Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Freebie: The Kept by James Scott, Glyph by Percival Everett, What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell, All I Have In This World by Michael Parker, Arts & Entertainments by Christopher Beha, Our Senior Year by John Abraham-Watne, The Gods of Second Chances by Dan Berne, and Harm's Reach by Alex Barclay

Congratulations to Michael Cooper, winner of last week's Friday Freebie contest: Closed Doors by Lisa O'Donnell and Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly.

This week's book giveaway is an eclectic grab-bag of titles to stuff your Christmas stocking (though, by the time the books arrive at the winner's house, it will be more like a New Year's gift).  Up for grabs: paperback copies of The Kept by James Scott, Glyph by Percival Everett, What Happened Here by Bonnie ZoBell, All I Have In This World by Michael Parker, Arts & Entertainments by Christopher Beha, Our Senior Year by John Abraham-Watne, The Gods of Second Chances by Dan Berne, and Harm's Reach by Alex Barclay.  Read on for more information about each book:

The Kept takes place in the winter of 1897, when Elspeth Howell treks across miles of snow and ice to the isolated farmstead in upstate New York where she and her husband have raised their five children.  Her midwife's salary is tucked into the toes of her boots, and her pack is full of gifts for her family.  But as she crests the final hill, and sees her darkened house and a smokeless chimney, immediately she knows that an unthinkable crime has destroyed the life she so carefully built.  Her lone comfort is her twelve-year-old son, Caleb, who joins her in mourning the tragedy and planning its reprisal.  Their long journey leads them to a rough-hewn lake town, defined by the violence both of its landscape and of its inhabitants.  There Caleb is forced into a brutal adulthood, as he slowly discovers truths about his family he never suspected, and Elspeth must confront the terrible urges and unceasing temptations that have haunted her for years.  Throughout it all, the love between mother and son serves as the only shield against a merciless world.  A scorching portrait of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence, The Kept is told with deep compassion and startling originality, and introduces James Scott as a major new literary voice.  BONUS: Click here to read about James Scott's "first time."

In Glyph, by the consistently-underappreciated and under-read Percival Everett, Baby Ralph has ways to pass the time in his crib—but they don’t include staring at a mobile.  Aided by his mother, he reads voraciously: “All of Swift, all of Sterne, Invisible Man, Baldwin, Joyce, Balzac, Auden, Roethke,” along with a generous helping of philosophy, semiotics, and trashy thrillers.  He’s also fond of writing poems and stories (in crayon).  But Ralph has limits. He’s mute by choice and can’t drive, so in his own estimation he’s not a genius.  Unfortunately for him, everyone else disagrees.  His psychiatrist kidnaps him for testing, and once his brilliance is quantified (IQ: 475), a Pentagon officer also abducts him.  Diabolically funny and lacerating in its critique of poststructuralism, Glyph has the feverish plot of a thriller and the philosophical depth of a text by Roland Barthes.  If anyone can map the wilds of literary theory, it’s Ralph, one of Percival Everett’s most enduring creations.  And now, thanks to Graywolf Press, this 1999 novel is back in print (released in paperback earlier this year)!

What Happened Here delivers a wildly different cast of characters living on the same block in North Park, San Diego, site of the PSA Flight 182 crash in 1978.  The crash is history, but its legacy seeps in the stories of the neighborhood’s inhabitants, bringing grief, anxiety, and rebellion to the surface and eventually assists in burning clean the lives of those who live in the shadow of disaster.  Amidst the pathos of contemporary life, humor flits through these stories like the macaws that have taken to the trees of North Park.  The birds ensure that there’s never a dull moment in the neighborhood, and their outrageous colors and noisome squawks serve as constant reminds of regrowth.  Praise for What Happened Here: “Bonnie ZoBell’s luminously intersecting stories of artists, musicians, teachers and assorted shimmering misfits in a North Park neighborhood that happens to be the site of a historic plane wreck, beautifully chronicles the struggles of the living to survive–emotionally and physically–in the shadow of wreckage and ghosts.  Her characters’ connections, madnesses, kindnesses and demons are startlingly poignant and resonant.”  (Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men)  BONUS: Click here to read about Bonnie ZoBell's "first time."

In Michael Parker's All I Have In This World, two strangers meet over the hood of a used car in Texas: Marcus, who is fleeing both his financial and personal failures, and Maria, who after years of dodging her mistakes has returned to her hometown to make amends.  One looking forward, the other looking back, they face off over the car they both want.  And after knowing each other for less than an hour, they decide to buy it together.  All I Have in This World is a different kind of love story about the power of friendship.  The New York Times calls it "a Springsteenian ode to the promise and heartbreak of the highway."  More praise for the novel: “Parker’s skillfully rendered story rolls like a restless, unpredictable west Texas river—calm depths here, turbulent shallows there—as Marcus and Maria communicate and lurch toward an imperfect union....Which feels a lot like real life.” (The Denver Post)  BONUS: Click here to read about Michael Parker's "first time."

In Arts & Entertainments, handsome Eddie Hartley was once a golden boy poised for the kind of success promised by good looks and a modicum of talent.  Now thirty-three, he has abandoned his dream of an acting career and accepted the reality of life as a drama teacher at the boys' prep school he once attended.  But when Eddie and his wife, Susan, discover they cannot have children, it's one disappointment too many.  Weighted down with debt, Susan's mounting unhappiness, and his own deepening sense of failure, Eddie is confronted with an alluring solution when an old friend-turned-Web-impresario suggests Eddie sell a sex tape he made with an ex-girlfriend, now a wildly popular television star.  In an era when any publicity is good publicity, Eddie imagines that the tape won't cause any harm--a mistake that will have disastrous consequences and propel him straight into the glaring spotlight he once thought he craved.  A hilariously biting and incisive takedown of our culture's monstrous obsession with fame, Arts & Entertainments is also a poignant and humane portrait of a young man's belated coming-of-age, the complications of love, and the surprising ways in which the most meaningful lives often turn out to be the ones we least expected to lead.

In Our Senior Year, the debut novel by John Abraham-Watne, Minneapolis writer Jason Wareheim never expected to go back to his ten-year high school reunion, but what he found back in his hometown changed the way he saw everything.  The journal left behind by his best friend, Jack Wayne, brings back all the memories of their senior year, inspiring Jason to finally tell the story of "the three musketeers" and their lives in the small town of Clarmont, Iowa.  Theirs was a story crossed by love, tragedy, friendship, loyalty, and simple cruising on gravel roads.  This is a story of high school.  For more information about John Abraham-Watne and his debut novel, click here to visit his website.  BONUS: Click here to read about John Abraham-Watne's "first time."

In The Gods of Second Chances, a novel by Dan Berne released earlier this year by Forest Avenue Press, family means everything to Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter while battling storms, invasive species, and lawsuit-happy tourists.  To navigate, and to catch enough crab to feed her college fund, Ray seeks help from a multitude of gods and goddesses—not to mention ad-libbed rituals performed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend.  But kitchen counter statues and otter bone ceremonies aren’t enough when his estranged daughter returns from prison, swearing she’s clean and sober.  Her search for a safe harbor threatens everything Ray holds sacred.  Set against a backdrop of ice and mud and loss, Dan Berne’s gripping debut novel explores the unpredictable fissures of memory, and how families can break apart even in the midst of healing.

In Harm's Reach, which will be released in early 2015, FBI Agent Ren Bryce finds herself entangled in two seemingly unrelated mysteries.  But the past has a way of echoing down the years and finding its way into the present.  When Bryce discovers the body of a young woman in an abandoned car, solving the case becomes personal.  But the more she uncovers about the victim's last movements, the more questions are raised.  Why was Laura Flynn driving towards a ranch for troubled teens in the middle of Colorado when her employers thought she was hundreds of miles away?  And what did she know about a case from fifty years ago, which her death dramatically reopens?  As Ren and cold case investigator Janine Hooks slowly weave the threads together, a picture emerges of a privileged family determined to hide some very dark secrets whatever the cost."

If you’d like a chance at winning ALL THE 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 Dec. 25, at which time I’ll draw the winning name.  I’ll announce the lucky reader on Dec. 26.  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.

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