Nashville, Tennessee, is the home of country stars, line dances, cowboy boots—and BookPage! So we were particularly excited to see that Loving Dallas, the latest in Caisey Quinn's New Adult romance series Neon Dreams, is set in Nashville. In Loving Dallas, a country musician is on the brink of stardom, but the love he left behind to pursue fame refuses to fade. We asked Quinn to tell us more about what she finds so special about Nashville—and got some bar suggestions, to boot!
Everyone has as favorite vacation destination: The beach. The mountains. Ski resorts. Las Vegas. Disney World.
Mine is a little different than most.
Mine is full of neon lights and street musicians and smoky bars.
Doesn’t exactly sound like a dream resort, and that’s because it’s not. It is, however, one of the fastest growing cities in America and lately one of its most popular.
I loved it even before it was a television show. (And yes, I do also love the TV show!)
Nashville, Tennessee, encompasses all of the things I love. It’s in the South, it’s constantly filled with music, and you can’t walk five feet without running into a cowboy with a guitar strapped to his back. So it’s no surprise that several of my books are set in the world of country music and many either take place in Nashville or feature characters who spend a great deal of time there.
Traditional romance heroes generally fall into one of several established tropes: athlete, billionaire, CEO, cowboy, soldier, rancher, rock star. I wanted to read about guys more like Luke Bryan, Eric Church or Brantley Gilbert. Personally, I prefer my heroes country with an edge. Mostly I began writing books about country musicians because I wanted to know what in the world happened on that tour bus between Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I couldn’t find those books. So I decided to write them myself. Much more experienced writers than me will tell you to write what you want to read and write what you know. So that’s what I did.
Luckily, Birmingham, Alabama, (where I live) is close to Nashville, and my brother and several of my friends are musicians that were happy to answer any questions about the musician lifestyle I had along the way. And I had a lot. Each trip I take to Nashville, I find myself in a bar like The Stage or Crossroads, watching a band and wondering about their story. If I’m lucky, I get to chat with them after the show. If I’m not, I make it up. Either way, each trip provides more inspiration for future novels. So it may not be the bright lights of Vegas or the relaxing vibe of a five-star resort, but Nashville is my second home and there’s nowhere I’d rather be—or rather write about. ;)
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Rick Hoffman has fallen on hard times—he's lost his fiancée and his job, and his only option is to move into his parents' decrepit old home. But then he finds a huge pile of cash hidden in the walls of the house. His elderly father, Leonard, is still alive, but he's in a nursing home and unable to communicate, so no help there. Rick was formerly an investigative journalist, so the mystery of the cash and how it got there—and what his father knows about it—gets his full attention.
The newest from Finder is an absolute page-turner, a fast and entertaining read.
"Let's see your hands, Dad." He took hold of Len's left hand and began to clip his father's thick grooved nails, and Brenda drifted out of the room.
Rick clipped slowly. His father held out each hand, one at a time. It felt oddly intimate. It was like taking care of a small child. He thought about how everything sooner or later comes back around. He realized with a jolt that his eyes had teared up.
He stopped clipping. "Jeff and I were doing some exploratory demolition," he said quietly, "and we opened up the wall next to your study, at the back of the closet." Len's mouth was frozen in that haughty expression, but his watery eyes seemed anxious. They followed Rick's. "There was money back there. A huge amount of money. Millions of dollars. How did it get there, any idea?" Rick swallowed, waited. "Is it yours?"
Len's restless eyes came to a stop, looked directly into Rick's.
The old man's eyes bore into his. Then he began to blink rapidly, three or four times. Nervously, maybe.
What are you reading?
First-world problems got you down? Are you bugged by Spanx? Annoyed by Pinterest? And fed up with some of your coworkers? Then you’ll identify with the stars of Penguins with People Problems, Mary Laura Philpott’s hilariously quirky new collection.
Philpott, an editor for Parnassus Books in Nashville, adapted the book from her popular Tumblr featuring the clueless but charming birds. In a Q&A, the author tells us that she never expected her sketches to lead to a book deal—but the appeal of the perplexed penguins proved irresistible.
One spread in the book shows a frustrated penguin wrestling with his laptop and crying out in frustration as his wi-fi signal flickers. "Must I struggle LIKE SOME KIND OF ANIMAL? WHAT SORT OF EXISTENCE IS THIS?" Another shows a penguin who's "about to go on a super-cute flippity-flappity rampage" because a coworker stole his best pen.
Check out the Q&A to learn how Philpott got started drawing penguins and when she first realized she had a hit on her hands.
Illustration © Mary Laura Philpott
It's tough to compete with swimming pools, lake days and bike rides in the sun. To keep kids reading all summer long, it's going to take a whole lot of adventure and magic. Fortunately, there are several new children's books that fit the bill:
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Ten-year-old Micah Tuttle has grown up listening to stories about the amazing Circus Mirandus, with its talking animals, invisible tigers and otherworldly performers. But when he discovers that magic is real, Micah and his new friend Jenny go in search of a miracle. “Once in a while, it’s good to be ridiculous and amazing," writes debut author Beasley. So true! Read more>>>
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This enchanting story set in the Louisiana bayou explores the world of 10-year-old Maddy as she discovers her family's magical legacy. Readers will love the novel's Southern roots and African mermaid mythology, which features a uniquely heroic mermaid. Read more>>>
Grounded by Megan Morrison
The classic Rapunzel fairy tale takes off in a fun, imaginative direction, as our naive heroine discovers her safe little world in the tower may not be all it seems. She journeys into the world of Tyme with her friends Jack and Prince Frog, and their adventures make the pages fly by. Read more>>>
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
With codes, puzzles and literary references, this one will delight young readers who may already be inclined to opt for reading over swimming. The story of 12-year-old Emily as she attempts to win the great Book Scavenger game will both challenge and entertain. Read more>>>
Woof by Spencer Quinn
In the first in a new middle grade series, Birdie and Bowser form as lovable a sleuthing team as Chet and Bernie, the stars of Quinn's best-selling adult mystery series. In their first adventure, Birdie and Bowser take on the mystery of Grammy’s mounted championship black marlin, which has gone missing. Everything's more fun with a dog! Read more>>>
Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Plucky Tabitha Crum has been invited with a group of other children to the huge, possibly haunted Hollingsworth Hall. With her mouse sidekick, Tabitha unearths the secrets of the mansion—and makes some new friends along the way. Read more>>>
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
Kids might not want to think about classes and field trips between the months of May and August, but they'll be laughing too hard to care while reading Pulitzer Prize winner Barry's hilarious novel about a school trip to the nation's capital. Read more>>>
Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith
One word to describe Smith's first novel for middle grade readers: wacky. It's all over the place—in a good way. This story of an amusement park, werewolves (possibly) and homework might not make sense to you, but kids will likely devour it. Read more>>>
Beach House by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Amy June Bates
This pleasant, gentle picture book captures the joys and rituals of the family beach trip, from unloading the car and prepping the house before all parading to the water, to relaxing at the end of an exciting day with a bonfire in the sand. Read more>>>
Pool by JiHyeon Lee
This deceptively simple picture book finds a little boy hesitating at the edge of the swimming pool, but as soon as he dives in, he makes a new friend. Together they explore an imaginative deep-sea world full of incredible creatures. Read more>>>
Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís
A little boy reveals all the amazing things he has learned throughout the summer, but clearly he's been thinking about one thing above all else—ice cream! Read more>>>
Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
The latest in Julian's steamy Salon Games novels finds a wedding planner and a best man dealing with an intense attraction toward each other as the big day draws near. I know, I know. You've heard this one before. But Julian adds intrigue to this tried-and-true tale. For one, the best man, Dane, is very much into the bride—a crush that is easily nurtured since bride, groom and best man all are frequenters of The Salon, a club in which members indulge their deepest fantasies. But wedding planner Talia catches Dane's eye, and what begins as no-strings-attached fun starts feeling real. But will Talia still want to be involved when Dane reveals his bedroom proclivities?
“Can I walk with you to the elevator?”
Talia smiled at up Dane as Annabelle closed the door of the apartment behind them. They’d been among the first to leave. Talia had pled exhaustion and it hadn’t been an excuse. She’d had a full day, several phone meetings, and a site consult, and she’d begun to lag about half an hour ago.
“Sure. Dinner was wonderful. Of course, it’s hard not to be when a chef makes it.”
Dane nodded. “True. Annabelle’s a good cook, but she’s been busy lately. Between her shop and the wedding, she’s burning the candle at both ends. The honeymoon will be good for her.”
Dane sounded truly concerned and he went up another notch in Talia’s estimation. “She’s always been like this, though. Always busy. I think she likes it that way.”
“Sounds like you’re pretty busy yourself.”
“Only way to be. It means you’re doing something right.”
The elevator arrived with a muted ding. Talia pressed the button for her floor as Dane leaned back against the mirrored wall.
He didn’t respond, simply continued to watch her with those dark eyes.
Her breath caught, her chest tigtened, and it became harder to draw in air.
Talia decided it was time to lay their cards on the table.
“Would you like to come to my room for a drink? I’m not quite ready to turn in yet.”
He paused, and she had a second or two to wonder if she’d made a mistake before his lips curved. “I’d like that. Thanks.”
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
Renowned interior designer Gabrielle Stanley Blair has amassed quite an online following with her family-focused design blog. Blair has compiled her best advice—both as a designer and a mother of six—in her new book, Design Mom, and she proves that you too can create a home that is not only beautiful, but functional and stain-proof to boot.
“You Are Special Today” Plate
A New Family Tradition
When I was growing up, one of my favorite family traditions was using our “You Are Special Today” plate. It was a red plate with white script that said, you guessed it, “You Are Special Today.” It hung in a place of honor in the kitchen. On birthdays or other special days—maybe we earned a great grade on a chemistry exam or got a personal best at the track meet—we were served dinner on the special plate.
Such a simple thing, but what a treat! We looked forward to our turn with fondness and anticipation, and it always felt so good to be acknowledged in such a concrete way.
Step 1: Print out the phrase “You Are Special Today” in the font of your choosing, sized to fit in the middle of the plate. Then cut a piece of graphite paper (or create your own by rubbing a pencil across a plain piece of paper) just a bit bigger than your printout. If you like, you can find three designs of the phrase, which you can print out for free on DesignMom.com/book.
Step 2: Place the graphite paper facedown on the plate. Then place the printout faceup on top of the graphite paper, being sure to center it on the plate, and tape two corners of both papers in place so they don’t move around.
Step 3: Using a sharp pencil, trace the outline of the text, which will leave the graphite tracing on the plate. Then remove the tape and papers, taking care not to smudge the graphite image on the plate.
Step 4: Use a porcelain marker to fill in the traced lettering. You may want to use cotton swabs to clean up extra graphite smears and/or errors.
Step 5: Bake the plate according to the porcelain marker instructions to set the ink and make the plate washable. (Typically, 300°F for 35 minutes.)
Fantasy, mystery, literary fiction and a poignant love story are all represented in this week's new paperbacks:
The Story of Us
By Dani Atkins
Ballantine • $15 • ISBN 9780804178549
A fiery crash on the eve of her wedding leads Emma to question everything, even her relationship with the childhood sweetheart she's about to marry. And then there's the mysterious stranger who saved her life—could she really be falling in love with him? This trade paperback original includes a reader's guide.
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
By Mira Jacob
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812985061
Jacobs' darkly funny debut novel about an Indian-American family made several best books of the year lists when it was released in hardcover in 2014. Summoned to her parents' home in Albuquerque when her brain-surgeon father begins acting strangely, Amina must confront three decades of her family's past. The paperback includes a reader's guide.
The Magician's Land
By Lev Grossman
Plume • $16 • ISBN 9780147516145
Grossman, a book reviewer for Time, wraps up his Magicians trilogy with nods to such classics as Narnia and Harry Potter. But this imaginative conclusion to the story of young Quentin Coldwater and the magical realm of Fillory stands on its own as captivating fantasy.
By Tim Winton
Picador • $17 • 9781250069337
The powerful ninth novel from one of Australia's most acclaimed writers finds failed environmental Tom Keely at the end of his rope—until he encounters his old school friend Gemma and her grandson Kai, who need help even more than he does.
By Walter Mosley
Vintage Crime • $15.95 • ISBN 9780307949790
Set in L.A. during the uneasy era of the Vietnam War and the black nationalist movement, the latest Easy Rawlins mystery kicks off when the iconic P.I. is called to help investigate the kidnapping of Rose Gold, daughter of a wealthy arms dealer.
The Great Glass Sea
By Josh Weil
Grove • $16 • ISBN 9780802123718
In this compelling near-future novel, Russian twins Yarik and Dima work together on the Oranzheria, a greenhouse formed by huge glass panels that keeps their town in perpetual daylight. Weil, a "5 Under 35" honoree, was inspired by an actual greenhouse near Moscow in crafting this ambitious debut.
Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the best-selling Wench, returns to 19th-century America with her latest novel, Balm, which follows a group of refugees as they attempt to survive in the wake of the Civil War. Our reviewer writes, "Perkins-Valdez . . . has a genius for placing the reader in the postwar welter of a city and the quieter but no less troubled farms of the South." (Read the review.)
We asked Perkins-Valdez to tell us about three books she's read lately.
Mitchell Jackson's debut has been described as an "autobiographical novel" and as I read it, I cannot help but wonder: "How autobiographical is it?" I want to read everything that ever flows from Jackson's pen. What intrigues me about his work isn't just its subject matter—its gritty look at the lives of a drug-dealing son and his drug-addicted mother—but the unique and confident voice of the author. I do not exaggerate when I say that he takes a dark tale and elevates it to poetry. The lines burst with energy and verve. "Now having an idea is one thing, but the real work is turning a blank screen into words, into sentences, into a few fucking paragraphs." Jackson has done that and more.
I fell in love with Jay Porter in Attica Locke's first book, Black Water Rising. Here was a hero I could sink my teeth into: smart but troubled, idealistic but scarred. Now I am delighted to see Porter is back in Locke's third novel Pleasantville. What I appreciate about Locke's work is her ability to infuse politics into a page-turning thriller. When I pick up a thriller, I still want to read smart fiction, and Locke is as smart as they come. Her second book was about a murder on a historic slave plantation in Louisiana where a cadre of African-American employees hosts tours and events! How genius is that!
Robin Oliveira's first novel My Name is Mary Sutter took me right into my own backyard—the Civil War era in Washington, DC. I was absolutely captivated by this story of a woman whose quest to become a nurse and surgeon is well beyond her time. Oliveira's second novel I Always Loved You moves forward in time a bit to narrate the relationship between Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. In 2014 the National Gallery of Art organized an exhibit to examine the relationship between the famous painter and his "pupil." It was a fascinating intellectual exchange, and Oliveira's narrative reminds me of why historical fiction is such an important contribution to the historical record.
Thank you, Dolen! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
Our Top Pick in nonfiction for June is Kristen Green's Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, a personal and probing look at school segregation in one Southern community. After returning to her native Virginia in 2010, Green began to investigate the events in her hometown of Farmville, where community leaders closed the public schools in the 1950s rather than comply with court-ordered desegregation. Green eventually learned that her own grandfather was instrumental in founding a whites-only private academy in the town.
Alice Cary, a longtime BookPage reviewer, author and mother of three who lives in Groton, Massachusetts, explains why she jumped at the chance to review the book.
I was particularly eager to review Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County because I spent part of my childhood in Richmond, Virginia, attending school there in grades three through eight. With the advent of school busing in the early 1970s, I witnessed the small Episcopal school I attended double in size. Soon, a high school was built to accommodate this white flight from the possibility of busing.
From Richmond we moved to a Baltimore suburb. Today I have friends and family in that city, which I visit every summer. The riots following the tragic death of Freddie Gray filled me with sadness and horror; the poverty that plagues much of Baltimore is heartbreaking.
After spending my childhood in various Mid-Atlantic states, I have lived my adult life in an area of New England that is filled with beauty but lacking in diversity. I'm not sure many New Englanders can truly comprehend Southern and Mid-Atlantic racial relations, both past and present.
Such understanding continues to be vital for everyone, and Green's account sheds light on a shameful chapter of U.S. history. Her research and reporting are fascinating, while the personal accounts of her own family's experiences are not only compelling, but candid in a no-holds barred, essential way. Yes, I found myself nodding. That's exactly the way it was.
Some of the anecdotes Green shares evoked a memory of my paternal grandmother, a lovely Virginia lady who always seemed to be dressed in a suit and hat. To this day, however, I cringe when I recall an incident that occurred as we were driving her to the Richmond airport after a visit. She looked at a passing car, where a white woman was riding with a black man and a black child. "Hmmph!" my grandmother said, turning her head away. "Serves her right." My grandmother—whom I adored and for whom I am named—was hardly alone in her mindset.
Happily, my three children can't imagine such attitudes. I dearly hope they'll read Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County so they can fully comprehend some of the unjust beliefs and actions of our not-so-distant past—and, sadly, in some places, our present.
Meanwhile, I'm rooting for Kristen Green to win a Pulitzer Prize.