Book Recommendation: FALLING

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“It starts with a house…This house, this dated, fusty house, is entirely within her budget, precisely because it is so dated and fusty. It is the perfect size–two bedrooms…And best of all there is a garden, or rather more than enough space for one…She imagines a long, rustic table, a small group of friends sitting around, bottles of rosé and candles interspersed with galvanized steel pots of lavender running down the center. Laughter. Happy faces. Everyone lit by the glow of summer and love.” Jane Green, FALLING

Publisher Synopsis:

The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House, Jemima J, and Summer Secrets presents a novel about the pleasure and meaning of finding a home—and family—where you least expect them…

When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either.

On the move again, Emma settles in the picturesque waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut, a world apart from both England and Manhattan. It is here that she begins to confront what it is she really wants from her life. With no job, and knowing only one person in town, she channels her passion for creating beautiful spaces into remaking the dilapidated cottage she rents from Dominic, a local handyman who lives next door with his six-year-old son.

Unlike any man Emma has ever known, Dominic is confident, grounded, and committed to being present for his son whose mother fled shortly after he was born. They become friends, and slowly much more, as Emma finds herself feeling at home in a way she never has before.

But just as they start to imagine a life together as a family, fate intervenes in the most shocking of ways. For the first time, Emma has to stay and fight for what she loves, for the truth she has discovered about herself, or risk losing it all.

In a novel of changing seasons, shifting lives, and selfless love, a story unfolds—of one woman’s far-reaching journey to discover who she is truly meant to be…

My Recommendation:

Summer is that delicious time when I dip into the pile of contemporary novels I neglect for historical fiction the other seasons of the year. I have been a long-time fan of Jane Green, and I couldn’t wait to read FALLING: A LOVE STORY. This is her 18th novel, and it might be her best.

FALLING is a story of faith: a woman takes a risk to create the life she always thought she wanted, and finds much more in the process. It is a family drama that is relatable on many levels, with characters real enough step off the page. You will grow to love these characters. Be sure to have a box of tissues handy.

I finished the book at midnight last night, and lost sleep thinking about Emma. My greatest hope is that Green writes a sequel. I need MORE.

Because we share a publisher, I was able to snag a couple of copies of FALLING to give away. For a chance to win, comment below with your favorite Jane Green novel or contemporary novelist, and share the giveaway on social media. You have until 9 PM EST on Monday, August 22nd to win. (US only, please.) Good luck!

Book Recommendation: THE HEIRESS OF WINTERWOOD

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“If you are a fan of Jane Austen and Jane Eyre, you will love Sarah E. Ladd’s debut.” —USAToday.com

Publisher Synopsis:

Darbury, England, 1814

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything.

Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father—a sea captain she’s never met.

When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting at her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.

Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she’s forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.

Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.

Both must learn to have faith and relinquish control so they can embrace the future ahead of them.

My Recommendation:

I was seeking uplifting, Austen-esque romance (escapist fiction) when I found this well-reviewed and widely-read novel. It was a delight.

THE HEIRESS OF WINTERWOOD has all the components of a Jane Austen novel: a spunky, frustrated, endearing protagonist, a brooding, complicated love interest, and plenty of drama. It kept me turning pages late into the night and had a satisfying ending. In short: it was everything I wanted it to be.

Of note: I did not realize THE HEIRESS OF WINTERWOOD was *religious* historical fiction when I purchased it. There are some who do not enjoy references to prayer in their fiction, but not only did I find those references a breath of fresh air, but also a detail that made the story historically authentic. The religious life of people in the past is often ignored by contemporary authors in order to keep in realm of the “politically correct,” but its inclusion had a very light touch and only enhanced my enjoyment of the characters’ developmental arcs.

I recommend this novel to fans of sweet, historical, romantic suspense.

GIVEAWAY: Enchanted Islands

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Publisher Synopsis:

Inspired by the midcentury memoirs of Frances Conway, Enchanted Islands is the dazzling story of an independent American woman whose path takes her far from her native Minnesota when she and her husband, an undercover intelligence officer, are sent to the Galápagos Islands at the brink of World War II.

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frankowski covets the life of her best friend, Rosalie Mendel, who has everything Fanny could wish for—money, parents who value education, and an effervescent and winning personality. When, at age fifteen, Rosalie decides they should run away to Chicago, Fanny jumps at the chance to escape her unexceptional life. But, within a year, Rosalie commits an unforgivable betrayal, inciting Frances to strike out on her own.

Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator ten years her junior. When it’s arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galápagos Islands, the couple’s identities—already hidden from each other—are further buried under their new cover stories. No longer a lonely spinster, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life.

Amid active volcanoes, forbidding wildlife and flora, and unfriendly neighbors, Ainslie and Frances carve out a life for themselves. But the secrets they harbor from their enemies and from each other may be their undoing.

Drawing on the rich history of the early twentieth century and set against a large, colorful canvas, Enchanted Islands boldly examines the complexity of female friendship, the universal pursuit of a place to call home, and the reverberations of secrets we keep from others and from ourselves.

Giveaway:

Because I continue to be immersed in my own research, I have a pile of novels tapping their feet, waiting for me to review them. I don’t want to let this pass by before I’ve had time to dig in, so I’m giving away the gorgeous hardcover Doubleday sent to me.

Check out these fantastic reviews:

“An endearing chronicle of female friendship and evolution in the early 20th century … Amend smartly plies the habitually underrecognized bonds of sisterhood … On an island bursting with nature’s most remarkable creatures, humanity’s depthless ­capacity for loneliness crows most keenly.”
New York Times Book Review

Enchanted Islands is a many faceted jewel. It’s a spy thriller, a survivalist memoir, and a portrait of a marriage. It’s a story of female friendships—Frances’ on-again, off-again relationships with Rosalie and Elke—as well as a fascinating travelogue most likely made more realistic by Amend’s travels to the islands … A great summer read, a fabulous story for all seasons, Enchanted Islands will carry you away.”
Chicago Tribune 

To win a copy of ENCHANTED ISLANDS simply comment below about your favorite travel-related book, and share the giveaway on social media. The drawing will run until Wednesday, August 10th at 9 PM EST. (US only, please.)

Good luck!

Book Giveaway: LEAVING LUCY PEAR

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“The woman dropped her face into the blanket, as if sniffing. Bea thought she was trying to decide, but the woman was already decided. She knew the story of Ruth, even if Bea didn’t. A second later, she and…the baby were gone…The high, whining creak of oars in their locks, moving off-shore. Another whine, coming from Bea herself, a piercing, involuntary sound running from her stomach to her throat…She clamped a hand to her mouth, then vomited into the cupped palm as quietly as she could.” Anna Solomon, LEAVING LUCY PEAR

Publisher Synopsis: 

Set in 1920s New England, the story of two women who are both mothers to the same unforgettable girl—a big, heartrending novel from award-winning writer Anna Solomon

One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle’s house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea’s hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea’s abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own.

In mesmerizing prose, award-winning author Anna Solomon weaves together an unforgettable group of characters as their lives collide on the New England coast. Set against one of America’s most turbulent decades, Leaving Lucy Pear delves into questions of class, freedom, and the meaning of family, establishing Anna Solomon as one of our most captivating storytellers.

Giveaway:

Because I am immersed in my own research, I have a pile of novels tapping their feet, waiting for me to review them. I don’t want to let this one pass by before I’ve had time to dig in, so I’m giving away the gorgeous hardcover Viking sent to me, and keeping the ARC for my future reading pleasure.

Sue Monk Kidd (bestselling author of countless novels) says: “From the first page, I was under Anna Solomon’s spell.”

Publishers Weekly says: “Ambitious and satisfying…[a] lushly written look at two women’s haunting choices.”

Beautiful endorsements!

To win a copy of LEAVING LUCY PEAR simply comment below about your favorite dramatic historical fiction, and share the giveaway on social media. The drawing will run until Friday, July 29th at 9 PM EST. (US only, please.)

Good luck!

Giveaway: THE LIGHT OF PARIS

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“I didn’t set out to lose myself. No one does, really. No one purposely swims away from the solid, forgiving anchor of their heart. We simply make the tiniest of compromises, the smallest of decisions, not realizing the way those small changes add up to something larger until we are forced, for better or worse, to face the people we have become.” Eleanor Brown, THE LIGHT OF PARIS

PUBLISHER SYNOPSIS:

The Light of Paris is the miraculous new novel from New York Times–bestselling author Eleanor Brown, whose debut, The Weird Sisters, was a sensation beloved by critics and readers alike.
 
Madeleine is trapped—by her family’s expectations, by her controlling husband, and by her own fears—in an unhappy marriage and a life she never wanted. From the outside, it looks like she has everything, but on the inside, she fears she has nothing that matters.

In Madeleine’s memories, her grandmother Margie is the kind of woman she should have been—elegant, reserved, perfect. But when Madeleine finds a diary detailing Margie’s bold, romantic trip to Jazz Age Paris, she meets the grandmother she never knew: a dreamer who defied her strict, staid family and spent an exhilarating summer writing in cafés, living on her own, and falling for a charismatic artist.

Despite her unhappiness, when Madeleine’s marriage is threatened, she panics, escaping to her hometown and staying with her critical, disapproving mother. In that unlikely place, shaken by the revelation of a long-hidden family secret and inspired by her grandmother’s bravery, Madeleine creates her own Parisian summer—reconnecting to her love of painting, cultivating a vibrant circle of creative friends, and finding a kindred spirit in a down-to-earth chef who reminds her to feed both her body and her heart.

Margie and Madeleine’s stories intertwine to explore the joys and risks of living life on our own terms, of defying the rules that hold us back from our dreams, and of becoming the people we are meant to be.

GIVEAWAY:

Because I am immersed in my own research, I have a pile of novels tapping their feet, waiting for me to review them. I don’t want to let this one pass by before I’ve had time to dig in, so I’m giving away the gorgeous hardcover Putnam sent to me, and keeping the ARC for my future reading pleasure.

Jojo Moyes (bestselling author of ME BEFORE YOU) says THE LIGHT OF PARIS is, “So lovely and bighearted–it made me long for Paris.” 

Paula McLain (bestselling author of THE PARIS WIFE) says, “Wry, affecting, and deeply rewarding, THE LIGHT OF PARIS will keep you thinking–and smiling–long after the last page is turned.”

I cannot think of higher praise!

To win a copy of THE LIGHT OF PARIS simply comment below about your favorite Parisian-inspired novel or film, and share the giveaway on social media. The drawing will run until Tuesday, July 26th at 9 PM EST. (US only, please.)

Bonne chance! 

 

Book Recommendation: EUPHORIA

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“It’s that moment about two months in, when you think you’ve finally got a handle on the place. Suddenly it feels within your grasp. It’s a delusion–you’ve only been there eight weeks–and it’s followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.” Lily King, EUPHORIA

Publisher Synopsis:

A New York Times Bestseller

Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize

Winner of the 2014 New England Book Award for Fiction

A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

A Best Book of the Year for:

New York Times Book Review, Time, NPR, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly,Newsday, Vogue, New York Magazine, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon, Publishers Weekly, Our Man in Boston, Oprah.com, Salon

Euphoria is Lily King’s nationally bestselling breakout novel of three young, gifted anthropologists of the ‘30’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is “dazzling … suspenseful … brilliant…an exhilarating novel.”—Boston Globe

My Recommendation:

Hallmarks of the writing of Ernest Hemingway include faraway settings, powerful and spare prose, characters with pasts they want to outrun, and relationships fraught with passion, complexity, and drama. The same can be said for Lily King’s EUPHORIA.

Highly prized and decorated, King’s EUPHORIA is a report from the field: 1930s New Guinea, to be precise. Two married anthropologists–very much out of their elements and battle-scarred from barely surviving cultures alien to them–meet another researcher, also world-weary and at a breaking point. Their mutual craving for familiar civilization translates into obsession with one another, boundaries crossed, betrayal, and all matter of unsustainable interactions, leading to inevitable tragedy.

This is a novel that at turns challenges, captivates, offends, and thrills. If you haven’t already read EUPHORIA, I highly recommend it. I cannot stop thinking about it. If you have read the book, I’d love to hear what you think.

Book Recommendation: GUESTS ON EARTH

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“Perhaps you feel that I am straying from my announced subject, which is Mrs. Fitzgerald. Yet it is impossible, as you see, for me to single her out from among all those others who composed the larger picture of our life as we lived it there upon that mountain at that time. Sometimes I see a vast painting like a diorama, yet in the style of Brueghel, densely populated with colorful people spread out over the rolling slopes doing odd things perhaps, yet each one integral to the whole, and safe within the frame.” Lee Smith, GUESTS ON EARTH

Publisher Synopsis:

It’s 1936 when orphaned thirteen-year-old Evalina Toussaint is admitted to Highland Hospital, a mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, known for its innovative treatments for nervous disorders and addictions. Taken under the wing of the hospital’s most notable patient, Zelda Fitzgerald, Evalina witnesses cascading events that lead up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward, Zelda among them. Author Lee Smith has created, through a seamless blending of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart–in which art and madness are luminously intertwined.

My Recommendation:

I have avoided reading GUESTS ON EARTH for some time because the end of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life is painful for me to encounter, and the Zelda “trend” (three Zelda novels releasing around the same time my own novel CALL ME ZELDA was published) caused me a degree of stress I do not remember fondly. More than a year later, I was finally able to dig in, and though I found some unsettling similarities between my novel and GUESTS that I can only attribute to the power of Jung’s collective unconscious I’m very glad I read it.

GUESTS ON EARTH is taut and captivating, a vivid and moving account of one girl’s life as she progresses from a difficult childhood to an even more difficult adulthood. As Smith reveals in the author’s note, she has special insight into the subject of mental illness because both her father and her son were patients at Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC. Smith’s handling of mental illness is controlled, insightful, and gives new understanding.

Zelda is a character in the novel, but is not featured prominently, so if you are looking for a more biographical account in novel form, read Therese Fowler’s Z or R. Clifton Spargo’s BEAUTIFUL FOOLS. Book clubs, in particular, will get much out of reading GUESTS ON EARTH, especially in tandem with the other Zelda novels. I highly recommend the book to anyone who enjoys character-driven historical fiction; it has a cast the reader will not forget.

Have you read GUESTS ON EARTH? Have you read any of the other Zelda novels? How do you think they compare?