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Blog Tour Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Tuesdaybookblog #Blogtour and review THE CHRISTMAS WISHING TREE. An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March (@EmilyMarchBooks) An enchanted town, the power of believing, a mystery, and the perfect romance

Christmas Wishing Tree Blogtour Banner
Christmas Wishing Tree Blogtour

Hi all:

Yes, I know it’s not Christmas yet, but when I got offered the opportunity to read this book in the summer, I quite fancied it (it was really hot) and the blog tour sounded very appealing as well. If any US readers of the blog fancy a copy, let me know your e-mail address and I’ll make sure you’re entered into the giveaway of a copy of the book. 

The Christmas Wishing Tree. An Eternity Springs Novel by Emily March 

Summary:
Sometimes life’s most magical journeys bring you back to where it all began…From USA Today bestselling author Emily March comes The Christmas Wishing Tree, an enchanting account of the magic and miracle of Christmas.

A man who loves adventure and the open sea, Devin Murphy returns for a short Christmas trip to his small hometown of Eternity Springs. Immersed in the joy and magic of the holiday season all around him, he doesn’t hesitate to play along when a young boy phones Santa to ask for a very special wish. Devin never guesses that a wrong number has the potential to make everything in his life so right.

Jenna Stockton adopted Reilly when he needed a mother and she intends to keep him safe. A small town across the country called Eternity Springs seems like a good place to hide from their past without any complications —until sexy Santa himself discovers her secrets. When Devin proposes a daring plan to face down the danger together and defeat it once and for all, she is tempted. Maybe Devin really is capable of making wishes come true? Perhaps in a Christmas wish they’ll both find the miracle they’ve been looking for all along…

A delightful Christmas novel in the New York Times bestselling Eternity Springs series.

Buy Links:

Macmillan

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Books-a-Million

Indie Bound

Powells

Author Emily March
Author Emily March

Author Bio:

Emily March is the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels, including the critically acclaimed Eternity Springs series. Publishers Weekly calls March a “master of delightful banter,” and her heartwarming, emotionally charged stories have been named to Best of the Year lists by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Romance Writers of America. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Emily is an avid fan of Aggie sports and her recipe for jalapeño relish has made her a tailgating legend.

Social Links:

Emily March Website

Twitter: @EmilyMarchBooks

Facebook: Emily March

Pinterest: Emily March

My review:

I am thankful to St Martin’s Press for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review and for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour of its launch.

Although I am not a big fan of Christmas, I do enjoy some Christmas stories, movies, and songs (especially out of season, when one isn’t surrounded by it). The offer to read and review this novel reached me in the middle of a pretty hot summer and it felt like the perfect way to combat the heat. It worked, for sure, and although I had never read any of the other novels in the Eternity Springs series, I quickly became enamoured of the place and its inhabitants. I can reassure you, though, that the story goes beyond the Christmas theme, and there are wonderful scenes that take place in other seasons (the Fall, the Fourth of July…) and other locations apart from Colorado (Nashville, Florida, Australia, and the Caribbean).  But I have to agree that the overall theme of the novel, and the spirit that suffuses it, is that of Christmas.

The novel, written in the third person, shares the alternating points of view (and locations) of a part-time resident of Eternity Springs, Devon Murphy (the son of Cam and Sarah Murphy, and brother to Michael, long-term residents of the town), and Jenna Stockton, a doctor specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology whom we meet in Nashville. While Devon seems to be a free-spirited man who loves the sea, boats, fishing, and women, but avoids commitment like the plague, Jenna is a model of responsibility. She is a single mom to Reilly, whom he adopted after looking after his mother, a young woman down on her luck who died when the boy was a toddler. She works hard and would do anything to ensure the safety and happiness of her son. But he has a Christmas wish that is out of her hands. Somehow, luck, magic, or the power of believing puts Reilly and Devon in contact, and in a roundabout way, the destinies of the three of them intersect in the wonderful town of Eternity Springs. Both main characters have secrets (as readers of the genre will probably expect): Devon has a traumatic past in the relationships department and has a lot in common with Reilly, and Jenna’s life is haunted by a stalker who seems intent on upping-the-ante and putting her and her son’s lives at risk.

I liked the characters and their relationship, that follows the well-known formula of will-they/won’t-they so successful in the romance genre (they both have very valid reasons for their hesitation, although if you get easily impatient, I must warn you that the book is quite long and the story develops over close to two years), and I liked many of the secondary characters as well (despite not having read other novels in the series, I got a fairly good sense of who they were, and I did not feel I could not fully enjoy the story because of lack of background information. And I wouldn’t mind getting to know more about many of them), particularly Celeste, her resort, and the wonderful idea of the Wishing Christmas Tree that gives the book its title. She has a touch of the magical and is the fairy godmother of the town and all the characters (and I’d love to meet her).

What I most enjoyed of the book was the town of Eternity Springs. I have read a number of novels that take place in charming towns (islands or other locations) where outsiders come and are quickly adopted by the community, becoming, in many cases for the first time, part of a big family. I always enjoy the fact that the town becomes a protagonist in its own right and when the novels works well, you feel as if you had spent time in a real place and look forward to future visits to the magical location. Eternity Springs is one of those towns, and to add to its attraction, it is located within a marvellous natural setting, and the writer does a good job of introducing us to parks, lakes, mountains, taking us on sledge rides, fishing, camping, and exploring the wonderful facilities and the traditions of the place. Although it has more than a touch of the fairy tale (everybody seems to be well-off, everybody is fairly happy, apart from the main protagonists, temporarily, and even the bad things that happen are pretty mild) and it can be a bit sugary at times, I think it would take a very cold heart to read the novel without falling for the magic of the town and its inhabitant. (And perhaps shed a tear or two. Good tears, though).

If I had to point out some things that readers might have issue with, one would be the mystery element. Jenna’s background story and her circumstances bear heavily upon her actions and how cautious she is when it comes to meeting new people and possible romances. Although the mystery element ramps up the tension and adds to the interest of the story, on occasions it seemed to be more of an afterthought and an opportunity to show Devon and his friends (all male) as a team capable of investigating and keeping everybody safe (and yes, some elements of the rescue fantasy and the knight in shining armour were clearly at work there). Although Jenna herself complains at times about being treated like a weak woman in need of protection —despite being a competent professional who had managed well by herself until that moment— this novel keeps to conventional and traditional gender roles rather than challenging them. I know that such plots and story-lines are typical of many romantic (wish-fulfilment) novels but might not suit all readers, especially those who prefer women in charge of their own destinies. As a reader of thrillers and mystery novels, I did not feel the mystery would have satisfied fans of the genre, as we are not given enough information to solve it (we get some details of the case but others are brushed over quickly and the resolution, when it arrives, is somewhat anticlimactic), and it takes a backseat to the romantic part of the story. Having read other books that mix both genres, and this being a romance with some mystery thrown in, rather than the other way round, I did not think its intended readers would be too disappointed.

There are many other subplots I have not mentioned, including dogs, pregnancies, health scares, fishing, older motherhood, baking, National Parks, love of nature, adoption, social media, stalking, counselling, vocation, tropical storms, family, traditions, Santa Claus, magic, traumatic relationships… There are wonderfully vivid and memorable scenes, the style of writing is easy and fluid, and the descriptions bring to life both the locations and the characters (without going overboard with the physical descriptions of the protagonists and love interests, although yes, don’t worry, they are attractive), and there are some sad moments, some funny ones, and many emotional and heart-warming scenes as well. There is plenty of sexual attraction and tension between Devon and Jenna, but there is no graphic sex and although there are some thrilling scenes, the doors stay firmly closed behind the protagonists when it comes to that side of things.

I know readers of romantic novels expect a happy ending. Well, you won’t be disappointed here. What’s more, I know some readers can get really upset if they feel there are elements in the story that are not fully solved and hate it when they feel that writers are using hooks and unresolved issues to keep them buying books in a series (not everybody feels the same, though). As I have said before, this novel can be read independently from the rest of the series, and all the plots and subplots of the story, even the secondary ones, are solved satisfactorily. So don’t hesitate to pick up this novel just because it’s part of a series. You will feel sad it has ended but it won’t keep you awake at night trying to guess what happened next. I kept imagining this novel as either a movie, or better even, a TV series, and would be surprised if some production company didn’t snatch it up. Done well it would be irresistible.

In sum, this is a novel that takes place in a magical location, in gorgeous settings, with a Christmas theme and a hopeful message, a romance that includes elements of mystery/thriller, with likeable characters that will make you feel home. I, for one, won’t hesitate to visit Eternity Springs again in the future.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading and please, if you have a minute, remember to like, share, comment, click, keep reading, review and smiling. And if you live in the USA and fancy a copy of the book, leave me your e-mail in the comments and I’ll make sure you are entered into the giveaway. Good luck!

 Oh, and I wanted to let you know my blog is featured on the Top 100 Book Blogs UK/Book Review Websites UK, here. Visit if you can, as it is a very comprehensive list and you will recognise a few faces. 😉

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book promo Book review Interviews

#Bookreview and interview THE CHRISTMAS TOWN by Donna VanLiere (@donnavanliere) A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Hi all:

I know I’ve been resisting talking about Christmas related subjects, but the truth is that I’d been hiding an ace up my sleeve. A few weeks ago (it was in October) I read a book with a Christmas theme, from an author, Donna VanLiere, who writes a lot of Christmas stories. And yes, I must admit I loved it. When I got an e-mail from Justine Shaw, her publicist, reminding me of the launch of the book and offering an interview with the author, I thought I’d reserve it for an appropriate time. As the author has also been very busy touring with the book I only just got the questions back, so, right in time, here I bring you…

Review and interview The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere
The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere  A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

Just in time for this year’s holiday season, Donna VanLiere is back with a moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places, in THE CHRISTMAS TOWN (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 18, 2016, $16.99)

My review:

My review is based on a free advance copy from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.

OK, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. There, I’ve said it. The fuss, the mad rush to buy presents, the obligation to be happy… But there are certain things about Christmas I don’t mind, like the crafts fairs that pop up everywhere, some of the songs (although not when played continuously 24/7) or the books (and movies, but, especially the movies, I prefer them around the right time of the year. Watching a Christmas movie in August is a no-no).

Despite that, I could not resist requesting this book when I read the description, as I do like stories where a community gets together and people find a true home. And I’m happy I decided to read it.

The Christmas Town is fairly short, full of surprises (well, some not so surprising, but pleasant nonetheless), and it has a big heart. You have memorable characters (some very recognisable, like the woman who insists on using British expressions nobody understands, or the tall, dark and handsome romantic hero), some unique, like Ben, the young man who works at a grocery store and wins everybody’s heart by offering them personalised messages with their shopping. You have a great setting, and a suitably seasonal story, with auctions, personal objects, songs, and social media confusing things.

The story is told from several characters’ points of view (in the third person), although the main character is Lauren Gabriel, a young woman with a difficult childhood but full of dreams and hopes, despite her disappointments. She ends up in Grandon, a charming small-town, and although there are heartaches on the way… Well, this is a Christmas story, but I won’t spoil it for you.

There is humour, characters you’d love to know in real life, complications, chance, music, miracles and family. And a great sense of community. The story also touches on some sad issues (Lauren’s difficult childhood and her relationship with her estranged parents, children’s illnesses and disabilities, financial worries) but all dealt with a light touch.

If you want a light and heart-warming read with endearing characters and a place you’d love to call home, and you don’t mind Christmas (or even if you do) I recommend it. Ah, and don’t miss Ben’s messages. Priceless!

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

Here a bit of information about the author:

Author Donna VanLiere
Author Donna VanLiere

Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and gifted conference speaker. She has published fourteen titles including The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing, both of which were adapted into movies (starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Perry and Neil Patrick Harris) and garnered big ratings for CBS television. LifetimeTelevision adapted The Christmas Hope (starring Madeline Stowe) and premiered it December 2009 to stellar ratings as well. Donna’s non-seasonal novel, The Angels of Morgan Hill, has captured the same warmth as her Christmas books and continues to please loyal and new fans alike.

Donna is the recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and was recently inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence joining such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Senator John Glenn. Donna is an in-demand conference speaker having appeared at countless women’s and family events, including select Women of Faith and Extraordinary Women conferences.

Donna lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, Troy, and their children, Grace, Kate and David.

Learn more at www.DonnaVanLiere.com

Interview: 

As I mentioned earlier, author Donna VanLiere agreed to answer some questions, and here they are.

Thanks very much for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. It’s an honour to have you as a guest on my blog.

You’ve written about other things too, but many of your books are seasonal, with a Christmas theme. What made you choose Christmas in particular?

Christmas is about hope and joy and the greatest story ever told. I feel like all of our stories are birthed out of the manger story. For me, it’s quite easy to develop a story around Christmas because for many people Christmas is difficult. I want each of my stories to be filled with characters who are like people you know, not cookie cutter characters. I want the reader to know that despite hard circumstances that hope is alive.

I love The Christmas Town. The setting (Grandon, a place where I’d love to live), the characters, the stories… Do you have a favourite?

I can’t choose a favorite among the Christmas stories because I love all of the characters!! My favorite book I’ve ever written is one called The Good Dream. It’s set in 1950 in East Tennessee and is about a single woman and a little boy and their journey together.

It’s difficult to choose, but Ben’s character is somebody we’d all love to meet. Can you tell us a bit more about his creation?

Ben bags groceries at the local supermarket. He is a pure, sweet soul who never meets a stranger. Several months before Christmas he decided he wanted to do something to make a difference as he bagged groceries. No one knew, not even Ben himself, how that one idea would inspire the townspeople.

Is there any specific message you’d like to send your readers?

We never really understand how important we are to someone else’s story. Our own story isn’t just about us. It’s about so many others around us. Just like in The Christmas Town you are not just a bag boy or a cashier or a waitress or a parks & recreation employee. You are an important character in someone else’s story.

Thanks so much to Donna VanLiere for answering my questions and for giving us this story that made even me (a bit of a grinch) feel more of the Christmas spirit. And thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Escaping Psychiatry launch Writing

My own #newbook and what’s to come in the runup to Christmas

Hi all:

The end of the year is approaching quickly and I was trying to work out how best use the blogging days left. I have accumulated a lot of book reviews that I’d like to share before the end of the year, in case you’re looking for books to either purchase for others or to help with the festive season. Yes, I’m one of those people who finds all the Ho-Ho-Hos a bit too much at times. Trying to catch up on all of them might mean to either share several in one post (but I don’t want to tax people’s patience), blogging more often (we have the patience issue again), not featuring new books (unless I’ve read them too) or… Perhaps I’ll see what I come up with and join books by genre. I have at least one Christmassy book I want to share close to the date too. Well, we’ll see.

I know I’ve been talking, on and off, about the next book in my Escaping Psychiatry series. I’m only waiting now for some work on the paper cover to get finished (I’ve decided to publish the novel with the prequel as extra content in the paperback version). But no matter that, I’m set on publishing it before the end of the year, paper version ready or not. As it’s not very Christmassy, I’m thinking about trying to make it coincide with the time between Christmas and New Year. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make it available as a pre-order or not (other than knowing everything is there, it won’t make any difference, and in my case it hasn’t worked as a promotional strategy before).

I thought I’d remind you of the book:

Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies
Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies

Escaping Psychiatry 2. The Case of the Swapped Bodies

A woman shot dead. No enemies, no motive, only a story about how she swapped bodies with another woman found on her computer. The other woman in the story, the owner of the swapped body, goes into labour and won’t talk.

When FBI Agent Dave Dean asks psychiatrist/writer Mary Miller for her assistance, she doesn’t know that The Case of the Swapped Bodies is not the only mystery in Port Haven. A hit and run, an armed robbery gone wrong and questions about family traditions, priorities and legacies come into play and complicate matters. The line between fact and fiction is more tenuous than anybody realised and suspense is on the menu.

This is the third book in the Escaping Psychiatry series and it poses new challenges for Mary Miller. And not all the challenges are professional ones. How do you carry on when you’ve survived the unthinkable?

Here is the blurb:

In Port Haven, and idyllic small town in California, a career woman appears shot dead in her own apartment, a pregnant mother of three who won’t/can’t talk is the main suspect in the murder and the only evidence is a suspenseful story about swapped bodies found on the victim’s computer.

In this psychological thriller, psychiatrist and writer Mary Miller, a recent survivor of a rape and attempted murder, gets to collaborate for the first time with the FBI agents who saved her. Agent Dave Dean, her would-be suitor, is not himself. The sheriff’s men aren’t cooperating. And the case is like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces. Will Mary manage to see beyond the lies and fiction?

I have shared a couple of the chapters here before, but if you prefer you can also check them in Wattpad.

Thanks to you all for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK if you fancy. 

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book promo

#Bookfair at Llandeilo. Bad photos and some (non-serious) tips. Oh, and I’m on the #radio!

Hi all:

I know I’ve been talking about my first book fair in LLandeilo for a while. As usual, on checking my pictures of the day I’ve discovered they’re rubbish, but hey, I’ll share a few so you can see (or guess) how it was.

The good news is that the fair will carry on. There is one booked for Christmas time and there will be another one next April. Check Christoph Fischer’s post about it for more information, here. Oh!, and check his other posts about it as you’re there. We’ve even made the papers!

I discovered my banner was the smallest one. Oh well, not good at blowing my own trumpet. Thanks to my friend Lourdes for the design!
I discovered my banner was the smallest one. Oh well, not good at blowing my own trumpet. Thanks to my friend Lourdes for the design!

My own reflections about the fair (not sure this is advice or tips, but…)

  1. You might want to take reinforcements with you. It’s always handy to have somebody man (or woman, of course) the fort for you (there are so many people to talk to and books to check! And at LLandeilo there were interesting workshops and talks but I couldn’t go to any of them). Fellow writers kept an eye on the stall, but it’s not the same…
  2. Take supplies of drinks and whatever else you might need. There was catering on site, but I’m not a tea, herbal tea or coffee drinker, and there was no cola to be had there… No caffeine for me! (Of course, if you’ve followed the advice on number one, you can either go and leave the troops covering the stall or send them out for victuals).
  3. I took sweets that seemed to attract people, especially children. Yes, I’d recommend it. I wouldn’t say it helped with the sales, but it got some smiles. Ah, and at the end I shared them with the writers (and the staff working at the hall) when we were putting things away, and after a long day they were very welcome.
  4. Take comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing up most of the time. (The author next to me who was pregnant worried me no end, although she was very enthusiastic).
  5. Pace yourself. I worried that I might have lost my voice before the end of the day (yes, I talk too much). It was a close call (sorry, no luck!)
  6. Put your glasses on when you’re taking pictures!
  7. It’s difficult to find time to network with everything else going on, but it was great to meet the rest of the writers there, Hugh Roberts whom I knew from  blogging and hopefully will meet again at the Blogger’s Bash. I did collect information from everybody (I hope!) as I’m planning on featuring writers and books in my radio show.
  8. Of course have change and chat to people. In my case, as I publish in different genres, I never knew well what to open with (pitching 5 different books is not easy). But I tried.
  9. I took some extra stuff to give away (cupcakes book, notebooks…) I didn’t have much chance to give anything away, but of course, the Cupcake recipe book that I had bought for £1 got much more attention than my own books. (When I tried the local market once, the Christmas decorations I got for the table had more success than me. Perhaps I should sell something else).

A few more photos:

The cake
The cake

IMG_1107

I was looking forward to catching up with Judith Barrow although we were both very busy!
I was looking forward to catching up with Judith Barrow although we were both very busy!
Christoph Fischer en el escenario anunciando los ganadores del concurso de historias para niños
Christoph Fischer announcing the winners of the children’s story writing competitions

IMG_1103I loved this bannerIMG_1099IMG_1098

 

 

Oh, and I’ve mentioned my Radio programme! Yes, I’ll tell you more about it, but now I have a regular (sort of) programme at Penistone FM, on Thursdays from 1 to 3 pm (UK time). I hope to talk about books and with a bit of luck bring in quotes and information about indie writers (although I don’t have much time to talk). Here is the link to listening online.

I'm on the radio!
I’m on the radio!

Thanks to all for reading, visit Christoph and Hugh’s blogs and don’t forget to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreviews ‘Unexpected Gifts’ by S.R. Mallery (@SarahMallery1) and ‘Women on the Brink’ by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer (@gekretchmer). Women’s stories and histories. #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

With Christmas just a few days away, I’m trying to share as many of the reviews I have pending before the end of the year as I can, to make sure you have enough to read over the holidays. Also, I have to warn you I’m planning on having some reshuffling, maintenance and hopefully improvements (and a bit of a move) in the blog over the next few days. I hope I won’t disappear completely, but one never knows… If I do it’s most likely a technical problem rather than anything else… (she said, holding on tight).

After all that, time to share reviews. Today I’m revisiting two writers whose work I really enjoyed the first time around, so I repeated. Here they are.

First, S. R. Mallery with Unexpected Gifts:

Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery
Unexpected Gifts by S.R. Mallery

First, the description:

A TRUE AMERICAN FAMILY SAGA: Can we learn from our ancestors? Do our relatives’ behaviors help shape our own?
In “Unexpected Gifts” that is precisely what happens to Sonia, a confused college student, heading for addictions and forever choosing the wrong man. Searching for answers, she begins to read her family’s diaries and journals from America’s past: the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and Timothy Leary era; Tupperware parties, McCarthyism, and Black Power; the Great Depression, dance marathons, and Eleanor Roosevelt; the immigrant experience and the Suffragists. Back and forth the book journeys, linking yesteryear with modern life until finally, by understanding her ancestors’ hardships and faults, she gains enough clarity to make some right choices.

Here, my review:

Unexpected Gifts by Sarah Mallery. The power of stories and the value of remembering the past.

Having read Mallery’s book of stories Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads I was looking forward to reading her novel. And although not unexpected, it definitely was a gift. The story of Sonia, a young woman studying psychology, in a complicated relationship with the lead singer of a band, and plagued by rituals and other symptoms of OCD, her story frames the novel and provides a conduit for telling many other stories. Through her we get to know her parents, and when her mother suggests she might find direction and some useful ideas by checking the attic and the family boxes that have accumulated there, each box goes on to reveal something about her family members and helps her discover more about herself.

The book is beautifully written, with vivid descriptions of places and people, that in a few sentences transport the reader to the recent (and less recent) past) and to locations and situations that spread from the new to the old world and from America to Bulgaria, via Vietnam. The structure of the novel is clever and works well in progressively unveiling Sonia’s heritage. Every time she reaches a conclusion about one of her ancestors, the next bit of information or evidence contained in the box corresponding to that person makes her reconsider and reach a better understanding (if not always a kinder opinion) about their lives. The box within a box or the Russian wooden dolls that must be opened up or peeled back to discover what hides inside (that are also mentioned in the novel) work well as a metaphor or visual representation for the structure of the novel.

The stories will affect or touch people differently, but they are all interesting and revisit crucial historical events and periods, adding a personal perspective. We have Vietnam War veterans, the hippy movement, European emigrants arriving in Ellis Island, American Suffragettes, Racial Conflict and Race Riots, the McCarthy era Communist witch hunt, Dance Marathons and the Depression Era, and romances that seem to be fated to end up badly. By exploring the past, Sonia seeks a way of understanding her behaviour and of breaking up patterns that result in sadness and unhappiness. I don’t want to reveal too much, but can add I enjoyed the ending that brought closure and a nice conclusion to the novel.

I recommend Unexpected Gifts to anybody who enjoys a good novel, with a solid historical background and strong characters, especially to people who prefer variety and many different stories. As the book is structured I think it will also appeal to readers of short stories and of anthologies of different styles of writing, as it provides multiple voices and many narrations in one single volume. Another great achievement for the author.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YWGATTU/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YWGATTU/

Here the link to her author page (and don’t forget to follow her):

http://www.amazon.com/S.-R.-Mallery/e/B00CIUW3W8/

And G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s Women on the Brink.

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer
Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer

The description:

Women on the Brink is a stunning collection of loosely linked stories in which women aged thirteen to ninety must face the unwelcome realities of their lives. Sometimes gritty, sometimes humorous, and always compassionate, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s prose takes the reader on a compelling ride alongside these ordinary women as they wrestle with family relationships, self-esteem, socioeconomic status, maternal obligations, and need for independence.

In “Skydancer,” a young mother resents her newborn baby. In “Float Away,” an at-risk teen is desperate to find a new home. A minister’s wife struggles with secrets in “Liar’s Game.” A despondent housewife longs for purpose in “Alligator Poetry.” The protagonist in “Tasting Freedom” wrestles with decisions about her aging mother’s care. And in “From Here to Cafayate,” a woman refuses to give up on the perpetually flawed relationship she has shared with her sister for nearly ninety years.

Each story is enhanced by one of fourteen original poems contributed by talented poets specifically for this collection and its themes. Although the stories stand alone, they are further strengthened by the relationships among the various characters throughout the collection. Readers of Ms. Kretchmer’s first novel, The Damnable Legacy, will also delight to find that some of the characters from that novel have reappeared here.

The women in this collection may or may not be the type you’d invite over for lunch. Some of them are tough. Some aren’t all that likeable. Some might not see the world the way you do. But they’re compelling in their own right as they reflect women in today’s world—women who have come along a difficult path—and as they courageously take control of their lives.

My review:

Women on the Brink by G. Elizabeth Kretchmer. The World if Full of Possibilities if you Dare.

I was offered a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I read and reviewed Kretchmer’s novel ‘The Damnable Legacy of a Minister’s Wife’ this summer and was fascinated not only by the story (the Alaskan setting also helped) but also by the complex characterisation and the psychological insights. When I was offered a copy of ‘Women on the Brink’ I didn’t hesitate.

The book combines short stories by Kretchmer with poems that are interpretations of themes, feelings or sensations related to the stories that follow. The title perfectly reflects the nature of those stories. The women in them are at different stages of their lives, from teenagers trying to find themselves, to elderly women escaping a retirement home, but they all find themselves at a point when they question their lives as they are and what they are going to do next.

I enjoyed the different settings and characters, the writing style, easy to read and varied, adapting well to the different stories —some more introspective, some more comedic— and also the open-endedness of them. In ‘Bridge Out’ the main character, who after retirement decides to become a trucker, mentions ‘Thelma and Louise’ and like that movie, the stories show women going their own way, and these are many different ways. Perhaps piloting their own plane, going away to help in a disaster zone, confronting their past… And we never see them crash. Because one of the messages of this collection is that the world is full of possibilities if you only dare.

For those who have read the author’s previous novel there are some familiar characters, and there are also characters mentioned in several stories and who appear in more than one, hinting at the interconnectedness between all of our lives.

Although I wouldn’t say my circumstances are exactly those of any of the women in the stories, I identified with the feelings and the emotions described, I cheered (worriedly) for the ‘Girls Against Perfection’, and I thoroughly enjoyed the transformation of Margee in ‘Coco Palms’, from obedient wife to avenging warrior.

I would quite happily have read more about any of the characters in the stories, and confess I could see quite a few of them turned into much longer works (I loved the light touch in ‘Accelerant’ and Maureen, the perhaps not-as-confused-as-she-seems grandmother, is a fabulous character). Despite their length, the author creates fully-fledged characters and situations in each one of the stories, condensing descriptions and sharpening her prose, with not a word spare.

The poems complement beautifully the book and provide an effective and lyrical link between them.

I recommend it to all readers, those who enjoy short fiction and poetry, and also those who don’t read short stories, because we should challenge ourselves and they might be pleasantly surprised.

Links:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1513702351/

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1513702351/

The link to the Author’s page (and don’t forget to follow!)

http://www.amazon.com/G.-Elizabeth-Kretchmer/e/B00L2T253I/

Thanks to S.R. Mallery and to G. Elizabeth Kretchmer for their novels, thanks to all of you for reading, and you know what to do, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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