Book Giveaway – Kingdom of Women

“What if women fight back?” That’s the premise of Kingdom of Women, the riveting new novel by Rosalie Morales Kearns.

I’m giving away a free signed copy. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment here. I’ll randomly select a name.

Enjoy this brief description of the novel and my interview with the author, in the indispensable Fiction Writers Review.


30 Women Novelists You Should Know – #28 Natalie S. Hartnett

Natalie S. Harnett

The Hollow Ground by Natalie S. Harnett presents several views of hell. The hell of craving to be loved in ways your relatives cannot manage. The hell of struggling to get by economically as hopes and options dwindle to nothing. Most of all, the hell of living in a plundered landscape where mining companies have gouged the ground hollow and made the earth’s thin crust rage with sink holes, poison gases and underground fires that cannot be extinguished.

The novel’s narrator, Brigid Howley, is eleven years old, going on forty. In her matter-of-fact way, she tells us about her life and that of her family, a white Irish-American clan in the Pennsylvania coal country that she believes has been cursed for generations either by a priest’s malediction or by their own bad choices and worse luck.

Sinkholes and secrets

Brigid’s beloved father, a miner like all the men in his family, was injured years ago in a mysterious mining disaster that took the life of his brother. Brigid also has a beautiful, prickly mother and a baby brother. In 1961, the family is living with a great-aunt until a sinkhole sucks her under and turns her house uninhabitable.

The Howleys have to move in with Daddy’s mother and father in the even more bleak and ecologically devastated town of Barrendale. There Brigid makes a best friend and discovers the body of a murdered man, a crime that brings to light all the secrets, blame, guilt and longing that have roiled under the surface of her family for years.

Upending my expectations

The Hollow Ground upended all of my expectations. Before I opened the novel I had just finished a powerful book that still had me slightly under its spell, so I expected to read a good bit of The Hollow Ground before it fully won my interest. Nope. By the time I had read the prologue – less than a page long – I was utterly absorbed.

The prologue begins, “We walk on fire or air, so Daddy liked to say,” and ends with this: “I’m just saying that sometimes what we seek is something we hope, with all our blood and bone, we’ll never find.” Who can resist such an opening?

I generally don’t like child narrators, and expected Brigid to be equally problematic, either too cute or preternaturally wise. She is neither. Brigid Howley is a unique character with an original narrative voice that is brushed with rough poetry. In fact, every character in the novel – from the members of the Howley family to the women who work in the mill with Brigid’s mother to the detective who investigates the murder – is clear-cut, full-bodied and memorable.

A monstrous crime

But the star of the novel is the earth, exploited and abused by the coal companies until it no longer resembles the planet we know. “Steaming green lawns in the dead of winter.” A character “would talk about which part of her basement was too hot to touch and how many tomatoes had ripened in what should have been the frostbitten ground in her garden.” To me, the murder mystery that creates one strand of the novel shrinks to insignificance in the face of the monstrous crime committed by the coal companies against the land and all the families who live on it.

Most striking was the way the characters and their entire communities take the devastation in stride. When they learn that an inspector needs to test the air in each house in the middle of every night so they don’t suffocate in their sleep, the local families simply leave the door unlocked for him. “They [the coal companies] don’t care how many houses and families they wreck,” Brigid’s grandmother declares, “as long as they get every last flake of coal down to the bedrock.”


This is a novel that creates an unforgettable world teeming with full-bodied characters. Each page rewards the reader with some new insight, character revelation or bit of fresh, distinctive language. Once you read it, you won’t be surprised to learn that The Hollow Ground, published in 2014, won both the John Gardner Fiction Book Award and the Appalachian Book of the Year Award for Fiction.

Get a free copy of The Hollow Ground

The paperback edition of The Hollow Ground was just published in August. I’m happy to have a copy to give away. There are two ways to toss your name in the hat to win a copy.

You can contact me through this blog and let me know you’d like a copy.

Or better yet, you can sign up for my newsletter to be eligible to win this and other free books by women writers.  When you receive the newsletter, just hit reply and tell me which book you want.

I’ll choose a name from those who contact me. (Sorry, I can only ship to U.S. addresses.) I hope you will appreciate this new voice in literature and look forward, as I do, to future books by Natalie S. Harnett.

Hollow Ground cover

Are you a book nerd? A quiz

There are people who like to read. And then there are people who are truly bookish. Which are you? Take this quiz to find out.

Photo: Petr Dosek

Photo: Petr Dosek

Take the quiz

  1. Does your heart beat a little faster when you step into a bookstore or library?
  2. Do you start to feel panicky if you are waiting in line somewhere with nothing to read?
  3. Have you ever wept or lost sleep over the fate of a fictional character?
  4. Do you sometimes grieve when you finish a novel, because you have to leave those characters behind?
  5. When you go to someone’s home for the first time, do you immediately check out their books?
  6. Do you live among stacks of books that resemble a redwood forest?
  7. If you have an e-reader, does it contain more books than you could possibly read in a lifetime?
  8. Do you often have more than one book going at a time?
  9. Have you ever snuck out of a party to read for a couple of minutes?
  10. Have you ever cancelled or declined a social event so you could stay home and read?

Your score

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, you are a certifiable book nerd. My condolences. It is a chronic condition and there is no cure.

But to help keep the cravings under control, you should quickly sign up for Being Bookish, my free monthly newsletter: book talk, giveaways, and other stuff that only a book nerd could love.

Sign up here. You’ll feel better.


2015 – The year of free books

I’m excited that over the coming year I’ll be blogging about several newly published books. Most will be released for the first time in 2015; some are paperback editions of books that were published to great acclaim in 2014. And do I need to mention that all of the books will be by women authors?

Even better, I’ll be giving away copies of these exciting books to a few lucky people who subscribe to my free emailed newsletter, Being Bookish.

Do you really need something new in your inbox? Maybe.

If you are truly bookish, come on and sign up for the monthly newsletter, which offers book talk, links to readerly resources you may not have discovered yet, and general nerdiness about all things literary.

And of course, let’s not forget the inducement of free books. Subscribers will get the chance to snag free copies of newly published (or soon-to-be-published) books.

The Enchanted – in paperback February 2015

In February, for example, I’ll be giving away the new paperback edition of The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.

Rene Denfeld was #8 on my list of 30 Women Novelists You Should Know. But I wasn’t the only one to rave about The Enchanted. It was one of the most acclaimed and talked about books of 2014.

Enchanted UK

Reviewers loved it. The novel was named among the top 10 in 2014 by diverse sources that ranged from Library Journal to Goodreads to Powell’s independent bookstore in Oregon to the Foyle’s chain of bookstores in the U.K.

At left is the cool new cover of the paperback version in the UK. The US version is below.

Rene_Denfeld_Red carpet

Rene D. on the red carpet.


The book was translated into several languages, nominated for numerous literary prizes, and won the prestigious French award, the Prix du Premier Roman Etranger.

If you haven’t yet read The Enchanted, you’re in for a mesmerizing literary experience. Take a look at this December 2014 interview with Rene Denfeld by the writer Elissa Wald if you want to whet your appetite for the novel.

Who doesn’t love free books?

To sign up for my monthly newsletter and be eligible for the book giveaways, click here.  Because who doesn’t love free books?

Enchanted pb c