A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams

A Certain AgeDazzling. Captivating. Smart. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Beatriz Williams’ new book, A Certain Age.

Whenever I start a new book, I make predictions. Sometimes my predictions are right, but oftentimes they aren’t. In the case of A Certain Age, the guesses I made at the beginning of the book definitely shifted as Williams wove a story of intricate relationships and surprising twists.

The book revolves around two female characters during the roaring 1920’s in New York City. The story begins with Theresa, a mature high society woman, and she’s got a fun habit of talking to the reader directly as she shares her journey. She’s sophisticated, charming, guarded, and at times, a bit wicked. On the other hand, Sophie is on the brink of adulthood and she is passionate, innocent, and unguarded, the opposite of Theresa in many ways.

Sophie’s father is the inventor of a successful engineering solution that quickly propels their family into New York high society. With this new wealth comes the interest of many for Sophie’s hand in marriage, including Theresa’s brother Jay. Sophie soon realizes that the type of love she had always dreamt of (with a man that looks like Jay) might not be what she actually wants.

Each chapter begins with a quote from Helen Rowland, the journalist who wrote the column “Reflections of a Bachelor Girl” a century ago for the New York World. This was a perfect touch and I loved the sharp wit of this woman. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

  • “Never trust a husband too far, nor a bachelor too near.”
  • “In love, somehow, a man’s heart is either exceeding the speed limit, or getting parked in the wrong place.”
  • “The woman who appeals to a man’s vanity may stimulate him, the woman who appeals to his heart may attract him, but it is the woman who appeals to his imagination who gets him.”
  • “And verily, a woman need know but one man well, in order to understand all men; whereas a man may know all woman and not understand one of them.”
  • “When a girl marries, she exchanges the attentions of many men for the inattention of one.”
  • “Marriage is like twirling a baton, turn handsprings, or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.”

Delicious, consuming writing! I cannot recommend A Certain Age (or any of William’s books) enough.

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All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All The Missing GirlsWhen I read the description of All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda, I jumped at the chance to review a mystery novel that’s told backwards. This writing approach is really unique and although I was a bit skeptical about how it could be executed, Miranda has done something really special here!

When Nicolette’s best friend Corinne disappeared one night, Nic fled from her hometown. 10 years later, Nic has moved on and is living in Philadelphia with a job, fiancé, and 4-year degree. As soon as Nic returns home to help her father, another girl named Annaleise disappears under similarly mysterious circumstances as Corinne. Nic is quickly pulled into a whirlwind chase to find the girl and comes face to face with the ghosts of her past. As the story winds backwards from Day 15 to Day 1, the night that Annaleise disappeared, we learn more about Nic’s history and the events that led to both Corinne and Annaleise’s disappearances.

I really like this writing approach and was completely gripped by the story even though it was revealed in a different sequence than usual.

All The Missing Girls 2I’ve realized that I definitely have different reviewing criteria for each genre. I really value character development and relationships in the books that I read, but I also look for shocking plot twists and complicated motives in mystery novels. All The Missing Girls is a cleverly constructed mystery novel that is easy to fall into!

Author interview: J.T. Ellison

JT Ellison social media headshot

Today I’m sharing an interview with an author who is not only talented, but also incredibly warmhearted. I met J.T. Ellison a few months ago when I read her book, No One Knows, and am so excited to welcome her to Dream by Day! Her latest novel, Field of Graves, releases today and to celebrate, we’re bringing you all a Q&A!

For readers who aren’t familiar, can you tell us a bit about the LT. Jackson series and Field of Graves in particular?

Sure! Field of Graves is the perfect book to jump in with, because it’s the prequel to the series. Homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, with the help of her best friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, is trying to stop a killer hell-bent on creating his own apocalypse. It’s set in Nashville and introduces all the characters in the books—most importantly, FBI profiler Dr. John Baldwin. It’s the story of how Taylor and Baldwin met, how the team came together, a true origin story.

Taylor Jackson is a fabulous character to write. She’s the warrior goddess of Nashville, half cop, half rock star, and my own personal Athena. Sam Owens is her best friend, the lodestone of the series, the conscience, so to speak. They’re quite a pair. Add in Baldwin, and all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Why did you decide to revisit this series?

FOG, as we call it, was my first full-length novel. I landed an awesome agent with it, but it didn’t sell, so I put it in a drawer and moved on to the next book in the series, which did sell, and kicked off my career. Last year, I revisited it and realized it wasn’t half bad. I did a full editorial on it, and my publisher snapped it up. I’m thrilled it’s finally coming out.

Are there any characters in Field of Graves that came more naturally to you than others?

You’d think I’d say Taylor, but she was actually the most elusive. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around her. She’s an iconic hero—she’s not born in blood like so many crime fiction characters. She’s smart and intense and sees the black and white in the world, so finding her shades of gray was a challenge. I love them all, though. Baldwin is one of the easier ones to write for me. He’s so self-contained but so internally open, I really connected with him.

I loved reading your recently published book, No One Knows, and was shocked by the plot twist. What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to stretch my wings, actually. I’d written eight Taylor books and three Sam books and I wanted to see if I could write a standalone. I had a crazy dream in which I lost my husband after a party at the Opryland Hotel, and Harlan Coben appeared in it and gave me career advice, and it all came together as No One Knows. Crazy, right?

You’re a well-established and bestselling author, do you have any advice for other writers?

Read everything, and write every day. It doesn’t matter if you have ten hours of uninterrupted time or 10 minutes, you simply must touch your story every day. This will help you develop a solid writing habit. While this is the best job on earth, it is still a job, and you have to show up for work every day.

Field of GravesWhat are you reading when you’re not writing these gripping novels?

Books to blurb, books for the show (A Word on Words, I’m the co-host) books you recommend… I’m currently in Victoria Schwab’s A GATHERING OF SHADOWS and DEEP WORK by Cal Newport. True confession, there are 640 books on my Goodreads TBR…. Yikes!

 Thanks so much for having me on the blog! This was fun!

Of course, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, J.T.! I can’t wait to dive into Field of Graves and learn more about these badass characters!

 

About J.T. Ellison

New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes dark psychological thrillers starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the premier literary television show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens. Follow J.T. on Facebook or Twitter @thrillerchick for more insight into her wicked imagination.

Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly

Sunday's on the phone to monday“An extrovert, friends with everybody and nobody at the same time.”

This is one of the lines that I marked with a post-it while reading Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly. In a book that has been described as a family love story, we are taken on a journey with the Simone family through the ups and downs of life and we see how loved ones move apart and come together during tough times.

Claudio and Mathilde find each other in New York City as newly minted adults and quickly discover that they each are just what the other one needs. The story follows them as they grow into a family of five with three daughters, Natasha, Lucy, and Carly. Soon they face mental and physical illnesses along with money troubles and I was touched by the gestures of familial love.

“…Mathilde had probably seen his face more times in his life than he had. Wasn’t that something?”

Sundays on the phone to mondayI almost felt like I was reading a series of poems. This was a very unique writing style, which at times felt quirky, but also felt choppy during others. Although the style is different from books I typically read, it was a nice change of pace.

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes

The One That Got Away by Leigh HimesI spent the past weekend down in the California sun with The One That Got Away, Leigh Himes’ debut novel. This was the perfect poolside read and is a great choice as we head into the summer months! In a similar tone as Freaky Friday staring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis (anyone else a fan of the movie?), The One That Got Away is a story of a switched identity and an alternate reality.

Abbey is an overworked and under-appreciated mother of two, publicist, and wife managing a limited household budget. When Abbey sees a picture in a magazine of a man she had once met, she wonders what her life would be like if she had said yes to a date with this now rich and successful man. Abbey then takes a tumble down the Nordstrom escalator and is shocked to wake up in a warped reality where she is married to this man rather than her husband…

I really enjoyed seeing Abbey’s character grow throughout the story as she realizes that the high society life may not be everything that she believed it to be. Additionally, Himes has created charming illustrations of pudgy babies and domestic life, and although these may not be glamorous, the scenes are touching and sweet.

The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes 1I really enjoyed The One That Got Away and I definitely recommend it for the upcoming summer months!

Author interview: Leigh Himes

Leigh HimesOver the long weekend I started reading The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes and was quickly swept up by the fun and imaginative storyline and fashion-focused descriptions. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to ask Himes a few questions about her debut novel and I’m excited to share the interview with you all! Enjoy!

Congratulations on your debut novel, The One That Got Away! Can you give us an overview of the story?

Thank you, Samantha! ‘The One That Got Away” is the story of a young, married working mother struggling to make ends meet in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia. After a fight with her husband and a particularly grueling morning with her kids, she sees a photograph of a man she almost dated in Town & Country magazine, and is filled with regret. But with the help of a magical Marc Jacobs bag, she gets a chance to see what life would be like married to that man: a dashing Kennedy-esque blueblood running for Congress. At first, she is dazzled by this fourteen-karat world of luxury and privilege—not to mention her doting, handsome husband—but soon begins to notice troubling clues about the woman she had become. Ultimately, she must discover which marriage is real, just how much she is willing to sacrifice, and who she really wants to be.

What inspired you to write this story?

Just like Abbey, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a man I almost dated years before. Though I certainly have no regrets, I couldn’t help but wonder about the choices we make in life and how our spouse changes—or doesn’t change—who we become. I remember sitting in my kitchen and showing the photo to my husband, and we talked about how it would be a great set-up for a novel. A few weeks later, I started writing and couldn’t stop.

A pivotal moment occurs in the story that causes Abbey’s life to shift course. What does Abbey learn from this event? 

Abbey learns so much! Not only about herself as a person, but as a wife, daughter, friend, and mother. In many ways, at 37, she finally grows up!

To be more specific, one of Abbey’s flaws is that she a little bit of a “giver upper.” I think that happens to a lot of working parents… you are so exhausted and overwhelmed, you just start shutting down (or blaming others). So Abbey’s experience not only gives her perspective, but it teaches her that no matter what you wear or what family you married into, life is about fighting every day to be your best self… and helping the people you love do the same.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What has it been like to write and publish your first book?

Though I wrote every day for fifteen years as a publicist, this was the first fiction I’ve ever written so I can’t say I have a process! And I had nothing to lose, so I didn’t impose any deadlines or rules on myself. However, I did have a rough outline and it was detailed enough to provide a road map but not so detailed that I wasn’t able to discover new twists and turns along the way. That proved to be fortuitous because a lot of my favorite scenes and characters came to me as I was writing.

I’m also a big reviser. I hate looking at a blank page so I would rush through the first draft of every scene or chapter and then go back and revise, sometimes every word. I had a full-time job and small children at home, so it was more important for me to make progress and see the pages fill then have a “perfect” first draft.

As for publishing, the scariest thing is putting something so personal out into the world. Now that publication is finally upon me, I can’t help but feel like I’m standing on stage in my underwear. But as far as the publishing industry, that’s not scary at all, mostly because there are so many dedicated professionals—from designers to editors to marketing experts—who guide first-time novelists. It’s a wonderful industry; it’s made up of book lovers, after all! (So, if you’re thinking of diving in, go for it!)

But what’s been most fun is connecting with readers all over the country and hearing their takes on Abbey, Alex, and Jimmy… and their own stories of “the one that got away.”

What are you currently reading?

I am reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and have found it’s worth all the hype. It’s so tragic, but I still don’t want it to end! I just finished the brilliant but very R-rated “Coup de Foudre” by Ken Kalfus, a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. I also loved “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and am hoping she will write more historical fiction. I even dragged my kids to the real life estate outside Philadelphia where the book is supposedly set, and as they played in the frog pond, I walked around the grounds imagining Alma and her mosses.