Friday, September 4, 2015

Maternity Leave - Review & Giveaway

Review by KT Sullivan
Annie Schwartz-Jensen is in labor with her first child and her husband, Zach, is no help. At thirty-six, she’s a middle school teacher planning to be home with her son, Sam, for six months. The story follows every day of her maternity leave. Sam won’t eat and her cat, Doogan, is unimpressed with the newest member of the family. Annie is frustrated, hungry, and exhausted. “How do people with babies manage to keep themselves alive?” she asks everyone. Sam is demanding and won’t nurse or sleep for any length of time. On day 43, Annie writes, “He hates me,” without further explanation. People give her advice and commiserate. Her friends and colleagues have been through this drill before, except her sister Nora, who’s unable to have children. Zach goes back to work and Annie’s mom goes on vacation, she’s alone with Sam and at her wit’s end. So many decisions and activities to plan, Annie is overwhelmed. Welcome to what no one tells you about having a baby, it’s overwhelming. So much so Annie doesn’t notice Doogan is ill and feels guilty about it. Juggling and multitasking define motherhood and has a lot to learn and to let go. Six months is barely enough time for Annie to get a handle on her life.

My favorite part is when they have to write thank you notes for Sam’s gifts. Annie will do her people’s gifts and Zach will do the rest for his people. Zach wants a definition of her distinction of people. “Your people are the ones who sent Sam a BB gun,” she explains. So much of this story rings true for a new mom. Entertaining read.

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About the Author:
A native to the Chicago suburbs, I was a school librarian for more than ten years (old much?) until I quit to be a stay-at-home-mom-slash-author.  I live with my sweetheart husband, illustrator Matthew Cordell, and our two kids, Romy and Dean.  In my spare time I like to imagine I have spare time.

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Thomas Dunne Books is giving one lucky winner a print copy of
Maternity Leave by Julie Halpern
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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lawyer For The Dog - Promo & Giveaway

Summary:
One of the sharpest attorneys in Charleston, S.C., Sally Baynard isn't your typical southern belle. She's certainly not what her mother hoped she'd grow up to be, especially since she divorced her husband, Family Court Judge Joe Baynard, and his historic family with their historic wealth and historic houses. Maybe Sally was never going to be a proper society lady, but her success as a public defender and family lawyer have been enough for her. She's represented murderers, burglars, drug dealers and lately has taken on some of the thorniest divorces, all cases closed with her Sally Bright Baynard wit, charm and brains.

Or have they? One case she's never successfully closed is her marriage. And when Judge Joe assigns her to one of his divorce cases by appointing her as the Lawyer for the Dog -- Sherman, a miniature schnauzer-- she's forced into close quarters with him again. Juggling the needs of the dog, the angry owners, her amorous but uncommunicative ex-husband, her aging, Alzheimer's-ridden mother, and the expectations of the court is more than Sally could have imagined. And as rascally Sherman digs his way into Sally's heart, he brings along his charming vet Tony, a man who makes Sally question her views on love and marriage.

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About the Author:
Lee Robinson practiced law for over 20 years in Charleston, South Carolina, and was the first female president of the Charleston County Bar.  She teaches at the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Her novel, Lawyer for the Dog  is forthcoming from Thomas Dunne Books in July 7. Her first poetry collection, Hearsay, won the Poets Out Loud Prize from Fordham University Press and the Violet Crown Award from the Texas Writers’ League.  She is also the author of a novel for young adults, Gateway, and a second poetry collection, Creed. Her essays, poetry, and short stories have appeared in many magazines, and anthologies, as well as on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.  Lee has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Texas Arts Commission,  and the South Carolina Arts Commission.

She and her husband, Jerald Winakur, were co-recipients of the 2009 Literary Excellence Award from Gemini Ink, San Antonio’s center for the literary arts.  Lee is a three-time winner of the S.C. Arts Commission’s Fiction Prize for short stories.
She lives on a ranch in the Texas hill country.

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Thomas Dunne Books is giving 1 lucky winner a print copy of
Lawyer For The Dog by Lee Robinson
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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

All the Difference - Promo & Giveaway

OVERVIEW:

New Year’s Eve. A time for resolutions. A chance to make a change. And for thirty-year-old Molly Sullivan, a night that will transform her life forever…

All it takes is one word—yes or no—to decide Molly’s future. As the clock counts down to midnight and the ball slowly begins to drop, Molly’s picture-perfect boyfriend gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. She knows she should say yes, especially considering the baby-sized surprise she just discovered she’s carrying. But something in her heart is telling her to say no…

Now, Molly’s future can follow two very different paths: one where she stays with her baby’s father, despite her misgivings and his family’s unreasonable expectations, and one where she ventures out on her own as a single mother, embracing all the hardships that come with it.

And by the time the next New Year is rung in, Molly will know which choice was right—following her head or listening to her heart…

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About the Author:
Born on Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland and raised in Carlisle, Leah moved to Philadelphia for college, stayed there to work, thought about moving to San Francisco, and ended up in downtown Baltimore. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her Baltimorean husband and two young daughters, toddler son, a very large husky and a tailless cat. Leah's focus is on women's fiction, and has a writing voice that is bright and sarcastic, introspective and thoughtful. That little NaNoWriMo project was edited to within an inch of its life over the course of three and a half years, and is now her debut novel.

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Berkley is giving one lucky winner a print copy of
All The Difference by Leah Ferguson
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dream Things True - 12 Things About ... & A Giveaway

Summary:
A modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in which a wealthy Southern boy falls in love with an undocumented Mexican girl and together they face perils in their hostile Georgia town.  Evan, a soccer star and the nephew of a conservative Southern Senator, has never wanted for much -- except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two-years-old, excels in school, and has a large, warm Mexican family. Never mind their differences, the two fall in love, and they fall hard. But when ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) begins raids on their town, Alma knows that she needs to tell Evan her secret. There's too much at stake. But how to tell her country-club boyfriend that she's an undocumented immigrant? That her whole family and most of her friends live in the country without permission. What follows is a beautiful, nuanced, well-paced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one's family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives.

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“12 Things About Marie Marquardt

1.    I like school. In fact, I like it so much that, after college, I stayed in school for ten more years. Unlike life, school is easy: You get an assignment, you do the assignment, you turn in the assignment, and then you’re done. Life after school gets a little more complicated.
2.    It would be a huge lie to say, “I’ve always wanted to be a novelist.” I never even considered writing novels until I surprised myself by starting to wake up every morning way before dawn to write one.
3.    Most of Dream Things True was written between 4 and 7 a.m. Needless to say, I am not a night person.
4.    I’ve spent the better part of two decades researching, writing about, and doing service and advocacy work with undocumented immigrants from Latin America. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. Sometimes it’s really fun, like when I get invited to a quinceañera.
5.    I’ve written many articles and two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration (with co-authors, who are – by the way – very supportive of my foray into young adult romance!). I have discovered that, at least for me, writing fiction is much more pleasant. I’m not a big fan of footnotes.
6.    I wrote DREAM THINGS TRUE because I think the stories of young undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are important. Many of these immigrants are working hard to get their stories heard. I want to help.
7.    I also wrote DREAM THINGS TRUE because I am totally obsessed with love stories, especially first-love stories. I probably should have known something was off many years ago, when I took all of those breaks from writing my doctoral dissertation to sneak in episodes of The O.C. and My So Called Life (Thank God that was before the era of Netflix marathons. I never would have finished graduate school.).
8.    When not watching teen romance, I read lots of contemporary young adult fiction. I prefer it over any other genre. There is so much extraordinary young adult fiction out there. (Yes, Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Downham, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Peña, and Jandy Nelson, I am looking at you.)
9.    I adore my husband. We’ve been married for twenty-one years. He shares a few things in common with Evan. For instance, both of them don’t like chocolate. (How is that even possible???)
10.We have four kids. Yes, four. They all agree that describing their mom as a “novelist” is way cooler than describing her as a “college professor”.
11.It took me three years to write DREAM THINGS TRUE, and another four years to get it published. If I hadn’t cared so much about this story, I would have quit. I am very glad I didn’t.
12.I think I may be a novelist! I am finishing my second YA contemporary now, slated for release in the fall of 2016, and then another will be close behind it. Even though I never wished for this life, it turns out to be the life I love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marie Marquardt is a Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University's Candler School of Theology and the author of Living Illegal: The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration. She is widely published on issues of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. South. Marquardt has also worked as an advocate among immigrants in Atlanta. She is a founder and  co-chair of El Refugio, a hospitality house near the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Dream Things True is Marie's first young adult novel.

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St. Martin’s is giving one lucky winner a print copy of
Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
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Friday, August 28, 2015

A Good Family - Promo & Giveaway

Summary:
Meet the Brunsons of Downers Grove, Illinois. Henry is the once-magical father, whose fear of aging and endangered career lead him to the nightclubs of Chicago's Viagra Triangle. His wife Julie struggles to reclaim her life with a bottle of Zoloft and dreams of her youthful independence. Charlie, the golden-boy son, leaves the lucrative job his father arranged to serve in Afghanistan--and returns angry, damaged and uncertain of his place in the world. And Barkley, the bumbling youngest, is an aspiring writer of geeky science fiction stories now interviewing for his first job at a forbidding Catholic high school. 

When Henry's health abruptly declines, he tries to return to the home and the life he had dominated. But his family, once totally dependent on his love, physical strength, and income, no longer needs him. As Julie, Charlie, and Barkley begin to find their ways forward, Henry tries desperately to bring them back together. In the end, each one will arrive at a new understanding of what family can--and cannot--be. Unusually assured and perceptive, combining narrative drive with humor, insight, and powerful family dynamics, A Good Family is a memorable debut by former high school teacher Erik Fassnacht.

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About the Author:
Erik Fassnacht was born and raised in Chicago. Spurred by a lifelong desire to write, he left his job as a high school English instructor to get his MFA at Columbia College, where he wrote his debut novel, A Good Family.

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St. Martin’s Press is giving one lucky winner a print copy of
A Good Family by Erik Fassnacht
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Window Opens - Promo & Giveaway

Summary:
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

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About the Author:
Elisabeth Egan is the books editor at Glamour.  Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Self, Glamour, O, People, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Huffington Post, The New York Times Book Review, LA Times Book Review, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, and the Newark Star-Ledger.  She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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Simon & Schuster is giving 2 lucky winners a print copy of
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Open Internationally

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Measure of Happiness - Review & Giveaway

Review by Marlene Engel
Since Celeste’s parents left Hidden Harbor, Katherine has been like a mother to her.  The owner of Lamontagne’s Bakery, Katherine thought she might take an early retirement and sell the bakery to Celeste.  But when she has a change of heart, Celeste takes off to New York to start a new chapter in her life.  When that doesn’t work out for her, she makes her way back to Hidden Harbor, tail between her legs, and back at the bakery again. 

When Zach walks through the bakery doors, Katherine looks like she’s seen a ghost.  She can’t believe that the baby she gave up so many years ago is in her store.  However, neither of them let on that they know who the other is.  Instead Zach acts as if he’s there to apply for a job.  And, to the surprise of Celeste, Katherine actually hires him.  It’s when she looks at the birthdate he puts on the job application that it confirms that he indeed is her son. 

Both Katherine and Celeste have endured heartache in the past.  But it’s not until Zach comes into their lives that he helps them to heal and laugh again.  A story equally heartwarming and emotional, A Measure of Happiness is what amazing stories are made of.  It’s a story about life choices, family, facing your fears and searching for things missing in one’s life. 

Lorrie Thomson does an amazing job taking serious subject such as abandonment, adoption and date rape and turning them into a story you won’t soon forget.  Full of relatable characters, a storyline so powerful that it will grab hold of you from the first page, and so much emotion that it oozes off the pages, A Measure of Happiness is a must read for all.

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About the Author:
I grew up as an only child in the city of Boston and dreamed of living with a big family in an antique white New Englander, on a quiet street with neighbors who stopped for chats at the stonewall. I also dreamed of writing novels for a living. Let’s just say, if I’d known the power of visualization, I would’ve thrown in a mountain view. I’m working on it.

When my youngest child was three, I decided to pursue the writing dream for real, and got down to the hard work of putting words to paper. Three novels, and a mere ten years later, I got “the call” from my wonderful agent, telling me we had an offer for my debut novel and making my author dream come true.

I now live in New Hampshire with my husband and our three children. When I’m not reading, writing, or hunting for collectibles, they let me tag along for camping adventures, day-long paddles, and hikes up 4,000-footers, so I can get a taste of that coveted mountain-view.

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Kensington is giving 2 lucky winners a print copy of
A Measure of Happiness by Lorrie Thomson
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