Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Freebie: Big Book Bonanza! The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly, Note to Self by Alina Simone, Tampa by Alissa Nutting, and Guests on Earth by Lee Smith

Congratulations to Carol Sensenbrenner, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke.

This week's book giveaway is huge.  Like Godzilla-Meets-Mothra huge.  Extra paperback copies of recently-published novels were piling up on the shelves here at Chez Abrams, so I decided to dump all of them into one big contest.  ONE lucky reader will win ALL of the following books: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan, The Explanation for Everything by Lauren Grodstein, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly, Note to Self by Alina Simone, Tampa by Alissa Nutting, and Guests on Earth by Lee Smith.  All the books are new trade paperback editions (a couple have come from my personal library where they were treated with the most tender loving care imaginable).  For those of you who aren't familiar with the books, here are the publishers' jacket copy descriptions of each one...

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis.  But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.  Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars brilliantly explores the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.  “The greatest romance story of this decade.” (Entertainment Weekly)  “Damn near genius...The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but it’s also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” (Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine)  “This is a book that breaks your heart—not by wearing it down, but by making it bigger until it bursts.” (The Atlantic)  BONUS: This copy of The Fault in Our Stars comes with a Pocket Pack of Kleenex.  You'll need it.

Labor Day
by Joyce Maynard
The dog days of August...All summer long, thirteen-year-old Henry kept hoping that something different would happen, but it never did.  Then, just as the Labor Day weekend gets under way, in the Pricemart where Henry′s mother, Adele, on one of her rare forays out of the house and into the wider world has taken him to buy pants for school, a bleeding man approaches Henry and asks for help.  Frank is a man with a secret, and a man on the run.  Adele is a wounded soul whose dreams of family life and romantic dancing died years ago, even before her husband left her and their son.  And Henry is a "loser" and a loner, a boy on the cusp of manhood who, over the next five days, will learn some of life′s most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect peach pie, and the importance of placing others--especially those you love--above yourself.  “It is a testament to Maynard’s skill that she makes this ominous setup into a convincing and poignant coming-of-age tale.” (Washington Post)

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave
      It is a truly special story and we don't want to spoil it.
      Nevertheless, you need to know something, so we will just say this:
      It is extremely funny, but the African beach scene is horrific.
      The story starts there, but the book doesn't.
      And it's what happens afterward that is most important.
      Once you have read it, you'll want to tell everyone about it. When you do, please don't tell them what happens either. The magic is in how it unfolds.
      "Cleave has a Zola-esque ability to write big and deeply....[he] makes the reader think about political issues and care about his characters." (USA Today)

The Valley of Amazement
by Amy Tan
Shanghai, 1912.  Violet Minturn is the daughter of the American madam of the city's most exclusive courtesan house.  But when the Ching dynasty is overturned, Violet is separated from her mother and forced to become a "virgin courtesan."  Spanning more than forty years and two continents, Amy Tan's novel maps the lives of three generations of women--and the mystery of an evocative painting known as "The Valley of Amazement."  Moving from the collapse of China's last imperial dynasty to the growth of anti-foreign sentiment and the inner workings of courtesan houses, The Valley of Amazement interweaves the story of Violet, a celebrated Shanghai courtesan on a quest for both love and identity, and her mother, Lucia, an American woman whose search for penance leads them to an unexpected reunion.  The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, legacies, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters, reminiscent of the compelling territory Tan so expertly mapped in The Joy Luck Club.  With her characteristic wisdom, grace, and humor, Tan conjures up a story of inherited trauma, desire, deception, and the power and stubbornness of love.

The Explanation for Everything
by Lauren Grodstein
For college biology professor Andy Waite, Darwinian evolution is the explanation for everything.  But the unpredictable force of a charismatic evangelical student--a young woman determined to prove the existence of intelligent design--threatens to undermine more than just his faith in science.  As she did in the bestselling novel A Friend of the Family, author Lauren Grodstein has written a taut, provocative morality tale centered on one of the most polarizing issues of our time.  As she dissects the permeable line between faith and doubt, she creates a fiercely intelligent story about the lies we tell ourselves, the deceptions we sustain with others, and how violated boundaries--between students and teachers, believers and nonbelievers--can have devastating consequences.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral.  Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother.  He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse where she once lived, the unremembered past comes flooding back.  And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.  A groundbreaking work as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out.  (Regular readers of The Quivering Pen will remember that I included The Ocean at the End of the Lane among the best books I read in 2013.)

The Tilted World
by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
In 1927, as rains swell the Mississippi, the river threatens to burst its banks and engulf everything in its path, including the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, where federal agents Ted Ingersoll and Ham Johnson arrive to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents--and find a baby boy abandoned in the middle of a crime scene.  Ingersoll finds a home for the infant with local woman Dixie Clay Holliver, unaware that she's the best bootlegger in the county and has many tender and consequential secrets of her own.  The Tilted World by husband-and-wife team Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly is an extraordinary tale of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, and a man and a woman who find unexpected love.

Note to Self
by Alina Simone
Anna Krestler is adrift.  The Internet has draped itself, kudzu-like, over her brain, which makes it even more difficult to confront the question of what to do when she is dismissed from her job as a cubicle serf at a midtown law firm.  Despite the exhortations of Leslie, her friend and volunteer life coach, Anna seeks refuge in the back alleys of Craigslist, where she connects with Taj, an adherent of a nebulous movement known as Nowism that occupies the most self-absorbed fringes of the art world.  Art, Anna decides, is what will provide the meaningful life she’s been searching for and knows she deserves.  She joins Taj’s “crew” and is drawn into his grand experimental film project.  But making art is hard and microwaving pouch foods is easy.  Soon enough Anna finds herself distracted by myriad other quests: remembering to ask Leslie “How are you?,” reducing her intake of caloric drinks, and parrying her mother’s insistence that she attend hairdressing school.  But when Anna’s twenty-seven-year-old roommate—a perpetual intern named Brie—announces her pregnancy, it forces Anna to confront reality, setting off a chain of events that leads to a horrifying climax of betrayal.  Alina Simone’s Note to Self is a shrewdly perceptive, hilarious, moving tale about friendship, art, and the search for a meaningful life in an era of rampant narcissism.

by Alissa Nutting
Celeste Price is twenty-six years old, beautiful, smart, married to a handsome man with money, and starting a new job as a junior high school teacher in suburban Tampa.  Yet she harbors a dark secret.  She is driven by a singular sexual obsession--fourteen-year-old boys.  As the school year begins, Celeste has chosen and seduced the naive Jack Patrick, a quiet, thoughtful boy in awe of his teacher.  But when her lustful frenzy begins to spiral out of control, the insatiable Celeste bypasses each hurdle with swift thinking and shameless determination.  “Tampa is one of the most shocking books I have read; it’s also one of the most mesmerizing and surprising.  Alissa Nutting has written a stunning, brutal book.” (Shelf Awareness)

Guests on Earth
by Lee Smith
"The insane are always mere guests on earth, eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read." F. Scott Fitzgerald
Evalina Toussaint, orphaned child of an exotic dancer in New Orleans, is just thirteen when she is admitted to Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.  The year is 1936, and the mental hospital is under the direction of the celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Robert S. Carroll, whose innovative treatment for nervous disorders and addictions is based upon fresh air, diet, exercise, gardening, art, dance, music, theater, and therapies of the day such as rest cures, freeze wraps, and insulin shock.  Talented Evalina is soon taken under the wing of the doctor's wife, a famous concert pianist, and eventually becomes the accompanist for all musical programs at the hospital, including the many dances and theatricals choreographed by longtime patient Zelda Fitzgerald.  Evalina's role gives her privileged access to the lives and secrets of other patients and staff swept into a cascading series of events leading up to the tragic fire of 1948 that killed nine women in a locked ward on the top floor.  She offers a solution for the still-unsolved mystery of that fire, as well as her own ideas about the very thin line between sanity and insanity; her opinion of the psychiatric treatment of women and girls who failed to fit into prevailing male ideals; and her insights into the resonance between art and madness.  A writer at the height of her craft, Lee Smith has created, through her masterful melding of fiction and fact, a mesmerizing novel about a world apart a time and a place where creativity and passion, theory and medicine, fact and fiction, tragedy and transformation, are luminously intertwined.

If you’d like a chance at winning a copy of all 10 books, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on July 10, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on July 11.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.


  1. Fate? I'm in the process of weeding my bookshelf for donations to the library's book sale at the end of the month.

  2. These books sure would look nice in my bookcase. Or in my overworked purse, where I haul all my TBR novels. Great giveaway!