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.

FIND SARAH MAINE ONLINE:

photo credit: Susie McDonald at Brick Lane Studio


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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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Spotlight/US Giveaway: The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine

the house between tides (Atria 8:2)

Description:

Following the death of her last living relative, Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained relationship behind in London and returns to Muirlan, her ancestral home in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. Hetty has every intention of renovating and reselling it as a hotel, but before she can dive headfirst into the repairs, century-old remains are discovered by the house’s caretaker, with few physical clues left to identify the body. Only one thing is certain: he or she did not die of natural causes.

Hungry for answers, Hetty sets out to learn more about the body and the house’s owners from the 1910s, including her ancestor, Theo Blake, an acclaimed painter who returned to Muirlan to paint the local birds, and his new bride, Beatrice, who fell for Theo’s brilliance, even as she grew increasingly disturbed by his fascination with a local boy.

Following whispered rumors and a handful of leads, Hetty learns that something ruptured in the Blake’s marriage, forcing Beatrice to leave the country and Theo to withdraw from society. The exact cause has never been known, but as Hetty studies the paintings produced by Theo during his short-lived marriage, she uncovers secrets that will reverberate throughout the community – and lead her to the identity of the long-hidden body.

Sarah Maine is a compelling new voice in women’s fiction – her prose is rich and lyrical, and her storytelling is immersive. THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES (Atria Trade Paperback; is on sale now; ISBN: 9781501126918; $16) is a debut novel written with the command of a veteran author and is a perfect read for fans of Kate Morton, Lucinda Riley, and Ellen Marie Wiseman’s What She Left Behind.


About the author:

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to the United Kingdom to study archaeology. She now lives in York with her family. The House Between Tides is her debut novel.


Praise for THE HOUSE BETWEEN TIDES:

“Scotland’s Outer Hebrides provides the sensuous setting for [this] impressive debut… [a] beautifully crafted novel.” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Delivering details at a perfectly suspenseful pace… the historic mystery will keep readers guessing right up until the end.” – Booklist

“An eerie odyssey that would be right at home in the pages of the pulpy Warren comics.” – Kirkus Reviews


US Giveaway

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the house between tides (Atria 8:2)

Giveaway ends August 8th, 2016 (it’s a quick one!)

Blog Tour/Giveaway: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

  • one-true-loves-9781476776903_hrTitle:  One True Loves
  • Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  June 2016 – Atria Books; Washington Square Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever. Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly? Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.  (publisher)

My take:  Be sure to read the description above. I wasn’t sure how much to reveal about the story so I went with the publisher’s summary. Sounds like an emotional read, right? It is and I liked it.

I’ve enjoyed all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels and her newest didn’t disappoint. What seemed like an improbable premise played out more believable than I initially thought it could. It’s a sweet (but not saccharine) story about the truth about love. I cared about Emma, Jesse and Sam and wondered how they would cope with the new reality each faced at the turning point of the novel. And wondered what I would do in their shoes.

I’ve come to expect that I’ll love reading one of Reid’s novels because I feel good when reading it – meaning I enjoy how she tells a story so much it doesn’t matter whether it’s heartbreaking or hilarious. One True Loves is all that and more and I enjoyed every page.

Recommended – especially to fans of the author and women’s fiction.


author pic TJRTaylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted, After I Do and Maybe In Another Life. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

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Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

  • Britt-Marie Was Here (5:10)Title:  Britt-Marie Was Here
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  May 2016 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?  (publisher)

My take:  The light went out in Britt-Marie’s life when she was a young girl. Feeling pretty much invisible she lives a thankless life that lacks passion.  She finally decides to leave that life and winds up in a small town as their rec center manager. This is funny because she doesn’t know the first thing about managing a recreation center. She’s really good at cleaning though…

The town is populated with quirky characters – some who sneak up on you and break your heart. Britt-Marie has found a place where, little by little, people see her, appreciate her, and maybe even need her. She starts to find hope and a chance for a new start. Will she take that chance?

It took me a while to warm up to this novel but once I did, I really liked it. I think if you enjoyed A Man Called Ove, Backman’s first novel, you might like Britt-Marie Was Here. The author again addressed the human condition in a relatable way that now makes me smile thinking back on the people of Borg.

Spotlight: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

my grandmother asked me...

Atria Books | Hardcover | 384 pages | ISBN 9781501115066 | $25.00

“Every bit as churlish but lovable as Backman’s cantankerous protagonist in his debut, A Man Called Ove (2014), precocious Elsa will easily work her way into the hearts of readers who like characters with spunk to spare. A delectable homage to the power of stories to comfort and heal, Backman’s tender tale of the touching relationship between a grandmother and granddaughter is a tribute to the everlasting bonds of deep family ties.” – Booklist (starred)


Description:

From the author of the internationally bestselling A Man Called Ove, a charming, warmhearted novel about a young girl whose grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters, sending her on a journey that brings to life the world of her grandmother’s fairy tales.

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s internationally bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and an ode to one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.


About the author:

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger and columnist. A Man Called Ove, his first novel, has sold more than 500,000 copies in its native country and has been published in more than twenty-five languages all over the world. His second novel, My Grandmother Sent Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, will be published by Atria in 2015.

The House We Grew Up In: A Novel by Lisa Jewell

  • The House We Grew Up In (Aug12)Title:  The House We Grew Up In: A Novel
  • Author:  Lisa Jewell
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  August 2014 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.  (publisher)

My take:  I love reading about families and their issues. This novel is about the Bird family and boy do they have issues!

The Birds live in a lovely home in the Cotswolds and unless you were a close friend you wouldn’t think they had a care in the world. But inside the lovely home it’s a different story. The mother can’t throw anything away and continues to collect stuff – much to everyone’s dismay. As the children grow up and leave home they all have issues that stem back to one terrible Easter when the unthinkable happened.

My favorite character was oldest daughter Megan – probably because I understood her most. She grew up, left home, and lived her life completely opposite her mother’s.  She was determined to be in control and yet handled herself admirably when life didn’t go as planned and dysfunction found its way into her life. I’m not certain how realistic it was but I still enjoyed her part of the novel.

I won’t spoil it by going into the details but I will say that Lisa Jewell wrote a compelling novel that I couldn’t put down. It is by turns heartbreaking, harrowing, yet ultimately hopeful. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it to fans of the author, contemporary fiction and family dramas. I look forward to reading more of Lisa Jewell’s books.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

  • a man called oveTitle:  A Man Called Ove: A Novel
  • Author:  Fredrik Backman
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  July 2014 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.  (publisher)

My take:  Although I don’t consider myself a cranky old woman, I share the quality of not going around “with a smile plastered to my face all the time” – and I’ve been asked “what’s wrong?” when absolutely nothing is wrong. So I kind of “got” Ove. 🙂

Fredrik Backman peeled back the layers of Ove’s story (no spoilers here) and pulled me into an understanding of what made Ove – Ove. I was unexpectedly charmed by Ove and the rag-tag group of neighbors and a stray cat that became family to him – although he’d never call them family. I think my favorite (after Ove) was Parvaneh, the pregnant neighbor. She didn’t take him seriously yet demanded answers from him. I felt she was a daughter figure to him (but he’d never admit that). It was lovely to see their relationship, such that it was, develop. It struck me that a few of the characters mirrored Ove in some ways  but I’m not sure he would agree.

A Man Called Ove will be on my 2014 Favorites list. It’s a story about a man who had a plan but despite everything he tried to put that plan in motion, life had a plan of its own. It’s a charming, touching and emotional novel that I definitely recommend!

Spotlight on: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Today I want to tell you about a novel that publishes tomorrow. I’ll post a review in a few weeks!

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THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN by Lisa Jewell

Atria Books | Hardcover | Fiction | | On Sale Date: 08/12/14

ISBN: 9781476702995 | Pages: 400 | eBook ISBN: 9781476703015

Buy links: IndieBound  Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Audible

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The House We Grew Up In (Aug12)

Description:

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children’s lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they’ve never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago. Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

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Praise for The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In (Aug12)

“Clever, intelligent, and believable on a subject few of us really understand. Lorrie is one of the most vivid and complex characters I’ve read in years. Wonderful.”  – Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You  

“Both witty and deeply moving…Jewell, a wry observer of human folly, delivers with this latest tale of loneliness and the lure of beautiful things.”  Kirkus Reviews

“The stories of Lydia, Dean, and Robyn are each engrossing on their own; combined with the over-arching storyline of their father, they make for an irresistible read. Anyone who has ever pondered the nature of family or imagined finding a long-lost sibling will be captivated by The Making of Us.”– Shelf Awareness.com

“An engaging tale of choices made and not made, families lost and families gained, this should appeal to fans of Jewell’s work as well as such authors as Jodi Picoult.”– Booklist

“Jewell’s moving novel immerses readers in the lives of these unique characters through the universal themes of family and a search for belonging. Jewell has written a compelling and entertaining novel.”– Publishers Weekly

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About the author:

???????????????????????????????Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She is the internationally bestselling author of ten previous novels, including The Making of Us and Before I Met You. Find out more at Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

 Photo: Jascha Gordon

Mating for Life by Marissa Stapley

mating for life (July 1)

  • Title:  Mating for Life
  • Author:  Marissa Stapley
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  July 2014 – Washington Square Press/Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Former folk singer Helen Sear was a feminist wild child who proudly disdained monogamy, raising three daughters—each by a different father—largely on her own. Now in her sixties, Helen has fallen in love with a traditional man who desperately wants to marry her. And while she fears losing him, she’s equally afraid of abandoning everything she’s ever stood for if she goes through with it.
Meanwhile, Helen’s youngest daughter, Liane, is in the heady early days of a relationship with her soul mate. But he has an ex-wife and two kids, and her new role as a “step-something” doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Ilsa, an artist, has put her bohemian past behind her and is fervently hoping her second marriage will stick. Yet her world feels like it is slowly shrinking, and her painting is suffering as a result—and she realizes she may need to break free again, even if it means disrupting the lives of her two young children. And then there’s Fiona, the eldest sister, who has worked tirelessly to make her world pristine, yet who still doesn’t feel at peace. When she discovers her husband has been harboring a huge secret, Fiona loses her tenuous grip on happiness and is forced to face some truths about herself that she’d rather keep buried.  (publisher)

My take:  For various reasons Helen took the nontraditional path in life re relationships and motherhood. She tried to show her three daughters (from three different fathers) how to live a full life outside the constraints of marriage. Each daughter will accept or reject her example with varying results. As you would expect the three daughters are not cut from the same cloth. One strives for perfection, another is an artist, and the third is a procrastinator who has put off finishing her PhD until the last possible moment.

As the four deal with changing life situations their attitudes will be challenged and they’ll find themselves possibly thinking differently going forward. What stood out to me was how the children (Helen’s grandchildren) were affected by their mothers’ actions – just as their mothers were affected by Helen’s choices. Book groups would have several topics to discuss with Mating for Life.

Setting up each chapter is a description of the mating habits of various wildlife. They mirrored the characters in each chapter. I enjoyed that. I liked this thought-provoking novel and look forward to reading more from Marissa Stapley.

Spotlight and Giveaway (US): The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

the comfort of lies

From the publisher:

Since the release of her debut The Murderer’s Daughters in 2010, international bestselling author Randy Susan Meyers has earned glowing critical praise, award nominations, and a devoted readership around the globe for her thought-provoking, emotionally-resonant novels.

Told in alternating points of view, THE COMFORT OF LIES reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women all connected to a five-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves.

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. A married man and a father, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared and Tia gave the baby up for adoption. Five years later, she struggles with the decision and yearns to connect with her daughter—and her former lover.

Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, had always been a bit ambivalent about motherhood, much preferring the freedom of her childless, work-addicted lifestyle, but attempting to please her husband, she agreed to adopt, hoping her misgivings would disappear. However after five years, she’s questioning whether or not she’s really cut out for a domestic life.

Juliette thought she had it all—a loving husband, two healthy sons, and a successful business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again and she trusted him. Five years later, when Juliette intercepts a letter meant for Nathan containing photos of his daughter, her world crumbles, again. How could he keep this from her? What else is he hiding? Most importantly, how could he deny his daughter?

Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. Her quest leads her first to Caroline, then Tia, and before long, the women are on a collision course with consequences none of them could have predicted.

THE COMFORT OF LIES: A Novel

By Randy Susan Meyers

Washington Square Press/Atria Books || January 28, 2014 || $16.00 || Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-45-167302-9

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“Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny…Meyers writes beautifully about a formerly good marriage.” The Boston Globe

“Meyers’ complex characters feel familiar yet flawed, and this sharply woven tale demonstrates her uncanny ability to explore and illuminate the nuances of life’s most thorny dilemmas.” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

“Meyers’ carefully told story is a satisfying examination of the imperfect paths we all walk.” BookPage

“The characters crackle with both intelligence and wit…Meyers’ women resonate as strong, complicated and conflicted, and the writing flows effortlessly in this sweet yet sassy novel about love, women and motherhood.” Kirkus Reviews

“Meyers has crafted an absorbing and layered drama that explores the complexities of infidelity, forgiveness, and family” Booklist

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About the author: Randy Susan Meyers is a founding member of Beyond The Margins, a multi-writer site dedicated to the craft of writing and the business of publishing. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and has recently co-authored the guide What To Do Before Your Book Launch with bestselling writer MJ Rose. She teaches writing at the Grub Street Writers Center in Boston. Meyers, the mother of two grown daughters, was born in Brooklyn, New York. She lives in Boston with her husband.  (photo by Jill Meyers)

For more information:    randysusanmeyers@gmail.com     *      randysusanmeyers.com 

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Giveaway

One copy of The Comfort of Lies to a US reader

Please click here and fill out the form

Giveaway has ended

 

Spotlight on: This Girl by Colleen Hoover (US Giveaway)

this girlColleen Hoover’s New York Times bestselling Slammed series has brought countless readers to their knees with a whirlwind of love, passion, and heartache. Layken and Will’s love has managed to withstand the toughest of circumstances and the young lovers, now married,  are beginning to feel safe and secure in their union. As much as Layken relishes their new life together, she finds herself wanting to know everything there is to know about her husband, even though Will makes it clear he prefers to keep the painful memories of the past where they belong. Still, he can’t resist his wife’s pleas and so he begins to untangle his side of the story, revealing for the first time his most intimate feelings and thoughts, retelling both the good and bad moments, and sharing a few shocking confessions of his own from the time when they first met.

In This Girl, Will tells the story of their complicated relationship from his point of view. Their future rests on how well they deal with the past in this final installment of the beloved Slammed series.

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About the author: Colleen Hoover is the New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, Point of Retreat, Hopeless, and This Girl. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Please visit ColleenHoover.com.

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Giveaway has closed

I have one copy for a US reader

Click here to fill out the form

Giveaway ends: August 13, 2013 at 6pm EDT

Five Days by Douglas Kennedy

five days

  • Title:  Five Days
  • Author:  Douglas Kennedy
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  April 2013 – Atria Books
  • Source:  Publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis (publisher):  Laura works in a small hospital on the Maine coast, scanning and x-raying many a scared patient. In a job where finding nothing is always the best result, she is well versed in the random unfairness of life, a truism that has started to affect her personally. Her husband Dan has become a stranger since losing his job. With a son in college and a daughter set to leave home, she wonders how the upcoming empty nest will affect the disconnected state of her marriage.

Still, Laura jumps at the opportunity to attend a conference in Boston where she meets a man as grey and uninspired as her drab hotel. His name is Richard. He’s a fifty-something salesman, also from Maine, also in Boston for the weekend. When a chance meeting brings them together again, Laura begins to discover a far more complex and thoughtful man behind the flat façade. Like herself, Richard ponders his own life and wonders if the time has come to choose desire over obligation.

My take:  Five Days is really Laura’s story about what happens when she unexpectedly has a chance to find some joy in her life. She’s given that chance when she meets Richard, a man who has bowed to demands and expectations his entire life. He’s in a loveless marriage and his only son is incarcerated in the psychiatric wing of the state prison. Laura’s choices made previously in her life ultimately led to her current situation: married to an out-of-work and angry man who seems to delight in belittling her and then immediately shows regret yet remains remote. Her college age son is recovering from a breakdown and her high school senior daughter loves the superficial things in life. Even Laura’s job is getting to her.

So we have two stressed-out and lonely people who find in each other a shared love of words and books and a need to be unconditionally loved. Boston is worlds away from their real lives and they grab the chance for connection in the few days they have there. They even go so far as to consider the possibility of a future together. About midway through the novel I didn’t like where things were going and couldn’t shake a sense of dread.

I went from not really liking Laura (as well as most of the other characters) to feeling hopeful for her. That said, the book was just ok for me. I thought the writing was fine but I had a hard time with the depressing tone of the story, most of the characters, and the infidelity theme.

The Time In Between by Maria Dueñas – Spotlight and Giveaway (US)

Thanks to Atria Books I have one copy of THE TIME IN BETWEEN by Maria Dueñas to give away to a lucky reader from the US. Click here for details. Please remember: a comment is not an entry. You must click the link and fill out the form. Good luck!

GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED

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Spotlight:

Set in Madrid, Tetuán, and Lisbon before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War through the Second World War, THE TIME IN BETWEEN follows the life of Sira Quiroga.  Born a poor seamstress in Madrid, Sira—after being abandoned in Tangiers by her lover—forges a new identity and becomes the most sought-after couturiere in North Africa, catering to the idle rich and the wealthy wives of high ranking officials.

Sira dreams only of paying off her debts and rescuing her mother from war-torn Madrid, but soon finds herself embroiled in a world of spies and counterspies.  Her profession puts her in a perfect position to garner classified intelligence…and then pass it along to the British Secret Service through a secret code stitched into the hems of her haute couture dresses.

With THE TIME IN BETWEEN, Dueñas brilliantly succeeds in sweeping readers right into this tumultuous time in history.  Her vibrant narrative powerfully transports you behind the scenes of high fashion and offers a fascinating lesson in an industry that managed—against all odds—to survive a period of intense political upheaval.  Dueñas’ also has a talent for not only creating complex and fallible characters—especially her protagonist, Sira—but also vividly personifies the culture of the legendary colonial enclaves of North Africa, war-torn Madrid, and cosmopolitan Lisbon, flush with spies, opportunists, and refugees.

Maria Dueñas is fluent in English (she holds a PhD in English Philology and is currently a professor at the University of Murcia.  She has also taught at American universities) and is available for interview if necessary.  THE TIME IN BETWEEN is beautifully written and compulsively readable.

♦  ♦  ♦

Praise:

“A wonderful novel, in the old and good tradition, with intrigue, love, mystery and tender, audacious and clean-cut characters.”

Mario Vargas LlosaThe Nobel Prize in Literature Laureate 2010

 

“This thrilling debut is marked by immaculate prose and a driving narrative, establishing Dueñas as a writer to watch.”

Publisher’s Weekly, Starred Review

 

“Written by a college professor, this debut novel, a best-seller in Spain, is scheduled to publish in more than 20 languages and has already generated considerable prepub buzz.”  –Booklist, Starred Review

 

“The Hot List:  Must Reads” Harper’s Bazaar

 

“It is no surprise this debut novel was a runaway success in Europe. American fans of historical fiction looking for a dramatic, uncomplicated escape will be similarly entranced.”

Library Journal

“With its detailed depictions of fashions and the fashionable crowd, exotic settings like Portuguese beaches and crowded bars in Tangiers, and a growing sense of danger and intrigue, The Time In Between is a stunning novel.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Title: Skipping a Beat

Author: Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Fiction

About: Skipping a Beat is the story of a marriage. Julia and Michael meet under unusual circumstances and fall in love while still in high school.  After graduation they head toward their future without so much as a backward glance.  After college they follow their dreams and enjoy the rewards of their hard work – to a point.  It seems that somewhere along the way Michael lost sight of what was once so important – Julia and their relationship.  He’s forced to take a new look after he has a near-death experience. Julia isn’t sure what to do with the new Michael. She’s grown accustomed to their ships-in-the-night marriage and hasn’t expected anything from him in a long time.  She’s certain that her perspective of some events in their marriage is the actual truth. Since they rarely have time for meaningful conversations Michael has been unaware of her perspective. He doesn’t understand why she doesn’t want to join him in a second chance at their life.

My take: Sarah Pekkanen gave Julia a true and believable voice. I found it very easy to relate to her. And Pekkanen didn’t stop there. She also shaped Michael as a real guy. I totally bought his perspective and his driven personality.
In any marriage only the spouses know the intricacies of the relationship. So while Michael and Julia appeared to have the perfect power marriage, only they knew the actual imperfections and how fragile their relationship really was. Michael let the chase of his dream take over and Julia felt the security of their love for each other slip away.
I liked the secondary characters. Julia’s best friend Isabelle and a young boy named Noah both figure prominently in the story. I also enjoyed the opera references throughout and how Julia compared specific ones to aspects of her life.
Like most operas, Skipping a Beat depicts the drama and emotions of life.  I found it to be an emotional and wonderful novel. It would be a great book club selection.

Recommend? Yes, definitely!  I also recommend having a box of tissues at hand (trust me on this).

Source: Atria Books and BookSparks PR

This review is being submitted to the Simon & Schuster Skipping a Beat Sweepstakes