Category Archives: Authors

Handling the Truth with Beth Kephart

handling_the_truthFINALIf you want to write memoir, you need to set caterwauling narcissism to the side. You need to soften your stance. You need to work through the explosives – anger, aggrandizement, injustice, misfortune, despair, fumes – toward mercy. Real memoirists, literary memoirists, don’t justify behaviors, decisions, moods. They don’t ladder themselves up – high, high, high – so as to look down upon the rest of us. Real memoirists open themselves to self-discovery and, in the process, make themselves vulnerable – not just to the world but also to themselves. – from Handling the Truth –

This past weekend I was blessed to be able to spend some time with Beth Kephart, a most talented writer with a beautiful heart and a yearning to teach what she knows about the writing of memoir. The workshop Beth taught at The Book Passage (a wonderful independent bookstore in Corte Madera, California in Marin County), was exactly what I thought it would be – interactive, introspective, brimming with wisdom and the chance to play with words and memories. For a long time I longed to take a class from Beth – and so this workshop was a dream fulfilled for me.

Beth traveled to California to promote her newest book – Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir. For those of you who have read and loved other books on writing (Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamott’s Bird By Bird spring to mind), Beth’s work is not to be missed. She was inspired by her students at the University of Pennsylvania who thrill her with their writing and sensitivity, who embolden not only themselves, but their teacher who has the privilege of teaching them.

Audacity was the wrong word; you see that now. The word, in fact, is privilege. Teaching, after all these years, is the marrow in your bones. Truth is your obsession. – from Handling the Truth –

Don’t be fooled by the slimness of this book – it is thick with knowledge and shared wisdom, plump with book recommendations, and fat with the kind of observations which I have come to expect from Beth Kephart’s writing. She starts by telling the writer what memoir is not – amongst others it is NOT: “A trumped-up, fantastical idea of what an interesting life might have been, if only. A web of lies. A smudge. A mockery of reality. There is a separate (even equal) category for such things. It goes by the name of fiction.” – and then shows us what IS memoir. Through a series of chapters which include color, tense, smell, empathy, grief, landscape…and much, much more…Beth Kephart teaches the interested writer how to create real memoir – not self-absorbed autobiography, but something larger. Something that makes a difference.

What readers want is meaning. They want a story so rich, complex, thought through, and learned from that it can’t, in fact, be revealed by a headline or two; it can’t be satisfactorily summarized. Readers want to be able to participate. They want to discover, with the writer, those images at the edge of the frame, or over to the side, or just a tad blurred that have, as it turns out, something rich to say. Something powerful and universal. – from Handling the Truth –

Maybe you don’t want to write a memoir, so you think this book is not for you. But I encourage you to read it anyway, because within its pages are truths, “aha” moments, and beautiful writing. And if you only read it to get to the appendix of book recommendations – that is also worth your time. The research for this book was huge. Beth culls her formidable list of titles she read down to the best – many of which I have read and loved myself.

It was hot in Marin this past weekend – the day was heavy with sunshine, thick with an intense heat that had people rushing into shade – but sitting in the air conditioned environment of The Book Passage, the day fell away behind me. We were a small group, each of us there for different reasons and at different points in our writing abilities. We sniffed spices, shared photos, and scribbled down bits of memory and detail in short bursts of time. We shared. And we listened. We had the opportunity to get a glimpse into a writer’s soul and her passion, and reap the reward of doing so. It is not an experience I will soon forget.

Many thanks to Beth Kephart – to her willingness to share herself so completely with others, to fly through the dark, starry nights in order to touch the lives of her readers, and for her beautiful words of which I never tire of reading. You are a treasure. And so is your latest book – Handling the Truth.

And for the readers of my humble blog, I will give you a rating of the book, just because you have grown accustomed to that. It is a 5stars read on every level. Don’t wait. Go get yourself a copy.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of Handling the Truth from author Beth Kephart with whom I have the immense pleasure of sharing a special friendship.


Race Across the Sky – Book Review and 3 Book Giveaway

RaceAcross the SkyOver the past decade he had successfully extracted any emotional confusion from his life. Jobs, career, family, the expectations of the world, were all like forgotten high school friends. But now, like a patient in remission who with horror senses his symptoms returning, Caleb felt a range of sharp emotions rising up; emotions he thought he had put aside forever. – from Race Across the Sky

Caleb Oberest works in a highly paid corporate position in New York City until the events of 9-11 shatter his world. On an impulse, he quits his job and moves to Colorado to join an elite group of ultra marathoners. These runners slave beneath the tutelage of a man named Mack who believes in pushing one’s body to such an extreme as to produce kinetic energy capable of sustaining the body with as little as 4 hours of sleep and very little fuel. To belong, members of the group sever ties to family and friends and vow to turn from any romantic relationships. Caleb immerses himself in this running cult, cutting all connection to his family to become a premier ultra marathoner. But then a young woman named June arrives in the mountains of Colorado with her very ill infant daughter, Lily, looking for the healing powers which Mack promises…and everything changes.

Shane, Caleb’s brother, works at a biotech firm which finds cures for fatal diseases. He and his wife, Janelle, are expecting their first baby and life has never seemed better. Then Shane gets a letter from Caleb after eleven years of silence. Caleb is desperate for a cure for Lily. Reeling from his own feelings toward becoming a father, Shane makes a decision to help in any way he can even if it means putting his career and everything he loves at risk.

Derek Sherman’s debut novel, Race Across the Sky, explores the limits of human endurance both physically and emotionally. Narrated in alternating points of view between Shane and Caleb, the story reels the reader into the obsessive world of competitive distance running and the lure of cults, as well as giving a disturbing glimpse into the powerful, financially driven realm of biotechnology firms and the development of medicines.

Sherman’s prose is character driven and compelling. From page one, I found myself intrigued and embroiled in the lives of the characters. Sensitive without being maudlin, the story is ultimately about love – that between brothers, and between parents and children, and also romantic love and how it can save us from despair. As I was reading, I found myself asking “What would you do to save someone else? What would you do for the person you love? Would you risk everything?

Race Across the Sky is dazzling in its descriptions of the Colorado and California mountains. As a runner once myself, I thought Sherman truly captured the compulsion of athletic competition and the battle that runners have within themselves to simply finish a distance race. I also loved the insight into the medical world of drug companies and the cutting edge technology of the biotech field.

I fully enjoyed this novel from beginning to end. It is compulsively readable with a strong plot, well-constructed characters, and terrific writing. Original and thought provoking, I can recommend Race Across the Sky for readers who like their novels to be provocative.


tlclogoFTC Disclosure: This novel was sent to me by the publisher for review as part of TLC Book Tours. Book giveaways are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway will be supplied by the publisher (in most cases), I do not accept payment to host these special events.

For more reviews, please visit the TLC Book Tour page.


Derek Sherman works in advertising as a writer and Creative Director. His work has received every major industry award, and been named among the best of the last 25 years by Archive Magazine. He is a co-founder of the Chicago Awesome Foundation, a charity dedicated to awarding micro-grants. He lives in Chicago with his wife and children. This is his first novel.

For more information about Race Across the Sky, visit the website.


  • Contest open from August 5, 2013 through August 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm PST.
  • Contest open to US and Canada mailing addresses.
  • To enter, please leave a comment on this post telling me why you want to read the book (other comments are welcome – but if you want a chance to win, please say so and tell me why you want to win the book).
  • I will choose THREE winners randomly and announce their name here on my blog on August 14th.

Good Luck!

2013 Armchair BEA: Young Adult Fiction and Another Giveaway


June 1, 2013

Good morning and welcome to The Armchair BEA. Today’s topic is all about Young Adult Fiction…and I am so excited to talk with you about my friend, Beth Kephart, who is not only an amazing author of Young Adult Fiction, but has also written non fiction books, and will be releasing a new book about memoir this summer.

Where do I begin?

I first met Beth in New York City at the BEA in 2010, but I had heard about her from other bloggers before that day in New York. I knew I would find a connection with Beth…a person whose heart is larger than life, who is careful with her words, and who has a smile which lights up the room.

BethBeth Kephart is an accomplished and prolific writer (just check out her many, many awards, sterling reviews, and nominations here). Her book, A Slant of Sun, was named a National Book Award, Nonfiction Finalist in 1998. Her most recent novel, Small Damages (a luscious, heart-breaking gem of a book) was just awarded Best YA Novel of the Year for The Armchair BEA. But that is not the only reason you should read her books.

I should tell you that I was not a reader of Young Adult Fiction (with the exception of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak which is, admittedly, a cross over to adult fiction). I had this notion that YA literature was only about blood-sucking vampires and a dystopian universe that frankly depressed me. Beth Kephart changed the way I look at YA.

She changed it in a big way.

Because Beth writes characters who feel inspired by real people. She provides profound insight into relationships, and transports her readers to places that feed your soul. Her prose is filled with meaning. It is gorgeous. When I am reading one of her books, I just do not want it to end.

I have often said that Literary Fiction overlaps into other genres. And Beth’s work is an example of that – it is something that should be called Literary YA.

Read more about this amazing author by following her blog.

I have been saving up Beth’s books – reading them a little at a time to stretch them out. I have a nice little stack and I don’t want to get to the end of it! Have you read a Beth Kephart novel yet? What are you waiting for? Try these:

SmallDamages dangerousneighbors YouAreMyOnly[1]


And because I keep pushing Beth’s books into the hands of everyone I know, I thought I would offer a giveaway to one lucky US reader. For this giveaway you can pick any of her books up to $30 in value and I’ll ship them to you from Amazon. Sound good?

  • Contest open today through June 5th, 2013 for US readers
  • I’ll randomly draw one winner and announce their name by June 6th.

**UPDATED: Just now, I received an email from Beth – and she would very much like to send a signed copy of any of her books, to one winner – SO, I am going to draw TWO winners – one will win the selection of books of their choice (click through the survey below) and then I will select a second person from the survey to win the signed book. How does that sound?!??! If I draw your name for the signed book, I will email you to ask which of your selections you would like. Sound good?

***FURTHER UPDATE: Beth is giving away a galley of her book Handling the Truthvisit this post to enter!

Below are the available books (not just YA) with links to Amazon so you can read about them (please note: Handling the Truth will not ship until August). To enter the contest: Click here to take survey

sasparilla SmallDamages YouAreMyOnly[1] SlantofSun

Flow Undercover handling_the_truthFINAL dangerousneighbors

IntoTheTangle NothingButGhosts HouseOfDance HeartIsNotASize

StillLove SeeingPast

 Good Luck!



2013 Armchair BEA: Non Fiction


May 31, 2013 – Non Fiction

Today’s topic for The Armchair BEA is Ethics and/or non fiction. I’ve decided to focus my post on non fiction. My usual “go to” book is fiction…I read very little non fiction (something I vow every year to change, but do not!). There are so many sub-categories in non fiction: how-to, memoir, history, biography, social justice, philosophy…the list goes on and on.

Today I want to talk about four different sub-categories and give you recommendations of books in those categories.


handling_the_truthFINALI have read a lot of memoir over the years and some of it has really stood out for me. My friend Beth Kephart has just written a book about memoir, which will be published soon, titled Handling the Truth (Gotham, August 2013). I can’t wait to read it because I know Beth’s writing is insanely gorgeous, and I am so interested in what she has to say about writing memoir. The reason I mention Beth’s book is that I think there truly is an art to writing memoir. The books below are books I’ve read which I think nailed the art – they are richly written, profound, and deliver a message beyond simply telling the story of someone’s life. For me, that is the essence of memoir – the message that is ultimately delivered.

Have you read any great memoirs? Or is this a new area of reading for you? Follow the links to my reviews to learn more about the books I recommend:

LetsTaketheLongWayHome.BEST ScentOfTheMissing Translator.Darfur exactreplica HiroshimaInTheMorning

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (read my review)
Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson (read my review)
The Translator by Daoud Hari (read my review)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (read my review)
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (read my review)

Social Justice

On of my favorite sub-categories of non fiction is that of Social Justice. A while back I joined the Social Justice Challenge which was created to “encourage participants to learn about social issues through reading and other media and take action steps towards making a difference.” For me, this was just the catalyst to get me to pick up books I had been wanting to read but just never seemed to find the time. Since then, I’ve tried to read more from this group of non fiction titles – I think it is important that we learn about the issues that impact us as a society because education is one of the most important things to facilitate change.

Have you read many books which address social justice? If not, you might want to start with any of these:

behindthebeautifulforevers thereIsNoMe OtherSideOfRiver

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (read my review)
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene (read my review)
The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (read my review)


If you are like me, there is nothing more boring than to read a history text. So I am always looking for interesting non fiction that tells a story about history which captivates me. The best books in this category, for me, are those that feel like fiction but are not.

Have you read any wonderful books which give a glimpse into the past or help you better understand an historical event or events? If you are new to this area of reading, you might want to try any of the following books:

Unbroken EverythingIsBroken maus-i maus-ii

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read my review)
Everything is Broken by Emma Larkin (read my review)
Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (read my review)


The last area of non fiction I want to talk about is that of meditation or reflection. Normally, I don’t read these kinds of books, but every once in a while, I find one that really resonates with me. Back in 2010, I was struggling – I had just said good-bye to my Search and Rescue dog, Caribou, and I was grieving. Typical of me, I was keeping a lot of that grief inside, pushing through my days and trying to keep my mind busy with work and daily tasks. And then I picked up an amazing book titled Wild Comfort, and I found something between the covers which spoke to my heart. It is that kind of revelation that is hard to find, but when you do, you feel so grateful for the magic of language and the written word.

Have you ever discovered a book which simply spoke to you at a time when you really needed it? What books that reflect on life, or grief, or happiness have touched your heart? Do you want to read a book that is meditative or reflective? Try one of these:

WildComfort giftfromthesea

Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (read my review)
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (read my review)

Do you enjoy Non Fiction? If so, what sub-categories are YOU drawn to?


2013 Armchair BEA – Literary Fiction and 3 Book Giveaway


May 30, 2013

Today is an exciting day for the Armchair BEA. There are giveaways of fantastic books all over blogland today – check out this post to get the links. I’m also pretty stoked to talk about Literary Fiction today – I have three great titles up for grabs (go to the bottom of this post to get information and enter to win), and I am going to be sharing some of my favorite literary authors and books with you. Grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite drink), sit back and enjoy!

What is literary fiction?

I am sure every reader has their own definition of literary fiction. In general, it has been well accepted to define it as a work which is “critically acclaimed” and “serious.” Traditionally, literary fiction focuses more on character than plot (which is not to say that literary fiction is not well plotted!). Most books falling into this category are slower paced, with prose that is often described as “lyrical” or “beautiful” or “poetic.” It is these types of books which most often find themselves being recognized for literary awards.

I have found that most of the literary fiction books I have loved, also fall into other categories like historical fiction. Today I want to share some of my favorite literary novels and introduce you to the authors who write them.

The “Big” Names:

Readers who gravitate to literary fiction can usually point to several “big names” within the genre. For me, three names immediately come to mind: Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and John Irving. I have read multiple books by these three authors and have (mostly) loved them all.

When I think of Margaret Atwood, I think: brilliant, contemporary themes, women’s rights, amazing characters, futuristic. Visit the author’s website.

Atwood has been awarded many literary prizes for her work including the Governor General’s Award, the Commonwealth Literary Prize, The Giller Prize, and the Booker Prize (See all her awards here). Below are the works I have read by Atwood (click on each graphic to read my review of each book – the only book I have not reviewed is Oryx and Crake). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Robber Bride – my hands down favorite – OR The Handmaid’s Tale which is now considered a bit of a classic.

AliasGrace CatsEye HandmaidsTale BlindAssassin

  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • Cat’s Eye (1988)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)

robberbride OryxandCrake YearOfTheFlood Penelopiad

  • The Robber Bride (1993)
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • The Year of the Flood (2009)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)

Louise Erdrich is a relatively “new” favorite of mine. When I think of her work I think: Native American themes, multi-generational, sardonic humor, civil rights. Learn more about this author.

This accomplished writer is considered one of the most significant writers of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This past November, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round HouseBelow are the works I have read by Erdrich (click on each graphic to read my review of each book). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Plague of Doves or Shadow Tag.

LoveMedicine ShadowTag PlagueOfDoves RoundHouse

  • Love Medicine (1984)
  • Shadow Tag (2010)
  • The Plague of Doves (2008)
  • The Round House (2012)

John Irving has been one of my favorite literary fiction writers since I first read his amazing The World According to Garp way back in high school. When I think about John Irving’s work I think: convoluted plots, fathers and sons, quirky characters, New England fiction. Visit the author’s website.

Irving’s work has not only been nominated for the fiction prizes, but has also been made into cinematic films. The movie The World According to Garp garnered several Academy Award nominations. Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany OR Cider House Rules. Because I’ve been reading works by this author for a long, long time, many of those books are not reviewed here on my blog. Below are the works I’ve read which have been reviewed here (click on each graphic to read my review of each book):

APrayerForOwenMeany LastNightInTwistedRiver InOnePerson

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  • Last Night in Twisted River (2009)
  • In One Person (2012)

I have also read these books by John Irving:

  • The World According to Garp (1978)
  • The Hotel New Hampshire (1981)
  • The Cider House Rules (1985)
  • Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (collection, 1996)
  • A Widow for One Year (1998)
  • Until I Find You (2005)

The “Newcomers”:

One of the things I love about literature is that there are always new names to add to the ranks of my favorite authors. When it comes to literary fiction, it seems that there are more and more amazing writers publishing every year. I went through the last few years of reading and thought I would mention four writers who have caught my eye and who I see as the new wave of literary fiction writers.

Joyce Hinnefeld won my heart with her novel In Hovering Flight (Unbridled Books, 2008). Last year she published her second book with Unbridled Books titled Stranger Here Below. When I think of this author I think: poetic, sensitive, evocative, strong sense of place. Visit the author’s website. Below are Hinnefeld’s books with links to my reviews. I hope Joyce Hinnefeld has a long career because I want to keep reading her amazing books.

InHoveringFlight StrangerHereBelow

Peter Geye is a shining star in literature these days. I keep pushing his books into the hands of readers because when I think of his work, I think: Minnesota wilderness, redemption and forgiveness, love of family, and profound sense of place. Geye’s debut novel, Safe From the Sea (Unbridled Books, 2010) grabbed the 2010 Northeast Minnesota Book Award for Fiction and the 2010 Indie Lit Award for Fiction. His second book (The Lighthouse Road, 2012) was also published by Unbridled Books and has gotten universally sterling reviews. Visit the author’s website. Below are Geye’s books with links to my reviews.

SafeFromTheSea LighthouseRoad

Jesmyn Ward caught my attention with her National Book Award winning novel Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011). This was not Ward’s first book, but it is the one which catapulted her into the literary spotlight. When I think about this author’s work, I think: original, strong characters, the South, honest. I really hope that Ward is working on her next novel, because I intend to read it. My review is linked from the graphic below.


Bruce Machart first reeled me in with a short story. When I learned he had written a novel, I could not wait to read it. His debut novel, The Wake of Forgiveness, blew me away. When I think of Bruce Machart, I think: believable dialogue, wide open spaces, unforgettable characters, and rich prose. Visit the author’s website. I hope you’ll get a chance to experience this author’s fabulous writing. Below are the books of his I have read (click on each graphic to read my reviews).

WakeOfForgiveness MenInMaking

If you have not yet tried literary fiction, I hope you will. I could have listed at least 30 more authors on this post who thrill me with their prose and touch my heart with their characters. There is a big world of literature out there! If you’ve read literary fiction, who are the authors YOU would recommend?

The Giveaways

All giveaways on this post are open for FIVE DAYS from May 30 – June 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm PST. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced here on my blog on June 4th. Book giveaways here on Caribousmom are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway have been supplied by the publisher, I do not accept payment to host these special events.

I am offering up three interesting titles for giveaway today. Each of these books fall within the literary fiction category. Below I’ve given a short description of the book, a link to my review of the book, and a link to enter to win it. One title is open internationally, the other two are open for addresses in the US or Canada (I also have another giveaway open for US addresses: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – go to this post to enter).

ConstellationA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, May 2013) – read my review

I loved this book. And I am predicting that it will be nominated for some literary awards this year. Set in Chechnya, the novel  is a powerful, poignant, and deeply moving story that unfolds over five days. The characters who drive the narrative reveal their stories which happen in a war torn, violent part of the world between 1994 and 2004.

  • Copy of the book is hardcover, new.
  • This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

To enter: Click here to take survey

BurgessBoysThe Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, March 2013) – read my review

Elizabeth Strout’s novel, Olive Kitteridge, won her the Pulitzer Prize for literature. In her latest novel, she once again takes readers to Maine where she examines the cracks that develop within families and communities and the often difficult road to healing and forgiveness after loss and misunderstanding. Strout’s character development is exceptional in this book.

  • Copy of the book is an Advance Readers Edition, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and CANADA mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey

GardenOfStoneIn The Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve (Hub City Press, May 2013) – read my review

Susan Tekulve has had many short stories published, and her first novel feels a bit like short stories woven together. This quiet novel about several generations of one family living in Virginia and West Virginia captured the South Carolina First Novel Prize. In The Garden of Stone is deeply rooted in a sense of place and examines the lives of Italian immigrants who came to the United States to stake their roots, raise their families and find work in and around Virginia. Tekulve’s prose includes beautiful descriptions of landscape and celebrates the lives of her characters.

  • Copy of the book is soft cover, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and Canada mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey


2013 Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction and a Giveaway


May 29, 2013

Tomorrow is the big giveaway day for The Armchair BEA, but I’m posting a giveaway early today on this post because it fits in with the theme of genre fiction – please check it out at the bottom of this post!!!

Today’s topic for The 2013 Armchair BEA is genre fiction. What is genre fiction? Genre fiction is also known as “popular” fiction and is typically plot-driven (although this is not to say there are not spectacular characters in genre fiction!). Genre fiction includes:

  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Suspense-Thriller
  • Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Short Story
  • Mystery
  • Humor
  • Women’s Fiction

Although my first choice in reading is usually literary fiction (visit me tomorrow to read more about that), I also enjoy well-written genre fiction which also sometimes overlaps into the Literary definition. Today I want to talk about four different genres which I love, with recommendations in each category.

Historical Fiction

In historical fiction, the setting is usually real and drawn from history. Although the main characters are usually fictional, these books often contain real historical persons.

I love historical fiction because it is a great way to learn about historical events without reading “dry” textbooks. Some of my favorite historical fiction writers are: Khaled Hosseini, Mitchell James Kaplan, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Amitav Ghosh, Kathleen Kent, Irene Nemirovsky, and Rose Tremain.

I’m giving away a debut novel in the historical fiction genre today – go to the bottom of this post to enter!!!!

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great historical fiction? Try any of these:

ThousandSplendidSuns MountainsEchoed halfyellowsun seaofpoppies

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (read my review)
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (read my review)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (read my review)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (read my review)

ByFireByWater hereticsdaughter SuiteFrancaise colour

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan (read my review)
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent (read my review)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (read my review)
The Colour by Rose Tremain (read my review)

What works of historical fiction have you read and loved?


There is nothing better than being scared out of one’s wits by a deftly written suspense-thriller novel. I admit, this is a genre which I have loved ever since my teens when I first started reading Stephen King (who is actually more in the horror genre, but his work is certainly suspenseful!). Suspense-thrillers make your palms sweat and your heart race, they usually include a twisting plot and a heroine or hero whose life is in peril. Some of my favorite writers in this genre include: Kate Morton (who writes gothic suspense-thrillers), Emily St. John Mandel, Laura Lippman, Benjamin Black, and John Hart (the king of Southern suspense).

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great suspense-thrillers? Try any of these:

christinefalls DistantHours lastnightmontreal whatthedeadknow downriver

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (read my review)
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (read my review)
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel (read my review)
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman (read my review)
Down River by John Hart (read my review)

What suspense-thrillers have you read and loved?

Women’s Fiction

Women’s Fiction has been the focus of a lot of negative attention over the last couple of years with authors writing in this genre complaining that their work is demeaned with the label “chick lit.” For me, Women’s Fiction is comfort reading. It is also usually highly emotional or meaningful literature, and many times there is a level of humor which lightens the plot. The works I have loved the most in this genre have memorable characters who have touched my heart. My favorite writers in Women’s Fiction include: Elizabeth Berg, Eleanor Brown, Katherine Center, Allie Larkin, Anna Quindlen, Cathleen Schine, Anne Tyler,  and Marisa de los Santos.

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great Women’s Fiction? Try any of these:

yearofpleasures WeirdSisters brightside Stay

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (read my review)
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (read my review)
The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (read my review)
Stay by Allie Larkin (read my review)

EveryLastOne ThreeWeissmanns.PicadorCover DinnerHomesickRestaurant belongtome1

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (read my review)
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (read my review)
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (read my review)
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos (read my review)

What works of Women’s Fiction have you read and loved?

Short Story

Short stories have always been a genre I have loved. The short story is a difficult format to nail and so when I find an author who sweeps me away in just a few pages, I am hooked. Some of my favorite short story writers include: Megan Mayhew Bergman, Catherine Brady, Stephen King, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bruce Machart, Christopher Meeks, and Simon Van Booy.

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great short story collections? Try any of these:

BirdsofaLesserParadise mechanicsoffalling NightShift  unaccustomedearth

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman (read my review)
The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories by Catherine Brady (read my review)
Night Shift by Stephen King
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (read my review)

MenInMaking Months and Seasons lovebeginsinwinter

Men in the Making by Bruce Machart (read my review)
Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks (read my review)
Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy (read my review)

What collections of Short Fiction have you read and loved?


Win a copy of BURIAL RITES

Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, September 2013

Thanks to the publisher, I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy of Hannah Kent’s first novel, a work of historical fiction, to one lucky reader. As soon as I read the description of this book, I knew I needed to get myself a copy to read…and I hope you are as excited about this novel as I am.

*Book giveaways here on Caribousmom are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway have been supplied by the publisher, I do not accept payment to host these special events.


Burial Rites is inspired by a true story of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. When Agnes is charged with the brutal murder of her former master, she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. At first the family who is tasked with housing her, avoids Agnes. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. Described as “riveting and rich with lyricism,” Burial Rites promises toevoke a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and ask the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?” This debut novel is getting glowing early reviews which describe it as gripping, original, and haunting.


Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she traveled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel. Learn more about Kent and her work by visiting the author’s website.


  • Contest is open from May 29th through June 3rd at 5:00 pm (PST)
  • Contest is open to US mailing addresses.
  • I will draw ONE winner randomly using and announce their name here on my blog sometime after the close of the contest.
  • To enter: Click here to take survey

Good Luck!

All You Could Ask For – Book Review

AllYouCouldAskForWhat makes life worth living is not anything that might happen. It is what is happening right now. – from All You Could Ask For –

Brooke is living the “perfect” life. She has twins and an amazing husband who loves her. She works hard to keep her marriage exciting – including hiring a photographer to take nude photos of her for her husband’s birthday.

Samantha, married only two days, breaks into her new husband’s computer and discovers he has been and still is unfaithful to her. She immediately decides to stay in Hawaii (where they have flown for their honeymoon) and train for a triathlon.

Katherine is wealthy and successful in her work – but she clings to a hatred and resentment for her boss who used to be her lover and who threw her over for another woman almost 20 years ago. When she travels to Aspen for her first vacation in years, the last thing she expects is to meet the man of her dreams.

All three women who grace the pages of Mike Greenberg’s debut novel are different, and yet they will soon discover they have something in common. Something which will unexpectedly unite them, cause them to look deeply into their lives, and ultimately define what is most important to them.

There has been a lot of buzz about All You Could Ask For. First of all, the novel is penned by a man who fully embraces his female side in creating characters women will like, if not relate to. Secondly, Mike Greenberg is the voice of ESPN ‘s Mike in the Morning and has promised to donate all of his profits from the book to The V Foundation for Cancer Research to combat breast cancer.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Greenberg introduces his characters through alternating first person narratives. The second part is dedicated to how these three women come together, and Greenberg makes his novel modern by including social media as the uniting mechanism. This resonated with me, a blogger who has made a lot of friends through my blog, on line community events and book clubs, and Facebook. It is the second part of the book which really hooked me.

Greenberg writes from a women’s perspective very well, although I will admit that I did not relate to all the characters. My least favorite character was Brooke who seemed almost a caricature of the perfect wife and mother. I longed for her to see herself as an individual, rather than an extension of her spouse. Samantha was the most likeable – she is the person every woman wants for a friend: loyal, giving, sincere. But my favorite character was Katherine who demonstrates a sarcastic wit and an inner strength I admired. Katherine is the character who grows the most from beginning to end. I wanted Katherine to realize all her goals and find love again.

Nobody is living better than I am; I have a duplex on Park Avenue, a driver, a chef, an assistant, and a killer house in South Hampton, and I did it all on my own. But I still haven’t gotten past what happened with Phillip and I doubt I ever will, and I wish to god he was ten times more miserable than I am. If that sounds bitchy, I guess I don’t really care. – from All You Can Ask For –

All You Could Ask For is fun women’s fiction, but it also has a deeper message about the decisions we make and how we determine our journey through life. Greenberg explores friendship within the context of the unexpected events which life throws in our path. Funny, poignant, and well-crafted, this is a novel which will appeal to a wide variety of women and the men who love them.



Read more blogger reviews of this book by visiting the TLC Book Tour page.


mikegreenbergMike Greenberg is cohost of ESPN’s Mike & Mike in the Morning and the author of two previous New York Times bestsellers. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a native of New York City. He lives with his wife, Stacy, and their two children in Connecticut. In conjunction with the release of this book, Mike and Stacy have created a foundation called Heidi’s Angels, through which all of the author’s profits from the sale of this book will be donated to The V Foundation for Cancer Research to combat breast cancer.

Learn more about All You Could Ask For by visiting the book page.

Follow Greenberg on Twitter.

FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to TLC Book Tours and William Morrow for providing me this book for review on my blog.


The Paradise Guest House – Book Review and Giveaway

Paradise Guest HouseFor the last year, she played out every scenario in her mind: He would listen to her, he would rage, he would cry, he would hate her or love her. But he never walked away.  – from The Paradise Guest House –

At 23:05 Central Indonesian Time (15:05 UTC) on 12 October 2002, a suicide bomber entered Paddy’s Pub in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali. He detonated the explosive device inside his backpack and customers immediately fled into the street where, twenty seconds later, a second bomb exploded just outside the Sari Club, located across the street from Paddy’s Pub. Two hundred and two people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesian, 27 Britons, 7 Americans and 5 Swedish citizens) were killed and 240 people were injured. Later, members of Jemaah Islamiyah, a violent Islamist group, were convicted for their role in the bombing. Osama Bin Laden stated that the Bali bombings were in direct retaliation for Indonesia’s support of the United States’ war on terror and Australia’s role in the liberation of East Timor.

Ellen Sussman has set her novel, The Paradise Guest House, against the backdrop of these horrifying events. Jamie is an American adventure guide who has survived the blasts and finds herself, a year later, returning to Bali for a one year memorial event. But the ceremony is only part of the reason she has decided to go back to the a place which still haunts her. Jamie hopes to find the man who saved her life, a man named Gabe who was an American ex-pat living in Bali and working as a teacher. What unfolds is a gentle story of love, forgiveness, and the difficult road to healing after unspeakable loss.

 The Paradise Guest House is beautifully crafted. Sussman’s descriptions of Bali – its lush jungles, sudden rainstorms, and spiritual people – deliver the reader into the heart of the island. The characters are well developed and include Jamie who lost her lover in the bombing and is looking for closure; Gabe who carries his own deep loss of a son and marriage and wants a new life on Bali; Nyoman, a local man whose wife perished in the bombing; and BamBang, a street child with a tendency towards theft. All the characters have had loss and are journeying towards recovery.

Sussman’s novel is a meditation of sorts on grief and our connection to others. It captures the shock and devastation post trauma, and the slow, often difficult, path towards healing. The book is also, at its heart, a love story. Despite the underlying sadness which echoes through the narrative, there is the bright light of hope, a glimpse of something better for these characters who stole my heart.

Readers who enjoy character driven novels with gorgeous writing will want to read The Paradise Guest House in one big gulp. I sped through this novel, fully immersing myself in its sensuous prose.

Highly recommended.


About the Author:

Ellen Sussman is the author of the novels French Lessons andOn a Night Like This, both national bestsellers. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in Northern California. Learn more about Sussman and her work by visiting the author’s website.

photo credit: Chris Hardy

How to Win a Copy of this Book:

  • Contest open from April 16th through April 23rd, 2013
  • US and Canada mailing addresses only.
  • Click here to take survey  to enter to win a copy of THE PARADISE GUEST HOUSE by Ellen Sussman.
  • I will draw ONE winner randomly and announce their name on my blog on April 24th, 2013.

tlclogoFTC Disclosure: Many thanks to Ballantine Books and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book for review and giveaway.


Khaled Hosseini Newest Book


Are you as excited as I am about Khaled Hosseini’s new book (coming out in May 2013)? Here he is talking about it:

I just found out that on April 11, is teaming up with the author to host a live chat starting at 2 p.m. ET. Visit this page on that date and time to join the conversation.


Book Giveaway: Call The Midwife

CallTheMidwife CallThe MidwifeCompanion

I am delighted to be able to offer one lucky U.S. reader of my blog the chance to win both Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth (Ecco, January 2013) and the television companion The Life and Times of Call the Midlife.

Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse has been published for the first time in the US and  is the continuation of Jennifer Worth’s #1 UK bestselling memoir trilogy, and the basis for the popular BBC and PBS series, “Call the Midwife”. This enduring work of literary nonfiction is at once a warm-hearted coming of age story and a startling look at women’s lives in the poorest section of postwar London. Ecco will be publishing the third book in the series, Midwife: Farwell to the East End, in March 2013.

ABOUT the Television Companion

  • Season 1 of “Call the Midwife” has already run in the UK and it was higher-rated than “Downton Abbey.”  In fact, it is the highest-rated new BBC drama ever in their history. Season 2 airs in the UK January 2013.
  • PBS bought “Downton Abbey” and is just as excited about “Call the Midwife.”  They will premiere the first episode on Sunday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. PBS has already signed up Seasons 2 and 3 of “Call the Midwife.”‘
  • The book is the authorized TV companion and is being put together by Harper UK (who published the bestselling Downton Abbey companion) and the book’s writer is the actual screenwriter for the series.

ABOUT Call The Midlife: Shadows of the Workhouse

From the Publisher:

In the 1950’s, twenty-two year old Jennifer Worth left her comfortable middle class life to work as a midwife in the East End, the direst section of postwar London. During her time there as a midwife she not only delivered hundreds of babies and touched many lives, she became its most vivid chronicler.

When Worth became a midwife, working with the Nonnatus nuns in the East End of London, she joined a community whose lives had often been touched by the shadow of the workhouse, a persistent Victorian institution in which the poor adults and children alike lived like prisoners. Worth tells the true stories of the people whose lives had been warped by such places. There is the story of Peggy and Frank whose parents both died within six months of each other leaving them as destitute children; the story of 7-year-old Jane whose bubbly spirit was broken by the cruelty of the master of the workhouse; and the story of Mr. Collett, a Boer War veteran, who lost his family in the two world wars and ended up in a relic of the workhouse system. As in Worth’s other books, what shines through in these portrayals of triumph over tragedy is the unbreakable resilience of the human spirit.


With deep professional knowledge of midwifery and an unerring eye for the details of life in the London slums of the Nineteen Fifties Jennifer Worth has painted a stunningly vivid picture of an era now passed. – Patrick Taylor, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller An Irish Country Doctor

Readers will fall in love with Call the Midwife. . . an affirmation of life during the best and worst of times.”   — Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor’s Wife

Jennifer WorthJennifer Worth trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, and was later ward sister at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in London, then the Marie Curie Hospital, also in London. Music had always been her passion, and in 1973 she left nursing in order to study music intensively, teaching piano and singing for about twenty-five years. Jennifer died in May 2011 after a short illness, leaving her husband Philip, two daughters, and three grandchildren. Her books have all been bestsellers in England.


  • Contest is open from January 30, 2013 through February 7th at 5:00 pm PST.
  • Contest is open only for those living in the continental United States.
  • Prize pack is two books which will be mailed to the winner by the publisher.
  • One winner will be selected randomly at the close of the contest and their name will be announced here on my blog (I will also contact them by email to confirm their mailing address).
  • One entry per person.
  • To enter complete the survey: Click here to take survey