Where I share my love of books with reviews, features, giveaways and memes. Family and needlepoint are thrown in from time to time.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy September!

"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.
- John Updike, September

Hello - this will be my last live post for this week. I am off to the ANG (American Needlepoint Guild) Seminar in Milwaukee until Friday night. Then Saturday morning I am taking a day trip with my husband SOOO if I am lucky I will be able to catch up with emails on Sunday and start posting again next week! The rest of the posts for this week are set up and ready to go - there will be a few giveaways starting too so watch out for those!

But let's get caught up on some winners!

The Lost Dog Winners:
  1. jrs0020
  2. pam (already won) so then I tried Sue (already won) so the next draw was DarcyO (already won) I was feeling very sorry for this lost dog but it finally found a home with Debbie!
  3. Beth (already won) so this one went to Sunnyview
  4. BelindaM
  5. catss99
The Husband Project:
  1. Bingo
The Hope of Refuge:
  1. wheresmyrain
The Blue Star:
  1. Katrina
  2. Marjorie (already won) so then fredamans
  3. ChristyJan
  4. Cindy
  5. bermudaonion
I have also had 2 audiobooks end but will not be drawing the winners of those until next week - along with the other 3 giveaways that will end before I am home! Have a great week everyone!

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday 8-31-2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted at The Printed Page or In Your Mailbox at The Story Siren. Please stop by those posts and take a look at what packages everybody else got this week!

ARC Arrivals:
  1. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks from Hachette Books.
  2. The Sister Pact by Cami Checketts from the author.
  3. My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy from Sourcebooks.
  4. The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
  5. Playing House by Fredrica Wagmanfrom FSB Associates.
  6. Touching Wonder by John Blase from TBB Media.
  7. Stretch Marks by Kimberly Stuart from the author.
  8. The Sum of His Syndromes by K.B. Dixon from Academy Chicago Publishers.
  9. Beg, Borrow, Steal by Michael Greenbergfrom Blue Dot Literary.
  10. Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Serajifrom the author.
  11. The Transformation by Terri Kraus from TBB Media.
  12. In the Arms of Immortals by Ginger Garrett for a First Wild Card Tour.
  13. The Shimmer by David Morrellfrom FSB Associates.
  14. Shake the Devil Off by Ethan Brown from Henry Holt.
  15. The Embers by Hyatt Bass from Henry Holt.
  16. The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim from Henry Holt.
  17. The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron from Carol Fass Publicity.
  18. Travel Writing by Peter Ferry from Bostick Communications.
  19. Nibble & Kuhn by David Schmahmann from Academy Chicago Publishers.

What books found a new home with you this week?

Kid's Korner - Guest post by Shelly Nicholson and Giveaway!

Do you have a “terrible two” living in your home? Does your child do crazy things that make you want to pull the last strand of your hair (that is now gray from stress) out?

Don’t scream!
Don’t cry!
Don’t medicate!

Take a deep breath. Write it down in a journal. Someday you will think it’s all very funny. I know from experience.

My son, Jacob (who will be eight years old next month) could have at one time been a character double for Dennis the Menace meets Curious George. After rearing two “calmer” sons (who are now 13 and 11), Jacob’s naughtiness startled me! I thought maybe something went amiss in the womb. Did I drink too much caffeine? Did my craving for spearmint gumdrop leaves inject too much sugar into baby Jacob’s system? Was this child part monkey—the missing link, perhaps? I couldn’t tell. His “terrible twos” continued into the “terrifying threes,” the “frightful fours” and the “fearful fives.”

Today, however, *sigh of relief*, Jacob’s teachers tell me he is the “best behaved student in the classroom, with a very funny sense of humor.”

I would describe him as such myself. Now Jacob is a sweet, caring kid, well behaved, polite (most times, lol), with a great sense of humor whom everybody loves! Unlike my other three children, though, he is still quite the daredevil. He’s not much of a team sports kind of kid. He’s more of an X-Games kind of kid. From snowboarding, to skiing, to BMXing and skateboarding, he loves it all. He tells me that when he grows up, he will be a rock star who rides a BMX bike in the X-Games (oh, and I forgot to mention, a builder on the side).

Thanks to my mischievous little funny guy, at the age of 35, I have a head full of gray hairs that I cover up every 6 weeks with a bottle of dye and lots of stories to write!

So many people ask me how I get my ideas for stories. I have to say, “Because my children inspire me.” And they really do!

In my two books Jake the Snake and the Stupid Time-Out Chair and A Stinky Surprise for Jake the Snake, I used lots of ideas from my kids. Jacob really did swing from the dining room chandelier. My daughter Halie loves the color pink. My oldest son really did have a pet lizard (although it didn’t really drowned in chocolate sauce J). My middle son’s favorite meal is spaghetti and meatballs, and I always thought it would be fun to give birth to twins! (Well, maybe not twin Jacobs!)

If you are an aspiring writer, get ideas from the world around you! Go to a quite place: a park, a lake, a forest, a corner of your house. Take a walk. Observe the surroundings. Listen to the sounds. Open up your imagination. Write in a journal. Create a blog. Write about everyday occurrences. In my stories, I want to get children interested in reading through realistic characters and laugh-out-loud humor. But I’d also like to instill a valuable lesson into my story. I hope that my “Jake the Snake” books will do just that. I hope that children everywhere will be able to relate to my characters!

Kristi, thank you for hosting me on your blog. I had so much fun visiting! You can learn about me, my books and the adventures of “Jake the Snake” at www.booksbyshelly.com

Have a great day! Happy reading! And happy writing!

J Shelly Nicholson

Thank you Shelly for spending time at Books and Needlepoint today! Having a 4 year old Jake myself - can't wait to introduce him to these books!

Shelly has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her first book - Jake the Snake and the Stupid Time-Out Chair! All you need to do is visit her site
Books by Shelly and come back and tell me something you learned! Sign her guest book while you are there and tell
her Kristi sent you and I will give you an extra entry! Please leave an email address so I can reach you! Continental U.S. Only. This giveaway will end Sept 14th.

Grab a Cup of Coffee and Come and Chat with Beth Cornelison! (Chance to win Healing Luke!)

Please help me welcome Beth Cornelison to Books and Needlepoint today. She is currently touring with her latest book - Healing Luke. Beth, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for me and my readers - Can you tell us about your latest book, Healing Luke?

Sure. The idea for Healing Luke came to me after a family vacation in Destin, Florida. In Healing Luke, readers meet the Morgan men, father Bart, and his two grown sons, Aaron and Luke. The Morgans run a snorkeling and deep sea fishing tours business in Destin, Florida. The three bachelors lead a charmed life until an accident on their tour boat leaves Luke injured and the whole family grappling with the changes in their lives.

Enter Abby Stanford, an occupational therapist from Texas on vacation by herself after breaking her engagement with her philandering fiancé. When Abby arrives at the snorkeling office and has a run-in with a surly Luke, Aaron swoops in to save face for the family business, and, ladies' man that he is, Aaron snags a date with Abby. Aaron quickly realizes the rapport Abby has with his brother, and he and Bart offer Abby an unconventional job– a multi-purpose assistant to the family. Among other duties at the snorkeling office, Abby's goal is to motivate Luke, help with his therapy, and guide the family through the troubled waters they face.

Needing a distraction from her own painful break up and feeling a connection to the Morgan men, Abby accepts the position and takes a leave of absence from her job in Texas. In the weeks that follow, Abby becomes part of the Morgan family, sharing their heartaches and triumphs as she guides Luke through his recovery and rehabilitation. With the Morgan men, Abby finds healing for her own wounded heart, and when friendship and a sizzling attraction flare with Luke, she discovers a second chance for true love.

I had a great time writing about Abby and the Morgans, and I hope readers will love them, too.

I have just started reading this book and I am already enjoying it! (Be sure to come back for my review in the next week or so!)

2. You have an article on your website called Perfect People are Boring where you talk about flawed characters being more interesting than "perfect people". Do you ever start out with a character where you think you know their flaws, only to have it go in a direction you never expected?

That actually happened to an extent with Abby. She started out in my mind as a much more demure, sweet southern belle/girl-next-door character. But Abby would have nothing of it. She battled me from the beginning and quickly evolved into the sassy, military brat, take-no-guff woman that she is in Healing Luke. Her insecurities and stubbornness (and other flaws) made her a much more interesting character, in my opinion, than the character I initially intended. Likewise, Luke proved to have flaws and fears I hadn't originally planned. As I write my books and get to know my characters, I peel back layers on my characters and learn things about them that I have to go back and weave into the story. It is not uncommon to have to revise and tweak several times, especially when a character (usually the hero) is reticent about revealing who he is to me.

Not being a writer myself, that is just fascinating to me the way that characters take on personalities for authors and evolve over time!

3. This may not be a fair question, but do you have a favorite book or character that you have written? Or how about a favorite quote?

Oh, that is a bit like asking which child I love best! :-) But I have a few books that have special meaning to me, or that have plots that I had an especially fun time writing. Under Fire was a labor of love, and I'm really proud of it. It is the kind of book I love most to read when I read for pleasure-- lots of action and suspense. But In Protective Custody won the Golden Heart in 2001, so it has sentimental meaning. And I worked on Healing Luke for years, revising and reworking it, so it feels like an old friend to me. I always smile when I read certain scenes involving all of the Morgan men. Their rapport with each other, the family dynamic and roles they each played in the family were so clear to me, at times I felt more like I was taking dictation from the voices in my head than writing fictional characters! By favorite quote, do you mean an inspiring quote from someone else? If so, there is the one on my website home page (www.bethcornelison.com to see what it is!) and I also love this one from Theodore Roosevelt. (Sorry, it is a bit long...): “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

This is a wonderful quote - I also love the one on your website - that will be one that I share with my daughters as they grow up!

4. How much influence do you have with the titles of your books or the cover pictures? Was
Healing Luke your original title?

My original title was “Second Chances.” I usually get a good bit of input on my titles, even if the final choice is not mine. I've had a few titles I loved, while others took time to grow on me. I also get to make suggestions regarding my covers, but ultimately the cover artist's interpretation of my suggestions, the marketing department's vision for the cover, and the editor's input all factor in to the final design. I've loved most of my covers, even if they weren't what I'd envisioned. I think the cover of Healing Luke, for example, is beautiful and emotional. It makes me want to go back to the beach!

I am almost embarrassed to say that the beach wasn't the first thing I noticed about this cover . . .

5. Since To Love, Honor and Defend was published in 2005, how has your life or writing time changed, if at all?

Writing now feels more like the job it is rather than a pastime, but I love my job! I'm much busier with my writing, promotion, travel, and writing workshops now than I was in 2005, and I'm under more deadlines. For example, in 2005 I had one book out. In 2009, I have 4 books and a novella (although I didn't write all of them in one year), with five more books coming up in the next 12 to 18 months. There is always something in the works!

Wow! That is a lot of books! I look forward to hearing all about those new projects!

6. Do you want to write anything outside of the Romance/suspense genre?

I'd love to write inspirational romance or a children's book. See the last question for the reason I haven't attempted those recently!

I think you have a good reason to put those on hold for now!

7. You have a degree in Public Relations and worked in that field for a year - if you were not an author, what career do you think you would be in?

I'd likely be in some form of Public Relations, though I'm not sure what. Perhaps I'd have gone back to newspaper journalism, which was what I'd originally planned to major in before I fell in love with PR. Writing would definitely be involved in some aspect of the job, though!

8. Where do you most like to write, and is there anything that you "must have" in that space?

Well, since I don't own a laptop, I'm chained to my PC in the guest bedroom/office in my house. I've taken over a corner of that room and decorated it with clutter, printers, manuscripts, to do lists and lots of Snoopy paraphernalia. Ole Snoopy is my good luck charm/muse, so I need him around as I write. Beyond that, I have to have my coffee in the morning and plenty of gum around for later in the day.

And to think that I titled this post Grab a Cup of Coffee - I must have had a premonition there!

9. While on this tour, has there been in comments or questions that have taken you by surprise?

Well, my blog tour has really just started, but I've been getting feedback on Healing Luke coming in this summer from reviewers. So far the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, and the question I get most is: Will Aaron have his own book? The answer to that is: I hope so! I intend for Luke's brother, and maybe their father Bart, to have their own books, but the trick is finding the time to write it! I'm under contract to write two more books in the next eight months for Silhouette. Once I have those finished, writing Aaron's book is high on my wish list.

10. Is there anything that you would like to leave my readers with today?

Thank you for the opportunity to share some about Healing Luke, my writing life and my earlier books! It's been fun! I love to hear from readers, and they can contact me through my website: www.bethcornelison.com. I have a newsletter people can sign up for as well. Look for the link on my NEWS page. Also, my official launch party for Healing Luke takes place on the Casablanca authors blog (http://casablancaauthors.blogspot.com/) on September 1. I hope folks will stop by and leave a comment. I will have prizes!! Thanks again and happy reading (and needlepointing!) everyone!

I don't know about you readers - but it is always very exciting for me to be able to do these interviews! I love finding out more about them and learning how their books come into existence! Thank you Beth for sharing with us today!

Danielle at Sourcebooks is going to give away 2 copies of Healing Luke to 2 Lucky Readers! All you have to do is visit Beth's website and tell me something you learned about her or her books or even tell me that you signed up for her newsletter (this last one will have to be on the honor system. . .) This giveaway is limited to the U.S. and Canada. Please also leave an email address in your comment so that I can reach you! This giveaway will end on Sept 14th!

There are a lot of other blogs also hosting Beth in the next few weeks - so be sure to visit them!

August 27—Love Romance Passion
September 3—Pop Syndicate’s Book Addict
September 4—Cindy’s Love of Books
September 7—Grace’s Book Blog
September 8—Yankee Romance Reviewers
September 9—This Book for Free
September 10—The Review From Here/Scribe Vibe
September 11—Romance Reader at Heart’s Novel Thoughts Blog
September 14—My Thoughts… Your Thoughts

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love by Beth Pattillo (Book Review)

Title: The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love
Author: Beth Pattillo
Publisher: Waterbrook Press

First sentence: Every Tuesday at eleven o'clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah's Cafe on the town square.

Summary: Once a month, the six women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recently wedded bliss, group leader Eugenie chooses "Great Love Stories in Literature" as the theme for the year's reading list--a risky selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.

As the Knit Lit ladies read and discuss classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille's unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to address conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn't sure she's ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer; and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.

Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennessee, love isn't easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their families, their community--and especially in each other. (back cover)

My thoughts: The cast of characters in this book is both quirky and lovable. I enjoyed getting to know each and every one of them and am now determined to go back and read The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society! I am hoping for more books with this group. I suggest you pick this one up to read over a lazy weekend, curled up in your favorite chair, with a cup of tea or hot chocolate by your side.

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love
Publisher/Publication Date: Waterbrook Press, June 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4000-7395-5
368 pages

ARC Arrival: Nibble & Kuhn by David Schmahmann

Nibble & Kuhn by David Schmahmann

Publisher: Academy Chicago Publishers

About the book: Two likeable newcomers learn the ropes of corporate law at Nibble & Kuhn--and fall in love--just as that most proper of Boston's venerable firms comically tries to "rebrand" itself for the Google era.

Pompous and arbitrary, the ruling junta of partners at N&K saddles Derek Dover with a high visibility lawsuit just weeks before trial. The diligent young attorney arranges things so that Maria Parma, his sassy aristocratic girlfriend, also gets named to the case.

As Derek prepares his arguments on behalf of seven young victims of industrial polluters, his anxieties about his career and his torments over Maria's mixed messages only increase. Have his eccentric WASP superiors handed Derek a "toxic" case to ruin any shot at becoming a partner? How can he get his opponents to settle--the outcome the presiding judge all but demands--unless his unorthodox "expert witnesses" perform with enough gravitas to match that of the other side with its Harvard Medical School scientist? Ultimately, Derek sets in motion a line of inquiry that spins events entirely out of the control of judge, jury, and any and all attorneys. (back cover)

About the author: David Schmahmann is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Cornell Law School. His first novel Empire Settings ("unexpected, even unforgettable" - The Washington Post) received the John Gardner Book Award. He practices law in Boston, and lives in Weston, MA. (back cover)

Nibble & Kuhn
Publisher/Publication Date: Academy Chicago Publishers, November 2009
ISBN: 978-0-89733-592-8
256 pages

ARC Arrival: Travel Writing by Peter Ferry

Travel Writing by Peter Ferry

Publisher: Mariner Books

About the book: Pete Ferry, our narrator, teaches high school English in the wealthy suburb of Lake Forest, outside Chicago, and moonlights as a travel writer. On his way home after work one evening he witnesses a car accident that kills a beautiful woman named Lisa Kim. But was it an accident? Could Pete have prevented it? And did it actually happen, or is this just an elaborate tale he concocts to impart the power of story to his teenage students? Why can't he stop thinking about Lisa Kim? And what might his obsession with her mean to his relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia?

With humor, tenderness, and suspense, Travel Writing takes readers on fascinating journeys, both geographical and psychological, and delves into the notion that the line between fact and fiction is often negotiable. (back cover)

About the author: Peter Ferry is a teacher, writer, and editor. His short stories have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Fiction, the New Review of Literature, and McSweeney's. He has won the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award for Short Fiction. Ferry lives in Evanston, Illinois. (back cover)

Travel Writing
Publisher/Publication Date: Mariner Books, July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-15-603392-3
304 pages

ARC Arrival: The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron

The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron

Publisher: Pocket Books

About the book: Crafting a richly textured, absorbing novel based on the life of her ancestor, renowned thirteenth-century Jewish scholar Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, Michelle Cameron paints a page-turning and deeply personal portrait of Judaism in medieval France and Germany. Imagined through the eyes of Rabbi Meir's wife, Shira, this opulent drama reveals a devout but independent woman who struggles to preserve her religious traditions while remaining true to herself as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

Raised by her widowed rabbi father and a Christian nursemaid in Normandy, Shira is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl whose love of learning shocks the community. But in Meir ben Baruch, a brilliant scholar, she finds her soul mate and a window on the world of Talmudic scholarship that fascinates her.

Married to Meir in Paris, Shira blossoms as a wife and mother, savoring the intellectual and social challenges that come with being the wife of a prominent scholar. After every copy of the Talmud in Paris is confiscated and burned, Shira and her family seek refuge in Germany. Yet even there they experience bloody pogroms and intensifying hatred. As Shira weathers heartbreak and works to find a middle ground between two warring religions, she shows her children and grandchildren how to embrace the joys of life, both secular and religious.

A multigenerational novel that captures a hitherto little-known part of history with deep emotion and riveting authenticity--and includes an illuminating author's note and a Hebrew glossary--The Fruit of Her Hands is a powerful novel about the enduring spirit of the Jewish people. (book jacket)

About the author: Michelle Cameron discovered the inspiring story of Rabbi Meir ben Baruch while exploring her family tree. She lived in Israel for fourteen years and served in the Israeli Army. She currently lives in Chatham, New Jersey, with her family. (book jacket)

The Fruit of Her Hands
Publisher/Publication Date: Pocket Books, Sept 8, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4391-1822-1
448 pages

A Better View of Paradise by Randy Sue Coburn (Book Review)

Title: A Better View of Paradise
Author: Randy Sue Coburn
Publisher: Ballantine Books

First sentence: Pele is far from Stevie's mind on the warm September morning that her new garden is scheduled to open.

My Synopsis: Stevie Pollack is an accomplished landscape architect who has hit a rough patch in her career. A park that she designed in Chicago isn't turning out as she planned. In addition to that, her boyfriend has recently dumped her, as seems to be par for course for her love life. She decides to escape to her family's house in Hawaii only to discover that her father is there - and is dying of cancer.

She has never really been close to her father, spending much of her growing up years with her mother outside of the States. Even so, she is surprised to learn that her father had a sister and a niece, Margo. Margo appears to have had as difficult a relationship with her mother as Stevie has had with her father.

As Stevie grows closer to her father and learns about his life, she also starts to realize some things about herself. Helping her along is a pup who wanders onto her property that she names Pip and the handsome veterinarian Japhy she meets because of him.

My thoughts: Loved the book. The characters had a lot of depth and it was a great read getting to know them. The setting was beautiful, and though I have never been to Hawaii, it let my imagination soar. This was my first Coburn book, but will choose to read more by her in the future!

Please visit my other posts about A Better View of Paradise and interview with the author Randy Sue Coburn.

A Better View of Paradise
Publisher/Publication Date: Ballantine Books, July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-345-49036-0
368 pages

Friday Finds: 8-28-2009

Here are my finds this week!

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Plume

About the book: One Sunday when she is ten years old Velva Jean Hart is saved. But being saved isn't anything like Velva Jean expected, and life soon brings devastating changes, her father disappears on one of his adventures, and her loving mother becomes gravely ill. Before her mother dies, she urges Velva Jean to "live out there in the great wide world." The only world Velva Jean knows is her home in the gold-mining and moon-shining mountains of Appalachia. Her secret dream is to become a big time singer in Nashville--until she falls in love with Harley Bright, a handsome truant-turned revival preacher. As their tumultuous love story unfolds, Velva Jean struggles to find happiness. Will it be as the demure wife Harley wants her to be? (back cover)

Read an excerpt of Velva Jean.

The Promised World by Lisa Tucker

Publisher: Atria

About the book: Lisa Tucker captures the hidden heart of the modern family. In her widely acclaimed novels, she has established her unique gift for depicting the bewildering nature of love, the poignant quest to belong, and the deep desire for a place to call home.

Now from the bestselling author of The Cure for Modern Life and Once Upon a Day comes a riveting story of suspense about a literature professor whose carefully constructed life is shattered after the death of her twin brother and the unraveling of the secret world they shared.

On a March afternoon, while Lila Cole is working in her quiet office, her twin brother Billy points an unloaded rifle out of a hotel window, closing down a city block. "Suicide by police" was obviously Billy's intended result, but the aftermath of his death brings shock after shock for Lila when she discovers that her brilliant but troubled twin -- the person she revered and was closer to than anyone in the world -- was not only estranged from his wife, but also charged with endangering the life of his middle child and namesake, eight-year-old William.

As Lila struggles to figure out what was truth and what was fiction in her brother's complicated past, her job, her marriage, and even her sanity will be put at risk. And when the hidden meaning behind Billy's stories comes to light, she will have to act before Billy's children are destroyed by the same heartbreaking reality that shattered her protector and twin more than twenty years ago.

A love song to the redemptive power ofbooks and stories, The Promised World is a mesmerizing tale of intimacy, betrayal, and lost innocence that will haunt readers long after they have turned the final page. (Simon & Schuster)

Read an excerpt of The Promised World.

Velva Jean Learns to Drive
Publisher/Publication Date: Plume, July 2009
ISBN: 978-0452289451
416 pages

The Promised World
Publisher/Publication Date: Atria, Sept 2009
ISBN: 978-1416575383
336 pages

What great books did you find this week?? Stop over at Should Be Reading and share yours!

First Wild Card Tour: Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Sweetgum Ladies Knit For Love

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


RITA Award–winning Beth Pattillo combines her love of knitting and books in her engaging Sweetgum series. An ordained minister in the Christian Church, Pattillo served churches in Missouri and Tennessee before founding Faith Leader, a spiritual leadership development program. Pattillo is the married mother of two children. She lives and laughs in Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400073952
ISBN-13: 978-1400073955



Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The Antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgum were already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. But Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink. Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person

I wanted to see.”

Eugenie knew better than to let her distaste for the woman show. “Good morning, Hazel,” she replied. “How are you?”

“Distressed, Eugenie. Thoroughly distressed.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Eugenie truly was dismayed, but not from worry over Hazel’s discomfort.

“Yes, well, you have the power to calm the waters, ”Hazel said with the same false smile. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

Since Eugenie’s marriage to Paul only a few weeks before, she’d learned how demanding Hazel could be. The other woman called the parsonage at all hours and appeared in Paul’s office at least once a day. Although Eugenie had known Hazel casually for years, she’d never had to bother with her much. Eugenie couldn’t remember Hazel ever having entered the library.

“How can I help you?” Eugenie said in her best librarian’s voice. She had uttered the phrase countless times over the last forty years and had it down to an art form. Interested but not enmeshed. Solicitous but not overly involved.

“Well, Eugenie, you must know that many people in the church are distressed by your marriage to Paul.”

“Really?” Eugenie kept the pleasant smile on her face and continued to breathe evenly. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Oh, not me, of course,” Hazel said and pressed a hand to her ample chest. “I’m perfectly delighted. But some people… Well, they have concerns.”

“What concerns would those be?” Eugenie asked with measured calm.

Hazel glanced to the right and to the left, then leaned forward to whisper in a conspiratorial fashion. “Some of them aren’t sure you’re a Christian,” she said. Then she straightened and resumed her normal tone of voice. “As I said, I’m not one of them, but I thought I should tell you. For your own good, but also for Rev. Carson’s.”

“I see.” And Eugenie certainly did, far more than Hazel would guess. Eugenie wasn’t new to small-town gossip. Heaven knew she’d heard her share, and even been the target of some, over the last forty years. She’d known that her marriage to Paul would cause some comments, but she hadn’t expected this blatant response.

“I’m mentioning it because I don’t think it would be difficult to put people’s fears to rest,” Hazel said. Her smug expression needled Eugenie. “I know you’ve been attending worship, and that’s a wonderful start.” Hazel quickly moved from interfering to patronizing. “The women’s auxiliary meets on Tuesday mornings. If you joined us—”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible,” Eugenie answered. She was determined to keep a civil tongue in her head if it killed her. “I have to work.”

“For something this important, I’m sure you could find someone to cover for you.”

Eugenie tightened her grip on her handbag. In an emergency, no doubt she could arrange something. But this wasn’t an emergency. It was manipulation.


“Particularly at this time,” Hazel said, barely stopping for breath. “With all the losses we’ve had in these last few months… Well, our community needs leadership. Our church needs leadership.” She gave Eugenie a meaningful look.

Eugenie paused to consider her words carefully. “It has been a difficult summer,” she began. “Tom Munden’s death was so unexpected, and then to lose Frank Jackson like that. And now, with Nancy St. Clair…”

“So you see why it’s more important than ever that you prove to church members that their pastor hasn’t made a grave mistake.”

“I hardly think that my attending a meeting of the women’s auxiliary will offer much comfort to the grieving.” Nor would it convince anyone of her status as a believer. Those sorts of people weren’t looking for proof. They were looking for Eugenie to grovel for acceptance.

Hazel sniffed. “Don’t be difficult, Eugenie. You’re being unrealistic if you expect people to accept you as a Christian after forty years of never darkening the door of any sanctuary in this town.”

“I’ve always felt that faith is a private matter.” That was the sum of any personal information Eugenie was willing to concede to Hazel. “I prefer to let my actions speak for me.”

“There are rumblings,” Hazel said darkly. “Budget rumblings.”

“What do you mean?”

“People need to have full confidence in their pastor, Eugenie. Otherwise they’re less motivated to support the church financially.”

Eugenie bit her tongue. She couldn’t believe Hazel Emerson was standing here, in the middle of the town square, practicing her own brand of extortion.

“Are you threatening me?” Eugenie asked, incredulous.

Hazel sniffed. “Of course not. Don’t be silly. I’m merely cautioning you. As a Christian and as a friend.”

Eugenie wanted to reply that Hazel didn’t appear to be filling either role very well, but she refrained.

“I’ll take your concerns under advisement,” she said to Hazel with forced pleasantness. “I’m sure you mean them in the kindest possible way.”

“Of course I do. How else would I mean them?”

“How else, indeed?” Eugenie muttered under her breath.

“Well, I won’t keep you.” Hazel nodded. “Have a nice day, Eugenie.”

“You too, Hazel.” The response was automatic and helped Eugenie to cover her true sentiments. She stood in place for a long moment as Hazel moved past her, on her way to stir up trouble in some other quarter, no doubt. Then, with a deep breath, Eugenie forced herself to start moving toward Munden’s Five-and-Dime.

She had known it would be difficult, stepping into this unfamiliar role as a pastor’s wife. Paul had assured her that he had no expectations, that she should do what she felt was right. But Eugenie wondered if he had any idea of the trouble Hazel Emerson was stirring up right under his nose.

True, she hadn’t attended church for forty years. After she and Paul had ended their young romance, she’d blamed God for separating them. If Paul hadn’t felt called to the ministry, if he hadn’t refused to take her with him when he went to seminary, if she hadn’t stubbornly insisted on going with him or ending their relationship…

Last year she and Paul had found each other again, all these decades later, and she’d thought the past behind them. But here it was once more in the person of Hazel Emerson, raising troubling questions. Threatening Paul. Forcing Eugenie to examine issues she’d rather leave unanswered.

As the head of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, Eugenie had taken on responsibility for the well-being of the little group several years before. Since Ruthie Allen, the church secretary, had left for Africa last spring to do volunteer work, the group had experienced a definite void. It was time for an infusion of new blood, and after careful consideration, Eugenie had determined that Maria Munden was just the person the Knit Lit Society needed. What’s more, Maria needed the group too. The recent loss of her father must be quite difficult for her, Eugenie was sure. And so despite having had her feathers ruffled by Hazel Emerson, Eugenie walked into Munden’s Five-and-Dime with a firm purpose.

“Good morning, Maria,” Eugenie called above the whine of the door. For years she’d been after Tom Munden to use a little WD-40 on the hinges, but he had insisted that the noise bothered him less than the idea of a customer entering without him knowing it.

“Eugenie! Hello.” Maria straightened from where she stood slumped over the counter. She had red marks on her forehead from resting her head in her hands, and her nondescript shoulder length brown hair hung on each side of her face in a clump. Eugenie had come at the right time. Maria was in her early thirties, but her father’s death seemed to have aged her ten years.

Maria came around the counter. “What can I help you with today?”

“Oh, I’m not here to buy anything,” Eugenie said, and then she was dismayed when disappointment showed in Maria’s eyes. With the superstores of the world creeping closer and closer to Sweetgum, mom-and-pop shops like Munden’s were living on borrowed time. Even if Tom Munden had lived, the inevitable day when the store closed couldn’t have been avoided.

“What did you need then?” Maria’s tone was polite but strained.

“I have an invitation for you.”

“An invitation?”

Eugenie stood a little straighter. “On behalf of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society, I’d like to extend an invitation to you to become a part of the group.”

Maria’s brown eyes were blank for a moment, and then they darkened. “The Knit Lit Society?”

“I can’t think of anyone who would be a better fit.” Eugenie paused. “If you don’t know how to knit, one of us can teach you. And I know you enjoy reading.” Maria was one of the most faithful and frequent patrons of the library. “I think you’d appreciate the discussion.”

Maria said nothing.

“If you’d like some time to think—”

“I’ll do it,” Maria said quickly, as if she didn’t want to give herself time to reconsider. “I know how to knit. You won’t have to teach me.”

“Excellent,” Eugenie said, relieved. “Our meeting is this Friday.”

“Do I have to read something by then?” Lines of doubt wrinkled Maria’s forehead beneath the strands of gray that streaked her hair.

Eugenie shook her head. “I haven’t passed out the reading list for this year. This first meeting will be to get us organized.”

Relief eased the tight lines on her face.

“We meet at the church, of course,” Eugenie continued. “Upstairs, in the Pairs and Spares Sunday school room. If you’d like, I can drop by here Friday evening and we can walk over together.”

Maria shook her head. “Thank you, but that won’t be necessary.” She paused, as if collecting her thoughts, then spoke. “I’m not sure why you asked me to join, Eugenie, but I appreciate it.”

“I’m delighted to have you. The others will be as well. ”Mission accomplished, Eugenie shifted her pocketbook to the other arm. “I’d better be going. I’m meeting Paul for lunch at the café.”

Like most of Sweetgum, with the possible exception of Hazel Emerson, Maria smiled at Eugenie’s mention of her new husband. “Tell the preacher I said hello.” Maria moved to open the door for Eugenie. “I’ll see you at the meeting.”

Eugenie lifted her shoulders and nodded with as much equanimity as she could. After years of being the town spinster, playing the newlywed was a novel experience. She hoped she’d become accustomed to it with time—if she didn’t drive away all of Paul’s parishioners first with her heathen ways.

“Have a nice afternoon,” Eugenie said and slipped out the door, glad that at least one thing that morning had gone as planned.

After Eugenie left, Maria Munden halfheartedly swiped her feather duster at the back-to-school display in the front window. Hot sunshine, amplified by the plate glass, made sweat bead on her forehead. What was the point of dusting the same old collection of binders, backpacks, and two-pocket folders? She’d barely seen a customer all day. She turned from the window and looked around at the neat rows of shelving. The five symmetrical aisles had stood in the same place as long as she could remember.

Aisle one, to the far left, held greeting cards, gift-wrap, stationery, office and school supplies. Aisle two, housewares and paper goods. Aisle three, decorative items. Aisle four, cleaning supplies and detergent. Aisle five had always been her favorite, with its games, puzzles, and coloring books. Across the back wall stretched the sewing notions, yarn, and craft supplies. Everything to outfit a household and its members in one small space. The only problem was, no one wanted small anymore. They wanted variety, bulk, and large economy size with a McDonald’s and a credit union. Not quaint and limited, like the old five-and- dime.

From the counter a few feet away, Maria’s cell phone buzzed, and she sighed. She knew without looking at the display who it would be.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Maria, you have to do something about this.” Her mother never acknowledged the greeting but plunged into a voluble litany of complaints that covered everything from the state of the weather to her older sister Daphne’s management of the farm.

“Mom?” Maria tried to interrupt her mother’s diatribe. “Mom? Look, I’m the only one in the store right now. I’ll have to call you back later.”

“Where’s Stephanie? She was supposed to be there at nine.”

“I don’t know where she is. ”Maria’s younger sister, the baby at twenty-five, was AWOL more often than not.

Maria heard the shop door open with a whine of its hinges, not too different from her mother’s tone of voice. She looked up, expecting to see her younger sister. Instead, a tall, dark-haired man entered the store. He took two steps inside, then stopped. His eyes traveled around the rows of shelves, and his lips twisted in an expression of disapproval. The hairs on Maria’s neck stood on end. The stranger saw her, nodded, and then disappeared down the far aisle, but he was so tall that Maria could track his progress as he moved. He came to a stop in front of the office supplies. Someone from out of town, obviously. Probably a traveling salesman who needed paper clips or legal pads. Maybe a couple of blank CDs or a flash drive. Maria had dealt with his type before.

“Bye, Mom,” she said into the phone before clicking it shut. From experience, she knew it would take her mother several moments before she realized Maria was no longer on the other end of the line. Such discoveries never seemed to faze her mother. She would simply look around the room at home and find Daphne so she could continue her rant. Maria tucked the cell phone under the counter and moved across the store toward the stranger. “May I help you?” Upon closer inspection, she could see that his suit was expensive. So were his haircut, his shoes, and his aftershave.

His head turned toward her, and she felt a little catch in her chest. His dark eyes stared down at her as if she were a lesser mortal approaching a demigod.

“I’m looking for a fountain pen,” he said. He turned back toward the shelves of office supplies and studied them as if attempting to decipher a secret code.

A fountain pen? In Sweetgum? He was definitely from out of town.

“I’m afraid we only have ballpoint or gel.” She waved a hand toward the appropriate shelf. “Would one of these do?”

He looked at her again, one eyebrow arched like the vault of a cathedral. “I need a fountain pen.”

Maria took a calming breath. A sale was a sale, and the customer was always right—her father’s two favorite dictums, drummed into her from the day she was tall enough to see over the counter.

“I’m sorry. Our selection is limited, I know. Which way are you headed? I can direct you to the nearest Wal-Mart. You might find one there.”

At her mention of the chain superstore, the man’s mouth turned down as if she’d just insulted him. “No, thank you. That won’t be necessary.”

“Is there anything else I can help you with?” she said, practically gritting her teeth. She resisted the urge to grab his arm and hustle him out of the store. Today was not the day to try her patience. In two hours, assuming Stephanie showed up, Maria was going to cross the town square to the lawyer’s office and do the unthinkable. At the moment, she didn’t have time for this man and his supercilious attitude toward Sweetgum.

“I need directions,” he said, eyeing her dubiously, as if he thought she might not be up to the task.

“Well, if you’re looking for someplace nearby, I can tell you where you need to go,” she said without a hint of a smile.

He looked away, as if deliberating whether to accept her offer. Honestly, the man might be extraordinarily good-looking—and wealthy, no doubt—but she would be surprised if he had any friends. He had the social skills of a goat.

The hinges on the door whined again. Maria looked over her shoulder to see another man entering the shop.

“James!” The second man grinned when he caught sight of the stranger at Maria’s side. “You disappeared.” The newcomer was as fair as the first was dark. “We’re late.”

“Yes,” the stranger replied with a continued lack of charm.

“But I needed a pen. ”He snatched a two-pack of ballpoints from the shelf and extended them toward Maria. “I’ll take these.”

Maria bit the inside of her lip and took the package from his hand. “I’ll ring you up at the counter.” She whirled on one heel and walked, spine rigid, to the front of the store.

“Hi.” The second man greeted her with cheery casualness. “Great store. I haven’t seen anything like this in years.”

It was a polite way of saying that Munden’s Five-and-Dime was dated, but Maria appreciated his chivalry. Especially since his friend obviously didn’t have a courteous bone in his body.

“Thank you. ”Maria smiled at him and then stepped behind the counter to ring up the sale on the ancient register. She’d pushed her father for years to computerize their sales—not to mention the inventory—but he’d been perfectly happy with his tried-and-true methods. Unfortunately, while he’d been able to keep track of sales and stock in his head, Maria wasn’t quite so gifted.

The tall man appeared on the other side of the register. “Three dollars and thirty-two cents,” she said, not looking him in the eye.

He reached for his wallet and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. Maria refused to show her frustration. Great. Now he would wipe out all her change, and she’d have to figure out a way to run over to the bank without anyone to watch the store. She completed the transaction and slid the package of pens into a paper bag with the Munden’s logo emblazoned on it.

“Hey, can you recommend a place for lunch?” the blond man asked. He glanced at his watch. “We need a place to eat between meetings.”

“Tallulah’s Café down the block,” Maria said. Even the tall, arrogant stranger wouldn’t be able to find fault with Tallulah’s home cooking. People drove from miles around for her fried chicken, beef stew, and thick, juicy pork chops. “But you might want to go soon. The café gets busy at lunch.”

“Thanks.” His smile could only be described as sunny, and it made Maria feel better. She smiled in response.

“You’re welcome.”

The tall man watched the exchange impassively. Maria hoped he’d be gone from Sweetgum before the sun went down. Big-city folks who came into town dispensing condescension were one of her biggest pet peeves.

“C’mon, James,” the blond man said. “I have a lot of papers to go over.” He nodded toward his friend. “James here thinks I’m crazy to buy so much land in the middle of nowhere.”

Maria froze. It couldn’t be.

“Oh.” She couldn’t think what else to say.

“We’d better go,” the tall man said, glancing at his watch. “Thank you. ”He nodded curtly at Maria, letting her know she’d been dismissed as the inferior creature that she was.

“But I thought you wanted—” Before she could remind him about his request for directions, the two men disappeared out the door, and Maria’s suspicions—not to mention her fears— flooded through her.

She should have put two and two together the moment the first man had walked into the store. A stranger in an expensive suit. In town for a meeting. Looking for a fountain pen to sign things. Normally Maria was good at figuring things out. Like where her father had put the quarterly tax forms and how she and Stephanie could manage the store with just the two of them for employees.

What she hadn’t figured out, though, were the more complex questions. Like how she had come to be a small-town spinster when she hadn’t been aware of time passing. Or how she was going to keep the five-and-dime afloat even as the town’s economy continued to wither on the vine. And she certainly had no idea how she was going to tell her mother and sisters that she, as executrix of her father’s will, was about to sell their farm, and the only home they’d ever known, right out from under them.

“Welcome to Sweetgum,” she said to the empty aisles around her, and then she picked up the feather duster once more.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Thoughts From People Our Age (40+)

My sister sent these to me in an e-mail and I have tried to pick out the ones that elicited the biggest chuckle from me!

-More often than not, when someone is telling me a story all I can think about is that I can't wait for them to finish so that I can tell my own story that's not only better, but also more directly involves me.

-Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

-Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

-I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

-Is it just me, or are 80% of the people in the "people you may know" feature on Facebook people that I do know, but I deliberately choose not to be friends with?

-There is a great need for sarcasm font.

-Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.

-How the heck are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

-I would rather try to carry 10 plastic grocery bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.

- I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

- My brother's Municipal League baseball team is named the Stepdads. Seeing as none of the guys on the team are actual stepdads, I inquired about the name. He explained, "Cuz we beat you, and you hate us." Classy, bro.

- How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear what they said?

- I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars teams up to prevent an *** from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers!

-What would happen if I hired two private investigators to follow each other?

- While driving yesterday I saw a banana peel in the road and instinctively swerved to avoid it...thanks Mario Kart.

- MapQuest really needs to start their directions on #5. Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

- Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

-I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

- Bad decisions make good stories

-If Carmen San Diego and Waldo ever got together, their offspring would probably just be completely invisible.

-Why is it that during an ice-breaker, when the whole room has to go around and say their name and where they are from, I get so incredibly nervous? Like I know my name, I know where I'm from, this shouldn't be a problem....

-You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you've made up your mind that you just aren't doing anything productive for the rest of the day.

-Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after DVDs? I don't want to have to restart my collection.

-There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.

- "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this ever.

-Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

-I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

-Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, hitting the G-spot, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I’d bet my ass everyone can find and push the Snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time every time...

-I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lites than Kay.

Ok - now you can't tell me that you haven't done some of these! I want to know what your favorite one was! So tell me now.

ARC Arrival: The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

The Calligrapher's Daughter: A Novel by Eugenia Kim

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

About the book: A sweeping debut novel inspired by the life of the author's mother, about a young woman who dares to fight for a brighter future in occupied Korea.

In early twentieth-century Korea, Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher, longs to choose her own destiny. Smart and headstrong, she is encouraged by her mother--but her stern father is desperate to maintain the ways of traditional Korea, especially as the Japanese steadily gain control of his beloved country. When he seeks to marry Najin into an aristocratic family against her will, her mother defies generations of obedient wives and instead sends her to serve in the king's court as a companion to a young princess. But the king is soon assassinated, and the centuries-old dynastic culture comes to its end.

In the shadow of the dying monarchy, Najin begins a journey through increasing oppression while she pursues and education and surprisingly finds love. After just one night of marriage, a denied passport separates Najin from her new husband, who continues alone with their original plans for coveted education in America. As a decade passes, Japan invades China and then attacks Pearl Harbor. With an ocean between them--and the prospect of a reunion uncertain--will the love they share be enough to sustain Najin through the deprivation and violence her country continues to face?

Spanning thirty years, The Calligrapher's Daughter is a richly drawn novel about a country torn between ancient customs and modern possibilities, a family ultimately united by love, and a woman who never gives up her search for freedom. (book jacket)

About the author: Eugenia Sunher Kim, an MFA graduate of Bennington College, has published short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Echoes Upon Echoes: New Korean American Writings. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. The Calligrapher's Daughter is her first novel. (book jacket)

The Calligrapher's Daughter
Publisher/Publication Date: Henry Holt & Company, August 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8912-7
400 pages

ARC Arrival: The Embers by Hyatt Bass

The Embers: A Novel by Hyatt Bass

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

About the book: A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation.

Engaged to the man she loves, Emily Ascher stands on the brink of a new life. But a ring on a finger can somehow change everything, and with the promise of new love settling into old comes a difficult look at how her family has been torn apart in the many years since her brother died. Her parents have long since divorced, and her father, Joe, a famous actor and playwright, carries the blame for his son's death--but what really happened on that winter night? Why has he been unable to clear his name, or even discuss that evening with Emily and her mother?

As spring looms--and with it Emily's wedding in the Berkshires and the unveiling of Joe's first new play since the tragedy--each Ascher begins to reevaluate the events of long ago, finally facing the truth of his or her own culpability in them. Moving between past and present over the course of sixteen years, and interweaving the perspectives of a father, mother, and daughter who finally summon the courage to put the pieces of their lives back together, The Embers is a masterful debut novel of buried secrets and deep regrets that threaten to crush a family while bonding its members irrevocably. (book jacket)

About the author: Hyatt Bass wrote, directed, and produced the film 75 Degrees in July, which was released in 2006. The Embers is her first novel. (book jacket)

The Embers
Publisher/Publication Date: Henry Holt & Company, June 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8994-3
304 pages

ARC Arrival: Shake the Devil Off by Ethan Brown

Shake the Devil Off: True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

About the book: They looked like a slightly mischievous version of the all-American couple, a handsome army veteran and his gorgeous artist girlfriend. Zackery Bowen--one of the first soldiers to encounter the fledgling insurgency in Iraq--returned to New Orleans to tend bar and deliver groceries. In the weeks before Hurricane Katrina, he met Addie Hall, a pretty and high-spirited bartender. Their improvised, hard-partying endurance during and after the storm had news outlets around the world feature the couple as the personification of what so many wanted to imagine was the indomitable spirit of New Orleans. But Addie Hall had a long history of abuse that colored her world and everyone who entered it. And Zackery Bowen fell for Addie completely, until his personal demons, unleashed in the desert of Iraq, combined with hers in a perfect storm of violence that shocked even rough-and-tumble New Orleans.

In October 2006, Bowen leapt from the rooftop bar of a French Quarter hotel. A note in his pocket directed the police to Addie's body. It was, according to NOPD veterans, one of the most gruesome crimes in the city's history. Why had this well-liked and easygoing ex-soldier done this horrible thing?

Journalist Ethan Brown moved to New Orleans in order to find out what had driven Bowen and Hall to this end, and eventually he discovered that their tragedies--like so many others--could have been avoided if the military had not, in the words of Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, "absolutely and completely failed this soldier." By telling the story of these lives, Brown gets to the dark heart of two of the biggest debacles of this era. The result is a deeply investigated, sympathetically told, mesmerizing, and moving tribute to the city of New Orleans, to anyone who has been touched by the signature disasters--foreign and domestic--of our era, and to two victims of these disasters, Zackery Bowen and Addie Hall. (book jacket)

About the author: Ethan Brown has written for New York magazine, The New York Observer, Wired, Vibe, The Independent, GQ, Rolling Stone, Details, The Guardian, and The Village Voice, among other publications. He is the author of two previous books, Queens Reigns Supreme and Snitch. He lives with his wife in New Orleans. (book jacket)

Shake the Devil Off
Publisher/Publication Date: Henry Holt & Company, Sept 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8893-9
304 pages


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