Archive for March, 2011

Great New Southern Fiction

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

BlogaBook Editor, Elizabeth recommends these recent and forthcoming books of Southern fiction:

  Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress (Find in catalog)

Summary in our catalog: “Georgia Bottoms is known in her small community of Six Points, Alabama, as a beautiful, well-to-do, and devoutly Baptist Southern belle.  Nobody realizes that the family fortune has long since disappeared, and a determinedly single woman like Georgia needs an alternative, and discreet, means of income.  In Georgia’s case it is six well-heeled lovers-one for each day of the week, with Mondays off-none of whom knows about the others.  But when the married preacher who has been coming to call (Saturdays) decides to confess their affair in front of the whole congregation, Georgia must take drastic measures to stop him. In GEORGIA BOTTOMS, Mark Childress proves once again his unmistakable skill for combining the hilarious and the absurd to reveal the inner workings of the rebellious human heart.”

  Under the Mercy Trees by Heather Newton (Find in catalog)

Summary: “Newton presents a beautifully rendered, heartbreaking first novel about a manforced to face his troubled past when he returns to his small hometown in the mountains of North Carolina after his brother disappears.”

  Electric Barracuda by Tim Dorsey (Find in catalog)

Summary: “Serge Storms has been leaving corpses strewn across the Sunshine State for more than a decade and the authorities have begun to notice.  Could Serge’s luck finally have run out?  Armed with his perpetually baked sidekick, Coleman, Serge decides to resurrect his Internet travel-advice website about trekking the Sunshine State.  Off they go blogging along a getaway route through the state’s most remote bayous, back roads, and bars, where the number of cadavers begins stacking up like Serge’s website hits.  Clues and questions mount: Who are all the women being photographed naked in the swamp?  What made Coleman draw on his face with Magic Markers?  Where is the cruise-to-nowhere taking its drunk prisoners?  Too much action for Serge to juggle?  Not when it all dovetails nicely into his Secret Master Plan.  And especially if it involves Serge’s favorite new obsession: tracking Al Capone’s little-known escapades in the Everglades.  So gas up the car, say good-bye to the relatives, and join Serge on the lam as he drives straight for the deepest bowels of Florida to unravel the final mysteries of  Electric Barracuda.”

  The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew (Find in catalog)

Summary: “In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood-and for the woman who means the world to her . . .  On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation.  Crammed into the Packard along with Jubie are her three siblings, her mother, and the family’s black maid, Mary Luther.  For as long as Jubie can remember, Mary has been there-cooking, cleaning, compensating for her father’s rages and her mother’s benign neglect, and loving Jubie unconditionally.  Bright and curious, Jubie takes note of the anti-integration signs they pass, and of the racial tension that builds as they journey further south.  But she could never have predicted the shocking turn their trip will take.  Now, in the wake of tragedy, Jubie must confront her parents’ failings and limitations, decide where her own convictions lie, and make the tumultuous leap to independence . . .   Infused with the intensity of a changing time, here is a story of hope, heartbreak, and the love and courage that can transform us-from child to adult, from wounded to indomitable.”

Ridenhour Book Prize

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

  Wendell Potter has won the Ridenhour Book Prize read more sponsored by the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation and honoring “an outstanding work of social significance,” for Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Healthcare and Deceiving Americans (Find this book in our catalog).  According to Shelf Awareness today,Potter was once head of corporate communications at CIGNA, the insurance company.  The judges called Deadly Spin an “expose of America’s multibillion-dollar healthcare industry.  From clandestine meetings carefully organized to leave no paper trail to creating third-party front groups, Potter reveals how a PR juggernaut creates an atmosphere of fear and distortion. He details the smear campaign that he helped to devise against Michael Moore’s film Sicko, including misleading talking points that were subsequently repeated on CNN, Fox, and in the pages of USA Today.  Potter later apologized to Moore.”  The judges commended Potter for “courage in walking away from a long-standing, lucrative career, for speaking out against his former employers, and for writing a damning expose of an industry that puts profits ahead of patient care.”"

Top genre fiction titles named to 2011 RUSA Reading List

Monday, March 28th, 2011
The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) announced last month its selection for the 2011 Reading List.
 
The Reading List annually recognizes the best books in eight genres: adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction. This year’s list includes novels that will please die-hard fans, as well as introduce new readers to the pleasures of genre fiction.
  
The 2011 winners are:
 
Adrenaline
“The Nearest Exit” by Olen Steinhauer (Find this book in our catalog)
Burned-out spy Milo Weaver confronts layers of deceit as his career collides with his desire to reclaim his family and his humanity. The labyrinthine intrigues enhance a building atmosphere of paranoia in this dark and emotionally-charged classic espionage thriller.
 
Read-Alikes:
“The Quiet American” by Graham Greene
“The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” by John Le Carré
“Night Soldiers” by Alan Furst
           
Short List:
“Caught” by Harlan Coben
“Crashers” by Dana Haynes
“Deep Shadow” by Randy Wayne White
“They’re Watching” by Gregg Hurwitz 
 
Fantasy
“Under Heaven” by Guy Gavriel Kay (Find this book in our catalog)
Haunted by the ghosts of fallen warriors, Shen Tai is forced into the political machinations of the Emperor’s court when he receives a rare and valuable gift. Lyrical language and complex characterization draw readers into this elaborately unfolding epic set in a fantasy world that richly re-imagines 8th-century Tang Dynasty China,
 
Read-Alikes:
“Black Ships” by Jo Graham
“Genghis: Birth of an Empire” by Conn Iggulden
“The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N. McIntyre
 
Short List:
“Finch” by Jeff VanderMeer
“The Half-Made World” by Felix Gilman
“The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” by N.K. Jemisin
“Nights of Villjamur” by Mark Charan Newton 
 
Historical Fiction
“The Invisible Bridge” by Julie Orringer (Find this book in our catalog)
In this sweeping yet intimate portrait of a Hungarian Jewish family in Europe, two lovers become enmeshed in the turmoil of the Holocaust. With gorgeous prose and an exquisite evocation of Paris and Budapest, Orringer writes movingly of their strength and the bittersweet power of hope and love.
 
Read-Alikes:
“Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis De Bernieres
“The Piano Teacher” by Janice Y. K. Lee
“A Thread of Grace” by Mary Doria Russell
 
Short List:
“A Battle Won” by S. Thomas Russell
“A Fierce Radiance” by Lauren Belfer
“The Golden Mean” by Annabel Lyon
“The Rebellion of Jane Clarke” by Sally Gunning 
 
Horror
“The Dead Path” by Stephen M. Irwin (Find this book in our catalog)
Guilt-ridden Nicholas Close retreats to his family home in Australia after the tragic death of his wife, only to encounter an ancient malevolence lurking in the nearby woods. Childhood nightmares and fairytale motifs combine in this emotionally powerful tale of implacable evil. Arachnophobes beware!
 
Read-Alikes:
“It” by Stephen King
“Faerie Tale: A Novel of Terror and Fantasy” by Raymond Feist
“Dark Hollow” by Brian Keene
           
Short List:
“The Caretaker of Lorne Field” by David Zeltserman
“The Frenzy Way” by Gregory Lamberson
“Horns” by Joe Hill
“So Cold the River” by Michael Koryta 
 
Mystery
“Bury Your Dead” by Louise Penny  (Find this book in our catalog)
Troubled by past mistakes, Chief Inspector Gamache, in his sixth outing, retreats to snowy and insular Quebec City, where he becomes embroiled in intertwining investigations both old and new. Penny expertly delivers a layered story that is haunting, moody, and exquisitely drawn.
 
Read-Alikes:
“A Test of Wills” by Charles Todd
“Haunted Ground” by Erin Hart
“In the Bleak Midwinter”by Julia Spencer-Fleming
 
Short List:
“Faithful Place” by Tana French
“The Taken” by Inger Ash Wolfe
“Think of a Number” by John Verdon
“Vermilion Drift” by William Kent Krueger 
 
Romance
“A Matter of Class” by Mary Balogh (Find this book in our catalog)
A lady is ruined. A merchant’s son is trapped. Class differences loom large in this charming and playful take on the arranged marriage. Balogh’s Regency gem, where nothing is quite as it seems, is filled with affection and wit. 
 
Read-Alikes:
“Faro’s Daughter” by Georgette Heyer
“In for a Penny” by Rose Lerner
“The Viscount Who Loved Me” by Julia Quinn
           
Short List:
“Barely a Lady” by Eileen Dreyer
“The Forbidden Rose” by Joanna Bourne
“The Iron Duke” by Meljean Brook
“Something About You” by Julie James
 
Science Fiction
“The Dervish House” by Ian McDonald (Find this book in our catalog)
A terrorist bomb sets off a chain of events that, over the next five days, entangles the lives of six characters. McDonald brilliantly imagines a world in which the ultramodern exists side-by-side with the ancient, as he blends science and mysticism to embody the contradiction that is Istanbul in 2027.
 
Read-Alikes:
“Pattern Recognition” by William Gibson
“When Gravity Fails” by George Alec Effinger
“The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi
 
Short List:
“Ark” by Stephen Baxter
“Blonde Bombshell” by Tom Holt
“Darkship Thieves” by Sarah Hoyt
“The Lifecycle of Software Objects” by Ted Chian
  
Women’s Fiction
“Solomon’s Oak” by Jo-Ann Mapson (Find this book in our catalog)
Recently widowed Glory Solomon collects stray animals and damaged souls. Facing bankruptcy, she creates a new life catering themed weddings. This deeply felt yet unsentimental novel explores grief, healing and second chances.
Read-Alikes:
“Shelter Me” by Juliette Fay
“The Second Coming of Lucy Hatch” by Marsha Moyer
“The Blessings of the Animals” by Katrina Kittle
           
Short List:
“The Girl Who Chased the Moon” by Sarah Addison Allen
“The Language of Sand” by Ellen Block
“The Love Goddess’ Cooking School” by Melissa Senate
“Vintage Affair” by Isabel Wolff
 
The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need.

How to Live: or A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer

Friday, March 25th, 2011

   How to Live: or A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer by  Sarah Bakewell (Find in our catalog).  In a time where the question “How to Live” has been relegated to self help books, it is a relief to come across a person who takes this question seriously.  This readable biography places the writings of philosopher Michel Eyquem de Montaigne in context of his life amidst the warring religious factions of southern France.  Despite taking a philosophy course in college I knew very little of Montaigne, but found myself drawn to his writing like countless others.  Montaigne coined the term essayist; in fact the word “essayer” (to try or attempt) conveys his approach to both his writing and his philosophy.  He was one of the first to portray the workings of his mind on paper, allowing readers from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Virginia Wolfe to see themselves in his writings.   He changes his mind, goes off on tangents and adds to his essays as he gains age and experience.  Each chapter presents a period in Montaigne’s life, which provides an answer to the question “how to live”.  The provocative advice in chapter four, for example: “Read a lot, forget most of what you’ve read and be slow witted” is a camouflage that allows him time to develop perspective and thoughtful judgments as passions raged around him.  As a magistrate in Bordeaux during the Protestant uprisings, he walked a fine line to maintain objectivity in the face shifting alliances.  Bakewell does a good job presenting both the life and work of a complex and little known man.  The format of the book is nonlinear, which serves to enhance the philosophy at the expense of a straight historical narrative.  Pacing: moderate. For readers who like philosophy and the history of ideas.

Posted by Linda Z.

Inspirational Fiction Reviews from Christy – Sixteen Brides and A Very Private Grave

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

  Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Whitson (Find this book in our catalog)

How was the West settled?  We mostly hear about the men.  In 16 Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson we see it from the woman’s view point.

The Ladies Emigration Society led by Mr. Drake is taking 16 women of various backgrounds to Plum Grove, Nebraska to claim land and begin new lives in the wild West.  But things are not as they seem…  Everything is fine until one of the women overhears Mr. Drake telling a group of men, “The dance and dance cards are ready, the brides are coming and payment is due.”  None of the women were told anything about being brides!

Find out what happens to Mr. Drake and the women as the tale follows 8 of the women on their quest for freedom and independence:  how they band together to claim the land they were promised, overcoming  the hardship of being in a new place, of doing unaccustomed tasks and of the uncertainty of strange weather patterns.  Some of these women turn to their faith to encourage themselves, some to fulfill what God has planned for them in this new place.  For some this includes learning self worth and the recognition of unknown strengths, for some, finding the love of a good man.

This comes as an audiobook too (Editor).

  A Very Private Grave by Donna Crow (Find this book in our catalog)

If you like an eclectic mix, here is a book full of the thrills of detective work, solving and following clues both ancient and modern, with a bit of romance and intellectual challenge mixed in.

Felicity has come to the College of the Transfiguration to study for the priesthood.  As 1 of 4 women and the only American, Felicity is gradually find her footing in this male-dominated world with the help of her mentors, Father Dominic and Father Antony.  Things are progressing until Father Antony is found covered in blood beside the body of Father Dominic.  Father Antony claims he is innocent of the priest’s murder.  Stephanie and Father Antony learn that the real killer is now after them as they try to solve the mystery.  In their search for the truth they travel over England and Scotland finding that many ancient secrets need to be uncovered and solved before they can learn the why and how and bring the true murderer to justice.

Submitted by Christy.

Editor’s Picks – New Romances

Monday, March 21st, 2011

  Angel Harp by Michael Phillips (Find in catalog)

“Widowed at 34, amateur harpist Marie “Angel” Buchan realizes at 40 that her life and dreams are slowly slipping away.  A summer in Scotland turns out to offer far more than she ever imagined!  Not only does the music of her harp capture the fancy of the small coastal village she visits, she is unexpectedly drawn into a love triangle involving the local curate and the local duke.  The boyhood friends have been estranged as adults because of their mutual love of another woman (now dead) some years before.  History seems destined to repeat itself, with Marie in the thick of it.  Her involvement in the lives of the two men, as well as in the community, leads to a range of exciting relationships and lands Marie in the center of the mystery of a long-unsolved local murder.  Eventually she must make her decision: with whom will she cast the lot of her future?”

  Breaking the Rules: a Novel by Suzanne Brockmann (Find in catalog)

“Izzy Zanella wasn’t looking for another reason to butt heads with his Navy SEAL teammate, and nemesis, Danny Gillman. But then he met Danny’s beautiful younger sister, Eden. When she needed it most, he offered her a place to stay, a shoulder to cry on-and more. And when she got pregnant with another man’s child, he offered her marriage. But Eden’s devastating miscarriage shattered their life together-and made the intense bad blood between Izzy and Danny even worse. Now Eden’s back, and she’s on a mission to rescue her teen brother, Ben, from their abusive stepfather. Even if she and Izzy can prove that their broken marriage is still in one piece, winning legal custody of Ben is a long shot. But they’re not alone: Danny and his girlfriend, Jenn, offer to help, and he and Izzy agree to bury the past and fight for Ben’s future. As they plan their strategy, Izzy and Eden grapple with the raw passion that still crackles between them-while Danny and Jenn confront new depths in their own rocky relationship. But events take a terrifying turn after Ben befriends a girl fleeing a child prostitution ring. When the young runaway seeks refuge with Eden and Izzy, her pursuers kidnap Ben-and a deadly standoff begins. Now they must all pull together like never before and strike back, swift and hard, to protect their unconventional little family and everything they hold most precious.”

  Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (Find in catalog)

“The funniest love story of the year, the new novel by Susan Elizabeth Phillips that fans have been waiting for is filled with friends, family, and charm. “Call Me Irresistible” features characters from three previous books.”

  Live Wire by Lora Leigh (Find in catalog)

“Meet Captain Jordan Malone. For years he has been a silent warrior and guardian, operating independent of government protocol or oversight, leading his team of Elite Ops agents to fight against terror at all costs. A legend in the field, Jordan’s true identity has remained a mystery even to his own men…until now. Tehya Talamosi, codename Enigma, is a force to be reckoned with A woman this striking spells nothing but trouble for Jordan. Armed with killer secrets-and body to die for-she’ll bring Jordan to his knees as they both take on the most deadly mission they have ever faced. Because this time, it’s personal…”

  Restless Heart by Wynonna Judd with LuAnn McLane (Find in catalog)

“The “New York Times”-bestselling author and country music sensation presents her heartwarming debut novel–a celebration of family and friends, of love and loss, of success and surrender, and of one woman’s inspiring path of self-discovery.”

Beyond the Normal – 1st BlogaBook Reviews from Kristina

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Harford County librarian, Kristina’s favorite reading is supernatural fiction.  Kristina every so often is going to be sharing her views on some of the recent supernatural fiction that has come her way.  As Kristina builds up an archive of reviews you will be able to follow her blog posts by clicking on the category, “Beyond the Normal.”

Here are Kristina’s first reviews:

  First Grave on the Right  by Darynda Jones (Find in catalog)

This debut novel by Darynda Jones introduces us to Charlotte Davidson, also known as Charley.  From first impressions, Charley is a young private investigator who assists the local police department.  However, she holds a secret she rarely shares with anyone.  The only people who fully know Charley’s secret are dead and come looking for her help.   Charley is used to this life until some strange erotic dreams start making her nights sleepless.  With the help of her 14 year old spirit spy, Charley sets out to uncover the truth about her nightly visitor.

If you are looking for a sexy spunky romance, this one is for you.  Charley’s character is sassy, never looking for a fight but not backing away from any that come her way.  While the tone of the book can be darker, with mentions of child abuse and wicked stepmothers, the theme is light enough to be a quick engaging read.

This also comes as an audiobook on CDs. 

  Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee (Find in catalog)

 Jasmine’s heart has been broken, shredded and tossed aside.  After her ex-husband’s cheating escapades, Jasmine vows to never hurt or love again.  Hopefully, her month vacation watching her aunt’s bookstore will be just what is needed.  While Auntie Ruma takes a trip to India to have her heart healed, Jasmine figures she will whip the bookstore into shape.  Before leaving, Ruma warns Jasmine that the house may get cranky at times.   When books start rearranging themselves and the dust never seems to go away, Jasmine wonders what is going on.  Worse yet, there is a smooth talking stranger who seems determined to break through Jasmine’s rough shell. 

 This softer tale leads us gently to discover the journey of healing after experiencing the heartbreak of infidelity.  Set on Shelter Island in the middle of the Puget Sound, the story incorporates the isolation of island life and with the internal search that can set Jasmine on the path of self-learning.  Banerjee weaves pieces of Indian culture into the story in a way that makes you want to pull the curry and masala out of your cupboard.  It was very easy to envision the differences between Jasmine’s metropolitan life and the saris that she and the other family members wear to her sister’s wedding.  While this wasn’t a particularly deep story, it certainly was an enjoyable read.

Matterhorn Wins Colby Award

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

  Karl Marlantes’s novel inspired by his experiences serving in Vietnam, Matterhorn (Find this book in our catalog) has won this year’s William E. Colby Award.  The $5,000 prize is named for the late Ambassador and former CIA director and recognizes a debut novel or nonfiction book that has made a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs.

This is what it says in our catalog:  “ Thirty years in the making, Marlantes’s epic debut is a dense, vivid narrative spanning many months in the lives of American troops in Vietnam as they trudge across enemy lines, encountering danger from opposing forces as well as on their home turf.”

Click also in our catalog to see what top mainstream reviewers wrote about the book.

Jen’s Jewels with Deborah Bedford

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Blended families are very difficult to navigate especially when it comes to the role of mothering. Whether it’s the lingering aftereffects of the divorce or the deep resentment over the loss of control in their children’s lives, many women struggle to find an acceptable balance. There is no perfect answer due to the many challenges associated with moving on. However, the way in which these obstacles are met will ultimately determine the emotional well-being of the family.

This month’s Jen’s Jewels Deborah Bedford addresses this very topic in her latest release, HIS OTHER WIFE. It’s the emotionally charged story of two women who love the same man yet desperately want what’s best for one teenage boy. When tragedy strikes, they are forced to put aside their feelings of guilt and fear in order to save the person who means the world to all of them… their son.

As part of this interview, Faith Words, an imprint of Hachette Books, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to try to win. So, don’t forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the column. And as always, thanks for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your reading adventure.

Jen: From journalism to marketing, your path to publication has been a journey of self-discovery. So that my readers may have a glimpse into the life of the woman behind the words, please share with us a brief overview of your educational and professional background.

Deborah: Well, I started young! I was always getting in trouble in school for writing stories in spiral notebooks instead of listening to my teachers. My mom said not long ago, when she found a box of my old spiral notebooks up in the attic, ‘Why didn’t we figure out that this was going to happen a long time ago?’ I decided that being a journalist would be the best way to actually earn a living at writing. So I followed my father’s footsteps and earned a journalism degree from Texas A&M University. I’d long been smitten with cowboys, The West and the mountains so, when the chance came to work in Colorado, I took my first job as editor of the weekly newspaper in the little town of Evergreen. The paper was called Evergreen Today and I had the chance to work for Cary Stiff and Carol Wilcox, publishers, who had left The Denver Post to start their own publishing venture. It was an amazing learning experience. We chased fire trucks, covered county meetings, and were some of the first journalists at the Hinckley’s door when their son was accused of shooting President Reagan.

Jen: Please describe for us your “Ah! Ha!” moment when you decided to take the plunge and pursue a career as an author.

Deborah: Jen, honestly, there wasn’t a stunning moment when I knew I wanted to write a book. It’s just that I had ALWAYS been writing. I’d say the big moment fell somewhere between when I was ten years old and I finished reading Little Women, not quite sure I was happy with the ending because I had SO wanted Jo to end up with Laurie, and the day the phone call came from Nancy Rohrer, my first editor from Harlequin SuperRomance, who said, “We really like your book and we wonder if you’d be willing to make some changes on spec.” That’s the day I stood in the middle of the kitchen and cried for joy. It was a natural progression.

Jen: Throughout the years, you have moved from one publishing house to another. Currently, you have found a home at Faith Words, a division of Hachette Books. What led you to make the changes?

Deborah: I changed publishers because my life changed. I had grown up seeing myself as a Christian, but not until I started attending a church here in Jackson Hole called River Crossing did I cross my own river, from trying to be ‘good enough’ to be a Christian to understanding that the biggest gift I could ever give God would be to just get comfortable with myself, my feelings and my foibles, and let Him use my weaknesses for His glory. That’s been my mantra lately; there are things in us that, if we try to manage ourselves, are our biggest weaknesses. If we’ll turn them over to God, they become our biggest strengths. I’d liken it to the difference between thrashing frantically around in the water, trying to swim, and just being still, learning to float in God’s arms. At that point, I was writing mainstream fiction for Harper Collins. That had been another big dream, to leave what was viewed as the romance genre and write mainstream. I had this pride issue. “Oh, my books have sold in the hundreds of thousands. Those little Christian publishers are going to snap me up.” Well, let’s just say God had to get a hold of my heart about that one. There was a three year wait where I felt like God was asking me over and over again, “Do you want to write for Me?” “Do you want to write for Me? Do you REALLY want to write for me?” Still, rejection after rejection after rejection. It was one of the most difficult parts of my career.

It happened that I had met Jamie Raab, publisher at Warner (now Hachette) Books where we were both doing workshops for the Jackson Hole Writers Conference. We had a reading when I had to stand up in faith, without a publisher, and announce to my students that I was now being called to write Christian fiction. I read aloud something funny I’d written about my grandmother. Jamie came up to me that night and said, “We have to talk.” That’s how it happened.

Jen: Your latest release HIS OTHER WIFE is a powerful novel that dares to explore the relationship between women who have loved the same man. How did you arrive at the premise?

Deborah: It started with a sermon called “The Wounded Heart,” that my pastor gave in church, using the story of Hannah from the Bible. That was several years back, and the idea started stewing. I believe that book ideas find YOU. The characters started talking in my head. And I began to apply some of my own life to it, because my last child was leaving for college and I was seeking my own new sense of direction. I was able to direct a lot of my own grief at my children leaving the nest into this story.

Jen: The book closely follows the scripture 1 Samuel 1:19. Why did you choose to base the story on this Bible passage?

Deborah: Many of HIS OTHER WIFE’s plot twists and turns echo Hannah’s story, which is culminated in this passage in the Bible. Hannah has to change her way of thinking before anything else in her life can change. That is another change that happened it my own life, so it felt significant to me. Once I started seeing myself differently, once I started to understand that Jesus loved me not for what I did but just because I was ME, everything started to change.
I’ll always keep my eyes open for Bible characters that might lend their stories to present-day situations. That made it fun, too, putting it all together, like piecing together a puzzle.

Jen: Not surprisingly, Hilary and her teenage son have developed a special bond due to Eric’s leaving them behind. How has their mother/son relationship affected Seth’s need to grow up?

Deborah: I think this book catches Hilary at a particularly vulnerable moment. That’s always a challenge as a writer, walking the fine line between a strong, sympathetic character yet remaining open to whatever questions she may still be asking herself, what she might wake up at 3 a.m. and be thinking about? A pew research study came out yesterday that says couples are more concerned now about being good parents than they are about being good partners. Hilary had survived the divorce by jumping head-first into being the mother of a teenager. So how does she deal with it when, suddenly, that life preserver is taken from her?

Jen: As Seth’s high school graduation approaches, Eric pays them a visit bringing along his new wife and two children. Why does their presence threaten Hilary’s sense of worth?

Deborah: Eric’s new wife, Pamela, is still in that stage where she can control her life. We had a book-club meeting over here last night and we laughed because those of us who have college-aged kids know that, as proud as we might be of our children, there comes the time when our kids strike out and make their lives their own. Pam is in that ‘perfect mom, perfect wife’ stage where she speaks and the world conforms. She doesn’t know yet that there’s any other way. She’s still living with that false sense of bravado, thinking she can turn her world into whatever she wants it to be. Her attitude would intimidate anybody. Add to that, she thinks it necessary to offer her opinion. So you see where the conflict begins.

Jen: The Wynns are a typical blended family who struggle on a daily basis with trying to achieve a workable balance. When tragedy strikes, fingers are pointed as to who is to blame. How does the pressure of the grave situation affect Eric’s relationship with Hilary? And with his current wife, Pam?

Deborah: Eric and Hilary have to band together to support their son. Hilary is finally able to voice some of her pain to her ex-husband, which helps her truly begin to heal. And Eric is finally able to count the cost of what he gave away, in pursuit of his own happiness. For a while it drives a subtle wedge between Eric and Pam, until Pam at last is able to take her own selfless stance as protector of the blended family. They all ride the ripple effect of their actions and, I think, end up in a better place because of it.

Jen: As an only child, Seth is used to working through problems on his own. How are he and his father emotionally similar despite their different personalities?

Deborah: You know, I hadn’t thought of it until you asked this question but I think that, because I grew up essentially as an only child, I tend to write characters that are emotionally isolated from each other. When Seth starts to hurt, he shuts himself off, even from his steady girlfriend Emily. When Eric started to hurt, instead of opening up and sharing his feelings with his wife, he turned to someone else, which resulted in the affair with Pam.

Jen: Throughout the story, Hilary relies heavily on her faith in God. How do her Christian beliefs hinder her ability to take a step back and take care of herself?

Deborah: They hinder her because she’s trying too hard. She’s trying so hard not to be wrong instead of just doing things that seem right. And when you get hypersensitive about doing something wrong, suddenly EVERYTHING seems wrong. Then she tries harder, which creates a vicious cycle where she berates herself for all of it. She loses herself in her faith for a little while, which is exactly what happened to me.

Jen: Hilary’s relationship with her lawyer John Mulligan is quite the tangled web. Having represented her in the divorce, this man has seen Hilary’s highs and lows. What special qualities does he have that makes Hilary willing to trust him?

Deborah: John is different than anyone else in Hilary’s life because he’s just so…present. He’s a solid rock, a listener. And Hilary has spent so much time and energy being the parent that Seth can depend on that she hasn’t left herself room to depend on anyone else. John doesn’t demand anything of her. Their intimacy comes from a familiarity that has grown over the years, which makes him able to support her while the rest of her life spins away.

Jen: Let’s switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans. First of all, please take us on a tour of your website, pointing out any special areas of interest.

Deborah: Ah, I think my website is a work-in-progress even as we’re speaking. My web designer is setting up a blog on WordPress, and that will go up soon. At this point my website is www.deborahbedfordbooks.com, and the most valuable info there is a complete list of my books, including The Penny and Any Minute, which I co-wrote with Joyce Meyer, along with links to read the first chapters. Also there’s a page giving advice on how to get published. I’ve had great response to the info there.

Jen: Do you participate in author phone chats? And if so, how would my readers go about scheduling one?

Deborah: I’ve done phone chats with book groups in the past and have really enjoyed them. But my publishing schedule is tight with this next novel so I’m not able to do it right now.

Jen: Will you be touring? And if so, where may my readers find the dates and locations?

Deborah: My main focus right now is twitter. My son is graduating from college in two months and is joining a social-media networking firm, so he’s steered me in this direction. I love the micro-blogging. Yesterday I was writing and had a philosophical thought about how I was finishing a chapter. So wham, just like that, instead of journaling it for myself, I twittered it to everybody. It was fun to see when other writers picked it up and retweeted. This form of communication is working well for me right now, so instead of going out on the road, this is what we’ve decided to do. Have your readers follow @deborahbedford or go to the Deborah Bedford author page on Facebook. That’s where I see myself being able to stay the most candid and the most involved.

Jen: And finally, are you currently at work on your next novel? If so, what can you share with us?

Deborah: Ooooh. This is tough, talking about a work in progress, but you’re asking so nicely, Jen! Ha! The working title is Bittersweet, the setting is present-day Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the main characters are Annie and Brian Ross, and the Scripture is I Kings 3:24-26, the story about King Solomon suggesting that two women cut a baby in half. Those are the best clues I can give you. It’s due to my editor on April 28, so it’s almost finished. Whew.

Jen: Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and chat with my readers. HIS OTHER WIFE is a truly phenomenal read. I wish you all the best. Bravo!

Deborah: Jen, I’m honored to be on your website and to have HIS OTHER WIFE featured here. It’s been great to get to know your readers and to see how you’re working to get good books into the hands of the great people who read them. Here’s a hug of gratitude for all you do. It is humbling that HIS OTHER WIFE really worked for you as a reader. Thanks for your encouragement. Hope we get to talk again real soon.

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Deborah. Please stop by your favorite bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of HIS OTHER WIFE today. Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?

Okay, be one of the first five readers to e-mail me at jensjewels@gmail.com with the correct answer to the following trivia question and you’ll win! Good luck!

What is the name of Hilary’s husband?

Next month, I will be bringing to you my interview with New York Times bestselling author James Grippando. You won’t want to miss it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Jen

Best fiction, non-fiction and poetry for adults named to 2011 Notable Books List

Friday, March 11th, 2011
The Notable Books Council of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, has announced its selections for the 2011 Notable Books List.
 
Since 1944, the goal of the Notable Books Council has been to make available to the nation’s readers a list of about 25 very good, very readable and, at times, very important fiction, nonfiction and poetry books for the adult reader.
 
The 2011 winners are:
 
FICTION:
 
“Nashville Chrome” by Rick Bass (Find this book in our catalog)
This lovely and unsettling account of pop trio The Browns reels you in as though the concept of rags to riches were brand new.
 
“Room: A Novel” by Emma Donoghue. Little, Brown (Find this book in our catalog)
Five-year-old Jack vividly narrates the story of his life confined in a room with his mother in this unsettling exploration of resilience and hope.
 
“A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan (Find this book in our catalog)
A ‘70s punk band becomes the touchstone for a motley crew who spin their interconnected stories over time and distance.
 
“Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin (Find this book in our catalog)
Two men – one black, one white – must confront the secrets surrounding their childhood friendship following the disappearance of two girls in rural Mississippi.
 
“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen (Find this book in our catalog)
This incisive portrait of the fractured Berglund brood captures the zeitgeist of contemporary America.
 
“Next”by James Hynes (Find this book in our catalog)
Welcome to the worst day of Kevin Quinn’s life as he battles the anxieties of the modern world in steamy Austin, Texas.
 
“The Surrendered” by Chang Rae Lee (Find this book in our catalog)
The complex entangled lives of three people forever scarred by the Korean War are sympathetically portrayed in gorgeous prose.
 
“Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War” by Karl Marlantes (Find this book in our catalog)
An ambitious and idealistic American Marine faces the horror, heroism, futility and pragmatism of war in this visceral portrayal of life in-country.
 
“The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel” by David Mitchell (Find this book in our catalog)
A young clerk attempts to establish himself in the artificial and intense world of Dejima, the Dutch trading colony in 1800s Japan.
 
“Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray (Find this book in our catalog)
Filled warmth and humor, this coming-of-age novel set in a Dublin boys school is a sprawling homage to adolescence, string theory, donuts and unrequited love.
 
“The Lotus Eaters” by Tatjana Soli (Find this book in our catalog)
The adrenaline high that danger offers infects photojournalist Helen Adams as she documents the war in Vietnam. 
 
“The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel” by Brady Udall (Find this book in our catalog)
In this big-hearted novel, Golden Richards and his clan navigate their chaotic lives as each clamors to be noticed.
 
NONFICTION:
 
“Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow (Find this book in our catalog)
A landmark biography provides insights into the complexities of this founding father’s character and brings him fully to life within the context of his times.
 
“The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss” by Edmund de Waal (Find this book in our catalog)
Blending history, biography and art, this personal account elegantly traces the fate of a European Jewish family and its collection of 246 netsuke.
 
“Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by Barbara Demick (Find this book in our catalog)
Chronicling the experiences of six people, this powerful account draws back the curtain on the brutality of life under a totalitarian regime.
 
“Travels in Siberia” by Ian Frazier (Find this book in our catalog)
Stricken by “Russia love,” a writer sets out to experience all things Siberian and takes us along for the rollicking journey. 
  
“Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” by Daniel Okrent (Find this book in our catalog)
This intoxicating history of the 18th amendment reveals the surprising relationship between Prohibition and other social movements and explores its lasting impact on American life.
 
“Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour” by Lynne Olson (Find this book in our catalog)
In this compelling portrait three influential individuals persuade a reluctant President to come to the aid of a beleaguered nation in the early days of WWII.
 
“The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn” by Nathaniel Philbrick (Find this book in our catalog)
An epic encounter between two iconic individuals is vividly portrayed in fluid, evocative and decidedly objective prose.
 
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot (Find this book in our catalog)
A science writer uncovers the fascinating story of an African-American woman’s cancer cells harvested for medical research, thereby raising important questions of bioethics.
 
“Just Kids” by Patti Smith (Find this book in our catalog)
The poet and musician’s endearing memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe captures life and art in New York City during the 1960s and ‘70s.
 
“The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival” by John Vaillant (Find this book in our catalog)
Russia’s ecological and cultural history serves as the backdrop for this riveting adventure tale of man versus beast
 
“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson (Find this book in our catalog)
The 20th-century exodus of more than 6 million Black Americans from the South is sensitively retold through the lives of three who left.
 
POETRY:
 
“Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty: Poems” by Tony Hoagland (Find this book in our catalog)
These poems capture the absurdities and loneliness of American life using matter of fact language and humor. 
 
The Reference and User Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, represents librarians and library staff in the fields of reference, specialized reference, collection development, readers advisory and resource sharing. RUSA is the foremost organization of reference and information professionals who make the connections between people and the information sources, services, and collection materials they need.