Madison Connors, Romance author and publisher

One of the first publishers on board in our unlimited download ebook collection is owner and CEO of Front Porch Romance, a Southeast Michigan Romance publisher. Click here for a list of these romance titles in our collection.

A writer with deep Michigan roots, Madison Connors, in a recent podcast, talked about her writing, her experience in the publishing business, the history and stories behind Front Porch Romance.

You could also catch Madison as she hosts a weekly radio program called Romance Hour, on ArtistsFirst, a CBS Radio News network, Wednesdays at 6 pm where she interviews other romance authors.

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Audiobook for Teens: The Scorpio Races

My favorite audiobooks have always been able to transport me to the world of story. Listening to The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I was completely transported and can honestly say I have never enjoyed an audiobook experience more.

The Scorpio Races takes place on the island of Thisby, where every November riders compete in the deadly Scorpio Races, saddling the bloodthirsty water horses that would as soon kill their riders as race for them. This year’s competition will be different, however, as seventeen-year-old Puck Connelly plans to become the first female rider to ever race in the Scorpio Races. Told in alternating chapters between the spunky Puck, voiced by Fiona Hardingham, and returning champion Sean Kendrick, voiced by Steve West, this audiobook is an experience not to be missed. It’s a perfect listen for this November.

The novel was awarded a Printz Honor medal in 2012.

You can also check out more Printz Honor medal winners here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #435 - “Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.” ~Anaïs Nin

Already a runaway bestseller in the UK, a former nurse, marriage counselor & journalist Hilary Boyd's debut novel Thursdays in the Park will please readers this side of the pond.

Jeanie Lawson is about to turn 60. She owns a successful health food market in London, enjoys her nights outs with friends, and looks forward to her playdate with her beloved granddaughter Ellie every Thursday at the park, rain or shine. She could almost call life perfect if not for the pain and bewilderment caused by the decade-long abandonment of the marital bed by her husband George. Adding insult to injury, George is now pressuring Jeanie to retire and move to the country.

Then one day at the park, she meets Ray - an age-appropriate, kind-hearted, easygoing, and downright sexy grandfather. As her relationship with Ray blossoms and she begins to think that her life might hold in store a bold second act, she is not sure she has the courage to take charge of her life.

"A warm, tender novel about a woman finally finding a place of her own." " (A) mostly successful exploration of second chances and love at any age."

For fans who enjoyed Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand; Jeanne Ray's Julie and Romeo; and the poignant Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown where a 55 year-old shy, unassuming postmaster and confirmed bachelor receives the shock of a lifetime: he falls in love!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #434

Conceived as an homage to his favorite author P.G. Wodehouse, Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells * * * is the first new novel in nearly forty years to bring a welcomed return of Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves.

For almost 60 years, P.G. Wodehouse documented the lives of the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster, and built himself a devoted following. In the new episode, Bertie, nursing a bit of heartbreak over the recent engagement of one Georgiana Meadowes to someone not named Wooster, agrees to “help” his old friend Peregrine “Woody” Beeching, whose own romance is foundering. Almost immediately, things go awry and the simple plan quickly becomes complicated. Thanks to Bertie, the situation could only get more hilarious and convoluted.

"(This) P. G. poseur gets the plot right, but what about the all-important patter, the Bertie-isms and the priceless Bertie-Jeeves dialogue duets? But Faulksie nails it again, evoking rather than imitating, but doing so in perfect pitch." It proves that the Wodehouse estate chose well in authorizing Faulk to pen the first new Jeeves and Wooster novel since 1974.

A good excuse to revisit the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the original series, and to introduce a whole new generation to some of the finest British television comedies.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #433 - Booklist Top 10 of the Year

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Trying to keep the death of their parents a secret, Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own until several residents in Glasgow's Hazelhurst housing estate suspect that something is not right.

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood
Paul Graves and his family face the resentment of their small town community as it struggles to rebuild following a devastating tornado that left the Graves' home and business unscathed.

Fellow Mortals by Dennis Mahoney
After inadvertently causing a fire in his neighborhood that kills a young wife and devastates the lives of others, Henry forces relationships with the people whose lives he has destroyed.

Golden boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Presenting themselves to the world as an effortlessly excellent family, successful criminal lawyer Karen, her Parliament candidate husband, and her intelligent athlete son, Max, find their world crumbling in the wake of a friend's betrayal and the secret about Max's intersexual identity.

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
The residents at a facility for disabled young people in Chicago build trust and make friends in an effort to fight against their living conditions and mistreatment. Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed
Explores the consequences of fame as experienced by the family members of an A-list Hollywood celebrity, including his grown children, who long for authenticity in a world where they are regarded as less-important extensions of their father.

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
Using the a deck of Loteria cards as her muse, 11-year-old Luz Castillo, a ward of the state who has retreated into silence, finds each shuffle sparking a random memory that, pieced together, brings into focus the joy and pain of her life and the events that led to her present situation.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Traces the story of Great Migration-era mother Hattie Shepherd, who in spite of poverty and a dysfunctional husband uses love and Southern remedies to raise nine children and prepare them for the realities of a harsh world.

The Panoptico by Jenni Fagan. See blog.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling. See blog.

Terrifying and Poignant, 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock'

Matthew Quick is a talented and prolific author, having written The Silver Linings Playbook (2008), Sorta Like a Rock Star (2010), Boy21 (2012) and now Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. His new young adult novel will terrify many because the narrator, Leonard Peacock, takes a gun to school and plans to kill his former best friend and himself.

Leonard is a seriously disturbed young man. His father, a former rock star, has disappeared. His mother, a narcissistic fashionista, is in New York City. Leonard stalks adults to determine if they are happy; most do not appear so. He hangs out with his sick, elderly neighbor, who watches Humphrey Bogart films. In school, Mr. Silverman, who teaches Leonard's Holocaust class, urges him to write "Letters from the Future," to connect with imaginary future soulmates, as a strategy to find happiness in high school.

The dark action unfolds on Leonard's 18th birthday, which no one remembers. Carefully, Leonard moves toward executing his murder-suicide plan. Although it is hair-raising to read the thoughts of a crazy kid concealing a gun, readers are allowed to hope that Leonard's plan will somehow fail. I found the novel poignant and thought provoking. The New York Times review is
here.

Tumbledown by Robert Boswell

"Tumbledown," the most recent work by Robert Boswell, showcases not only the author's technical writing skill, but also his powerful storytelling. The novel begins with the story of James Candler, a counselor to people with mental disabilities. He embodies the American dream: he's a strong candidate for a promotion, he owns a large house and expensive car, and is engaged to a stunning woman. However, as Candler narrates his life story, it becomes clear that his ideal of happiness may not be so superficial.

Other powerful characters, whose development throughout the novel will have readers on the edge of their seats, include a cynical teenager, a man who struggles with personal identity, a woman hiding a dark past, and a lovable goon who can't seem to make progress in life. Hence, the title refers to more than just Candler; it reflects the lives of the entire cast of characters as well as the plot's disjointed sequence of events.

"Tumbledown" is a rare find; the text is worth re-reading for its rich literary quality. Boswell has published seven novels as well as numerous short stories, and is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #432 - “The ache for home lives in all of us..." ~ Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

When The HomeSweetHome network (think HGTV) announces that Janine Brown of Davenport, Iowa, is the big winner of its Free House Sweepstakes, two women think themselves the new owner of a gorgeous, fully loaded dream home in Maine. Janine "Janey" Brown sees it as yet another of her Aunt Midge's harebrained scheme to get her out of her funk while across town, Janine "Nean" Brown sees it as an escape from the latest in her revolving door of crappy jobs and drunk boyfriends.

As both women head for Christmas Cove, Maine, to claim the prize they both rightfully think is theirs, their lives and personalities intersect. They discover that more than just a million-dollar dream home awaits them.

Kelly Harms's The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane an "enchanting and heartfelt debut, is a testament to the many, many ways love finds us, the power of a home-cooked meal, and just what it means to be lucky."

"Set in small-town Maine, this first novel is a story of rebuilding, recovery, and renewal. Harms has created two incredibly likable heroines, allowing the strengths of one woman to bolster the weaknesses of the other."

"A perfect recipe of clever, quirky, poignant and fun make this a delightful debut. "

Here are some readalikes:

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins. Parker Welles, a single mother whose family has just lost everything, finds love in an unexpected place when she travels to Maine to sell her lone possession, a decrepit house in need of repair.

Eggshell Days by Rebecca Gregson. Escaping a terrible rail crash after missing the ill-fated train, three friends opt to move to a ramshackle Cornwall manor and uncover a dangerous and closely guarded secret that tests their friendships.

The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews. A sassy, sexy, sometimes poignant look at small town Southern life. Reluctantly accepting help to refurbish an inherited Georgia family home after losing her public relations job, Dempsey Jo Killebrew is overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, which is further hampered by a cantankerous squatter.

Audiobook: Arctic Creature Adventure for Kids

Enter the world of auks and owls in Barry Wolverton’s Neversink. This animal fantasy introduces readers to the rich, complex society of birds who sip tea and start revolutions.

When a possible plague threatens the food supply on the island of Tytonia, power-hunger pygmy owl Rozbell decides now is the time to seize control of the Owl Parliament and of the nearby colony of auks on the island of Neversink. As Rozbell imposes an increasingly heavy “fish tax” on the creatures of Neversink, three unlikely heroes emerge to stop him: misfit puffin Lockley, spirited hummingbird Ruby and scholarly walrus Egbert. (You will never meet a more charming walrus than Egbert, I assure you.)

Fans of Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Richard Adams’ Watership Down or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series will likely enjoy the complex animal society while American history lovers will enjoy seeing the parallels between the birds’ plight and the American Revolution.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #431 - "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind..." ~ William Shakespeare

When the tough reviewers at Kirkus give a debut rom-com a starred review, you take notice. When every other major professional journal follows suit, you just have to dive in. And what a lark! Can't tell you how much I enjoyed Australian Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project * * * * which won the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.

A Genetics prof. at a Melbourne university, Don Tillman, socially awkward and emotionally challenged (all signs point to Asperger's, but you did not hear it from me) is looking for the perfect wife. He places his faith in the scientific instrument, a 16-page questionnaire he designs to weed out the unsuitable choices - the smokers, vegetarians, and the tardys. Barmaid Rosie Jarman is all these things but she is also beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. While Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, he is more than willing to risk it all for a wildly impossible project of her own.

"Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, The Rosie Project will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges." One reviewer suggests that it will appeal to fans of the The Big Bang Theory, and fellow Aussie Toni Jordan's Addition (2009), with its math-obsessed, quirky heroine.

In Ramsey Hootman's engaging debut Courting Greta * Samuel, a shy and withdrawn former dot.com exec. is now teaching at Healdsburg High School. Between navigating ancient equipment, lesson plans, student culture and his physical handicap, he falls hard for the school's middle-aged tomboy gym teacher Greta Cassamajor (think Sue Sylvester), and discovers that change can come from unexpected places.

"In this poignant, witty debut, Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love." For fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and Matthew Quirk's Silver Linings Playbook.

* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* = starred review

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