Spotlight and Giveaway (US): North of Boston by Elisabeth Elo

North of Boston

Like a ship barreling out of the dense North Atlantic fog, comes Elisabeth Elo—a darkly intoxicating, discordantly poetic, gutsy new voice in contemporary suspense fiction. Her novel, NORTH OF BOSTON, introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl, who, in a near brush with death, discovers her extraordinary ability to survive sub-freezing water. Elo’s gritty and gripping voice evokes the full palette of human emotion—it’s one that echoes the likes Peter Høeg, Laura Lippman, and even Dennis Lehane, but is indelibly her own.

Pirio is baiting lobster traps in Boston Harbor when out of the veil of mist comes a freighter, splitting the fishing boat she is on in half—the impact hurling her into the North Atlantic. Miraculously, she survives for hours in the nearly-frozen water before being rescued, though the boat’s owner, her friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Though the tragedy leaves her deeply unnerved, Pirio is compelled to look after ten-year-old Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina. But, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking was no accident—a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, Milosa, who constantly reminds her nothing is ever what it seems.

With the help of a curious journalist, Pirio unravels a lethal plot taking her to the wilderness of the high north. To survive, she must not only overcome the icy water and a deadly betrayal, but she must confront her ultimate challenge: to trust herself.

This immersing, atmospheric page-turner, sweeps you from Boston Harbor to the Canadian Arctic, bringing the entire northern seaboard to life with beautifully haunting prose. But perhaps even more inspiring than the book’s setting, is its idiosyncratic heroine, whose unforgettable voice drives this adventure due north. Already working on a sequel featuring Pirio and the same ensemble cast, Elisabeth Elo is poised to become one of the suspense genre’s premiere female writers.

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NORTH OF BOSTON

A Novel

By Elisabeth Elo

Pamela Dorman Books/Viking; ISBN: 9780670015658; On-sale: January 27, 2014; $27.95

ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN E-BOOK

 “Pirio Kasparov is an alluring heroine. She’s sharp-witted, hell-bent on finding the truth, and her narrative voice is laced with surly sexiness. Pirio’s baldly honest, slightly melancholic reflections and Elo’s use of extreme natural settings will have strong appeal for Scandinavian crime fans. An impressive debut with surprising literary depth.” –Booklist (starred)

An utterly riveting debut thriller! Pirio Kasparov is one of the best protagonists I’ve read in years, tough, cynical, wry and compelling.  Her determination to discover the truth behind her friend’s murder will earn your admiration, while her growing desire to be a better daughter, friend, and person will win your heart.” —Lisa GardnerNew York Times bestselling author of Fear Nothing

As someone who has spent her life on the sea, I can tell you that Elisabeth Elo knows her stuff. Terrific fishing details, a fast-paced plot, and a heroine named Pirio Kasparov who steals the show. A great debut!” —Linda GreenlawNew York Times bestselling author of The Hungry Ocean and Lifesaving Lessons

“In NORTH OF BOSTON, Elisabeth Elo has written a modern, sophisticated, and compelling thriller. Her plot is original, her details deft, and her heroine utterly remarkable.” —Ivy Pochoda, author of Visitation Street

“Tough and smart, Pirio Kasparov comes alive in this fast-paced novel of unconventional plot twists and damaged relationships.” —Audrey Schulman, author of Three Weeks in December

“I wish I had a friend like Pirio Kasparov—intelligent, loyal, brave, and funny. From the opening pages of North of Boston I was enthralled and deeply committed to following Pirio wherever her brilliant author decided to send her next. What a terrific novel.” —Margot LiveseyNew York Times bestselling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

“Set on the gritty Boston waterfront, Elisabeth Elo’s novel starts off as a murder mystery and slowly builds into something larger and more disturbing. NORTH OF BOSTON is a gripping and unorthodox thriller, packed with intriguing characters and unexpected twists.” —Tom PerrottaNew York Times bestselling author of Nine Inches and The Leftovers

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About the author:  Elo grew up in Boston and went to Brown University.  She worked as an editor, an advertising copywriter, a high-tech project manager, and a halfway house counselor before getting a PhD in American Literature at Brandeis University.  Since then, she’s taught writing at Harvard, Tufts, and the evening school of Boston College.  She is already hard at work on the second book starring the NORTH OF BOSTON ensemble cast.

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Spotlight/My take: Christmas at the Beach by Wendy Wax

Readers embraced the characters of Wendy’ Wax’s highly praised  Ten Beach Road, which USA Today cited as “one of six books that belong in your beach bag. In 2012 they hailed their return in  Ocean Beach. Now, with Christmas at the Beach, Wax’s first e-original and her first novella, she brings back the women of Bella Flora in an all-new holiday novella.

Christmas at the Beach (novella)

  • Title: Christmas at the Beach: A Ten Beach Road Novella
  • Author: Wendy Wax
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Christmas
  • Published:  October 2013 – Penguin Group
  • Source:  Publisher
 Synopsis:          When Madeline Singer, Avery Lawford and Nicole Grant were deeded ownership of a crumbling historic home on Pass-a-Grille Beach, all they dared hope was that renovating and selling it would let them rebuild their lives and the bank accounts drained by a Ponzi scheme.   Together, they returned the house, Bella Flora, to its earlier glory.  Along the way, they forged friendships, discovered unexpected truths about themselves and each other, and gave birth to a DIY reality television show, Do Over.
            Though Christmas at the Beach  brings readers up-to-date on these well-loved characters and sets the stage for Wax’s next novel, The House on Mermaid’s Point, its focus is 24-hours at Bella Flora, where friends and family are gathered for their first and last Christmas at the recently sold property. There’s plenty to celebrate. In addition to being back together, Do Over is going into a second season, family rifts are healing, and it’s Dustin’s first Christmas.
            Dustin is the child of Madeline’s daughter Kyra and of married–not to her–superstar actor Daniel Deranian. Kyra’s hope that the visit will include respite from the paparazzi that hound them is quickly dashed, but Bella Flora nonetheless provides a haven.  It’s going to be a wonderful holiday. Or it would be if a string of bad news hadn’t begun trickling in.  And if they hadn’t learned that their beloved Bella Flora’s buyer is the absolutely last person who should ever own her.
            In Christmas at the Beach  Wax once again reaches out to readers with her trademark sense of humor,  insights into relationships and the celebration of friendship they anticipate with each new book. (publisher)
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My take:  Christmas at the Beach sets up the next novel  in Wendy Wax’s entertaining series which is expected in 2014. The cast of characters find out the location of their next reno project. Along with that we get brief updates of the women of Ten Beach Road and Ocean Beach. There are changes coming!
Wendy Wax packed a lot into her novella which made me excited to read the next book in the series: The House on Mermaid Point   – there’s a preview included. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Madeline, Avery, Nicole, Deirdre and Kyra.
An added bonus is the inclusion of the first two chapters of While They Were Watching Downton Abbey – Wax’s most recent stand alone novel. I really enjoyed that book!
 
About Wendy Wax

            Award-winning author Wendy Wax’s work, including While We Were Watching Downton AbbeyOcean Beach and Ten Beach Road, has been highly praised. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says she “writes with breezy wit and keen insight into wendy waxfamily relations.” Her novels have been featured in national publications such as USA Today andWoman’s World, and online at sites such as On A Clear Day You Can Read ForeverLuxury Reading, and Book Reporter.
            The author of nine novels and a novella, Wendy’s work has been sold to publishers in fifteen countries, including the U.K. where While We Were Watching Downton Abbey was recently published. Her novel, Hostile Makeover, was excerpted in Cosmopolitan magazine.
            She is now at work on her next book, The House on Mermaid Point. On sale in July 2014, it reintroduces characters from Ten Beach Road (St. Pete Beach) and Ocean Beach (Miami), and sets them loose in the Florida Keys.
            A native of St. Pete Beach, Florida, Wendy and her family have lived in Atlanta for sixteen years.
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The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay

Title:  The Shortest Way Home

Author:  Juliette Fay

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Published:  October 2012 – Penguin

Paperback: 416 pages

Synopsis:  Sean has spent twenty years in Third World war zones and natural disaster areas, fully embracing what he’d always felt was his life’s mission. But when burnout sets in, Sean is reluctantly drawn home to Belham, Massachusetts, the setting of Fay’s much-loved Shelter Me. There, he discovers that his steely aunt, overly dramatic sister, and quirky nephew are having a little natural disaster of their own. When he reconnects with a woman from his past, Sean has to wonder if the bonds of love and loyalty might just rewrite his destiny. Completely relatable, The Shortest Way Home is another perfect serving of a slice of life from the irresistible Fay.

My take:  Sean Doran’s back is killing him and he’s feeling burnt out after years of nursing in third world countries. He takes a break and heads home to Belham, Mass. What he finds when he arrives home are family members who need him just as much, if not more, than the people he left in Africa. He also has to face the reason why he left home to begin with: Huntington’s disease – the cause of his mother’s early death. Has he managed to escape it? Will other family members be diagnosed with it? It hangs over him constantly.

Juliette Fay’s characters stole my heart from the first page. I understood Sean’s motivation, his sister Deirdre’s frustration, and his nephew Kevin’s issues. I loved Aunt Vivvy, Cormac the baker, and Rebecca, a former classmate and friend. By the time I finished reading The Shortest Way Home I felt like they were all family members – that’s how real they seemed. Completely relatable – as stated in the synopsis.

It really is a slice of life novel and it left me hoping Juliette Fay will write another “Belham novel” someday soon. I’m going to want an update on all of the Dorans!

Disclosure:  Review copy provided by the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen

Title:  Royal Blood (Royal Spyness, #4)

Author:  Rhys Bowen

Genre:  Mystery

Published:  September 2011 – Penguin Group

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) With her hateful brother Binky in town, Lady Georgiana has been desperately seeking an escape. So when an invitation from the Queen arrives to represent the royals at a wedding in Transylvani-legendary home of vampires-Georgiana is delighted to accept. But when the bride starts acting a little batty and a prominent wedding guest is poisoned, something must be done lest the couple’s vows become “till undeath do they part…”

My take:  This was such a fun mystery. The author takes us from foggy London to snowy Transylvania via car, ship and train. Lady Georgiana (34th in line to the throne) is a charming character who finds herself representing the royal family at the wedding of distant relatives where she winds up being a suspect in a murder at the castle.

Royal Blood had the feel of an Agatha Christie mystery. There were several possible suspects and just when I thought I had it figured out another possibility would pop up – along with another dead body!

Rhys Bowen has a new fan in me. I love the settings, her entertaining characters, and the situations they find themselves in. This is the second book I’ve read by Bowen and I’m very pleased to know she has an immense backlist. Recommended to fans of Rhys Bowen and cozy British mysteries.

Source:  Jane Rotrosen Agency

What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen

Title: What I Thought I Knew

Author: Alice Eve Cohen

Genre: Memoir

About: (Back of the book) Alice Cohen was happy for the first time in years.  After a difficult divorce, she had a new love in her life, she was raising a beloved adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming.  Then, she started experiencing mysterious symptoms.  After months of tests, X-rays, and inconclusive diagnoses, Alice was sent for an emergency CAT scan that revealed the truth:  she was six months pregnant.

Descriptive Words: Medical diagnosis mistakes; Memoir.

Thoughts: This slim memoir is informational as well as inspirational.  Ms. Cohen’s story is shocking and she seems to hold nothing back.  Told with honesty and humor, the matter-of-fact style makes reading about the difficulties in this part of her life easier than one might expect – although there was one instance that was extremely hard for me to read.

I liked the occasional use of a list, a re-cap of sorts, that seems to remind the author as well as the reader what has happened to that point.  It’s a clever device.

The author is fortunate to have loved ones (older daughter and husband) who raised the bar when it comes to patience and unconditional love and support.  They are truly special.

I can only hope that what happened to Ms. Cohen doesn’t occur often.  However, I have a feeling it does so her book serves as a cautionary tale to everyone with the lesson being: trust your gut instinct.  If what you’re being told doesn’t feel/sound right, keep seeking answers.

Source: Penguin Books via BookSparks PR

Recommend? Yes, to fans of memoirs.

Rating: 4/5 stars


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About the author:
Alice Eve Cohen is a solo theatre artist, playwright, and memoirist. Her memoir, What I Thought I Knew (Viking, 2009) won the Elle’s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Nonfiction. She has written for Nickelodeon, PBS, and CBS. Her plays have been presented at theatres throughout the country, and she has toured her solo theatre works internationally. Her writing about arts in education has been published in nine languages. The recipient of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, she holds a BA from Princeton University and an MFA from The New School. She teaches at The New School in New York City.

Alice Eve Cohen is on Facebook and Twitter.

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GIVEAWAY

I’d like to pass my gently-read copy to one of my readers.  If you’re interested please click here for details.

 

Magnolia Wednesdays by Wendy Wax

Magnolia Wednesdays
Back of the book:
At forty-one, Vivian Armstrong Gray spent most of her life fighting to make it in investigative journalism, only to have it crumble after a bullet lodges in her backside during an expose. As if the humiliation of being the butt of everyone’s jokes isn’t enough, Vivi learns that she’s pregnant, jobless, and very hormonal. Maybe that explains why she actually says “yes” to a dreadful job covering suburban living back home in Georgia, a column she can only bear to write incognito.

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Magnolia Wednesdays is an entertaining novel that at times had me feeling exasperated by Vivi and other times wanting to give her a consoling hug. Vivian is clearly hormonal. Her sister Melanie invites her to live in her home after Vivi loses her job and finds out she’s pregnant. Melanie and her two children are still mourning the death of her husband (two years earlier). Vivi welcomes the chance to help her sister with the kids and also at Melanie’s dance studio. Melanie is only too happy to accept the help. Some of the things Vivi finds herself doing are carpool, volunteering at their school, and teaching her nephew to drive. These activities conveniently give her material for her new column Postcards From Suburbia.

At the Magnolia Ballroom and Dance Studio Vivi meets Ruth who spends most days helping Melanie around the studio. Ruth refuses to cut Vivi any slack. She knows Vivi was not around for Melanie when her husband died. Ruth is also very unhappy that her husband refuses to retire and spend more time with her. They’re in their seventies and she’d like to enjoy the golden years together.

In addition to their behind the scene duties, Ruth and Vivi agree to help Melanie by taking a belly dance class on Wednesday nights. Angela, a young woman who managed to lose a great deal of weight a few years earlier, is also in the Wednesday night class. Angela is engaged to a wonderful man who met her after she lost weight. She’s very insecure and feels he will think differently about her if he finds out about how she used to look. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying what should be an exciting time in her life.

So there are three main story lines. I found the first two (Vivi and Ruth) more interesting than Angela’s but I think Wendy Wax did a great job pulling everything together. There are a couple of twists along the way and an ending that made me smile.

Review copy from Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting

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Magnolia Wednesdays – on sale March 2, 2010
Berkley Books




Table Manners by Mia King

Table Manners by Mia King: Book Cover


Her simple life is more complicated than ever.

Deidre McIntosh finally has all the ingredients for a perfect life. She has her own line of cakes and cookies, and the perfect boyfriend, Kevin Johnson, one of Seattle’s top bachelors. Creative, energetic, and loving, Deidre is the person friends go to when they need a helping hand.

But when Kevin’s ex-fiancée, the sultry and successful magazine publisher Sabine Durant, suddenly appears in Seattle, it’s Deidre who needs help. Already intimidated by Kevin’s glamorous, moneyed world–and his sister, who wants Deidre out of Kevin’s life–she knows she’s no match for Sabine.

Deidre turns to her friends for advice, but finds they’re having crises of their own. When her business begins to slip from her fingers, Deidre knows she must to do something to keep her career and her love life from imploding. Can everyone’s favorite go-to person save herself?

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From the moment I finished reading Good Things by Mia King I’ve been keeping an eye out for the sequel. I finally got my hands on a copy of Table Manners and am pleased to tell you that Ms. King gives readers a sequel that is sweet, fun and satisfying.

Deidre’s life, although good, has become hectic. She’s helping her friends William and Alain plan their commitment ceremony; launching a new pastry line; and then travels to help another friend in dire need of her assistance in Jacob’s Point (a small lakeside community and location of Kevin’s vacation home). Toss into the mix Kevin’s ex-fiancee and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Will Deidre and Kevin’s relationship survive the challenges and obstacles in their path? Well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself. Table Manners could be a stand alone novel but I recommend reading Good Things first. You’ll want to read about Deidre and Kevin from the very beginning.

One more thing: stock your pantry because you’re probably going to want to bake or cook after reading these books. There are recipes!

Review copy from Penguin Group