Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home by Julie KiblerDorrie Curtis is a single mother raising her two on a hairdresser’s salary in East Texas. Isabel McAllister meets Dorrie when she becomes one of her clients, and over ten years and many different salons, the two form a friendship. Isabel hosts Dorrie in her home and keeps her favorite drinks on hand, and Dorrie invites Isabel to her children’s recitals and events. Their relationship takes a deeper turn when eighty-nine-year-old Isabel asks Dorrie to drive her to a funeral in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home is one of the most intimate novels that I have read. I really loved the way Kibler immersed readers in her character’s lives. I often felt as if I were riding in the backseat of their car, or lingering at the hotel as these women interacted with each other and opened themselves up to a deeper relationship. Isabel relates the story of her forbidden romance with Robert, a young black man related to her family’s housekeeper and cook, back when she was a girl in 1939 Kentucky and Dorrie slowly reveals her troubles raising her children without their father, and her own struggles to trust again after often being disappointed in love.

Even though readers may be essentially different from Dorrie and Isabel, it is hard not to feel the recognition of familial love and romantic love and the challenges and heartbreak inherent in both. Kibler based her story on the could-have-beens that her grandmother may have encountered in her own interracial love story. There are sweet moments, but she also does justice to the complexities of the people involved and the harshness and inhumanity of the times. As a result of the realistic style, I often read this with the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Highly recommended.

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BOOK CLUB Giveaway – The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman

Book Club LogoAt the end of last year, Jen and I introduced a kinder, gentler book club – one where we bring you books that we have read and loved and can’t wait to discuss, without blog or review requirements. We just want to chat about the books we love! Our next discussion is going to be centered around Naomi Alderman’s The Liars’ Gospel from Little, Brown and Company.

The Liars' Gospel by Naomi Alderman

From the publisher:

This is the story of Yehoshuah, who wandered Roman-occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick. Now, a year after his death, four people tell their stories. His mother grieves, his friend Iehuda loses his faith, the High Priest of the Temple tries to keep the peace, and a rebel named Bar-Avo strives to bring that peace tumbling down.

It was a time of political power-play and brutal tyranny. Men and women took to the streets to protest. Dictators put them down with iron force. In the midst of it all, one inconsequential preacher died. And either something miraculous happened, or someone lied.

Viscerally powerful in its depictions of the period – massacres and riots, animal sacrifice and human betrayal – The Liars’ Gospel makes the oldest story entirely new.

The publisher providing these books with the understanding that we (and you!) will have a readerly discussion. There are no further requirements. If you are a blogger and review the book, great! If you are not a blogger, but review the book on LibraryThing or GoodReads, or talk it up on Twitter, and tell all your friends, wonderful! The main thing is for you to commit to come and discuss it with us on Tuesday, April 9th at Devourer of Books. If you would like to participate in The Liar’s Gospel BOOK CLUB, please fill out this form by 11:59 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 5. Your mailing address will be discarded if you aren’t selected to participate, and used to mail you the book if you are. I do not share or retain any personal information. Only those selected will be contacted by email with further book club details.

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Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman – Book Review

Little Wolves by Thomas MaltmanJacket copy for Thomas Maltman’s Little Wolves promises a murder mystery in a small town, but after only a few pages I could tell it was much more than that. Getting to the bottom of why Seth Fallon would kill the town’s sheriff and then walk into a nearby cornfield to shoot himself is a compelling mystery, and one that is complicated by why he would have stopped at a teacher’s house before committing his crime, and the factors driving what he does in the first place.

Seth’s father, Grizz Fallon, a hardworking farmer, attempts to get his head around his son’s horrific crime, his own missteps as a parent, the fact that his son is never coming home, and his own lack of desire to continue living, but after receiving a visit from Seth’s  old girlfriend, he can’t leave what Seth did, and the disturbing possibilities behind it unresolved. As he looks into the mystery of Seth’s last days,the history of the Fallon family as town pariahs comes to light, as does their place as one of the first families among the German settlers who established the town. They did so at the expense of the Native Americans living there (they were brutally treated and cruelly driven from the land, or even killed), and it casts a pall over the town and contributes to the atmosphere of curses, heartache and foreboding.

Little Wolves alternates between Grizz Fallon’s perspective and that of Clara, a pregnant substitute teacher, popular among her students for the accessibility she brings to their lessons through her colorful stories based in Norse mythology, and of whom Seth was particularly fond. She and her minister husband are new to the town, but as much as they have come for a fresh start and job opportunities, their marriage is troubled. Clara and her husband are expecting a child that he might not necessarily want, and he find the congregation that her serves to be problematic. Clara is absorbed in squaring the town’s rocky past with stories her father told her about her mother, and her origins. As Clara prepares to give birth, she ponders her parents convoluted history, how she met her husband and the part she plays in the town’s latest tragedy.

One of the things that I liked most about reading this novel was its richness, beauty and ambiguity. This isn’t a story that wraps up neatly and it mimics real life in ways that was a marvel to me. The stories that Clara’s father told her may hide the secret of her parentage, or they may be stories told to amuse a child, or they may be a form of revenge. Which is it? And is there really an answer that is clear cut? The town is suffering from drought and stifling resentment among its inhabitants, and juxtaposed with its history, you really wonder if a curse is working its way through their lives. Are they paying for “the sins of the father”? What do any of these bits and pieces have to do with what has happened? Not everything is lines up neatly, but there is enough to hint at the whole in a way that is very satisfying, and the history and stories imparted are equal parts rough, exquisite and sad.

Little Wolves is evocative, beautifully written and steeped in strange tales and tragedy masquerading as and mixed in with rich history and old wounds. I could scarcely put it down. Highly recommended.

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Giveaway: The Little Russian by Susan Sherman

The Little Russian by Susan ShermanI read Susan Sherman’s The Little Russian earlier this year, and thought it was just fabulous! Here is an opportunity to find out for yourself if it is indeed that.  I have a copy to giveaway to a readers with a US address. If you’re interested in receiving the book, please fill out this brief form. I will pick a winner at random on Friday, March 1.

Good luck!

Also, congrats to Darlene and Hannah. You’ve won copies of Speaking from Amongst The Bones by Alan Bradley.

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Out of Twenty: Susan Sherman, Author of The Little Russian, Answers Three Questions

Susan Sherman, author of The Little RussianIn this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! I read Susan Sherman’s novel, The Little Russian at the beginning of the year, and it was a great start to the reading year. I learned so much about Russian and Ukrainian culture, the pogroms the people endured and how they tried to fight back. Here is what Susan had to say about reading, writing, and her passion for Little Russia.

 Would you give us a bit of an introduction and let my readers know who you are, and how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and after going to school in Oregon, returned there for my graduate degree.  For ten years I taught at Whittier College, running the gallery and teaching studio arts.  As a clay sculptor, I used to do large narrative pieces that filled a room, told a story and took a ton of clay to produce.  It’s not easy schlepping around a ton of clay.  You have to load it into a kiln, assemble it and cart it around to shows.  When I realized that I could tell a story using a laptop and Word, plus a ream or two of paper, I was thrilled.

My first attempt was a novel that was never published…thank goodness.   After that I wrote another novel and that was unsuccessful too.  Next, I wrote several screenplays that are still sitting in my garage along with unopened, You Too Can Learn French cassette tapes.   Eventually, I found my way into television, writing for various sitcoms.  After I co-created That’s So Raven for the Disney Channel, I decided to make yet another change, and here I am, home at last, in publishing.

I love history, so I’m partial to writing historical fiction.  I also love to tell stories, so any book I write will have a well defined narrative and one The Little Russian by Susan Shermanthat I’m passionate about.  I was passionate about The Little Russia, since it was a family story, based on my grandmother’s experiences in the Ukraine at the turn of the last century.  The story was exciting, the time and period had always held a fascination for me, and because of the family connection, the book was a natural for me to write.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book.  Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort.  Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you through the writing process?

My writing rituals vary depending on where I am in the process.  If I’m just starting a project or a chapter there are hours of obligatory procrastination to get through before I can start.  Suddenly, my garden needs weeding, my dogs need a bath or I must check on the monarch cocoons hanging under the eaves of the house.  Sometimes the procrastination can go on for a whole day or even two, but eventually I get through it and settle down to work.

I always listen to classical music when I work.  Right now I’m on an Impressionistic kick: Fauré, Ravel and Debussy, because I’m working on a new novel that’s set in Paris at the turn of the last century.  I always like to find a piece of music that evokes the mood or period of the project.  For The Little Russia, it was Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor…terribly tragic and heart wrenching; perfect for those long Russian winters filled with passion and regret.

 What was the most interesting thing you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

There were a lot of stories about grandfather that I wanted to use in the book.  There were stories about his exploits in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, of building a successful Model T Ford dealership and helping to shape the little northern Wisconsin hamlet where he settled.  He started out as a peddler selling pots and pans, needles and thread, yarn, axle grease and anything else he thought the dairy farmers would want to buy.  Soon he figured out that the farmers didn’t want to buy from him; they wanted to sell to him, so he bought their rags for the paper mills and their pelts for the furriers in Greenbay.  When the Ford dealership opened in town he kept an eye on it, waiting for an opportunity.  After it started to falter he offered the owner some capital in exchange for driving lessons.  Soon after that he became a full partner and then sole owner.

I wish I could have used these stories in the book, but my editor pointed out that it was a book about my grandmother and needed to stay in the Ukraine.  I used one or two of his stories in the epilogue, but most are squirreled away in the bowels of my computer waiting for a sequel that will probably never get written.

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Fracture by Megan Miranda – Book Review

Fracture by Megan Miranda

Megan Miranda’s Fracture is about the aftermath of an accident that leaves Delaney Phillips dead for eleven minutes before she is rescued and Fracture by Megan Mirandarevived by the vigilance of her best friend.

Fracture is precisely plotted and the action starts immediately. Miranda has a great combination of relatable and lovable in her characters Delaney Maxwell and Decker Phillips. Their relationship always seemed real in that it had been so close but it was also changing, not only because of their feelings for one another, but under  the strain of Decker’s guilt. It doesn’t help that  Delaney is at a loss and searching for someone who understands her near death experience and the frightening manifestations and attempts on her life that have occurred since her awakening. I liked that the paranormal element of the story was something that could also be scientifically considered in addition to being just plain creepy. I also really loved how Miranda delved into the troubled relationship Delaney has with her mother now that they are both coming to terms with how she has changed, and how it affects that parameters of their relationship.

Thoughtful and moving, Fracture can be read as a standalone or, like me, you can anxiously await Decker’s side of the story, coming in 2014. Whoot! Highly recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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BOOK CLUB – The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Welcome to BOOK CLUB, a joint venture between me and Jen from Devourer of Books.  Today we are discussing [[[The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley]]] which is being  published by William Morrow Paperbacks.

 The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

From the Publisher:

Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when they wed. Now in their late thirties, the deeply devoted couple has everything—except the baby they’ve always wanted.

When a tragic accident leaves Elle brain-dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear losing her, he knows his wife, a thoughtful and adventurous scientist, feared only one thing—a slow death. Just before Matt agrees to remove Elle from life support, the doctors discover that she is pregnant. Now what was once a clear-cut decision becomes an impossible choice. Matt knows how much this child would have meant to Elle. While there is no certainty her body can sustain the pregnancy, he is sure Elle would want the baby to have a chance. Linney, Matt’s mother, believes her son is blind with denial. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive by artificial means, no matter what the situation.

Divided by the love they share, driven by principle, Matt and Linney fight for what each believes is right, and the result is a disagreement that escalates into a controversial legal battle, ultimately going beyond one family and one single life.

If you plan on participating in today’s BOOK CLUB, please consider subscribing to comments at the bottom of the page, and check back throughout the day as more questions are added to the post.

Let’s go!

I am going to go light on the questions initially because I am really curious to see what arises naturally out of the discussion.

  • What were your general impressions of the book, and how did your thoughts and opinions evolve as the story unfolded?
  • The Promise of Stardust examines the idea of responsibility for loved ones, and several people step up to have a say in what Elle would have wanted (Matt, his mother, Elle’s father and brothers, her ex-boyfriend, both their colleagues), who do you think had the right to speak for her?
  • Ellie and Matt grew up intertwined with each other as their families were neighbors and very close. Linney is like a mother to Ellie. How did you feel about the role she played in the court case with Matt? Were her actions justified? Did you feel she have more of a responsibility to her son? In what ways did she support him?
  • How would you have decided this case?
  • We get to know who Elle was through other people, but we do have her direct voice in the journals. What did you think about Elle and how she chose to communicate her directives? Why didn’t she leave any clear information for Matt?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

12 copies of The Promise of Stardust were provided by William Morrow Paperbacks in order to facilitate this discussion. Thank you so much!

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Giveaway: Speaking from Among The Bones by Alan Bradley

Speaking From Among The Bones by Alan BradleyI’ve just received a review copy of Speaking From Among the Bone by Alan Bradley. It’s the latest Flavia de Luce novel. The publisher has graciously allowed me to give away two copies to readers with US addresses. If you’re interested in receiving the book, please fill out this brief form. I will pick two winners at random on Friday, February 16.

Also, congrats to Kristin, Aarti, Karen, Kay and Heather. You’ve won copies of [[[Lisa O’Donnell’s The Death Of Bees.]]]

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Out of Twenty: Lynda Rutledge, Author of Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale, Answers Ten Questions

Lydnda Rutledge, Novelist

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which Lydnda Rutledge, Novelistquestions, and how many questions, they want to answer!  Lynda Rutledges’s novel, [[[Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale]]], tells the story of what happens when the richest woman in Texas decides to have a garage when God asks her too. Interesting. Here is what Lynda  had to say about reading, writing, and where she feels most creative.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I’m a longtime freelance journalist/professional writer, but one with a bad case of “literary pretensions” from earning two literature degrees. All that reading went straight to my head, and then my heart.  As a freelance writer, I dodged hurricanes, petted baby rhinos, swam with endangered turtles and interviewed the famous and not-so-famous, having a great extroverted nonfiction time, but I just could not shake those literary dreams. And wonderfully, it finally happened.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort. Can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

Does jumping up and down on an exercise trampoline count?  Or standing up to write? Or driving around alone on country roads in my little beat-up convertible?  (Have the terms “hyper” or “ADD” popped to mind yet?)  I’m a nervous writer. Once I’m into it or once I’ve nailed a problem with all that jumping and standing and driving, just hand me a bag of apples and a six-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper and I can write for hours.  But until that moment, while things are percolating or refusing to percolate, I’m one of those creative types who has to be distracted.  I may gripe about having to get up and down 20 times a day to let the dog in, then out, then in again, but the truth is it’s now a part of my writing process, I think.  But don’t tell my pup!

Write the question you would most like to answer in an interview, and then answer it.

QUESTION:  “Why are you so gorgeous?”

ANSWER:   “All writers are gorgeous, and would you repeat the question?”

 People live in stories. We are surrounded by them. What was it about this story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

I think you said it well.  We do live in stories; every day is a story.  Drama is everywhere, so is comedy. And I’ve tried to capture that on the page:  My tale is about a 70 year old rich lady who, on Millennium New Year’s Eve, hears the voice of God tell her to have a garage sale of all her incredibly expensive antiques. And she does it because she believes it to be the last day of her life.  Did I want to write about a garage sale?  Not really.  Did I want to write about her garage sale?  Oh yeah.  Her sale is about some of life’s most important questions, such as: Do our possessions possess us?  Is it ever too late for second chances? And who are without our memories? It’s also about the chaotic fun and craziness involved at any sale, much less one where antiques are going for a dollar.  The idea just would not let me go.  So I realized I needed to write it for me, whether anyone else ever saw it or not. That’s a good place to be for a writer. Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write to discover what I know.” I’m just ecstatic that you and your readers might care about attending the sale to find out what I discovered and see if it resonates for you, too (as well as having a lot of fun, I hope.)

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

Did you know that the first garage sale was held in 1839 in Louise May Alcott’s front yard?  Naah, I made that up.  But wouldn’t that have been a great sale?

Faith Bass Darling's Last Garage SaleWhat were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

When I wasn’t trying to break my little tomboy neck, I was reading, but I never quite grasped that the books were written by people. They just “were,” waiting there in my small town’s library for me to inhale. So beyond the occasional grade school poem written in purple ink, I’m not one of those writers who say they knew from the womb they wanted to write. There was a big world out there to explore and conquer: In grade school, I wanted to be the first girl shortstop for the New York Yankees. In high school, I wanted to play tennis at Wimbledon. By college, I wanted to be an artist. But I found I was better at being a failed artist. The one thing I had done through it all was read. That’s when it hit me that every book I was reading for the college literature courses I kept taking–in fact, every book I’d read my entire life–was written by a real person, not a literary god of some sort. So I took a creative writing course and was hooked. Over the years, as I made a living working with words and seeing the world, I kept playing with them, creating worlds as well. There’s more than one way to be an artist; writers paint with words, don’t we?

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

I only have one at a time; the idea has to woo me then keep me.  If it doesn’t, I drop it like a bad date. But just like in life, you have to date a few before you find the true one.  You have to get some practice in first, right? A recent bestselling nonfiction book that stated it took 10 years to master a skill.  It’s true.  And what do you do until you’ve mastered your chosen skill?  “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, practice, practice.”  And what do you do with all that practice writing?  You hope it doesn’t stink so bad you are embarrassed by it when you are published.  Because the truth is, you know your own spark, what potential you have. And sometimes the spark is really the only thing good in a piece of writing.  That’s what you are blinded by, even as your family and friends go running in the opposite direction when you hold up a new practice manuscript because you don’t quite know it’s still a “practice” one.  The truth is you never know what to scrap…until you know.  It’s wonderful until it isn’t. Remember when you were learning to say, ride a bike, as a kid, you’d yell: “Look Ma, No Hands!” It’s the same urge, but most writers, at least those who don’t quit too soon, learn the encouragement must come from within, from that spark, after awhile (at least if you want to keep your friends).  The trick is keeping the spark alive while you mature and practice so you’re ready when the right idea comes along.

Did you have to do much research when working on your books, and do you tend to write first or research first?

As a freelance journalist, I do love the research, and researching the antiques I used as characters themselves in my novel, was important and fun, but there’s a moment I just can’t help myself: I have to write.  And then, well, I go back to research.  It’s a dance, but it’s a dance that works, even if we’d never make it to “Dancing with the Stars.”

Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?     

The real question, I think, is where do I feel most creative?   You’re going to laugh, but I feel most creative while moving.  Put me on a train or a boat or even a jet, and I start getting all sorts of ideas; I even feel it on moving sidewalks, get that. I can almost feel the electricity in my head firing up.  When I lived in Chicago suburbs, I used to ride the trains just to get my juices flowing.  Yes, I am crazy; all writers are crazy.

What’s next?

Fame and fortune, of course, because isn’t that what happens with all garage sale novels?  Seriously, if all your good readers choose to attend Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale, I might have a chance to do another novel, so thanks in advance for considering doing your part to keep one more novelist off the streets. I hope my little existential garage sale’s mix of drama and humor warms your heart while tickling your funny bone.  And I’d love to hear from you.

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Reagan Arthur Perpetual Challenge – Book List & Links

Reagn Arthur Books

Oddly enough I can’t find my sign-up post for the Reagan Arthur rabookchallenge-150x150Challenge hosted by Julie and Kathy, but I did sign up! I will be tracking my progress here.

Published in 2010

  •  Black Hills by Dan Simmons
  • The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
  • Patterns of Paper Monsters by Emma Rathbone
  • The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
  • Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomon
  • Still Midnight by Denise Mina
  • Next by James Hynes
  • The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
  • Doors Open by Ian Rankin
  • Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup
  • Day For Night by Frederick Reiken

Books Published in 2011

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The End of Wasp Season by Denise Mina
  • The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
  • Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
  • The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
  • The Book of Life by Stuart Nadler
  • The Cut by George Pelecanos
  • The Taint of Midas by Anne Zouroudi
  • Flashback by Dan Simmons
  • The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore
  • America Pacifica by Anna North
  • Started Early Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
  • The Complaints by Ian Rankin
  • 13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro

Books Published in 2012

Books Published in 2013

  • The Last Girlfriend and Other Love Stories by Simon Rich
  • Wise Men by Stuart Nadler
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Unknowns by Gabriel Roth
  • Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee
  • In The Land Of The Living by Austin Ratner
  • Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina
  • The Field by Kevin Maher

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Honey Badger Dont Care: Randalls Guide to Crazy Nastyass Animals by Randall   Book Review

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