Book Showcase: THE SEA OF JAPAN by Keita Nagano

The Sea of Japan by Keita Nagano
ISBN: 9781684630127 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781684630134  (ebook)
ASIN: B07L96R7HG (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  Spark Press
Release Date: September 3, 2019


After fleeing a disastrous teaching job (and a bad gambling habit) in Boston, Lindsey starts teaching English in Hime, a small fishing town in Japan. One morning, while trying to snap the perfect ocean sunrise photo for her mother, she slips off a rock at the edge of Toyama Bay, hits her head, and plunges into the sea—and in doing so, sets off an unexpected chain of events.

When Lindsey comes to in the hospital, she learns that she owes her life to a young man named Ichiro—a local fisherman who also happens to be the older brother of one of her students. She begins to spend time with her lifesaver, and in the ensuing months, she becomes increasingly enmeshed in her new life: when she is not busy teaching, she splits her time between an apprenticeship with the local master sushi chef and going out fishing with Ichiro. As she and Ichiro grow closer, however, she also learns that not all is well in Hime, and she is drawn into a war to stop the town next door from overfishing their shared bay. Soon, she, Ichiro, and her pastrami-obsessed best friend, Judy—the person who talked Lindsey into coming to Japan in the first place—are spending all their free time working together to rescue the town. But when their efforts backfire, Hime gets closer to falling apart—putting Lindsey’s friends, her budding relationship with Ichiro, and her career in jeopardy. To save Hime, Lindsey realizes, she’ll have to become a true American fisherwoman and fight for her new home with everything she has.






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Praise:

“Love, survival, conflict…Lindsey runs wild in The Sea of Japan. When her loved ones are attacked, her American spirit stands tall. When her friends are in danger, her Japanese fans get united. The Hollywood-like climax where Lindsey competes in a fishing duel will leave you hanging on the edge of your seat.” — Tetsu Fujimura, Executive producer of Ghost in the Shell (Starring Scarlett Johansson)


“Keita Nagano has created a fascinating tale blending the best of two literary worlds, the American and the Japanese. It is a story of friendship, transformation, and journey for the meaning of life. What’s really marvelous about this novel is the unique style with its apparent simplicity and deep meaning. A true Japanese delight.” — Elvira Baryakina, author of Russian Treasures series

“Win or lose. Sports are loved by Americans because they’re tough and challenging, just like this story. At the climax of the book, the readers are on Lindsey’s fishing competition boat with her, watching her struggle to save the people she loves and get justice for her adopted town. Imagine you are standing on the 10-meter high diving board. The tension is just that, on the beautiful Sea of Japan.” — Thomas Gompf, 1964 Tokyo Olympic Medalist & Former President of United States Aquatic Sports.




Read an excerpt:


#1

The mountains were also still covered with white-silver snow, reflecting on the Sea of Japan.

It was still half-dark and chilly. I brought whiskey to keep me warm while I waited for the sunrise. It worked perfectly. I gently played some smooth jazz from my iPhone and sipped whiskey.

Finally, the tip of the sun appeared on the horizon, illuminating the dark sky. The orange light even illuminated the white snow on top of the Tateyama Mountains beyond the dark ocean. It was the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen.

This was going to be the best scenery picture for Mom. I stood up and got the camera ready. But the rock was slippery, and as I stood, I lost my footing. I fell off the rock, hitting my head hard. I was thrown into the sea.

The last thing I saw before I lost consciousness was the water rising over my head.


Excerpt from The Sea of Japan by Keita Nagano. Copyright © 2019 by Keita Nagano. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.




Meet the author

Keita Nagano is an award-winning Japanese author who has lived almost equally in Nevada and Tokyo—more than twenty years in each place—and reflects the difference of the two cultures in his novels. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Keio University in Japan, as well as an MBA in global business and Ph.D. in management from Walden University in Minnesota. 

The pursuit of the authentic American experience is his hobby: he has been to all fifty states, all thirty major league ballparks, and the top sixty big cities in America. He has published seventeen business nonfiction and eight fiction books in Japan. In 2013, he received a Nikkei (Japanese Wall Street Journal) Award for Contemporary Novel for his missing-child thriller, Kamikakushi. He is also an official weekly columnist for Forbes Japan

Nagano lives in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife and Welsh corgi, and their teenage daughter is currently studying in Tennessee. 



Connect with the author via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and his website



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Book Showcase: COLORBLIND by Leah Harper Bowron

Colorblind by Leah Harper Bowron
ISBN: 9781943006083 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781943006090 (ebook)
ASIN: B071JNGJSD (Kindle edition)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication Date: July 11, 2017


The time is 1968. The place is Montgomery, Alabama. The story is one of resilience in the face of discrimination and bullying. 

Using the racially charged word “Negro,” two Caucasian boys repeatedly bully Miss Annie Loomis–the first African-American teacher at the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. At the same time, using the hateful word “harelip,” the boys repeatedly bully Miss Loomis’s eleven-year-old Caucasian student, Lisa Parker, who was born with cleft palate and cleft lip. 

Who will best the bullies? Only Lisa’s mood ring knows for sure.



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Meet the author


Leah Harper Bowron is a lawyer and James Joyce scholar from Birmingham, Alabama. Her article “Coming of Age in Alabama: Ex parte Devine Abolishes the Tender Years Presumption” was published in the Alabama Law Review. She recently lectured on Joyce’s novel Ulysses at the University of London and the Universite de Reims. She lives in Texas and has a daughter named Sarah and a cat named Jamie. Her debut fiction book, Colorblind, was released in July 2017.




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Giveaway

Enter to win a print copy of Colorblind by Leah Harper Bowron, courtesy of the PR By The Book. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States only (sorry). This giveaway runs through 11:59 PM ET on July 25, 2017, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. 


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Colorblind

Book 299: THE WONDER – QUEEN OF HEARTS VOL. 2 Review



The Wonder (Queen of Hearts Volume 2) by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716213 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716206 (ebook)
Publication date: September 23, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


An Exiled Princess. An Ancient Tribe. A Dangerous Stranger with Unknown Loyalties. 

Dinah, the former Princess of Wonderland Palace, has been chased into the wilds of Wonderland after the brutal murder of her brother and the ruin of her impending crown. Now, as her half-sister Vittiore sits on the throne beside her Father, the brutal King of Hearts, Dinah finds herself alone in the forbidding Twisted Wood with only Morte, a homicidal beast, for company. 

Hunted by the King and his army of Cards, Dinah struggles to evade those who long for her head, including Cheshire, the King’s clever advisor, who is slowly tightening his grasp around her. Spurred on by her rising terror, the former Princess finds herself at the center of a web of conspiracy reaching far beyond the Palace and deep into the mysterious Yurkei mountain tribes. 

Even with the balance of an entire Kingdom at stake, Dinah knows something that her allies and enemies do not: that the most dangerous conflict of all has already begun as she battles the enticing rage that beckons her ever closer as love slips further from her grasp.

The second book in the bestselling and award-winning Queen of Hearts Saga, The Wonder takes readers back to the most wondrous and curious places in Wonderland, and continues this darkly addictive tale featuring one of the most infamous villains of all time.

But be warned…not every fairy tale has a happy ending.

This is the story of a princess who became a villain.


Readers were introduced to Dinah, Princess of Hearts in The Crown, volume one of the Queen of Hearts Saga. We were able to see Dinah wander listlessly around the palace in Wonderland, still grieving her mother’s death, and saddened over the madness and others ills that her brother, Prince Charles (aka the Mad Hatter), must deal with. Her father, the ruthless King of Hearts, appears to despise her presence. Just when it seems the Dinah is getting closer to being crowned the new Queen of Hearts, her father presents the royal court with his bastard child, Dinah’s half-sister, the Duchess of Hearts – Vittiore. As Dinah rivals Vittiore, unsuccessfully, for her father’s affection, she begins to wonder about her father’s motives. On the night before her coronation, Dinah awakens to find her brother, Prince Charles, brutally murdered by her father yet Dinah is quickly blamed for the death. Fearing for her life, Dinah flees the palace and Wonderland.

The Wonder finds Dinah trying to survive in the wilderness. Her only companion is her father’s stolen steed, a horse as large as a house with spiked hooves. Amazingly Dinah survives, but little does she know that she’s being tracked by the best. Fortunately for her, the best tracker quickly becomes her ally. Or so she thinks until her ally leads her into the kingdom and the hands of the king’s sworn enemies, the Yurkei. Mundoo, the chief of the Yurkei, takes Dinah in and begins to train her in the art of war. Bewildered by this, Dinah isn’t quite sure what to think about what is happening around her until she stumbles upon the king’s most trusted adviser, Cheshire. The story Cheshire reveals demonstrates that he is indeed Dinah’s father not the king, and that he seeks to place her on the throne of Wonderland. Now Dinah has the most fierce and largest warriors in the land, the Yurkei, aligning to fight beside her to overthrow the present King of Hearts. Dinah also now has several hundred warriors from the House of Spades willing to fight on her behalf. Is it possible this teenage queen can become the warrior leader needed to overthrow the current despotic king? Will her reign as queen be any better than her predecessor’s? Will the people of Wonderland be able to respect a queen that is now despised and known as the Red Queen?

Ms. Oakes takes many characters from Lewis Carroll’s beloved Alice in Wonderland and twists them into a modern retelling of Wonderland. The readers are allowed to see how the legend of “the Red Queen” began and why. We discover the impetus behind the feared “off with their heads” threat. Instead of a Cheshire cat, we see the head of the House of Diamonds, a gentleman named Cheshire with a cat-like grin become the king’s most trusted and feared advisor. The Mad Hatter becomes the brother of the Queen of Hearts and is someone that suffers seizures and appears may be autistic in that he lives in his own world and hates to be touched. The game of Royal Croquet is played with mallets shaped like birds and balls carved to resemble hedgehogs. The Knave of Hearts is head of the House of Hearts and leads the king’s most-trusted and highly trained warriors. The House of Spades are considered the lowest of all of the house cards and aren’t afforded the same rights and privileges. These men live in squalor and poverty and are forced to do the king’s dirty work in the Black Tower, torturing various prisoners. Dinah isn’t a bad person but she is someone filled with anger. She seeks to avenge the deaths of her mother and brother. If she isn’t careful that righteous anger may become something just as twisted and dark as the emotions that drive the current King of Hearts.

I actually enjoyed reading both The Crown and The Wonder (I read them back-to-back on one Saturday). I’m not a big fan of fantasy, but it was interesting to read these books and see how Ms. Oakes deftly twisted the already twisted story by Mr. Carroll. Dinah isn’t a wholly likeable character but she is a sympathetic character that grows on you as you read (or at least she did with me). I know that there will probably be a great deal of bloodshed and anguish in the next volume in this series, because war seems to be inevitable. Although this series is classified as YA, I found it to be an engrossing read and one that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. If you are a fan of fantasy, the retelling of classic literature, or simply interested in something a little different to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of The Crown and The Wonder today. This is one series you don’t want to miss!


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book 296: THE CURSE OF VAN GOGH Review



The Curse of Van Gogh by Paul Hoppe
ISBN: 9781940716152 (paperback)
ASIN: B00M4RQ0S8 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


In a dizzying world of glamour, danger and mystery, The Curse of Van Gogh is the story of a man drawn into an underground crime world he thought he’d left behind forever. Readers who loved the action and adventure of The Thomas Crown Affair and Ocean’s 11 films, as well as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, will be thrilled by this stunning novel, which is released on the 124th anniversary of van Gogh’s death.

Tyler Sears, art thief, just released from a federal prison, vows never again. He slides into a simple life bartending in New York City until one day an invitation arrives to the hottest art event of the season, where Tyler meets Komate Imasu, famed art collector. Suddenly Tyler’s vows of abstinence slip away as Imasu uses threats against Tyler’s family. Tyler decides to gamble and ups the ante to a breathtaking level.

Tyler quickly learns that gambling against a ruthless billionaire is never a good idea. Forgetting his own safety, Tyler plunges headfirst into a world of art forgers, hit men, Yakuza, a femme fatale named Chanel No. 5, and the hideous curse of van Gogh, in order to pull off…the greatest art heist in history.



Tyler Sears is newly released from prison, on parole, and working as a bartender. He has vowed to give up his life of crime because if he gets caught in the act again it will be his third strike and it’ll be prison for the rest of his life. Tyler’s life on the outside isn’t great, but he does have a job in a place he likes and works with people he likes, so things could be worse. Enter Mr. Komate Imasu with an offer that Tyler can’t refuse . . . literally. Mr. Imasu expects Tyler to pull off a theft of one of the most important pieces of Impressionist art ever, Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. If Tyler doesn’t agree to the heist then Tyler and his family will pay the price. Tyler comes up with a counteroffer that he believes will get him off the hook. He states that he’ll steal twelve pieces of Impressionist art from an upcoming tour, basically the art world’s version of the Impressionist era’s greatest hits. Unfortunately for Tyler, Mr. Imasu agrees to this counteroffer and prepays Tyler $50 million with the remaining $50 million to be paid on delivery. Now Tyler just has to figure out how to steal the paintings, keep Mr. Imasu and his Yakuza friends as well as Interpol off his back. He also has to figure out how to keep his family safe while committing the perfect crime, with hopefully none of the repercussions of the Van Gogh curse (think the curse of King Tut). Sounds like a lot doesn’t it . . . but wait, throw in a romantic twist when Tyler reunites with a lady friend from his past and you’ve got one heck of a story.

It took me awhile to get into The Curse of Van Gogh. The story seemed to slow down in places when discussing art history, weapons details, etc. at the beginning I know some people may like all of those details but they didn’t really add much to the overall story for me and I could have done without them. Of course the story probably wouldn’t have been the same without those details which is why Mr. Hoppe is the author and I’m a reader and blogger. After the first 60-70 pages the pace of the story picked up quite a bit and then it was full-speed ahead. Tyler and his love interest, Lucy, made for a nice twist, as we can see that Tyler is fully aware of the gravity of his situation and doesn’t want anyone else to suffer any of the consequences. Tyler isn’t really a bad guy, just a guy that has made mistakes in his past. He tries to atone for it by ensuring, to the best of his abilities, that his mother, brother, and friends are protected from any fallout. He also wants to do the right thing and agrees that he’ll return the paintings after the theft. There are several big questions that Tyler needs to address. First, can he pull off this art theft without getting caught? Second, if he pulls off the theft, can he stay a step ahead of his Interpol nemesis, not to mention Mr. Imasu and the Yakuza? And last, will he be able to win the girl of his dreams by trusting her and telling her the truth?

Told you there was a lot going on in this story. Mr. Hoppe does a wonderful job of pulling together the various storylines and weaving them to complete a wholly believable crime thriller. There are bad guys, namely Mr. Imasu and the Yakuza. There are other bad guys that are out to protect Tyler and his family, so we’ll just consider them good guys with dirty white hats. There’s Tyler, his mother and her love interest, Tyler’s brother, and Tyler’s love interest, and finally Interpol. Amazingly enough each group serves its purpose well and I can’t imagine the story without any of them. The end was very fast paced and had me on the edge of my seat figuratively speaking. Does Tyler succeed in his attempt to do the impossible? Does he get the girl? Does he come out alive? Well to find the answers to those questions you’ll just have to read the book. If you’re a crime thriller reader, like stories that involve art and the art world, or are simply looking for something a little different, then The Curse of Van Gogh is the book you’ll want to read.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Book 291: GRAVEL ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD Review



Gravel on the Side of the Road: True Stories from a Broad Who Has Been There by Kris Radish
ISBN: 9781940716435 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716428 (ebook)
ASIN: B00M4SOVJW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


A woman who worries about carrying a .38 special in her purse, nearly drowns in a desert canyon, flies into the war in Bosnia, dances with the FBI, tells Geraldo he shouldn’t put guests in hotel rooms with rats and spends time with murderers, has more than a few stories to tell.

Gravel on the Side of the Road-True Stories From a Broad Who Has Been There is a daring and revealing adventure itself.

Beloved novelist Kris Radish returns to her non-fiction beginnings with her first, but not last, book of autobiographical essays. Her writing career has spanned four decades and has included award winning newspaper work, magazine features, a national syndicated column, eleven books and enough stories and adventures to fill up many more.

Radish’s talent for telling it like it is, sharing the wit and wisdom of a life lived mostly on her own terms and her keen sense of humor are highlighted in these stories- some of them old- some of them new, but all of them a glimpse into worlds many never dare to enter. This author always lives in a world where nothing is sacred but the sweet emotions of the heart.

Kris is definitely a broad who has been there.



I normally don’t read a lot of nonfiction unless it pertains to topics I’m interested in (namely comparative religion, Islam, Muslims, tea, perfumery, aromatherapy, etc.), so when the opportunity came up to read Gravel on the Side of the Road – True Stories from a Broad Who Has Been There by Kris Radish I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To say that I was pleasantly surprised while reading this book is a major understatement. 

Gravel On the Side of the Road is a collection of essays that spotlight different experiences in Kris Radish’s life. Each essay stands alone and all are quickly read. Some essays made me smile – “Jesus Drives a Thunderbird,” “The Turquoise Ring,” and “The One Thing I Wanted.” Some made me laugh – “Wong’s Silver Spur, Dead Deer, and the Dance-Floor Stabbing.” Others made me want to cry – “Even Now,”  “The Mothers in Bosnia,” “I’ve Picked Out My Husband’s New Wife,” and “I Will Always Be Their Mother.” All are presented without frills and unapologetically for a life lived without compromise. Each essay provides a fascinating glimpse into the amazingly wondrous experiences Ms. Radish has had over the years. I can’t say that there were any essays that I didn’t enjoy as they all provided me a little insight into Kris Radish, where she’s been and why. Having said that, as a true book diva I think the essay that tops my favorite list is “Eudora Welty” where Ms. Radish has a fan girl moment with Ms. Welty and then proceeds to overcome it and be the professional journalist she dreamed of being (not to mention the wonderful writing advice she received from Ms. Welty). Whether you’re a fan of nonfiction or not, Gravel on the Side of the Road is a wonderfully written collection of essays by an amazing woman and author. I highly recommend you add this to your TBR list . . . actually don’t just add it to your TBR list, grab a copy and read it. (NOTE: I guess I should give you a little warning that although the first essay is quite funny the last one may require that you grab some tissues.)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book 256: SERENADE Review



Serenade by Emily Kiebel
ISBN: 9781940716046 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716053 (ebook)
ASIN: B00LU7JS00 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress


Suddenly the voice she prized is now dangerously seductive…

Lorelei Clark’s only concern was her future as a classically trained soprano, that is, until the day her father was tragically killed. Shattered by his death, she hesitantly accepts an invitation from a mysterious aunt to visit her lavish oceanside home in Cape Cod. She quickly discovers that her aunt and the two women who live with her are harboring a frightening secret they are sirens, terrifying mythical creatures responsible for singing doomed sailors to their deaths. Even more astounding, Lorelei is one of them. In this new world where water comes alive at her touch and an ancient power pulses beneath the tide, the most important rule Lorelei must learn is that a siren never interferes with fate. When she breaks this rule by rescuing a handsome sailor who should have died at sea, the sirens vow she must finish the job or face grave consequences. Finding herself inexplicably attracted to him, she must fight to keep him safe from the others, even if it means risking her own life, and her heart, in the process.



Lorelei Clark is interested in becoming the best classically trained soprano she can become. She spent much of her childhood devoted to singing and becoming a better artist. When she was offered the opportunity to study at a small but prestigious conservatory in Maine she was ecstatic. Her mother was anything but happy and refused to even talk to Lorelei before and after she left for college. Lorelei’s father had always been her most devoted supporter, and when he dies in a freak accident in her arms she is devastated. After her father’s funeral she returns to school but her mind simply isn’t on her studies. When she receives a letter from a maternal aunt, inviting her to come to Cape Cod, Lorelei thinks this may be the answer to her prayers. Within a few scant months, Lorelei had started college, suffered the traumatic death of her father, reconciled with her mother only to separate from her once again over a difference of opinion on Lorelei’s future. Perhaps this visit to long-lost relatives to the Cape will provide just the distraction Lorelei needs and allow her to focus on her future.

Little does Lorelei know that her entire life will change after she arrives at her aunt’s home in Cape Cod. First Lorelei is introduced to an aunt and cousins she never knew she had. Second she is told that her family lineage includes sirens. Her love of singing and water are part of her siren nature. To say that this is a little hard to swallow is putting it lightly. Adding insult to injury, Lorelei is told that she has to go on a mission to assist in the transition from life to death for a group of merchant marines on a cargo ship. This may be the biggest trial that Lorelei faces in life…or is it?

Serenade is not just a coming of age story, but a story of family, heritage and the idea of free will. Ms. Kiebel has deftly incorporated the mythic sirens into a story that also includes messengers, banshees, an Idis, the Elysienne, and even Valkyries. I found Serenade to be a rather fast-paced read. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first read the blurb and saw that the story included the rather fantastical element of sirens. Serenade is part coming-of-age, part fantasy, part heroic quest, and part self-realization/awareness with a touch of romance thrown into the mix. If you’re looking for something a little different and enjoy reading YA or NA books, then you’ll definitely want to add Serenade to your TBR list. (Trust me, you don’t have to be a young/new adult in order to appreciate this story.) I can only hope that there will be more Lorelei stories coming in the future. 


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Book Showcase: ON GRACE by Susie Orman Schnall

On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall
ISBN: 9781940716138 (paperback)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: April 8, 2014 (Second edition)



Grace May is actually excited about turning forty in a few months. Now that her boys are both in school and she has a stimulating new writing job, the next chapter in her life can finally begin. She can’t wait to rediscover the intelligent woman buried under the layers of mother and wife. But when Grace suddenly loses her job and receives unexpected news, she stands to lose everything: her marriage, her best friend, and her sense of self. By her fortieth birthday party, Grace will realize who and what matter most. With laughter. With tears. With grace.



Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I am not planning on waking up tomorrow and feeling completely different. But I’m certainly not planning to feel the same as I do today and every other day. Tomorrow when I wake up, brilliant sunlight streaming through my windows, I’ll feel as if nothing can go wrong. It will be a momentous day. Sure, momentous is a big word, usually saved for things like fiftieth wedding anniversaries and retirements that come with gold watches, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use that word and own it. Momentous. I like the way it sounds. 

Today is the last day before I start the rest of my life, because tomorrow is the first day that both of my boys will be in school all day, every day. It’s been eight years since I’ve had my days to myself all day, every day. Eight years since I’ve taken my own wants and needs and put them first. I’m not one of those coddling, helicopter moms, but even us good-enough moms can’t really put our own wants and needs first. At least not all day, every day. 

So as I prepare for momentous, I’m getting all the last-day-of-summer stuff out of the way. Today is haircuts, prepping backpacks, and the last day of collecting colorful summer bugs in glass jars. We’ll take one last carefree bike ride in flip-flops and celebrate with a final late-afternoon trip to Longford’s for ice cream where we’ll probably see lots of other moms who can’t wait for tomorrow and lots of other kids who can. 

But for now, the boys are out back playing baseball with some neighborhood friends, and I’m standing in front of the open fridge, trying to figure out what the hell to make for dinner. When my phone rings, I check the caller ID and answer excitedly. 

“Hey, Cam!” I practically sing into the phone.

“Hey, Grace! How’s it going?” 

“Going great. I really can’t wait for tomorrow. I know I’m going to feel so free, and joyful, and in control of my own life,” I say. 

“Wow, that sounds promising! Good girl,” Cameron says enthusiastically. 

“One more day and then I can start getting my life back in gear.” 

“What exactly is out of gear?” Cameron asks. 

“Well, my marriage, my stalled career, my lack of any sort of fitness, and other miscellaneous things,” I tell her. “Not necessarily, but possibly, in order of importance. I kind of have a little plan formulating in the back of my mind.”

“How much of this is because you’re freaked out about turning forty in a few months?” Cameron asks. 

“I’ve told you, I’m not that freaked out about forty.” 

“You know, Grace, you’re allowed to not be excited about it.” 

“But I am excited. I see forty as more of an opportunity to regain control of my life. Sort of like New Year’s Eve. But with much less champagne.”

“Well, I’ll toast to that,” Cameron says. “And while we’re toasting . . . ,” she adds with an unmistakable lilt. 

“What? No! What?” 

“Yes!”

“Yes?” 

“Seven and a half weeks officially today.” 

“Oh, Cameron. Congratulations! And here I was rambling on and on about me, and you had such good news.”

“Grace, its fine. Really. I called as much to tell you about me as I did to find out how your day before the big day is going.”

“Well, I’m so happy for you.”

“I know. Sorry I didn’t tell you right away. But you know with my history and all, I just really wanted to make sure. And today is a day longer than I’ve ever been pregnant before. Not that I wouldn’t have told you if I had miscarried again. I just had some sort of weird superstition thing going on.”

“No need to apologize. I completely understand. But to make amends, will you meet me for dinner tonight for a proper celebration? Tengda at 7:30?” I ask. 

“Don’t you have to be home with the boys tonight? Last day of summer and all?” 

“I’m taking them on a long bike ride this afternoon so they’ll be tired. And they’ll think it’s more special anyway if Darren is in charge of bedtime. So Tengda?” 

“Raw fish.”

“Right, raw fish. Méli-Mélo then?”

“It’s a date. And you can tell me more about your so-called plan,” Cameron says. 

“I will. See you later. And Cam, I’m really so happy for you. Give my love to Jack.”

And with that, I do a little jig for my best friend who has been trying to get pregnant for five years. I boot up my laptop to email Darren the good news and the heads-up that I’ll be going out tonight. 

As I wash the lunch dishes, I think about the part-time job I’m starting on Monday. I’m going to be the new “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly, our county’s glossy and hip-enough attempt at New York magazine. Each week, I’ll file a 500-word article on something new and noteworthy in the county that’s perfect for families, and I can’t wait to start. It’s nowhere near my old salary, but it’s something. Plus, this job is more about the opportunity to rediscover the woman who’s been deeply buried under the labels of “wife” and “mother” for the past eight years. 

I met the Weekly’s owner/publisher, Matthew O’Donnell, in June at a friend’s beach club. He and his wife, Monique, had just moved to our neighborhood in Rye (a leafy suburb of New York City where you would be confident no one would steal your car while you leave it running to dart into the post office, but you never would leave it running because people would be all over you about the toxic fumes released from idling). When I told him I had been an editor at two different fitness magazines before I had my kids (when I was still, well, fit), he asked about my writing and why I wasn’t still working. 

I wasn’t sure what was the more pleasant surprise: the fact that I was actually having a meaningful conversation with a man other than my husband (something that doesn’t usually happen at these beach club gatherings where the men all gather around the bar to discuss the double S’s—sports and stocks—and the women hover nearby in their strappy summer wedges to discuss the double N’s—nannies and nips and tucks) or that I might have a connection at a publication I’d love to write for. And he was right, why wasn’t I still working? Well, I had two really adorable answers, but they were starting school in a couple months. 

So, I told him, “I put my career on hold, because I wanted to be home with my kids. But they’ll both be in school full time this fall, and I’ll be ready to focus on my work again.”

“Grace has done an amazing job with the boys,” Darren said to Matthew. “They’re lucky she chose them over her career, but she’s not one of those women who is going to be happy playing tennis every day while they’re in school. She needs more than that.” 

I looked at Darren and smiled, feeling so fortunate that he was so supportive. We had talked that afternoon about how I was feeling apprehensive about getting a job. How I worried I would feel overwhelmed managing both a job and my family. I knew I would be no good at all that Superwoman stuff. But I also knew that I ached to be creative again. To use my brain for more than just organizing soccer practice carpool schedules and finding innovative ways to sneak green leafy vegetables into mini meat loaves. 

Matthew and I talked for a while, and I told him I thought the magazine could use a section dedicated to things families could do together, besides just the events listings in the back. When he agreed with me and said that was something his editorial department had been considering, I boldly—with a little help from my Riesling—suggested that maybe I could be the one to write it. A few phone calls, emailed clips, meetings with the editor, and trial columns later, and I was hired as the “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly. 

I hear my cell phone ring so I wipe my hands on a dish towel and rush to find my phone in my disorganized purse. I find it just as the call is about to go to voicemail, notice it’s an unknown caller, and quickly touch the screen to answer. 

“Hello?” I say, completely unprepared for what’s about to come.



About the author:


Originally from Los Angeles, Susie Orman Schnall graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Schnall has written for national and local publications about parenting and health. She lives in New York with her husband and their three young boys. ON GRACE is her debut novel.  

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