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Guest Post & Giveaway: Writing as Surgery by Caitlin Hamilton Summie

Last year, I read one of the most well-crafted short stories collections out there, and it was written by Caitlin Hamilton Summie, who many in the blogging world know for her marketing savvy for indie authors.

To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts is one year old today. It was on my best of list last year, and I still love it today. It is a collection that is poetic and holds imagery to a higher standard as each story is pregnant with emotion, particularly different forms of grief. Read the full review.

After reading short stories by Chekhov this year, I’m beginning to think that Caitlin Hamilton Summie is our modern Chekhov.

We often have guests talk about their writing process or their writing spaces, but we rarely hear about the after-publication process. In honor of this book’s anniversary, I asked Caitlin if she’d like to write up a guest post about her after publication experience as a short-story writer.

I think you’ll love this guest post and don’t forget to enter the giveaway.

Please give Caitlin a warm welcome:

Recently, in work correspondence, a reviewer let me know that she had wanted once to work in publishing or to be a surgeon. What came to my mind was how much surgery and creative writing have in common: they share a focus on precision, on cause and effect, on getting to the root of things. I imagine, though I cannot know, that there is an artistry in performing surgery that echoes the artistry in writing.

I have never wanted to be a surgeon, but I do believe in the power of stories to heal and connect, to make us empathize and reconsider.

In the year since I published my first book, a collection of short stories called TO LAY TO REST OUR GHOSTS, I have received a number of reviews that speak to the root-level emotional engagement the stories provide, to how deeply-felt they are. One reviewer said my stories made him/her feel less alone. I’ll never forget that review or cease to be overwhelmed by it.

I do write straight from the heart, and this is where I think many readers live, too— valuing stories that get to our very cores, get to the heart of the matter. We want characters we love as much as we want a gripping tale. We want to connect.

One year past publication, with reviews and interviews still coming in, with events still being offered, I am deeply grateful—for the connections with people I will never know over matters of the heart that are shared in my stories, written like a surgeon might operate, carefully excavating through each character the love and forgiveness that gets them—and us—through the days.

Enter the Giveaway by Aug. 19, 11:59 p.m. EST.

About the Author:

Caitlin Hamilton Summie earned an MFA with Distinction from Colorado State University, and her short stories have been published in Beloit Fiction Journal, Wisconsin Review, Puerto del Sol, Mud Season Review, and Long Story, Short. She spent many years in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling with her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. She co-owns the book marketing firm, Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity, founded in 2003.

Mailbox Monday #486

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Martha of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Shelf Life of Happiness: Stories by Virginia Pye from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity for review in October.

In these bittersweet, compelling stories, Virginia Pye’s characters in Shelf Life of Happiness long for that most-elusive of states: happiness. A young skateboarder reaches across an awesome gap to reconnect with his disapproving father; an elderly painter executes one final, violent gesture to memorialize his work; a newly married writer battles the urge to implode his happy marriage; and a confused young man falls for his best friend’s bride and finally learns to love. In each case, Pye’s characters aim to be better people as they strive for happiness–and some even reap the sweet reward of achieving it.

They Gathered at Rosings by Margaret Lynette Sharp, a free kindle book.

There’s excitement afoot when the Darcys gather with their peers for the grand ball organised by Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her husband Hubert. Will Her Ladyship’s grandson John meet the girl of his dreams, or has unrequited love stifled his ardour? Does Fitzwilliam Darcy, Jr win the hand of his true love, Emily? Has Lady Catherine had a change of heart about her feelings towards her grandchildren and their futures?

Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare by Daniel Charles

FRITZ HABER — a Nobel laureate in chemistry, a friend of Albert Einstein, a German Jew and World War I hero — may be the most important scientist you have never heard of. The Haber-Bosch process, which he invented at the turn of the twentieth century, revolutionized agriculture by converting nitrogen to fertilizer in quantities massive enough to feed the world. The invention has become an essential pillar for life on earth; some two billion people on our planet could not survive without it. Yet this same process supplied the German military with explosives during World War I, and Haber orchestrated Germany’s use of an entirely new weapon — poison gas. Eventually, Haber’s efforts led to Zyklon B, the gas later used to kill millions — including Haber’s own relatives — in Nazi concentration camps.

Haber is the patron saint of guns and butter, a scientist whose discoveries transformed the way we produce food and fight wars. His legacy is filled with contradictions, as was his personality. For some, he was a benefactor of humanity and devoted friend. For others, he was a war criminal, possessed by raw ambition. An intellectual gunslinger, enamored of technical progress and driven by patriotic devotion to Germany, he was instrumental in the scientific work that inadvertently supported the Nazi cause; a Jew and a German patriot, he was at once an enabler of the Nazi regime and its victim.

Master Mind is a thought-provoking biography of this controversial scientist, a modern Faust who personifies the paradox of science, its ability to create and to destroy. It offers a complete chronicle of his tumultuous and ultimately tragic life, from his childhood and rise to prominence in the heady days of the German Empire to his disgrace and exile at the hands of the Nazis; from early decades as the hero who eliminated the threat of starvation to his lingering legacy as a villain whose work led to the demise of millions.

Nora & Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor, a free kindle download.

After World War II, orphaned Kettle faces prejudice as a Japanese American but manages to scrape by and care for his makeshift family of homeless children. When he crosses paths with the privileged but traumatized Nora, both of their lives are forever changed…

Lauren Nicolle Taylor’s Nora & Kettle is a heart-wrenching historical fiction novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Beginning of Everything, Eleanor & Park, The Book Thief, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.

Remember When by T. Torrest, a free kindle download.

** Author’s Note: Remember When is the first book in a trilogy series but most people believe it can be read as a standalone. This romantic comedy novel is intended for mature teen readers and immature adult readers due to some high school sex scenes, underage drinking, questionable language and 1980s flashbacks. **

Head back to the 80s with this coming-of-age romantic comedy about a pre-fame Hollywood movie star and his high school sweetheart!

Years before Trip Wiley could be seen on movie screens all over the world, he could be seen sitting in the desk behind me in my high school English class.

This was back in 1990, and I cite the year only to avoid dumbfounding you when references to big hair or stretch pants are mentioned. Although, come to think of it, I am from Northern New Jersey, which may serve as explanation enough. We were teenagers then, way back in a time before anyone, himself included, could even dream he’d turn into the Hollywood commodity that he is today.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who Trip Wiley is. But on the off chance you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, just know that these days, he’s the actor found at the top of every casting director’s wish list. He’s incredibly talented and insanely gorgeous, the combination of which has made him very rich, very famous and very desirable.

Rise of the Fallen by Donya Lynne, a free kindle download.

After an immortal life that’s been more agony than joy, Micah wants his endless suffering to be over. So he seeks out a ruthless enemy who’s more than happy to end his life, only for his death wish to be thwarted by a beautiful, gun-toting female who looks more angel than human.

Samantha is hiding from her abusive ex-husband, dancing for men’s favor–and their money–in a swanky gentleman’s club in order to pay the bills. While leaving her nightly shift, she stumbles upon a group of thugs beating a helpless man to death. She charges into the fray, guns blazing, determined to save the handsome stranger, only to discover he’s no man, and she’s thrust herself into a dangerous, paranormal world she never knew existed.

In Sam, Micah finds a reason to live, but now that she’s put a target on her back, he’ll have to go to extreme measures to protect her. But with her obsessive ex-husband closing in and an enemy who will stop at nothing to exact revenge, are the odds stacked too heavily against Micah? Or will finding something worth fighting for be enough to give him the advantage?

Chocolate and Conversation by Jennifer Griffith, a free Kindle download.

Mormon girl Susannah is ready to take a big risk. Suddenly unemployed and unmarried, Susannah puts everything on the line to open up downtown Salt Lake City’s first all-chocolate café, The Chocolate Bar. It all starts out sweetly. Susannah even catches the interest of the city’s most eligible bachelor, a charismatic attorney.

But when Susannah’s first love, John Wentworth, returns to town, her heart goes sideways. He’s rich. He’s handsome. And he’s got intentions of marrying anyone but Susannah.

Chocolate and Conversation is a light and frothy, chocolate-filled romp. An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, it’s filled with to-die-for recipes, hilarious situations, and swoony kisses. This delicious romance throws a wholesome girl into an impossible love triangle between her longing for her former Mr. Right and her Mr. Maybe-Right-for-Now.

The Secrets of Pemberley by Rose Fairbanks, a free Kindle download.

To the world, Fitzwilliam Darcy has it all. He’s the young master to one of the kingdom’s oldest and wealthiest Norman families. Through his mother, he is related to a powerful line of earls. Beneath the perfect façade lies the truth: he’s the product of his mother’s affair and the heir George Darcy never wanted.

At twenty-eight, Darcy has fought hard to put to rest the pains of the past and earn his place in Society. But can he resist the allure of ending his loneliness with the unsuitable woman who has tugged at his heartstrings? Will he tell her his secret and if he does, will she keep it? Or will someone else from the past destroy everything Darcy has worked for?

Henry Fitzwilliam’s War by Don Jacobson, a free kindle download.

Time is once again bent in 1883 as Viscount Henry Fitzwilliam, Viscount of Matlock, uses the remarkable Bennet Wardrobe to seek his manhood through combat as suggested by his great friend, Theodore Roosevelt. But, as Henry’s Great Grandmother, Lydia Bennet Wickham Fitzwilliam, noted, “The Wardrobe has a strange sense of humor.” The lessons the young aristocrat learns are not the ones he expected.

Henry travels over 30 years into the future to land in the middle of the most awful conflict in human history—World War I. His brief time at the Front teaches him that there is no longer any room on the battlefield for heroic combat. Rather he discovers the horrors of “modern” warfare—the machine gun, high explosive artillery and poison gas—and the incredible waste of young men’s lives.

But, it is his two weeks spent recuperating at the Beach House in Deauville, after being temporarily blinded by chlorine gas, that irrevocably changes his life forever. There he encounters an incredible woman, one who will define his near 10-year search for the love of his life after he returns to his own time–and how his personality was shaped by their emerging relationship…one that was impossible on a number of levels.

What did you receive?

Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer by Charlene Ball

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 300 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Dark Lady by Charlene Ball is a fictional account of Emilia Bassano’s life in the late 1500s. She is rumored to be the “dark lady” in Shakespeare’s sonnets and is considered the first professional female poet. Ball has taken a format that resembles journal entries in that they jump forward in time, but the narrative is not told in the first person. She was a young woman who was sent to live with the Countess of Kent at a young age and much of her family were musicians at court. She often felt held back by the social norms in which women were passed about as property and often judged as fallen or bad women just based on appearances. Many of her actions seem haphazard and naive, which is to be expected for a girl sent away from her home at a young age.

“It was a day of sun and white waves on the water that curled around the prow of the boat. Emilia moved closer to Lord Hunsdon, wrapped in his cloak against the chill of the morning. Earlier the sky had been soft pearl gray, and now it was streaked with scarlet, purple, and deep crimson.” (pg. 13)

“Emilia made a face. ‘Don’t bring raw noses into my parlor, I beg you.’

‘And should I leave my poor nose at the door waiting in the cold? Shivering, dripping, unkerchiefed?'” (pg. 87)

Ball infuses Bassano’s tale with beauty and darkness, but there also is humor. Despite the tragedies in her life, Bassano strives to take her fate in her own hands. She meets a young playwright named Shakespeare, a man who wants to be a professional poet with a patron, but his works and his carefree attitude capture her attention away from a lord who has protected her when she needed it most. She is torn between her gratitude for the man who has protected her all this time, despite his own marriage and family, and the passion she knows lies beneath the disguises of a married player. The interactions between Bassano and Shakespeare are eerily familiar to those in the movie “Shakespeare in Love,” at least in terms of the cross-dressing and cloak-and-dagger tactics Bassano and Shakespeare engage in.

Dark Lady by Charlene Ball looks at the life of one female artist in a time when men dominated society and women were pawns. While she was strong in many ways, it was clear that she was still a victim of her own naivete and her inability to protect herself from situations that could harm her. Readers may find that the format and style keeps them at a distance from the main character as the story unfolds, but she certainly led an interesting life full of colorful people.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Charlene Ball holds a PhD in comparative literature and has taught English and women’s studies at colleges and universities. Although she has written nonfiction, reviews, and academic articles, writing fiction has always been her first love. She has published fiction and nonfiction in The North Atlantic Review, Concho River Review, The NWSA Journal, and other journals. She has reviewed theater and written articles on the arts for Atlanta papers. She is a Fellow of the Hambidge Center for the Arts and held a residency at the Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. She attends fiction workshops by Carol Lee Lorenzo, and she belongs to a writers’ group that she helped found. She retired from the Women’s Studies Institute (now the Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) at Georgia State University in 2009 and has been busier than ever with writing and bookselling. She also volunteers with her congregation and other social justice groups. She and her wife, Libby Ware, an author and bookseller, were married in May 2016.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

Mailbox Monday #428

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

When It’s Over by Barbara Ridley for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.

Coming of age in Prague in the 1930s, Lena Kulkova is inspired by the left-wing activists who resist the rise of fascism. She meets Otto, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, and follows him to Paris to work for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. As the war in Spain ends and a far greater war engulfs the continent, Lena gets stuck in Paris with no news from her Jewish family, including her beloved baby sister, left behind in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Otto, meanwhile, has fled to a village in England, and urges Lena to join him, but she can’t obtain a visa.

When Lena and Otto are finally reunited, the safe haven Lena has hoped for doesn’t last long. Their relationship becomes strained, and Lena is torn between her loyalty to Otto and her growing attraction to Milton, the son of the eccentric Lady of the Manor. As the war continues, she yearns to be reunited with her sister, while Milton is preoccupied with the political turmoil that leads to the landslide defeat of Churchill in the 1945 election.

Based on a true story, When It’s Over is a moving, resonant, and timely read about the lives of war refugees, dramatic political changes, and the importance of family, love, and hope.

This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash by Sarah Wassner Flynn for review.

Get up close and personal with a wonderful world of waste. From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. It’s fun to talk trash when it’s jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats, and fabulous facts. Also included are quizzes and activities to inspire kids to take action, be proactive, and rethink the things we throw away.

The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth by Jennifer Joy, which I won from her Audible giveaway.

Two determined women. One murder. No eyewitnesses.

Lady Catherine has come to Meryton.

When a devastating secret is revealed, putting Elizabeth Bennet’s future happiness and the loyalty of the man she loves in the balance, her hopes for a Happily-Ever-After are dashed to pieces. Threats are made and family obligations are enforced, leading to an event no one could foresee. Another murder in Meryton.

Fitzwilliam Darcy is more determined than ever to win Elizabeth’s love — no matter what obstacles their families place between them. When a matron is found murdered in the midst of a militia parade, he soon discovers the strength of the woman’s enemies … and their closeness to Elizabeth. Can Darcy protect her when she is determined to bring the murderer to justice?

With a killer on the loose and their hearts on the line, can Darcy and Elizabeth work together to solve another mystery while fighting for each other? Or will the pressure break them apart forever?

Bestselling author, Jennifer Joy, brings you The Indomitable Miss Elizabeth, the second standalone novel in the A Meryton Mystery romance series. If you like falling in love with characters as they fall for each other while uncovering shocking secrets, then you’ll love this mystery romance.

Ageless Bride: Famous Designers Dress, Inspire & Celebrate Brides Over 50! by Gigi Schilling for review.

Ageless Bride is lovingly dedicated to brides over 50. In her new book twelve famous designers, (Isaac Mizrahi, Zac Posen, Ellen Christine, Vicky Tiel, Angel Sanchez, Betsey Johnson, Hal Rubenstein, Jeannie McQueeny, Amy Zerner, Ines Di Santo, Jeff Mahshie and Guo Pei), offer sage guidance and share fantasy dresses that they envision for the over 50 and ageless bride. Author Gigi Schilling nurtures her readers with inspiration for their special day. As Gigi says, “Love is ageless and so is the over 50 bride!”

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #416

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Dark Lady: A Novel of Emilia Bassano Lanyer by Charlene Ball for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing in June.

Emilia Bassano has four strikes against her: she is poor, beautiful, female, and intelligent in Elizabethan England. To make matters worse, she comes from a family of secret Jews. When she is raped as a teenager, she knows she probably will not be able to make a good marriage, so she becomes the mistress of a much older nobleman. During this time she falls in love with poet/player William Shakespeare, and they have a brief, passionate relationship―but when the plague comes to England, the nobleman abandons her, leaving her pregnant and without financial security.

In the years that follow, Emilia is forced to make a number of difficult decisions in her efforts to survive, and not all of them turn out well for her. But ultimately, despite the disadvantaged position she was born to, she succeeds in pursuing her dreams of becoming a writer―and even publishes a book of poetry in 1611 that makes a surprisingly modern argument for women’s equality.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner for review in March.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Résistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark…

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

What did you receive?

Jewish Book Month: Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass

Jewish book month, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council, begins on Nov. 24 and runs through Dec. 24.

This year’s poster features artwork by Katherine Messenger, and the council will advise local communities on exhibits, book fairs, book clubs, author speaking tours, and literary programs. For information on programs in your area, please check the network website.

Earlier this year, I reviewed Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass, which is based on true events in eastern Poland. I thought it was very well done, and it was the BRONZE WINNER, IPPY AWARD for HISTORICAL FICTION.

Please check out the book trailer below:

Classical music infuses this novel, and Charles Wetherbee has composed “Tasa’s Song” as inspired by Kass’s novel. Please listen to a portion of the song here.

If you’re looking for good historical fiction, Tasa’s Song should be on your list.

About the book:

1943. Tasa Rosinski and five relatives, all Jewish, escape their rural village in eastern Poland―avoiding certain death―and find refuge in a bunker beneath a barn built by their longtime employee.

A decade earlier, ten-year-old Tasa dreams of someday playing her violin like Paganini. To continue her schooling, she leaves her family for a nearby town, joining older cousin Danik at a private Catholic academy where her musical talent flourishes despite escalating political tension. But when the war breaks out and the eastern swath of Poland falls under Soviet control, Tasa’s relatives become Communist targets, her new tender relationship is imperiled, and the family’s secure world unravels.

From a peaceful village in eastern Poland to a partitioned post-war Vienna, from a promising childhood to a year living underground, Tasa’s Song celebrates the bonds of love, the power of memory, the solace of music, and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 190 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a series of connected stories that read like a novel. Four generations of a Jewish family are touched by the secrets held as one generation copes with the Nazi occupation and, ultimately, flees France to safety. What are the heirlooms this family carries into their new lives? Is it a baby carriage? A beloved wedding band? Or is it simply the memories that flood their minds when they refuse to speak of the past?

From “The War Ends Many Times” (pg. 53)
“Of course, one second-guesses, grasps at the many missed opportunities for escape–that lovely word, that flowing cape of an idea! Why did they not attach themselves to it when it flapped and hovered close? Why?”

Beyond loyalty and duty, each generation is tethered by the ghosts of the past — a father who dies a revolutionary at the hands of Nazis and a mother dying in bed calling for her mother even as her own baby waits in the next room. Peeling back each layer, readers peer into the lives of the Latour family, seeing echoes of the past and reverberations into the future. Even the smallest decision of a stranger desperate for a child she can never have is felt through the generations, forcing one member to make a decision that affects many more and another to accept responsibility for a casual moment.

From “En Voyage” (pg. 89)
“When Jean takes the film to be developed, he is given doubles of this roll. He puts one set of the photos in an album, labels them carefully. He can’t bear to throw the extras away, though there is no one to whom he can safely send them. This makes him feel as if that time is lost, irretrievable, though he knows certainly he does, that time is like that, moving only forward despite our wishes.”

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall is a deeply moving collection of stories about survivors of WWII and how they coped with their own survival. Fears and protecting their children were forever at the top of their mind, making them hide the past. Despite their efforts, the past can re-emerge in the most unpredictable ways — the effect of heat-stroke leaving you exposed to those you sought to keep from prying too much, from getting too close.

RATING: Quatrain

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

Photo Credit: Pamela Frame

About the Author:

Rachel Hall’s collection of linked stories, Heirlooms, was awarded the BkMk Press 2015 G.S. Sharat Chandra prize, selected by Marge Piercy.

Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Gettysburg Review, Lilith, New Letters, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as Lilith and Glimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, as well as Ragdale and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts where portions of Heirlooms were written.

She holds an MFA from Indiana University where she was the Hemingway Fellow in Fiction. Currently, Hall is Professor of English at the State University of New York-Geneseo. She teaches creative writing and literature and holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one for teaching and one for her creative work.

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity
Paperback, 432 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is everything readers will want in a sequel and more.  I would recommend reading this after reading The Vintner’s Daughter.

***Spoilers for previous book below***

The Lemieux family has a wide open future ahead of them as their California vineyard seeks to become one of the best. Sara continues to be independent and strive for the revival of her family’s vineyard in France, while her husband continues to perceive himself as the lone captain of the family ship. He’s as hard-headed as she is, but when it comes to the wine business, they both know their stuff. Unfortunately for him, his wife has a mind of her own and will not back down when she sets her sights on something she wants for herself and their future. As they navigate their new marriage, their family faces threats from within their neighborhood and from outside — competing vineyards plagued by phylloxera and the price wars and prohibition. Although their love has been tested in the previous book, it remains to be seen if that love can overcome their headstrong notions about winemaking and their roles in that business.

Harnisch’s characters are wonderfully drawn, and while Sara is independent and a bit childish at times when she wants her way, it’s not surprising given the age difference between herself and her husband. She’s a bit more emotional given the tragedies she’s dealt with beginning in early adolescence, while he’s a bit more practical, working through all the facts and figures to find the best solution to their business problems. Aurora remains the mother Sara doesn’t have in California, guiding her through grief and disagreements, but she’s also a mother to her husband, helping him realize his dreams and steering him to less volatile waters where his wife is concerned. She’s an excellent sounding board.

Even though readers may want to see more of the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Harnisch provides enough of a glimpse to understand the role American winemakers played in the competition and how they were viewed by the rest of the world. As the Lemieux family navigates the world stage, some of their old friends come back into their lives, including midwife Marie Chevreau, who embarks on a struggle of her own against patriarchy. The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch is a saga you’ll want to read over the summer with a glass of white or red wine, most likely from Napa Valley, and soak in the tannins and ferment.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Kristen Harnisch’s ancestors emigrated from Normandy, France, to Canada in the 1600s. She is a descendant of Louis Hebert, who came to New France from Paris with Samuel de Champlain and is considered the first Canadian apothecary. She has a degree in economics from Villanova University and now lives in Connecticut. The Vintner’s Daughter, her debut novel, is the first in a series about the changing world of vineyard life at the turn of the century.

Mailbox Monday #380

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

End of Watch by Stephen King from my mom for my birthday — she’s a bit early.

Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney, who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. Brady also remembers that. When Bill and Holly are called to a murder-suicide with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put not only their lives at risk, but those of Hodges’s friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Because Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Bill Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and up-all-night entertainment.

Heirlooms: Stories by Rachel Hall for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing.

Fiction. Jewish Studies. Winner of the G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction, selected by Marge Piercy. HEIRLOOMS begins in the French seaside city of Saint-Malo, in 1939, and ends in the American Midwest in 1989. In these linked stories, the war reverberates through four generations of a Jewish family. Inspired by the author’s family stories as well as extensive research, HEIRLOOMS explores assumptions about love, duty, memory and truth.

What beauties did you receive in your Mailbox?

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass

Source: Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity and She Writes Press
Paperback, 256 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass, BRONZE WINNER, IPPY AWARD for HISTORICAL FICTION, is a concerto built on the jarring experiences of young violinist Tasa Rosinski in war-torn Poland during WWII.  Poland has changed hands many times before and does so again during the war, a war that many never expected to get as far as it did. As a young girl, she’s sent for additional schooling in Brody with her cousin Danik, but even as she enjoys school, she sees how the townspeople begin to treat their Jewish neighbors.  As fear creeps along the streets, Tasa softens the sharp edges with her violin, practicing music and losing herself in its timbres.

“In conveying the complicated history of Poland, Tasa’s schoolteacher used Podkamien as an example when she said you could live and die in one spot and occupy four different countries, because this part of Poland was constantly being invaded and carved up, then ‘liberated’ by somebody.” (pg. 15)

Tasa’s Jewish family is well liked by the townspeople of Podkamien because her father invested in the town, even as his family’s wealth grew.  He helped bring electricity and infrastructure to the village, making the lives of others better.  When the Nazis move on Poland and it is caught in between them and the Soviets, her family is able to escape for the most part with the help of non-Jewish families.  However, the tensions in the village are immediate, and the fear of being discovered can be difficult to live with.  Tasa, however, finds strength in her memories of her encouraging grandfather and her supportive mother, but also in her music, which provides her an escape from fear and loss.  She’s a strong young woman, and her strength helps others to keep going.

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass demonstrates the tension within families at a time when there is so much uncertainty, and it illustrates the changing tides in just one nation during WWII.  Being Jewish in Europe during WWII was dangerous, and while luck can be with you, that luck also can turn out to be a bad omen.  This is a story of growing up in war, but also of learning to navigate uncertainty and reach into the future for something better without losing hope or the memory of those left behind, many in unmarked graves.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Linda Kass wrote for regional and national publications, including Columbus Monthly, TIME and The Detroit Free Press, early in her career as a journalist. TASA’S SONG, her debut novel, is inspired by her mother’s life in eastern Poland during the Second World War.

Linda lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she is a strong advocate of education, literacy, and the arts. Her past experience as a trustee and board chair of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra fed into much of the music that fills the pages of TASA’S SONG. Linda enjoys long distance road cycling and rides in an annual event to support cancer research.

Mailbox Monday #361

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

Tasa’s Song by Linda Kass for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.

1943. Tasa Rosinski and five relatives, all Jewish, escape their rural village in eastern Poland avoiding certain death and find refuge in a bunker beneath a barn built by their longtime employee.

A decade earlier, ten-year-old Tasa dreams of someday playing her violin like Paganini. To continue her schooling, she leaves her family for a nearby town, joining older cousin Danik at a private Catholic academy where her musical talent flourishes despite escalating political tension. But when the war breaks out and the eastern swath of Poland falls under Soviet control, Tasa’s relatives become Communist targets, her new tender relationship is imperiled, and the family’s secure world unravels.

From a peaceful village in eastern Poland to a partitioned post-war Vienna, from a promising childhood to a year living underground, Tasa’s Song celebrates the enduring power of the human spirit.”

What did you receive?

Mailbox Monday #359

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing & Publicity.

It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle’s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother.

An invitation to the World’s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard’s prospects, and amid the jewel-coloured wonders of Belle epoque Paris, Sara and Philippe’s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe’s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke.

Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco’s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women’s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family’s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman’s right to vote and earn a fair wage?

Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced.

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