Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Prairie Fever by Michael Parker

Published:  May 21, 2019 – Algonquin Books

Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: When Gus arrives in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, as a first time teacher, his inexperience is challenged by the wit and ingenuity of the Stewart sisters. Then one impulsive decision and a cataclysmic blizzard trap Elise and her horse on the prairie and forever change the balance of everything between the sisters, and with Gus McQueen. With honesty and poetic intensity and the deadpan humor of Paulette Jiles and Charles Portis, Parker reminds us of the consequences of our choices. Expansive and intimate, this novel tells the story of characters tested as much by life on the prairie as they are by their own churning hearts. (publisher)

My take:  During the harsh winter of 1916 the Stewart sisters (Elise, 15, and Lorena, 17) ride their faithful horse to school no matter the weather. Their young teacher, Mr. McQueen, meets them and helps them off the horse and into the school room every day. The three are the central characters of the novel and we’ll see how their lives intertwine and go off in different directions according to the choices they make. I was drawn in by Michael Parker’s storytelling – the humor he injected in the day-to-day as well as the brutality of life on the prairie that many didn’t survive. I laughed when the sisters recited stories from the local newspaper. It reminded me of my own small, hometown newspaper that often had a younger me rolling my eyes at the headlines and articles considered newsworthy. Overall, an enjoyable read. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction.


About the author:

Michael Parker’s work has appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Times Magazine, the Oxford AmericanRunner’s WorldMen’s Journal, and elsewhere. His work has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories and The Pushcart Prize. He is the Nicholas and Nancy Vacc Distinguished Professor in the MFA Writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and divides his time between Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas.

Photo credit:  Tasha Thomas

 


Praise for Prairie Fever:

“Parker’s chimerical slipstream of a novel asks, Is it better to hew to that which is, or to see the world as you wish? Readers will surely be pulled deep into the strange and wild river of Elise’s fanciful peregrinations.”

 Booklist starred review

 

“In the tradition of Katherine Ann Porter, Parker’s exceptional tale explores the power and strength of kinship on the harsh American frontier.”

Publishers Weekly

 

“Let me just say that Prairie Fever—concerning the lives of the Stewart sisters of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma, in the early years of the twentieth century—is the most beautiful novel I have read in quite some time. Taking a cue from the irrepressibly inventive younger sister, Elise, I soon began reading it aloud to someone I love, and the novel more than rewards such a shared experience. The language is that graceful and original, the events and characters (horses included) that spellbinding and funny and moving; and always the melancholy beauty and mysterious power of the open prairie shine through. To borrow a phrase from Mr. McQueen—first encountered as a young teacher in a one-room schoolhouse—one comes away from the novel with a keener sense of ‘how one ought to go about living one’s life.’”
Tom Drury, author of Pacific

“That a love story of this strangeness and rightness can come out of the event of a girl nearly dead in a storm is a testament to the wonder that is Michael Parker’s talent. Not least, he’s invented a language, a formal way of speaking that is perfectly suited to his people and to this dreamy novel.”
Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards

Prairie Fever is an exceptionally charming novel about the wonders and troubles of love, land, and language. Witty and poignant, the novel is as elegantly constructed as a poem, and it features the best dialogue this side—or any side—of the Natchez Trace. Yet another wonderful book from Michael Parker.”
Chris Bachelder, author of The Throwback Special

“What a terrific book this is, wonderful and strange . . . a whole family acting out what can and can’t be forgotten, against the backdrops of prairie and range—characters so magnificently and sometimes comically stubborn I really couldn’t put the book down. And what other novel has a character writing letters to a dead horse? I was completely taken by this book.”
Joan Silber, author of Improvement

“Michael Parker has captured a time, place, and sisterhood so perfectly it hurts to turn the last page. Prairie Fever is a riveting, atmospheric dream of a novel.”
Dominic Smith, author of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos


 

US Giveaway: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

 Trade Paperback published by St. Martin’s Griffin – May 21, 2019

Book provided by the publisher

Description:

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA

Review galley provided by the publisher and NetGalley

Description: Caroline is the young wife of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army, no one anticipates he will not return. Then Caroline gets word that her husband is wounded, and she must find her way alone to Washington City and search among the thousands of casualties to find him.

When Jacob succumbs to his injuries, she brings his body home on the eve of the deadliest battle of the war. With troops and looters roaming the countryside, it is impossible to know who is friend and who is foe. Caroline fights to protect those she holds most dear while remaining compassionate to the neediest around her, including two strangers from opposite sides of the fight. Each is wounded… Each is drawn to her beauty, her kindness. Both offer comfort, but only one secretly captures her heart. Still, she must resist exposing her vulnerability in these uncertain times when so much is at risk.

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that women experienced as their men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve always been intrigued by the Civil War. My (3x)great grandfather left his family and farm to fight with the northern army. His portrait hung on the wall in my parents’ home. I didn’t truly appreciate the extent of his sacrifice until I began to read accounts of the war – told from various perspectives. Linda Lael Miller’s novel The Yankee Widow is the story of Caroline, a young widow from outside of Gettysburg, PA. Her husband left his young family and farm to fight in the northern army only to succumb to injuries incurred at Chancellorsville. Caroline is left to carry on which is no small task. The war is brought to her front yard as she is grieving the loss of her husband. She must step outside her grief and help with injured men from both sides of the war. Two such men will become central to her story and could very well decide her future. One thing she is certain of: she will make the decision. Showing a strength of character from the beginning of the novel we see even more growth in Caroline as she becomes aware that there are no easy answers except the decision to treat others with compassion – no matter where they are from. The story is filled with vivid battle descriptions that put me in the middle of those scenes. Heartbreaking, to be sure.

Linda Lael Miller swept me along with her story, turning the pages and wondering how Caroline would prevail. For once I was happy a novel ended with a cliff-hanger – I can’t wait to read what happens next. Recommended to fans of the author and historical fiction with a dose of romance.


 

Spotlight: The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

I’ve been waiting for this book to publish for a long time. Over the past few years Linda Lael Miller would update, hint about it, etc. on her blog which put it firmly on my wish list. I’ll post my review soon. In the meantime, here’s what we have to look forward to in THE YANKEE WIDOW.

The Yankee Widow by Linda Lael Miller

Published: May 7, 2019 – MIRA Hardcover

Description:

A richly layered saga is set against the backdrop of the Civil War

In The Yankee Widow, gifted storyteller Linda Lael Miller explores the complexities and heartbreak that families experienced as men took up arms to preserve the nation and defend their way of life.

Told in a smart, assured and compelling voice, this is the story of Caroline, the young wife and childhood sweetheart of Jacob, who together live on a farm raising their daughter, Rachel, just outside of Gettysburg. When Jacob joins the Northern army to do his duty and help save the Union, no one anticipates he will not return. Caroline gets news that he is wounded and has been taken to Washington, DC, with his regiment, and so she must find her way there and navigate the thousands of other wounded soldiers to find him.

Thus begins this novel that focuses on the strong women and men of both sides and both races who sacrificed so much and loved so well during this critical juncture in American history.

You can purchase this book at these online retailers:
Amazon | Amazon Canada | Barnes & Noble | B-A-M
Book Depository | Chapters | Harlequin
IndieBound | iTunes | Powell’s


About the author:

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 100 historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, Linda pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a spacious property outside Spokane.

Linda traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she sold Fletcher’s Woman in 1983 to Pocket Books. Since then, Linda has successfully published historicals, contemporaries, paranormals, mysteries and thrillers before coming home, in a literal sense, and concentrating on novels with a Western flavor. For her devotion to her craft, the Romance Writers of America awarded her their prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

Long a passionate Civil War buff, Linda has studied the era avidly for almost thirty years. She has read literally hundreds of books on the subject, explored numerous battlegrounds and made many visits to her favorite, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where she has witnessed re-enactments of the legendary clash between North and South. Linda explores that turbulent time in The Yankee Widow, a May 7, 2019 MIRA Books hardcover, also available in digital and audiobook formats.

Dedicated to helping others, “The First Lady of the West” personally financed fifteen years of her Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women, which she awarded to women 25 years and older who were seeking to improve their lot in life through education. She anticipates that her next charitable endeavors will benefit four-legged critters.

More information about Linda and her novels is available at http://www.lindalaelmiller.com


 

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

March 2019 – Berkley Books

Review copy provided by the publisher

Description:  Alice may be the president’s daughter, but she’s nobody’s darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves–oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it’s no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument–and Alice intends to outlast them all. (publisher)

Guest Review by Bookfan daughter:

Alice Roosevelt was an extraordinary woman who had an untold influence on the history of our country.  As a president’s daughter, another president’s (and first lady’s) cousin, the wife of a Speaker of the House and hostess of tony weekly salons, she seemed to be the definition of a Washington insider for over six decades.  However, Alice felt like an outsider for as long as she could remember. American Princess sweeps the reader though the 20th century with Alice near the center of the action.  Her adventures, scandals, friendships and romantic entanglements all tie back to her complicated relationship with her famous father. For me, the novel was emotionally draining.  Alice endured so much heartache and the author made it easy to share in her pain. I both cheered for Alice and I cringed at her choices but ultimately I shed tears of happiness for how her story ends.


Praise for American Princess:

“As juicy and enlightening as a page in Meghan Markle’s diary.”InStyle

“Presidential darling, America’s sweetheart, national rebel: Teddy Roosevelt’s swashbuckling daughter Alice springs to life in this raucous anthem to a remarkable woman.”—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress


 

Spotlight on: American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

American Princess – A Novel of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt

by Stephanie Marie Thornton

Berkley Trade Paperback Original; March 12, 2019

Description

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.