Friday, May 27, 2016

The Secrets of Flight Blog Tour and Review

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Paperback: 368 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review


This captivating, breakout novel—told in alternating viewpoints—brings readers from the skies of World War II to the present day, where a woman is prepared to tell her secrets at last.

Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past. Now eighty-seven years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in—a fifteen-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah—Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.

Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams—including her own identity.

As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.

Purchase Links

My Take:

I really had no idea what I was going to get when I agreed to read and review The Secrets of Flight. I had no idea what a treat I had ahead of me. From the first page where the reader is introduced to Mary - on her eighty-seventh birthday, at her writer's group meeting - to the very last page, I was completely immersed in the lives of Mary Browning and Elyse Strickler. 

I found myself intrigued and curious about exactly why Mary was so secretive about her past, and I really liked her as a character. I liked the group dynamic of the writers - there are some people that Mary seems to avoid and doesn't seem to like very much, but in the end, there is a strong bond of friendship.

Elyse is the young writer who joins the group of much older people. Somehow she manages to fit into this eclectic group and actually brings them together and makes the group stronger. I enjoyed the developing friendship between Mary and Elyse and the way they each seem to bring out the best in the other.

I enjoyed reading about the women pilots and their determination to learn to fly despite all the resistance they encountered. Until reading this book, I was unaware of such a program as the Women Airforce Service Pilots and the novel provides a fascinating look at what it might have been like for these women.

I enjoyed The Secrets of Flight so much that I read it in a single day. I won't give the twist away, but I did see it coming (or, more accurately, I hoped my guess was correct), but this didn't detract from my enjoyment at all. There is so much about The Secrets of Flight that I loved - the gradual revelations of Mary's past, the reasons for her secretiveness and guilt; the relationship between Mary and Elyse; Elyse growing into young adulthood while Mary deals with advancing age and loneliness; as well as just the characters themselves.  I definitely recommend The Secrets of Flight to pretty much all readers and I think that it would make a great selection for book clubs.

About Maggie Leffler

Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Delaware and volunteered with AmeriCorps before attending St. George’s University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons. The Secrets of Flight is her third novel.

Find out more about Maggie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.

Tour Stops

Tuesday, May 3rd: BookNAround
Wednesday, May 4th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, May 5th: bookchickdi
Friday, May 6th: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, May 10th: Back Porchervations
Wednesday, May 11th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 12th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Monday, May 16th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, May 17th: Dreams, Etc.
Thursday, May 19th: Staircase Wit
Monday, May 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Tuesday, May 24th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, May 25th: Reading is My Super Power
Thursday, May 26th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Thursday, May 26th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, May 27th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 30th: Book by Book
Monday, May 30th: Life By Kristen
Thursday, June 2nd: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Changing Season - Review

The Changing Season by Steven Manchester
Publication date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: The Story Plant
Source: Publisher/author via NetGalley for an honest review

This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy; one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He'd fill the hours playing with Jimmy – his canine best buddy – going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they'd do before Billy left.

But that was before the accident that shook the entire town.

It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck.

And it was before Vicki.

This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn't truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple.

My Take:

The Changing Season was one of those books that was featured in one of NetGalley's emails and it had several favorable blurbs and it sounded like a nice, sweet story, so I requested an  e-galley.  Life got busy and it took me awhile to get around to reading it - although I did attempt it a couple of times but just didn't get into it and had other more pressing deadlines, so I put it down. 

Since the author contacted me (several times) about a review, I made time to read the book. I know that The Changing Season is supposed to be a heartwarming coming-of-age story that takes place during the summer between high school graduation going off to college. And I guess, technically, it is exactly that. The main character Billy is a self-centered teen with a good heart and a good brain - just your typical teenager. His best friend Jimmy - his dog - has been his loyal friend for years. Billy gets a job at an animal shelter and learns a lot about people, animals and himself. He has a great mentor and makes a decision about his future. 

Something bad happens because of one of Billy's friends and then this friend spends the summer avoiding responsibility for it. Billy gets a girlfriend then loses her. But he grows up over the summer and heads off to college a young man. 

I guess this book just isn't my cup of tea. It just seemed to me to be a kind of fairy tale written by adults to tell to other adults about our kids. Much of the dialogue just didn't ring authentic or likely to me. If the story had taken place in the fifties or sixties, maybe, but I just couldn't buy it. If you enjoy After School Special or Hallmark movie-type stories, then you may really like The Changing Season. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Dark Lady's Mask Blog Tour and Review

02_The Dark Lady's Mask
The Dark Lady's Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare's Muse by Mary Sharratt
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher via HFVBT for an honest review

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Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare's Sister in this novel of England's first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country - and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady's Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Hardcover) | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

My Take:

Because I enjoy historical fiction and love Shakespeare, I was happy to read and review The Dark Lady's Mask. This isn't the first book I have read that envisions Aemilia Bassano as Shakespeare's 'dark lady', but I think this Aemilia may be my favorite. She is highly intelligent, very educated and an equal to any man's wit and courage and an equal in talent to her Will.

The novel is very well written and I was quite happily surprised at how quickly I was drawn in to not only the novel, but also into caring about Aemilia and her future. There is so much to pay attention to -- from the historical detail to the clever way the author describes the plays written in collaboration between Aemilia and Will Shakespeare. 

I loved that Aemilia uses her own experience at dressing as a man to enjoy freedom on horseback and from the constraints of womanhood to inform her plays. There were so many adventures that she could never have had dressed as a woman.

I appreciated that the author gives so much attention to the situation of women of the period and that she looks at a few different strong women in addition to Aemilia.  I very much enjoyed reading about  the friendship between Aemilia and Margaret Clifford. 

There is so much to like about The Dark Lady's Mask - it is fun and exciting -  with love and betrayal; strength and persistence; friendship and personal growth. The historical detail is wonderful. The Dark Lady's Mask will appeal to any reader who enjoys historical fiction, especially historical fiction dealing with Shakespeare, obviously, and fiction about the Elizabethan period. I think that it will also appeal to readers who like strong, intelligent women and those who have a sense of humor about literature.  I will certainly be suggesting it to my friends.

Advance Praise

"An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may - or may not - be Shakespeare's Dark Lady."- MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

"Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady's Mask is a gem not to be missed."- LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain's End

"Mary Sharratt's enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady's Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare's Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling 'what if'  scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England's greatest poet and playwright." - KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic's Daughter

"Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!" - M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

"I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare's 'dark lady.' There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays." -KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

"Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady's Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman's precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving." -MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

"In The Dark Lady's Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario --that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare's mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist." -KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo's Swans and Dracula in Love

"Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power." - STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

"Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt's latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY'S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let's her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse." - PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

03_Mary SharrattAbout the Author

MARY SHARRATT is an American writer who has lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, for the past seven years. The author of the critically acclaimed novels Summit Avenue, The Real Minerva, and The Vanishing Point, Sharratt is also the co-editor of the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit, a celebration of female antiheroes, strong women who break all the rules.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, April 19
Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Wednesday, April 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Excerpt & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 21
Review at A Book Drunkard
Guest Post at A Bookish Affair
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, April 22
Review & Giveaway at History Undressed

Monday, April 25
Review at Seize the Words: Books in Review

Tuesday, April 26
Review at With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, April 27
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, April 28
Review at Just One More Chapter

Friday, April 29
Review at A Chick Who Reads

Saturday, April 30
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, May 2
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Review at Cynthia Robertson, writer

Tuesday, May 3
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, May 4
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 5
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Friday, May 6
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, May 9
Review at A Dream within a Dream

Tuesday, May 10
Character Interview at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, May 11
Review at Puddletown Reviews

Thursday, May 12
Review & Giveaway at View from the Birdhouse

Friday, May 13
Review at First Impressions Reviews
Excerpt at Layered Pages

Monday, May 16
Review at A Book Geek

Tuesday, May 17
Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, May 18
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective

Thursday, May 19
Review & Giveaway at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, May 20
Review at Broken Teepee

04_The Dark Lady's Mask_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Father's Day Blog Tour and Review

Father's Day coverFather's Day by Simon Van Booy
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Hardcover: 304 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours for an honest review

 “A strong voice full of poetic, timeless grace.”—San Francisco Examiner 

When devastating news shatters the life of six-year-old Harvey, she finds herself in the care of a veteran social worker, Wanda, and alone in the world save for one relative she has never met—a disabled felon, haunted by a violent act he can’t escape. 

Moving between past and present, Father’s Day weaves together the story of Harvey’s childhood on Long Island and her life as a young woman in Paris.

 Written in raw, spare prose that personifies the characters, this remarkable novel is the journey of two people searching for a future in the ruin of their past.

Father’s Day is a meditation on the quiet, sublime power of compassion and the beauty of simple, everyday things—a breakthrough work from one of our most gifted chroniclers of the human heart.

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Purchase Links

My Take:

I haven't read any other books by Simon Van Booy, but after reading Father's Day, I will be seeking out his other works. I find this book to be difficult to describe without giving too much away or simply gushing over how much I liked it.

I was captivated from the first page by the deceptively simple and sparing prose. The writing style fits the characters so well and I found it to be just beautiful. Aside from the writing itself, the characters and their relationships appealed to me very much. The characters seemed authentic, interesting and their hard-earned relationships are heartwarming.

Harvey is a young girl when her parents die and she ends up in the care of Wanda, a veteran social worker who has a feeling about what is best for Harvey. I loved Wanda's kindness and stubbornness. I also loved that she followed her instincts and many years of experience with people to make sure Jason and Harvey had a shot. Jason is the most difficult character in the book - he is rough around the edges, and I've seen the word "prickly" used to describe him, and really, it is a great word for Jason. He has had a hard life - a felon who has done his time and is trying to get along in the world. Suddenly this little girl comes into his life and it isn't the easiest transition for him.

Getting to read about Jason's personal growth and his adapting to being a father was just a wonderful experience. He has a long, hard, but fulfilling road ahead of him and he works so hard to provide a home for Harvey.

I think Father's Day is one of the best books I have read this year. It has really stuck with me. Perhaps because I am a parent, I found it particularly poignant and I appreciated the reminder that "perfect parents" don't exist. Kids don't need perfection, they need someone who will love them, take care of them, and accept them for who they are. I hate to go into too much detail because I want readers to open the book without any preconceived ideas or expectations. I enthusiastically recommend Father's Day to pretty much all readers and it certainly is on the list of books I am recommending to friends and family.

Simon Van Booy AP photo credit Ken BrowarAbout Simon Van Booy

Simon Van Booy is the author of two novels and two collections of short stories, including The Secret Lives of People in Love and Love Begins in Winter, which won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. He is the editor of three philosophy books and has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, and the BBC. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter.

Find out more about Simon at his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Simon’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 27th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, April 27th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, April 28th: Bibliophiliac
Friday, April 29th: Sarah Reads Too Much
Tuesday, May 3rd: FictionZeal
Thursday, May 5th: she treads softly
Monday, May 9th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 10th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, May 11th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 12th: A Book Geek
Monday, May 16th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, May 17th: The many thoughts of a reader
Wednesday, May 18th: From the TBR Pile
Thursday, May 19th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, May 20th: Time 2 Read

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Berlin Package Blog Tour and Review

The Berlin Package by Peter Riva
Publisher: Yucca Publishing
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Source: Publisher/author for an honest review

Film producer Pero Baltazar thought he was taking a Berlin filming assignment. He needed the work, needed to get back in the saddle after fighting off a life-threatening experience in East Africa—alShabaab had attacked his crew, intent on a much larger terrorist attack. Suddenly he finds himself under orders from his part-time employers at the State Department and the CIA when he is handed a mysterious package. It’s an assignment he doesn't want. The problem is, it’s a job contracted by mysterious patrons who are prepared to kill him if he doesn't deliver.

Pero—now in far too deep—turns to friends, old and new, to help him unravel the mystery of the package, uncover connections to Nazi concentration camp gold recently sold by the US Treasury, and thwart the ex–Stasi chief, now head of a powerful banking group.

In this fast-paced sequel to Murder on Safari, Pero calls on Mbuno, his friend and East African safari guide, to anticipate the moves of his enemies as if they were animals—dangerous vermin—who have kidnapped both the film star and director. Mbuno’s tracking skills may keep them from getting killed—provided Pero can rope in more help and keep the CIA at bay.

Exhilarating and expertly crafted, The Berlin Package (Yucca Publishing; April 2016) is a gripping, page-turning thriller set in post–German reunification Europe.

Praise for Berlin Package
“An explosive radioactive thriller written with intelligence. . . . The reluctant spy motif works grandly. . . . An extremely thoughtful and terrifying exposure of the dangers inherent in a nuclear world.”
 —Ron Lealos, author of Pashtun and Don’t Mean Nuthin’

My Take:

The Berlin Package sounded interesting and exciting and even though I hadn't read the previous book, I thought it sounded like a fun read. And for the most part it was a fun read. The reader is introduced to Pero Baltazar on an airplane that is having trouble - and Pero has the information that the pilots need to keep the plane in the air. Lucky for the passengers, right? Right. Pero is just that kind of guy. He is supposed to be a film maker, but he also has some secrets and friends in all the right places.

There are several references to the previous book and much of the necessary information is provided so that I didn't feel at a complete loss while reading Pero's latest adventure. And the adventure is pretty much nonstop. There are spies, some pretty crazy bad guys, rich and powerful friends, and his friends from the previous novel show up in the nick of time.  

Pero's side job as part-time agent for the CIA is pretty dangerous work and at times seems a bit far fetched. However, if fast-paced crime solving adventure is the kind of novel you enjoy, I think you might like The Berlin Package. There is seldom a break in the chase or the quest for information, so there is never a dull moment. I wonder if Pero's newly made friends will show up in later adventures? That could make for a fun read. 

Author's Bio:

Peter Riva has spent many months over 30 years travelling throughout Africa and Europe. Much of this time was spent with the legendary guides for East African hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series in 1995 called Wild Things for Paramount. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is his passion. Nonetheless, his job for over forty years has been working as a literary agent. In his spare time, Riva writes science fiction and African adventure books. He lives in Gila, New Mexico.

Connect with the author:   Website   Twitter   Facebook

Tour Schedule:

April 25 - The Autistic Gamer - review of The Berlin Package
April 25 - - book spotlight / giveaway
April 25 - Bookishly Devoted - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
April 26 - Books Reviews, Nature Photos - review of Murder on Safari
April 26 - Celticlady's Reviews - book spotlight
April 27 - 3 Partners in Shopping - review of Murder on Safari
April 27 - Zerina Blossom's Books - book spotlight / author interview / giveaway
April 28 - Vic's Media Room - review of The Berlin Package
April 29 - Heidi's Wanderings - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
April 29 - Rockin' Book Reviews - review of The Berlin Package / guest post / giveaway
May 2 -    A Book Geek - review of The Berlin Package
May 2 -    The World As I See It - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 3 -    Deal Sharing Aunt - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
May 4 -   Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine - review of The Berlin Package
May 4 -   fuonlyknew - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 5 -   Sahar's Blog - review of Murder on Safari
May 5 -   First Impressions Reviews - review of The Berlin Package
May 6 -   Heidi's Wanderings - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 6 -   Create With Joy - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
May 9 -   Mystery Suspense Reviews - guest post
May 9 -   3 Partners in Shopping - review of The Berlin Package
May 10 - Library of Clean Reads - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
May 10 - Working Mommy Journal - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 11 - Readers' Muse - review of Murder on Safari
​May 11 - Life as Leels - review of The Berlin Package
May 12 - Nighttime Reading Center - review of Murder on Safari / interview / giveaway
May 12 - Sahar's Blog - review of The Berlin Package
May 13 - Olio by Marilyn - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 16 - Olivia's Catastrophe - review of Murder on Safari
May 16 - Ali - The Dragon Slayer - book spotlight / guest post / giveaway
May 17 - Books Reviews, Nature Photos - review of The Berlin Package
May 17 - Deal Sharing Aunt - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 17 - Library of Clean Reads - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 18 - Cover2Cover - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
May 18 - Olivia's Catastrophe - review of The Berlin Package
May 18 - Create With Joy - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 18 - Book and Ink - review of Murder on Safari / giveaway
May 19 - Readers' Muse - review of The Berlin Package
May 19 - Seasons of Opportunities - review of Murder on Safari
May 19 - Bookishly Devoted - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 20 - Cover2Cover - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 20 - Nighttime Reading Center - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 20 - Book and Ink - review of The Berlin Package / giveaway
May 20 - Seasons of Opportunities - review of The Berlin Package

May 20 - Jessica Cassidy - review of The Berlin Package

A Man of Honor Blog Tour and Review

  A Man of Honor, or Horatio's Confessions by J.A. Nelson Publication Date: December 9, 2019 Quill Point Press Paperback, eBook & ...