12 June 2019

Recursion by Blake Crouch [Book Review]

So not too long ago, I had the chance to review Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. In fact, if you haven't heard of it, go check out my review - I LOVED it. 

Author Blake Crouch is back again, this time with a book called Recursion. I had mixed feelings about the book, but wow - what a ride.

Here's a bit about the book:

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

What I Thought:

Okay, so if you read Dark Matter, I'm wondering if you struggled with the beginning like I did. Honestly, for the first 30 pages, I thought I knew what was going on and it stalled me on finishing this book. Then, I picked it back up, mostly to fulfill my review commitment and was so shocked at the turn it took. This was absolutely a thriller and it makes you think about reality and time and memories in a new way. However, there are elements similar to Dark Matter, but not quite the same. I know, I'm being vague, but I'm being vague on purpose. 

Overall, I'm a huge fan of themes about alternative universes and time travel and all that. And this book did have some of those elements. I liked the characters Helena Smith and Barry Sutton. Both were strongly developed. 

My issue? Darn this book was dark. I mean seriously, if you aren't in a great mood or place in your life right now, put this one on your TBR for a sunnier time in your life. I mean, I'll give one thing away - the book does end a tad more positively than you might think. Another aspect I struggled with was how complicated it was. Yikes. I mean this is no beach read unless you like complicated books for the beach (no judgment if you do).

If I was going to compare the two, I would say that I enjoyed Dark Matter more. It was more enjoyable and not as complicated and less doom and gloom. Yet, once I got past the first 30 pages of Recursion, I was roped in and couldn't let go. So it is a very exciting, captivating thriller that challenged me a lot.

Four out of five stars for me! 

I received a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.



03 June 2019

Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre [Book Review]

 I am so excited to be part of another blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing. This book is called Bloody Coffee by Michelle Dim-St. Pierre and wow, what a ride!

Here's a bit about the book:

A complex, suspenseful, and engrossing tale of doubts, trust, budding romance, and two bullets.
Eighteen-year-old Leigh arrives at a Tel Aviv hospital, seeking information about her probable father, Dr. Sloan, who had a cardiac arrest right after they met for the first time. As she stands next to her father's bed and watches him, her past, present and future collide. Despite the advice of those around her, Leigh decides to face the challenges of the legal system in Israel. She obtains a court order for a paternity test and confronts Sloan. During her quest to find the truth about her biological father, Leigh is exposed to violent religious intolerance, faces life in a country where church and state are not separate, and meets the man who may be her first true love. Will she change her view of the world she thought she knew? Will she forgive her mother? Will a gunshot change her attitude towards her probable father? And, what will she say to Steve, the only father she ever really had?

What I Thought:

This book just drops you right in the middle of everything! I love when books do that and this caught my attention right away. I actually had no idea this was part of a series and it didn't hold me back at all. I liked the family dynamics and complications and it turned out to be an incredibly interesting ride for both the reader and the main character as she navigates a complicated legal system. The author also addresses some complicated issues within the book too! I thought this was very well written and kept my attention the whole time.

I definitely recommend it!
About the Author

Michelle Dim-St. Pierre was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, where she spent more than half of her life before relocating to the United States.

She lived through four wars and served in the Israel Defense Forces for two years. Unlike her first year of service in an armored division in the Golan Heights, she served her second year serving in the medical corps where she interacted directly with the injured soldiers of the Peace of Galilee war and their families. This interaction, along with the exposure to the hospital atmosphere, fascinated Michelle and further touched her heart. She went on to get a BS degree in Nursing in Tel-Aviv, and practiced internationally for 32 years in various positions in the surgical field and quickly advanced into health care administration. During her career she worked in the Operating Room, Recovery Room, and CCU—along with many other duties.

Writing was Michelle’s outlet at first, but it soon became her passion. Now, she is a full-time writer. Her international background, along with her military and nursing experience is always at the tip of her pen. Her first novel, Pinnacle Lust, started the Pinnacle trilogy and won the Beach Book Festival in the Romance category, as well as received several honorable mentions in other book contests. It was published to rave reviews.

Michelle is a world traveler who enjoys cooking epicurean food and creating original recipes. She currently splits her time between Florida and Georgia, where she is at work on her next two books.

Find Michelle Online:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13199731.Michelle_Dim_St_Pierre
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichelleDimStPierre/
Website(s): www.MichelleDimStPierre.com
www.PinnacleLust.com
www.BloodyCoffeeBook.com

Buy the Book:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/163183522X?ref=myi_title_dp

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bloody-coffee-michelle-dim-st-pierre/1131320894?ean=2940161424711

Apple Store: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1461500705

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/bloody-coffee

I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: https://www.shop.booklogix.com/Bloody-Coffee-Hardcover-20881-HC.htm

01 June 2019

Born Under Fire by RIna Z. Neiman [Book Review]



I'm so excited about this latest book Born Under Fire by Rina Z. Neiman. Lately, I've slowly started getting into historical fiction. I think it's a result of WOW! Women on Writing, because there have been so many amazing historical fiction books that I've been introduced to and a few others I've read and reviewed as well. So, as I broaden my reading horizons, I encourage you to open yours! Or, if you simply are in love with historical fiction this is a book for you.

Here's a bit about the book:

Born Under Fire is a historical novel that tells the story of a girl coming of age and her drive to excel despite the devastating effects of long-term war. Born in Jerusalem under British rule in 1928, Shula grows up in a world in turmoil as Hitler rises to power and nations enter into war. Amid a landscape of ancient stone ruins next to modern Bauhaus architecture, and desert scrub ending at newly verdant farmlands, Shula grows into her independence as the State of Israel is born. Based on historical documents and events, Born Under Fire is also about the context surrounding the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the horrors and dangers of growing up in a conflict zone. Shula battles grief and depression due to the shattering events affecting her, her family, and the entire world. Despite this struggle, her resilient spirit enables her to reach great heights as a concert pianist.

What I Thought:

This was such a well-written book. I thought the author did an excellent job in placing me in the middle of this tumultuous time in history and I loved how she told the story from the viewpoint of someone growing up in this time period. I felt close to Shula and enjoyed seeing the world through her eyes. The setting was also very vivid and you can tell the author definitely did her research. One really awesome thing sprinkled throughout the book were links to the actual songs that the book talks about! I thought that was so unique! It added so much to the book and was so perfect because of how close Shula was to her music.

I absolutely recommend this book! 

Born Under Fire is now available to purchase on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Thrift Books.


Print Length: 258 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN-13: 978-1986349147


ISBN-10: 1986349144

I received the above book in exchange for my honest review.


28 May 2019

Mindful Dementia - A Book Review

I was honored to be invited to participate in this WOW! Women on Writing blog tour for the book Mindful Dementia Care: Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest by Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab. Before I write my review, here's a bit about the book:

Mindful Dementia Care is a book of stories and a book of love. It is a book without denial, without any papering over of the challenges that can be involved with being a caregiver, and the sadness, anger, and frustration they may bring. It is also a life-changing source of information that can revolutionize relationships with one of the most vulnerable populations in our midst. In her decades as a caregiver, Ruth Dennis witnessed the tragic results of the medicalized and institutionalized way of caring for people with dementia. And equally clearly, she saw a better way. Mindful Dementia Care illustrates alternative methods for making a difference and achieving results through care that honors the whole person. The key is creating an environment with countless enriching touchstones to the inner person through facilities that are filled with art, animal companions, music, dance, books, laughter, and wholesome food. It is an approach that embraces creative and artistic processes to shape a more loving, spiritual approach for elders and their families.

My Thoughts About the Book

I have to say this was an eye-opening, touching experience to read this book. I've never had the experience of a family member falling into Alzheimer's Disease. Most of what I know about this disease is second hand. So this was an incredibly informative experience, one that details the things that people go through suffering from this disease as well as what family members deal with daily to care for their loved one. Whether you know someone or are going through this yourself, this is a must-read book that will bring you close to this disease. Sometimes the best gift you can give someone about to go through something like this is a willingness to learn more and have an open heart.

Mindful Dementia Care: Lost and Found in the Alzheimer's Forest is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Add it to your GoodReads list too! You can also visit https://www.mindfuldementiacare.com/ to find out more.

Be sure to visit WOW! Women on Writing to read an interview with the authors! 

About the Authors: 


Ruth Dennis
In her decades as a caregiver, Ruth Dennis witnessed the tragic results of the medicalized and institutionalized way of caring for people with dementia. And equally clearly, she saw a better way. Mindful Dementia Care illustrates alternative methods for making a difference and achieving results through care that honors the whole person. The key is creating an environment with countless enriching touchstones to the inner person through facilities that are filled with art, animal companions, music, dance, books, laughter, and wholesome food. It is an approach that embraces creative and artistic processes to shape a more loving, spiritual approach for elders and their families.

Ruth Dennis has worked in mental health, the arts, and community education for over twenty-five years. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and, for the past two decades, has worked closely with palliative care, hospice, and grief support. Central to Ruth’s life is her role as caregiver to her brother Morgan, who has Down Syndrome. He is the bravest man she has ever known.

Velma Arellano

Velma Arellano, MA, CDP, CALA, Director of Operations, has been working in elder care for the past 2 decades, and is the longest standing administrator in Santa Fe. She has overseen $2 million in construction and design to create two state of the art, intentional Alzheimer’s Care homes in New Mexico, and very recently acquired a third, non-Alzheimer’s, 14 bed, cozy, Assisted Living Bungalow in Santa Fe. The latter, Vista Hermosa is drawing on the cutting edge of culture change by incorporating the ideas of permaculture with elder care. Both Memory Care homes are the only two Eden Alternative Registered homes in New Mexico, and Vista Hermosa is well on its way. Eden Alternative is the honor society of long term care, and is an International Movement which truly changes the culture of how we care for our elders. Velma introduced “real” pets to our homes for elders to enjoy, goats, chickens, peacocks, and recently a 10-week-old German Sheppard puppy named Silver.

Ms. Arellano is a certified assisted living administrator (CALA), Certified Dementia Practitioner through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP), and an Eden Alternative Associate. Velma has served on the board of Directors of the New Mexico Alzheimer’s Association and was only one 7 citizens who started the first Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Santa Fe, Espanola and Los Alamos. She is a member of the 305th annual Fiesta’s de Santa Fe Council and was instrumental in the legislative passage of Helen’s Law. This law protects endangered elders, which eventually gave attention to the Silver Alert Program, like Amber Alert, but for memory impaired adults. Ms. Arellano is also a member of the National Biodynamic Association (Tierra Viva) and the Earth Citizens Organization (ECO) and is committed to mindful living and a sustainable world. Velma is active with Shim-Sung, Brain Yoga. Shim meaning heart, and Sung meaning open.
Ms. Arellano holds a Masters Degree in Agency Counseling and Psychology from New Mexico Highlands University and Bachelor’s Degree in Television Broadcast Journalism/ Mass Communication and Spanish.

As a volunteer, Velma is a member of the New Mexico Health Care Association and NM Assisted Living Task Force Committee (NMHCAALF) . She sits at the table making her voice heard in guiding NMHCAALF’s advocacy in the New Mexico long-term care delivery system. She helps identify and establish policies and provide resources that give people a real opportunity to improve the quality of life and quality of care in New Mexico’s frail elderly and intellectually-disabled populations.

Luke Nachtrab

Luke Nachtrab, Owner, is a father of 3 children (Joey, Kate and Molly) and married to his lovely wife Kara. They currently live in Sylvania, OH where they were both raised and where Vista Living Home Office is based. He started his career shortly after completing his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University. As first employee of Northaven, the Nachtrab Family Business Management Company, Luke created an infrastructure to manage approximately 75 residential properties in the Toledo, OH area. Assuming operations of Vista Living, the family assisted living facilities in 2004 (www.vistaliving.com) his passion and love for the elderly, particularly those walking with forgetfulness, and their families began to flourish. He was named President of Vista Living Communities in 2011 where he utilizes his background to maintain the highest standards of care for those with Alzheimer’s. Moving his young family to Santa Fe for 4 months in 2014 he began to set the company up for growth. His passion for this business and making a positive impact on those with Dementia and their families is evident in his approach and philosophies. Using values taught by his parents he brings integrity and compassion to business. With this as a guide he operates VLC as a business second; always trying to do what is right despite potential impact on the business.

Luke has a wide a diverse business background being intimately involved in executive leadership with global internet businesses, restaurants, real estate and logistics. He has been on numerous organizational boards in the Toledo area. He currently serves on the St John’s Jesuit High School Board and Finance Committee. Engaging with the Industry he is also active on Argentum, panels on their mission to Expand Senior Living.

Continuously improving, Luke has completed many non-degree courses in the last 15 years and in 2011 completed his MBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. He is an instrument rated pilot, loves skiing, golfing, soccer, squash, fishing, culture, traveling, watching The Buckeye’s and being Dad! He looks forward to raising his children to someday be involved with the business.

 I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

20 May 2019

29 Seconds by T.M. Logan [Book Review]

Wow you guys, just wow. So, over the weekend I had the chance to review a book by an author I've read before. Last July, I read Lies by T.M. Logan and thoroughly enjoyed it (you can take a walk down memory lane and read that review here). So this time, T.M. Logan is back in the thriller game with this latest book "29 Seconds."

I'd like to just say I practically devoured this book. It caught me right away. Sarah works at a university where she is constantly fighting off the lecherous paws of her boss who is praised within the university community. What everyone knows but no one acknowledges is that he is horrible to women and crosses the line constantly into sexual harassment and worse. Reporting him to HR has proven to be a useless endeavor and telling him no, never works for any woman. Women who do try end up on the losing end. Sarah is his latest target and faces losing her career and everything she works for unless she stops saying "no" to him. This element alone made me want to read the book.

Add in this though. One day en route to picking up her kids from school, Sarah does a good deed and saves a man's life. Thanks to that someone is in Sarah's debt and offers her the chance to get rid of one person in her life. No questions asked. No trace left. I'm sure you all know the dilemma Sarah is facing. What's the right thing to do?

This book grips tightly and doesn't let go. I loved the fast pace and the twists and turns. Each point felt like a roller coaster ride that I didn't want to stop. I really liked Sarah a lot and she was someone I could identify with. I can't believe I'm saying this but there isn't really anything bad that I can say. T.M. Logan has really proven himself to be a worthy thriller writer to me and without a doubt, I look forward to his next book. Actually, I liked this book better than I did Lies and I thought Lies was pretty great too. So kudos T.M. Logan - you won me over with this one!

If you love thrillers, surprise endings, and a moral question that won't let you go, even at the end, then you will want to read this book.

Be sure to add this to your Goodreads list! This book will be available to purchase on September 10th.

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

15 May 2019

The Ups and Downs of Writing by Damien Larkin (And Giveaway!)

Special thank you to Damien for putting this guest post together! Be sure to read his other guest post about writing military science fiction!

Ten years ago, if someone told me that I would pen a novel, I would’ve thought it was a joke. I had always wanted to become a writer, but back then, I suffered from (what I now call) ‘dream-itis’. It was an unshakeable belief that everything would just work out the way it was supposed to without any effort being needed and so, I just coasted along, hoping for the best.

If novels could be written, edited and submitted from sheer daydreaming alone, I’d probably have at least a thousand novels completed. But in the real world, it took a long time to get to where I am now. I worked various jobs and had numerous side-projects to keep me occupied, but none that I was overly passionate about. It took one of my side projects to crash and burn before I sat back, re-evaluated my life and made a conscious decision to become a writer.

Since then, it’s been like a roller coaster ride, albeit one with a lot of sharp, horrifying, stomach-churning dips. As a stay-at-home father (and also working part-time) my time was extremely limited. Back then, my children were young enough that they still took naps during the day so exhausted and frazzled, I used what little spare time I had to churn out my first novel. Burning with determination, I wrote slightly over 100k words in three months and spent another few weeks with edits and re-writes. Once polished off, I submitted to various publishers and agents and watched the standard rejection template emails flow into my inbox. To say that was a soul-crushing experience would be an understatement.

Dusting myself off, I proceeded to self-publish and in all fairness, my first project got off to a decent start before it too inevitably crashed and burned. Once again, I found myself in the middle of a heart-to-heart moment with myself. I had experienced the euphoria of watching my first ever novel soar through the charts on its initial run and watched sales pour in daily. On the flip side, I now knew the frustration of watching those sales flatline despite my best efforts. As tough as it was, I soaked up every piece of information about where I went wrong and got back to work. Within three months of that moment, the first draft of Big Red would be ready.

Edits, re-writes and submissions followed. Once again, I watched the endless stream of template rejections flood my email inbox. With my frustration levels growing, I prepared to self-publish once again but then something happened. I had recently entered a Twitter pitch-wars event and got some interest from publishers. After passing along the first three chapters, I received a request for a full manuscript and within weeks, a publishing deal.

Since then, everything has felt like a blur. It’s been a lot more work than I ever anticipated, but it’s been worth it to see Big Red in actual book form. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have believed any of this was possible at all, but that’s one of those interesting things about life: you never know what it’s going to hurl at you next. It took my app development side project to go up in flames and my first self-published book to crash and burn to get here. And it has been worth every frustrating, exhausting moment. Big Red – my debut sci-fi – is out now!

About the Book Big Red by Damien Larkin

We have always been here...

Traumatized by the effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin holds the key to the fate of Earth's Martian colonies. With his Battalion decimated, his fractured memory holds the only clues to the colony-wide communications blackout.

With time running out, Darren pieces together his year-long tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force. Stationed in the Nazi-founded New Berlin colony, ruled by the brutal MARSCORP, he recounts his part in the vicious, genocidal war against the hostile alien natives and all who question Terran supremacy.

But as his memories return, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemies may be more human than he is...

Book Giveaway

For fans of military science fiction, this book is for you! All you have to do is enter via Rafflecopter. This giveaway is open internationally (depending on where you are at, the book may be given in the form of an e-book). Giveaway ends 5/31.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author

Damien Larkin is a part-time Planning Analyst and a full-time stay-at-home father of two young children. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland. You can find him online at https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/

Readers, purchase your copy!

Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/big-red-damien-larkin/1129887528?ean=2940155877271
Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/big-red-11
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Big-Red-Damien-Larkin/dp/1939844606/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1542632970&sr=1-1&keywords=Big+Red+by+Damien+Larkin
ITunes - https://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/big-red/id1442336848?mt=11

10 May 2019

How Our Past Shapes Our Present by Judith Cromwell


Our past shapes our present.  That makes Queen Anne important

Having told the stories of two women prominent in European history, (Dorothea Lieven, a Russian Princess in London and Paris, 1785-1857 and Florence Nightingale, Feminist) I wanted to write another biography about an impressive female.  Queen Anne, (1665-1714) one of the few queens who have reigned over Great Britain in their own right, came to mind – but – I knew nothing about her.  Initial research revealed Anne to be a dim-witted, weak woman, a robot controlled by the ambitious men around her.  Was she?  Getting at the truth sounded like a challenge, and I like challenges. 

Maligned in several memoirs left by her best friend then bitter foe, Anne Stuart, for decades if not centuries, was disregarded or damned with faint praise.  And the men who until recently, wrote history, chose to ignore the successes of Anne’s brief reign, (1702-1714) in fact, a glorious reign, in which she played a key part.  Queen Anne actively, consistently, and firmly supported the historic Union of England and Scotland, which created Great Britain; the Protestant Succession, which gave her country stability; and the nine-year War of the Spanish Succession, then the Peace of Utrecht, which enabled the British Empire.

A woman “of intelligence and ambition,”* the queen showed “high virtue, merit, and sweetness of temper.”  An accomplished musician (Anne excelled in playing the guitar) and patron of composers, the queen liked, in the rare moments she had to herself, to listen to her private musicians perform; she took great pleasure in planning renovations to the gardens surrounding her several palaces; Anne loved to hunt the fox and the stag in Windsor Great Forest; and she enjoyed horse-racing – the queen founded Royal Ascot, which persists until this day; now, the Ascot races open with Queen Anne’s Stakes.  
This “excellent and pious queen” talked in a clear melodic contralto; her “softness of voice and sweetness of pronunciation added much life to all she spoke.”  The “best mistress to servants” treated “everyone as if they had been her equals.”  As head of the judiciary, the “kindest of queens” did not order any political executions; she reviewed all judgments, modified sentences she thought too harsh for the crime, and overruled a judge who had given a rapist lenient punishment.  But she refused clemency for a highwayman who, for years, had terrorized her people. 

Mother of her nation.  Seventeen pregnancies failed to give Anne Stuart the joys of motherhood for more than a heartbreakingly few years; but, on the first day of her reign, Anne promised her people always to act in their best interests.  They, in turn, respected Their Queen’s piety and patriotism, her sympathy for common people -- shown in her generosity -- Queen Anne’s Bounty and Touching for the King’s Evil (laying her Healing Hands on those with scrofula, not to mention giving the sufferer a piece of Healing Gold.)  Anne never refused charity, spent no money on jewelry or new buildings.  Her subjects especially admired Anne’s private life of happy domesticity with her husband Prince George of Denmark; at weddings, people made a habit of wishing newlyweds “to love like the queen and prince.”

As a female, Anne got neither education in, nor experience of, government, for women were held to be inferior to men, incapable of comprehending politics or any form of business.  But Anne Stuart grew up at a decadent and intrigue-ridden court, where snakes swung from the trees, and crocodiles slithered over slimy ground.  That taught her valuable lessons about life.  During her brief reign, Anne’s small island nation off the coast of continental Europe rose from the chaos of civil war, regicide, and revolution to the cusp of global ascendancy mainly due to the men she chose to lead her army and government.
 
“Whoever of the Whigs thinks I am to be hectored or frightened into compliance tho I am a woman are mighty mistaken in me.”  Deploring bitter party conflict because she thought it weakened her nation, the conscientious and hard-working queen governed via Moderation.  She filled her cabinet and administration with men from the Whig and Tory parties, thus keeping the crown independent. 
Neither brilliant, charismatic, nor beautiful, battling poor health and the contemporary notion that females were the weaker sex, Anne Stuart had grit, a decent heart and a practical outlook on life.  Strong awareness of duty, as well as common sense, made her an astute head of state, deftly navigating the treacherous shoals of power politics and party polarity to become the unifying and stabilizing force in her divided country. 
In the “Me Too” era, when so many women of all ages and backgrounds seek fulfillment, Anne Stuart inspires.  Because she proved how an average female overcame personal tragedy, physical debility, and the perceived limitations of her sex to become a beloved and effective queen.
* All quotes are taken from contemporary accounts.

----

Thank you to author Judith Cromwell for her special guest post today! Readers, be sure to purchase your copy of the book Good Queen Anne, now available on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads list.

---

Judith Lissauer Cromwell spent a successful corporate career on Wall Street before returning to academia as an independent historian and biographer of powerful women. She previously published Dorothea Lieven: A Russian Princess in London and Paris 1785-1857 and Florence Nightingale, Feminist, and now tells the real story of Queen Anne in her latest book, Good Queen Anne: Appraising the Life and Reign of the Last Stuart Monarch. Today she brings her perspective on the meticulous research involved in writing about these impressive women.



 

08 May 2019

123 Tomorrows by Vaibhav Thakur [Book Review]

I am always so interested in books about time travel. Truly, I'm a sucker for it. So, when I heard from author Vaibhav Thakur about his book 123 Tomorrows, I knew I had to read it.

Here's what the book is about:

“What would you do if you could re-live the same day over and over again?”

Iqbal, a 15-year-old orphan was living an ordinary life when a devastating nuclear attack on Delhi claims millions of lives. It consumes everything he loves and pushes the world towards an inevitable nuclear World War. BUT… Iqbal is no ordinary boy. With his newfound powers of Time Travel, he can reset the day of the bombing.

He lives and relives the day of the blast, masterminding an increasingly complex sequence of events in an attempt to prevent a dystopian tomorrow. A gripping journey through cause and effect, that forces Iqbal to confront his own past… and future.

123 Tomorrows is a cleverly plotted time-travel masterpiece, which is replete with mind-bending twists and surprising turns at every page.

****
What I Thought

I loved the setting of this book. I felt like I really was stepping into the heart of Delhi and the world within. I also liked the character Iqbal a lot and it was fun to see him change as he uncovers his newfound abilities and tries to undo the future. There was a part that I couldn't get into as much and that was sort of the "world leaders" side of this disaster, but overall I enjoyed it a lot. If you love futuristic tales and love the idea of time travel, you will want to read this book.

Overall, if you like time travel, you should check this book out. Purchase it now on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads list.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

24 April 2019

Odd Partners: An Anthology Edited by Anne Perry [Book Review and Giveaway]

I always enjoy short story collections and I don't just say that because I'm a short story writer. Short story collections are a bit like going to a buffet or a chocolate shop. You can select from a variety of options and you try out different tastes and flavors. And that experience is no different with the book Odd Partners edited by Anne Perry.

First before I go into what I enjoyed about it, here's a bit about the book:

Unlikely pairs join forces to crack a slew of intriguing cases in an anthology edited by New York Times bestselling author Anne Perry, featuring original stories by Jacqueline Winspear, Jeffery Deaver, Charles Todd, and many more, including Perry herself. 

Throughout the annals of fiction, there have been many celebrated detective teams: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Nick and Nora Charles. Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings. Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. The latter were the creation of beloved mystery writer Anne Perry, the editor of Odd Partners. With this collection, Perry has enlisted some of today's best mystery writers to craft all-new stories about unlikely couples who join forces--sometimes unwillingly--to solve a mystery. From Perry's own entry, in which an English sergeant and his German counterpart set out to find a missing soldier during WWI, to William Kent Krueger's story of a fly-fisherman and a gray wolf in the Minnesota woods trying to protect their land from a brash billionaire, to Robert Dugoni's psychological tale of an airplane passenger who wakes up unsure of who he is and must enlist his fellow passengers to help him remember, each mystery deals in the complexities of human (and animal) interactions.

The collection features stories by New York Times bestselling authors Ace Atkins, Allison Brennan, and Robert Dugoni, as well as Edgar Award winner Joe R. Lansdale and selected members of Mystery Writers of America. With each author's signature brand of suspense, these stories give new meaning to the word "teamwork."


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What I Thought: 

There were a few that I enjoyed the most so I will reflect on those as well as the anthology overall. Odd Partners is about "two beings who had to cooperate with each other, willingly or by force of circumstances, to solve a crime." (quoted from the book's introduction) Right out of the gate, I was intrigued by the first short story called "The Nature of the Beast" by William Kent Krueger. It takes you into the setting of WWII and one man has gone rogue, so to speak, and his comrade goes off to search with him, finding an "odd partner" that will help him. This was so well done and so captivating to me. I felt like I was in the bunker and searching right along with the two main characters. The other that I enjoyed was, "What Ever Happened to Lorna Winters" by Lisa Morton. I liked the character a lot here and loved his mission to find out what happened to the actress, particularly around his unusual find at his job. If you love unsolved mysteries and old movies, you'll love this short story. The other one I really liked was Oglethrope's Camera by Claire Ortada. This takes you on the journey of a sneaky cat who goes out at night and brings back an unwelcomed prize to his owner. This one had a surprise ending and I love that.

Each story was unique in its own way and figuring out who the odd partners are and their connection was always half the fun. If you love a mix of mystery and surprise, you will love this book.

Be sure to add this book to your Goodreads list or pre-order a copy on Amazon.com.

Best of all, I get to giveaway a copy of the book to THREE LUCKY WINNERS! That's right - three of you will win a copy. So, enter via Rafflecopter below. Giveaway ends on May 10th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest review. 

22 April 2019

Interview with E. A. Aymar, author of "The Unrepentant"

Today I'm excited to have author E. A. Aymar on my blog today to talk his book The Unrepentant. First, before the interview, here is a bit about the book:

As a respected and involved member of the mystery thriller community, E.A. Aymar’s latest book, The Unrepentant (March 4, 2019, Down and Out Books), is sure to be highly anticipated across the country.

Eighteen-year old Charlotte Reyes ran away from an abusive home only to end up fooled, kidnapped, and spirited across the country by a group of criminals. When she is rescued by Mace Peterson, a former soldier, they can’t seem to shake the gang or the crooked cop paid to bring her back. Seeking the revenge she feels is owed, Charlotte realizes she only has one option. She has to fight.

Corruption, cliffhangers, and violence drive this page-turner, while current issues relating to legalized sex work and mental health comment on relevant conversations that the public is focusing on right now.
First of all, congratulations on your book The Unrepentant! You deal with a lot of tough issues in this book. What kind of research did you do? Did anything surprise you?

Thank you so much for having me here! It's an honor to be here, alongside writers like Joy Fielding and Kathleen Valenti.

And thank you for the congratulations! It's been so nice to have The Unrepentant so warmly received. I honestly didn't know what the feedback would be like, and the enthusiastic response has been immensely gratifying.

I usually don't do much research for my books, so conducting interviews was new to me. I thought it'd be awkward, given that I was talking with women who had dealt with horrific experiences - I spoke with women who had escaped the sex trade, or women who were fighting it (in the form of legal fights, or counseling victims). Surprisingly, they were easy to talk with, and very open about their experiences. The interviews turned into conversations, and I was greatly appreciative of that. And I was always impressed by the strength and resilience of those women. I felt honored that they talked with me.

I think that's amazing you talked with women who had direct experience in the very area you were writing about for your book! In an article with Publisher's Weekly, you said a poignant quote, "For The Unrepentant, I didn’t want to turn the camera away, but I didn’t want to risk glorifying an act that is, often, profoundly ugly. I wanted to write honestly." What was it like for you writing those scenes?

There was a lot of questioning. Most writers are taught that less is more, and that just the suggestion of violence is a poignant way to convey its experience. I generally agree with that...but I've also known writers (like Chevy Stevens, for example) who can describe something explicitly, and not lose any power, or risk venturing into gratuitous territory. I admire that, and wondered if it was something I should attempt.

But I decided that, while that approach was right for Stevens (and for, say, Ellis in American Psycho), it wasn't right for this book. I settled on landing someplace in between. There are scenes where the content is explicit, but I didn't make it exploitative. And I never wanted to celebrate violence with this book. Those were my guiding parameters.

That makes absolute sense to me. So, I found out that a shooting at your son's daycare influenced the theme of violence in your book. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Several years ago, my son was sleeping in his daycare room, with about eight other children and two teachers, when a bullet broke through the window and landed in the wall. The children were sleeping and the teachers were bent over cleaning so, fortunately, no one was hit. But the police never found out who did it, and they never discovered a motive. All they found was that multiple bullets had been fired at the daycare.

Many things from that day have since shaped me, but nothing as much as my understanding of violence. For me, that incident typified the randomness and awfulness and uncertainty of violence...and the unsettling sense that, at some point, it will come for you. And it won't be on your terms, and it will never be fair.

The violence in The Unrepentant is representative of that experience. Charlotte isn't seeking a fight. Like (I think) most women and violence, it comes to her. It comes for her. Her response is to seek to control it, to shape her own narrative, to recover in the way she chooses. And maybe that's the most we can do.

Absolutely! What was your process when writing this novel? How did it transform from your first draft?

Oh, it's such a different book! The first version was going to be about a vigilante who helps out people in troubled relationships...and when I excitedly told my agent about my idea, she told me that Sophie Littlefield had written the same thing. So...that didn't work.

But then the research I'd done into violence started to take over, and I wanted to write a different book. So the departure from that first idea was pretty dramatic, but probably for the best. I ended up with a significantly different concept, but one that, once I started writing, seemed natural.

That's incredible how it changed! You've received some rave reviews about your book! How does it feel to receive such incredible positive feedback about your skills as a crime writer?

It's wonderful, and unexpected. Like I said, I didn't know how The Unrepentant would be received. I took a lot of chances with it - writing from the view of a female co-protagonist, writing about violence, writing from different races. I tried to tread carefully, and I think that was important.

One thing I've been working on as a writer is telling the story I want to tell, but giving an audience something they'd enjoy reading. And I don't know if I exactly did that with this book, but it seems like it. And that's a wonderful feeling. It's nice to have a book I'm proud of.

That balance of telling the story you want to tell but giving your audience what they want is a tough balance! Can you tell us a bit about the need for diversity in crime fiction?

I think that the next great literary movement is going to be the multitude of diverse voices. I don't think it's going to be a widespread employment of certain writing conventions, like we had in romanticism, realism, and modernism; I think it's going to be substantially different. We're in an age of diversity, it's inevitability, and the push back to its march. That fight defines us - people, rather than just Americans - more than we realize.

So that change is coming to crime fiction, and it's greatly uncomfortable for a number of people, because it challenges the way they view literature; it challenges their knowledge, and "earned" wisdom. It also challenges, for many of those detractors, their finances - I've heard white writers despair about their books being read. The truth is, very little is going to be replaced; what we're looking at is an addition.

If there's no room on your bookshelf for new voices, then build a bigger bookshelf. Make room for more books. That's not something you'll regret.

You are very right! What advice do you have for writers who are interested in writing crime fiction?

Most people answer that question with tips about networking, and that is important. But I'd tell people to think about where they're writing. Location is incredibly important. It informs your characters, your story, and your voice. Have a relationship with your setting. You don't have to love it, but your characters need to emotionally react to it. And if they do, readers will as well.

This is of particular importance in crime fiction, because crimes are responded to differently in, say, Baltimore than they are in Green Bay. Make sure you understand those differences. Otherwise, your story has no identity.

So one question I love to ask authors, what were some of your favorite books as a kid?

I loved books by this guy named Willard Price. He wrote these adventure stories about a pair of young naturalists, and I deeply loved them, and read them over and over. I also loved a writer named Robert Asprin, who wrote these wonderful fantasy books called the "Myth" series. I remember reading them and laughing endlessly.

When I was a little older, I subscribed to some sort of action-based publishing house, and every month I got a box of books about government-operated vigilantes, like Mack Bolan (a sort of precursor to Jack Reacher) and a group called The Phoenix Force and Able Team. They were hyper-violent and I remember they caused my parents a great deal of concern. But my parents gave me the freedom to read whatever I wanted, under the hopeful assumption that my love of reading would lead me to other books. Which it did! But now I write crime fiction, so I guess that was the rather expected result.

Lastly, what are you excited to read (or have read) this year?

Off the top of my head...Angie Kim's debut MIRACLE CREEK has received a lot of accolades, and deservedly so. I had the chance to read an ARC and it's fantastic. I'm also excited about Louis Bayard's new novel, COURTING MR. LINCOLN, and a collection of short stories called WEAR YOUR HOME LIKE A SCAR by a writer I greatly admire named Nik Korpon.

A friend of mine (who actually served as editor of The Unrepentant) named Chantelle Aimee Osman recently started a publishing imprint under Polis Books championing diverse voices, and they have three books coming out this fall, THE NINJA DAUGHTER, THREE-FIFTHS, and REMEMBER. I'm really excited about their lineup and looking forward to reading all three of those books.
And I'm extra super duper excited about books by two writers who excel at short stories and have now produced novels. Tara Laskowski's ONE NIGHT GONE and Jen Conley's SEVEN WAYS TO GET RID OF HARRY. Tara and Jen are two of my favorites, and I hope their books get the wide readership they deserve.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today! Best luck with your book! Readers, you can purchase a copy of this book The Unrepentant on Amazon or add it to your Goodreads list.

About the Author


E.A. Aymar’s other thrillers include the novel-in-stories The Night of the Flood (in which he served as co-editor and contributor), as well as I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead and You’re As Good As Dead. Aymar’s column, “Decisions and Revisions,” appears monthly in the Washington Independent Review of Books, and he is also the Managing Editor of The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online resource for aspiring and debut thriller writers; he also serves on the Board of the International Thriller Writers, as Vice President of Author Programs. In addition to ITW, he is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Aymar also runs the Noir at the Bar series for Washington, D.C., and has hosted and spoken at a variety of crime fiction, writing, and publishing events nationwide. He was born in Panama and now lives and writes in the D.C./MD/VA triangle. Visit his website at https://eaymar.com/

20 April 2019

3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night with author Andrew Nance

I'm back with another guest host on my "3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night." This time it's with author Andrew Nance, who wrote an excellent thriller called "All the Lovely Children." Check it out on Goodreads and you can also enter to win a copy of the book over at my review from Monday.

With that, take it away Andrew!

My choice for Saturday night reading is a beast of a book. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney is over 800 pages of small type. I chose it because I started reading it one Saturday night in the late 70s. I’d been alone in my dorm room and there was a knock on my door. I opened it to a new student who’d recently transferred into our coed dormitory. An incredibly intelligent young woman, she had made money for tuition by working as a server at one of the Playboy Clubs for a couple of years. She was beautiful and all the guys had a crush on her. I’d talked to her a few times and our conversations kept veering into weird wonderful books. She handed me Dhalgren, said that few people can get through the book but she thought I would, and then she left. I started reading and was hooked from the first page. I read straight through the weekend, skipped classes on Monday, and finished it that night. I break it out to read every several years. I still have Dhalgren inspired dreams.

I go back to my childhood for a Saturday night movie choice. I spent most Saturday nights watching classic black and white monster movies on Shock Theater with host Dr. Paul Bearer. So I think any of the black and white classics would be a good choice, or maybe something more contemporary and fun like Shaun of the Dead.

I’ll fill in the blank for a third Saturday night choice with a fine whiskey like Knob Creek, or Bulleit, or my standby, Jamesons. We’ll sip it on my back deck that overlooks a Florida marsh, and while listening to the nocturnal marsh animals, we’ll talk about books that changed our lives.

About the Book, All the Lovely Children

In 1959 Charly Bloom was a thirteen-year-old Tomboy full of piss and vinegar. As her father often said, “Calling Charly hardheaded is like calling the sun hot.” Young girls began to disappear in the small mountain town of Temperance, North Carolina. Charly’s natural curiosity, fueled by her love of the Hardy Boys mystery series, inspired her to conduct an investigation of her own. What she learned led to a confrontation with the deranged child snatcher and Charly almost died. Twenty-three years later Charly is a private investigator who recently left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. When crimes identical to those from 1959 take place again in Temperance, Charly returns to her hometown to help the sheriff stop the abductions and find the lost girls.

Nance has done a marvelous job in creating a well-written, suspenseful novel. His language is crisp and fresh; his world-building, authentic; and his pacing, just fast enough to keep readers at the edge of their seats but slow enough to let them enjoy the ride. He has crafted a compelling, engrossing novel with more than one scene of gritty-realism that will prickle the back of your neck. --Southern Literary Review

Where to Find the Author:

https://www.andrewnance.net/

https://www.facebook.com/AndrewNance.author/



15 April 2019

All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance [Book Review]

As the winter turns into spring, I've been reading a fantastic thriller that I think you should check out. It's called All the Lovely Children by Andrew Nance. Before I get into how I felt, here's a bit about the book -

About the Book (Courtesy of the Author)


In 1982, Charly Bloom, one of the first female field officers in the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, has left the bureau and turned to private investigation. When she gets a call from an old flame, she returns to her hometown of Temperance, North Carolina to look into the disappearances of four children. The abductions are eerily similar to a set of previous crimes. Two decades earlier, Charly and her two best friends played amateur detectives and tried to find a girl who’d been kidnapped from her home. More girls went missing. Clues overlooked by an inept sheriff led Charly to a confrontation with the man known as the Snatcher. She managed to fight back and kill him. Or so everyone thought. Is the Snatcher back, or is there a copycat? Charly must face her past and her own personal demons in a race against time to save the latest victim.

What I Thought

I thought this book was excellently written, first of all. I really felt transported into this small town when I was reading it. I liked the female character Charly, she was definitely my kind of character! I enjoyed seeing what she was like as a kid and then who she became as an adult. The timeline bounced between 1982 and then 1959, which made for interesting contrasts. A lot of different people were coming in and out of the life of the Charly - both young and as an adult - which sometimes I had a hard time keeping track (could just be where I'm at with things lately). A definite surprise ending though and made it worth reading!

Purchase your copy now at Amazon.com. And best of all, I get to giveaway an ebook copy of the book to one lucky reader! Enter below. Open internationally. Ends 4/30.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a copy in exchange for my honest review. This post contains an affiliate link for which I will receive small compensation if you purchase through my link.

11 April 2019

Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre [A Review]


I'm always excited to read a book a bit outside my usual reading tastes. I think that's the challenge and the excitement of being open to reviewing books. So, thanks to WOW! Women on Writing and the amazing blog tour set up by Crystal, I had the chance to read the book Looking West by Albert Nasib Badre.

Here's a bit about the book:

In 1960, the Badre family emigrates from Beirut, Lebanon to the United States, a dream come true for fourteen-year-old Nasib.

Nasib struggles to assimilate as a teen in Albany, New York. With limited English skills, he attempts to learn new customs, make friends, and adapt to a different culture. In Beirut, the Badre family was well-known and socially privileged. In America, they are unknown nobodies. Nasib adopts his father’s name “Albert,” and to further Americanize his name, young Albert becomes “Al.”

Despite the many frustrations and difficulties, Al’s ultimate goal is to become a successful American. The new anonymity actually inspires the young man. Excited by the opportunities available to him in his new country, he determines to make a potent contribution to society.

As he strives to adapt, Al reads voraciously, becoming increasingly interested in religion and philosophy. Books become his “American friends,” and reading soon prompts him to ask deep theological questions about his family’s Lebanese Protestant roots, his mother’s conversion to Catholicism, and the contrast between the Protestant and Catholic faiths. This ultimately leads to his Catholic conversion.

Al’s search for meaning in life leads him to social activism among New York City’s poorest. And, in time, to graduate studies, where his desire is to improve the human condition through information technology.

Al Badre-- like many other American immigrants--works his way through hardship to achieve a meaningful place in his adopted nation.

What I Thought

Reading this book, gave me such an incredible insight into what it's like for a family to be new to America. I felt like I was right there beside AI Badre and his family as he navigated the world of America. I think this was a well-done vividly told book and it's a must-read for anyone who wants to see what it's like, first-hand, for someone new to the country. I think considering everything going on in the world right now - this is a must-read. 

Purchase your copy on Amazon or add it to your GoodReads

About the Author

Albert Nasib Badre is an American author born in Beirut Lebanon. He immigrated to the United States with his family in 1960 at the age of fourteen. His family made Albany, N.Y. their first home in America where he attended a private Catholic high school through his Junior year. After three years in Albany, the family moved to Iowa City, Iowa, when his father accepted a professor position at the University of Iowa. He finished his senior year at Iowa City High School, then went on to the University of Iowa where he got a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies. After college, he spent a year as a social worker in New York City. Deciding social work was not for him, he went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan where he got his Ph.D. in 1973.

He spent the next thirty years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and today he’s Professor Emeritus of Computing. During his tenure at Georgia Tech, he was an international consultant specializing in designing technology to enhance the human experience. Dr. Badre was an early pioneer in the field of human-centric design, with some thirty years of experience in human-computer interaction, learning technologies, and human-centric e-learning. His background combines expertise in the empirical methodologies of the behavioral sciences and the design approaches of the computing sciences.

Dr. Badre authored numerous technical papers, is co-editor of the book Directions in Human Computer Interaction, and the author of the book, Shaping Web Usability: Interaction Design in Context, which was adopted in several dozen courses worldwide. His memoirs, Looking West, is the story of his coming of age immigration to America and subsequent conversion to the Catholic Church.
Today, Dr. Badre and his wife live in Providence, R.I., near his son and family, where he leads a very active volunteer life, in service to the community.

Find Albert Online:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/197752.Albert_N_Badre

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anbadre

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anbadre/

Website: https://www.badremusings.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=12819942

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

02 April 2019

April's A to Z Challenge: B is for Blogging

Okay, so I'm attempting to do the A to Z Challenge hosted every April. And we'll see how I do this year! B is for blogging!

Did you know I've been blogging since 2011? (My first post!) I have learned a lot with blogging, both professionally speaking and also as a casual blogger. I think the main reason I've stuck with blogging personally is that it provides an outlet for my thoughts and it's a part of a larger community. I like that feeling.

I think the reason I have kept this blog up for so long is that I've allowed it to change and evolve and I've never been strict about the direction it takes. I guess for that reason maybe it's not a huge hit, but I realize now, I never meant for it to be that kind of blog.

So, if you are visiting my post today, I'd love to know a few things about you -

1) Do you blog? Why?

2) What is your blog (so I can say "HI")?

3) And when you don't know what to write about for your blog, what do you write about?

Happy April everyone!

01 April 2019

April's A to Z Challenge: A is for April Showers


Welcome to April, everyone! It's been 5 years since the last time I did the A to Z Challenge and I thought I'd try again. Why? Well, I've been wanting to find more blogs to interact with and comment on that will comment back and I think this is a great way to do it. Also, this may inspire a more personal element to my blog then I've been having lately. And if you want to join in, check out the post here.

I feel like I am cheating a bit with the letter A a bit, but given that it's the first day of April, I thought I'd focus on one of my favorite aspects of April - April showers! I love the rain and with that, I have a rainy day playlist that you'll want to listen to if it's raining. You can list below or click here to listen on YouTube.




There are 31 songs, so hopefully, you like this list!

What is your favorite rainy day song?

Nobody Talks About This! So Why Would I? by Amanda Russell


I am so excited for today's guest post. You can find out more about Amanda Russell in our interview by reading it here. Then come on back!

It is commonly said that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. If miscarriage is that common, why had I never heard anyone talk about it? I was newly married and in my early twenties when it happened to me.

I was at home alone and unable to reach anyone on the phone. When I finally reached my midwife’s office, the nurse told me approximately, “If you were having a miscarriage, you would be in more pain. Lay down and drink some water... We will see you at your next appointment in two weeks.” So, that’s what I did.

I knew something was not right. I went in for my 16-week appointment only to find out that I had, in fact, miscarried not just one baby, but twins. My husband and I were shocked. Devastated.

The next day we went into the hospital to be induced, give birth, and then have a d&c.

The recovery, for me, was long and recursive. A huge part of it was the patient support of my family and friends. But another side of it came to fruition through my efforts to express my experiences through writing poetry.

Why did I write this book?

I did not start out thinking I would ever share these poems with anyone. I wrote for my own processing of grief. For several months, I endured a lot of silence because I could not yet give words to my feelings. They were inexpressible and scary to me. After eight months of trying repeatedly to write, I finally penned the poem “Sonogram (16 weeks)”. Then once the words came, I continued writing more and more. I was beginning to make sense of what happened and not only express it, but honor my grief by naming it and holding space for myself in my notebooks.

Why did I decide to publish this book?

Fast forward 5 years. My husband and I were on the verge of a big move away from our home state of Texas and all of our family. This was a bit of a turning point for me because I had just decided to compile my best poems into a collection, even though I did not know yet what I was going to do with it. I had about 90 pages of poetry in the original version of BARREN YEARS, which at the time was titled GROUNDED.

As I began working on the poems, I, of course, asked my friends to read it and share their thoughts. I wanted to know if my writing was clear and understood. I wanted to know if they thought it kept pace or fizzled out at page 50. I wanted to know if any of my writing resonated with other people. As I shared my work, I learned that many of my friends had also experienced miscarriage. Over the course of a few more years, I whittled the collection down to the 25 poems it contains today.

Because the poems span about a 7 year period, they represent the whole process of my grieving and moving forward. For me, the best feeling is when I hear from a reader that my poems helped her process her own experience with miscarriage. Ultimately that is why I decided to publish. I realized that miscarriage is often a topic that gets hidden in a family and not discussed. I think that it should be discussed.

The truth is that miscarriage affects many people. And if we do not talk about it, we end up isolating ourselves at a time when we really need the support and companionship of others. I hope that my little book of poems can help others not feel alone in their experience and realize that all their feelings are valid. I also hope they will feel encouraged and inspired to turn to creativity as a means of expressing and working through their grief in their own timing.

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Be sure to pre-order your copy of BARREN YEARS today! If you do, it counts towards the author's advance sales goals (you will receive the book in June 2019). You can find Amanda on her blog at https://poetrussell.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

30 March 2019

3 Suggestions on a Saturday Night Featuring author Kathleen Valenti

We made it to another Saturday night everyone! I'm excited today to feature author Kathleen Valenti, who has an awesome book coming out As Directed. I'll be reviewing it soon, but wanted to kick things off by featuring this author on my Saturday night post. First, here's a bit about her book As Directed. (Pick up your copy here!)

As Directed follows the series’ eponymous heroine, Maggie O’Malley, in the aftermath of the events of Protocol and 39 Winks. The former pharmaceutical researcher works to rebuild her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career in a small town drugstore. But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong. A customer falls ill in the store, followed by another, and then more. The specter of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets, and new suspicions from which no one is immune.

Now here is Kathleen with her suggestions for Saturday night - take it away Kathleen! 

Saturday Night Reading Suggestion

As an author and rabid—er, avid—reader, I find myself lost between the pages of a book more often than not. In fact, I read so many wonderful books that it’s hard to tease out a single recommendation. So in the spirit of immediacy, I’ll offer my Saturday night pick based on my most recent read: The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

I’m a big fan of Ruth Ware, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I enjoyed this book. What was a surprise—at least to me—was the way my love for this book deepened with each turn of the page.

It’s a traditional mystery with all the elements I crave: an interesting and relatable protagonist, an engaging story question, compelling writing, and a mystery that intensifies as the story progresses. It begins with an unexpected inheritance to which the main character, Harriet Westaway, doesn’t have a valid claim. Out of desperation, she endeavors to “fake it till she makes it” and embarks on a journey of deception that sets forth a deadly chain of events.

I enjoyed the first half of the book. I was OBSESSED with the second half, ignoring my husband and children as I plowed through the pages to reach its powerful and twisted conclusion. When I finished the last page, I felt as if it were the finest mystery I had ever read. Pretty sure I still feel that way. It’s a fantastic book and I recommend it any day of the week.

Saturday Night Movie Suggestion

I read for escape and generally watch movies seeking the same reprieve from reality. (This explains my love for old Chevy Chase and Leslie Nielsen movies.)

Recently, however, I ditched my escapist tendencies and watched the Oscar-scooping biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.

I was—well, am—a huge Queen fan and thought I knew a thing or two about Freddie Mercury and the band’s genesis. Nope. Turns out my nascent knowledge barely scratched the surface of the front man’s life and the band’s incredible legacy.

With all the award show buzz, you probably know why this movie is so celebrated. The story. The writing. The acting. Rami Malek’s incredible transformation into Freddie Mercury. And, really, I can’t add anything to the praise that’s already been heaped on this film. I’ll just say that the heady combination of all of the above, plus a deep sense of love and nostalgia for the band and Mercury, made for a very enjoyable Saturday night showing. I hope you love it as much as I did.

Saturday Night Wild Card Suggestion

We have a teenager and a pre-teen. I’ll wait for a moment while you pray for us. Let’s just say that finding family activities that don’t result in eye rolls, dismissive shrugs, or me wanting to stick a fork in my eye has become, um, challenging.

Enter Monopoly Cheater’s Edition.

I’m a board game nut, so I’ve been on the hunt for a game that threads the needle between fun and difficult, entertaining and novel. This game hits all the check boxes.

It takes the Monopoly game we know and adore (and have played to death) and turns it on its ear with prescribed “cheats” that up the ante. And the angst. The kids think it’s fun and find it hilarious to be told to cheat. My husband and I enjoy the game’s fast pace and new twists.

Fair warning, though: younger players may find it frustrating when an opponent steals all their cash. Older players (like parents) may feel the same way.

These suggestions sound so fun and amazing! Readers, writers, or authors, be sure to send me an email if you want to guest host my Saturday night suggestions. Email me at npyles86[at]gmail[dot]com.

About Kathleen Valenti

KATHLEEN VALENTI is a nationally award-winning copywriter who pens for agencies in Oregon and North Carolina. Known as an adept storyteller who flexes her writing muscles with evocative description, compelling concepts, and emotional connections, Valenti has written for her supper for more than twenty years. She lives in Oregon where she says she pretends to enjoy running. For more information, visit Kathleen at www.kathleenvalenti.com



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