Spotlight/US Giveaway: A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison

a small indiscretion

Description
A Small Indiscretion fixes an unflinching eye on the power of desire and the danger of obsession as it unfolds the story of one woman’s reckoning with a youthful mistake.

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in her washed-out hometown for a London winter of drinking to oblivion and yearning for deliverance. Some two decades later, she is married to a good man and settled in San Francisco, with a son and two daughters and a successful career designing artistic interior lights. One June morning, a photograph arrives in her mailbox, igniting an old longing and setting off a chain of events that rock the foundations of her marriage and threaten to overturn her family’s hard-won happiness.

The novel moves back and forth across time between San Francisco in the present and that distant winter in Europe. The two worlds converge and explode when the adult Annie returns to London seeking answers, her indiscretions come to light, and the phone rings with shocking news about her son. Now Annie must fight to save her family by piecing together the mystery of her past — the fateful collision of liberation and abandon and sexual desire that drew an invisible map of her future.

A Small Indiscretion is a riveting debut novel about a woman’s search for understanding and forgiveness, a taut exploration of a modern marriage, and of love — the kind that destroys, and the kind that redeems.


 

Author Bio
Jan Ellison is a graduate of Stanford University and San Francisco State University’s MFA Program. She has published award-winning short fiction, and was the recipient of a 2007 O. Henry Prize for her first story to appear in print. Her work has also been shortlisted for The Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Northern California with her husband and their four children. A Small Indiscretion is her first book.

For more information please visit http://www.janellison.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter


 

Reviews
“This voice is alive. It knows something. It will take us somewhere. The magic is accomplished so fast, so subtly, that most readers hardly notice… A Small Indiscretion is rich with suspense…astonishing … Delectable elements of this terrific first novel abound: Its characters are round and real…Ellison gives us an achingly physical sense of family life … Lovely writing guides us through, driven by a quiet generosity … This voice knows something, and by the end of the novel, so do we.” — San Francisco Chronicle, A&E, by Joan Frank

“The literary equivalent of a day spa: sink in, tune out, turn page, turn page, turn page. Delicious, lazy-day reading…just don’t underestimate the writing.”— Oprah’s Book Club Editor’s Pick, Oprah’s Book Club 2.0, by Leigh Newman

“An engrossing, believable, gracefully written family drama that reveals our past’s bare-knuckle grip on our present.”  — Emma DonoghueNew York Times bestselling author of Room

“A stunning debut by Jan Ellison . . . Like the photograph that arrives in the mail and sets in motion the plot of this gorgeous novel, A Small Indiscretion reminds us of the intensity of youthful desire and of the fragile nature of a marriage built on secrecy.” — Ann PackerNew York Times bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

“It might be convenient if our mistakes would fade with time rather than hunt us down complete with consequence, but that wouldn’t make for the kind of taut, hypnotic story Jan Ellison tells. The impact of narrator Annie Black’s ‘small’ indiscretion is anything but, and in a brilliantly paced unraveling, Ellison makes vivid the sometimes tragic interplay of choice and fate, lust and love, youth and adulthood — which can bring its own mistakes. Absorbing, chilling, and moving, A Small Indiscretion is the debut of an elegant writer who will be known and admired from the start.” — Robin Black, author of Life Drawing

“An emotional thriller of the Anita Shreve variety, with revelations that continue and relationships that evolve until the final pages . . . Connoisseurs of domestic suspense will finish this book in a few breathless sittings, then wait eagerly for Ellison’s next trick.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“[A] cleverly constructed debut . . . a deftly crafted, absorbing novel that peels back the layers of Annie’s character as it reveals the secrets of her past and present.”
— Booklist


US Giveaway

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a small indiscretion

Published by Random House
Hardcover: 336 pages
January 20, 2015; $27.00 US/ $32.00 CAN; 9780812995442


Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

Vine- Still Life With Bread Crumbs

  • Title:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs
  • Author:  Anna Quindlen
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  January 2014 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Still Life with Bread Crumbs begins with an imagined gunshot and ends with a new tin roof. Between the two is a wry and knowing portrait of Rebecca Winter, a photographer whose work made her an unlikely heroine for many women. Her career is now descendent, her bank balance shaky, and she has fled the city for the middle of nowhere. There she discovers, in a tree stand with a roofer named Jim Bates, that what she sees through a camera lens is not all there is to life.

My take:  Rebecca Winter, famous for a serendipitous photo series years earlier, recently won a prize for her photography that generally means she’s “old news” in the art world. She now rents out her New York City apartment and lives in a tiny and dilapidated cottage in the woods so that she can afford to pay her father’s rent, her mother’s nursing home bills and occasionally send her son a check.

Rebecca hears animals in her roof above her bed every night and one day meets Jim Bates, a roofer several years her junior. He takes care of the animal issue and eventually becomes a friend. They are charmingly awkward around each other.

As Rebecca hikes the woods she discovers what look like memorials – the kind you’d see along the highway. These are white crosses with mementos of a girl’s youth. Rebecca photographs them not knowing their actual meaning and origins – and the result is a new photography show. What will happen when she learns the truth behind the photos?

I loved this book and I loved Rebecca. She needed to step away from her life to find out if that was the life she wanted to define her – to find out if there might be more in store for her. The first half of the novel quietly built up to the point where I couldn’t stop reading. The characters are beautifully developed and achingly true. I know I’ll be thinking about Tad and Sarah and Jim and Rebecca for a while.

True Life with Bread Crumbs would be a wonderful selection for book groups.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

the all-girl filling station's last reunion

  • Title:  The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion – A Novel
  • Author:  Fannie Flagg
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  November 2013 – Random House
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  With her last daughter’s wedding behind her, Sookie Pool is looking forward to relaxing with her husband on a much-needed vacation when she receives a registered letter that turns her life upside down. The letter pushes Sookie on a journey of discovery as she tries to solve the mystery that has suddenly taken over her life.

Filled with colorful characters, my favorite of the book was Sookie. Although I didn’t identify completely with her there are certain aspects of Sookie that every woman will understand. I think we’re all on the same journey – just at different places along the way.

Fannie Flagg is one of my favorite authors. I adore her charming and funny way of telling a story that never fails to pull me completely in. That was the case in this novel. She also taught me about the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of WWII. I’d always heard about the war effort on the home front but the WASPs were new to me. What an amazing group of women!

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion is one of my favorite books of 2013. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud and possibly learn something new you’ll want to read this wonderful novel.

Note:  You can learn more about the WASPs here.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Title:  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

Author:  Jenny Wingfield

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  July 2012 – Random House Trade Paperbacks – 352 pages

Synopsis:  Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at “the old home place,” a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. The children embrace the reunion as a welcome escape from the prying eyes of their father’s congregation; for Willadee it’s a precious opportunity to spend time with her mother and father, Calla and John. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core: John’s untimely death and, soon after, the loss of Samuel’s parish, which set the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.

In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But it is Blade Ballenger, a traumatized eight-year-old neighbor, who soon captures Swan’s undivided attention. Full of righteous anger, and innocent of the peril facing her and those she loves, Swan makes it her mission to keep the boy safe from his terrifying father.

With characters who spring to life as vividly as if they were members of one’s own family, and with the clear-eyed wisdom that illuminates the most tragic—and triumphant—aspects of human nature, Jenny Wingfield emerges as one of the most vital, engaging storytellers writing today. In The Homecoming of Samuel Lake she has created a memorable and lasting work of fiction.

My brief take:  Oh my goodness! What a wonderful novel! I loved being immersed in the southern setting and I loved the Lake family. Jenny Wingfield’s characters and story completely pulled me in.

My heart was captured by Swan. She had a remarkably mature empathy for the people in her life but expressed it in such an age-appropriate way that it made me smile. My heart went out to her as shocking events unfolded but I was left feeling uplifted and optimistic for what the future would hold for her.

Swan is the main character but the other members of her family (immediate and extended) are interesting and endearing. They could probably each have their own novel – and I would want to read them!

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake will be on my 2012 Favorites list. Highly recommended.

Disclosure:  I received this book from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner

Title:  The Queen’s Vow: A Novel of Isabella of Castile

Author:  C.W. Gortner

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Published:  June 2012 – Ballantine Books

Pages:  400

From the synopsis:  No one believed I was destined for greatness.
 Young Isabella is barely a teenager when she and her brother are taken from their mother’s home to live under the watchful eye of their half-brother, King Enrique, and his sultry, conniving queen. There, Isabella is thrust into danger when she becomes an unwitting pawn in a plot to dethrone Enrique. Suspected of treason and held captive, she treads a perilous path, torn between loyalties, until at age seventeen she suddenly finds herself heiress of Castile, the largest kingdom in Spain. Plunged into a deadly conflict to secure her crown, she is determined to wed the one man she loves yet who is forbidden to her—Fernando, prince of Aragon.
From the glorious palaces of Segovia to the battlefields of Granada and the intrigue-laden gardens of Seville, The Queen’s Vow sweeps us into the tumultuous forging of a nation and the complex, fascinating heart of the woman who overcame all odds to become Isabella of Castile.

My take:  The Queen’s Vow is a riveting novel about a determined young woman on her way to becoming Queen of Spain. I thoroughly enjoyed C.W. Gortner’s confident and honorable Isabella. From the start she shouldered responsibility with grace and dignity. She kept her head as she met challenges and made unimaginable decisions with far-reaching consequences for her people. She had good intentions and thought she was carrying out God’s wishes but hindsight shows that even good intentions don’t always bring the desired results.

Gortner’s beautiful writing and exciting story kept me enthralled. Isabella and her husband Fernando spent much of their reign at war. Also, in an effort to convert all non Catholics in their country to Catholicism, they went so far as to begin the Inquisition. Because of the author’s meticulous research and ability to relate the facts with clarity I now have a better understanding of this time in history. Isabella also did good things for Spain. She supported women’s education and the arts and was commited to bringing her country to the same level as the rest of the prominent European countries. For good or bad, Isabella definitely had an impact on her beloved Spain.

The Queen’s Vow is a story of royal intrigue, politics, a touch of romance, and a good deal of controversy. I recommend it to fans of Historical Fiction, Spanish history, and the author. I plan to track down a copy of Gortner’s novel The Last Queen– the story of Isabella’s daughter Juana. After meeting Juana in this book I’m interested in finding out what happened in her lifetime.

 

♦  ♦  ♦

C.W. Gortner is the author of The Last Queen, The Confessions of Catherine de Medici and The Tudor Secret.  He holds an MFA in Writing with an emphasis in Renaissance Studies from the New College of California. In his extensive travels to research his books, he has danced a galliard in a Tudor great hall and experienced life in a Spanish castle. His novels have garnered international praise and been translated into thirteen languages to date. He is also a dedicated advocate for animal rights and environmental issues. He’s currently at work on his fourth novel for Ballantine Books, about the early years of Lucrezia Borgia, as well as the third novel in his Tudor series,The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles (US) or Elizabeth’s Spymaster (UK). Half-Spanish by birth, C.W. lives in Northern California.


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Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

Title:  Paris In Love: A Memoir

Author:  Eloisa James

Genre:  Memoir

Published:  April 2012 – Random House

My take:  Two weeks after her mother died of cancer Eloisa James was diagnosed with cancer. After coming through successful treatment the author and her husband decided to make some changes that involved getting rid of stuff and taking sabbaticals from their jobs. They sold their house and moved the family to Paris for a year.

While working on an academic book (EJ is Mary Bly in her academic/real life) and a historical romance novel James tweeted about daily life in Paris. Topics included French food, clothes, diet and exercise to offset the food, children’s school issues, and many other aspects of living in Paris.

James also included a few essays. One particularly touching essay titled Rose explained the motivation for the Paris adventure. I was caught off guard by the emotion it evoked.

At the end James compiled a list of recommended museums, places to eat, stores to buy food or clothing, etc. It would be helpful to anyone planning their own trip to Paris. I really enjoyed Paris In Love. The unusual style of short entries and essays worked for me and I think fans of memoirs will enjoy it. It’s going on my travel book shelf because Paris is on my bucket list!

Source:  Giveaway win from the publisher.

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

About The Girl Who Chased the Moon

In her latest enchanting novel, New York Times bestselling author Sarah Addison Allen invites you to a quirky little Southern town with more magic than a full Carolina moon. Here two very different women discover how to find their place in the world…no matter how out of place they feel.

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. For instance, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? Why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life.

Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth and in the hope of bringing back the love she fears she’s lost forever. In Julia, Emily may have found a link to her mother’s past. But why is everyone trying to discourage Emily’s growing relationship with the handsome and mysterious son of Mullaby’s most prominent family? Emily came to Mullaby to get answers, but all she’s found so far are more questions.

Is there really a ghost dancing in her backyard? Can a cake really bring back a lost love?

In this town of lovable misfits, maybe the right answer is the one that just feels…different.


* * * * * * *


My review: Sarah Addison Allen has worked her magic again. There’s an enchanting vibe to each of her novels yet I find them quite believable (ok, the apple tree in Garden Spells and the wallpaper in The Girl Who Chased The Moon are exceptions). You could call them modern fairy tales.

The Girl Who Chased The Moon has interesting characters. There’s Emily who, after her mother’s death, goes to live with Vance – her very tall grandfather – in Mullaby, North Carolina. He’s a bit odd but very nice. Emily finds that many of the people in Mullaby are a little on the quirky side and dealing with their own issues. One of those people is Win, a member of the most prominent family in town. Win’s uncle died because of Emily’s mother – at least that is the story he’s heard all his life. What is Win’s quirk? You’ll have to read the book.

Although it may seem like this is Emily’s story I think it is equally Julia’s. She is a neighbor to Emily and bakes cakes in hopes of attracting a certain person. She leaves the window in her kitchen open so the aroma will bring that person to her. There’s so much more to her story but I’ll just say I really enjoyed it.

Many other characters add to this sweet tale of hope and second chances. My only complaint is that it was too short. I wanted to keep reading about Emily, Vance, Win, Julia and all the people of Mullaby. This is one of those novels I just know I’ll read again.




About Sarah Addison Allen

Sarah Addison Allen is the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells andThe Sugar Queen. She was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is currently at work on her next novel. You can visit Sarah Addison Allen’s website at: www.sarahaddisonallen.com.







Review copy from Random House and Pump Up Your Book