Spotlight/US Giveaway: Once Removed by Colette Sartor

Once Removed by Colette Sartor

Published: September 15, 2019 – University of Georgia Press

Book provided by the publisher and Tandem Literary

Description: Women drive the narrative in ONCE REMOVED. They carry the burdens imposed in the name of intimacy: the secrets kept, lies told, disputes initiated and the joy that can still manage to triumph. A singer with a damaged voice and an assumed identity befriends a silent, troubled child; an infertile law professor covets a tenant’s daughterly affection; a new mother tries to shield her infant from her estranged mother’s surprise Easter visit; an aging shopkeeper hides her husband’s decline and a decades-old lie to keep her best friends from moving away. With depth and an acute sense of the fragility of intimate connection, Colette Sartor creates characters that resonate with familiarity and emotional complexity. Some of these women possess the fierce natures and long, vengeful memories of expert grudge holders. Others avoid conflict at every turn, or so they tell themselves. For all of them, grief lies at the core of love. #onceremovedstories.


About the author:

COLETTE SARTOR teaches at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program as well as privately and is an executive director of the CineStory Foundation, a mentoring organization for emerging TV writers and screenwriters. Her writing has appeared in Carve magazine, Slice magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Kenyon Review Online, Colorado Review, and other publications. Among other awards, she has been granted a Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, a Glenna Luschei Award, a Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, and a Truman Capote fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she completed her MFA.

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Praise for ONCE REMOVED:

“Colette Sartor’s stories shimmer with a radiant, unsettling light. She strips away the veils that we hide behind and exposes our deepest fears and desires, revealing who we inescapably are. The stories are laced with dark humor and raw, earned emotion, and they proceed from page to page with a beautiful urgency. Her prose sings and her wounded characters linger in readers’ memories like people you’ve known, people you could have been had luck gone the other way. This is trenchant, gorgeous fiction, the voice of a writer you’ll follow anywhere, everywhere.” —Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This

“These are short stories the way they were meant to be told, from a writer who, tale after tale, proves her mastery of the form. Peopled with characters that are bracingly complex, these stories tease out the subtleties of human relationships, especially when they’ve gone awry. I was absorbed and moved from every first sentence to the last.” —Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

“Lordy, what a wallop each of these stories delivers—to the heart and the head, sure, but also to the conscience and the soul, not to mention to the myths of family that we embrace and to the vital lies peculiar to love that we cleave to. Equally stunning is Ms. Sartor’s command of craft—no cleverness for its own sake, no peekaboo, no ‘Look, Ma, no hands.’ Instead, with enviable humility and no little grace, she has subordinated herself to the needs, wishes, desires, and dreams of characters who have galvanized her imagination and engaged her empathy. Bravo.” — Lee K. Abbott, author of All Things, All at Once: New and Selected Stories

Once Removed is that rare book that succeeds on both micro and macro levels; the stories focus on the specific intimacy of individual lives yet also participate in the larger project of a whole world made of these stories—dependent on them, in fact, supported and enlarged and sustained by them. Sartor’s women suffer the internal and external scarring of the dangerous terrain they navigate: love, family, self, community. They ask uncomfortable questions, both of themselves and of the reader; it’s hugely satisfying to reach the end of the book and feel the resonant strength of the answers it proposes.” — Antonya Nelson, author of Bound


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Spotlight/US Giveaway: If You Want To Make God Laugh

If You Want To Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

Published July 16, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Description: From the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words comes a rich, unforgettable story of three unique women in post-Apartheid South Africa who are brought together in their darkest time and discover the ways that love can transcend the strictest of boundaries.

In a squatter camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg, seventeen-year-old Zodwa lives in desperate poverty, under the shadowy threat of a civil war and a growing AIDS epidemic. Eight months pregnant, Zodwa carefully guards secrets that jeopardize her life.

Across the country, wealthy socialite Ruth appears to have everything her heart desires, but it’s what she can’t have that leads to her breakdown. Meanwhile, in Zaire, a disgraced former nun, Delilah, grapples with a past that refuses to stay buried. When these personal crises send both middle-aged women back to their rural hometown to heal, the discovery of an abandoned newborn baby upends everything, challenging their lifelong beliefs about race, motherhood, and the power of the past.

As the mystery surrounding the infant grows, the complicated lives of Zodwa, Ruth, and Delilah become inextricably linked. What follows is a mesmerizing look at family and identity that asks: How far will the human heart go to protect itself and the ones it loves?


About the author:

Bianca Marais is the author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words. She holds a certificate in creative writing from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies, where she now teaches creative writing. Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans. Originally from South Africa, she now lives in Toronto with her husband.

Praise for Bianca Marais:

“Set against the backdrop of the Mandela presidency, the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, and the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, the story offers a look into the staggering emotional cost of secrecy, broken family bonds, racism, and sexual violence. Marais once again showcases her talent for pulling beauty from the pain of South African history with a strong story and wonderfully imperfect characters.” Publishers Weekly

“A moving portrait of the choices women can make–and the ones we can’t. Beautifully crafted and powerfully drawn, this book had me in tears.” —Jill Santopolo, bestselling author of The Light We Lost and More Than Words

“A story of three remarkable women at crossroads in their own lives against the backdrop of South Africa at the moment of stunning transformation that will keep you reading late into the night. Marais deftly completes a writer’s hat trick, leaving you gutted, smiling through tears and soaring with hope.” —Steven Rowley, bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor

“You will absolutely love this book. You will. Why? Because Bianca Marais’s heart is immense and full of love. With unsparing insight into the human condition, she unspools a tale that is at once heartbreaking as it is merciful, validating our frailty while eulogizing our endless capacity for generosity and love. We all need the deep refuge of Bianca Marais’s exceptional voice.” Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter and I Always Loved You

“Radiant…A stirring ode to a country’s painful maturation.” O, The Oprah Magazine on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

“Richly drawn…[The characters’] journeys and eventual love poignantly demonstrate that nothing is simply black or white.” USA Today on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS

 “With its vivid, emotional scene-setting, alternating narration and tense plotting, this novel is a thoughtful, compelling page-turner.” Good Housekeeping on HUM IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE WORDS


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The Friends We Keep by Jane Green

The Friends We Keep by Jane Green

Published June 4, 2019 – Berkley

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted—the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible. 

Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man. 

Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause. 

Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy. 

By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness…until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything. 

The Friends We Keep is about how despite disappointments we’ve had or mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to find a place to call home. (publisher)

My take:  Evvie, Maggie and Topher meet when they are first year university students. They become fast friends not knowing they are forming the relationships that will last the rest of their lives. As with similar friendships, life causes ebbs and flows that take the three on individual journeys but they find their way back to each other a few times over the decades. A thirty year school reunion brings them back one more time and the three friends decide it’s time to make a change. Can it possibly be as good as they imagine?

Jane Green tells her story in three parts: The Beginning (1986); The In-Between Years (1990s); and Present Day (2019). It all adds up to what I call a good beach read. Meaning it has compelling characters, a juicy plot (featuring betrayal and over-the-top drama), and a story that keeps me turning the pages. Kind of like the soap my dorm mates and I would watch when we were in college. Recommended to fans of the author and novels about friendship, growth, and forgiveness.


About the author:

A former journalist in the UK and a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, Jane Green has written many novels (including Jemima J, The Beach House, Falling, and, most recently, The Sunshine Sisters), most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, and one cookbook, Good Taste. Her novels are published in more than twenty-five languages, and she has over ten million books ini print worldwide. She lives with her husband and a small army of children and animals.


 

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

The Favorite Daughter by Patti Callahan Henry

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 4, 2019

Book provided by the publisher and Tandem Literary

Description:

Ten years ago the unthinkable happened. Lena Donohue experienced the ultimate betrayal by her sister—and on her wedding day, no less. A betrayal so profound and painful that the only way she knew how to survive it was to run, something she hasn’t stopped doing since. Now, having reinvented herself as a travel writer based in New York, it feels like she might be able to avoid her past forever. But of course, history has a way of returning to the present.

When her father’s health begins to fail, Lena must return to her hometown of Watersend, SC, where she has no choice but to put aside her own heartbreak and work with her estranged sister and younger brother to prepare for the worst. As Alzheimer’s rapidly claims their father’s precious memories, the siblings find themselves in a race against time to learn all they can about his life before it’s too late. But things take an unexpected turn when they stumble upon a life-shattering secret from his past that none of them could have predicted. (publisher)

My take:   I’ve read a few novels that touched on Alzheimer’s disease but none made me feel like I did while reading The Favorite Daughter. That may be because I’m now going through what the Donohue siblings experienced. I can tell you it is spot on. My siblings and I have had the same conversations, almost word for word! So I credit Patti Callahan Henry for getting it right.

The Favorite Daughter is an honest look at a terrible disease. More than that, it’s about memories and how we all remember differently. It’s about how our past shapes us. It’s about being willing to forgive. And it’s about home – where it is and who it is.  Recommended.

About the author:

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels include The Bookshop at Water’s EndThe Idea of LoveDriftwood SummerThe Art of Keeping Secrets, and Between the Tides.

 


 

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

Published:  May 21, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press

Review galley from the publisher and NetGalley

Description:  Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home. (publisher)

My take:  Erica Bauermeister’s novels are sensual journeys. The Scent Keeper is about scent, memory and what they tell us about our past and the people in our lives. It is the story of Emmeline. We meet her as a young girl living on an island with her father. It’s an idyllic life until things change. She finds herself thrust into world so different and yet she tries to adapt. She’ll learn who to trust and find a way to survive in this new life. That will serve her well for what lies ahead on her journey of discovery.

Will Emmeline be able to hang onto the important aspects of her early years as the world opens in ways she never expected?  During all those years of living with her father on the island – where was her mother? Will her magical relationship with scent feel the effect of all the changes? As Emmeline discovers answers to her questions she’ll come to understand what’s truly important. As I read The Scent Keeper I would occasionally pause to think about the important scents of my life and what they mean to me now. That made for a very personal and enjoyable reading experience.


About the author:

Erica Bauermeister is the author of the bestselling novel The School of Essential Ingredients, Joy for Beginners, and The Lost Art of Mixing. She is also the co-author of the non-fiction works, 500 Great Books by Women: A Reader’s Guide and Let’s Hear It For the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Washington, and has taught there and at Antioch University. She is a founding member of the Seattle7Writers and currently lives in Port Townsend, Washington.

Photo Credit: Susan Doupé 
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The Editor by Steven Rowley

The Editor by Steven Rowley

Published:  April 2019 – G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Free review book provided by @PutnamBooks

Description:  From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a novel about a struggling writer who gets his big break, with a little help from the most famous woman in America.

After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie–or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office–has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.

Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…

From the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus comes a funny, poignant, and highly original novel about an author whose relationship with his very famous book editor will change him forever–both as a writer and a son. (publisher)

My take:  The Editor has many of the things I love to find in a novel: messy family dynamics, secrets, a holiday (which usually makes the family dynamics even messier), and a character or two that make me want to read the book without stopping. This book has Jackie and James. She was his editor and she was the one that made him look at his mother with a new perspective. I loved the mother/son relationship that was at times so sweet and other times so frustrating and sad and real. I also loved how the author portrayed Jackie. I plan to look for the books about her  recommended in the Acknowledgements. Ultimately this is the story of James’ journey of discovering answers to questions from the past and learning to live in the present. A very enjoyable read.


About the author:

Steven Rowley is the bestselling author of Lily and the Octopus, which has been published in nineteen languages and is being developed as a major motion picture by Amazon Studios. He has worked as a freelance writer, newspaper columnist and screenwriter. Originally from Portland, Maine, he is a graduate of Emerson College. He currently resides in Los Angeles.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Christmas At The Cat Cafe

Christmas at the Cat Cafe by Melissa Daley

October 2018 – Thomas Dunne Books

Book courtesy of the publisher

Publisher’s description:

The wonderfully festive sequel to Melissa Daley’s uplifting tale, Molly and the Cat Cafe.

“An engaging, pleasant read full of colorful characters with enough mentions of the cat cafe’s cat’s whiskers cookies and feline fancies to satisfy any appetite for a gentle, heartwarming story.”
BiblioManiac on Molly and the Cat Cafe

“Hopeful and joyous.” Screen Wipe on Molly and the Cat Cafe

The town of Stourton-on-the-Hill has its very own cat café. Resident cat Molly, and her kittens, live here in feline paradise, while owner Debbie serves the locals home-made goodies. But even in the most idyllic surroundings, things don’t always go according to plan . . .

When Debbie’s heartbroken sister Linda arrives at the café, Debbie insists she move in. But Linda is not alone, and the cats are devastated with the arrival of Linda’s dog, Beau. Sadly, Beau’s arrival is not the only bombshell – now Molly’s home is also under threat when a rival cat moves in on her turf.

With Christmas approaching, Molly is unsettled, barely roused by the promise of tinsel to play with. Fearing for her feline family she hopelessly stares out of the café window searching for an answer. Only a Christmas miracle could bring everyone together . . .


About the author:

MELISSA DALEY lives in Hertfordshire with her two cats, two children, and one husband. One of her cats, Nancy, has a writing pedigree of her own and can be found on Facebook as Nancy Harpenden-Cat. Melissa was inspired by the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold, which provides the backdrop for Melissa’s novel, Molly and the Cat Café.


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