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Category: Featured Author

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Featured Author Review: The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

  The Night Mark Tiffany Reisz MIRA Publication Date: 3/28/74 She has nothing to live for in the present, but finds there’s something worth dying for in the past… From Tiffany Reisz, the international bestselling storyteller behind The Bourbon Thief and The Original Sinners series, comes an enthralling new novel about a woman swept away […]

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Featured Author Review: The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz

The Bourbon Thief Tiffany Reisz ISBN #0778319423 When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of […]

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The Song of David
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1514185016

25361480I won my first fight when I was eleven years old, and I’ve been throwing punches ever since. Fighting is the purest, truest, most elemental thing there is. Some people describe heaven as a sea of unending white. Where choirs sing and loved ones await. But for me, heaven was something else. It sounded like the bell at the beginning of a round, it tasted like adrenaline, it burned like sweat in my eyes and fire in my belly. It looked like the blur of screaming crowds and an opponent who wanted my blood.

For me, heaven was the octagon. Until I met Millie, and heaven became something different. I became something different. I knew I loved her when I watched her stand perfectly still in the middle of a crowded room, people swarming, buzzing, slipping around her, her straight dancer’s posture unyielding, her chin high, her hands loose at her sides. No one seemed to see her at all, except for the few who squeezed past her, tossing exasperated looks at her unsmiling face. When they realized she wasn’t normal, they hurried away. Why was it that no one saw her, yet she was the first thing I saw? If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.

 

This is David ‘Tag’ Taggert’s book, a supporting character introduced in The Law of Moses. This is a stand-alone story, but it is highly recommended that The Law of Moses be read first to avoid spoilers.

Review

Amy Harmon doesn’t tell conventional stories. There is no obvious climax or conflict that is cliche. What she does beautifully is weave stories that are unique. They are about the silent faces that sometimes get overlooked and often, go unheard. The Song of David echoes shades of Making Faces where the unlikely hero isn’t what you’d expect and the true champion of the story is the smallest, unpredictable soul.

The book centers around David “Tag” Taggert, a secondary character in Harmon’s previous release, The Law of Moses. It is both Tag and Moses who tell the story of how Tag fell in love with Millie, a blind, fiercely independent dancer who never lets her limitations stop her from seeing the brightest possibility in the world around her. Millie and Tag loved each other deeply and when Tag disappears and Moses sets out to discover what happened to him, the reader is treated to a unique narrative–the curious discovery of the young couple’s love seen both through Moses’ eyes and in the audio files Tag left for Millie.

This isn’t simply a love story. Told with vivid, poetic language, Harmon excels at painting a picture of a couple in the throes of new love and the desperate attempts they face to overcome the hurdles laid before them meant to derail any hope of that love growing.

“If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.”

 

Yet again, Harmon has set the bar sky high for writers who desire to pen stories that are honest, brutal and a perfect reflection of how life can destroy, abandon and the impossible hope that love is never forgotten.

High, highly recommended.

We are giving away TWO e-book copies of The Song of David to those of you who comment below.

Good luck!

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Thanks so much to Amy Harmon, our June Featured Author for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. We hope you LitStackers will check out Amy’s books and look her up on all her social networking spots ath the following:

Website / Facebook Twitter / Amazon / Goodreads  / Instagram

LS: Amy thanks so much for sitting down to chat with us. I’d love to hear about the genesis of your writing career. Have you always written? What were those early AMY HARMONstories like?

AH: I have always written. I have stories with Snoopy as the main character that my mom held onto. Writing for me has been my most comfortable form of self-expression. Some people dance and sing and talk and have sex. I write. Although I’m not opposed to dancing, singing and the rest. 😉

LS: I’m curious about the setting of many of your novels, particularly the connection between many characters and the town of Levan. What about your hometown informed the settings in your novels? Do you think you will always write about small towns?

AH: I think it’s important to write about things you understand, about settings that you truly know. I am a small town girl. It would be much more difficult for me to write about a big city or a European city and get it right. I worry a lot about getting it right. It’s important to me to be honest in my portrayals.

LS: Has there been one stabilizing force that has kept you motivated to publish? Has that changed since your first book?

AH: I wish I’d been more aware of what was going on in the self-publishing world, but I was teaching and pregnant and not as plugged in as I could have been. I had already written Running Barefoot long before I ever published, but it was the financial mess my family was in, along with my oldest son’s health and the fact that I had a new baby and wanted to stay at home. I just jumped off the proverbial cliff and started doggie paddling. I am so glad I wasn’t afraid to go for it.

LS: What variables led you to write Song of David? How did those variables impact the consistent validation of the work moving forward?

AH: When I wrote The Law of Moses, David Taggert was such a compelling character that I really wanted to delve a little deeper into his story, and The Song of David was born. It’s not sold very well, but I think it’s a pretty fantastic story. I am so proud of The Song of David and really believe it is an original, well-written, compelling read. Hopefully, people will pick it up. I’ve been very, very discouraged lately with what sells, what doesn’t, what is lauded, what isn’t. I can’t figure it out. And it is hard to work as hard as I do and not feel like it pays off. I know many authors feel this way. I would like to disappear for a while. Seriously. Just go off the grid and write, with no plans to ever publish again. Chipper today, aren’t I?

LS: Indie publishing has been very generous to you. Do you think there would ever be a circumstance that would have you turning over your work to a traditional publisher?

AH: I feel like I haven’t reached my audience yet. That is the only thing that spurs me toward wanting to possibly do a deal with a traditional publisher. I feel like there is a huge audience out there that would embrace my stories, but I can’t reach them. I’m not cutting through in the Indie world. That is the only thing that would make me want to publish traditionally. The only reason. I love self-publishing. I love the freedom and the readers and the fact that I’m steering my own ship. But I do feel like I haven’t found my home. Maybe I never will.

LS: Talk if you would about the element of strong families and spirituality in your books. How does your personal life and your own spirituality influence your stories?

AH: I am a spiritual person. I’ve said before that books without spirituality are, for me, like cake without icing. I think there is incredible beauty in the world, and the source of that beauty is almost always spiritual in nature. I’m not talking about religion. I’m truly talking about seeing beyond the obvious, embracing goodness, expecting miracles, being open to something larger than ourselves. To me, writing without spirituality would be so limiting.

LS: What is your idea of career fulfillment?

AH: That’s a hard question. But if I’m being honest, I want to be the next Jodi Piccoult. I want that kind of reach. Crazy? Maybe. But I never dreamed I’d hit the New York Times list, and that happened. So I’m choosing to believe this could happen too. I have had many fulfilling moments in this journey. Huge moments. But I can’t rest on them, nor do they register with me, beyond the brief joy in the moment. Because, truthfully? Nobody cares about the accolades. It’s all about the stories. And a writer has to keep writing. So that’s what I’m going to do.

LS: What’s upcoming for you?

I have started on a story, but I’m thinking I’m going to step back from it and spend a quiet summer working on something totally different. Something just for me. And I will most likely let my agent shop it. I haven’t shopped anything seriously, so that’s what’s next for me. We shall see.

Thanks again, Amy!

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Law of Moseslaw of moses
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1502830825

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.
It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.
And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all . . . a love story.

Review

Amy Harmon is a great writer. There is a lyric and gravity to her stories, those that have her readers coming back again and again to read about characters they can relate to, the ones that straddle the line between fiction and reality. What Amy excels at, however, is the exhibition of clarity that her characters and, as a result of her mastery of story telling, her readers garner from the journeys the characters take.

Law of Moses is no exception. Here we have the story of two start-crossed (though I really hate using that sort of trite, over-used phrase), Moses and Georgia who could not be more different or more compelling as a match. Like the summary explains, Moses was left to die as an infant, crack addicted with the world giving him very little shot of making things easy for him. Georgia, by contrast was raised with a loving family, an extended family of foster kids and a willingness to fix things that are broken. Initially, Moses is one of the cracks she’d like to mend.

What happens after their initial dramatic beginning is the slow burn of love and attraction, the defiance found in young lovers so out of their depth yet so compelled by the emotions their relationship invokes in them that reason, responsibility both become an afterthought.

There is only the connection they find in each other and the fight they wage against the odds set before them.

And so Moses and Georgia, like thousands of lovers before them, fight the good fight, quickly coming to understand, with time and age, that love is the most complicated, most irrational battle they’ll likely ever undertake. It’s the price they pay for that lesson, however, that makes this story both bittersweet and breathtakingly satisfying.

Amy Harmon is best when she is telling stories that surprise, when she places a mirror up to her readers and tells them that what they read in her characters is a reflection of what we each feel in life. Improbable paranormal elements in the book notwithstanding, Law of Moses is yet another gem from the clever mind and giant heart of an author well suited and criminally talented enough to craft a fine, engaging story.

Highly Recommended.

 

FAThis month we return to our Featured Author segment and will spend the month highlighting the backlist of one of our favorite authors. For June, we will be hosting multi-best selling author AMY HARMONAmy Harmon. Harmon is a USA Today, Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestselling author of seven novels – the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as  The Law of Moses, Infinity + One, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue.

Her newest novel, The Song of David, will be released on June 15, 2015. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to  entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in several countries, a dream come true for a little  country girl from Levan, Utah.

Connect with Amy at the following:

Website / Facebook Twitter / Amazon / Goodreads  / Instagram

We begin our June Featured Author segment with a review of Making Faces. 

Making Faces
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1492976423

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.Making Faces
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

 

Review

Sometimes I wonder what writers think when they write. Do their bad days, their best days, somehow end up between those long descriptions and dialog? Do they discover who they are, what they believe in the words that appear in bleeding black font across the empty screen? Maybe the very best of who we want to be, perhaps who we never want to be, becomes clearer when it finds its way through conflict and toward the climatic conclusions that neatly finish a story.

Maybe, for some writers, the words are nothing more than bits and pieces of their imagination. Maybe for them, it’s simply a nice way to spend their time. Amy Harmon isn’t one of those filling-the-time authors. There is a synergy to her stories that begins with the succinctly layered characters that struggle eternally, externally to find parts of themselves on the page. They are subtle reflections of human nature and the bitter and beautiful paradigms of who we all are.

In Making Faces, Harmon paints a vivid picture. It isn’t one that is overtly complex. In fact, at its basest level, Making Faces is a contemporary retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale with the once flawlessly handsome Ambrose Young finding his way from high school and the legendary reputation of being the town’s athletic darling, to hearing the gnawing call inside himself for justice brought forward after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Ambrose does not take the road well traveled, the one he is expected to glide along. He instead leads the charge which his friends follow, foregoing college and career for the military life. Yet Ambrose is the only one to return, and what is left of him isn’t the beautiful, charming boy he once was. He is scarred, he is broken and believes that he can only exist in his hometown post-war hidden beneath a hoodie and under the cover of night.

He is comforted only by his guilt and finds no beauty in his life, just the hollow remains of what and who he once was.

Fern Taylor has loved Ambrose since she was too young to understand the concept. She played Cyrano to Ambrose, hiding behind the beautiful face of her best friend when the girl sought Ambrose’s attention. Fern couldn’t, wouldn’t admit what she felt but luxuriated in the words she and Ambrose sent one another. It didn’t matter that her best friend reaped the benefits of how fiercely, intimately Fern stroked Ambrose’s mind. Fern was able to see the true nature of who Ambrose was; she saw what he kept hidden from the world.

And then, their world fractured. Violence, departure, the end of high school, the beginning of a strike against the enemy, and Fern lost Ambrose to time, to pain, only to have him return home more closed off than he had been years before.

So, again, Fern took to the written word, insistently trying to let Ambrose know she remembered who he was, saw a beauty in him that had nothing to do with his past or present face. Ambrose could not accept that he deserved to be loved, despite Fern’s steadfast attention.

‘Could you belong to someone who didn’t want you? Fern decided it was possible because her heart was his, and whether or not he wanted it didn’t seem to make much difference.’

Two young people learning to grow– one away from who he once was, the other toward something she doesn’t fully understand. And in the middle of the two is the voice of reason, passion and the unyielding determination to never, ever give up: Bailey, Fern’s cousin.

These three people are bonded by history, by family, by the love of sport, of hope, of what lies ahead. The future is uncertain, unclear and looming beneath the surface is a heart break that would fracture anyone. But these characters are not carbon copies of angst-ridden stereotypes recycled from romances written over and over. They are real, they are unique and they feel the ache of life with the bitter realism and heartfelt pain we all do.

“Thing about it. There isn’t heartache if there hasn’t been joy. I wouldn’t feel loss if there hadn’t been love.”

It is the depiction of that unwavering love that Harmon excels at. We see the realization of life, all the humor, all the pain in each conflict, in every hurdle (self-inflicted and external) that Fern, Ambrose and Bailey endure. We see them all because Harmon is able to bridge the distance between reality and fiction, beautifully blurring that connection so that we forget these these characters aren’t part of our lives, that they don’t deserve our empathy.

I defy anyone to read Making Faces and not fall instantly in love with the tortured, haunted Ambrose or identify with the awkward, stumbling Fern. I dare you not to want Bailey to get stronger, not want to fight the very big battle life has set before him.

In the end, Making Faces quickly became one of the books I return to when I want to feel the whoosh of emotion felt at first love, the awkward way we’ve all struggled through adolescence. Certainly when I want to remember how precious life is and how important it is to say “I love you” again and again.

Highly recommended.