Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book Review: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Publish Date: January 12, 2012 

Hardcover, 307 pages
Fiction, General Fiction, Women's Fiction
 ISBN: 978-0525952596

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery
My Review:
How much did I love this book?  It is so heart-felt and beautiful and sad all wrapped into one package, but it's done in such a way that it doesn't feel depressing.  It feels like real life and I enjoyed reading the book and found it hard to put down.  I had to know what would happen next.

I loved reading about Ella.  She is thrust into a world that is not what she dreamed it would be.  First she loses her husband, then her step-children's mother, the children she has been raising as her own, comes back into the picture.  Her whole world is coming apart, but she tries to hold it together.  She also has all of Joe's family around her to help her along with most of the town of Elbow.  I loved watching the interaction with family and with her best friend and especially with the children, Annie and Zach.  That relationship read like a very real mother/children relationship and it was amazing.  Ella is dealing with lies and deceptions, hers and the childrens' grief and also the fight with Paige.  I love her, she is amazing, yet she feels real.  I think Ms. Halverson has carefully crafted her characters and done a wonderful job with them.

The plot is also heartbreaking but wonderful.  It moves quick.  I read one hundred pages and it felt like I had just been reading a few minutes.  The story moves quickly and sucks you right in.  There is no let up and while this is not a white knuckle type book, let me say you will not find a boring moment.  It's amazing and if I thought the characters were great, the plot was wonderful too.

The Underside of Joy is a complete package deal.  I loved the book, the characters and the plot made it a perfect read to me.  If you love the books by authors like Kristin Hannah, Jodi Picoult and others like them, then this is just the book for you.  It will make you think, it can make you cry, it can make you laugh and by the end you will be glad you read the book.  Thank you Ms. Halverson for this wonderful book.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Make sure you enter my giveaway and check out my interview with the author here.

About the Book:
THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY begins on the first dawn of summer 1999, when Ella Beene, a happily married stepmother, gets a sleepy kiss goodbye from her husband Joe as he leaves to snap some photos on their local rocky coastline.  It’s the last time she will ever see him.
In the wake of Joe’s accidental drowning, his two young children, Annie and Zach, cling to Ella. Their adoration is mutual: Ella is the only mother young Zach has ever known, and Annie retains only vague memories of their biological mother Paige, who Ella believed had abandoned her children not long after Zach’s birth. But then Paige arrives at Joe’s funeral to stake her claim and reestablish a relationship with her children. Suddenly, the definition of family takes on a whole new meaning and urgency to Ella.
Seré deftly weaves Ella’s story into a larger portrait of the fictional Elbow, California, a charming small river town where Joe’s family has run a mom-and-pop grocery store for two generations. As Ella soon learns, despite his best intentions, Joe hadn’t been fully forthright with her about just how much the business had been struggling—nor about his ex-wife Paige.
THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY is not a fairy-tale version of step-motherhood, pitting good against evil, but an exploration of a complex relationship between two women who both consider themselves to be the children’s mother. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars—both physical and emotional—to the families’ deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and post-partum psychosis.
THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY begins as an indelible portrait of loss, then broadens into a moving and provocative consideration of the true meaning of family.

About the Author (from the author): 
I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.

FTC Information: I received this book through KMS Public Relations for an honest review.  I do make money from purchases made at The Book Depository and B&N.com, but all money is used to fund giveaways and shipping for giveaways from the blog.

Book Feature: Best Seller by Tim Sagges

Best Seller by Tim Sagges
Price: $14.99
ISBN: 9781456478193
Pages: 326
Release: February 2011
About the Book:
 Thirty-five year old fiction writer, Richard Rossi would do just about anything to get his manuscript published. However, months of rejection and unanswered prayers have strained his capacity to hope. Alone in New York City, he teeters on the brink of alcoholism, as his hope erodes into desperation.

His prayers are finally answered when a simple misdirected piece of mail spawns a chance encounter with an extraordinary man, Seth Volos, Publisher. And while their unholy alliance thrusts Richard to the top of every Best Seller list in America, the horrifying outcome for the book's legions of fans is anything but a happy ending.

About the Author:
Fifty-year-old actor, director and playwright, Tim Sagges has been tormented by a series of recurring night terrors since 1967, long before there was a name for such a curse. It is only recently that he has found the courage to formulate some of these visions into works of literature. In an effort to purge himself of the unrelenting horror of his dreams, he has created Best Seller, the first in a series of nightmares exorcised from his mind and onto the page.

He is currently the owner of Eye Candy Vision in Philadelphia.
Amazon buy link

Barnes&Noble.com buy link

Bestseller-book.com buy link

Author Interview and Giveaway: Sere Prince Halverson (The Underside of Joy)

Today I welcome Sere Prince Halverson, author of The Underside of Joy to My Reading Room.  The Underside of Joy is a very heartfelt and amazing book and my review will be coming later today, but for now, please enjoy the interview and the giveaway.

Describe the area you write in.

For years, I wore earplugs and wrote anywhere I could, including in bed, at the kitchen table, at a coffee house, in the car waiting for my kids to get done with practice (basketball, lacrosse, football--take your pick). But then my husband and in-laws surprised me last summer. While I was away for several weeks, they built me a little writing studio. It’s 12’ x 12’ with a big porch, lots of windows, bamboo floors, one huge built-in bulletin board, a homemade bookcase and desk. I bought a pretty daybed and comfy chair. Oh, and it overlooks a beautiful vineyard and forest. Truly, a bit of writer’s heaven on earth.

What's your favorite season?

I love Spring. Fall comes in a close second.

Describe your ideal reading space (no expense spared here).

My writing studio is also a sweet reading spot. The daybed has a bunch of pillows and a soft blanket and good lighting. Add a cup of hot tea and a wonderful book…and hunker down.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?

I’d like to see Ljubljana, Slovenia because my great-grandmother was from there and I’ve never been. I also want to go to Greece, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Thailand, and on and on---there are so many places I haven’t seen yet. And I’d go back to anywhere in Europe in a heartbeat.

How did you celebrate when you found out The Underside of Joy would be published?

It was my husband’s birthday. We had a good happy cry. To surprise him for his birthday, I’d already arranged for us to go ziplining through the redwoods. That turned out to be the perfect celebration for his birthday and the book sale. Wheeeeee! It has since sold in 17 countries, which I still can’t quite believe.

Tell us a little bit about The Underside of Joy.

Here’s the synopsis:
To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known. But when Joe drowns off the coast, his ex-wife shows up at his funeral, intent on reclaiming the children. Ella must fight to prove they should remain with her while she struggles to save the family’s market. With wit and determination, she delves beneath the surface of her marriage, finally asking the questions she most fears, the answers jeopardizing everything and everyone she most loves.
Rather than the fairy tale version of step-motherhood that pits good against evil, The Underside of Joy explores a complex relationship between two women who both consider themselves to be the children’s mother. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars — physical and emotional — to their families’ deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during WWII and postpartum depression and psychosis.

Where did the idea for The Underside of Joy come from, what prompted you to start writing this book?

I had a vision of a woman curled up in bed under a blanket, feeling that she’d had everything she ever wanted and now had lost it all. I didn’t know anything else about her, so I started writing to find out more about her story.

Is there a character in The Underside of Joy that really spoke to you when you were writing?

The main character and narrator, Ella, definitely spoke to me and I liked her right away. But as I got to know all the characters, I grew to care about each one of them.

What are you working on now?

A novel about a young American artist who visits her father, a doctor working temporarily in Saudi Arabia. Things do not go smoothly.

Do you have any upcoming tours, blog tours or events you would like people to know about?

I’ve been on a blog tour for the past several months and have quite a few stops left. I try to keep all my reading events updated on my website event page: http://sereprincehalverson.com/events.php

Anything else you would like to share?

I’d like to thank you so much for having me. I’ve been writing for many years but this is my first published novel. I really appreciate the work you do to get the word out about books. So appreciated!

About Sere Prince Halverson
I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.

The Giveaway
Thanks to Amy at KMS Public Relations, she is giving away 1 copy of The Underside of Joy to an US resident.  Fill out the Rafflecopter below, the giveaway will end next Tuesday 3/20 and the book will be mailed by KMS Public Relations.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway