Behind The Red Door

Behind The Red Door by Megan Collins

Published:  August 4, 2020 – Atria

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Back at her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of their lives forever. (publisher)

My take:  Fern Douglas is on summer break from her job as a school social worker. When her father calls and says he needs her help to pack up his house before his move to Florida she agrees. Fern is consumed by her anxiety on a good day but it is amplified when she returns to her home town. She hopes the new meds her doctor prescribed will start to be effective. Author Megan Collins explains the reason for Fern’s anxiety and I was definitely creeped out by pretty much everything. I’m not going into the details but will say if you enjoy a high creepiness factor it is here in spades. Fern is anxious about almost everything and can spiral from even minor triggers. I felt badly for her. That said, the good old unreliable narrator is alive and well in this novel and kept playing in the back of my mind as I read.

Fern also worries about having children – something her husband very much desires. The way Fern was raised, while not physically abusive, makes her uneasy about her ability to be a good parent but she has no doubt her husband (the opposite of her father) will be a wonderful father.

The story moves between present day and the years of Fern’s childhood (and the kidnapping of Astrid). Have her memories been repressed or are they imagined?  I wasn’t so sure about Fern. 

My final take: although I skimmed through a few parts of this book (that creep factor) I think fans of psychological thrillers will probably like it. It’s was different from others I’ve read in the genre in that it made me feel more anxious.


About the author:

Megan Collins is the author of The Winter Sister and Behind the Red Door. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has taught creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Central Connecticut State University, and she is the managing editor of 3Elements Review. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Off the CoastSpillway, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Rattle. She lives in Connecticut.


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My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

Published:  May 12, 2020 – Atria Books

E-galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:

On Ichabod Island, a jagged strip of land thirteen miles off the coast of Massachusetts, ten-year-old Sky becomes an orphan for the second time after a tragic accident claims the lives of her adoptive parents.

Grieving the death of his best friends, Leo’s life is turned upside down when he finds himself the guardian of young Sky. Back on the island and struggling to balance his new responsibilities and his marriage to his husband, Leo is supported by a powerful community of neighbors, many of them harboring secrets of their own.

Maggie, who helps with Sky’s childcare, has hit a breaking point with her police chief husband, who becomes embroiled in a local scandal. Her best friend Agnes, the island busybody, invites Sky’s estranged grandmother to stay for the summer, straining already precarious relationships. Their neighbor Joe struggles with whether to tell all was not well in Sky’s house in the months leading up to the accident. And among them all is a mysterious woman, drawn to Ichabod to fulfill a dying wish. (publisher)

My take:  This is the second of Lisa Duffy’s novels I’ve had the opportunity to read and I have to say I’m quickly becoming a fan. My Kind of People is about the lives of people on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Leo and his husband Xavier find themselves guardians of Sky, a ten year old girl, after her parents are killed in a car accident. Well, Leo is named guardian and Xavier is pulled along without much thought to his feelings about the situation. So their relationship is tested. Sky is starting to get her bearings with her new life when her grandmother moves to the island. That adds to the overall drama. There are neighbors with their own relationship issues. It really is a character driven novel about what it means to belong, fit in, finding one’s place and I loved it all. When I finished I wanted to know where things were going with other characters. I’d love to read more about these people! For me, that’s always a sign of a good book.


About the author:

Lisa Duffy is the author of The Salt House, named by Real Simple as a Best Book of the Month upon its June release, as well asBustle’s 17 Best Debut Novels by Women in 2017 and This Is Home, a favorite book club pick. Lisa received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Massachusetts. Her writing can be found in numerous publications, including Writer’s Digest. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and three children. My Kind of People is her third novel.

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The Light After The War

The Light After The War by Anita Abriel

Published:  February 2020 – Atria Books

Finished copy provided by the publisher

Description:

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss. (publisher)

My take:  This is the remarkable story of two young women finding their way in post WWII Europe. Their amazing journey took them to Italy, America, Venezuela (to name only a few places) as they came to grips with life after unspeakable losses. Their indomitable spirit opened them to opportunities that many people found irresistible. Synchronicity seemed to play a part in their story as well. I’d been thinking that at about the time the author made the point!

The story is inspired by the author’s mother which I thought added heft to the story. Anita Abriel’s story and descriptive writing kept me turning the pages as I had to know where life would take Vera and Edith. And it took them far. I’d love to know “the rest of the story”!

Recommended to fans of romantic Historical Fiction.


About the author:

Anita Abriel was born in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program. She lives in California with her family and is the author of The Light After the War which was inspired by her mother’s story of survival during WWII.

 

 


Praise for The Light After The War

“Set against the vividly drawn backdrops of Naples, Caracas and Sydney in the aftermath of WWII, The Light After the War by Anita Abriel is a beautifully written and heartfelt novel. I was completely swept up in Vera’s and Edith’s lives, their friendship, their heartbreaks and their triumphs. An unforgettable story of strength, love, and survival.”

—Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author of The Lost Letter and In Another Time

 

“There is so much in The Light After the War that truly shines:  Unforgettable love, family, faith—and the courageous resolve of two young women to mend their lives and seek new beginnings in a world tragically changed. Fans of historical fiction are sure to devour this tale of hope, reinvention and the power of friendship to heal the heart’s deepest wounds.”

—Roxanne Veletzos, author of The Girl They Left Behind

 

“Anita Abriel sweeps the reader around the world in this true tale of survival, endurance, and triumph. The Light After the War is a feast for the mind and the heart, not soon to be forgotten.”

—Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and The Sisters of Summit Avenue

 

“A finely-woven story of post-war romance, second chances, and resolve that refuses to give in or give up. The setting details are evocative and inviting. Well done!”

—Susan Meissner, bestselling author of The Last Year of the War

 

“Fans of Georgia Hunter’s We Were The Lucky Ones should race to grab Anita Abriel’s The Light After The War, spanning continents and set against a vividly drawn canvas of World War II and the post-war period. Based on Abriel’s own family history, The Light After The War is a heartfelt and memorable tale of family, love, resilience and the triumph of human spirit.”  —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris

 

“I was utterly moved and transfixed by The Light After the War, a beautiful novel that spans a decade across four continents in the wake of World War II. You’ll be swept away by this fast-paced, heartbreaking, and hopeful tale of friendship, family, second chances, and the enduring power of love, based on the true story of author Anita Abriel’s mother and her fascinating journey away from war-torn Europe in the 1940s. A must-read for anyone interested in the emotional toll of the Second World War.”

—Kristin Harmel, international bestselling author of The Room on Rue Amelie

 

“Inspired by her own mother’s remarkable life, Anita Abriel takes readers to four continents as she celebrates the power of hope, optimism and female friendship in The Light After the War. If you are a reader who believes in embracing life and love—even after unspeakable loss—you will treasure this book.” — Sally Koslow, author of Another Side of Paradise

THE LIGHT AFTER THE WAR by Anita Abriel

Atria Books / ISBN: 9781982122973 / Pages: 320 / Format: Hardcover /

Price $27 (US) / $36 (CAN) / eBook: 9781982122997 / On Sale: 2/24/20


To Have and to Hoax

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

Publication date:  April 7, 2020 – Atria Books

Digital review galley courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them? (publisher)

Guest review by Katie, Bookfan daughter!

I am an avid reader of historical romances set in the Regency period and I was intrigued by the premise of this novel. What worked for me: there was absolute chemistry between James and Violet and witty dialogue between the two. Violet’s character, especially, made me laugh out loud more than once. The author created a host of interesting and eclectic characters throughout the novel.

What did not work for me: I found the use of obscenities to be jarring and unnecessary. Each time I flinched and it made me think less of our hero and his character. I also found the amount of day drinking and general heavy drinking to be surprising. These two elements made me feel like I was reading a modern novel that happened to be dropped into a Recency background. The incongruity left me unsettled.

Overall, the author is excellent at creating original characters and laugh out loud dialogue and fans of women’s fiction may enjoy the modern sensibilities of this historical romance.


About the author:

Martha Waters was born and raised in sunny South Florida, and is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She works as a children’s librarian in North Carolina, and spends much of her free time traveling. To Have and To Hoax is her first novel.

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Spotlight: Tidelands – Paperback release

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Paperback release:  February 18, 2020 – Washington Square Press

Courtesy of the publisher

Description: This New York Times bestseller from “one of the great storytellers of our time” (San Francisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, living in a dangerous time for a woman to be different.

On Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the Tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.

England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor’s suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliament, and Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her as a woman who doesn’t follow the rules. They have always whispered about the sinister power of Alinor’s beauty, but the secrets they don’t know about her and James are far more damning. This is the time of witch-mania, and if the villagers discover the truth, they could take matters into their own hands. (publisher)


About the author:

Philippa Gregory is the author of many New York Times bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl, and is a recognized authority on women’s history. Many of her works have been adapted for the screen including The Other Boleyn Girl. Her most recent novel, The Last Tudor, is now in production for a television series. She graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and was awarded the 2016 Harrogate Festival Award for Contribution to Historical Fiction. She is an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. She founded Gardens for the Gambia, a charity to dig wells in poor rural schools in The Gambia, and has provided nearly 200 wells. She welcomes visitors to her website PhilippaGregory.com.


Praise for Tidelands:

“Superb…a searing portrait of a woman that resonates across the ages.” People

“This is Gregory par excellence. A promising start to a family saga about ordinary people.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A gripping novel…with her usual meticulous attention to detail, the author easily elicits the chaos and dangers of the mid-17th century…this book will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series. Fans of Gregory’s works and of historicals in general will delight in this page-turning tale.”
Library Journal (starred review)
“History buffs and Gregory’s fans alike will be anticipating the next installment.
–Publishers Weekly
“a welcome topical pivot from gifted Gregory”
Booklist
 
“Richly detailed and brimming with secrets (personal and political), Tidelands is a captivating portrait of a brave woman and a compelling start to a new series.”
–Shelf Awareness
“The first in a planned series, Tidelands has moved on from the Tudor and Plantagenet era of Gregory’s previous novels, and the author crafts her material with effortless ease. Her grasp of social mores is brilliant, the love story rings true and the research is, as ever, of the highest calibre.”

Daily Mail


 

 

Adequate Yearly Progress

Adequate Yearly Progress by Roxanna Elden

Published: February 2020 – Atria Books

Review galley courtesy of Atria and NetGalley

Description:

Each new school year brings familiar challenges to Brae Hill Valley, a struggling high school in one the biggest cities in Texas. But the teachers also face plenty of personal challenges and this year, they may finally spill over into the classroom.

English teacher Lena Wright, a spoken-word poet, can never seem to truly connect with her students. Hernan D. Hernandez is confident in front of his biology classes, but tongue-tied around the woman he most wants to impress. Down the hall, math teacher Maybelline Galang focuses on the numbers as she struggles to parent her daughter, while Coach Ray hustles his troubled football team toward another winning season. Recording it all is idealistic second-year history teacher Kaytee Mahoney, whose anonymous blog gains new readers by the day as it drifts ever further from her in-class reality. And this year, a new superintendent is determined to leave his own mark on the school—even if that means shutting the whole place down. (publisher)

My take:   Adequate Yearly Progress is about a high school in a large Texas city that has been underperforming in terms of results. Teachers, brand new and long time, navigate the high expectations of a new superintendent, education consultants, and teenagers. It’s the story of how the faculty deals on a daily basis with school life, personal life, and reality.  Adequate Yearly Progress is filled to the brim with humor, broad stereotypes, and nuggets of truth and I think current teachers, especially high school teachers, will relate to the travails of the Brae Hill Valley HS teachers.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Roxanna Elden is the author of Adequate Yearly Progress: A Novel, which was previously self-published, and See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers. She combines eleven years of experience as a public school teacher with a decade of speaking to audiences around the country about education issues. She has been featured on NPR as well as in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and more. You can learn more about her work at RoxannaElden.com.

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ADEQUATE YEARLY PROGRESS by Roxanna Elden

Atria Books | On Sale: February 11, 2020 | ISBN: 978-1-9821-3502-7| $16.99 | Trade Paperback Original


 

 

A Bookshop in Berlin by Françoise Frenkel

A Bookshop in Berlin by Françoise Frenkel

Published:  Dec. 3, 2019 – Atria Books

Book courtesy of Atria and NetGalley

Description: In 1921, Françoise Frenkel—a Jewish woman from Poland—fulfills a dream. She opens La Maison du Livre, Berlin’s first French bookshop, attracting artists and diplomats, celebrities and poets. The shop becomes a haven for intellectual exchange as Nazi ideology begins to poison the culturally rich city. In 1935, the scene continues to darken. First come the new bureaucratic hurdles, followed by frequent police visits and book confiscations.

Françoise’s dream finally shatters on Kristallnacht in November 1938, as hundreds of Jewish shops and businesses are destroyed. La Maison du Livre is miraculously spared, but fear of persecution eventually forces Françoise on a desperate, lonely flight to Paris. When the city is bombed, she seeks refuge across southern France, witnessing countless horrors: children torn from their parents, mothers throwing themselves under buses. Secreted away from one safe house to the next, Françoise survives at the heroic hands of strangers risking their lives to protect her.  (publisher)

My take:  A Bookshop in Berlin is the first hand account of Françoise Frenkel and her life leading up to and including the WWII years. With WWI behind them she and her husband left Paris and opened the first French bookshop in Berlin in 1921. He eventually went into exile in France (was later rounded up and died in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland) while she stayed behind to run the shop. After Kristallnacht she fled Berlin for France and was eventually rounded up while trying to enter Switzerland. Her experiences were difficult to read but, at the same time, riveting. Not all people had her strength and determination but many did. It’s an amazing story that I’m glad I had the chance to read. Recommended to fans of memoirs of this era. I appreciated the documents and photos included at the end of the book.


About the author:

Françoise Frenkel was born in Poland in 1889. Her memoir, originally published in 1945 as Rien où poser sa tête (No Place to Lay One’s Head), was rediscovered in an attic in southern France in 2010 and republished in the original French as well as in a dozen other languages. This is its first publication in the United States. Frenkel died in Nice in 1975.

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This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Published:  September 3, 2019 – Atria Books

Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.  (publisher)

My take:  This Tender Land is the story of four “Vagabond children” (orphans) on a journey during the summer of 1932. They leave dire circumstances at a boarding school for Indian youths in Minnesota with the goal of finding a better home with their aunt in St. Louis. Along the way they face harrowing events but somehow manage to keep going. They meet interesting characters, learn life lessons, and learn to rely on their developing instincts. It’s a coming of age story that had me cheering Odie, Albert, Mose and Emmy as they searched for home. I appreciated the epilogue as well as the author’s note that rounds out the novel and answered questions I’d had while reading.


 

This is Home by Lisa Duffy

This is Home by Lisa Duffy

Published:  June 11, 2019 – Atria Books

Review book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Sixteen-year-old Libby Winters lives in Paradise, a seaside town north of Boston that rarely lives up to its name. After the death of her mother, she lives with her father, Bent, in the middle apartment of their triple decker home—Bent’s two sisters, Lucy and Desiree, live on the top floor. A former soldier turned policeman, Bent often works nights, leaving Libby under her aunts’ care. Shuffling back and forth between apartments—and the wildly different natures of her family—has Libby wishing for nothing more than a home of her very own.

Quinn Ellis is at a crossroads. When her husband John, who has served two tours in Iraq, goes missing back at home, suffering from PTSD he refuses to address, Quinn finds herself living in the first-floor apartment of the Winters house. Bent had served as her husband’s former platoon leader, a man John refers to as his brother, and despite Bent’s efforts to make her feel welcome, Quinn has yet to unpack a single box.

For Libby, the new tenant downstairs is an unwelcome guest, another body filling up her already crowded house. But soon enough, an unlikely friendship begins to blossom, when Libby and Quinn stretch and redefine their definition of family and home.

With gorgeous prose and a cast of characters that feel wholly real and lovably flawed, This Is Home is a nuanced and moving novel of finding where we belong. (publisher)

My take:  This is Home is the story of the people who live in the three apartments in a triple decker home near Boston. Bent (short for Bentley) and his teenage daughter Libby live in the middle, his two sisters live in the top unit, and Quinn Ellis is the newest, first floor, tenant. Bent is a policeman and former platoon leader of Quinn’s husband John. Quinn and John are separated as John deals with PTSD. She didn’t want the separation especially given her current condition. Quinn’s closest friend has been acting strange and no one seems to understand except for the brother of her friend. Libby’s aunts are loveably quirky – I enjoyed their supporting rolls in the novel. There’s drama, everyday life, heart-breaking events that Lisa Duffy wove into a novel that left me feeling upbeat as I turned the last page. It was the right book at the right time. Recommended.


 

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

Published February 2019 – Atria Books

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Description:  When Bartolomeo Scappi dies in 1577, he leaves his vast estate—properties, money, and his position—to his nephew and apprentice Giovanni. He also gives Giovanni the keys to two strongboxes and strict instructions to burn their contents. Despite Scappi’s dire warning that the information concealed in those boxes could put Giovanni’s life and others at risk, Giovanni is compelled to learn his uncle’s secrets. He undertakes the arduous task of decoding Scappi’s journals and uncovers a history of deception, betrayal, and murder—all to protect an illicit love affair.

As Giovanni pieces together the details of Scappi’s past, he must contend with two rivals who have joined forces—his brother Cesare and Scappi’s former protégé, Domenico Romoli, who will do anything to get his hands on the late chef’s recipes.

With luscious prose that captures the full-scale of the sumptuous feasts for which Scappi was known, The Chef’s Secret serves up power, intrigue, and passion, bringing Renaissance Italy to life in a delectable fashion. (publisher)

My take:  It’s been a while since I visited 16th century Italy in a historical fiction novel so when I had the opportunity to read The Chef’s Secret I was excited to begin the adventure. Author Crystal King’s novel is replete with opulent settings, rich and detailed food descriptions, and the passion of her characters.

I liked the dual-storylines of Italy’s most famous chef (he served Popes, Kings and other notables of the time) and the heir he hoped would follow in his culinary footsteps. Upon the death of his uncle, Giovanni received boxes that contained journals. The mostly encoded journals of Bartolomeo Scappi not only developed the characters but also unleashed long-held secrets that would put Gio in certain danger. All combined for an entertaining read that I can recommend to fans of historical fiction and the Renaissance era.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Vineyard by Maria Dueñas

THE VINEYARD by María Dueñas

Atria Books |
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2453-2| Price: $26.00 US / $32.00 CAN | Pages: 544 |
eBook: 978-1-5011-2455-6 | On sale date: October 3, 2017

Beloved author María Dueñas returns with her highly anticipated new novel, THE VINEYARD (Atria Books; $26.00; October 3, 2017), a magnificent story of ambition, heartbreak, and desire set in 1860s Mexico, Cuba, and Spain—perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah.

With the debut of her brilliant first novel, the New York Times bestseller The Time In Between (Atria; 2009), Dueñas was lauded for her descriptive and lyrical narrative and uniquely touching protagonists. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly declared her “a writer to watch,” while El Mundo in her native Spain said, “Dueñas more than lives up to her title as one of the best contemporary authors today.” It was critically and commercially acclaimed in the United States, and was also an international success, selling over two million copies worldwide and inspiring a popular Spanish television series, known in the media as “the Spanish Downton Abbey.” Her second novel, The Heart Has Its Reasons (Atria; 2012), was also well received and became an international bestseller.

María Dueñas is also a writer who has her finger on the pulse of society, with an innate talent for exploring the more personal and intimate issues in life—issues that no matter who we are and what we’ve accomplished— have affected many of us. THE VINEYARD is a powerful story of courage in the face of adversity, and of a destiny forever altered by the force of passion.

Mauro Larrea’s fortune, the result of years of hardship and toil, comes crashing down on the heels of a calamitous event. Swamped by debt and uncertainty, he gambles the last of his money in a daring play that wins him an abandoned house and a vineyard an ocean away. Mauro travels to Andalusia de Jerez in Spain with every intention of selling the property and returning to Mexico. That is, until he meets the unsettling Soledad Montalvo, the wife of a London wine merchant, who bursts into his life unannounced, determined to protect her family’s legacy. Before long, Larrea finds himself immersed in the rich culture of the sherry trade. As his feelings for Soledad ripen into a consuming passion, he seeks to restore the vineyard to its former glory.

From the turbulent young Mexican republic to flourishing Havana, and onward to the fertile vineyards of Jerez in the second half of the nineteenth century, María Dueñas’s new novel takes place on both sides of the Atlantic, the New World and the Old. This story of family intrigue vividly conjures the noise and grit of silver mines, and the earthier lure of ancient vineyards and magnificent cities whose splendor has faded. Using the same resonant voice and skillful narrative style as she did in The Time In Between and The Heart Has Its Reasons, María Dueñas pours heart and soul into THE VINEYARD and creates a vibrant canvas that immerses readers in each locale, and offers a fascinating study in contrasts, contradictions…and second chances.

(All Spotlight content provided by the publisher)


María Dueñas holds a PhD in English philology. After two decades dedicated to academics, she broke onto the literary scene in 2009 with the publication of the New York Times bestselling novel The Time In Between, followed by The Heart Has Its Reasons in 2012. Both novels became international bestsellers and have been translated into 35 languages. The television adaptation of The Time in Between earned critical and international acclaim. The Vineyard is her third novel and is being simultaneously published in Spanish as La Templanza.


Praise for The Vineyard:

“Breezy and entertaining, María Dueñas delivers a good old-fashioned yarn.” —The Washington Post

“An all-encompassing saga of one man’s sacrifice, tragedy, courage and passion. Dueñs builds her tale carefully and sets the stage with lush descriptions of Mexico, Cuba and the glorious vineyards of Andalusia, Spain. It is the pictures that Dueñas paints that draw readers into the heart of her character’s journey through three stages. Heartwrenching yet uplifting, this beautifully rendered story will linger in readers’ minds.” – RT Book Reviews

“this sprawling tale will charm fans of historical romance.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Dueñas capably reveals the grace of second chances, as Larrea’s hard work overcomes a cruel twist of fate. There is despair; there is betrayal; there is romance and triumph. Dueñas’ many fans as well as readers who appreciate well-researched historical fiction will find The Vineyard appealing.” – Booklist


US Giveaway of one ARC galley

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Giveaway ends on October 13, 2017


 

The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

  • Title:  The Shadow Sister
  • Series:  The Seven Sisters #3
  • Author:  Lucinda Riley
  • Pages:  512
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  April 2017 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Star D’Aplièse is at a crossroads in her life after the sudden death of her beloved father—the elusive billionaire, affectionately called Pa Salt by his six daughters, all adopted from across the four corners of the world. He has left each of them a clue to her true heritage, and Star nervously decides to follow hers, which leads her to an antiquarian bookshop in London, and the start of a whole new world.

A hundred years earlier, headstrong and independent Flora MacNichol vows she will never marry. She is happy and secure in her home in England’s picturesque Lake District—just a stone’s throw away from the residence of her childhood idol, Beatrix Potter—when machinations lead her to London, and the home of one of Edwardian society’s most notorious society hostesses, Alice Keppel. Flora is torn between passionate love and her duty to her family, but finds herself a pawn in a larger game. That is, until a meeting with a mysterious gentleman unveils the answers that Flora has been searching for her whole life…  (publisher)

My take:  The Shadow Sister is the first book in the Seven Sisters series I’ve read and I had no moments of feeling lost due to not having read the first two books.

I enjoyed reading about Star’s path to finding where she came from and where she might go in the future. Lucinda Riley’s novel is a dual-storyline taking place in the early 20th century in England and 2007 England. Characters including King Edward, Beatrix Potter and many lesser-known (fictional?) yet no less interesting people filled in the spaces of Star’s background. I loved the historical storyline. I also liked the more modern story of Star meeting possible relatives and new friends. Everyone had a place in her story or in helping her figure it out.

I’m sure I’ll go back and read the first two novels at some point and will definitely look forward to reading Star’s sister CeCe’s story. Recommended to fans of historical fiction. The series has been optioned for a television series.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lucinda Riley is the #1 internationally bestselling author of sixteen novels, including The Seven Sisters and The Storm Sister. Her books have sold more than eight million copies in thirty four languages. Lucinda lives with her husband and four children on the North Norfolk coast in England and West Cork, Ireland.


Praise for THE SHADOW SISTER:

“Riley’s engaging and mesmerizing story of self-discovery and love, while making the complex tale of the Seven Sisters sufficiently clear, can be perfectly read as a stand-alone… This book will appeal to readers of Edwardian novels and Jane Austen-style fiction. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be pleased with this latest installment in the ‘Seven Sisters’ saga.” Library Journal (Starred Reviw)

“The frame story structure serves this installment well—the past and present narratives are equally engaging… Another pleasant jaunt down a genealogical rabbit hole.” Kirkus Reviews

 “I’ve loved the Seven Sisters series from the start and this is my favourite so far. Riley’s trademark lavish detail, glamorous settings and wonderful characters are all present in this treat of a novel. The perfect curl-up-in-an-armchair read.” – Daily Mail (UK)

The Shadow Sister really is Lucinda’s best yet. The scope of this series is breathtaking and each book is more captivating than the last.” – Iona Grey, author of Letters to the Lost

 “Wonderful! Absolutely impossible to put down! The Seven Sisters books just keep getting better and better.” – Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow

“A deliciously twisting plot with clues cleverly paced along the way. I could hardly wait to solve the mystery of Star’s origins. Thoroughly addictive storytelling with a moving, emotional heart.” – Dinah Jefferies, author of The Tea Planter’s Wife

“The Seven Sisters series is proving to be a remarkable reading phenomenon.” – Lancashire Post (UK)


THE SHADOW SISTER: Book Three by Lucinda Riley

Atria Hardcover | ISBN: 9781476759944| On sale: April 18, 2017 | 512 pages | $26.00

eBook: Atria | ISBN: 9781476759951| On sale: April 18, 2017 | 512 pages | $13.99

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Beartown by Fredrik Backman

  • Title: Beartown
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Pub. Date:  April 25, 2017 – Atria
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world. (publisher)

My take:  Beartown is about a small town near the woods. The hockey team is one of the only bright spots in life for the people of Beartown. There are gods in Beartown – they are the stars of the hockey team. This novel addresses town culture, hockey culture, pack mentality, and human nature in general. You don’t have to know hockey to appreciate it. Fill in any other sport in place of hockey and you will probably relate on some level. One of the old salts in town tells a hockey coach that “most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.” The people of Beartown will show their best sides and some will reveal their worst when the unthinkable occurs. Fredrik Backman really gets to the core of human nature in his novels – so much so that the reader may need to take a break once in a while. Even so, I found it difficult to stop reading. It’s bittersweet, honest and will make you think. I really liked it.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Beyond the Wild River

ABOUT THE BOOK: The day comes sooner than expected when Charles, prompted by a near-scandal between Evelyn and a servant, brings her on a business trip to New York City and the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Evelyn welcomes the chance to escape her cloistered life and see the world.

But a fishing expedition up the Nipigon River in Canada takes an unexpected turn when Evelyn discovers that their river guide is none other than James Douglas. Even more startling, her father betrays no shock, simply instructing Evelyn not to reveal their past connection with James to the rest of their party.

Evelyn never believed that James was guilty, but speculation about her father’s role in the killing has made her fearful. What is he hiding? As they travel deeper into the wilderness, and further from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, revealing the true natures of everyone in their party.

 

BEYOND THE WILD RIVER by Sarah Maine

Atria Books Paperback | On-sale: April 18, 2017 | ISBN: 9781501126956 |

352 pages | $16.00

eBook: 9781501126970, $11.99


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to the United Kingdom, where she now lives. She is the author of The House Between Tides.

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photo credit: Susie McDonald at Brick Lane Studio


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Giveaway ends on April 19, 2017 


 

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

  • stolen-beauty-march-17Title:  Stolen Beauty: A Novel
  • Author:  Laurie Lico Albanese
  • Pages:  320
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction
  • Published:  February 2017 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for? (from the publisher)

My take:  I love to read historical fiction about works of art so this novel seemed perfect for me. It features a woman, Adele Bloch-Bauer, whose portrait was painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907. There’s another storyline that involves Bloch-Bauer’s niece, Maria Altmann. Maria was almost like a daughter to her aunt who hadn’t been able to carry a pregnancy to term. Many years later Maria would heed the call she felt to save something very important to her beloved aunt and uncle.

It was interesting reading the author’s imagined details in the story of a remarkable young woman, Adele, who captured the artist’s attention. Klimt and his contemporaries were pushing the art world in new directions that weren’t appreciated by the establishment. However, Bloch-Bauer was part of society that hosted intellectual salons that encouraged these artists – all at a time when the drums of change were starting a low-sounding beat in European politics.

Laurie Lico Albanese’s novel had a slow start for me but gradually picked up the pace and captured my interest to the point where I didn’t want to stop reading. I did stop from time to time to look up Klimt’s paintings which I found breath-taking. I learned about aspects of the Viennese culture in the early 20th century that I hadn’t a clue about before reading Stolen Beauty. I also learned about Klimt’s paintings. I’d only been familiar with The Kiss before reading this novel but there are so many more. That’s what I love about historical fiction – when done well the story is what grabs the reader but the truth is the star. I thought the author brought it all together beautifully. Recommended to fans of historical fiction and art.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Laurie Lico Albanese is the author of the novel Stolen Beauty, which brings to life the world of Gustav Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer in fin-de-siecle Vienna. Stolen Beauty spans a century and 2 generations of Jewish women. It is the first time that Adele Bloch-Bauer is brought to life in fiction.

Albanese is also co-author of The Miracles of Prato (Morrow, 2009 / Booksense Summer Reading Selection 2009), a work of historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy, and the author of Blue Suburbia: Almost a Memoir (Perennial, 2004 Booksense Best Books of the Year selection) and Lynelle by the Sea (Putnam, 2000), a novel. Albanese is the recipient of a Catherine R. Dodge Foundation Fellowship, a NJ State Council on the Arts fellowship, and co-recipient of a Hadassah-Brandeis Research Grant. She teaches writing, travels widely, and has written travel stories for the New York Times Sunday Travel section, More magazine, and Narratively. In 2016 she received her MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She is the mother of two grown children and lives outside of NYC with her husband, Frank, who is a book publishing executive.


Praise for Stolen Beauty:

“This sensual and mesmerizing novel brings to vivid life Gustav Klimt and his greatest muse and model, Adele Bloch-Bauer. For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the SunSTOLEN BEAUTY is a must-read. I tore through the pages.” — Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN.

“Laurie Lico Albanese has given us a powerful and important tale of love and war, art and family. Filled with lush prose and vivid historical detail, STOLEN BEAUTY is a work simultaneously intimate and sweeping in its scope. I was transported; I loved being swept up into the glorious, golden era of fin de siecle Vienna.” — Allison Pataki, New York Times Bestselling Author of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN.


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And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

  • and-every-morningTitle:  And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Pages:  96
  • Published:  November 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

My take:  This is a novella about a boy and his Grandpa. Noah and Grandpa have a wonderful relationship – one that Grandpa considers his second chance since he wasn’t always around for his son, Noah’s dad. Grandpa and Noahnoah (that’s what Grandpa calls him) “get” each other. They like the same things. When Grandpa starts forgetting things Noah reassures him even though he’s not quite sure what’s going on.

Fredrik Backman’s characters get to me every time. This time it’s a tale about life through the eyes of an old man and a little boy. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my own life that I could relate. Backman had me smiling on one page and tearing up on the next.

I liked the simple illustrations that were sprinkled through the novella. It took only an hour or so to read and I was left smiling as I turned the last page. It was lovely. Recommended.

 

Blog Tour Review: Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino

  • swear on this life (blog tour 8:11)Title:  Swear on This Life
  • Author:  Renée Carlino
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  August 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?  (publisher)

My take:  What would you do if you discovered a book, a best-seller, that told the world about your life – a life that took years of therapy to come to terms with? Emiline has to find the author and find out why he wrote her story. The problem is he was her childhood best friend and first love. They last saw each other ten years earlier at the tender age of fifteen.

It’s not easy to explain this novel. There’s a book within the book that I really enjoyed. I don’t usually care for that device. It’s the main point of this novel and I thought Renée Carlino did a great job with it. I loved Jackson and Emerson’s story (from the book within the book). It was full of the angst and emotions of friendship to first love. I wasn’t as fond of the here-and-now story. I didn’t connect to a few of the people in Em’s current story. But that’s on me, I think.

Overall, I enjoyed Swear on This Life and would definitely read more by Carlino. Recommended to fans of contemporary fiction with a good dose of romance.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Renée Carlino
 is the author of Sweet Thing, Nowhere But Here, After the Rain, and Before We Were Strangers. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog, June. When she’s not at the beach with her boys or working on her next book, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate.


swear on this life (blog tour 8:11)

SWEAR ON THIS LIFE by Renee Carlino

Atria Trade Paperback | ISBN: 9781501105791 | On sale: August 9, 2016 | 320 pages | $15.00

eBook: Atria Books | ISBN: 9781501105807 | On sale: August 9, 2016 | 320 pages | $7.99

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