THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: The Brightest Moon of the Century, Christopher Meeks {$0.99}

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Christopher Meeks‘ Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of The Brightest Moon of the Century:

In his fourth award-winning book, Christopher Meeks offers a comic and compassionate coming-of-age novel. A young Minnesotan, Edward, is blessed with an abundance of “experience”–first when his mother dies and next when his father, an encyclopedia salesman, shoehorns Edward into a private boys school where he’s tortured and groomed. He needs a place in the universe, but he wants an understanding of women.

Accolades:

“A truly great novel in the tradition of Charles Dickens and John Irving.” –Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews

“In his debut novel, ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century,’ Christopher Meeks chronicles one man’s path to middle age and, in doing so, illustrates how choices and circumstances — even those that seem arbitrary at the time — have a way of irrevocably cementing a person’s future.” -Cherie Parker, Minnneapolis Star Tribune

“Charming and endlessly entertaining, ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century’ is a fine read that is an excellent addition to literary fiction collections.” -Midwest Book Review

“Edward is endearingly real, and readers will be rooting for him in every situation. ‘The Brightest Moon of the Century’ will appeal to readers across genders and generations.” -Dawn Rennert, She Is Too Fond of Books


Reviews:

The Brightest Moon of the Century currently has a customer review rating of 4.1 stars with 21 reviews! Read the reviewshere.


The Brightest Moon of the Century is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


An excerpt from The Brightest Moon of the Century:

THE HAND
(1968-69)


Near mid-century when Edward was born, the full moon was years from being the brightest. That would happen—in terms of luminosity and size—in the last month of the century. As a child growing up, however, Edward found much splendor and mystery in the moon. It kept changing and following him around, a rock with its own rhythms, much like girls, and he knew he was years away from understanding girls.
Now in eighth grade with his mother gone, Edward felt he’d finally done something right. His father, Stanley, stood at the kitchen sink reading one of Edward’s English papers. Edward smiled, waiting for his father to see the letter grade of “A” at the end.
“What’s this quote?” asked his father, who then read the quoted line aloud. “‘The moon on the river looked like a dented hubcap floating on a cesspool. I hated rivers, and my grandfather, Elihu Twain, hated them, too.’ You say this is from Mark Twain. Where’d you find this quote?” The man frowned.
“I don’t know,” Edward said. He had to pause his breakfast spoon in mid-flight, knowing his cornflakes, bathing in the bowl’s milk, were about to turn into corn mush. “The encyclopedia?”
“Don’t you know that there were no hubcaps in those days? And Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Clemens, so his grandfather would be named Clemens, for crissakes, not Twain. And Mark Twain, for your information, had been a steamboat pilot, and he loved rivers—compared them to pearls and opals! Where did you get this quote?”
“I was running out of time, so I had to— I mean—”
“You made it up, didn’t you?”
“It was due,” Edward said. “And I still got an ‘A’.”
“I didn’t raise you to be a cheater.”
“She mostly just wanted to see that we can write an essay, and—”
“It’s not even that great of an essay,” said his father.
“You’re always harping on grades so—”
“Don’t you blame this on me.”
“It’s a good grade. What’re we arguing about?” Edward stood, turning to the sink with his bowl.
“And what kind of English teacher couldn’t catch such a thing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Education is the asphalt for the road of life.”
“What? Asphalt?”
“The point is next fall you’re not going to that waste dump of a school.”
“Because of one lousy high-graded paper? Come on!” Edward dumped his now-soggy cereal down the garbage disposal.
His father shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about this awhile. I want you to have more opportunity than I had. You don’t want to be an encyclopedia salesman, do you? I want you to go to McCory.”
“But I love where I’m at! It’s good asphalt.”
The fact was Edward did not love his school, but no one bothered him there. At Eastbrook Junior High School, Edward Meopian was not a wallflower but more like a hearty, imperceptible weed. The girls looked through him, the guys he passed in the hallway nodded once in a while, and the teachers didn’t find him distracted or daydreaming so did not pounce on him. He was not someone who was teased, for he wasn’t nerdy or outwardly vulnerable. Rather, he came across to most people, certainly to himself, as something of an ottoman or sofa: existing and acceptable. His grades were just above average—not good enough for the jocks to ask him if it was okay to copy his homework. If he were to become a mass murderer down the road, no one would know him well enough to tell the blond TV interviewer, “Yeah, I knew him in junior high, and he was so friendly. Who knew he could turn people’s pelvis bones into ash trays?”
Rather, he was “Edward Who?”
On Saturday morning two weeks later, his father drove Edward to the McCory School to take the entrance exam. The high-class private school for boys was in a bleak brick structure above the train yards of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
His father said while dropping Edward off, “Do well on the test or else.” Or else what? Would his father force him to go to the public high school where Edward wanted to go anyway? Or would his father allow no friends over for a month? Edward had no friends. What do you take away when you have nothing?
Edward nodded and exited the car. Inside the school in the dim hallway, a thin man with a nicotine face led him to a small paneled room where a test waited for him on a wooden desk. Edward sighed, flipped the test open, and did as well as he could on the entrance exam, math and English, because he did not want to be thought of as stupid. At the end of the test was the question, “Why do you want to attend McCory School?” He wrote, “I don’t want to. My dad wants me to go.” To the question, “What appeals to you about McCory?” he penned, “Nothing. I want to go to a school with girls. There are no girls here.”
A week later at breakfast, his father said, “I got a call yesterday.”
What was that supposed to mean? His father looked serious.
“From Aunt Barbara?” he tried.
“McCory.” He broke out in a grin. “You made it in.”
“But I don’t want to go to McCory. How can you afford McCory?”
“That’s my problem.”
“I promise to do better at Eastbrook.”
“It’s McCory. We’ll go shopping for suits soon.”
“Suits?”
“You have to wear coats and ties there.”
Edward gasped.
“Don’t give me that look,” said his father. “You’re going to be a businessman someday, so you may as well get used to coats and ties now.”
“What if I want to be a welder?”
“Then you’ll be a gentleman welder. Oh, and one other thing. Because of what you wrote at the end of your test about not wanting to go—they felt you had a maturity issue. You’ll be starting in the eighth grade.”
“But I passed the eighth grade!” said Edward.
“You shouldn’t have written what you did.” His father finished his coffee and put his cup in the sink. He beamed at Edward. “You’re going to be a McCory boy. Someday you’ll thank me.”

#

As the summer ended, his father took him to the Foursome, a men’s store across the bay in Wayzata. With stern looks that demanded silence from Edward, Dad bought him one blue blazer and one pin-stripped double-breasted suit, as if Edward were a thin, gawky banker. His father had never spent such money on him before. His father asked him one question: “Do you know how to tie a tie?” Edward shook his head, wondering how his father expected such a thing. They never went anyplace that demanded a tie, so how was he supposed to have learned? By the same method he had learned about girls: from boys talking in line at gym?
“I know just the trick for you,” said his father, and stepped away. Edward would have followed, but he noticed a college-age woman, very pretty in a flowered dress, adjusting the tie of her smiling, husky boyfriend in what must be a new blue suit. There was something about her touch, sure and casual, that made Edward stare. As she gazed at her man up and down, the way his mother had once looked at him and his father, Edward wondered if he would ever share such a moment with someone again. Would he ever get a girlfriend?
“Here you go,” said his father, carrying two pre-tied ties. “These are called clip-ons. You’re slow enough in the morning as it is, so this should help you.” His father clipped it on just under Edward’s throat as easily as a horse was attached to a tether.
Weeks later, walking stiffly in his blue blazer and clip-on, Edward walked the half-mile to the corner where the McCory bus would pick him up. The bus was orange like other school buses, but when he stepped on, only boys in coats and ties stared at him, looking like miniature accountants.
“Who are you?” said the first kid, about fourth grade with eyes resembling a gerbil’s.
“Edward.”
“Oh,” said the kid. “Got gum?”
“No.”
A half-hour later, the bus pulled into a long tree-shrouded drive that took them up the hill to the school. The three-story building called the Upper School technically had no grade levels, but rather “forms,” as in English schools. Seniors were Form Six, Juniors, Form Five, etc. Edward was in Form Two, the youngest in the Upper School. The Lower School, a smaller, one-story building a long block away, held grades three through six as well as Form One. The athletic fields lay between. The three wings of the Upper School formed a U, which backed its open end against a berm, giving the central, grassy area in back the feel of a prison yard.
The rooms inside, most of them built for fifteen or fewer students, were small with chipped blackboards and wood floors that had nearly seventy years of yellowed varnish, the color of dead men’s fingernails. The rooms echoed the confinement that Edward soon felt. Between classes, the olive green cement stairs that led to each floor flowed with students, the only time that Edward experienced, in his first days, any sense of positive energy, mainly because each step was that much closer to the final bell. The school motto, “Far from noise and smoke,” which was perhaps meant to suggest healthy isolation and the flowering of minds in a quiet, smogless atmosphere, did not take into consideration the horn blasts and diesel exhaust from passing trains below. As Edward would learn, the world was an ironic place.
Within the first week, one of Edward’s new classmates, John De Bernieres, a husky kid from his English class who walked as if he had a cigar up his butt, beelined right up to him. “What’s your dad do?”
“Why?” said Edward.
“My dad runs a big law firm,” said De Bernieres, “Maybe he knows your dad.”
“Mine’s in publishing.” That was a stretch. His father sold encyclopedias.
“Oh.” De Bernieres yanked Edward’s tie, and when it pulled off, he shouted to no one visible, “Hey, you’re right. The new kid has a clip-on!” Word spread quickly. In the olive drab hallways of McCory, his tie was being yanked off dozens of times daily by an equal number of classmates, including Lee Boatswain, son of the president of Northwest Banks, Robert B. Dalton, whose parents later named a large bookstore chain after him, and Reese Freely, son of the CEO of Dairy Queen.
On Sunday night after his first week of McCory, in bed early, Edward wondered what to do about the ties. His stomach felt as if it were a washrag wrung and twisted so hard, soon there would be no more liquid. Maybe his whole body would dry up and disappear.
Staring up into the darkness beyond the deepest moonless night, Edward realized maybe his father wasn’t the best person to get him through things. His father no longer understood what it was to be a kid. Edward was simply a responsibility. Edward then thought of the time their Sunday dinners had had three placemats, not two. He remembered how he could be with his mother alone, and with a quick hug and a laugh at something Edward said, the world was made right. Maybe she was a ghost, and he could find her. He really wanted to find her. But even if she came to him now, could she help him with a tie? No. The sense of aloneness overwhelmed him. Edward would have to learn how to tie a tie on his own. But how?
Minutes later, he knocked on his father’s bedroom door. Edward was scared to knock on the door, of course, but he had nowhere else to turn, even if his stomach told him not to. “What is it?” barked his father.
“Can I come in?”
“May I come in?”
“May I?”
“Yes.”
He found his father in bed, the same king-size bed the man had shared with Edward’s mother, whose last paperback book, Jacqueline Suzanne’s Valley of the Dolls, was still splayed face down on the bedside table as if she would return. His father looked up from a history book about Rommel.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in bed? This is my time. I’m tired,” said his father.
“I’m sorry. I just— I was— I mean—”
“Spit it out!”
“A tie. I’d like a regular tie, if that’s okay. For school.”
“I got you two, didn’t I?”
“They’re clip-ons, not regular.”
“Clip-ons look just fine.”
“Not really.”
“But they’re fast to attach.”
“The other kids tie regular ones fast. So will I.”
He thought his dad might raise his voice at the possibly impertinent answer, but instead his father said, “You can tie ties now?”
“Yeah . . . I mean yes.” He had entered the room also meaning to ask him how, but now, seeing how irritated his father might be, thought it better to pretend.
“Open my second closet and take any two you want,” said his father.
Edward nodded. He opened the closet and, from about fifty ties hanging neatly from their own little bars, looked at all the variations on stripes. Nothing stood out, nothing seemed special, so Edward took one in blue and another in green.
“Thanks,” said Edward, and, to his surprise, his father smiled.

 

The Brightest Moon of the Century is available to purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Christopher Meeks:

Website: http://www.chrismeeks.com

Twitter: @MeeksChris

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Christopher-Meeks/212382392140974

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: In Leah’s Wake, Terri Giuliano Long {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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Terri Giuliano Long‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

Description of In Leah’s Wake:

***Newly edited by Sara-Jayne Slack, Inspired Quill Press***

‘Book Club Edition’ with author Q&A and discussion questions added.

The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine—more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years—just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly “together” kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong. Can this family survive in Leah’s wake?

Margot Livesey, award-winning author of Banishing Verona, calls In Leah’s Wake “a beautifully written and absorbing novel.”

When happens when love just isn’t enough?

Recipient of the CTRR Award for excellence

2011 Book Bundlz Book Pick

Book Bundlz 2011 Favorites, First Place

 

Accolades:

“Sometimes scary, sometimes sad, and always tender.” Susan Straight, National Book Award finalist, author Take One Candle Light A Room

“In Leah’s Wake is a beautifully written and absorbing novel.” Margot Livesey, Award-winning author of Banishing Verona

“Pulled me right along as I continued to make comparisons to my own life.” Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books, Top 50 Book Blog

“An incredibly strong debut, this book is fantastic on many fronts.” Naomi Blackburn, Founder Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

“Easily the best read that I have enjoyed in 2011.” Bonnie Erina Wheeler, author Fate Fixed: An Erris Coven Novel

 

Reviews:

In Leah’s Wake currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 3.4 stars from 227 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

In Leah’s Wake is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from In Leah’s Wake:

Prologue

February

 

Justine strikes a pose before the full-length mirror on her closet door. Chin up, hands at her sides. She draws a breath. “My dear…” she begins, and stops midsentence. Wrinkles her nose. She’s got it all wrong.

She’s too—stiff. Too grown up. Too something.

With her fingers, she sweeps the hair out of her pale, darkly fringed eyes and tugs at the hem of her pink baby-doll pajamas. When she learned five months ago she’d been selected to give the candidates’ address at her Confirmation, Justine was ecstatic. Now, the very idea of standing in front of the whole congregation and telling hundreds, maybe thousands, of people about how her own family has taught her what it means to be part of God’s larger family makes her sick to her stomach.

She has no choice. She made a commitment.

Folding her hands primly, she sets them on her imaginary podium. Glancing at her cheat sheet, she pulls her lower face into a smile and begins again. “My fellow Confirmation candidates,” she says this time.

Justine balls the paper and tosses it onto her bed. My fellow Confirmation candidates. What a dork. She sounds about twenty instead of thirteen.

She unclasps her necklace, places the gold cross in her jewelry box, and logs onto her computer, launching the Word document for her Confirmation speech. She scans the opening paragraph. “I’ve learned from my own family what it means to be part of God’s larger family,” she reads. Learned from my own family what it means to be part of God’s larger family? Please. Could she have been any more naïve?

She hits delete.

Typing furiously, she begins a brand new essay, the words tumbling out. In a rush of emotion, Justine describes how miserable she feels. And how very, very alone.

 

One – Just Do It

 

Zoe and Will Tyler sat at their dining room table playing poker. The table, a nineteenth century, hand-carved mahogany, faced the bay window overlooking their sprawling front yard. Husband and wife sat facing one another, a bowl of Tostitos and a half-empty bottle of Chablis positioned between them. Their favorite Van Morrison disc—Tupelo Honey—spun on the player, the music drifting out of speakers built into the dining room walls.

Dog, their old yellow Lab, lay on a blanket under the window.

Zoe fanned her cards. She was holding a straight. If she laid it down she’d win her third hand in a row, and her husband would quit. If she didn’t, she would be cheating herself.

“Full moon,” she said, glancing out the window. “No wonder I had trouble sleeping last night.”

The full moon made her anxious. For one of her graduate school internships, she’d worked on the psych ward at City Hospital in Boston. When the moon was full the floor erupted, the patients noisy and agitated. Zoe’s superiors had pooh-poohed the lunar effect, chalked it up to irrationality and superstition. Zoe had witnessed the flaring tempers, seen the commotion with her own two eyes, and she’d found the effect impossible to deny—and the nurses concurred.

Will set his empty glass on the table. With his fingers, he drummed an impatient tattoo. “You planning to take your turn any time soon? Be nice if we ended this game before midnight.”

“For Pete’s sake, Will.” Her husband had the attention span of a titmouse. He reminded her of Mick, a six-year-old ADD patient she counseled—sweet kid, when he wasn’t ransacking her office, tossing the sand out of the turtle-shaped box, or tweaking her African violets.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, sulking.

She shook her head—nothing, Mick—and forced a straight face.

“You’re laughing at me.”

“Don’t be silly. Why would I laugh at you?”

He peered at the window. Smirking, he finger-combed his baby-fine hair, graying at the temples, carving a mini-pyramid at his crown.

“Nice ’do. Could use a little more gel,” she said, feeling mean spirited the instant the words slipped out of her mouth. Her husband was exhausted. He’d spent the week in California on business. Though he had yet to fill her in on the details, it was obvious his trip had not gone well. “Sorry,” she said. “Just kidding.” She took another look at her cards, hesitated, and laid down the straight.

“Congratulations.” Scowling, he pushed away from the table. “You win again.”

“Way to go, grumpy. Quit.”

“I’m getting water,” he said, flattening his hair. “Want a glass?”

Dog lifted her head, her gaze following Will to the door. She yawned and settled back down.

Her husband stomped across the kitchen, his footfalls moving toward the family room. The music stopped abruptly and then the opening chords of a Robbie Robertson tune belted out of the speakers. Zoe appreciated the gesture. She loved Robbie Robertson; “Showdown at Big Sky” was one of her favorite songs. That didn’t mean the entire state of Massachusetts wanted to hear it.

From the kitchen, heading his way, she caught his eye. “Turn it down,” she mouthed, gesturing. “You’ll wake Justine.”

He pulled a face and lowered the music.

Exasperated, she returned to the dining room. She bundled the cards, put the deck in the sideboard drawer, and gathered the dishes.

The toilet flushed in the half-bath off the back hall. Then she heard her husband rattling around the kitchen, slamming the cabinet doors. In April, Will had won a major contract for his company, North American Construction. For five months, he’d been flying back and forth to the West Coast, spending two weeks a month on the job site in San Francisco. Zoe hadn’t minded his traveling at first. A glut of office and manufacturing space had tanked construction starts in the northeast; with sales in a slump, his commissions had steadily dwindled. To compensate, they’d initially relied on their savings. In January, they’d remortgaged the house.

The project spared them bankruptcy. But his schedule was brutal. Will hated traveling, being away from the family, living out of a suitcase. He missed her and the kids. Now, with soccer season in full tilt, it was especially hard. Last year, when she was only a sophomore, their daughter had been named “Player of the Year” on the Boston Globe All-Scholastic team. The sports reporter from the Cortland Gazette had called Leah the “best soccer player in the state.” Head coaches from the top colleges in the northeast—Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston College—had sent congratulatory letters, expressing their interest.

Since her first day on the field, Will had trained and guided their daughter. He wanted to be here now to meet the prospective coaches and help her sort through her options. Zoe knew how tough this was on him. It didn’t seem to occur to Will that his traveling disrupted her life, too. Last year she’d developed a motivational seminar, called, “Success Skills for Women on the Move.” With the girls practically grown, the workshops were her babies. The extra workload at home added to the demands of her fulltime job at the counseling center, left her no time for marketing or promotion, and the workshops had stagnated. Zoe understood her husband’s frustration. It irked her that he failed to recognize hers.

Will appeared in the doorway a few minutes later, empty-handed. Her husband was tall, a hair shy of six-one. He’d played football in college, and at forty-five still had the broad shoulders and narrow waist of an athlete. Amazing, really:  after eighteen years of marriage, she still found him achingly sexy. Crow’s feet creased the corners of his intelligent blue eyes and fine lines etched his cheekbones, giving his boyish features a look of intensity and purpose. Zoe recognized those qualities from the start, but it was only now, as he was aging, they showed on his face.

After work, he’d changed into jeans and a gray sweatshirt with the words “Harvard Soccer Camp” across the chest. He pushed up his sleeves and peered around the room as though looking for something.

“Zoe?” Normally, he called her “Honey” or “Zo.”

“I put the cards away.” She thumbed the sideboard. “You quit, remember?”

“Where’s Leah?”

“She went to the football game with Cissy. They hardly see each other lately. I thought it was nice.”

“She ought to be home by now.”

She glanced at the cuckoo clock on the east-facing wall. Their daughter was a junior in high school. They’d agreed before the start of the school year to extend her weekend curfew to eleven. It was ten minutes past.

“You know Leah. She probably lost track of the time.”

Will, nodding, went to the window.

Their driveway, half the length of a soccer field, sloped down from the cul-de-sac, ending in a turnaround at the foot of their three-car garage. In summer, the oak and birch trees bordering the property obscured their view of the street. Now, with the trees nearly bare, they could see the flash of headlights as vehicles entered the circle.

Dog hauled herself to her feet and pressed her nose to the glass.

Will stretched his neck, wincing. His back was bothering him again, residual pain from a football injury he’d suffered in college.

Zoe came up behind him, pushing Dog’s blanket aside with her foot. “You’re tight,” she said, squeezing his shoulders.

He dropped his chin. “That feels good. Thanks. I’ve got to get one of those donut pillows for the plane.”

“Try to relax. You know Leah. She has no sense of time.”

“I can’t see why Hillary won’t set a curfew. All the other coaches have one.”

“You’re blowing this out of proportion, don’t you think?”

A flash of headlights caught their attention. An SUV entered the cul-de-sac and rounded the circle, light sweeping across their lawn.

“She has a game in the morning,” Will said.

“I know.”

Will ruffled Dog’s ears. “Reardon’s coming specifically to see her. She plays like crap when she’s tired.”

The Harvard coach. She should have known. “So she doesn’t go to Harvard,” she said, a tired remark. “She’ll go someplace else.”

“There is no place else.”

No place with such fantastic opportunities, great connections…blah, blah, blah. They’d been over this a million times. If their daughter expressed any interest at all in Harvard, Zoe would do back flips to support her. As far as she could tell, Harvard wasn’t even on Leah’s radar screen. It was a moot point, anyway. Leah’s grades had been slipping. If she did apply for admission, she’d likely be denied.

“Reardon’s got pull. He’s been talking to Hillary about her,” he said. “She can’t afford to blow this opportunity.”

What opportunity? “Face it, Will. She doesn’t want to go to Harvard.”

“If she plays her cards right, she can probably get a boat.”

“Please,” Zoe said, set to blast him. He’d received a full football scholarship from Penn State. What did he do? Dropped out of college. Was that what he wanted? For their daughter to burn out and quit? Noting the purple rings under his eyes, she held back. “You’re exhausted.” His plane had barely touched ground at Logan Airport when he was ordered to NAC’s corporate office in Waltham for a marketing meeting. He hadn’t had time to stop at home to change his clothes, never mind take a short nap. “Why don’t you go to bed? I’ll wait up.”

The look he returned implied that she’d lost it.

“Relax, Will. For all we know, they had a flat.”

“She would have called.”

“So call her.” Duh.

“I did. I got voicemail.”

Shoot. “You know Leah. Her battery probably died.” She was grasping at straws. Leah was sixteen. That phone was her lifeline. Still, it could be true. It was possible. Right?

 

In Leah’s Wake is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

Connect with Terri Giuliano Long:

Website: www.tglong.com

Blog: www.tglong.com/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tglong

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tglongwrites

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Refuge, N. G. Osborne {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

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N. G. Osborne‘s Frugal Find Under Nine:

 

Description of Refuge:

On a dusty, sweltering night, Noor Khan, a beautiful, headstrong Afghan refugee, comes face-to-face with Charlie Matthews, a brash, young American aid worker. To Noor’s fury, Charlie breaks every cultural norm and pursues her. She wants nothing to do with him: her sole aim in life is to earn an overseas scholarship so she can escape the miseries of the refugee camps.

However when Noor’s brother threatens to marry her off, she is forced to seek refuge in Charlie’s home, of all places, and suddenly everything Noor believes in is put into question.

Set in the mystical and seething city of Peshawar, where no one is without an agenda and few can be trusted, Refuge is a timeless and unforgettable love story about the struggle for love and purpose in a cruel and cynical world.

Accolades:

“Discovery of the year … a page-turning and enchanting romantic drama that beautifully evokes one of the world’s most intriguing cities, Peshawar. You’ll be burning the midnight oil to finish it.” Henry Fitzherbert, Sunday Express

“A captivating tale of love between the unlikeliest people in the unlikeliest of places.” Will Fetters – Screenwriter of “Remember Me” and “The Lucky One

 

Reviews:

Refuge currently has an Amazon reader review rating of 4.6 stars from 51 reviews. Read the reviews here.

 

Refuge is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!

 

An excerpt from Refuge:

CPROLOGUE – Escape

Kabul – February 1981

“NOOR—NOOR, MY love, please get up.”

Noor opens her eyes to find her mother crouched over her, her mother’s lantern just bright enough to bathe her face in a warm glow. Noor fights the urge to go back to sleep.

“The Russians are coming,” her mother says.

Noor’s eyes snap open, and she swings her feet onto the cold stone floor.

“Wait,” her mother says. “Put these on first.”

Her mother holds out a set of clothes. It’s only now that Noor realizes her mother is wearing a shalwar kameez.

“Mamaan, do I have to?”

“Think of it as a disguise.”

That at least makes it palatable.

“Now quick,” her mother says, “we’ve no time to waste.”

Her mother hastens away. Noor pulls her pajamas off and grabs the first article of clothing, a pale green kameez.

“You ready?” a voice hisses.

Noor clutches her kameez to her chest. Her brother, Tariq, stands in the doorway, holding a lamp of his own, his shadow looming behind him.

“Get out, I’m dressing,” she says.

“Nothing to see,” Tariq smirks.

“Not the point.”

“Well hurry up.”

Noor waits for Tariq to leave before slipping on the kameez and the baggy shalwar pants. She shoves her feet into her tennis shoes and takes off at full tilt. She finds everyone in the kitchen, their faces lit by the flickering light of the stove. Her Aunt Sabha is crying, and her sobs only intensify upon seeing Noor.

“Oh my sweet, sweet girl. When will we see you again?”

“You’ll come and see us in America,” Noor says.

“That’s right, that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

Aunt Sabha sweeps Noor into her ample bosom.

“Do you have the letter from Doctor Abdullah?” her Uncle Aasif asks her father.

“The letter?” her father says.

“Good God, Aamir,” her mother snaps, “the introduction to the American Ambassador.”

Her father searches his jacket pockets and emerges with a crumpled envelope.

“Give it to me,” her mother says snatching it away.

Her mother looks around.

“Where’s Bushra?”

“She’s awake,” her father says.

“But was she out of bed when you left her?”

It’s clear from her father’s expression that Bushra wasn’t.

“Noor, go and get your sister now,” her mother says.

Noor grabs a lantern and sprints back upstairs. She finds her older sister asleep, her shalwar kameez lying undisturbed beside her. Noor shakes her.

“Bushra, you’ve got to get up.”

Bushra groans and draws her covers close. Noor rips them off and yanks Bushra out of the bed.

“The Russians are coming to arrest Baba,” Noor says.

Bushra yelps and jumps to her feet.

“We’ve got to go,” Bushra says.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

Bushra scrambles into her shalwar kameez, and the two of them run out the room. Noor halts outside her bedroom.

“Keep going, I’ll be right there.”

Noor enters her room and takes one last look around; at the doll’s house her father built last Eid and which, to her eternal guilt, she hasn’t played with once; her posters of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova; her pet rabbit Bjorn, sitting up in his cage, his nose twitching. She thinks about setting him loose but knows he wouldn’t last more than a day before becoming someone’s dinner. She puts a finger through the mesh and rubs his fore-head.

“I’ve got to go, Bjorn. A long way away, but I’ll always love you, remember that.”

Bjorn’s ears prick up; outside some cars screech to a halt. Doors open, and a man yells out commands in Russian. Noor sprints out of the room and back downstairs.

“They’re here,” she screams.

Aunt Sabha lets out a shriek. Booming thuds reverberate from the front door.

“I’ll delay them,” Uncle Aasif says. “Now go, go.”

Noor’s mother grabs Noor’s hand, and they run out of the kitchen across the snow covered courtyard, past the ancient apricot tree that, to Noor’s eternal triumph, she climbed higher than Tariq the week before. Her mother tugs her into the dusty old servants’ quarters past the laundry room with its wooden washboards and iron ringer and up to a large metal door. Her mother yanks it open and pulls Noor into an alley where a donkey and cart await.

“Why aren’t we taking the Oldsmobile?” Noor says.

“It’s too conspicuous.”

Her mother grabs Noor by the waist and throws her up onto the straw. Tariq and Bushra bundle in beside her while her parents sit up front. Her father clicks his tongue, and the donkey starts plodding forward.

“Put this on, Bushra,” her mother says.

She holds out another article of clothing: it’s a burqa. Bushra complies, and her mother puts on one of her own. Noor shivers. They look like jinns sent to steal her soul. Tariq nudges her.

“You scared?” he says.

“Course not.”

“Liar.
Her mother hisses at them to be quiet. Noor looks towards the end of the alley. Despite the early hour, the street beyond is already bustling with traffic.

“Faster,” her mother says.

Her father urges the donkey on, but if anything the donkey seems to slow.

“We’re a simple peasant family from Aynak,” her mother says. “If we’re stopped let your father do the talking.”

“But what if they ask us questions?” Noor says.

“They won’t.”

“But what if they do?”

“Then only speak Pashtu. If they speak to you in English pretend you don’t understand.”

A car pulls into the alley its round headlamps lighting the morning mist a garish yellow.

Her father and mother stiffen.

Noor squints; in the glare it’s impossible to tell who’s inside. The car honks and she senses her parents relax; she assumes if it were Russians they’d have gotten out by now. Her father looks over his shoulder to see if he can back up.

“Don’t you dare,” her mother says.

The car nudges forward, but for once the donkey’s obstinacy works to their advantage. After some virulent honking the driver puts the car into reverse. The donkey keeps pace, as if galvanized by its victory.

Noor hears shouts behind them and twists around to see four men emerging from the back of their house.

“Stop,” one shouts.

Her mother grabs the reins from her father and whacks the donkey as hard as she can.

“Stop right now, or we’ll shoot,” another yells.

The men pull guns from their holsters.

“Children, get down,” her mother shouts.

Her mother grabs a hold of Noor and shoves her into the straw. Shots ring out, and Noor clenches her eyes shut.
Her mother yells at the donkey to keep going, there’s another crackle of gunfire. The din of traffic and the sweet scent of petroleum fumes engulfs them.

Noor opens her eyes; her brother’s crotch is inches from her, a dark urine stain smearing the front of his pants. She rises up onto her elbows and sees the owner of the car shake his fist at them before accelerating back down the alley. Her mother hands the reins to Noor’s father.

“Turn right on Chicken Street,” she says panting.

She looks back at her children.

“Is everyone alright?”

Tariq sits up doing his best to hide his piss stain with a hand-ful of straw. He catches Noor looking at him and reddens. They turn down Chicken Street with its souvenir shops and restau-rants.

Bushra lies on the straw moaning.

“Bushra, are you alright?” her mother says.

“Yes, Mamaan.”

“Then sit up.”

They come to the end of the street and merge onto another bustling thoroughfare. A convoy of Soviet armored personnel carriers rumbles towards them. Noor holds her breath. One of the helmeted gunners stares at her: the days of the soldiers pretending to be their friends are long gone. The final personnel carrier passes by, and Noor thinks it permissible to breathe. She looks at Zarnegar Park, the Mir Abdul Rahman Tomb’s dull, copper dome framed by the snow covered mountains. She wonders if she’ll ever see it again.

The cart hits a pothole. It sends Noor tumbling forward and elicits a pained groan from her mother. Noor puts a hand on the floor and feels something damp. At first she assumes it’s Tariq’s urine, but when she brings her hand up she sees it’s stained with blood. She notices her mother is bent over.

“Mamaan.”

“Yes, my love.”

“Are you alright?”

Her mother doesn’t answer. Her father looks across.

“What’s the matter?” he says.

Her mother pulls up the front of her burqa. Even in the pale light of dawn Noor can see her mother’s kameez is soaked in blood. Noor cries out.

“Shh,” her mother says, “don’t draw attention to us.”

Up ahead, just before the turn for the river, a group of Rus-sian soldiers have set up a checkpoint. The traffic slows. Her father yanks on the reins and tries to turn the cart around. It’s impossible, a bus is right behind them.

“They’ll see me,” her mother says to her father.

“No, just stay where you are. We will be past this at any mo-ment, and we will go find a doctor.”

“Aamir, it’s too late for that.”

“Nonsense.”

The cart edges forward, and her mother rests her burqa on top of her head. Her cheeks, so rosy even in the coldest weather, are drained. She looks at each of her children as though she wants to burn their images into her soul.

“I love you all,” she says, “more than you’ll ever know.”

“No,” Tariq screams.

Up ahead a soldier looks in their direction. Tariq wraps his arms around his mother.

“Don’t go, don’t go,” he says.

Her mother strokes his hair and whispers into his ear. The cart trundles forward again; they’re now only three vehicles away from the checkpoint.

“Please, Aamir,” her mother says.

Her father stares at her, unwilling to grasp what’s unfolding in front of him.

“For their sake,” she says.

Somehow he manages to nod. Her mother leans forward and kisses her father on the forehead.

“I love you, Aamir,” she says. “Look after them for me.”

She extricates herself from her son’s grasp, and Noor’s father wraps his arms around Tariq. Tariq fights back, his legs kicking out, his arms flailing.

“Take the reins,” her mother says to Noor.

Noor scrambles into the front seat. Her mother grabs her by shoulders.

“Never compromise who you are. You hear me?”

Her mother places the reins in Noor’s hand and pushes her-self off the cart. Noor looks back. Her mother lies there in the street, blood already staining the snow around her. With what-ever life she has left she struggles back up onto her feet. Tariq breaks free and crawls to the back of the cart.

“Mamaan,” he screams. “Mamaan.”

Her mother looks stricken. From beneath her burqa she pulls out the envelope containing Dr. Abdullah’s letter. She collapses on the ground, and a woman in the bus behind lets out a piercing shriek. Soon soldiers are running past them until her mother’s body is lost amidst a sea of green uniforms. With the checkpoint no longer manned the donkey picks up its pace. The road bends to the left, and soon the checkpoint is out of sight.

Noor turns back and sees her father’s eyes are brimming with tears. In the back her brother lies on the straw sobbing while her sister sits immobile as a statue. Noor takes her father’s hand in hers, gives the donkey a whack with the reins, and they continue on out of the city.


Refuge
is available for purchase at:

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THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Megan’s Way, Melissa Foster {$3.79}

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Description of Megan’s Way:

This book is optioned for film and a multiple award winner.

One woman’s journey, her daughter’s will to survive, and a circle of friends shrouded in secrets.

 

Accolades:

“Megan’s Way by Melissa Foster is an emotionally moving book…Melissa does a great job in bringing you into the life of her characters and keeps the story rolling smoothly…” –Jeanette Stingley, Women’s Literary Editor, Bella Online

“A wonderful, warm, and thought-provoking story with a touch of the paranormal. This is a deep and moving book that speaks to men as well as women, and I urge you all to put it on your reading list. ” –Thomas Elliott, Book Review Editor, Mensa Bulletin

”Megan’s Way” is a fine and fascinating read that many will find hope in. ” –Midwest Book Review

“Megan’s Way…beautiful and tender portrayals…very enjoyable read on the order of a Jodi Picoult novel. ” –The Bookish Dame


Review Ratings:

Megan’s Way currently has a review rating of 3.9 stars from 221 reviews. Read the reviews here.


Megan’s Way is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.79

 

An excerpt from Megan’s Way:

Prologue

Summer 1988

Megan and Holly ran, weaving their way through the crowds of the carnival and hollering to hear over the thick cheer that permeated the festive evening. Two teenage boys looked them up and down as they passed. Megan yanked Holly by her arm and pulled her into a long shadow cast by the colorful lights that illuminated a rickety roller coaster. They huddled together, giggling. A moment later, the roller coaster whooshed by, sending them scampering through the mass of carnival-goers, engulfed in uncontrollable shrieks of laughter.

A small red tent with a psychedelic sign that read “Psychic Readings! See Your Future! $3!” caught Megan’s attention. She dragged Holly to the entrance, and they peered into the smoky gloom as they parted the curtain of stringed glass beads, which clinked and jingled as they were pushed to the side.

Holly pulled at Megan’s sleeve, “Let’s get out of here.”

Megan distractedly shrugged off Holly’s hand. She was mesmerized by the rush of the unknown, spellbound by the eccentric woman sitting within the darkened tent. A chill ran up Megan’s spine. The woman looked into her eyes and beckoned her forward. Megan reached behind her and grasped Holly’s hand, pulling her into the tent against her will. She reached into her pocket and, barely able to take her eyes from the old woman’s, fumbled to count her money and then shoved six crumpled dollar bills into a glass jar that sat on a pedestal by the entrance.

The cacophony of the rides and the crowds seemed to fall away as a hushed stillness closed in around them, save for the crackle of the flickering flames dancing on their wicks. The girls’ hands trembled. They were equally scared and excited by the mystical old woman shrouded in veils. Several bracelets clanked and dangled from her thick wrist as she motioned for them to sit around the small round table. They startled when the old woman grabbed their hands with her rough, plump fingers, then she slowly and dramatically closed her eyes.

Her hands tightened around theirs. The woman gasped a deep breath, and her body rose up and back, as if she were being pushed against the back of her chair. She held her breath, then let it out in a rush of air. Her hands fell open, releasing theirs. Her shoulders slumped forward, and her head followed.

Holly snapped her head in Megan’s direction and mouthed, “What the hell?”

The woman opened her heavily-painted eyes, which grew wide and laden with concern, and stared into Megan’s eyes. Megan felt riveted to her chair. The woman reached across the table and touched her hand, sending a jolt of energy up Megan’s arm. Megan pulled her hand away, frightened. The woman whispered to her, “Ah, High Priestess, my teen querent. She will need you, and you will know.”

Megan’s legs trembled, her heart pounded in her chest. Her breaths came in short, clipped bursts. She and Holly turned wide, scared eyes toward each other. The woman moved her vision to the space between Megan and Holly. “Three of Swords pierce a heart. Against the background of a storm, it bleeds.” She closed her eyes again, and whispered, “I see death.” Her eyes slowly opened and she squinted, as if she were watching a scene unfold of a different time and place, her eyes darting without focus. Then seeming to recite, she intoned, “Blood or poison will come: Transformation—passage—truth.”

The girls reached for each other’s shaking hands. Holly’s eyes welled with tears, her head visibly shook. Megan remained focused on each word the old woman said, unable to turn away.

The psychic turned those same concerned eyes to Holly. They glazed over with a look the girls could not read. Fear? Hatred? Understanding? She pointed a long, painted fingernail at Holly and hissed, “Judgment asks for the resurrection to summon the past, forgive it, and let it go.” She lowered her hand and said, “One will be released,” then quietly, under her breath, “and returned after death.”

After a moment of panicked silence, the girls stood, sending their chairs flying askew. Then they fled, running fast and hard into the chaos of the carnival, caught in a frenzy of fear and hysterical laughter.

The psychic screamed into the night behind them. Her words trailed in their wake and echoed in Megan’s ears for days, “With this spell, I empower thee. I empower thee!”

Chapter One

2009

Megan steadied herself against the cold porcelain sink, hoping the morning’s nausea would subside and trying to strengthen herself for the tough decision that had been wreaking havoc with her mind lately, and the choice that lay ahead. The familiar Tink, pause, Tink, pause on her bedroom window drew her attention. A confused cardinal had repeatedly gone beak to glass in recent weeks, as though trying to rouse her. As she tried to calculate the number of times she’d also awakened to nausea, the familiar surge of bile rose in her throat.

She clung to the toilet as if it were a security blanket. The smell of last night’s dinner still wafted in the air, sending her body into convulsions of dry heaves. Great, Megan thought as she grasped her stomach. She looked up at the ceiling, What the hell am I going to do now?

“Mom?” Olivia’s voice carried down the hall. “Mo-om!” The single word stretched into two perfect teenage syllables.

Megan heard the drama in her voice and closed her eyes against her growing frustration. She knew that particular scream, the self-centered, in-a-hurry, where’s-my-stuff scream. She did not have the patience to deal with Olivia’s drama on this particular morning. She grabbed hold of the sink and pulled herself up. Her stomach lurched again, causing her whole body to clench. She prayed for some relief as Olivia’s voice came screaming at her again.

“What!” she snapped back. She wished she could have been more patient with Olivia, but at that moment, she was overtaken by exhaustion, confusion, and anger. She wanted to kick something, to cry, to scream until she no longer had a voice—but her body was too tired to do any of those things. She had to pull herself together and get through the day.

Megan rinsed out her mouth and averted her eyes from the sheet-white face that reflected back at her.

“Never mind!” Olivia yelled from the hall. Her voice carried lightly, the tension from a moment ago gone.

Thank God, Megan said to herself. She made her way back to her bed and lay down, pulling the blanket over her head to shut out the light—and maybe life—for a moment.

Olivia bounded into the room and jumped onto Megan’s bed a few minutes later. “Come on. We’re going to be late!”

The flea market! Megan stretched her small frame and lowered the covers, revealing her mass of dark hair and a feigned wide smile. “Okay, chill, I’m up. I can’t believe you are, though.”

Olivia laughed and made a beeline to her mother’s closet. “C’mon. What are you going to wear? Can I wear one of your scarves?” She wrapped a silk turquoise scarf around her slim neck, and turned to see the effect in the mirror. A smile grew across her face. “Please? I promise I won’t ruin it.”

“It does look pretty on you,” Megan managed, pleased that Olivia’s earlier exasperation had faded.

“Oh, thank you!” Olivia wrapped her arms around Megan. She withdrew and scrunched her face, “Geez, Mom, you’d better get ready. You look awful.”

Megan felt a pang in her heart. She had liked it better when Olivia had been ten years old and had believed that even at her worst she was still the most beautiful mom in the world—but Olivia was right, she did look like hell. She felt like hell, too, and was in no mood to be told how awful she looked. She pointed to the door, silently ordering Olivia out of her bedroom so she could shower. Olivia rolled her eyes and flounced out of the room. Megan turned and sighed, relieved to have a moment’s peace. She walked past the piles of books she was considering reading, past the wicker hamper overflowing with dirty clothes, and across the thickly-piled shag rug that covered only the center of the hardwood floor. The changing of hardwood to cold ceramic sent a shiver through Megan. She closed the bathroom door and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Fine lines defined the edges of her mouth, drawing the ends downward, making her cheeks appear dull and drawn. Sh e raised her eyebrows, and deep creases streamed across her forehead. Her exhaustion was evident. The face that stared back at her looked closer to fifty than thirty-eight. She wondered where the supple skin of her youth had gone, and how it had changed so fast. She turned away in disgust, summoning energy for the day ahead.

The radio played lightly in the background as Megan and Olivia worked around each other to prepare their breakfasts. Olivia hummed.

“What are you having?” Olivia asked.

“The usual, probably,” Megan smiled. “What are you having?”

“Cereal, same as always.”

Megan picked up on the flat tone of Olivia’s normally perky voice.

“Hm, I think I’ll have toast, actually, with jelly.”

Olivia stood with her back against the counter, bowl in hand, and watched her mother.

“Toast? That’s it?” Olivia said accusingly.

“Yes, that’s it,” she paused, turning to look at her. “Olivia, is something wrong?”

Olivia stared into her bowl, her lips pursed.

Megan sighed and chalked up Olivia’s attitude to being fourteen. “Sit with me,” she said.

Olivia sat and desultorily pushed her cereal around with her spoon. The silence hung in the air, uncomfortable.

Megan tried to lighten the mood. “What are you looking forward to most at the flea market?” she asked.

Olivia’s eyes lit up, but her voice remained flat. “Everything, I guess. I hope Joe is there with the wind chimes, and I want to get another pair of wraparound pants.” Olivia’s voice began to carry a happier tone, “Oh, and the jewelry! I guess all of it, really. How about you?”

Megan smiled. She knew the thought of shopping would lift Olivia’s spirits. Megan longed to be one of the flea market vendors once again, and realized that in her current condition, that was not likely to happen. “I’m just looking forward to everything, you know, being with you and Holly, and seeing everyone from last year.”

“When are you going to sell again, Mom?”

“I don’t know, Liv,” Megan’s response was short. Her bowels rumbled with urgency. She went to the sink, turning her back to Olivia. What am I going to do? “Are you ready? We don’t want to be late.”

Olivia left her unfinished bowl of cereal on the table and flew upstairs in search of her shoes. Megan made her way to the bathroom, grabbing the bottle of Pepto-Bismol along the way. The pink, peppermint liquid had become like an old friend, soothing away her daily discomfort.

 

Megan’s Way is available for purchase at:

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Author Twitter Page: @Melissa_Foster

The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein {Just $2.99!}

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny’s wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, ZoË, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with ZoË at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

What readers are saying:

“The perfect book for anyone who knows that some of our best friends walk beside us on four legs; that compassion isn’t only for humans; and that the relationship between two souls…meant for each other never really comes to an end.”

The average Amazon reader review rating is currently 4.6 stars, with 2,227 reviews.

Click here to read more about and purchase The Art of Racing in the Rain for $2,99 at Amazon

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy, Susan Tsui {$0.99}

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Description of You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy:

Orphaned by his parents and his artificial mother, and abandoned by his older brother at a young age, Jay spends most of his adulthood serving as a government therapist to those like him.  He considers his own happiness proof of success in his career and life.  Little does he know that his picture perfect world, occupied by his wife, Sasha, and their two children, is not as idyllic as it seems.

When Jay’s older brother, Ian, returns Jay finds himself torn between the happy bubble he resides in and helping his troubled brother keep his own children out of the hands of the very institution Jay serves.  Can Jay save Ian while holding onto the loving memories of his artificial mother and all that he believes in?  More importantly, does he even want to?

You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy is a story about the difficult journey of self-discovery, one that explores the power of truth over illusion and the meaning of a mother’s love.

 

Accolades:

“A compelling narrator drives this strong, sympathetic tale that begets metaphysical soul-searching.” ~ Kirkus Reviews (starred review) 

“Susan Tsui’s deft touch in scene after scene made me bleed for the characters.” ~ Amazon Reviewer

“This was an imaginative and thought provoking novel. It is an excellent debut that promises great future things from author. ” ~ Amazon Reviewer


Amazon Reader Reviews:

You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy currently has a Amazon reader review rating of 4 stars, with 10 reviews! Read the reviews here!

 

You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy is available for purchase at:

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An excerpt from You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy:

CHAPTER 1

It has been fourteen years since I last saw Ian. So it takes me a moment to recognize the slightly graying gentleman waiting for me out in the hall as my brother. At first I don’t really notice him. I take him for another patient, someone new who wants to join the therapy group. I continue to shake everyone’s hands and wish them a nice evening. It isn’t until he pulls his hands from his pockets to move away from the wall and starts approaching, and I take a brief moment to wonder what this potential patient’s story might be, that I start to realize exactly who is standing before me.

It’s a shock, to say the least.

The last time I saw my brother, I was slamming the door in his face. I glance around the wide open halls and the multitude of rooms surrounding us. There are plenty of doors here, but slamming these won’t do me any good. The hospital’s clinic isn’t in my jurisdiction to kick him out of, and watching him just standing there with hunched shoulders and an uncertain expression has me wondering why the hell he’s here.

“Hi,” Ian says. His voice is more raspy than I remember, older and more tired.

I clench my hands and nod my head, acknowledging that I’ve heard him but not trusting myself to speak.

He opens and closes his mouth several times and then swallows. “How are you doing?” he asks.

The question is so ordinary compared with the circumstances that it feels completely out of place. I don’t know how to answer it. Does he mean how am I at this moment, this day, this week? Does he want to know how I’ve been doing for the past decade and a half? I settle for a grated, “I’m fine.” I refrain from asking him how he is doing. I tell myself I don’t care.

The two of us are simply standing there. I want to walk away, and I don’t know why I’m not. Damn it, do something, I tell myself.

“That’s good,” Ian finally says.

I can’t do this. I won’t. Standing here making small talk to a brother that I haven’t seen in years and pretending that nothing’s happened between us is ridiculous. I stopped talking to him for a reason I remind myself.

“I have to go,” I say.

I start to walk away, and Ian grabs my arm. I shake myself free, while shoving down the sudden urge to raise a fist and smash Ian’s face into the wall. He must recognize how I’m feeling because suddenly he has both hands in the air. “Hey, hey, hey,” he says. All his heys run quickly together without pause, and it occurs to me that my brother is terrified. My anger dwindles down to nothing more than a smoldering burn and try as I do to re-stoke the flames, I can’t. “What do you want?” I find myself demanding.

“To talk,” Ian says. His hands are still in the air. “Just to talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you.” I start to walk away again.

“Please, I need your help.”

The word “please” startles me more than anything. I can’t recall Ian ever requesting anything of me. He demanded, cajoled, but “please” might as well have been non-existent vocabulary.

“With what?” I ask. It must be damned important for him to show up here after all this time.

He opens his mouth to speak and then shakes his head. “Not here.”

“Why not here?”

Ian glances around, and I notice several individuals walking about in the halls. Humans and humaniforms, mingling and chatting.

“The walls have ears,” Ian says.

“I don’t have anything to hide,” I say, and then realize that may be true of me but not necessarily of Ian.

“Can we… Can we go somewhere more private, maybe?”

I shake my head. No, absolutely not.

“Jay.” On his lips my name is a plea.

“I have to get home,” I say. I have to get home, and I have to forget this day ever happened.

“I’m sorry,” Ian says.

What? The words cause me to drop my crossed arms and stare.

“Is that what you need to hear? I’m sorry. I’ll say it again and again, as many times as you need. I’m sorry. Just, please.”

More unfamiliar words from my brother’s lips. Who is this person? Certainly not the Ian I knew. The “I’m sorry” burrows into me. I know it’s not real, that it’s insincere, but just hearing the apology is more than I ever expected from Ian, lie or no.

“Jay.”

“Do you have a hotel you’re staying at?” I find myself asking. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, except Ian said he needed my help; and I can’t but think how much he must need it to come to me like this after all this time and say please and sorry. I cross my arms, hating myself for being so weak, but unable to change it.

“Your place,” Ian says.

I hesitate, thinking about my home and my life now; and I’m not at all certain I’m ready for Ian to come back into it, much less walk through my front door.

“There isn’t anywhere else,” he says.

I can always kick him back out if I have to. I take a deep breath and nod.

He smiles. It’s painful to see the half-hearted stretch of his mouth coupled with the worried wrinkle of his forehead. There’s so much fear and hope there.

I reach into my briefcase and pull out a business card. I scribble my address onto the back and shove the card at him.

Ian clutches the card close. “When should I…?”

“Come by tonight,” I say. I want to get this over with and get him out of my life if I can. I’d bring him home now, but the thought of spending an hour alone with him in a car while I’m still trying to gather my wits about me is more than I can stand.

Ian smiles at me again, and I realize the wrinkles around his eyes resembles the beginnings of crows feet. We’ve gotten so old, and I’ve missed it. I force myself to turn away and start walking.

***

My wife, Sasha, is waiting for me at the door when I get home.

“Hey, Jay.” She dusts the rice flour from her hands and gives me a peck on the cheek. “How was your day?” she asks.

I close my eyes and place my head on her shoulder, burying my face against the base of her neck. I feel the warmth of her wash over me. I shudder and instinctively her hands wrap around my back, and she’s suddenly squeezing me tight. She coos softly into my ears and runs her fingers through my hair, and for a moment nothing else matters but the sweet lullaby of her.

“That bad, huh?” Her voice is a ghost of a whisper.

I let out a tiny hysterical laugh and find comfort that for her that’s all I need to say.

 

You Shouldn’t Call Me Mommy is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $0.99


Connect with Susan Tsui:

Website: http://www.susantsui.com/

Apolo Drakuvich, G.W. Jefferies {$2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime}

G.W. Jefferies’ Apolo Drakuvich captures the life of a petty criminal on a strange ride ranging from bizarre and senseless to utterly tragic. Revolving around parasitic journalism, media and government corruption, and a ruthless, conniving judge who milks the citizens out of millions of dollars, Apolo Drakuvich can be described as a compilation of untamed and sheer madness–captivating the readers’ attention from beginning to end. With its raw descriptions, penetrating dialogue and crisp writing, this book is like no other.
Within all the madness that so epitomizes the life of Apolo, G.W. Jeffries presents a life of regret in epic proportions. Sitting in a jail cell, Apolo reflects, “One thing is for sure, I let it all slip away…so many opportunities lost.” Apolo sadly examines the events and decisions of his life, and the paths he took and should have taken. Apolo seeks peace of mind and justice, but flashbacks of his past continuously haunt him; moreover, he seems to be victimized by a corrupt justice system everywhere he goes.

As an offender, Apolo discusses pertinent issues of today’s society, where it is next to impossible for offenders to live normal lives, despite the desire to do so. Essentially, law enforcement and authorities seem to systematically destroy the offender by placing constraints on the offender such as restrictions on where to live, GPS monitoring, registering as offenders on websites, and more.

Apolo Drakuvich is a microcosm of numerous real-life issues encompassing the wild, the bizarre, and the tragic.


160 Pages or 33K words

An Amazon Best Seller: United States Drama

What readers are saying:

The thing I liked most about this book was that it was different and not formulaic. This book is at it’s heart, a character examination. The author has a real talent for setting up scenes and sometimes it almost reads like a screenplay. The main character Apolo Drakuvich has a philosophy that rings loud and clear as the book goes along and each chapter adds a new layer to the character. I am looking forward to more of Jefferies’ work and I would recommend this book if your looking to read something challenging and different. – J. Malliet

A good tale. Gripping in places and emotionally freeing in some unique ways. When we find ourselves identifying with a repeat offender criminal our perspective is bound to be tweaked quite a bit. – David C.

The average Amazon review rating is currently 4.5 stars {38 reviews}.

Click here to read more about and purchase Apolo Drakuvich for $2.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime from Amazon!

A Lovely, Indecent Departure, Steven Lee Gilbert {FREE!}

A Lovely, Indecent Departure is the riveting and emotionally-charged debut from a promising new voice in literary thrillers, and a captivating story of a mother’s love and desperation set amidst the heart wrenching landscape of child custody.
Anna Miller wants only one thing, her son, and she will do anything to keep him. When a district court awards custody of Oliver to his father, she abducts the five year old and flees to Italy where with her family’s help they disappear into the fabric of her native homeland. Told in prose that is both stripped-down and overpowering, Gilbert shapes the everyday conflict of child custody into a stunning search for sense of worth. Standing in the young woman’s way is Evan Meade, the boy’s guileful and mean-spirited father, who hires a private investigator when the efforts of the embattled local sheriff, Monroe Rossi, fail to track them down. But as the investigation draws them all closer to Anna, Evan’s true nature betrays itself and the question of what’s in the child’s best interest becomes not so clear anymore.
Objectively detailed, in a voice that refuses to intrude on the minds of its characters, A Lovely, Indecent Departure
, captures in stark detail a world in which modern archetypes are turned upside down and shows what an extraordinary splash Steven Lee Gilbert has made with his first novel.

What readers are saying:

“The well-crafted plot is meted out at a steady pace, continually feeding readers’ need to know and simultaneously whetting the appetite for more.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A ringside seat to a drama whose tensions are racheted higher and higher as we near the denouement…An impressive debut.”—Judy Hogan, Founder Carolina Wren Press

“The quality in this book is a perfect example of Indie authors being able to hold their own in regards to larger publishing house authors.”—Naomi Blackburn, Founder Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

“This novel brings together many genres, effortlessly. Merging crime, family drama, action, chic-lit, and intoxicating landscapes, A Lovely, Indecent Departure is captivating…No matter what side of the custody battle you identify with, you will be riveted to the very last page.”—The Literary R&R

The average Amazon review rating is currently 4 stars {22 reviews}.

Click here to read more about and purchase A Lovely, Indecent Departure for FREE from Amazon!

THE FRUGAL FIND OF THE DAY: Megan’s Way, Melissa Foster {$3.79}

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Description of Megan’s Way:

This book is optioned for film and a multiple award winner.

One woman’s journey, her daughter’s will to survive, and a circle of friends shrouded in secrets.

 

Accolades:

“Megan’s Way by Melissa Foster is an emotionally moving book…Melissa does a great job in bringing you into the life of her characters and keeps the story rolling smoothly…” –Jeanette Stingley, Women’s Literary Editor, Bella Online

“A wonderful, warm, and thought-provoking story with a touch of the paranormal. This is a deep and moving book that speaks to men as well as women, and I urge you all to put it on your reading list. ” –Thomas Elliott, Book Review Editor, Mensa Bulletin

”Megan’s Way” is a fine and fascinating read that many will find hope in. ” –Midwest Book Review

“Megan’s Way…beautiful and tender portrayals…very enjoyable read on the order of a Jodi Picoult novel. ” –The Bookish Dame


Review Ratings:

Megan’s Way currently has a review rating of 4 stars from 218 reviews. Read the reviews here.


Megan’s Way is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.79

 

An excerpt from Megan’s Way:

Prologue

Summer 1988

Megan and Holly ran, weaving their way through the crowds of the carnival and hollering to hear over the thick cheer that permeated the festive evening. Two teenage boys looked them up and down as they passed. Megan yanked Holly by her arm and pulled her into a long shadow cast by the colorful lights that illuminated a rickety roller coaster. They huddled together, giggling. A moment later, the roller coaster whooshed by, sending them scampering through the mass of carnival-goers, engulfed in uncontrollable shrieks of laughter.

A small red tent with a psychedelic sign that read “Psychic Readings! See Your Future! $3!” caught Megan’s attention. She dragged Holly to the entrance, and they peered into the smoky gloom as they parted the curtain of stringed glass beads, which clinked and jingled as they were pushed to the side.

Holly pulled at Megan’s sleeve, “Let’s get out of here.”

Megan distractedly shrugged off Holly’s hand. She was mesmerized by the rush of the unknown, spellbound by the eccentric woman sitting within the darkened tent. A chill ran up Megan’s spine. The woman looked into her eyes and beckoned her forward. Megan reached behind her and grasped Holly’s hand, pulling her into the tent against her will. She reached into her pocket and, barely able to take her eyes from the old woman’s, fumbled to count her money and then shoved six crumpled dollar bills into a glass jar that sat on a pedestal by the entrance.

The cacophony of the rides and the crowds seemed to fall away as a hushed stillness closed in around them, save for the crackle of the flickering flames dancing on their wicks. The girls’ hands trembled. They were equally scared and excited by the mystical old woman shrouded in veils. Several bracelets clanked and dangled from her thick wrist as she motioned for them to sit around the small round table. They startled when the old woman grabbed their hands with her rough, plump fingers, then she slowly and dramatically closed her eyes.

Her hands tightened around theirs. The woman gasped a deep breath, and her body rose up and back, as if she were being pushed against the back of her chair. She held her breath, then let it out in a rush of air. Her hands fell open, releasing theirs. Her shoulders slumped forward, and her head followed.

Holly snapped her head in Megan’s direction and mouthed, “What the hell?”

The woman opened her heavily-painted eyes, which grew wide and laden with concern, and stared into Megan’s eyes. Megan felt riveted to her chair. The woman reached across the table and touched her hand, sending a jolt of energy up Megan’s arm. Megan pulled her hand away, frightened. The woman whispered to her, “Ah, High Priestess, my teen querent. She will need you, and you will know.”

Megan’s legs trembled, her heart pounded in her chest. Her breaths came in short, clipped bursts. She and Holly turned wide, scared eyes toward each other. The woman moved her vision to the space between Megan and Holly. “Three of Swords pierce a heart. Against the background of a storm, it bleeds.” She closed her eyes again, and whispered, “I see death.” Her eyes slowly opened and she squinted, as if she were watching a scene unfold of a different time and place, her eyes darting without focus. Then seeming to recite, she intoned, “Blood or poison will come: Transformation—passage—truth.”

The girls reached for each other’s shaking hands. Holly’s eyes welled with tears, her head visibly shook. Megan remained focused on each word the old woman said, unable to turn away.

The psychic turned those same concerned eyes to Holly. They glazed over with a look the girls could not read. Fear? Hatred? Understanding? She pointed a long, painted fingernail at Holly and hissed, “Judgment asks for the resurrection to summon the past, forgive it, and let it go.” She lowered her hand and said, “One will be released,” then quietly, under her breath, “and returned after death.”

After a moment of panicked silence, the girls stood, sending their chairs flying askew. Then they fled, running fast and hard into the chaos of the carnival, caught in a frenzy of fear and hysterical laughter.

The psychic screamed into the night behind them. Her words trailed in their wake and echoed in Megan’s ears for days, “With this spell, I empower thee. I empower thee!”

Chapter One

2009

Megan steadied herself against the cold porcelain sink, hoping the morning’s nausea would subside and trying to strengthen herself for the tough decision that had been wreaking havoc with her mind lately, and the choice that lay ahead. The familiar Tink, pause, Tink, pause on her bedroom window drew her attention. A confused cardinal had repeatedly gone beak to glass in recent weeks, as though trying to rouse her. As she tried to calculate the number of times she’d also awakened to nausea, the familiar surge of bile rose in her throat.

She clung to the toilet as if it were a security blanket. The smell of last night’s dinner still wafted in the air, sending her body into convulsions of dry heaves. Great, Megan thought as she grasped her stomach. She looked up at the ceiling, What the hell am I going to do now?

“Mom?” Olivia’s voice carried down the hall. “Mo-om!” The single word stretched into two perfect teenage syllables.

Megan heard the drama in her voice and closed her eyes against her growing frustration. She knew that particular scream, the self-centered, in-a-hurry, where’s-my-stuff scream. She did not have the patience to deal with Olivia’s drama on this particular morning. She grabbed hold of the sink and pulled herself up. Her stomach lurched again, causing her whole body to clench. She prayed for some relief as Olivia’s voice came screaming at her again.

“What!” she snapped back. She wished she could have been more patient with Olivia, but at that moment, she was overtaken by exhaustion, confusion, and anger. She wanted to kick something, to cry, to scream until she no longer had a voice—but her body was too tired to do any of those things. She had to pull herself together and get through the day.

Megan rinsed out her mouth and averted her eyes from the sheet-white face that reflected back at her.

“Never mind!” Olivia yelled from the hall. Her voice carried lightly, the tension from a moment ago gone.

Thank God, Megan said to herself. She made her way back to her bed and lay down, pulling the blanket over her head to shut out the light—and maybe life—for a moment.

Olivia bounded into the room and jumped onto Megan’s bed a few minutes later. “Come on. We’re going to be late!”

The flea market! Megan stretched her small frame and lowered the covers, revealing her mass of dark hair and a feigned wide smile. “Okay, chill, I’m up. I can’t believe you are, though.”

Olivia laughed and made a beeline to her mother’s closet. “C’mon. What are you going to wear? Can I wear one of your scarves?” She wrapped a silk turquoise scarf around her slim neck, and turned to see the effect in the mirror. A smile grew across her face. “Please? I promise I won’t ruin it.”

“It does look pretty on you,” Megan managed, pleased that Olivia’s earlier exasperation had faded.

“Oh, thank you!” Olivia wrapped her arms around Megan. She withdrew and scrunched her face, “Geez, Mom, you’d better get ready. You look awful.”

Megan felt a pang in her heart. She had liked it better when Olivia had been ten years old and had believed that even at her worst she was still the most beautiful mom in the world—but Olivia was right, she did look like hell. She felt like hell, too, and was in no mood to be told how awful she looked. She pointed to the door, silently ordering Olivia out of her bedroom so she could shower. Olivia rolled her eyes and flounced out of the room. Megan turned and sighed, relieved to have a moment’s peace. She walked past the piles of books she was considering reading, past the wicker hamper overflowing with dirty clothes, and across the thickly-piled shag rug that covered only the center of the hardwood floor. The changing of hardwood to cold ceramic sent a shiver through Megan. She closed the bathroom door and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Fine lines defined the edges of her mouth, drawing the ends downward, making her cheeks appear dull and drawn. Sh e raised her eyebrows, and deep creases streamed across her forehead. Her exhaustion was evident. The face that stared back at her looked closer to fifty than thirty-eight. She wondered where the supple skin of her youth had gone, and how it had changed so fast. She turned away in disgust, summoning energy for the day ahead.

The radio played lightly in the background as Megan and Olivia worked around each other to prepare their breakfasts. Olivia hummed.

“What are you having?” Olivia asked.

“The usual, probably,” Megan smiled. “What are you having?”

“Cereal, same as always.”

Megan picked up on the flat tone of Olivia’s normally perky voice.

“Hm, I think I’ll have toast, actually, with jelly.”

Olivia stood with her back against the counter, bowl in hand, and watched her mother.

“Toast? That’s it?” Olivia said accusingly.

“Yes, that’s it,” she paused, turning to look at her. “Olivia, is something wrong?”

Olivia stared into her bowl, her lips pursed.

Megan sighed and chalked up Olivia’s attitude to being fourteen. “Sit with me,” she said.

Olivia sat and desultorily pushed her cereal around with her spoon. The silence hung in the air, uncomfortable.

Megan tried to lighten the mood. “What are you looking forward to most at the flea market?” she asked.

Olivia’s eyes lit up, but her voice remained flat. “Everything, I guess. I hope Joe is there with the wind chimes, and I want to get another pair of wraparound pants.” Olivia’s voice began to carry a happier tone, “Oh, and the jewelry! I guess all of it, really. How about you?”

Megan smiled. She knew the thought of shopping would lift Olivia’s spirits. Megan longed to be one of the flea market vendors once again, and realized that in her current condition, that was not likely to happen. “I’m just looking forward to everything, you know, being with you and Holly, and seeing everyone from last year.”

“When are you going to sell again, Mom?”

“I don’t know, Liv,” Megan’s response was short. Her bowels rumbled with urgency. She went to the sink, turning her back to Olivia. What am I going to do? “Are you ready? We don’t want to be late.”

Olivia left her unfinished bowl of cereal on the table and flew upstairs in search of her shoes. Megan made her way to the bathroom, grabbing the bottle of Pepto-Bismol along the way. The pink, peppermint liquid had become like an old friend, soothing away her daily discomfort.

 

Megan’s Way is available for purchase at:

Amazon Kindle for $3.79


Connect with Melissa Foster:

Author Website: http://www.melissafoster.com

Author Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/MelissaFosterAuthor

Author Twitter Page: @Melissa_Foster

The Able Seaman’s Mate, William Cheevers {$0.99 or Borrow FREE w/Prime!}

Follow the odyssey of a young Irish immigrant through America at the turn of the twentieth century.  Jimmy Delaney – willful, reflective, determined – is thrust into the hectic drive and conflict of American life, and his journey of discovery absorbs a cast of characters, places, exultation and tragedy that shape his outlook in a new world.

What readers are saying:

“In his sweeping novel, Cheevers gives voice to the struggles endured by Irish immigrants.  A fascinating immigrant’s tale of the turmoil and restlessness that come from beginning life anew.” – Kirkus Reviews

“unique and palpable characters, fresh image-dense narrative, an exquisitely written, poignant read” – 5-star IndieReader Review

“A very nice account of America in the early twentieth century with well-developed characters – a very entertaining read.”

“A good account of the time period with authentic characters and a well developed story line – well worth one dollar!”

The average Amazon reader review is currently 4 stars {5 reviews}.

 

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