ELLIE & THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior – SPOTLIGHT & Giveaway

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From Berkley Publishing comes Hazel Prior’s debut novel, ELLIE and the HARP MAKER (Berkley).

Ellie is a lonely, unsatisfied housewife searching for her purpose. She composes poetry and spends her days in an unhappy marriage to a manipulative man, quietly dreaming of rewriting her own life story.

Then Ellie meets Dan.

Dan is a harpmaker, living alone, creating beautiful, hand-carved instruments inside his barn in the English countryside. Dan is different. He prefers to spend his time in solitude, tucked away in his workshop, where he doesn’t have to interact with other people.

Ellie has never met anyone like Dan.

When Dan gives Ellie one of his harps, he shares not only the gift of music, but a lifeline―the start of an improbable but enduring friendship, and new hope for Ellie’s future. But Dan has a secret―and it’s not long before Ellie finds out and changes his entire world, too.

*****

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Prior is a professional concert harpist and debut novelist originally from Oxford. She has toured extensively with musical groups and has played at festivals and theaters around the world. Though her life has largely revolved around her music career, Prior always dreamed of becoming a writer. After submitting a short story to a magazine contest and winning first prize, her dream became reality, leading her to write her shining gem of a first novel.

Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy to giveaway. Just describe the sound of a harp. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING by Stephanie Jimenez – REVIEW & Giveaway

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“They could have named her anything.” They Could Have Named Her Anything, pg. 170

Hostility toward immigrants widespread. We must reject the concept that real, authentic  Americans are someone who looks and talks white. America is a place where everyone can be their true authentic self. It was founded on that principle, but sometimes it’s lost in the real world.

One of our favorite Debs from the Debutante class of 2019, Stephanie Jimenez is out with her debut novel, THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING (LittleA). It explores the idea of being your authentic self in a world that doesn’t always act or look like you.

Every morning 17-year old, Maria Anis Rosario leaves her close-knit, loud Puerto Rican/Equadorian family in Queens to attend private school on the Upper East Side. She’s one of a handful of scholarship Latina students attending. School is an hour away by train, but can feel like its on a different planet. Maria tries to fit in and one day fellow-student, “Rocky” welcomes her into her privileged orbit.

THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING is a warm, and often disturbing literary novel about family, racism, and dreams – those both fragile and terrifying. Navigating the competing desires of her parents and her peers, Maria must forge a path of her own and figure out what it is she really wants – and what she’s willing to give for that.

THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING is a brilliant debut that opens the door onto conversations about race and family, privilege and feminism.

Out now! Indiebound | B&N | Amazon

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Stephanie Jimenez is a former Fulbright recipient. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the Guardian; O, The Oprah Magazine; The New York Times; Joyland Magazine; and more.

She completed a novel-writing intensive at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and she attended the 2017 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for fiction. They Could Have Named Her Anything is her debut novel. She lives in Queens, New York. Visit Stephanie at http://www.stephaniejimenezwriter.com.

BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE by Rea Frey – SPOTLIGHT & GIVEAWAY

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But it’s the lies that keep you safe.

In Rea Frey’s new novel, BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE ( StMartinsPress), single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything—anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to recharge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?

Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden. And what will happen to Mason, as the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light?

Perhaps it’s no mystery someone is gone after all…

Prepare to stay up all night.

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With a degree in creative writing from Columbia and six traditionally published books under her belt, Rea has helped hundreds of clients refine, hone, and craft their own ideas into full-fledged books. Whether it’s working on a book proposal to sell to a publisher, ghostwriting a memoir, or consulting on a great idea, Rea’s fifteen years in the publishing industry will clarify the message, mission, audience, and ultimately help find a home for a client’s work.

When she’s not promoting her novels, NOT HER DAUGHTER, and her upcoming release, BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE, you can find her creating writing workshops, ogling her sexy husband, homeschooling her incredible daughter, or plotting her next great adventure.

http://www.reafreyauthor.com

Thanks to St. Martin’s we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us your favorite domestic thriller so far this year. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL by Melissa De La Cruz – SPOTLIGHT & Giveaway

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex & Eliza, Melissa De La Cruz  comes a return to adult fiction. THE BIRTHDAY GIRL (Dutton) is centered around a mysterious woman’s birthday celebration—and what it reveals about her past.

Ellie de Florent-Stinson is celebrating her fortieth birthday with a grand celebration in her fabulous house in Palm Springs.

At forty, it appears Ellie has everything she ever wanted: a handsome husband; an accomplished, college-age stepdaughter; a beautiful ten-year-old girl; two adorable and rambunctious six-year-old twin boys; lush, well-appointed homes in Los Angeles, Park City, and Palm Springs; a thriving career as a well-known fashion designer of casual women’s wear; and a glamorous circle of friends.

Except everything is not quite as perfect as it looks on the outside—Ellie is keeping many secrets. This isn’t the first of her birthday parties that hasn’t gone as planned. Something happened on the night of her sweet sixteenth. Something she’s tried hard to forget.

But hiding the skeletons of her past comes at a cost, and all of Ellie’s secrets come to light on the night of her fabulous birthday party in the desert—where everyone who matters in her life shows up, invited or not. Old and new, friends and frenemies, stepdaughters and business partners, ex-wives and ex-husbands congregate, and the glittering facade of her life crumbles in one eventful night.

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Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Her more than thirty books have also topped the USA TodayWall Street Journal and Los Angeles Timesbestseller lists and have been published in over twenty countries.

She grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English.

Melissa de la Cruz lives in West Hollywood, California with her husband and daughter.

http://www.melissa-delacruz.com

We have one copy of THE BIRTHDAY GIRL to giveaway. Just tell us about the best birthday you’ve ever celebrated. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

LIFE and OTHER INCONVENIENCES by Kristan Higgins – SPOTLIGHT & EXCERPT & Giveaway

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel, LIFE and OTHER INCONVENIENCES (Berkley) about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help.

HERE’S AN EXCERPT FOR YOU TO READ NOW!

When I called Genevieve back and told her we were coming—including Pop, who would be staying elsewhere—there’d been a long pause. “Thank you,” she finally said.

“On one condition, Genevieve,” I said. “You do not mention money or inheritance to Riley. Not a whisper, not a hint. I don’t want you dangling your bank accounts in front of my daughter and snatching them away if she uses the wrong fork.”

“By which I assume you’re referring to the fact that I didn’t fund your teenage folly.”

“Teenage folly? You mean your great-granddaughter? Yes. This summer isn’t about the money. It’s us giving you a chance to make amends, and you making me Hope’s guardian.”

“How very gracious you are, my dear,” she said, and I heard a slurp. Five o’clock somewhere.

But she agreed, and here we were.

My clients, the ones I saw in person, were fine with me leaving for two months. I’d TheraTalk with most of them; two were about done anyway, and said they’d call me if they needed me. I’d had to give up my office space, though; luckily, a classmate from my PhD program had sublet it. Once I got back, I’d have to find another space, but I’d deal with that later.

Pop had found himself a little apartment over an antiques shop on Water Street. I was unspeakably grateful that he’d be nearby. He’d always hated Genevieve, who had viewed my mother as insufficient wife material for her wretched son.

Then again, she had a point. My mother had taken her own life. Maybe Genevieve had sensed something, even back then. She was many things, but she wasn’t stupid.

We crossed the Connecticut River, then the Thames. “There’s the Coast Guard Academy, Pop,” I said, pointing. He was an Air Force man himself, but he nodded. We went through Mystic, and I remembered going to the aquarium with Jason on a date. Or a field trip, maybe, but we’d held hands. Kissed in the dim light of the myriad fish tanks, and it had felt like the most romantic thing in the world.

He knew we were coming, of course. He was excited, he’d said on the phone. Talked about being separated, wasn’t sure where things were headed there. The boys couldn’t wait to meet Riley in person, though they knew her from Skype and phone calls.

My heart leaped into overdrive when, just before we hit Rhode Island, Charles exited the highway and entered the land of stone walls and gracious houses, tall oaks and two-hundred-year-old farms. The woods and fields gave way to narrower streets, and we went over the bridge that led to the borough.

Welcome to Stoningham, the sign said.

I found that I was holding my grandfather’s thumb, same as I had when I was little, back before my mother died, when seeing my grandparents was the happiest thing ever. He gave my hand a squeeze.

“Oh, my gosh, this town is so cute!” Riley said.

And it was. The sky was Maxfield Parrish blue, the lights of the Colonials that lined the streets glowing in what seemed to be a welcome. People were out, walking their dogs. At the library green, some kids tossed a football. As we came onto Water Street, Riley exclaimed over the little shops and restaurants. “There’s a café, Mom! Hooray! Oh, and an ice cream place! Even better!”

I smiled, but my stomach cramped again. It felt like I had never left.

The town hadn’t changed much. Still adorable with its colorful buildings and crooked streets. I caught glimpses of Long Island Sound as we drove, smelled garlic and seafood. Would Genevieve have dinner for us? Would she hug me? I swore if she made Riley feel one iota of shame, we’d be out of Connecticut forever.

Charles turned onto Bleak Point Road, where the most expensive houses in town sat like grand old ladies, weathered and gracious. All had names, which Riley read aloud as we passed.

“Thrush Hill. Summerly. Wisteria Cottage. Cliff View. Pop, we have to name our house when we get back!”

“Name it what? Crabgrass?” Pop asked.

“That’s kind of perfect, actually,” I murmured, having gone to war many times with weeds in our small yard.

“Oh, Sheerwater! We’re here!”

The iron gates (yes, gates) opened, and we turned onto the crushed shell drive. Sheerwater had ten acres of land, the very tip of Bleak Point, and it looked like a park, with beautifully gnarled dogwood trees on either side of the driveway, their intertwined branches making a tunnel of white blossoms. Spring was late this year.

We rounded the gentle curve, and my hands were sweating now.

“Holy guacamole,” my daughter breathed. “It’s even prettier than the pictures!” In the rearview mirror, I saw Charles smile. Beside me, Pop stiffened. He’d never been here, of course.

There it was—my grandmother’s twenty-room cottage, pristine and gracious and lit up like the fires of hell.

LIFE and OTHER INCONVENIENCES will be published this Tuesday, August 6th.

*****

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Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 18 novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, The New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. Her books regularly appear on the lists for best novels of the year. Kristan is also a cohost of the Crappy Friends podcast, which discusses the often complex dynamics of female friendships, with her friend and fellow writer, Joss Dey.

The proud descendant of a butcher and a laundress, Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband. They own several badly behaved pets and are often visited by their entertaining and long-lashed children.

http://www.kristanhiggins.com

Thanks to Berkley we have one copy to give away. Just tell us which of Kristin’s novels is your favorite. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

FORGOTTEN BONES by Vivian Barz – SPOTLIGHT & Giveaway

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In Vivian Barz’s, FORGOTTEN BONES (ThomasMercer), an unlikely pair teams up to investigate a brutal murder in a haunting thriller that walks the line between reality and impossibility. 

When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started.

Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in.

Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?

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Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what the best thriller you’ve read recently. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.
GIVEAWAY: USA only please.

RELATIVE FORTUNES by Marlowe Benn – INTERVIEW & Giveaway

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In Marlowe Benn’s new Julia Kydd novel, RELATIVE FORTUNES (LakeUnionPublishing), it’s 1920s New York, the price of a woman’s independence can be exorbitant—even fatal. 

In 1924 Manhattan, women’s suffrage is old news. For sophisticated booklover Julia Kydd, life’s too short for politics. With her cropped hair and penchant for independent living, Julia wants only to launch her own new private press. But as a woman, Julia must fight for what’s hers—including the inheritance her estranged half brother, Philip, has challenged, putting her aspirations in jeopardy.

When her friend’s sister, Naomi Rankin, dies suddenly of an apparent suicide, Julia is shocked at the wealthy family’s indifference toward the ardent suffragist’s death. Naomi chose poverty and hardship over a submissive marriage and a husband’s control of her money. Now, her death suggests the struggle was more than she could bear.

Julia, however, is skeptical. Doubtful of her suspicions, Philip proposes a glib wager: if Julia can prove Naomi was in fact murdered, he’ll drop his claims to her wealth. Julia soon discovers Naomi’s life was as turbulent and enigmatic as her death. And as she gets closer to the truth, Julia sees there’s much more at stake than her inheritance

A Conversation with Author Marlowe Benn

Q: Why did you choose the 1920s and the suffrage movement as the backdrop for this mystery? What about the time period inspired you?

A: I grew up to the jaunty sound of my dad’s old ‘20s records, and the era has always fascinated me. In many ways it was a more radical time (especially for women) than many realize. Beyond finally achieving the right to vote, women enjoyed at least the possibility of heady new social freedoms: emerging access to birth control, fashions that defied old notions of modesty, and the opportunity to live as independent, self-sufficient adults. Not everyone embraced these new freedoms, or even condoned them, but the old restrictive conventions had been challenged, if not breached.

 Q: For much of the book, there’s a sort of cold war going on between men and women. But there are some characters who cross the picket lines—literal and figurative—to advocate for women’s rights. Why was it important to you to show different kinds of men working as advocates for and as obstacles to women’s equality?

A: All the men and women in the book illustrate the gender realities of the time. It’s important to separate the overarching and pervasive nature of patriarchy from the attitudes of individual men—who can be cruel and exploitive toward women, or fair-minded and respectful. The system is one thing; individual behavior is another. For example, both Philip and Chester depict how society defaulted financial authority to men, but they use their privileges in different ways. How individuals embrace or challenge society’s larger conventions is what gives them dimension and interest as characters.

Q: Julia is a character brimming with professional ambition and a desire for independence. This aspect sets the book apart from others set in the same time. What inspired you to veer away from the more traditional narrative of a marriage plot, where a woman is desperately seeking a husband?

A: Julia’s central problem is economic, which she quickly realizes is a far more powerful factor in marriage than romance. Even today, girls can’t escape the pervasive fairytale that tells her pure and complete happiness comes from attracting, and being chosen by, a man who will thereafter take care of her. Perhaps because of what Julia’s witnessed, particularly in her parents’ marriage, she’s wary of that myth. Fortunately, she lives in one of the first modern eras when a woman could assert her right to enjoy love and relationships outside of marriage—as long as she had the means to support herself. Less fortunately, women’s opportunities to earn a sufficient livelihood were not yet plentiful. Hence her choices—like those of so many other women throughout history—are painfully few.

Q: We have to ask—what are you working on next? Anything that you can tease for readers who are looking forward to your next book? 

A: I’m working hard on the next Julia Kydd novel, tentatively called The Passing of Miss Pruitt. It’s May 1925, and Julia is back in New York. Eager to launch her Capriole Press, she quickly makes friends in the publishing world—authors, editors, illustrators, publishers. Soon she’s caught up in murder and the theft of a new novel manuscript claiming to reveal explosive truths about the Harlem cabaret scene. She’s drawn into the exhilarating yet treacherous world beneath the Harlem Renaissance, where notions of race, sexuality, and power are slippery, and identities can be deceptively fluid.

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Born near Boston, Marlowe Benn grew up in an Illinois college town along the Mississippi River. She holds a master’s degree in the book arts from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in the history of books from the University of California, Berkeley. A former editor, college teacher, and letterpress printer, Benn lives with her husband on an island near Seattle.

http://www.marlowebenn.com

Thanks to Katie at Little Bird Publicity we have one copy to giveaway. Just tell us what you love about mysteries. We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.

GIVEAWAY: USA only please.