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Spotlight on Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

I am reading an absorbing, charged debut novel called Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley.

amity and sorrow

Two sisters sit, side by side, in the backseat of an old car.  Amity and Sorrow.

Their hands are hot and close together.  A strip of white fabric loops between them, tying them together, wrist to wrist.

Their mother, Amaranth, drives them.  The car pushes forward, endlessly forward, but her eyes are always watching in the rearview mirror, scanning the road behind them for cars.

Amity watches through her window, glass dotted by chin, nose, forehead, and calls out all she can to see Sorrow: brown fields and green fields, gas stations and grain elevators.  She calls out the empty cross of the power pole.  She is watching for the end of the world.  Father told them it would come and, surely, it will.  They will see its signs, even far from him.  Even here.

Sorrow has her head down and her back curled over so she cannot watch.  She cups her belly and groans.

“Carsick,” says Mother.

Homesick, thinks Amity.

Their mother is taking them from their home and all they know, and they have no idea how they will ever get her to turn around and take them back.

About the Book:

A mother and her daughters drive for days without sleep until they crash their car in rural Oklahoma. The mother, Amaranth, is desperate to get away from someone she’s convinced will follow them wherever they go–her husband. The girls, Amity and Sorrow, can’t imagine what the world holds outside their father’s polygamous compound. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of Bradley, a farmer grieving the loss of his wife. At first unwelcoming to these strange, prayerful women, Bradley’s abiding tolerance gets the best of him, and they become a new kind of family. An unforgettable story of belief and redemption, AMITY & SORROW is about the influence of community and learning to stand on your own.

About the Author:

Peggy Riley is a writer and playwright, originally from Los Angeles and now living in Britain on the North Kent coast.  She has been a bookseller, festival producer, and writer in residence at a young-offender prison.  Amity & Sorrow is her first novel.

Peggy Riley

Peggy Riley

Follow Peggy on Twitter

Author Website

Bookmagnet Says: Riley’s opening is gripping and literally forces you to keep reading.  You feel tethered to the sisters yourself, already, even on the first page.

 

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Spotlight on Dear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian

dear lucy

 

I go down the stairs quiet like I am something without any weight. I open the door in the dark and the cold sucks my skin towards it. It is the morning but there is no sun yet, just white light around the edges. It is the time to get the eggs. Time for my best thing. The eggs they shine with their white and I do not need the light to find them. The foxes need no light either. I am a little like the fox, he is a little like me.

I’m currently reading two books, but I am eager to start Dear Lucy by Julie Sarkissian.  Isn’t the cover adorable?

About the Book:

Lucy is a young woman with an uncommon voice and an unusual way of looking at the world. She doesn’t understand why her mother has sent her to live with old Mister and Missus on their farm, but she knows she must never leave or her mother won’t be able to find her again.

Also living at the farm is a pregnant teenager named Samantha who tells conflicting stories about her past and quickly becomes Lucy’s only friend. When Samantha gives birth and her baby disappears, Lucy arms herself with Samantha’s diary—as well as a pet chicken named Jennifer—and embarks on a dangerous and exhilarating journey to reunite mother and child. With Dear Lucy, Julie Sarkissian has created an unforgettable new heroine of contemporary fiction whose original voice, exuberance, and bravery linger long after the final page.

About the Author:

JULIE SARKISSIAN is a graduate of Princeton University, where she won the Francis Leon Paige Award for creative writing, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.

She is an instructor at The Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

julie-about

 

I am trying to get an interview with the author.  Fingers crossed!

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Spotlight on Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots author Jessica Soffer is a born and gifted storyteller whose debut is good enough to eat.

Just look at this beautiful cover.

tomorow there will be apricots

 

From the book:

This is a story about accepting the people we love—the people we have to love and the people we choose to love, the families we’re given and the families we make. It’s the story of two women adrift in New York, a widow and an almost-orphan, each searching for someone she’s lost. It’s the story of how, even in moments of grief and darkness, there are joys waiting nearby.

Lorca spends her life poring over cookbooks, making croissants and chocolat chaud, seeking out rare ingredients, all to earn the love of her distracted chef of a mother, who is now packing her off to boarding school. In one last effort to prove herself indispensable, Lorca resolves to track down the recipe for her mother’s ideal meal, an obscure Middle Eastern dish called masgouf.

Victoria, grappling with her husband’s death, has been dreaming of the daughter they gave up forty years ago. An Iraqi Jewish immigrant who used to run a restaurant, she starts teaching cooking lessons; Lorca signs up.

Together, they make cardamom pistachio cookies, baklava, kubba with squash. They also begin to suspect they are connected by more than their love of food. Soon, though, they must reckon with the past, the future, and the truth—whatever it might be. Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.

According to her website, jessicasoffer.com, Jessica “earned her MFA at Hunter College. Her work has appeared in GrantaThe New York Times, and Vogue, among other publications. She teaches fiction at Connecticut College and lives in New York City.”

jessica

Rife with symbolism and meaning, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots is tender, lush, and full-bodied.  Don’t miss this splendid debut by a bright, new talent.

Jessica Soffer.  "Soffer" means "scribe" in Arabic.

Jessica Soffer. “Soffer” means “scribe” in Arabic.

Check back soon for my review and an interview with the author.  Order Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots here.

Thanks to Leila Meglio for my copy.

 

 

 

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Spotlight on The Third Son by Julie Wu

I read The Third Son by Julie Wu back in January, but this story remains with me still.
the third son

 

 

About the Book:

It’s 1943. As air-raid sirens blare in Japanese-occupied Taiwan, eight-year-old Saburo walks through the peach forests of Taoyuan. The least favored son of a Taiwanese politician, Saburo is in no hurry to get home to the taunting and abuse he suffers at the hands of his parents and older brother. In the forest he meets Yoshiko, whose descriptions of her loving family are to Saburo like a glimpse of paradise.  Meeting her is a moment he will remember forever, and for years he will try to find her again. When he finally does, she is by the side of his oldest brother and greatest rival.

Set in a tumultuous and violent period of Taiwanese history—as the Chinese Nationalist Army lays claim to the island and one autocracy replaces another—The Third Son tells the story of lives governed by the inheritance of family and the legacy of culture, and of a young man determined to free himself from both.  In Saburo, author Julie Wu has created an extraordinary character, a gentle soul forced to fight for everything he’s ever wanted: food, an education, and his first love, Yoshiko. A sparkling, evocative debut, it will have readers cheering for this young boy with his head in the clouds who, against all odds, finds himself on the frontier of America’s space program.

About the Author:

Julie Wu

Julie Wu

After graduating from Harvard with a BA in literature, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, Julie Wu received an MD at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She has received a writing grant from the Vermont Studio Center and is the recipient of a 2012 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship.

 

The Third Son is a rich debut featuring a character who I came to see as family.  Saburo is a very special character, one who will steal your heart.  Wu’s story is perfect for fans of Samuel Park, Jamie Ford, Janice Y.K. Lee, and Lisa See.

The Third Son comes out April 30 from Algonquin Books.  Pre-order The Third Son here.

Check back on April 30, when I’ll be interviewing the author and look for my book review coming soon.

 

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Spotlight On Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard about the newest novel from Kate Atkinson–Life After Life.

life after life

 

About the Book:

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions. –from Goodreads

 

 

About the Author:

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster. 

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.–from Goodreads

I read this book yesterday and I was utterly enthralled.  I don’t believe I’ve ever literally wrung my hands or gnashed my teeth because of a book, but I did both those things while reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  The story left me spent, breathless, and eager to read it all again!

Look for my review soon.  In the meantime, get your hands on a copy!

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Spotlight on Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler comes out March 26 from St. Martin’s Press.  This enthralling story is my current read.  And let me tell you–Zelda dazzles and Fowler captures her essence and the ambiance of the Jazz Age perfectly.

z

 

About the Book:

From Goodreads:

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.

Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it. 

Favorite Quotes:

I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed. —Zelda Fitzgerald

Sometimes, I don’t know whether Zelda and I are real or whether we are characters from one of my own novels.–F. Scott Fitzgerald

About the Author:

From her website

Therese Anne Fowler (pronounced ta-reece) is the third child and only daughter of a couple who raised their children in Milan, Illinois. An avowed tomboy, Therese thwarted her grandmother’s determined attempts to dress her in frills–and, to further her point, insisted on playing baseball despite her town having a perfectly good girls’ softball league. Thanks to the implementation of Title IX legislation and her father’s willingness to fight on her behalf, Therese became one of the first girls in the U.S. to play Little League baseball.

Her passion for baseball was exceeded only by her love of books. A reader since age four, she often abused her library privileges by keeping favorite books out just a little too long. When domestic troubles led to unpleasant upheaval during her adolescence, the Rock Island Public Library became her refuge. With no grounding in Literature per se, she made no distinction between the classics and modern fiction. Little Women was as valued as The Dead Zone. A story’s ability to transport her, affect her, was the only relevant matter.

Therese married at eighteen, becoming soon afterward a military spouse (officially referred to at the time as a “dependent spouse”). With customary spirit, she followed her then-husband to Texas, then to Clark Air Base in the Philippines–where, because of politics, very few military spouses could find employment. Again, books came to her rescue as the base library became her home-away-from-home and writers such as Jean Auel, Sidney Sheldon, and Margaret Atwood brought respite from boredom and heat.

Her own foray into writing came years later, after a divorce, single parenthood, enrollment in college, and remarriage. A chance opportunity during the final semester of her undergrad program led to her writing her first short story, and she was hooked. Having won an essay contest in third grade and seen her writing praised by teachers ever since, she knew she could put words on paper reasonably well. This story, however, was her first real attempt at fiction. Her professor told her she had a knack for it, thus giving her the permission to try she hadn’t known she was waiting for.

After an intensive five-year stint that included one iffy-but-completed novel followed by graduate school, some short-fiction awards, an MFA in creative writing, teaching undergraduates creative writing, and a second completed novel that led to literary representation, Therese was on the path to a writing career. It would take three more novels (all of which are published) and a great lot of new reading, though, before she began to grasp Literature properly–experience proving to be the best teacher.

The inspiration to tell Zelda’s story came unbidden, on a day when Therese was contemplating entirely different story ideas. Believing Zelda to be little more than “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s crazy, disruptive wife,” she was skeptical of the idea. But when a quick web search revealed that Therese’s mother and Zelda had both passed away in the overnight hours of the same date, March 10th (though in different years), Therese was compelled to explore the idea further–and then, seeing how wrong she’d been about Zelda, write a story that would, she hoped, bring a maligned, talented, troubled woman the justice she deserves. When Z sold first to a publisher in London on the 10th of April–the date The Great Gatsby was published in 1925–Therese had to think it was fate.

Therese has two grown sons and two nearly grown stepsons. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband.

fowler

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Spotlight on The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

I am reading The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper.  This mystery/thriller is compelling and engaging enough that you can read it in a sitting.  Once you begin reading, you just cannot stop and have to get to the end or else.

the demonologist

About the Book

Fans of The Historian won’t be able to put down this spellbinding literary horror story in which a Columbia professor must use his knowledge of demonic mythology to rescue his daughter from the Underworld.Professor David Ullman’s expertise in the literature of the demonic—notably Milton’s Paradise Lost—has won him wide acclaim. But David is not a believer.

One afternoon he receives a visitor at his campus office, a strikingly thin woman who offers him an invitation: travel to Venice, Italy, witness a “phenomenon,” and offer his professional opinion, in return for an extravagant sum of money. Needing a fresh start, David accepts and heads to Italy with his beloved twelve-year-old daughter Tess.

What happens in Venice will send David on an unimaginable journey from skeptic to true believer, as he opens himself up to the possibility that demons really do exist. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David attempts to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed—a demonic entity that has chosen him as its messenger.

About the Author

Andrew-Pyper_photo-credit-Heidi-Pyper-300x252

Andrew Pyper was born in Stratford, Ontario, in 1968. He received a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature from McGill University, as well as a law degree from the University of Toronto. Although called to the bar in 1996, he has never practiced.

His new novel, The Demonologist, will be published in Canada and the US by Simon & Schuster in March, 2013, and by Orion in the UK and Australia in April 2013.  Film rights have been sold to Universal Pictures with Robert Zemeckis’ company, ImageMovers, producing.  Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Robert Schenkkan, is adapting.

The Guardians, Andrew’s fifth novel, was published in Canada (Doubleday Canada) in January 2011, the U.K. (Orion) in February 2011, and following this internationally in various territories.  It was selected a Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of the Year.

The Killing Circle, Andrew’s fourth novel, was a national  bestseller in Canada, and has been published in the U.K. (HarperCollins) and U.S. (St. Martin’s/Minotaur).  Translation rights have been sold in Holland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Japan.

Kiss Me, a collection of short stories, was published to acclaim in 1996. Following its publication, Mr. Pyper acted as Writer-in-Residence at Berton House, Dawson City, Yukon, as well as at Champlain College, Trent University.His first novel, Lost Girls, was a national bestseller in Canada and a Globe and Mail Notable Book selection in 1999 as well as a Notable Book selection in the New York Times Book Review (2000) and the London Evening Standard (2000). The novel won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel and is an Otto Penzler pick on Amazon.comLost Girls has been published in the U.S. (Delacorte Press) and U.K. (Macmillan) in 2000, and has also been translated into Italian, Dutch, German and Japanese. Andrew is attached as screenwriter for a feature film adaptation of Lost Girls, working with producer Steven Hoban(Ginger Snaps, Oscar-winner Ryan, Splice).

Andrew’s second novel, The Trade Mission, was published in Canada, the U.K., U.S., the Netherlands and Germany. It was selected by The Toronto Star as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year.Andrew’s third novel, The Wildfire Season,was a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year and has been published to acclaim in the U.K., Canada, U.S. and Holland. The Wildfire Season is currently in development for feature film with L.A.-based producer Chris Moore (Good Will Hunting, American Pie).

He lives in Toronto.

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The Demonologist is a tale to be devoured.  Open your mouth really wide like one of Pyper’s demons and swallow it whole.

 

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