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Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

“Amy Harmon is a Wall Street JournalUSA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in seventeen different languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.”

“The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Wagons Ho!” That was the cry of the wagon master at the “jumping off place” for the brave families heading West to Oregon or California. Two thousand miles-with all their cherished and necessary items loaded into wagons, followed by herds of cattle and horses. The unimaginable quest of finding gold, land for the taking, or the adventure is what prompted the Pioneers to leave home and loved ones; to embark on such a wondrous, but treacherous journey.

Map provided by Amy Harmon https://www.authoramyharmon.com/wherethelostwander.html

For 20 years a map very similar to this was provided by the Grateful Reader for third graders as a similar novel for children was read; Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen. All the chats by firelight between husbands & wives, and other parents, after the children were in bed, led to the pros and cons of “if and when” to leave on this journey into the unknown. A few had traveled to Oregon and California and returned, and were now available as guides or had written guide books for purchase. Diaries written by adults are accessible but accounts by children are rare. In the case of Amy Harmon’s Where the Lost Wander, her research and genealogy studies give her great family insights into the personalities and possible lives of Naomi May and John Lowry. Check out her website for a great Q&A on the blog. Where the Lost Wander is an adventure, mystery, and love story-but for older teens and adults.

Readers will be in anguish at times, and experience pure delight at others. With every crossing of the Platte and landmarks passed, “travelers on the trail” with Naomi May, her brothers, Wyatt, Will and Web and John Lowry and his mules, will celebrate each mile closer to the destination. Naomi’s mother, Mrs. May, is a brave, proud woman; a font of wisdom and understanding. In a poignant conversation she shares with John, ” The hardest thing about life is knowing what matters and what doesn’t. If nothing matters , then there’s no point. If everything matters, there’s no purpose. The trick is to find firm ground between the two ways of being.”

Traumas along the trail: Cholera, orphaned children, Indian attacks; all add to the stress and emotional turmoil for the families and the reader! But the celebrations of new life, new love, and weddings makes up for it. John’s mother, Jennie, said it best:

A Mother’s Wisdom

In order to travel West decisions had to be made as to what was necessary for survival-physical and emotional. The only decision at this point is to “load your wagon, put on your hat or bonnet”, and read Where the Lost Wander. Destinations and Celebrations are in sight!

Where the Lost Wander earns all the stars in the big prairie sky!

Once Upon a Book Club Box-Open gifts as you read! Use Gratefulreader10 as a promo code when you subscribe! https://www.onceuponabookclub.com/
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Raphael Painter in Rome by Stephanie Storey

Another Fabulous Art History Thriller by the Bestselling Author of Oil and Marble, Featuring the Master of Renaissance Perfection: Raphael!

“Stephanie Storey’s debut novel Oil and Marble was hailed as “tremendously entertaining” by The New York Times, has been translated into six languages, and is currently in development as a feature film by Pioneer Pictures. Storey is also the author of Raphael, Painter in Rome, which came out in April 2020 in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death.

Storey has a degree in Fine Arts from Vanderbilt University and attended a PhD program in Art History, before leaving to get an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, and has studied art in Italy and been on a pilgrimage to see every Michelangelo on display in Europe.

Storey has also been a national television producer for nearly twenty years in Los Angeles for shows including Alec Baldwin on ABC, Arsenio Hall for CBS, and Emmy-nominated The Writers’ Room on the Sundance Channel. When not writing novels or producing television, Storey can usually be found with husband Mike Gandolfi — an actor and Emmy-winning comedy writer — traveling the world in search of their next stories. ” https://stephaniestorey.com/

Raphael : Summary from Simon & Schuster

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling is one of the most iconic masterpieces of the Renaissance. Here, in Raphael, Painter in Rome, Storey tells of its creation as never before: through the eyes of Michelangelo’s fiercest rival—the young, beautiful, brilliant painter of perfection, Raphael. Orphaned at age eleven, Raphael is determined to keep the deathbed promise he made to his father: become the greatest artist in history. But to be the best, he must beat the best, the legendary sculptor of the David, Michelangelo Buonarroti. When Pope Julius II calls both artists down to Rome, they are pitted against each other: Michelangelo painting the Sistine Ceiling, while Raphael decorates the pope’s private apartments. As Raphael strives toward perfection in paint, he battles internal demons: his desperate ambition, crippling fear of imperfection, and unshakable loneliness. Along the way, he conspires with cardinals, scrambles through the ruins of ancient Rome, and falls in love with a baker’s-daughter-turned-prostitute who becomes his muse. 

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Why this is shaping up to be a wonderful competition, isn’t it?” The pope said with a musical lilt. “A Florentine in the Sistine, and an Urbinite in my apartments. May the best painter win.”

Stephanie Storey paints a fresco for readers: blending a fiery piazza in Florence with the eyebrow-raising shenanigans of the Vatican halls in Rome; highlighting Raphael’s insecurities and obsessions while illuminating Michelangelo’s gifts in sculpture and his unpredictable inadequacies in oil! Told in first person, which makes this novel an absolute delight, readers will gush at being taken into Raphael’s confidence, as he recounts the competition for becoming the best painter on the peninsula or even the world!

The reader is immersed in rich descriptions of Italian villages, the people’s deep emotion and devotion to family and the volatile political landscape of the late 1400’s. Strategies to succeed and be noticed by the pope and struggles with technique and recipes for a fresco mix, are the “tarps” over Raphael’s obsessive tendencies like twirling his father’s paintbrush or parting his hair behind his ears, and- oh the counting: una, due, tre, quattro– so he enters a room on the right number and foot! Readers will learn a bit of Italian and fill tablets with Renaissance history and places to visit. All this along with dukes, cardinals, palaces, and parades, are mixed into a stunning palette of plot and paintings.

Author, Stephanie Storey, suggests keeping a device handy for researching paintings so the visual descriptions and historical references may be appreciated and discovered as the novel progresses. This is good advice! The account of Raphael’s pondering, in retrospect, about the visit of Martin Luther to Rome and his possible reaction to the “sin, excess, and corruption” regarding the behavior of the cardinals, the pope, and the aristocrats, was certainly eye-opening and pointed to a naivete of the general population. Was this trip, in fact, what prompted Martin Luther to return home to Germany to write his bishop, including his 95 Theses; thus leading to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation?

Raphael hoped his paintings would “bend the world away from the earthly realm of violence, anger and war, and toward the heavenly ideal of harmony, love, and peace.” When a painting is revealed to the world the artist has no control of how it is received-people see what they want to see. The same is true when an author releases a book into the hands of readers- themes and characters are perceived in individual ways. After years of study and research, Stephanie Storey’s Raphael: Painter in Rome is a portrait of adoration and respect for the painters of the Renaissance. Her hope is that Raphael and his readers will “bend the world toward beauty.”

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We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall

Expected on June 16
This gorgeous map is provided for readers at the front of the book: Illustrated by Silvia Gherra, Italy https://susieschnall.com/books/we-came-here-to-shine/map/
World’s Fair History Provided by the author’s website: https://susieschnall.com/books/we-came-here-to-shine/worlds-fair-history/

Summary by Susie Orman Schnall

Set during the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, two intrepid young women—an aspiring journalist and a down-on-her-luck actress—form an unlikely friendship as they navigate a world of endless possibility, stand down adversity, and find out what they are truly made of during the glorious summer of spectacle and opportunity…

Vivi Holden is closer than she’s ever been to living her dream as a lead actress in sun-dappled L.A., but an unfair turn of events sends her back to New York, a place she worked so hard to escape from. She has one last chance to get back to Hollywood—by performing well as the star of the heralded Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular at the World’s Fair. Everything seems to be working against her, but her summer in New York will lead to her biggest opportunity to find her own way, on her own terms…

Maxine Roth wants nothing more than to be a serious journalist at the iconic New York Times, but her professor has other plans. Instead, she’s landed a post at the pop-up publication dedicated to covering the World’s Fair—and even then, her big ideas are continually overlooked by her male counterparts. Max didn’t work this hard to be the only—and an unheard one at that—woman in the room.

When Max and Vivi’s worlds collide, they forge an enduring friendship. One that shows them to be the daring, bold women they are, and one that teaches them to never stop holding on to what matters most, in the most meaningful summer of their lives.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Building the World of Tomorrow”- The theme of the 1939 World’s Fair in NYC. The fair spanned 1,216 acres with seven zones. Max was assigned to work as an intern in the Communications zone at “Today at the Fair,” a daily publication for each days’ events and Vivi was in the Amusement zone performing as the star of the synchronized swimming show. Check the map for those locations- isn’t that map the best? The girls are on opposite sides of the fairgrounds. So how do the paths of Max and Vivi cross? That’s what makes this “story go round!”

Susie Schnall employs an interesting mirroring technique in her opening lines of chapters 1 & 2 and even several more times in the novel. “Vivi Holden would eventually realize that not getting what she wanted that day was the best thing that could have happened to her.” Similarly, opening chapter 2 with, ” Maxine Roth would eventually realize that not getting what she wanted that day was the best thing that could have happened to her.” Each girl is coping with personal life dilemmas, power struggles in career paths and discerning conflicting dominant male opinions and uninvited advances. Schnall also uses foreshadowing early on when Vivi admits her sister has told her “she never wanted to see her again. And she couldn’t bring herself to even think of the other person. The potential of what could have been…”

Schnall takes the reader on a grand tour of the fair as the girls’ stories unfold. Readers will “yearn” for the girls to mature and grow in their own belief systems and find their own voice amidst the male dominated world in which they exist. Along with fabulous facts and descriptions of the World’s Fair, including a royal visit by King George VI and Elizabeth; readers will meet Elizabeth Dorchester and the National Woman’s Party. Max and Vivi hearing her speak at a rally, are inspired by rhetoric regarding women being treated equally in workplaces and how they should stand up for their ambitions. Remember, this is 1939. But sound familiar?

“Two friends who had shared an extraordinary experience, and extraordinary summer.” As Max’s professor had said, “The World’s Fair could be life-changing.” Susie Orman Schnall says it best: “All lit up by sunshine and optimism and a belief that the future and the better days it promised were just around the corner. The fair had a way of touching everyone who passed through its gates.”

We Came Here to Shine will change readers just as the 1939 World’s Fair changed Max and Vivi. Give it a “whirl!” ****

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A Return to Galveston, Texas 2020 The Uncertain Season by Ann Howard Creel

The Hurricane of 1900 devastated Galveston Island, but a storm of betrayal is still brewing.https://www.amazon.com/Uncertain-Season-Ann-Howard-Creel/dp/147780904X

A Return to Galveston 2020 and The Uncertain Season

The Pandemic of 2020 will certainly rival the place in history of the Great Storm of 1900, that ravished the island of Galveston, Texas. Upon the reopening of the state of Texas, a short return visit to Galveston celebrating our 48th anniversary was scheduled. Since reading The Uncertain Season, I’ve wanted to retrace the steps of Grace, Etta, and The Girl. We returned to Ward 5 and the alleys where Grace and Ira ministered to the impoverished families; we chose The Schaefer Haus-a Bed & Breakfast in the East End Historic District-complete with the plaque that denotes it as a “survivor”-near where Grace and her family lived; we toured the Moody Mansion-completed in 1895 and also a “survivor’ of The Great Storm. We also walked the East End streets to marvel at the beautiful architecture, intricate designs and vibrant colors, while absorbing the fragrant aromas of the lush gardens. In Ann Howard Creel’s acknowledgments she mentions Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm as part of her historical reference. We thought the purchase of this book while in Galveston would be a fitting reminder of our trip. Just reading the back cover and perusing the text has me intrigued. Here’s a photo gallery of “A Return to Galveston 2020.”

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

The Great Galveston hurricane, known regionally as the Great Storm of 1900, was the deadliest natural disaster in United States history,https://www.history.com/news/how-the-galveston-hurricane-of-1900-became-the-deadliest-u-s-natural-disaster

Overwhelming devastation to a city, its families, and the island itself; The Great Storm of 1900 that destroyed Galveston, Texas, is the setting for The Uncertain Season.

“Harry Gobinet knew something huge was blowing in, but even he didn’t foresee the magnitude of the storm coming their way. Still he saw enough to save them. “

An eleven year old girl and her friend, Harry, fight for their lives in a shrimp boat in Galveston Bay. Later, as they search for homes and family, the aftermath of the deadly storm of 140 mph winds engulfs the reader. Ann Howard Creel’s descriptions of the island devastation are recorded as she shares the storm’s impact on three women who find themselves in Galveston, 1903: the bold, but shamed Etta, from Nacogdoches, Texas; the privileged & engaged,but lonely Grace; and an elusive, mysterious islander known only as The Girl.

Amidst the building of the “modern engineering miracle,” known as the seawall, the author does a masterful job of weaving the gripping, coming of age of The Girl with the untimely unveiling of family secrets and betrayal, by both Etta and Grace. Adding the realizations of “living in a home where appearances were more important than the truth,” creates a compelling mystery. The upbringing, childhoods and parental influences of Etta, Grace, and The Girl, play an important role in individual reactions and emotional responses as each are battered about in the “personal storms of life.” Who survives the storms?

Powerful imagery, deep, emotional family situations involving trust, identity, regret, and forgiveness; the reader will “survive the storm,” but in the aftermath there will be that amazing feeling of freshness and beauty after a storm, along with the overwhelming relief and joy of new beginnings. Readers of The Uncertain Season will “be prepared” for the next storm. ***** GR

Galveston Historic District

After first writing for children, Ann turned her attention to Historical Fiction. Her first novel for adults, THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS, was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS. Her recent titles have been Kindle bestsellers and include WHILE YOU WERE MINE, THE WHISKEY SEA, THE UNCERTAIN SEASON, and her latest, THE RIVER WIDOW.

She now writes full-time. Ann’s main characters are always strong women facing high-stakes situations and having to make life-changing decisions. Her historical settings have ranged from Victorian-era Galveston to World War II in New York City. Her next novel, MERCY ROAD, to be published in 2019, takes readers to World War I France. Besides writing, Ann loves old houses, new yoga routines, and all things cat.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

A completely encapsulating read! Whether readers have been long time Jane Austen fans or have never read Pride and Prejudice, new fans will be born. Readers will immediately have empathy for each of the fictional villagers that Natalie Jenner has , in just one season of life in Chawton, England, breathed love and life. From the Great House to the ha-ha fences, to the pocket size copy of Pride & Prejudice, readers will be ready to stroll the village lanes and take a ride on Adam’s hay wagon. Reading The Jane Austen Society will bring readers much joy and wisdom regarding love, forgiveness and always new possibilities laced with hope. This Grateful Reader awards five easily earned 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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The Bright Side of Going Dark by Kelly Harms

“Even casual users know how absurd and unrealistic social media can be—yet keep logging on day after day. Kelly Harms takes this dichotomy to new heights in a clever and unputdownable story of two women whose so-called online lives collide IRL. I laughed, I cried, I came away from the experience with a newfound appreciation for life—which is to say THE BRIGHT SIDE OF GOING DARK is everything I’d hope for in a Kelly Harms novel, and more. I loved every page.”

— Camille Pagán, bestselling author of I’m Fine and Neither Are You

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Throw your phone over a cliff? Could you do it-go dark, for even a day? Read The Bright Side of Going Dark for insights into that odd, almost indescribable feeling of no social media feedback; no text, no GPS, Google; actually being without a phone for several days. (It’s rather mind boggling that we all used to live this way-well, those of a certain age, anyway.) This is a story of self-discovery without a device for support; rather, actually speaking face to face, having conversations via voice rather than text-and living in real life (IRL) Kelly Harms shares such insights into “going dark”, that one wonders, did she manage it, even for a few days? Readers will appreciate the candid conversations between sisters, mothers, complete strangers and of course, all the so called, “friends.”

Why are those ‘likes” and “loves” from followers so important? Kelly Harms finds the humor but also the serious consequences of not being truthful and sharing real feelings and fears, with those we love. And then there’s the whole “virtual life” some find so intriguing. Main characters: Mia- a social media “influencer” on Pictey with thousands of followers and sponsors, posts thirty/day; Paige-employed by Pictey as part of the Standards Enforcement /Quality Assurance Team whose job it is to flag “obscene, dangerous, inflammatory, cyber-bullying or any way humans are awful to each other;” and Jessica, Paige’s half sister, who has attempted suicide. Each young woman has much to learn-about living IRL and about each other. Every page is a gem.

The self-reflection and shared wisdom in this book will impact – daily- what readers think about when the phone is picked up to check FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter.

Here’s the IN REAL LIFE take-a-way: A Wish from Mia:

“Long quiet walks where the wind is your podcast. Lost wanderings where your instincts are your GPS. Peaceful early mornings where you have your nose in a cup of coffee instead of an email inbox. Yoga with a friend, not an app. Family time with no “shares” and lots of sharing. Mental selfies in the flat, calm reflection of a mountain lake. Sponsorships of children and animals. Quiet summer evenings where the stars are your backlight. A phone that’s used for calling someone you love. Friends, I wish you joy. I wish you airplane mode.”

Mia would make a great friend-now that she’s learned so much. There truly is a “Bright Side of Going Dark.” Read it, and then try it.

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The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes

“The Giver of Stars is a 2019 historical fiction book by Jojo Moyes about pack horse librarians in a remote area of Kentucky.  It is inspired by a real group of librarians who between 1935 and 1943 delivered books to some of the most remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains.”

“Jojo Moyes is a novelist and journalist. Her books include the bestsellers Me Before YouAfter You and Still MeThe Girl You Left BehindThe One Plus One and her short story collection Paris for One and Other Stories. Her novels have been translated into forty-six languages, have hit the number one spot in twelve countries and have sold over thirty-eight million copies worldwide.

Me Before You has now sold over fourteen million copies worldwide and was adapted into a major film starring Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke. Jojo lives in Essex.”

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“It’s women doing the riding. Delivering the books.” “Women?” “By themselves?” came a man’s voice. “Last time I looked, God gave ’em two arms and two legs, just like the men.” Margery O’Hare, in her “dark blue cotton coat and her unpolished boots,” had been working for weeks setting up the new library and Mrs. Brady had called a town meeting to explain the system and ask for more volunteers. Women, that is, to ride the routes up into the mountains to deliver books to the folks up in the hills. Mr. Guisler had offered his old milk barn to house the library, so all that was needed was “the support of right minded people!”

Alice Van Cleve, newly married and all the way from England, saw this as an opportunity to escape the day in-day out boredom of the house she was trapped in with her husband, Bennett, and his widowed father. The only escape from the overbearing opinions of her father-in -law and her mealy mouth husband was to attend hours of church and town meetings. So before she could think twice, Alice stood to volunteer her time as a pack horse librarian. Meeting Marge O’Hare was the best thing to happen to Alice-ever.

Lovers of books, history, friendship, and romance will be hooked from the very beginning of this tale that will have readers gripping the manes of mules, up from the hollers and into the hills of Kentucky and jostlin’ back down to the stuffy, courtroom of Baileyville. Among the hospitable folks of the Appalachians there are men to love and men to hate; all with good reason. The hardships of the Depression and the changing roles of women take center stage as fearful men reveal their true selves as they lose control of finances, the support of fellow workers in the mines, or the stability of meager crops and family homesteads ruined by floods.

The unbreakable bonds of friendship that grow between the women librarians; cross lines of class and color. Readers will rejoice in small steps of independence taken by five fellow librarians: Marge, Alice, Izzy, Beth, and Sophia. Their devotion to each other and the mission of the pack horse library is not to be taken lightly; lessons in relationships between women, men, neighbors, and civic duty are here for the taking. Readers may identify with “foreigner” Alice, be dependent on some sort of ‘brace’ like Izzy, or be subjected to gender or cultural discrimination like Beth and Sophia. The independent thinker, Margery, leads the librarians and readers to make bold self- examination of where allegiances are forged, how the pledge of support is maintained, and how to move forward when difficulties arise. Margery’s words, “There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth has gone and shifted under your feet. But there is always a way around.”

JoJo Moyes’ charismatic characters and descriptions of the Appalachian Mountains will be all readers need to devour this book cover to cover as quickly as possible; before the librarian rides up the trail to collect The Giver of Stars so someone else up the holler has a chance to read it.

The Giver of Stars by Amy Lowell

Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.
Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

The First Emma by Camille Di Maio

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The First Emma is a moving story of love, hope, and murder that captures one woman’s journey to make her mark on history and another’s desire to preserve it.

https://www.camilledimaio.com/

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“There is much in life that is out of our control. The answer is not to give up and crumble. The answer is to find a way around it, no matter the difficulty. No matter how impossible the obstacles.” This was Emma Koehler’s outlook and reason for her miraculous success in steering the San Antonio Brewing company through the storms of Prohibition and the Great Depression, after the scandalous murder of her husband, Otto Koehler, in 1914.

Chug along with Camille Di Maio as she takes young, naive Mabel Hartley on the arduous train trip from Baltimore to San Antonio, Texas. Mabel has been hand picked by Emma Koehler from hundreds of applicants, to listen and record, first hand, Emma’s account of her ideas, successes and the details of Otto’s murder, as she lives out the last days of her life. The morning ‘memory” sessions are laced with 85 year old Emma’s stern demands, which over the days and weeks grow into motherly concerns and sage advice for Mable. As winter turns to spring, Mabel’s interest in the brewing company is sparked and the wall around her heart begins to crack. Camille Di Maio peeks the readers’ historical interests by interspersing the memories of Emma with actual newspaper accounts from around the country and the world: Otto Koehler’s funeral, the “other Emmas” testimony, jury selection, the pending murder trial, and outcomes. The accounting of Emma Koehler’s life story is told graciously and with great respect, for this remarkable woman and her heroic accomplishments are even more inspirational when readers discover the view is actually that of a widow in a wheelchair.

The First Emma is brimming with details of household names such as Anheuser Busch, Lone Star, and Pearl. The details of the San Antonio brewery’s process for making of beer, along with the purchase of recipes and mother yeast from Germany, will have readers reaching for a “cold one” while cheering for Pearl to survive Prohibition and the Great Depression. Readers, especially from Texas, will “cotton to the likes of” references to the Majestic Theater, the Menger Hotel, and the Alamo.

Emma Koehler and her Pearl Brewing Company emerged from Prohibition as one of the only brewing companies not to go out of business. Emma listened to advice of friends in the beer industry and diversified; changing production to ice, ice cream, and even dry cleaning- thus keeping all her employees.

Camille Di Maio has accomplished a Texas sized feat by combining an inspirational and empowering account of Emma Koehler’s Pearl Brewing company success with the murder trial of the century.

Five Stars: Big and Bright, Deep in the Heart of Texas! GR

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Little Tea by Claire Fullerton

Release Day- May 1, 2020
Little Tea was a finalist in the Faulkner Society’s international William Wisdom Competition in the novel category
 
It is currently on the long list of the Chanticleer Review’s Somerset Awards.

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“There are some parts of your history your friends won’t let you outrun.”

Celia, Renny and Ava have been friends since they were thirteen years old growing up in Como, Mississippi. Now that they are “older” the realization is “we’re in it for life. Our dogged loyalty to each other is partially based on longevity. We’ve invested too much time in each other to turn back now.”

Celia has been asked to travel the long distance from California to a lake house in Arkansas, to spend a spontaneous three days with Renny and Ava, to help Ava figure ‘some things out.’ Celia has spent her adult life cultivating a safety zone far from her youth and the memories, but this is a rare request.

Celia’s lake house reunion with Renny and Ava confronting their adult issues and emotions, is as tangled as the Spanish moss in the oak trees lining the back roads of Como, Mississippi. Celia recounts their youthful escapades, laced with memories of her closest friend, Little Tea, and coming of age in the deep South during the 80’s. This era included the civil rights movement, feminism, and effects of the Vietnam War. The past is revealed through the eyes and heart of Celia, a devoted sister and daughter, whose own Wakefield family dynamics are inseparable from Little Tea Winfrey’s family, the “overseer and house help.” To add fuel to the fire, toss in two generations of Southern mothers, who were “born and loyal to Southern ways, which is to say the less you talked about something, the less real it became.” These Southern ways kept the family shutters closed on alcoholism, depression, the racial divide and even sexuality.

“Intuition is a double-edged sword when it threatens to reveal what it is you don’t want to admit.” Readers may cry or cringe at the racially charged situations Celia and Little Tea encounter and overcome. Readers who grew up in the South will come face to face with a way of life that one hopes is in the past, but may have to admit still exists at some level in some places. When not reflecting on personal beliefs and confronting uncomfortable social morays, readers will relish author Claire Fullerton’s intricate descriptions of the woods, the lanes, the lakes or front porches. Enthralled readers anxious to get a peek into Little Tea’s future will also personally experience the Southern seasons amidst the beauty, the heat and humidity!

Soak up some Southern history and charm as you read Little Tea by Claire Fullerton. Remember your manners and as Little Tea says, ” Go on with yourself.” GR

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Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey

A Spring 2020 Okra Pick
Parade’s 20 Most Anticipated Books of Early 2020
SheKnows’ 10 of the Most Anticipated Books Coming in 2020
Mary Kay Andrews’ Reading Challenge Women’s Fiction Pick
Working Mother’s 20 Most Anticipated Books of 2020 for Working Moms

From “the next major voice in Southern fiction” (Elin Hilderbrand) and the bestselling author of the Peachtree Bluff series comes an odd-couple tale of friendship that asks just how much our past choices define our happiness. 

Here “comes an odd-couple tale of friendship that asks just how much our past choices define our happiness. ”

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

Such a memorable time in our world and so many readers are having trouble concentrating – lamenting our “old” lives and the schedules that were so familiar to our hearts and digital “calendarized” brains. Here’s a chance to escape to the back porch of a stunning beach house with breathtaking views of waves, dunes, and sunsets; empty guest house included. This beautiful beachfront property belongs to Gray Howard, business owner and country club member. Her “lazy, soar on his wife’s coattails” husband has just left her for the company assistant the day after her mother’s funeral! Gray’s over-planned life is turned upside down. In the same town, Diana, aka “trailer trash orphan, has finally left her boy-friend of way too many years, been fired from her job in the photo lab at the local pharmacy, and is presently homeless; unless the Impala counts. These two gals from opposite worlds, but with so much in common, collide at the photo counter in the local drug store and thus begins the making of a very “odd couple.” Told in the alternating voice of Gray and Di, the two enter into a “symbiotic* ” friendship. Readers will surely find an emotional attachment to the servant heart of Di and come to appreciate the corporate, scheduled mind of Gray. A love story on several levels: mother/daughter, husband/wife, friend/friend. Readers will want to “sip ‘n savor” Feels Like Falling on every level.

The beaches are closed and in spite of SIP, readers can pack a tote for the backyard with lunch and a drink- tuck in a copy of Feels Like Falling -and experience a gratifying trip to the North Carolina shore.

* Symbiotic relationships are a special type of interaction between species. Sometimes beneficial, sometimes harmful, these relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and they provide a balance that can only be achieved by working together.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRcVMV-gXP4&t=12s&authuser=0

Listen to Kristy tell how she was inspired to write this story of unusual friendship.