Category Archives: Fiction

Steal the North

Finished Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A novel of love in all its forms: for the land, for family, and the once-in-a-lifetime kind that catches two people when they least expect it

Emmy is a shy, sheltered sixteen-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had
abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now, Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child.

Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door.

In a part of the country where the age-old tensions of cowboys versus Indians still play out, theirs is the kind of magical, fraught love that can only survive with the passion and resilience of youth. Their story is mirrored by the generation before them, who fears that their mistakes are doomed to repeat themselves in Emmy and Reuben. With Louise Erdrich’s sense of place and a love story in the tradition of Water for Elephants, this is an atmospheric family drama in which the question of home is a spiritual one, in which getting over the past is the only hope for the future.”

Note to readers: this book has a slow pace.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s languid-slow, not  boring-slow, and it takes the book time to tell you its secrets.  Be patient; you’ll be amply rewarded.

I absolutely loved this story.  It’s told from different perspectives.  I loved Emmy’s chapters the most, but enjoyed hearing things from the other perspectives, too (especially Bethany’s and Reuben’s).

The characters in this book became friends and I rejoiced and suffered along with them.  And now I miss them.

I know the synopsis compares it to Louise Erdrich (which I can see, especially in Reuben’s chapters) and Water for Elephants, this book is completely itself and I can’t wait for this book to find its audience.  It’s a rare, beautiful thing.

Highly recommended.

Life as a Publicist (Update 1)

The first book I’m doing for Spence City is Elements of Mind by Walter H. Hunt.

Elements of Mind

Summary (from Amazon):

“In Victorian India, a Scottish doctor, Dr. James Esdaile, finds a way to use the power of mesmerism to aid him in performing surgeries, using a remarkable artifact that enhances his abilities. The revocation of the promise to bring the artifact to Rev. William Davey, the head of the secret Committee of English mesmerists leads him to commit suicide in the center of the Crystal Palace…but that is only the beginning of the story. Davey’s pursuit of the object leads him across two continents, unfolding the story that has its origins two decades before – and reveals the secret world of the -chthonoi-, the elemental spirits that were banished from human lands in antiquity, and now want to find a way to open the Glass Door and reassert themselves in the world of men.”

This is so great and so incredibly creepy.  I can’t wait for this book to be released and for people to get to read it.

The best/worst part is that many parts of this book are real. That statue? The object that is at the heart of all the problems?  That’s real.  (Ask Walter; he’ll tell you ALL ABOUT IT.  Even if you don’t want to know because you like being able to sleep at night.)  ;)

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.”

I am very late to the Neil Gaiman party.  I’ve only read one other book of his (The Graveyard Book, maybe?) which I enjoyed but was not OH MY GOD NEIL GAIMAN IS THE BEST WRITER EVER EVER EVER about.

I loved this one much more.

It’s very short (I think it would still count as a novella, even though it’s almost 200 pages) but I’m glad it was as short as it was.  It was perfect and nothing about it felt drawn out or belabored.

I overidentified with the narrator (whose name we never learn).  I was also overfond of books as a child (and as an adult) and I absolutely understand how he found his refuge there, especially when confronted with this he didn’t like.

Ursula Monkton is one of the creepiest villains EVER.  I don’t want to say too much about her in case you haven’t read this—and you should if you haven’t already—but she creeped me out so much.

Highly recommended.

The Stag Lord cover reveal

Stag Lord full jacket

This is the front and back of The Stag Lord (out in late October) by Darby Karchut, writing as Darby Kaye.  Darby’s been one of my favorite authors for years now and I’m so excited for everyone to get to read this book.  I believe it’s her best yet, and that’s not just because I’m the publicist for it (!!!!!!).

Jacket copy:

“On the run across America from a vengeful shape-shifter, Bannerman ‘Bann’ Boru has only one thing on his mind: keeping himself and his young son, Cor, alive.

At any cost.

Until he meets Shay Doyle, healer and member of a secret group of immortal Celtic warriors, the Tuatha De Danaan, living in modern-day Colorado. When Cor is injured, Bannerman is forced to accept her help. He quickly realizes the golden-haired healer is shield maiden tough and can hold her own on the field of battle with the big boys. And Shay soon discovers that there is more to Bann than meets the eye.

Now, with the shape-shifter Cernunnos teaming up with the local pack of Fir Bolgs (Bronze Age creatures with a nasty taste for children), Bannerman, Shay, her wolf-dog Max and the rest of the Doyle clan must figure out how to battle one insane god.”

This book is highly, highly recommended.  And again, how stunning is that cover?  (Designed by Errick Nunnally.)

The Bear

Finished The Bear by Claire Cameron.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A powerfully suspenseful story narrated by a young girl who must fend for herself and her little brother after a brutal bear attack.

While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey.

At her dying mother’s faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, and the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness, we see Anna’s heartbreaking love for her family–and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.

Told in the honest, raw voice of five-year-old Anna, this is a riveting story of love, courage, and survival.”

This book was compared to Room (by Emma Donoghue) and I can absolutely see that.  The circumstances are different but both books tell of absolutely horrific events and are recounted from a child’s perspective.

I would argue that the events in The Bear are actually worse, but then I have a fear of nature and camping so take that for what it’s worth.

Anna has gone camping with her parents and younger brother when she hears her parents screaming.  Her dad throws her and her brother (Alex, nicknamed Stick) into the cooler, then wedges a rock into it so it won’t latch shut.  Anna thinks she hears the dog next door chewing on a bone; the reader knows that it’s really a bear killing her parents.

When she gets out of the cooler, she stumbles across her mom, who’s still alive but barely.  She tells Anna to get Stick and take the canoe somewhere safe, and that she and their dad will meet them there.

I have to tell you guys, Anna and this book broke my heart.  She’s five years old, and now she has to figure out how to stay alive and how to keep her toddler brother alive, too. She’s this amazingly brave person and it’s so much for such a little kid to handle.

This book is wrenching but it’s also completely amazing.

Highly, highly recommended.

Finding It

Finished Finding It by Cora Carmack. I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“ometimes you have to lose yourself to find where you truly belong…

Most girls would kill to spend months traveling around Europe after college graduation with no responsibility, no parents, and no-limit credit cards. Kelsey Summers is no exception. She’s having the time of her life . . . or that’s what she keeps telling herself.

It’s a lonely business trying to find out who you are, especially when you’re afraid you won’t like what you discover. No amount of drinking or dancing can chase away Kelsey’s loneliness, but maybe Jackson Hunt can. After a few chance meetings, he convinces her to take a journey of adventure instead of alcohol. With each new city and experience, Kelsey’s mind becomes a little clearer and her heart a little less hers. Jackson helps her unravel her own dreams and desires. But the more she learns about herself, the more Kelsey realizes how little she knows about Jackson.”

Like the other two books in this series (Losing It and Faking It), this book is incredibly fun.

It took me a little bit of time to like Kelsey (she’s kind of damaged and while horrible things have happened to her, it’s also kind of hard to love someone whose primary instinct is to either completely avoid everything by drinking or avoid everything by running away).  And also, most of us don’t have the means to hide from our lives in Europe on someone else’s money.

Ultimately, I think fans of Cora Carmack will end up loving this sweet story.  It fell a little flat for me, but I still had a great time reading it.  (To be honest, I loved it while reading it and then later, I was like, “…Wait.  WHAT?!”)

She has a new series out in a couple months and I’m definitely excited to read that.  Even though I didn’t love this one, I’m still a huge fan of hers.


Finished Vintage by Susan Gloss.  I received a copy from the publisher on Edelweiss.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A sparkling debut novel in the vein of The Friday Night Knitting Club, centered around a Midwestern vintage clothing shop and a group of women who eventually transform the store and each others’ lives.

At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.

Yellow Samsonite suitcase with ivory, quilted lining, 1950s…
Violet Turner had always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. Though she knows the personal history behind each precious item she sells, Violet refuses to acknowledge her own past. When she is faced with the possibility of losing the store, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.

Taffeta tea length wedding gown with scooped neckline and cap sleeves, 1952…
Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who won’t let her give up on her dreams.

Orange sari made from silk dupioni with gold paisley design, 1968…
Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.

An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of women’s friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.”

I absolutely adored this quiet, sweet book.   This is one of those books that will absolutely steal your heart.  I’m not entirely sure where it stole mine (but I suspect it was in one of Violet’s chapters).

As I said when I previewed this, I am not a huge fan of fashion but this book made me wish that I were.  It makes me want to find a vintage store and start dressing like I’m on Mad Men.

But while the clothes and the shop were like a character in the novel in their own right, I absolutely fell in love with Violet, April and Amithi.  All three women face serious difficulties but you can tell the entire time that they’ll be fine in the end.  They are strong women, and it was so nice to read about women who didn’t need to be rescued.

Every character in this feels like people you would know.  A lot of times, it seems more like there are a few main characters that are fully fleshed out on the page and then minor ones like Generic Friend #2 and Neighbor Kid Who Cuts The Grass.  That’s not true in this book.  Every person I met felt like I could reasonably expect to meet them in real life.

I loved this book and I already miss it.

Highly recommended.


Finished Desperate by Daniel Palmer.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Brimming with suspense and unrelenting twists, acclaimed author Daniel Palmer’s latest thriller delves into the waking nightmare of a well meaning couple whose biggest and most ordinary dream has gone terrifyingly awry Gage Dekker still blames himself for the car accident that claimed the lives of his first wife and young son. Then he meets Anna, who understands grief all too well. Within a year, Gage and Anna are married, his career is thriving, and both feel ready to become parents once more.

After a heartbreaking miscarriage, they begin the long adoption process, until fate brings Lily into their lives. Young, pregnant, and homeless, Lily agrees to give her baby to Gage and Anna in exchange for financial support. It’s the perfect arrangement for everyone. Seeing his wife’s happiness and optimism for their new life and child, Gage begins to feel a sense of hope he thought he’d lost forever.

But something isn’t right once Lily enters their lives. At work and at home, Gage is being sabotaged, first in subtle ways, then things take a more sinister turn. Every attempt he makes to uncover the truth only drives a wedge between him and Anna. Even as he’s propelled toward an unthinkable choice to save his marriage and his job, Gage discovers that the most chilling revelations are still to come.”

Daniel Palmer has become one of my go-to authors for unputdownable (shut up; it’s a word if I want it to be) books.  Because oh, this book.

So many twists and turns, so many things I didn’t see coming, so many creepy and sad things.

I really felt for Gage.  Horrible things had happened to him (his wife and son were killed in an accident involving a drunk driver) and so obviously he’d fallen apart for a little while.   (In the normal way, not in a crazy, Charlie Sheen implosion.) But now things are looking better.  He’s remarried and he and his wife are considering adopting a baby.  And then they meet Lily who is pregnant with a baby she doesn’t want.  Perfect, right?

Of course not.

This is an amazing, ridiculously fun book.  I can’t imagine you won’t love it as much as I did.

Highly recommended.

The Memory Child


Finished The Memory Child by Steena Holmes.  I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When Brian finds out that his wife, Diane, is pregnant, he is elated. He’s been patiently waiting for twelve years to become a father. But Diane has always been nervous about having children because of her family’s dark past. The timing of the pregnancy also isn’t ideal – Diane has just been promoted, and Brian is being called away to open a new London office for his company.

Fast-forward one year: being a mother has brought Diane a sense of joy that she’d never imagined and she’s head over heels for her new baby, Grace. But things are far from perfect: Brian has still not returned from London, and Diane fears leaving the baby for even a moment. As unsettling changes in those around Diane began to emerge, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

A woman’s dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama.”

This review is going to be fairly vague so as to avoid any sport of spoiler.

I had read Steena Holmes before (her Finding Emma and Emma’s Secret duology) and very much enjoyed them.  This book is completely different.  (Well, all three are incredibly well written, so that’s the same, but beyond that? Completely different.)

When I was a few chapters in,  I was pretty sure I knew what was going on.

Nope.  COMPLETELY off base.

What I CAN tell you is that Diane’s past is dark.  The kind of dark that makes her pretty sure she doesn’t want to have kids…and then she gets pregnant.

As most moms will tell you, when she holds her daughter Grace for the first time, her life is completely changed and Diane knows that she’d do anything for her.  But why hasn’t her husband come home from his business trip yet?  And even though she’s a first-time mom, is it weird that she has extreme separation anxiety whenever she has to leave Grace?

I LOVED this book.  It’s an absolute page-turner and it sucked me in almost immediately.

This is a story I won’t forget.

Highly recommended.

The Good Luck of Right Now

Finished The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick.  I received a copy from the publisher on Edelweiss.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love.

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.”

I’ve loved Matthew Quick since I read his second novel, Sorta Like a Rock Star.  Since then, I’ve read all his other books and each one has been incredible.  This one is no exception.

The thing about Matthew Quick’s main characters is that they’ll break your heart.  I loved Bartholomew, but he just absolutely shattered me at the same time.  He’s clearly got problems, but there are also clues throughout the novel that he’s not as simple as he may appear to be (in other words, that he’s pretending to perceive things a certain way, as opposed to actually seeing them that way).

I also love the idea behind the title, which is that there is a certain balance to the universe and that when bad things happen to you, good things are happening to someone else.  I don’t necessarily believe that life is a zero-sum game and that good things happening to others mean that they won’t happen to you, but I do plan to start reframing things so that, when bad things are happening to me, try to remember that maybe someone else will get a break because of it.

I loved Bartholomew’s mom in the glimpses of her that we got from him and through his eyes.  I wish that we could’ve spent more time with her.

This isn’t my favorite book of his, but it’s still amazing.  Highly recommended.