The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee

by Casee Marie on July 16, 2014 · 0 comments

in Fiction, Reviews

In The Glass Kitchen, Linda Francis Lee introduces her readers to the resourceful and quirky Portia Cuthcart, a Texas sweetheart with an uncanny knack for food. By an unexplainable trait handed down from her grandmother, Portia sees flashes of elaborate meals and knows she must make them – before ever knowing why. Her future seems securely attached to running her grandmother’s small town restaurant, The Glass Kitchen, but when her culinary predictions lead her first to tragedy and then to betrayal, Portia leaves a tattered life – and her will to cook – behind in Texas to join her sisters in Manhattan. Once there, Portia finds that she won’t be able to hide herself away so easily when she becomes involved in the lives of her new neighbors: precocious twelve year-old Ariel, moody teen Miranda and their widowed father Gabriel. Despite her determination, Portia realizes she can’t outrun her destiny. As she whisks up the magical comforts of her kitchen, she juggles the pursuit of her dreams with her desire to bring a broken family back together – and she may just fall in love in the process.

The Glass Kitchen is an enchanting novel about finding the courage to start over and discovering that support, friendship, and love can blossom on the path to following your dreams. Linda Francis Lee writes with humor and a great deal of her authentic Texas charm as she spins a story filled with sensual romance and the heartwarming intricacies of family drama. She divides much of the story between two central characters: jaded but determined Portia and wise-beyond-her-years Ariel. One of my favorite things about the nature of the story is the way that Portia exudes youthful whimsy while Ariel, just shy of becoming a teenager, carries all the careful intuition of a discerning adult. As the two heroines struggle – Portia against her culinary calling and Ariel under the weight of family secrets being revealed – watching their unique insights buoy each other along their respective journeys is a unique treat.

While family plays an important role in the novel, Lee approaches the dynamics from several different and engaging levels. Portia’s relationship with her sisters is illustrated with all the sass and sentiment of a true life sisterhood, and the reader feels their collective growing pains as they embark on their new journey together. Likewise, Gabriel’s struggle to raise his two daughters on his own is rendered with honesty and heart, delving into the disjointed territory of communication and the ultimate power of a father’s determined love. The message of family is strengthened further through Portia’s ethereal connection to her grandmother, as well as the innate mother-daughter link that develops between Portia and Ariel. With an essence of enchantment and bravery, The Glass Kitchen sweeps the reader up into a world where food can work magic and the measure of family is about more than blood relation. There’s a lot of fun, heart, and creativity wrapped up in the story, drawing the reader in and creating the sort of lovely escapist experience that reminds us of the magic books can create.

Title: The Glass Kitchen
Author: Linda Francis Lee
Genre: contemporary fiction, romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release date: June 17, 2014
Source: Get Red PR (C/O)
Buy the book:
Amazon/Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
More on the author:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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This week in fiction there’s new work from Robin Black, Laura Andersen, James Lee Burke, Ellen Sussman, and more; in mystery there are series additions from Stuart Woods, Daniel Silva, Paul Doiron, and others, plus Iris and Roy Johansen have a new standalone novel. In sci-fi/fantasy, Deborah Harkness brings the All Souls trilogy to a close and Harry Turtledove, Max Gladstone, and Ben Winters are all back. In romance Coutney Milan continues her Brothers Sinister series, plus new work from Tara Sivec and Carly Phillips. Young adult has new work from Miranda Kenneally, Phoebe North, Laura Diamond, and others. In new adult Melissa Forster, Emma Chase, and Riley Mackenzie all have series additions. And lastly there’s some nonfiction work spotlighting Harper Lee, as well as memoirs from Andrew Meredith, Joseph Luzzi, and the brassy Abby Lee Miller. The week’s new paperbacks include the latest Harry Hole from Jo Nesbø (I loved that one), Amy Tan’s most recent novel, and more. Happy reading!

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The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett

by Casee Marie on July 10, 2014 · 0 comments

in Fiction, Reviews

Set against the devastating coal mine fires of 1960s Pennsylvania, Natalie S. Harnett’s The Hollow Ground tells the story of eleven year-old Brigid Howley and her family, a long generation of coal miners, as they wrestle with secrets of the past and fight against nature to salvage the lives they’ve always known. It’s an astonishingly vivid portrait of desperation and the lingering threads of hope when even the ground beneath one’s feet can’t be trusted. Through Brigid’s clever and openly honest narrative we follow the Howleys from their home as they rejoin her father’s parents – known simply and effectively as Gram and Gramp – in the town where her father was raised; a town in which gritty secrets and ominous shadows tie together with a curse placed upon the Howley family’s Molly Maguire ancestor a century before. With precision and power, Brigid gently weaves the story of her struggle to keep her family together as passions rise, grudges give way to liberated feuds, and devastating secrets are revealed.

Harnett writes with eloquence and grit, devotedly tending to the nuances of the story in a way that makes for a remarkably strong debut. Voice becomes a very central focus of the novel’s delivery, whether it’s the narrative voice of the young and preternaturally wise Brigid, who in her pre-teen years thrills at reading the Brontës and Betty Smith, or the distinctively illustrated voices of any number of the novel’s supporting characters: her fierce-tempered and unstable Ma, well-meaning but enigmatic Daddy, and especially her cantankerous and gruffly compassionate Gram. With each character’s unique voice Harnett creates a new layer of intrigue and emotional complexity in her bold story. In a way the characters lend a special sort of detail to the novel’s deeply atmospheric quality, wrapping the reader further in the many folds of uncertainty and devastation that the people of these coal mines experienced.

The coal mine fire itself becomes its own entity in The Hollow Ground as the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning threatens the air and the fire burning in the mines below combines with the earth’s elements, creating deadly sinkholes that can swallow homes and lives in a moment. Based on the true fires of Centralia, Pennsylvania which began burning over fifty years ago and still burn today, the story touches on a tragic piece of recent US history as it explores the impact these fires had on entire towns and the people who inhabited them, people whose determination thrives as they attempt to fight a fire burning below their feet: an unseen and quite deadly adversary. Against this harrowing backdrop, the dramas of Brigid’s family members play out in poignant detail. Much as Brigid struggles with the faults of the grown-ups in her family, the reader too is torn between compassion and frustration, feeling very much what Brigid feels and being drawn even closer to her in that way.

Brigid is a terrific rendering of a young literary heroine in the vein of Harper Lee’s iconic Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve noticed that young heroines seem to have begun rising through literary fiction over the last few years, and Harnett’s innocent, genuine Brigid is a great addition to that representation. Her moxie is admirable and her emotional stability is at times particularly jarring in the wake of her parents’ poor choices, a fact that boldly illustrates her wisdom and even her superiority over the elders she so painstakingly tries to appease. Ultimately The Hollow Ground is an unflinching portrait of familial struggle and a timeless examination of the treacherous elements that can both strengthen and relentlessly violate a family’s connection. At once contemplative and energetic, Harnett’s debut is a provocative and eerie novel of suspense, intricacy, and profound feeling.

Title: The Hollow Ground

Author: Natalie S. Harnett

Genre: literary fiction, mystery

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Release date: May 13, 2014

Source: Get Red PR (C/O)

Buy the book:
Amazon/Kindle | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

More on the author:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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I mentioned recently that my friend and fellow blogger Stephanie Shar has recently published her first e-book, and I’m thrilled to be sharing my thoughts on it today while Steph simultaneously guest posts on my other blog, The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower. Be sure to check that out, as she’s also giving away an copy of her e-book to a lucky reader!

In 7 Steps to Living Loudly: Discover Who You Are, Decide What You Need and Create the Life You Want, Stephanie draws on her passion for inspiring others as she breaks down her method for living Loudly. In keeping with the theme of her popular blog, The Loudmouth Lifestyle, she delves into the essence of the Loud movement: living fully and happily by following your dreams, loving yourself, and surrounding yourself with people that will inspire you on your journey. The seven steps are to Be You, Be Passionate, Be Honest, Be Present, Be Bold, Be Loved, and Be Loud; each step is also followed up by a journal prompt that helps the reader engage even more in the material.

7 Steps to Living Loudly is a small book that inspires a big experience. As she highlights the necessary phases of changing one’s life for the better, Stephanie keeps her message straightforward and her ideas organized, while also keeping her method open for the reader’s creativity to interpret. The seven steps can be approached at once – say, in one quiet evening’s dedicated study – or spaced out for deeper, more long-term work. A great idea is to attribute each step to a different day, spending a bit of time each morning or night (or both) with one step before moving on to the next; some readers may even be inclined to stretch each step out into a week, coming up with new ways to apply Stephanie’s advice and achieve related goals, like being more open to social situations or increasing one’s self-esteem. Likewise, the book can be returned to again and again, the steps followed through repeatedly, in order for readers to make Living Loudly a natural part of their everyday.

Stephanie writes with compassion, wit, and honesty; she becomes an instant friend to the reader, sitting down for drinks or coffee and some deep, motivating conversation. Though her narrative is breezy and lighthearted, she’s not afraid to dig deep and deliver some powerful truths. One of the most memorable moments for me came when she wrote, “You won’t know what love is supposed to look like until you love yourself, unconditionally.” Through this and many other messages, Stephanie’s wisdom and heartfelt support helped me to uncover some of the blocks in my own life and encouraged me to work hard at busting through them. Her journal prompts are simple in the way that they won’t seem daunting or intimidating to the reader, but they’re also effective, which is a difficult combination to achieve. As a debut, 7 Steps to Living Loudly shows Stephanie’s confidence and determination, as well as her genuine gift for inspirational writing; and as a source of motivation in living a happy, fulfilling life, it’s a great resource.

Enter the giveaway @ The Girl Who Stole the Eiffel Tower

(It’s a .PDF so you don’t need an e-reader to enjoy!)

Title: 7 Steps to Living Loudly: Discover Who You Are, Decide What You Need and Create the Life You Want

Author: Stephanie Shar

Genre: nonfiction, self-help, inspiration

Publisher: Stephanie Shar

Release date: June 8, 2014

Source: Stephanie Shar (c/o)

Buy the book: Dress Loudly

More from the author: Blog | Facebook | Twitter