A Very Good Life is the first book in an exciting new series by successful business woman now author Lynn Steward.
In this story, which crosses over from the literary to women’s fiction to romance, Steward takes us to 1970s Manhattan, home of the sophisticated and the elite. There, we meet Dana McGarry.
Dana has everything — a successful job at a prestigious department store, a handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, and loving family and friends. But things aren’t always as perfect as they appear to be, aren’t they?
When Dana’s husband begins to drift away, and demands at her job require that she behaves unethically, her world begins to crumble. She finds herself at a crossroads. Will she make the right decisions and stay true to herself and her vision of what a ‘good life’ should be?
This was a wonderful read! It reminded me of novels I read years ago by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Female readers will no doubt empathize with Dana as she struggles to keep her career and marriage together. She is strong, but also caring and sensitive. Readers will also be swept away by the setting. With vivid detail, the author brings Christmas in 1970s New York City alive in all its splendor. I really felt transported in time and place, felt the snowflakes and smelled the holiday trees. The characters are sympathetic and interesting and, of course, the antagonist is just one of those persons the reader will love to hate.
Steward has created a wonderful world of drama in this new series. Book two is supposed to come later this year and I’m really looking forward to reading the new installment. If you love women’s fiction and are a fan of strong female protagonists, I recommend you pick this one up. It won’t disappoint.
Find out more on Amazon.
Visit Lynn Steward’s website.
My review was originally published in Blogcritics.
** Kindle Book on sale - today only - $1.99!! *
"I’m marrying him because I admire his intelligence and his compassion. I’m marrying him because he’s part of me already. Because he’s the one person who has always known my heart. Because I would trust him to know what I needed if I couldn’t figure it out by myself. "
"And the longevity of grief, the endlessness of it, settled into my future reality."
"Mark’s mother plugged the boy’s IV pump into the wall outlet while I examined him. Funny how the mothers always did that, jumped right in, learning whatever they needed to know to take care of their children."
"There is uncertainty in hope, but even with its tenuous nature, it summons our strength and pulls us through fear and grief—and even death."
Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust is a haunting and unforgettable debut novel about life and death and love, set against a moral dilemma that may leave you questioning your own beliefs.
Matt Beaulieu has loved Elle McClure since he was two years old. Now married and expecting their first child, Elle suffers a fatal accident. To keep the baby alive, Matt goes against his wife’s wishes and keeps his wife on life support. But Matt’s mother thinks that Elle should be euthanized, and she’s ready to fight for what she believes is the right thing.
A stunning, compassionate examination of one of the most intricate ethical issues of our time, The Promise of Stardust, will stay with you, long after the last page has been read.
"Love is our greatest achievement. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t squander it. Seek it. Experience it. Savor it every day that you can, because you never know when a rogue wave might sweep you away"
"Here’s the thing about motherhood. It exhausts you and thrills you. It kicks you in the butt, and the very next second makes you feel like a superstar."
"No one gets to quit. You keep fighting, every day, and sooner or later, the grief fades a little. You grow stronger, find joy again, and everything gets easier. You come out of it more equipped to handle the next wave, which will come eventually. There will always be waves.”
A deeply emotional tale about Sophie Duncan, a successful columnist whose world falls apart after her daughter’s unexpected illness and her husband’s shocking affair. When it seems nothing else could possibly go wrong, her car skids off an icy road and plunges into a frozen lake. There, in the cold dark depths of the water, a profound and extraordinary experience unlocks the surprising secrets from Sophie’s past, and teaches her what it means to truly live...and love.
Full of surprising twists and turns and a near-death experience that will leave you breathless, this story is not to be missed.
FAV Quotes from the book:
"What is hell but an awareness of our mistakes without the possibility of making them right?"
"man has three chances to make something of himself. First, with the love and support of his parents. If he doesn’t make it, his wife gives him another chance to become more than a careless, egotistical, immature man. If he fails, then his children are a last recourse. After that…he’s doomed."
"Life is worth more than man will ever know. Each of our choices open up the possibility of a different world. Every time we wake up, the universe puts itself in our hands. So many paths. So many choices. Our discernment is the only way to tell which one leads to happiness. And there’s one that’s always there, the worst and often the most tempting. The one that is not a choice. The refusal to go on. The refusal to live."
GENRE: Literary Fiction
Jeremy takes his life on his twentieth birthday after childhood friend Victoria rejects his love.
On his twenty-first birthday, he wakes up.
Victoria is at his side, blissfully in love with him. While Jeremy can’t remember the previous year, he savors the miracle of waking up alongside the woman he loves.
The next time he wakes, another year has passed and he finds himself a spectator of his own life. Victoria now carries his child, but the man alongside her is a disturbingly different person—a cruel, egotistical, seemingly unknowable Jeremy. Is it amnesia? Insanity? Or has the God Jeremy defied with his selfish act now cursed him?
This strange and beautiful novel tells the tale of a man lost between life and death, but connected by the love—as friend, lover, son, and father—given and taken over the course of a lifetime, a love that simply won’t let go.
FAVORITE QUOTE from the book: "There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that then no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good"
Genre: Literary Fiction
The Bean Trees is bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver’s first novel, now widely regarded as a modern classic. It is the charming, engrossing tale of rural Kentucky native Taylor Greer, who only wants to get away from her roots and avoid getting pregnant. She succeeds, but inherits a 3-year-old native-American little girl named Turtle along the way, and together, from Oklahoma to Tucson, Arizona, half-Cherokee Taylor and her charge search for a new life in the West.
Written with humor and pathos, this highly praised novel focuses on love and friendship, abandonment and belonging as Taylor, out of money and seemingly out of options, settles in dusty Tucson and begins working at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires while trying to make a life for herself and Turtle.
The author of such bestsellers as The Lacuna, The Poinsonwood Bible, and Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver has been hailed for her striking imagery and clear dialogue, and this is the novel that kicked off her remarkable literary career.
This edition includes a P.S. section with additional insights from the author, background material, suggestions for further reading, and more.
From Publishers Weekly:
"Feisty Marietta Greer changes her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Ill. By the time she reaches Oklahoma, this strong-willed young Kentucky native with a quick tongue and an open mind is catapulted into a surprising new life. Taylor leaves home in a beat-up '55 Volkswagen bug, on her way to nowhere in particular, savoring her freedom. But when a forlorn Cherokee woman drops a baby in Taylor's passenger seat and asks her to take it, she does. A first novel, The Bean Trees is an overwhelming delight, as random and unexpected as real life. The unmistakable voice of its irresistible heroine is whimsical, yet deeply insightful. Taylor playfully names her little foundling "Turtle," because she clings with an unrelenting, reptilian grip; at the same time, Taylor aches at the thought of the silent, staring child's past suffering. With Turtle in tow, Taylor lands in Tucson, Ariz., with two flat tires and decides to stay. The desert climate, landscape and vegetation are completely foreign to Taylor, and in learning to love Arizona, she also comes face to face with its rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Similarly, Taylor finds that motherhood, responsibility and independence are thorny, if welcome, gifts. This funny, inspiring book is a marvelous affirmation of risk-taking, commitment and everyday miracles.
FAVORITE QUOTE FROM THE BOOK: "The Wednesday Sisters look like the kind of women who might meet at those fancy coffee shops on University --- we do look that way --- but we're not one bit fancy, and we're not sisters, either. We don't even meet on Wednesdays anymore, although we did at the beginning."
Kindle: 99 Cents!
Nook: 99 Cents!
Genre: Literary Fiction
Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.
For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.
As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.
Humorous and moving, The Wednesday Sisters is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends.
-- Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed
Whenever I look at black and white photographs of my parents' families in India, there is a crowd staring out at me: great-uncles and aunts, grandparents and babies, squeezed together into the frame. They lived together in the same family compound, ruled over by an aging matriarch or patriarch.
Their extended family situation meant that a wedding was a triumph shared by all, prospective brides and grooms required to impress many future in-laws, fabric swatches and jewelry designs argued about over breakfast, the peace enforced by family elders by dusk.
A new job was a boost to the collective finances, the money dropped into the purse of the family head, to be redistributed as needed between siblings and their wives. Cousins of the same gender took their afternoon nap together, crowded on a narrow cot in the soothing shade, or sat in courtyards under the stars, playing cards into the night. New babies were shuttled and rocked in untiring arms.
When I look at those photos and think of the sheer press of humanity living under one roof, it is always a shock to think of my parents' wedding, thousands of miles away in a London bedsit. A meal was prepared with love by a handful of newly arrived transplants from India and Pakistan. It was cooked on a small stove without the traditional and obscure ingredients necessary, so that the food was, while delicious, no more than a memory of what it should have been. There were no servants to prepare vats of biryani and salaans, stirring and grinding spices for days before the event, no lights strung up outside the house, no groups of traditional singers to proclaim the impending joy of a wedding to the whole neighborhood.
My mother and father married in a simple ceremony in a one-bedroom flat, with white sheets laid over the carpet to cover the stains and cigarette smell. My mother wore a red sari, light in embellishments, which she had brought in her suitcase, and my father placed a simple wedding bend from a local shop on her ring finger. It was a cold October day, and after the ceremony, my mother put on a long coat over her sari and my parents walked to the second-hand car dealership and purchased their first car. My grandfather had to wait several weeks for an airmail letter to read an account of his daughter's wedding; the photos, when they finally arrived, were pored over and commented upon and brought out proudly for guests to praise.
My parents belonged to an intrepid generation that gave up communal living and tight family bonds in India and Pakistan to find new opportunities in the West. There was a lack of job opportunity in their homeland at the time and bribery and corruption were rife. In the West, the allocation of visas to citizens of the former British Commonwealth and new immigration laws in North America meant that hundreds of thousands of people like my mother and father were able to seek out a better life for themselves in England, America and Canada in the 1950s and 1960s.
In England, the expansion of the British economy and the ensuing labor shortage at this time meant that job opportunities were opened up to engineers and other candidates with specialized skills from the former Commonwealth countries. In the 1960s, the British National Health Service was actively recruiting medical professionals, like my mother, to meet the demand for doctors. In America, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 prioritized entry for immigrants with advanced degrees or family relationships with US citizens.
For many South Asians, the destiny of successive generations was based on which country approved an application first—on which letter arrived first at the post office in the 1950s or 1960s, addressed to an eagerly waiting young man or woman. My father-in-law was waiting for a letter from Canada, but his US application was approved first; my uncle's visa for America came before his English one; my father was allowed to look for work as an electrical engineer in England and my mother was given permission to join him and take up a position as a doctor at a local hospital. The formerly tight-knit communities of Lucknow, Hyderabad and Karachi were scattering across the western hemisphere.
Once they arrived at their fated destination, like the Irish and the West Indian immigrants before them, South Asian immigrants quickly adapted to their new environment and welcomed their relatives to join them, building communities and establishing places of worship and lines of retail that met their unique needs. They had to adjust to an unfamiliar climate, food and clothing, and an utterly foreign—and profound—sense of isolation. I heard of a family that regularly drove to O'Hare Airport, in Chicago, Illinois, in the hopes of hearing someone speak Urdu, convincing that unknown traveler to come to their home and have dinner with them.
My parents' generation often had to overlook indignities to gain a foothold in their new country of residence: my uncle spent his first night in America looking for a hotel in which to accommodate his tired family. As a light-skinned doctor with excellent English, he had no trouble booking a double room. However, when his sari-clad wife entered the hotel with their three small children, they were soon told that there had been a mistake and there was no space left.
There is no margin for error when you have uprooted and traveled halfway across the world with no safety net to cushion you from your failings. I can't tell you how many stories I've heard from first generation Indians and Pakistanis who came with meager savings and were down to their last pound or dollar before they found a job, an experience no doubt common to immigrants everywhere. All it took was one lucky break or a fortuitous connection, and they were able to stay and build a life, bringing wives, having children, calling over siblings and extended relatives until a family tree flourished on fresh soil.
My father came to England with £10 in his pocket. He knocked on many doors to get his first job, but it was a chance encounter with the foreman of an electrical engineering plant that led to his lucky break. The foreman had spent some of his childhood in India under British rule and his warm reminisces with my father about the old days in India stirred him to ask my father if he needed a job. Just in time, my father had a salary that would pay his rent.
The new arrivals settled and made themselves a new home, but they still longed for India and Pakistan, for the happy chatter of family and friends who dropped by at a moment's notice and who stayed up talking late into the night, for ripe fruit that was not available at any English greengrocer or American store, for a connection to a community they had lost. They talked of going back, but as children were born, grew, and entered schools in the new land, the idea became an increasingly elusive dream.
They maintained their relationships with aging parents over the years that came, through sporadic visits and by blue airmail letters, the Urdu script spidering over every side, cramming in a lifetime of new memories, the senders trying to share what could not be shared, their readers trying to grasp what they could no longer experience.
They learned of loss, too, through these thin blue missives: the passing away of parents they had not seen for so long and now never would. For a culture that prides itself on honoring the elderly, this break in tradition and loss of precious time with parents must have been particularly heartbreaking. A family friend told me of how she learned of her father's death in a letter; I think of her throwing on a thin coat to brave the bitter chill of a Chicago winter, pushing her sleeping baby in his pram in front of her blindly for hours, tears streaming down her face, not realizing where she was walking, and that it was already too late to get there.
As my parents' generation reaches their own old age, they can only try to assess what was gained by the decision to uproot. There is no time now to make up for the losses; there is no time to go back and adapt yet again to a country that has rapidly changed without them—the vacations back to India have taught them that. Many have now lived many more years in the West than they ever did in India or Pakistan and there are now children and grandchildren they could not bear to leave behind.
My parents have achieved everything they set out to do, and my generation has benefited. They will always be nostalgic for a feeling of belonging that second and third generation children of immigrants, like me, can only begin to comprehend. Whenever I open the photo albums and stare at those sepia photographs of my distant forefathers and mothers, I can see what my parents gave up, but I can only guess at what haunts their dreams.
Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed writes about emigration and assimilation in her literary and historical fiction. She is the author of A Deconstructed Heart and The Purana Qila Stories: The Dust Beneath Her Feet and A Change in the Weather.
Books by Shaheen Asraf-Ahmed
READER REVIEW: "Early on in The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, Rachel Morse (the girl in question) wonders about being "tender-headed." It's how her grandmother chides her for wincing at having her hair brushed, but it's also a way of understanding how Rachel grapples with the world in which she landed. Her parents, a Danish woman and an African-American G.I., tried to hold her and her siblings aloft from questions of race, and their failure there is both tragic and tenderly wrought. After sustaining an unimaginable trauma, Rachel resumes her life as a black girl, an identity she quickly learns to adopt but at heart is always reconciling with the life she knew before. Heidi W. Durrow bolsters
her story with a chorus of voices that often see what Rachel can't--this is
particularly true in the case of Brick, the only witness to her fall. There's a poetry to these characters that draws you into their lives, making for a
beautiful and earnest coming-of-age novel that speaks as eloquently to teens as it does to adults." --Anne Bartholomew
Kindle: $1.99 (today only!)
Rachel, the daughter of a danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop.
Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity.
This searing and heartwrenching portrait of a young biracial girl dealing with society’s ideas of race and class is the winner of the Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.
READER REVIEW: "Where else but a town called Union Cross, North Carolina can a guardian angel named Millie Rose look over the premature infant of a dysfunctional teenage couple? When that premature infant is born with chemical burns across her body, her lungs bursting to breathe, it's Millie Rose who gets beside her and chants, "you need to breathe...The American South has produced some of the world's finest writers and NEED TO BREATHE secures Tara Staley's place among them." --Carolyn Burns Bass (Ovations)
Price: 99 cents
Rating: 4.8 stars
Claire Harper baffles doctors when she comes into the world 14 weeks early and covered with burns. Saddled with respiratory distress and misguided parents, Baby Claire needs more than incubators, oxygen tanks and Little Golden Books—she needs miracles.
She needs Millie Rose.
Millie died from childbirth in 1922, but she’s given a second chance at motherhood when she’s assigned to be a “spiritual foster parent” to Claire. Millie mentors her through NICU nightmares and toddler tirades, residual illnesses, sassy peers—and a dark secret behind the burns on her skin. Over the years, Millie assuages Claire’s poor health, mentors a family steeped in dysfunction, helps Claire find real love and, in the end, guides her toward facing the abominable truth behind her birth. But when Millie pursues her own forbidden desire to somehow see the child she died delivering, she wagers not only Claire’s well-being and her years of hard work, but risks losing her own final peace in the hereafter.
Tara Staley is the author of NEED TO BREATHE, a digital book debuting September 2012 on Amazon’s Kindle e-shelf. This literary coming-of-age novel–set in the South during the 1970s and 80s–has been compared by editors and reviewers to THE LOVELY BONES and MEMORY KEEPER’S DAUGHTER.
Tara Staley’s writing background includes undergraduate and graduate degrees in English and Creative Writing, an RWA award for a past novel, and involvement with the North Carolina Writers Network. She is also a founding member of the online writers’ community Backspace. Her fiction has been blurbed by nationally bestselling and award-winning authors such as Caroline Leavitt and Cornelia Read. As a freelancer, her work has appeared in such publications as UNCG Magazine, BizLife Magazine and the Winston-Salem Journal. She grew up, lives, and will most likely die in Kernersville, North Carolina (except for a one-year study abroad stint in Australia thanks to a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship). She and her husband have two sons.
Staley is currently finishing up her next novel, CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE, biographical fiction that brings to life the world of the Wright brothers and the Kitty Hawkers in the early 1900s.
READER REVIEW: "How do you write a review for a story that touches your soul? How do you put into words the emotions that overtake you as you turn each page, highlight whole passages or phrases, then stare off in the distance to reflect? How do you tell a fellow author that her work has moved you so deeply that you stop working on your own project for days at a time just so you can spend time in her novel?...Through your beautifully rendered characters, I lived many lives and learned many things... But my favorite scene will always be the "park" scene. I read this passage late at night and went to sleep with tears on my pillow. You wrote about love in a way that has left me in awe. In awe of your talent. I will carry this scene in my heart for a long time." --Kathleen M. Rodgers
Rating: 4.5 stars
Rebecka, Helen, and Adelle navigate the sometimes humorous, sometimes painful path through childhood and keep their self-worth and dignity intact. Not long after Adelle, a bitter widow, recognizes a remarkable friendship developing with her two young neighbors, one of them moves away. As Rebecca and Helen mature, they turn from their devoted friendship in search of romantic love, finding more questions than answers to their place in this world. In their delicate and self-conscious journey to womanhood, all three search for identity and acceptance in a variety of places--a charismatic church, a Depression-era orphanage, a moonlit Savannah park, an orthodox Jewish boarding school--and end up finding lasting strength in the power of their friendship.
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