher)

My take:

I’m a dog person so what first attracted me to this book was the cover. Is that puppy adorable or what!

Author W. Bruce Cameron’s latest addition to his young readers series is a heart-warming story about a boy and his dog. Burke uses a wheelchair and wants to train Cooper to be his service dog to assist him when he goes to sixth grade. Told from Cooper’s perspective the story made me smile and feel empathy for young Burke. I know young readers will love this book. And if you think you’re too old to enjoy it, I can tell you that’s not so! Black and white illustrations are scattered throughout the book and discussion questions are included at the end.

About the author:

W. Bruce Cameron is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Dog’s Promise, A Dog’s Journey, A Dog’s Way Home, and the young reader novels: Bailey’s Story, Bella’s Story, Cooper’s Story, Ellie’s Story, Lily’s Story, Max’s Story, Molly’s Story, Shelby’s Story, and Toby’s Story. He lives in California and can be found at http://www.brucecameron.com

Spotlight: Fox & I

I want to spotlight a book that publishes next week (July 6). Fox & I is a memoir that I look forward to reading this summer.

Description:

A wild fox befriends a solitary woman at her home in Montana, and their relationship transforms them both in this inspiring, surprising, and often funny memoir. Both a new window onto the natural world and the introduction of a remarkable literary talent.

Catherine Raven left home at 15, fleeing an abusive, disdainful father and an indifferent mother. More at home in nature than among people, she worked for many years as a National Parks ranger, eventually earning a Ph.D. in biology while working as a janitor and living in her car (which lacked a reverse gear) or on abandoned construction sites. She built a house on an isolated plot of land in Montana, teaching remotely and leading field courses in the National Parks. One day, she realized that the mangy-looking fox who had been appearing on her property was now showing up every day at 4:15, positioning himself near a lone forget-me-not near the house. She had never had a regular visitor before. How do you even talk to a fox? One day she brought out her camping chair, sat as near to him as she dared, and began reading to him from The Little Prince. Her scientific training had taught her not to anthropomorphize animals, but as she grew to know him, his personality revealed itself—and he became her friend. But friends cannot always save each other from the uncontained forces of nature. Fox and I is also a poignant and dramatic tale of coping with inevitable loss and how that loss can be transformed into meaning. An uplifting, fable-like true story, it not only reveals the power of friendship and our interconnectedness with the natural world but introduces an original, imaginative, stunning new literary voice.

Praise for Fox & I:

“Fox and I will make you feel deeply about our relationship with animals and nature. After you read this book, you will experience animals in a new and marvelous way.” —Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

“If Thoreau had read The Little Prince, he would have written Fox and I.”—Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi

“Intimate and poetic …. By paying ecstatic attention to grasses, insects, birds, and animals, Catherine Raven allows us to hear what nature is saying to us. Fox and I is essential reading for anyone concerned about the catastrophe human beings are inflicting on the environment from which they and all other creatures sprang.” —Stephen Batchelor, author of The Art of Solitude

“This tale of wilderness, in the tradition of Thoreau and Steinbeck, is distinguished by a narrator who sees herself as one of the many creatures she lives among …. Catherine Raven has achieved something unique in the literature of nature-writing: genuine love for the wild within the rigor of scientific observation. The voice of this story-teller is startlingly original. I read it breathlessly.”— Andrei Codrescu

“Fox and I is a mesmerizing, beautifully written, and entirely unsentimental book about the connection among all things: the author and her fox friend, but also magpies, brown dogs, fawns, voles, and junipers. I learned as much about the meaning of friendship from this book as I have from any work of nonfiction that I’ve ever read.”—Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

Home To Texas

Description:

Lieutenant KD Whitcomb had mapped out her career from West Point to the Pentagon. But when an injury under questionable circumstances forces her to leave the army, her dreams fall dead at her feet. Feeling lost and needing to rediscover the tough woman beneath the uniform, she heads back to the family ranch in Rough Creek. Only two things get her through the nightmares and sleepless nights: the support of her family and the CID officer investigating the incident in Afghanistan. He infuriates her. Makes her laugh. Gives her hope.
 
Richard Murdock is struggling, too. There’s something fishy about this last case…and the threats coming from Afghanistan aimed at both him and KD. He’s ready to leave the army and make a new start. But how will he protect KD? And what should he do about the growing attraction between them? He’s been burned before. But there’s something about KD’s vulnerability and strength that calls to him, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her and give her a chance to build new dreams…including helping her start a PTSD equine therapy program at the Texas ranch.
 
If they can overcome the threats against them and heal old wounds, this second chance might be better than they ever dreamed. (publisher)

My take:

When Lt. KD Whitcomb survives a horrendous event in Afghanistan she finds herself without the future she’d dreamed of with the army. She heads home to her family’s ranch in Texas with lots of questions and no answers. She also meets up with the CID officer who investigated the incident that send KD home. He’s also found himself figuring out his future – but he’s ready for a change. These two had chemistry from the get-go. If ever there were two people suited for each other it’s them. I enjoyed their story which became quite suspenseful when the past catches up with them in Texas. This is the second book in a series about the Whitcomb family. It can stand alone but I recommend reading the first! If you enjoy romantic suspense you’ll want to give this series a try. I’m looking forward to the third book.

About the author:

Kaki Warner is a RITA-winning author and longtime resident of the Pacific Northwest. Although she now lives in the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Kaki grew up in the Southwest and is a proud graduate of the University of Texas. She spends her time gardening, reading, writing, and making lists of stuff for her husband to do, all while soaking in the view from the deck of her hilltop cabin.

What a Happy Family

Description:

From the outside, the Joshi family is the quintessential Indian-American family. Decades ago, Bina and Deepak immigrated to America, where she became a pillar of their local Indian community and he, a successful psychiatrist. Their eldest daughter, Suhani, is following the footsteps of her father’s career and happily married. Natasha, their middle daughter, is about to become engaged to the son of longtime family friends. And Anuj, their son—well he’s a son and what could be better than that?
 
But a family scandal shows that nothing is as it seems. Bina’s oldest friendship starts to unravel and she finds herself as an outsider in the community she helped build. Suhani discovers that her perfect marriage isn’t as solid as she thought. Natasha faces a series of rejections that send her into a downward spiral. 
 

As they encounter public humiliation, gossiping aunties, and self-doubt, the Joshi family must rely on each other like never before. But sometimes, family has to fall apart in order to come back stronger than before. (publisher)

My take:

What a Happy Family is the story of the Joshi family. Author Saumya Dave’s second novel continues the themes from her first: cultural, family, societal expectations and the effect on everyone involved. All are relatable no matter what the reader’s background. My heart went out to matriarch Bina as she endures a humiliation that goes to the core of all she holds important. She only wants the best for her family but at what cost? What to do when her daughters make choices that were never considered by her generation. A major topic of the novel, especially in the second half, is depression. When it strikes close to home what does one do? No matter how prepared a person or family is, there’s still the stigma of mental illness. The hope is that it will be faced with courage and faith in the ones closest to them. What a Happy Family is a family drama that had me flipping the pages, completely entertained and wanting to know how things would work out for the Joshis. Recommended to fans of contemporary diverse women’s fiction. And I’m sure wonderful discussion would come from book groups. There are discussion questions at the end.

WHAT A HAPPY FAMILY by Saumya Dave

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 22, 2021; Diverse Women’s fiction

Have We Met?

Description:

After losing her best friend to cancer, Corinne’s life is in flux. She has moved back to Chicago, is considering her next career move while she temps and has absolutely no time to look for love―until a mysterious dating app called Met suddenly appears on her phone, and with it, an invitation for Corinne to reconnect with four missed connections from her past. One of them, Met says, is her soul mate.

Corinne doesn’t believe the app for a second, but when she very quickly finds herself with back-to-back blasts from the past, she’ll have to consider if maybe she’s wrong about it. The thing is, Corinne’s also been introduced to a really great guy outside the app’s influence. As their feelings for each other grow, Corinne has to wonder: With her apparent true love still out there, should she tap yes to the next match?

With help from a new group of friends, her loving if annoying family, and maybe a touch of fate, can Corinne come to terms with the loss she’s still reeling from, take control of her career, and find love along the way? (publisher)

My take:

Looking for a (mostly) light, frothy read this summer? If Chick Lit with inclusivity of all kinds is your thing you’ll want to take a look at Have We Met? Corinne is a charming heroine that’s easy to cheer on as she figures life out – real life and her love life. She has help with the former from her tight group of friends. She has help with the latter in the form of an App that mysteriously appeared on her phone one stormy evening. Imagine the possibilities! It’s an entertaining book that I read in a day.

About the author:

Photo: Joclyn Torain

CAMILLE BAKER earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from The Ohio State University. There, she took sign language classes for fun and wrote stories during business classes that didn’t hold her interest. After graduating, she completed the interpreter training program at San Antonio College. Camille now resides, interprets, and writes in South Chicago. For more information visit www.camillebaker.com.

HAVE WE MET? – July 1, 2021; Lake Union Publishing trade paperback original; ISBN 9781542018678; $14.95

A conversation with Camille Baker, author of HAVE WE MET?

Q: How did you fall in love with storytelling? 
A: When I was eight years old, my main source of entertainment was making up stories. I wrote them down along with illustrations, acted them out with my toys, and typed them on my grandma’s computer. Now, I’m gathering oral stories from the elders in my family and it’s making me connect with storytelling in an even deeper way.

Q: What inspired this book and your writing in general? 
A: I soak up inspiration wherever I can get it! Surefire ways to spur my creativity include relocating to different cities, going on adventures with my friends, and accepting out-of-the-norm gigs as a sign language interpreter. This book in particular was inspired by my move to Chicago, my search for new local friends, and the magical feeling I get whenever I’m in the city.

Q: HAVE WE MET? features a diverse cast. Why was it important to you to include people of different ethnicities, sexualities, and disabilities? 
A: My goal with every novel I write is to craft a world as diverse as the one I inhabit. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t be authentic. In my work, I aim to create a space for my 
family, friends, and the communities I’m a part of to see themselves in. 
Photo credit:

Q: HAVE WE MET? strikes a balance between both romantic and platonic relationships. What message were you hoping to send with this portrayal?
A: The possibility of romance excites me, but my friendships sustain me. With this book, even more than the fun romantic aspect, I wanted to show how life-saving friends are.

Q: For this being a lighthearted book, HAVE WE MET? still attempts to tackle tough inner conflicts, such as grief. Why did you choose to discuss grief in this manner? 
A: My first experience with grief happened when I was a young, when I hadn’t yet conceptualized the permanence of death. That influenced my lens on how I view grief. To me, grief is the thread that sews you back together. It changes you, but it also makes it possible for you to laugh again.