Book Club Recipe: The Bookseller

Today’s post by Ingrid of Edible Tapestry | @EdibleTapestry

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“Swedish pancakes on Saturdays and waffles on Sundays.” is what Lars Andersson cooks for his family on the weekends, according to his son, Michael, in Cynthia Swanson’s The Bookseller.

Blue-eyed Lars was born in Sweden. So as soon as I read what he made for his family every Saturday morning I was taken back to my childhood, when my sister and I would beg my mother to make the German pancakes from her homeland. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that her “pancakes” were French crepes. I did a little research to see if Lars’ Swedish crepes were similar. When I learned that they were, I knew that cheese and fruit filled crepes were perfect to go with Cynthia Swanson’s debut novel.

Pre-made crepes that can be found in some grocery store freezer cases can be used to save time, though I have included my crepe recipe here. The filling is a cinch to whip up, and any berries, other fruit, or preserves can be substituted for the strawberries, as could mini chocolate chips or chocolate curls. These Swedish pancakes are easy to assemble ahead of time, and are great chilled, which makes them simple to prepare for those who may want to serve them at book club meetings.

Strawberries & Cream Swedish Pancakes

Ingredients:

Confectioner’s sugar

Strawberries for garnish

Pancake Batter:

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour

4 eggs

2 c. milk

Pinch of salt

4 T melted butter

Butter for cooking

Strawberry Cheese Filling:

24 oz. carton of cottage cheese

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. sugar

1 c. sliced strawberries

Method:

Sift together the flour and salt. Whisk in eggs and a little milk until a smooth paste forms.

Whisk in the butter, beating well to incorporate it so it won’t solidify.

Vigorously whisk in the remaining milk to make sure all flour has been blended in and batter is lump free.

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Heat a crepe pan or small saute pan over medium heat. Melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan.

Ladle in about an ounce of batter, turning pan to allow it to coat the bottom.

Cook for approximately 30 seconds. Lift one edge of the pancake with the corner of a spatula. Flip the pancake over.

Cook for an additional 30 seconds. Shake to loosen the pancake as it cooks.

 

Slide the pancake off the pan and onto a plate.

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Repeat until all of the batter is used, adding butter between every few pancakes to the pan if it gets too dry and pancakes begin to stick.

Strawberry Cheese Filling:

Hull and slice the strawberries.

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Place the cottage cheese, vanilla, and sugar in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.

 

Assembly:

Spoon a line of the cheese mixture down one edge of each pancake and top with strawberries.

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Roll up. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Garnish with strawberries.

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Yield: 24 Swedish pancakes

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Our Favorite Indie Bookstores

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

It’s Independent Bookstore Day! Which means today’s the day to get thee to a local indie and show them some love. And by love we mean buy lots and lots of books. In honor of this special day, we decided to share some of our favorite indie bookstores, both near and far.

Marybeth’s favorites:

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Park Road Books is my local indie. It’s run by a top notch, caring staff of book lovers who are only too willing to talk about and share books with readers. I’ve been to my fair share of live events and been able to connect with some of my favorite writers there through readings and gatherings– something I can’t get anywhere else!

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Pelican Books is my home away from home indie– located at Sunset Beach NC it’s always part of my vacation plans and the first place I go to to get my beach reads for the season. Thanks to the book mavens of Pelican Books, I found Jodi Picoult, Patti Callahan Henry, and Karen White. I have such fond memories of browsing their wonderful selection of books, usually while my family sat waiting to get to the beach! But every true reader knows that book love can’t be rushed.

Ariel’s favorites:

Parnassus Books

Parnassus Books is my local indie in Nashville. I know, I’m spoiled. But I can’t apologize because I simply adore this bookstore. They graciously hosted the book release party for my novel and they’ve invited me to participate in a dozen events since then. I love their staff. I love their owners. And–this is no small thing–I love the entire menagerie of shop dogs that are lounging around on any given day. I don’t say this about many things, but this store lives up to all the hype. I’ll be there tonight as a matter of fact.

Fox Tale Book Shoppe

FoxTale Book Shoppe was the first store that ever hosted me for an event and they set the standard for being gracious, charming, and absolutely wonderful. The Foxes are among my favorite booksellers anywhere and I don’t believe you’ll find a more passionate group of book lovers anywhere. Every time I walk in the door it feels a bit like coming home. You can’t ask for more than that.

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What We’re Into: April Edition

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen and @ArielLawhon

Marybeth Whalen:

The month of April has been pretty full, in a good way. I made some significant strides in 3 areas: my publishing efforts, a podcast I’m starting with friends (look for news here soon! we plan to coerce Ariel into popping in there from time to time), and putting myself out there as a speaker. I didn’t get much writing done, though I did come back from a long blogging break for Lent on my personal blog so I guess that counts as writing.

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As a family we celebrated Easter, even if we were one child short due to a virus. The week after that we took a mini vacation to Sunset Beach NC, the setting for four of my five novels, over spring break.

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I continued teaching once a week, moving closer to that all important last day of school. We celebrated having yet another teenager in the house with my fifth child’s 13th birthday. And we really, really enjoyed having the leaves back on the trees and all the flowers blooming in our neck of the woods. Our neighborhood really is most beautiful at this time of year.

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Other things I was into:

These articles all about science and reading/writing. I love when scientists prove what I already knew!

Science Has Good News For Couples Who Read Together

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Read Fiction

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love To Write

This quote from this post by Marisa de los Santos, one of our spring authors, made me glad I bought this book.

“All I know is that I loved having my day’s work spelled out for me. I loved standing on the edge of the cliff with a bridge in front of me instead of nothingness. Of course, I still had to listen to my characters, still had to let the plot grow organically. David and I made major changes to our outline as we went along, but there was something there to change. I loved it, all of it. I hadn’t had so much fun writing a book since I wrote my first novel, back when everything was new.”

Binge watching Bloodline and Broadchurch. I liked one immensely more than the other. Care to guess which one?

As for books, I was one of the first in line to get Kimberly McCreight’s new suspense novel Where They Found Her. I tore through it, anxious to see how she was going to tie all the story threads together, and she did. Though I was a bit disappointed over something that was revealed in the end, (I can’t say why I was disappointed or I will give it away) I did find the book to be a page turner.

I listened to Death Cab for Cutie’s new album Kintsugi pretty much nonstop. It was a nice soundtrack to all my walks. When I wasn’t listening to that album, I was listening to Brandon Flowers’ new song, Can’t Deny My Love. And, because She Reads is devoted to all things story, I will add it here, as it was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story Young Goodman Brown.

And if you love Hawthorne don’t miss Erika Robuck’s new novel, The House of Hawthorne We will have an author to author interview about it coming up here in the first week of May… so don’t miss it!

Ariel Lawhon:

All I did in April was finish my novel. True, I ate and slept and did all the normal human things. My daily life with my family didn’t change. But every ounce of creative energy was focused on that singular goal. Finish. The. Novel. I’ll tell you, friends, it felt impossible. It felt impossible from the day I decided on the idea. It felt impossible the entire year that I worked on the book. It was exciting and tricky and, in the end, gut wrenching in a way I didn’t anticipate. And then it was done. I think I’m still a bit in shock.

Impossible

Now that I’m a normal human again, I am very much into lunching. Every day this week I’ve woken up wondering what I’m going to do with myself. I take the boys to school and instead of sitting at my desk and working like a madwoman, I putz around for a bit and then go to lunch with friends I’ve ignored for months. I’ve become that person who uses “lunch” as a verb. I don’t even know who I am anymore.

I am really, REALLY into my agent and editor at the moment. It’s a scary thing to let go of a new book. Even when you’re putting it in the hands of people you adore and trust. It feels like streaking and therapy and walking hot coals all at once. It’s terrifying. And I’m not sure what to tell you about the few short days that I spent waiting for them to read the book other than my brain sort of went blank. I spent an entire day reading. I went out for chocolate cake. I discovered Tennessee Sipping Cream. The book arrived on my agent’s desk on a Tuesday morning and she called me in tears on Thursday afternoon. I was at the grocery store, in the produce aisle, with all my children and I will never forget the conversation we had. Or how I sat in my car and cried (very good tears) afterward. The next day my editor called and left the kind of voicemail every author hopes to get at least once in a lifetime. I can’t see any scenario in which I will delete that message.

And now, as I begin turning my thoughts toward the editing process I am reminded of this quote (sent to me by Marybeth, of course, because she sends me all the good stuff) and I am very thankful that I have this kind of editor. I’m thankful she can still see the ship and is delighted that it exists.

“In my experience of writing, you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and you have to assume the ship’s exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the docks, who can say, Hi, I’m looking at your ship and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked and it looks to me, as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.” — Michael Crichton

 

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When Our Selection Process Gets Personal

Today’s post by Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon | @MarybethWhalen @ArielLawhon

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One thing we look for as we decide on our seasonal selections are books that resonate on a personal and emotional level. We want those books that stick with you, that make you think, and that maybe even change the way you view the world after reading them. Some books are just fun. Some are just suspenseful. Some are uber romantic. And some are a combination of all of these. But some– the very special ones– feel a bit more… personal as you read them. Like perhaps the author has been reading your mail, peeking in your windows. At She Reads we believe that story is the shortest distance to the heart. But sometimes a novel finds an even faster route.

The best novels make us hope, make us feel, make us envision a future that, before we cracked the cover, we never dared dream of. These are the novels we endeavor to bring to you, dear readers. The novels that mattered to us first in hopes that they’ll matter to you as well.

Marybeth on the selection process:

That was the case for me as I read two of our spring books. THE DAUGHTER by Jane Shemilt is about a doctor whose teenage daughter has gone missing. This woman has been–some would say– successfully juggling work and family, but in the year since her daughter’s disappearance she’s begun to doubt just how successful she’s been. How well did she really know her daughter? How well can we really know anyone? What’s the right amount of parental involvement? Can there be a happy medium struck somewhere between hovering and abandonment? These are all questions the main character grapples with during the course of the novel. And they’re all questions that, as the mother of a couple of teens myself, I’ve grappled with.

With THE PRECIOUS ONE by Marisa De Los Santos, it got even more personal. In the novel, the main character gets summoned to her estranged father’s house to assist after he’s suffered a heart attack. Once there she comes into contact with not only her estranged father after many years of separation but also his child by his second marriage, the perfect daughter who is “the precious one” of the title. As Taisy struggles to get to know this sister she’s never really been around and come to terms with the breakdown in relationship with her father, I saw myself again and again. I too have a father I am estranged from. I too have a half sister I do not know. I too struggle with what exactly my connection is to these two separate but connected people. As I read the novel– not to give anything away– I found myself desiring some sort of happy ending, either the one that the Taisy got, or something close. Though I don’t see that happening as of yet, this novel gave me hope that it could. And that it isn’t wrong to think that it might.

Ariel on the selection process:

Every time I think of THE BOOKSELLER by Cynthia Swanson I think of these lines from Don Henley’s song, “For My Wedding,”

To want what I have

To take what I’m given with grace

Years and years ago when I got married I asked my husband to add this song to our reception playlist specifically because I loved those lyrics. And I still do–more so now that we’ve just celebrated our fourteenth anniversary. But life is hard. Marriage is hard. And when you add kids into the mix? Dang hard. THE BOOKSELLER explores these truths and these hardships in one of the more brilliant ways I’ve yet seen: a young woman, Kitty Miller, gets to live two alternate lives and is then forced to choose between them. In one of these lives she’s carefree and single and a bookseller in 1960’s Denver. But in her dream life she is Kathryn, a beloved wife and mother living in an idyllic world a mere three years later. As I read this book I knew that every woman, in her most honest, most lonely, most difficult moments has wondered about the other choice. The one she didn’t make. And she has weighed that decision against the reality of what her life has become. That’s powerful stuff, my friends. So as I read THE BOOKSELLER, I saw so much about the truth of singleness and married life. Motherhood. Dreams. Reality. And in the end this book made me want what I have and it made me desire to take what I’m given with grace. That’s why I insisted we include it as one of our spring books.

More than anything we hope you’ll consider reading each of these novels. We think you’ll find yourself on the pages. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll even find a new favorite book.

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Would You Keep Reading?

Today’s post by yours truly | @ArielLawhon

Confession: Marybeth and I get more novels through the door than we can ever read. And we’ve learned to quickly identify the books that most appeal to us. One of the ways we sort through the daily UPS delivery is by reading the first page of the many novels that come our way. So often that page is an immediate indication of whether or not we will love a book. There’s just something about the tone and the cadence and feel of a good book right off the bat. So we thought it would be fun to begin a new series where we introduce you to a novel by it’s first page. And we can’t think of a better book to launch this series with than Nicole Baart’s, THE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS, out today from Atria Books. We’d love you to chime in by taking a look at the excerpt below and letting us know whether you would keep reading. (Spoiler: we were hooked.) And we have a copy of THE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS up for grabs today. (See the entry form below for details.) Congratulations to Nicole, and we hope you enjoy!

It was less a car accident than a struck match.

Adrienne had felt off all day, lopsided and a little dizzy, like the time she had taken the cable car to the top of Gibraltar and nearly fallen off the rock from vertigo. But she had ignored the strange sense of premonition, the feeling that her world was about to change, because Adri didn’t like change. And she didn’t like the madness exploding around her, each scene a snapshot so smudged and surreal she had to wonder if it was all a bad dream. A nightmare. But it wasn’t.

Broken glass. The thick scent of gasoline whipped up by the wind. Two dark slashes on the concrete that marked the place where the truck driver had hit the brakes too late. The road was a menacing swath of sharp edges, and the crowd a riot of colors and fists and dialects Adri didn’t understand. She could taste the musky press of hot skin, the sour-sweet tang of the red dust that churned beneath her feet. It was familiar and foreign, home and away.

She wasn’t afraid until someone reached into the wreckage of the overturned truck and brandished a single bottle that hadn’t been shattered in the rollover. It was an empty Fanta bottle, utterly harmless. Until he smashed it against the the upturned bumper and held it, jagged and glittering, like a blade.

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The Beautiful Daughters

About the book:

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). THE BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.

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Rough And Rugged: A Reading Roundup

Today’s post by our own Marybeth Whalen | @MarybethWhalen

Are you an outdoor girl? Do you love books like WILD and INTO THIN AIR? Or are you someone who just loves to read inspiring stories about what it takes to survive? Either way, we’ve got some new fiction titles for you to add to your “to be read” list!

After We FallAfter We Fall by Emma Kavanaugh

Publisher description:

Blood stains the carpet of an empty house. A front door slams behind a mother with a suitcase full of secrets. Someone screams. A plane falls out of the sky.

Cecilia made the hardest decision of her life moments before she stepped onto the plane that would bring her world crashing down. Her marriage was failing before even getting off the ground, and her desperate need to start over has driven her to abandon her family. Now, as her plane plummets toward the ground, she wishes she had given her son one last kiss good-bye. As tragedy meets mystery, Cecilia and three others, each struggling with their own secrets, become connected on one fateful night when lives are lost in the sky and on the ground.

 

In The Unlikely EventIn The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Publisher description:

When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.” Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly. But life goes on and Blume digs deep into her characters—we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between. . . . Most important, In the Unlikely Event is filled with the same warmth and authenticity that have won Blume the hearts and minds of readers of all generations.

 

The Mountain StoryThe Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

Publisher description:

Four go up the mountain, but only three will come down…

On the morning of Wolf Truly’s eighteenth birthday, he boards the first cable car to head up the mountains just a few miles from his sun-bleached trailer home in the desert community outside of Palm Springs. Armed with nothing but the clothes on his back, Wolf’s intention that morning was to give up on life—specifically at the mountain site of his best friend’s tragic accident one year ago. But on that shaky ride up the mountain, fate intervenes and Wolf meets three women that will leave an indelible imprint on the rest of his life. Through a series of missteps, the four wind up lost and stranded among the forested cliffs—in sight of the desert city below, but unable to find a way down.

As the days pass without rescue, we come to learn how each of them came to be on the mountain that morning. And as their situation shifts from misadventure to nightmare, the lost hikers forge an inextricable bond, pushing themselves, and each other, beyond their limits.

Reminiscent of John Krakauer’s modern classic Into the Wild and Cheryl Strayed’s #1 bestselling Oprah-endorsed Wild, Lori Lansens’ The Mountain Story is a deeply affecting novel that pays homage to the rugged beauty—and utterly unforgiving nature—of the wilderness, and considers the question: What price are you willing to pay not only for the ones you love, but for a complete stranger?

 

Happiness for beginnersHappiness For Beginners by Katherine Center

Publisher description:

A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It’s supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother’s even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can’t imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen’s well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen’s own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

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Author to Author: The Women’s Fiction Edition, Part 2

Today’s post by Kim Wright and Belinda Jones | @Kim_Wright_W @BelindaTravels

We’re delighted to bring you part two of our women’s fiction interview today in which Belinda Jones chats with Kim Wright about her novel, THE CANTERBURY SISTERS. I have a weakness for novels told through multiple points of view. Add the fact that it takes place in England and I’m completely sold! I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting Belinda Jones but I can say from personal experience that Kim Wright is an absolute gem. I’m grateful to call her a friend and I’m certain you’ll find this post both enlightening and entertaining.

Women's Fiction Collage

BELINDA: Both our stories revolve around a group of women taking a transformative trip. You have 9 deftly-differentiated leading ladies in THE CANTERBURY SISTERS – what made you choose that number and did any of their characters evolve in a way that took you by surprise as you were writing them?

KIM: The number nine arose completely by chance. During the time her mother Diana was sick, my main character Che promised she’d take her to Canterbury Cathedral for healing. They never make it, so after Diana dies, Che knows she at least needs to take her ashes on the pilgrimage they planned. She quickly learns she can’t walk the trail alone, so she falls in with this group of women – the Broads Abroad. She’s reluctant at the beginning, because Che’s normally a loner and doesn’t believe she has anything to learn from anybody. I wanted the group to have variety so that the stories would, and nine felt like a complete number.

All of the women surprised me in one way or another. In my first draft I had them arrive at a stream while walking and this thought struck me: “The way each woman crosses this stream will be a clue as to how she approaches everything in her life.” And that’s when they started to emerge for me as individuals. Some of them plunged right in, others were careful and analytical, some waited to see what would happen to everyone else before they chose their route, etc. It was like I was watching each individual personality emerge as I wrote the stream scene.

BELINDA: I had the rather easier task of taking a cake-themed road trip around New England while researching THE TRAVELING TEA SHOP whereas you walked for six days from London to Canterbury! Did you really make your pilgrimage in November? If so I am doubly in awe! How did your own journey mirror or differ from those of your Canterbury Sisters?

KIM: The trip was a blast – and I got incredibly lucky with the weather. It only rained four out of the five days!

When I started doing research, I realized that large parts of the Canterbury trail were broken by private land and highways, but about 40 miles were walkable. Just like Che, I knew I’d need a guide and just by poking around on the internet, I found the perfect one. A woman about my age, Jane Martin, who heads up a company called Tours of the Realm where she custom designs vacations around people’s interests. If she hadn’t been there pointing out the tiny little trail markers, I’d probably still be wandering around some field somewhere outside of Dover.

Since Jane was from the area, she went home every night and I stayed in a sequence of pubs along the trail. That was really fun because these are small, out of the way towns that don’t get a lot of tourists. The “inns” usually turned out to be a single room or two for rent above the village pub and the locals were gobsmacked that I was walking the trail. One night I got pulled into a game of darts and this one guy, drunk out of his mind and egged on by his friends, leaned over and whispered in my ear “Come with me to the smoking garden.” A smoking garden is just what it sounds like – a little yard outside the pubs where everybody goes to smoke. And make out too, I guess. I didn’t go with him, but an altered version of that night wound up being my favorite scene in THE CANTERBURY SISTERS.

BELINDA: I think of THE CANTERBURY SISTERS as a treasure trove of stories – readers are treated not only to the tales of the women on the walk but also stories of Thomas Becket, Sir Gawain, figures from Greek mythology, Disney’s Cinderella et al. It makes for a very rich, thought-provoking read. What classic or iconic storyline, be it literary or from movieland, do you personally most identify with? (For myself I would chose Thelma & Louise!)

Kim: Thelma and Louise is a good one. I’ve always been crazy about myths and fairy tales and having to come up with nine stories to weave into the main plot let me explore a variety of them. My favorite is Psyche, who was forbidden to see her husband in the light, because I think all women struggle to “see their husbands” in one way or another. That’s one of the recurring themes of my books – we’re all so complex, with so many fears and dreams, that no one completely knows anyone – not even their mother, husband, sister or best friend. There are always more layers to pull back.

BELINDA: I can see from your book that you love the research aspect of writing as much as I do! Early on you explain that the Canterbury pilgrimages began as a group pursuit simply from a safety standpoint – that a traveler would have been too vulnerable to robbers had he walked the path alone. I love nuggets like this – did you have a favorite fact that you unearthed that went on to inform the story?

Kim: I was amused to learn that Canterbury Cathedral was basically the world’s first tourist trap. Even while Thomas Beckett was in the process of being murdered in the church, the monks were already mopping up his blood and planning to sell the pieces of cloth to gullible pilgrims. As it turned out through the years EVERYBODY went to Canterbury in the spring seeking redemption or miracle cures or some sort of peace of mind. It was the Disney World of the middle ages.

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The Canterbury Sisters Cover ImageAbout the book:

In the vein of Jojo Moyes and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a warm and touching novel about a woman who embarks on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral after losing her mother, sharing life lessons—in the best Chaucer tradition—with eight other women along the way.

Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.

Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.

Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.

Author photo - Kim Wright (1)About the author:

Kim Wright is the author of LOVE IN MID AIR and THE UNEXPECTED WALTZ and has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty years for many magazines, including Wine Spectator, Self, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. She has twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing. THE CANTERBURY SISTERS is her third novel, and she also ballroom dances competitively. Kim lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

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Author to Author: The Women’s Fiction Edition

Today’s post by Kim Wright and Belinda Jones | @Kim_Wright_W @BelindaTravels

The term “women’s fiction” is a hot topic in publishing these days. And for good reason. Some people consider it a description and others consider it an insult. Regardless of where you stand on subject we’ve got two authors today who refer to their own work this way. Belinda Jones and Kim Wright are the authors of THE TRAVELING TEA SHOP and THE CANTERBURY SISTERS and they have agreed to interview one another in our ongoing “Author to Author” series. It would be quite appropriate for you to grab a cup of tea and get comfortable while they discuss the intricacies of their genre and the inspiration behind their new novels. Up first, Kim interviews Belinda about THE TRAVELING TEA SHOP. And don’t forget to check back on Thursday when we’ll have part two in this series.

Women's Fiction Collage

Kim: So many women’s fiction writers open their books with their protagonist in a dither over some man or another.  (I’ve been known to do this myself!)  But at the start of THE TRAVELING TEA SHOP, it’s clear that Laurie’s most troubled relationship is with her sister.  Why did you choose to make female-to-female relationships so central to the book?

Belinda: I have certainly begun with my fair share of man-mangled heroines but this time I wanted to try something a little different.THE TRAVELING TEA SHOP was to complete a long-running UK book contract and it felt like the end of an era to me so I asked myself, if this was the last novel I ever write, what would I really like to focus on? I found the idea of writing about four women from four different generations so appealing and, interestingly, after 14 years of trying to get a US publisher, this was my first title to get an American deal! I’m currently with Penguin/Berkley so I’m rather glad I took that route! The companionship of women is a common theme to both our stories and one of my favorite things!

Kim: It strikes me that a trait we have in common is that we both weave real life places into our stories.  You’re an ex-pat Brit writing about America inTHE TRAVELING TEA SHOP and I’m an American writing about England in THE CANTERBURY SISTERS.  What are the payoffs and perils of writing about a land that’s not totally your own?

Belinda: For me it’s all payoff and no peril! Nothing inspires me more than a foreign shore. I love how everything seems new and intriguing and my stories essentially serve to showcase a destination – for example, when I wrote a book set in Tahiti I made the heroine an art historian so I could explore the Gauguin connection and one of the love interests was a jeweler on a black pearl-buying mission. (I learned so much about all the varieties from peacocks to baroque!) So even though the stories are fiction, each of my books can also double as a travel guide.

Kim: In a thematic sense, you combine two things that I love and that I think a lot of people love – food and traveling.  How important are these things in your own life?  Do they play a symbolic role in your stories?

Belinda: Well, my dad thought I was going to be a food writer since I always returned from my travels rapturising about all the marvelous things I had eaten along the way but I have absolutely zero culinary skills, even writing this whole book devoted to the wonder of cakes I have yet to bake one of my own. Travel is my greatest passion and my muse – all my books basically tell the story of a woman (or women) transformed in some way by the country they visit and the culture they experience, be it Cuba or Greece or Italy. I’m swooning a little just listing those countries!

Kim: Did you take a road trip through New England for this book?  I suspect you did, since the details are layered and spot-on.  I walked to Canterbury as research for THE CANTERBURY SISTERS.  Why is research so important, even for fiction writers?

Belinda: I did indeed road trip around New England, though I was driving a Ford Escape as opposed to a double-decker bus! As the book has a strong mother-daughter theme I thought it would be apt to take my own mum but it was a big mistake – she’s a total health nut and every time I was presented with a new cake to taste test she would cry, ‘You’re never going to eat all that!’ Even confronted with a French patisserie oozing with fresh cream éclairs and the prettiest fruit tarts she ordered a bowl of carrot soup.

Perhaps you and I are both especially keen on research because we have a background in journalism and like to get all the facts and details right! I even had the pastry chef at the Waldorf Astoria demonstrate how to make a Red Velvet Cake as that is where the recipe originated. The kitchens were amazing – they spanned an entire Manhattan city block!

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The Traveling Tea ShopPublisher’s description:

The Traveling Tea Shop follows four women from four different generations as they take a cake-themed road trip around New England. Their mission is to trade recipes for English classics like Victoria Sponge and Scones for American tea-time treats such as Red Velvet Cake and Boston Cream Pie.

Along the way secrets are revealed and hearts are healed as each woman has her own taste of romance. Many cups of tea will be brewed as they learn that love isn’t always a piece of cake!

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Belinda JonesAbout the author:

Belinda Jones is the bestselling British author of 11 travelicious women’s fiction novels and one Sunday Times Top 10 road trip memoir. The prequel to The Traveling Tea Shop – Winter Wonderland – is set during the Quebec Winter Carnival and features ice palaces, husky puppies and maple syrup pie! Belinda lives on the book-loving island of Coronado with her dog Bodie.

 

 

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Nobody Knows You Better

Today’s post by New York Times bestselling author, Ann Packer | @AnnPackerAuthor

Ann Packer

Ann Packer, photo credit: Elena Seibert

A few weeks ago I woke up from a dream with the words “Nobody knows you better” in my mind.  Actually, it wasn’t just the words; they were accompanied by the tune of “Nobody Does it Better,” the Carly Simon song.  I realized with amusement (and chagrin) that I’d had a book promotion dream.  My new novel The Children’sCrusade revolves around a family, the Blairs of Portola Valley, California, and if there were to be a theme song written for the book, the songwriter could do worse than to start with “Nobody knows you better” sung to the Carly Simon song.

The Blair family consists of Bill, the pediatrician father; Penny, the artist (well, she wants to be an artist) mother; Robert, the striver, the worrier; Rebecca, the smart one, the only girl; Ryan, the sweet one; and James, the miniature wild man, the problem child, the one who can’t seem to settle down even in adulthood.

Who was in your family of origin?  Lots of kids or just you?  How about your family now?  How important is birth order in the way everyone gets along?  Did your parents (do you) parent all the kids in the same way, or do you agree with Rebecca, who says in the novel, “No two siblings have the same parents.  My father was not the same person as Robert’s father.  My mother was not the same person as Ryan’s mother”?

There are characters to love in this book and characters to gape at.  And there’s plenty to debate, starting with the most complicated relationship in the book, the one between mercurial mother Penny and her impulsive youngest, James. And the troubled marriage at the novel’s center: who is more responsible for its problems: seemingly perfect husband Bill or his admittedly difficult wife?

I’m hoping that The Children’s Crusade will give your book club much to ponder about the way families function. One of the pleasures of book clubs is the way discussions of the books you read open outward into probing and far-reaching conversations about life, and I’d love to hear back from you about what you shared and learned about each other’s families and your own.  After all, “nobody knows you better” than your family.

Visit www.annpacker.com or connect with Ann on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1DFjL6u

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The Children's CrusadeAbout the book:

From the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, a sweeping, masterful new novel that explores the secrets and desires, the remnant wounds and saving graces of one California family, over the course of five decades.

Bill Blair finds the land by accident, three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife, at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them. She finds salvation in art, but the cost is high.

Thirty years later, the three oldest Blair children, adults now and still living near the family home, are disrupted by the return of the youngest, whose sudden presence and all-too-familiar troubles force a reckoning with who they are, separately and together, and set off a struggle over the family’s future. One by one, the siblings take turns telling the story—Robert, a doctor like their father; Rebecca, a psychiatrist; Ryan, a schoolteacher; and James, the malcontent, the problem child, the only one who hasn’t settled down—their narratives interwoven with portraits of the family at crucial points in their history.

Reviewers have praised Ann Packer’s “brilliant ear for character” (The New York Times Book Review), her “naturalist’s vigilance for detail, so that her characters seem observed rather than invented” (The New Yorker), and the “utterly lifelike quality of her book’s everyday detail” (The New York Times). Her talents are on dazzling display in The Children’s Crusade, an extraordinary study in character, a rare and wise examination of the legacy of early life on adult children attempting to create successful families and identities of their own. This is Ann Packer’s most deeply affecting book yet.

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When Real Life Inspires Fiction

Today’s post by Jane Shemilt, author of THE DAUGHTER | @JaneShemilt

We’re delighted to introduce you to Jane Shemilt. She’s the author of THE DAUGHTER, one of our spring book club selections, and today she shares a bit about how her real work as a doctor inspired the novel. We hope you enjoy and we hope you stop by your local indie bookstore to pick up a copy.

Jane Shemilt

Jane Shemilt

The Malcolm family in THE DAUGHTER is a family that seems like so many others with growing children; for a working mother, it means running a career and caring for everyone. Jenny, the protagonist of the novel is so busy that she fails to see the secrets that her loved ones have been keeping and the lies they’ve begun to tell.

I loved creating this family; unlike my own, I could make the children and even the husband do exactly what I wanted. It allowed me to play with universal fear: what parent hasn’t known the paralysing terror of a child disappearing and the frantic moments that ensue? It’s the same if your teenager doesn’t come home when she promised; as the moments and hours tick by, the anguish builds. I wanted the reader to ask the same questions that the Malcolm family had to: what if your beloved child stepped into the shadows lurking beyond the bright circle of family life? What if she didn’t come back?

The themes of THE DAUGHTER are about loss and grief and how we survive them. Inspired by my work as a doctor in the dockland area of Bristol, it also looks at how some doctors play God. In its focus on family dynamics it is also about growing up and letting go.

Buried in the heart of the book is hope. Jenny is the mother whose gilded life vanishes, who loses everything it’s possible to lose: her daughter Naomi, her family, her marriage, her career and her home. A year on, in the silence of a small cottage, she paints as consolation; in the picture that evolves of flowers leading to fruit becoming seeds, there is a symbol of new beginning.

At this stage, a year later, is Jenny wrong to hope that emerging evidence might lead her to Naomi? That’s for the reader to find out after navigating twists and turns in the plot, taking the journey with Jenny from shock and trial to hard won strength.

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The DaughterAbout the book:

In the tradition of Gillian Flynn, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, this compelling and clever psychological thriller spins the harrowing tale of a mother’s obsessive search for her missing daughter.

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

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