books, reviews

Book Review & Author Q&A: Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes – Lynne Christensen

Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes (Friesen Press, June, 2022), the first book in the uplifting Aunt Edwina series, begins when free-spirited painter Julie Fincher discovers that her fiancé is a gold-digger, and she reluctantly decides to go ahead with the wedding to please her ailing father. The day before the wedding, however, the family’s beloved ninety-two-year-old Lady Edwina Greymore passes away and everything changes.

After Aunt Edwina’s passing, Julie is appointed executrix of her large country estate and discovers an intricate family history treasure hunt with clues scattered all around southern England that she now must solve. Leaving her deceptive new husband behind, Julie sets out on the madcap adventure of a lifetime, together with her eccentric, karaoke-loving cousin. Along the way, they meet well-meaning aristocrats, experienced genealogists, a handsome antiques shop owner, and a verbose lawyer with a curious potbellied pig.

A clean, uplifting, humorous novel, readers will enjoy solving riddles while picking up a few basic tips about doing their own family history research along the way.

Q&A with Lynne Christensen

Question: What inspired the Aunt Edwina series?

Lynne Christensen: One day, I was standing in our vast home library packed with topography, genealogy, travel, archives and museum books and thought that it was a real shame more use wasn’t made of it. It dawned on me–I am the daughter of a world­renowned genealogist and have spent my life visiting archives, historic places and museums all over the world. As a writer, it became instantly obvious that I was in a unique position to write a new uplifting series about family history. I’ve been a writer all my life, mainly in the corporate world, and saw a unique chance to write a novel series like no other.

Question: Your cover is so colorful! Why did you put a 92-year-old woman on the front?

Lynne: It made sense because she is the foundation of all that follows. Her family looks to Lady Edwina Greymore for guidance, composure and how to best serve the community. Of course they are a privileged family, but they know how to give back and include the people in their village and greater county. On a higher plane, ageism in entertainment needs to be halted, and it’s so scarily unusual to see a senior on the cover of a novel.

Question: Do you have to be an expert genealogist to understand this book?

Lynne: Absolutely not. It’s actually written for beginners, someone who’s starting to discover family history records, interviews, build a rudimentary family tree etc.

Question: What kind of fact-checking had to happen for this book?

Lynne: My mother, Penelope Christensen, PhD, has written 38 nonfiction research methodology books and is a world-renowned genealogy expert. I was fortunate to have her to rely upon for checking that the research sections were correct. I am by no means a genealogy expert myself but am extremely interested in historical lives, family heirlooms, social history etc.

Question: Who is your ideal reader?

Lynne: Readers today, I believe, are looking for an uplifting escape from all the challenges our world is experiencing. Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes is humorous family history fiction. It’s a niche category for those who love family history and all its twists, turns and eccentric characters. This book is a fun read filled with characters who will become friends.

Question: Is this a clean read, safe for all ages?

Lynne: Yes, there is no erotica, violence or profanity in this novel, making it easy to share with your children or grandmother without worrying about any dodgy bits! I understand that clean reads with substantive stories are in demand.

Question: When can we expect more from the Aunt Edwina series?

Lynne: Book 2 is already at the publishers and should hopefully be out late 2022. The Greymore team is in full action helping two new characters pursuing more family history adventures and knowledge.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lynne Christensen is a world traveler who enjoys visiting museums and archives. She grew up roaming around graveyards in Europe with her genealogy-loving parents in search of elusive ancestors. A lifelong learner, she earned both Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Commerce degrees plus has over twenty-five years of experience in marketing and corporate communications. Her writing is published in numerous magazine articles, case studies, advertisements and technical manuals. She lives on the West Coast of Canada in a house full of fascinating books.

Connect with Lynne at http://www.auntedwina.com and on Twitter (@LVChristensen), Instagram (@lynnevchristensen), and LinkedIn.

Aunt Edwina’s Fabulous Wishes will be available wherever books are sold.


My thoughts: I was sent this book for review, so thank you to the PR team. It sounded like lots of fun so I was happy to share it with you all.

After Julie discovers her brand new husband is cheating on her, and her grandmother/aunt Edwina has just passed away, she takes off a treasure hunt with her eccentric cousin Gertie to discover Edwina’s secrets and a forgotten love story.

The book is very funny and clever as Aunt Edwina’s clues have the duo meeting all sorts of interesting people from antique dealers, aristocrats turned hoteliers, and a lawyer who never uses one word when six will do! There’s also escaped rabbits, runway pigs, a lost puppy and a diversion to Scotland for the no good husband and his mistress.

Taking in parts of southern England, from Kent across to Devon, visiting the places the mysterious artist ‘E.E.’ painted and finding all sorts of keys and locks along the way. This was a fun and clever book, very enjoyable and accessible.

books

Author Q & A: 48 States – Evette Davis

The year is 2042, and the United States is recovering from a series of terrorist attacks that uprooted the government, revoked civil liberties, and erased two states from the map.

Widow, single mother, and Army veteran Jennifer “River” Petersen drives trucks for a living in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota. Forced to enlist after her father’s death, the lines of River’s life have been redrawn, much like the United States’ map has changed. Living in a motel room with nothing but her books and a Glock handgun for company, River is weeks away from returning home when an injured man standing in the middle of the highway upends her plans. 

From the moment he encounters River, Finn Cunningham knows he must choose between concealing his identity as the son of the president of the United States or be left for dead. His deception draws him and River into a megalomaniac’s deadly conspiracy to ignite a civil war and overthrow the government. 

If River and Finn are going to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another and themselves.

Fast-paced prose, with vivid narrative and rapid-fire dialogue, 48 States is perfect for readers who loved novels like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, California by Edan Lepucki, and Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins.

Purchase links: http://evettedavis.com/48-states/

Evette Davis is the novelist who created the “Dark Horse” trilogy, including novels Woman King and Dark Horse. The final installment will be published in 2023. Davis also co-owns BergDavis Public Affairs, a San Francisco-based public affairs firm. Before establishing her firm, Davis worked in Washington as a press secretary for a member of Congress and as a reporter for daily newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In 2014, she founded Flesh & Bone, an independent publishing imprint. In 2015, Dark Horse received honors at the San Francisco Book Festival. In 2017, Friends of the San Francisco Public Library named Davis a Library Laureate. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and Book Country. In 2021, 48 States was honored in the San Francisco Writers Conference Writers Contest. Davis splits her time between San Francisco and Sun Valley, Idaho, with her husband, daughter, and their American Labrador retriever. For more information, visit evettedavis.com, or follow her on Pinterest (@evettedavis399), Instagram (@evette1364), Twitter (@SFEvette), Facebook (@evette1364) and Goodreads (@evettesf).

Congratulations on your latest novel, 48 States. Please share a brief synopsis.

Widow, single mother, and Army veteran Jennifer “River” Petersen works as a truck driver in Energy Territory No. 1, formerly known as North Dakota. Forced to enlist after her father’s death, the lines of River’s life have been redrawn, much like the United States’ map has changed. Living in a motel room with nothing but her books and a Glock handgun for company, River is weeks away from returning home when an injured man standing in the middle of the highway upends her plans. From the moment he encounters River, Finn Cunningham knows he must conceal his identity or be left for dead. His deception draws them into a megalomaniac’s deadly conspiracy to ignite a civil war and overthrow the government. If River and Finn want to survive, they’ll have to learn to trust one another and themselves.
Where did the idea for this novel originate?I may be dating myself but there is a funny scene in the movie Working Girl where the young assistant has to prove she didn’t steal a business plan and is asked how she came up with the idea. In response, she pulls out a collection of seemingly random news clippings, that when strung together, validate her plan. 48 States is similar. I’d interviewed a panel of women veterans for a literary festival around the same time I was reading about the explosion of fracking in North Dakota. National Geographic had a feature about people who had left their homes and gone to North Dakota for work and one of them was a mother who left her family behind to drive a haul truck because the pay was so much better. I’d also been reading about Japanese Internment camps and had been surprised to know that the entire effort to relocate Japanese Americans had been done by Executive Order… that was the genesis of how I came to write 48 States. The book took five years and went through several major plot revisions, but I became interested in the issues of executive power, domestic refugees, and, of course, women who transform themselves.  

The book examines the dangers of extremism. What do you want readers to take away from this story?

We’ve lost the capacity to listen to opposing points of view with an open mind. In 48 States, a number of the characters run away from things they don’t want to hear or know about, which is wholly impractical. My books transmit a strong dislike for extreme politics–on both sides of the aisle. If I can accomplish anything, I hope it’s to help people remember that listening to ideas and understanding other people’s points of view is not dangerous. It’s also OK to forgive someone for making a mistake. We are human beings and humans need love, understanding and compassion to thrive.

In addition to writing novels, you work in public affairs. How does your day job influence your work as an author?

I’ve got a front row seat to political dysfunction and other interesting forms of human behavior every day. While I don’t model my characters after any specific individual, the collective experiences and personalities do inform my writing. I have an urban fantasy series–The Dark Horse Trilogy–that is set in San Francisco and despite the fact that all of the characters are supernatural beings, close colleagues ask me all the time if they are in the novel. To which I reply, “not unless you’re a vampire.”

How does music influence your writing and storytelling?

I have playlists for all my novels. Certain songs remind me of characters or play into the mood I’m trying to set in my novels. In some cases they become part of the story, like Duran Duran who performs in Serbia in my novel Dark Horse. The band actually does perform there somewhat annually as part of a summer music festival. 

You’ve had a few career pivots in your life, from journalism to political consulting to author. What advice do you have for anyone looking to change paths or those looking to start writing? 

What I like to share about myself is that I didn’t come to writing novels early in life. I’m not an MFA graduate. I’ve had a book in front of my face one way or another since I was able to read. Other kids won awards for sports, I won them for the number of books I read from the library. I started my career as a newspaper journalist because I have an overwhelming sense of curiosity about people. But I left journalism to work in politics in Washington DC and then I left DC to come back to the Bay Area and eventually I started my own public relations firm. 

I’ve had my “day job” for 23 years and along the way been a wife and raised a daughter who is off to college this fall. Not long after my daughter was born, I felt like something was missing in my life and I started writing. That writing became the novels I’ve since published. Not coincidentally, the characters in my books are usually female and often going through major transformations where they come to understand themselves and their skills. So I guess I’m saying I write what I know…I know that women are often transforming themselves and finding the source of their power. I’m at a point now in my life where I feel very powerful intellectually and it’s a pleasure to sit down and see where my imagination takes me.

I hope that joy creates books other people want to read and can relate to. I think life is a series of “acts” and you don’t have to stay in one place. If writing is something you like to do, then there is no time like the present to get started.

What have you read lately and loved?

Jesse Mihalik has a new series involving a female bounty hunter and veteran who is forced to work with an old nemesis from the war. The first book is called Hunt the Stars and it’s another captivating space opera involving kick-ass women and their alpha men. I just pre-ordered the second book which is due out in July. I devoured her other series The Consortium Rebellion and have reread them twice, because I love the sisters in the stories.

What’s next for you?

My next novel is coming out early 2023. It is the third and final installment of the Dark Horse Trilogy, with the working title, Death Wish.

Where can readers follow you and your work?

Contact – Evette Davis visit evettedavis.com, or follow on Pinterest (@evettedavis399), Instagram (@evette1364), Twitter (@SFEvette), Facebook (@evette1364) and Goodreads (@evettesf).

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: Pacific – Trevor J Houser

A FAST-PACED STORY OF ADVENTURE, FATHERHOOD AND DISCOVERY

“Very heartfelt and amazing story, loved it.” –Gus Van Sant

“If you are a father, or know one, Trevor Houser’s Pacific, is a wild, quixotic ride that will challenge your understanding of what it is to be a parent.” 

–Larry Colton, author of Southern League and Counting Coup

Would you be willing to kidnap your child and take them halfway across the globe for a chance at saving his life when everyone else has given up? When it means you may lose everything regardless of the outcome? Pacific by Trevor J. Houser (November 23, 2021, Unsolicited Press) discovers what a desperate father is willing to do to save his son…even if it means braving deadly storms at home and on the run.

On a remote Puget Sound Island, police chief Bell navigates his job and marriage in the wake of his son’s near-death brain surgery. When his wife no longer wants to tempt the fates of experimental medicine, he takes matters into his own hands. With the help of his spaced-out fisherman friend, Bell kidnaps his boy and sets sail for Guatemala in search of the mysterious Dr. Haas. On the way, they’ll brave the seventh biggest storm, befriend two behemoth fly-fishing Nords, and try to outrun the ex-Navy captain hired by his wife to find them.

With mesmerizing descriptions of the Pacific Northwest, Central America, and the miles in between, Houser captures the heartbreak and hope of a desperate parent, while still maintaining a sense of dark humor and playful language that turns the mundane into something mythic. For fans of Denis Johnson, Richard Brautigan and Jenny Offill, Pacific reminds us that there’s magic, beauty and hope in the world, if we’re just willing to go and look for it.

Trevor J. Houser is an advertising copywriter living with his family in Seattle, WA. He studied creative writing under Thomas Beller at Columbia University. His stories have been published in dozens of literary journals, including Zyzzyva, Story Quarterly, and The Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review. He’s been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. He also received special mention in Best American Fantasy Vol. 2. You can find the author on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and at www.houserfiction.com. Pacific is his debut novel.

Author Q & A

Question: This is your debut novel. How did writing a full-length piece differ from the short stories and other pieces you have published?

Trevor J. Houser: Although this is my first published novel most novelists have a closetful of novels they’ve already written that didn’t make it for one reason or another. For me the biggest difference in writing a novel is maintaining the energy of that initial idea. To maintain the consistency of that voice, of that style over the course of many months.

Q: Family and fatherhood is a major theme throughout Pacific. Did your own family life inspire your writing for this book?

TJH: I have a son who was diagnosed with a rare brain disease. After years of navigating all the unknowns and not really writing there was suddenly some light at the end of the tunnel with his prognosis and soon after I found myself writing this book. Pacific is somewhat based on the experiences we’ve been through with our son, but a lot of it is the made-up fantasy of a parent who wishes they could do something more just than talk to a million doctors and not sleep at night. Even though the way in which Chief Bell shows his love for his son might be considered unconventional, it demonstrates how fathers are just as capable as mothers in the depths of their feelings and devotion.

Q: How did the Pacific Northwest influence your story?

TJH: I grew up in Oregon, but afer leaving for college I lived for years in places like New York, San Francisco and Argentina. When I returned to the Pacific Northwest with my family a few years ago I think I forgot just how exotic and rich this place is. It took being away for so long to appreciate the strange beauty of it, which is what I hoped this book would be: strange and beautiful.

Q: Fans of which authors/books do you think would enjoy Pacific and why?

TJH: Hopefully fans of authors such as Kate Jennings and Jenny Offill will like it because of their sentence level precision in telling stories of hope and heartbreak. Donald Barthelme and Richard Brautigan for their playfulness with language and form, and their sense of humor. Denis Johnson for his melancholy strangeness. All my favorite writers tend to elevate the everyday through their language to make the mundane transcendent. To make regular life almost mythic. It’s something I try to accomplish on a sentence level and keep building it so that courses through the entire narrative

Q: What’s next for you and Pacific?

TJH: My second novel is coming out in 2023. It’s about a math hobbyist, who believes he’s discovered a theorem that might predict when and where the next mass shooting takes place.

Excerpt- Chapter One



I have a family. In the gray island-mists north of Seattle I have them. We bought a house in a place called Wolf Island with big Asian maples overlooking Padilla Bay. That first spring I drank wine on the porch and felt so proud. Sunlight through the mist and mossy trees. Feeling like life made sense. Do you know that feeling?
Except now we have a child who might die.
No one is sure. So many children die. But this is our child, so it’s different.
He has a rare brain disease. Like so rare if you say it in most hospitals they look at you with eyes that are kind but vacant, like a trout’s eyes as you lower it back into a cold spring stream.
Now I sit on street corners. I sit there and look at mountains or apartment buildings between me and the mountains. I sit there and look at cars and houses and lawnmowers with icicles on them.
Once we spoke to the doctors and they laughed. We all tried to laugh. We all tried to make it like it was something we could control. It was something humans had power over like the stock market or electronica. It was something that didn’t make you want to go back in time to when the world was saturated and beautiful and untouched.
That was a different person. That was a person putting a little blue sweater on this boy. He hated hats. He hated putting on shoes. He hated so many things.
Now we go to the doctor and laugh.
He looks at nurses and makes jokes and runs up and down the halls and they laugh. Bells. Stars. Planets go by. He is underneath all of that and he shows God what it means. God probably looks down. God looks down, I’m sure. God watches him and his rare diseased brain that is so rare and diseased his pediatrician had never heard of it.
One afternoon, I cried over the sink while eating an avocado.
It was an old avocado that I ate still in its cling wrap as more clouds formed above our small, lumpy yard. I was eating the avocado and looking out at our yard, the mysterious lumps, the sky, the trees. I just sort of smooshed half the avocado into my mouth, thinking of my son. His brain has blood vessels that are too large. His small heart. His small heart is so small.
I could become important. I could drive a speedboat over an iceberg with the Dave Matthews Band playing on the prow and nothing would change. I could become a Navy Seal, the best ever, and his brain would still have too much blood inside it. Those vessels would become enlarged.
His eyes would widen as we watch some muted game show on the TV that’s bolted to the wall surrounded by other children facing the possibility of death. His brain would expand. Or it already has.
On Sundays, we play Captain America.
He has the pajamas with the stars and stripes. He runs so fast and jumps nearly over the bed. He runs and jumps on the bed and makes this noise that isn’t a scream but has the same energy of a scream.
He makes noise.
He jumps and laughs.
blog tour, books

Blog Tour: The Lost Girls – Heather Young

A decades-old mystery of a missing six-year-old haunts a family for generations

In 1935, six-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her family’s vacation home on a remote Minnesota lake. Her disappearance destroys the family – her father takes his own life, and her mother and two older sisters spend the rest of their lives at the lake house, keeping a decades-long vigil for the lost child. Sixty years later, Lucy, the quiet and watchful middle sister, lives in the lake house alone. Before her death, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she leaves, along with the house, to the only person who might care: her grandniece, Justine. For Justine, the lake house offers freedom and stability – a way to escape her manipulative boyfriend and give her daughters the home she never had. But the long Minnesota winter is just beginning. e house is cold and dilapidated. e dark, silent lake is isolated and eerie. Her only neighbor is a strange old man who seems to know more about the summer of 1935 than he’s telling.

Soon Justine’s troubled oldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, her mother arrives to steal her inheritance, and the man she left launches a dangerous plan to get her back. In a house haunted by the sorrows of the women who came before her, Justine must overcome their tragic legacy if she hopes to save herself and her children.

HEATHER YOUNG is the author of two novels. Her debut, The Lost Girls, won the Strand Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Her second novel, The Distant Dead has also been nominated for the 2021 Edgar Award for Best Novel. A former antitrust and intellectual property litigator, she traded the legal world for the literary one and earned her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars in 2011. She lives in Mill Valley, California, where she writes, bikes, hikes, and reads books by other people that she wishes she’d written.

heatheryoungwriter.com @HYoungwriter


Q & A with author Heather Young

1. Who do you think is your ideal reader? 

Oh, good question! I’m grateful to everyone who picks up my book and keeps
turning the pages. I think the people most likely to do that are people who like slow-building, tense stories that dive deep into their characters and explore the reasons why they behave the way they do. In other words, people who like the psychological aspect of psychological thrillers.

2. What books and authors inspired you?

Mystery writers who create vivid, well-rounded characters, like Kate Atkinson and Tana French, and literary writers like Marilynne Robinson and Kazuo Ishiguro who render complex emotions with understated language. I will never write as well as any of these folks, of course, but I think reading them does help me write a little better.

3. What is your favorite place to read? 

Twenty years ago, my husband and I bought an old Victorian house that needed a lot of work. At the end of the renovation, I asked my father, a lawyer by day and carpenter by night, to build me a library so I would finally have a place to put all the books I’d been lugging around in boxes since I was twenty. He built me a masterpiece, a true Edgar Allen Poe Victorian book lair. It’s my favorite place to read and write.

Heather’s library, photo from the author. I am so envious, it looks amazing.

4. How has the pandemic affected your reading (and writing) habits?

I found it very difficult to focus on reading — the stress and uncertainty that hung over everything murdered my attention span. I typically read 40-50 books a year, and in 2020 I think I read five. 2021 has been much better, thank goodness. The same went for writing, although there the problem was that my husband and college-student son were suddenly working and studying in the rooms where I liked to write. But my son eventually went back to college and my husband I have worked out our respective workspaces, so that’s been better, too.

5. As a writer what drew you to the genre your book is in? 

I’ve always been a mystery reader, but I have to say I didn’t really see The Lost Girls as a mystery until my publisher started promoting it that way. To me it was a book about family, and how secrets and misguided loyalties can poison the lives of generations. I do think, though, that crafting a story around a murder is a great way to expose who your characters really are behind their polite facades. What makes an otherwise ordinary person commit the most heinous of crimes? What makes someone else keep the truth about that crime a secret? Loyalties, debts, regrets, pride, selfishness – all of these play a part, and they’re all heightened when there’s a murder involved.

6. When planning your next book do you do lots of research in advance or do you do that as needed? 

For the most part I research as I go. That’s what’s great about the internet; I can pause in the middle of a sentence and look up what bathing suits were like in the 1930s. Also, if I’m feeling blocked, I can put my novel on hold while I read a book about the Great Depression or comb through the Bible for verses my Puritanical character can obsess over, and still feel like I’m making progress.

7. And finally, are you currently working on a new book and if so, can you say anything about it? 

Yes! My next novel is set in a small town in Iowa during the second world war. Like The Lost Girls,  it’s something of a coming of age story, as a young girl confronts prejudice and the dark side of patriotism as a member of an “outsider” family. Throw in the murders of several young Mexican orphans and her brother’s secret life and I hope I end up with something that offers a slightly different perspective on World War II than those of the many excellent novels I’ve read that examine this era. 

Thank you so much to Heather for answering my questions and giving us all a glimpse into her life and work.

blogging, life

The Procrastinating Beauty Blogger Tag

The lovely Laura of Style Breakdown posted this tag post on her blog. As I am a famous procrastinator I thought I’d answer the questions as she suggested. If you like it, please do the same.

1. Name the beauty regiment that you rarely do.

I am always planning to apply a face mask to deep clean my face and rarely do because I am lazy.

2. Is washing your makeup brushes something you rarely do?

Yes, although Sal and Tifa would probably tell me off. I put off doing this all the time.

3. How long will you last with chipped nail polish?

Depends how annoying it is, I have been known to pick at the chips and make it worse, needing to repair the damage sooner.

4. How long will you put off buying/repurchasing a beauty product, even if you need it?

Not long, I tend to have a spare waiting in the wings, but if something really run out then it’s off to Boots I go.

5. What is your worst beauty habit?

I pick and poke any lumps or spots threatening to appear. I know I should leave my face alone but I can’t.

6. Name something non-beauty related that you put off doing all the time?

Taking out the recycling, only when it’s overflowing do I run out to the bins. Just sheer laziness.

7. When going out somewhere do you put off getting ready to the last minute?

Not really, I get anxious about being on time so often rush to get ready but I invariably forget something and have to rush around at the last moment.

8. Can you commit to a spending ban?

As long as nothing essential runs out, sure, but essentials must be repurchased.

9. How organised are your beauty/nail polish collections?

Not as organised as my brain in its analytical obsessiveness would like, but I’m working on getting it so.

I hope some of you lovely people take this tag up and have some fun with it. Thanks for reading.

ramblingmads