Monday, May 21, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Herons Landing by JoAnn Ross + Giveaway (US/Can)

Herons Landing (Honeymoon Harbor #1)
JoAnn Ross
from HQN // Harlequin

There’s no place to fall in love like the place you left your heart

Welcome to Honeymoon Harbor, the brand-new, long-awaited series by beloved New York Times bestselling author JoAnn Ross, where unforgettable characters come face-to-face with the kind of love that grabs your heart and never lets go.

Working as a Las Vegas concierge, Brianna Mannion is an expert at making other people’s wishes come true. It’s satisfying work, but a visit home to scenic Honeymoon Harbor turns into a permanent stay when she’s reminded of everything she’s missing: the idyllic small-town charm; the old Victorian house she’d always coveted; and Seth Harper, her best friend’s widower and the neighborhood boy she once crushed on—hard. After years spent serving others, maybe Brianna’s finally ready to chase dreams of her own.

Since losing his wife, Seth has kept busy running the Harper family’s renovation business and flying way under the social radar. But when Brianna hires him to convert her aging dream home into a romantic B and B, working together presents a heart-stopping temptation Seth never saw coming. With guilt and grief his only companions for so long, he’ll have to step out of the past long enough to recognize the beautiful life Brianna and he could build together.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Storm by Arif Anwar Giveaway (US/Can)

The Storm
Arif Anwar
Atria Books // Simon & Schuster

From an immensely talented new voice in international fiction, a sweeping tour de force that seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle sixty years of Bangladeshi history.

Shahryar, a recent PhD graduate and father of nine-year-old Anna, must leave the US when his visa expires. In their last remaining weeks together, we learn Shahryar’s history, in a vil­lage on the Bay of Bengal, where a poor fisherman and his wife are preparing to face a storm of historic proportions. That story intersects with those of a Japanese pilot, a British doctor stationed in Burma during World War II, and a privileged couple in Calcutta who leaves everything behind to move to East Pakistan following the Partition of India. Inspired by the 1970 Bhola cyclone, in which half a million-people perished overnight, the structure of this riveting novel mimics the storm itself. Building to a series of revelatory and moving climaxes, it shows the many ways in which families love, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another.

At once grounded in history and fantastically imaginative, The Storm explores the human­ity that connects us beyond the surface differences of race, religion, and nationality. It is an epic novel in the tradition of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, by a singularly gifted and perceptive new writer.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Top 3 Ways My Real Life Experiences Enriched Becoming the Talbot Sisters by Rachel Linden + Giveaway (US/Can)

Becoming the Talbot Sisters
Rachel Linden
from Thomas Nelson // HarperCollins

Twin sisters Waverly and Charlie Talbot have drifted far apart as they pursue opposite dreams of stardom and service to the poor. On an astonishing journey across Central Europe, they must come together to face their fears, find their courage and fight for what they love.

Celebrity chef Waverly Ross has built a successful career with her home-entertaining show Simply Perfect. Yet she and her husband, Andrew, have never been able to realize the true desire of Waverly’s heart: to become a mother. Meanwhile Waverly’s twin sister, Charlie Talbot, buries her bitter disappointment and shattered idealism beneath a life spent serving others as an international aid worked in Budapest, Hungary.

When the beloved aunt who raised them passes away, Waverly and Charlie come together in their grief after living years on separate continents. Struck by a fierce desire to bridge the distance between them, Charlie offers Waverly and her husband the selfless gift of surrogacy.

But soon the sisters find they are each in danger of losing their jobs, seemingly putting their dreams on hold once again. When Waverly shows up unannounced in Budapest with a plan to rescue Simply Perfect, the sisters embark on an adventure across Central Europe that could save them both from occupational hazards. Though the twins haven’t had to rely on each other since childhood, an unforeseen dangerous turn in their journey across Europe forces them to stand together to save their careers, the baby, and each other.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Interview with Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Author of How to Love the Empty Air + Giveaway (US only)

I'd like to welcome Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of How to Love the Empty Air from Write Bloody Publishing!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Cristin! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet. She is the author of six books of poetry as well as the nonfiction books, Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which made 7 National “Best Books of 2014″ lists, and Words In Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam, which Billy Collins wrote “leaves no doubt that the slam poetry scene has achieved legitimacy and taken its rightful place on the map of contemporary literature.” On the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) podcast Art Works, host Josephine Reed introduced Cristin as being “something of a legend in NYC’s slam poetry scene. She is lively, thoughtful, and approachable looking to engage the audience with her work and deeply committed to the community that art (in general) and slam poetry (in particular) can create.”

Cristin’s sixth book of poetry, The Year of No Mistakes, was released by Write Bloody Publishing in Fall 2013, and would go on to win the Writers’ League of Texas Book of the Year Award for Poetry (2013-2014).

Cristin is married to fellow bestselling author and screenwriter Ernest Cline. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family and their two eccentric rescue dachshunds.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hit shelves last month:

Vulnerable, beautiful and ultimately life-affirming, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s work reaches new heights in her revelatory seventh collection of poetry.

Continuing in her tradition of engaging autobiographical work, How to Love the Empty Air explores what happens when the impossible becomes real―for better and for worse. Aptowicz’s journey to find happiness and home in her ever-shifting world sees her struggling in cities throughout America. When her luck changes―in love and in life―she can’t help but “tell the sun / tell the fields / tell the huge Texas sky... / tell myself again and again until I believe it.” However, the upward trajectory of this new life is rocked by the sudden death of the poet’s mother. In the year that follows, Aptowicz battles the silencing power of grief with intimate poems burnished by loss and a hard-won humor, capturing the dance that all newly grieving must do between everyday living and the desire “to elope with this grief, / who is not your enemy, / this grief who maybe now is your best friend. / This grief, who is your husband, / the thing you curl into every night, / falling asleep in its arms...”

As in her award-winning The Year of No Mistakes, Aptowicz counts her losses and her blessings, knowing how despite it all, life “ripples boundless, like electricity, like joy / like... laughter, irresistible and bright, / an impossible thing to contain.”

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

How to Love the Empty Air is my seventh collection of poetry with my publisher, Write Bloody Publishing. I’m grateful to have such a wonderful, long term relationship with a publisher whose work I love. However, it should be noted that the reason that Write Bloody first became interested in my work is because I self-published it and toured behind it, before I ever had publishers interested in me. My first three books were all self-published at Kinkos, and available for purchase at my shows and on my website. Through this grassroots effort to share my work, I eventually caught the interested of a “basement press”—literally a fantastic publisher who handmade books in his basement!—who eventually published my back catalogue, along with a new fourth book. When my books (gratefully) began selling more than the basement press could handle, I was picked up by Write Bloody. The lesson from this which I always try to impart on new writers is that you don’t have to wait for an institution—be that a venue, a literary journal, or a press—to give you a “permission” to begin sharing your art. There are so many ways to find an audience, and once you have an audience, finding a publisher won’t be as big a deal at all.


How does writing poetry compare to writing non-fiction? Would you ever try your hand at writing fiction, or any specific genres within fiction?  

The common thread that, to me, links my nonfiction writing and my poetry writing is how it forces me as a writer to look closely at something and pull from it a larger meaning. In nonfiction, you frequently have to show how a person, an event, or a moment represents the time period in which it exists, and, thus, allow a reader to access something that was previously foreign to them.

Similarly, in poetry, I find myself returning to moments in my life that I can’t seem to shake, and then working hard to tease out why they resonate so deeply with me. In both cases, to successfully translate that meaning to the page is profoundly satisfying.

I have not written any fiction, but I married to fiction writer! We both talk all the time about how we could never do what the other does. He can’t imagine having to write and being so “limited” by having to stick to facts—let alone doing all the work you have to do to uncover those facts! Meanwhile, I find the idea of having no limits terrifying! You mean the character could just die? Or your editor could suggest making them into a man instead? You could decide to move the setting to a different continent, or a different time period? It’s total chaos! I could never do it!


That's super funny how you and your husband get to see the other genre on a daily basis, but don't want to touch it! Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes How to Love the Empty Air stand out from the rest?

When my mother passed away, I took an enormous comfort in books. I consumed veraciously books about grief: The Year of Magic Thinking by Joan Didion, Dear Darkness by Kevin Young, Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman, and more. How to Love the Empty Air is my attempt to give back to that community of writers whose work and vulnerability comforted me during that hard time. It’s an acknowledgment of how hard it is, how raw it feels, and how boundless grief can feel, but it is also a celebration of the light: the love you still feel, the ways the person you lost can still be seen everywhere, and how the people who surround you can lift you up. During my tour, I have been touched by how many people purchase books for themselves, but also for friends and family members who have suffered loss in their lives. It is my greatest hope, and would be the great honor, for my book to be a comfort to others, the way that the work I read helped guide me.

It's a much needed, much appreciated contribution I'm sure! Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.

I grew up in a working class neighborhood, and saying I wanted to grow up and be a writer seemed about as possible as saying I was going to grow up to be the tooth fairy. I knew from an early age that if this was the path I wanted to pursue, I needed to forge my own path. I read constantly how important securing a mentor was—someone who was accomplished in my field already who could help guide me as moved forward in my career. Certainly, mentors have been helpful to me, but what I’ve found more true to my experience, and what I’ve learned has been proven to be more successful in studies on the subject, is my own peers. The theory is called “Horizontal Loyalty,” and the idea that instead of striving for mentors, you should form connections with peers whose work (and work ethic!) you admire. As time goes on, and you and your peers naturally begin to rise up, you will be able to help each other more directly, include each other more naturally in opportunities, and introduce each other to agents, bookers, publishers and venues who more authentically match where you are currently are as an artist. I have found this to be incredibly true in my own life. Peers whose work I’ve loved, and championed, have toured me, published my books, introduced me to agents, and guided me through tricky circumstances (like social media) that weren’t exactly in the wheelhouse of my older, more established mentors. So if I were to give advice to an aspiring writer, it would be to find peers whose work you adore, and begin to form connections with them. Those same poets crashing on your spare futon now might be the the family of artists whom you trust and rely on the most as you move through life as writer and human in the next few decades. It happened to me!

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

When my mother passed away, my father gave me all her old journals. In one, she collection quotes she found to inspirational, and buried in that journal, I found a short list she wrote in her own hand—I support the culmination of what she had learned from all the quotes she had previously written, and it remains the most guiding philosophy for me I’ve ever found. She wrote: “Know your Purpose; Be Present; Act Decisively, Don’t be Attached to the Results.” Under this list, she underlined the phrase “True Work.” I have this page framed in my office, and refer to it often. It is the best advice I’ve ever received: to be authentic, and to move authentically in this world, and let that be its own reward.

Where can you be found on the web?


It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Cristin! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of How to Love the Empty Airwoohoo! To enter, all you have to do is tell me in the comments below:
Are you a fan of poetry? What is your favorite poem or collection?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Cristin and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at FSB Associates!
Giveaway ends May 21st at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan + Giveaway (US/Can)

My Oxford Year
Julia Whelan
from William Morrow // HarperCollins

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Beauty of Dirty Skin by Whitney Bowe Giveaway (US only)

The Beauty of Dirty Skin
Whitney Bowe
Little, Brown and Company // Hachette

Internationally renowned dermatologist and research scientist Dr. Whitney Bowe presents, for the first time, the connection between a healthy gut and radiant, clear skin, with a 21-day program to maximize skin health and beauty.

Every year, nearly 80 million Americans will consult their doctors about their skin. In fact, skin disorders beat out anxiety, depression, back pain, and diabetes as the number one reason Americans see their doctors. Unfortunately, however, the vast majority will receive only a surface-level treatment, leaving the underlying conditions at the root of their skin issues unresolved. Skin doesn’t lie; it reflects overall health in unimaginable ways.

In The Beauty of Dirty Skin, internationally renowned dermatologist and scientist Dr. Whitney Bowe shows readers that skin health is much more than skin deep. As a pioneering researcher on the cutting edge of the gut-brain-skin axis, she explains how the spectrum of skin disorders—from stubborn acne and rosacea to psoriasis, eczema, and premature wrinkling—are manifestations of irregularities rooted in the gut. Lasers, scalpels, creams, and prescription pads alone will not guarantee the consistently healthy, glowing skin we all seek. Instead, Dr. Bowe focuses on the microbiome—where trillions of microbes “speak” to your skin via the brain—and highlights the connection between sleep, stress, diet, gastrointestinal health, and the health of your skin.

With simple explanations of the science, do-it-yourself practical skincare strategies, and a life-changing 21-day program, The Beauty of Dirty Skin is your roadmap to great skin from the inside out and the outside in.

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of The Beauty of Dirty Skin—yay!!

To enter, all you have to do is tell me:
What do you do to take care of your skin?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Whitney and I really want to hear from you guys! :)

I'm a bit of a freak about skincare. I love all sorts of serums, creams, masks, and of course sunscreen to protect my skin! I also try to drink lots of water and get enough sleep, but I need to read up more about the gut-brain-skin axis and see what I can do to improve that.

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the publicist—a huge thank you to the lovely folks at FSB Associates!
Giveaway ends May 11th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only—sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar for the list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide. There are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Interview with Joanne Serling, Author of Good Neighbors + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Joanne Serling to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Good Neighbors from Twelve, a Grand Central Publishing and Hachette imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Joanne! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Joanne Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.

It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which hit shelves in February:

A searing portrait of suburbia, friendship, and family strained by a devotion to false appearances.

In an idyllic suburb, four young families quickly form a neighborhood clique, their friendships based on little more than the ages of their children and a shared sense of camaraderie. When one of the couples, Paige and Gene Edwards, adopt a four-year-old girl from Russia, the group’s loyalty and morality is soon called into question. Are the Edwards unkind to their new daughter? Or is she a difficult child with hidden destructive tendencies?

As the seams of the group friendship slowly unravel, neighbor Nicole Westerhof finds herself drawn further into the life of the adopted girl, forcing Nicole to re-examine the deceptive nature of her own family ties, and her complicity in the events unfolding around her.

What was the inspiration for the plot?

I originally wanted to write a short story about resilience and parenting. I was interested in exploring the ways that children can survive all kinds of difficult circumstances and grow up to be relatively stable and mature. But as I got further into the material, I found that I was as interested in the community as I was in the girl. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that that I grew up with a single mom in a tight knit community in which we relied on our neighbors a great deal. The adoption itself was a bit of a literary device. I knew that Nicole, the main character, considered herself to be an outsider and I wanted her attraction to the little girl to be based on what she saw as a similar life condition.


How did you come up with the characters and setting? How much was drawn from real life?  

I was an Editor for an affluent suburban magazine while I was writing Good Neighbors. Meeting so many different families, touring their homes and getting an inside look at their aspirations and anxieties had a huge influence on the setting and the themes of the book. But fiction is never straightforward. Your experiences get mixed up with your imagination and appear on the page as something recognizable yet invented.


As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Good Neighbors. Could you give us a brief commentary?

The book begins with a prologue entitled, “What We Thought We Knew” and the first sentence is:
We knew we lived on the nicest street in the nicest neighborhood in Fair Lawn.
Believe it or not, this was one of the last sentences I wrote. I’d finished a fifth or sixth draft of the book and was getting ready to send it out to agents when the prologue arrived like a song in my head. I had to pull my car over and start typing into my phone to get it all down. After spending so much time with my characters in their world, I suddenly understood that this was a book about people who had an idea about themselves that would be dramatically challenged by the end of the story.

Chilling how that expectation will be subverted! Did you also have the ending in mind?

I always knew that it would be ambiguous but it wasn’t until about draft 6 that I knew that it also needed to be dramatic and tragic. You cannot live a life of self-deception and not have tragedy creep up on you.

What are the novels that have most significantly influenced your life and your writing?

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell had a huge influence on me as a writer. It’s an indelible portrait of a housewife navigating the changing American landscape between the first and second world wars. Besides loving the depth and simplicity of the writing, I was amazed at the similarities between the domestic world of Mrs. Bridge and modern American motherhood.

I had a similarly charged reaction when I read That Night by Alice McDermott. Never before had I never read an author who unfolded a single event so masterfully, turning ordinary life into something dramatic and powerful in the process. McDermott showed me that everyday life can be made extraordinary with enough love and connection to the material.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Kate Walbert’s Our Kind in this list. Her wonderful stories about a certain generation of upper middle class women, told in the first-person plural, were like a gateway drug for me. For many years and many drafts, I used a similar narrative style to help tell the story of Good Neighbors. Eventually, I switched the narrative to first person and relegated the large “we” narrator to the prologue and epilogue, but Walbert’s book was a huge inspiration.


What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Although I shouldn’t feel guilty about this, I love taking a break around 5pm to read in bed. There are usually a million things I should be doing, like starting dinner or paying bills, but thumbing my nose at my responsibilities gives me enormous pleasure and actually makes me a lot more efficient when I get back to business. I only wished I remembered to do it more often.

Where can you be found on the web?


Before we conclude this interview, what's something you'd like to ask our readers?

Do you believe Nicole did the right thing in Good Neighbors by calling Child Protective Services to report her suspicions about her neighbors? Why or why not?

It was a pleasure to be able to get to know you better today, Joanne! Thank you again for dropping by, and best of luck with future endeavors!

Giveaway!

Books à la Mode is giving away one print copy of Good Neighborswoohoo! To enter, all you have to do is answer Joanne's question in the comments below:
Do you believe Nicole did the right thing in Good Neighbors by calling Child Protective Services to report her suspicions about her neighbors? Why or why not?
Please make your comment MEANINGFUL. Comments solely consisting of stock responses or irrelevant fluff like "Thanks for the giveaway!" will not be considered for entry. Joanne and I really want to hear your thoughts! :)

Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and conditions!
Sponsored wholly by the tour publicist and publisher—a huge thank you to the lovely folks over at TLC Book Tours and Twelve Books!
Giveaway ends May 9th at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US and Canada residents only. Sorry, everyone else! Please check my sidebar on the right for a list of currently running giveaways that are open worldwide—there are plenty to choose from!
Void where prohibited.
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their winnings will be forfeited.
Although I do randomly select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤
Good luck!