DNA testing is a hot topic today…find out how it went for author Dani Shapiro in her new memoir: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

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My Review:

Do you really know the story of your life?  Author Dani Shapiro thought she did; the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Orthodox Jewish father, Dani grew up surrounded by, and enmeshed in Judaism, Hebrew, traditions and rituals.  She had a deep love and admiration for her ancestors who came before her and she drew strength from just knowing about them.  In Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love, Dani shares with us her shocking personal discovery and the emotional rollercoaster that ensued as she searches for answers to family secrets and struggles to come to terms with who she really is.

In her early 50s, after her parents had passed away, on a whim, Dani did something so many people are doing these days – she sent in her DNA to be analyzed.  She was blindsided by the shocking results and then began a search for unknown relatives to ultimately discover herself.  Shaken to the core with endless questions, Dani was immersed in uncertainty of her identity, where she came from, and who she really is.  Was everything she thought about all her so called blood relatives who came before her a lie?  Who is her family…her son’s family…who does she belong to?

Finding long lost relatives can be a source of great happiness and fulfillment, and equally brings up so many questions and so much pain.  It is a complex concurrence of emotions and if you are going to take the chance and send in your DNA for testing, emotional preparedness for the onslaught is a good idea.

While reading this incredible memoir I was swept away on the emotional journey with Dani Shapiro as she masterfully tells her unique story.  Don’t miss it!

A quick search on the internet brings up many news articles and videos on the topic – here is one… VIDEO.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in LItchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, was published by Knopf in January, 2019.

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Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, memoirs, nonfiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thorough research and the use of music set the stage for The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

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My Review:

I loved Lynda Cohen Loigman’s debut, The Two Family House, and she has written another emotional family story, this time taking place in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Filled with detail and charm, she clearly knows how to use research to create an authentic atmosphere in her latest novel, The Wartime Sisters.  Her fully formed characters seemed like real people to me, and thanks to her skilled storytelling, and unique use of music to create scenes, I felt like I was living at the Springfield Armory during the war.

This is a story of sisters. Ruth is the older, smart one; she likes to read and do math.  Not a looker, but is capable and given responsibility in the family.  Millie is three years younger, gets away with everything, and receives all the attention because she is the pretty one.  Now adults, parents gone, Millie has a young son and her husband has gone off to war.  She cannot support herself and her boy so they go to live at the armory with her older sister Ruth and her family.   Ruth has two children and works at the armory, and her husband is an officer and has gone off to war.  Bad blood and secrets between the sisters linger while they learn to co-exist at the armory, but with the tragedy of war and loss, and the importance of family, the gift of time often heals wounds.

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Music was an important part of this book, and Lynda Cohen Loigman shares:

HOW MUSIC HELPED TO SHAPE THE WARTIME SISTERS

Early on in my research, I read a line in a book about the Springfield Armory that mentioned an opera singer who worked as a cook at the Armory cafeteria. When I read this line, I knew I wanted to create a character like that – a woman who would work behind the stove preparing food for the factory workers, but who would have another, more creative and outgoing side to her. From that one line (and a lot of subsequent research), I shaped the character of Arietta. She is the daughter of an Italian immigrant, a former vaudeville singer who performed in theatres owned by Sylvester Poli in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Unlike Arietta, Sylvester Poli was a real person – an immigrant himself, and the owner of several vaudeville theatres throughout the northeast. He started in New Haven, and built his theater empire from there.

In the story, Arietta has a big personality and an even bigger heart. She is a wonderful friend and support for Millie, and very protective of her.

I had the best time listening to 1940’s music, trying to come up with the songs I wanted to include in my story for Arietta to sing. My favorite was a song called “A Pair of Silver Wings,” originally performed by Kay Kaiser, and later sung by Dinah Shore.

One of the pivotal scenes in The Wartime Sisters takes place during a concert that was held on the Armory grounds, put on by the Victory Parade of Spotlight Bands radio show. This scene was modeled on a real concert that occurred at the Armory in September of 1943. Benny Goodman performed for a crowd of thousands on Armory Hill, and the radio show was broadcast throughout the country.

Of course, in my version, I had to move the date slightly, and also make sure that Arietta had the opportunity to perform. The last song she sings at my fictional concert is one that helped to shape my character, Lenny. It’s called “Why Don’t You Do Right,” and Peggy Lee recorded it with Benny Goodman in 1942. It has a particularly haunting and almost ominous melody, perfect for my scene. There were so many additional songs I wanted to include, but I was only able to add a few more to the story. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you get a chance to listen to them too!

Research is a huge part of writing a novel and here Lynda shares:

THE RABBIT HOLE OF RESEARCH – BALANCING THE “HISTORICAL” WITH THE “FICTION” 

Immersing myself in research can be tremendously rewarding. But after a while, there is a fine line (at least for me) between research and procrastination. I could research forever, and never stop to develop my characters or think about my plot. In many ways, knowing when to stop is the most difficult skill to develop.

In researching The Wartime Sisters, my goal was to create an accurate picture of daily life at the Springfield Armory, from the perspective of both the residents and the workers. I spoke many times with the curator of the Armory museum to try to get all of the details right. But there were two questions that gnawed at me, for which I couldn’t find answers. At the end of the day, one of the answers mattered, and one really didn’t. And I had to force myself to let go of the question that I knew wasn’t going to further my story.

The question that mattered had to do with the Armory’s “On To Victory” dance that occurred in February of 1943. There was an article about the dance in the Armory Newsletter, full of photographs and all kinds of information about the evening. I learned how many tickets were sold, the refreshments that were served, and the name of all the musicians and entertainers who performed. There were detailed photos of various people in attendance so I could see what they were wearing. I read about the war bond raffle and the jitterbug contest. There was, however, one crucial piece of information missing: the article didn’t mention where the dance was held. The curator of the museum had no idea, and neither of us could believe that the venue wasn’t mentioned in any of the articles we found. Finally, after seeking additional help from the Springfield Museums, we found the answer through a ticket advertisement in an old edition of The Springfield Republican. The dance had been held at the Springfield Auditorium.

Knowing the location was crucial to getting the description correct in my story. I wanted to be able to picture the hall, to see where one character stood and where another stopped to rest her feet. I wanted to know what it was like to enter the venue, to walk up the auditorium steps, and to set foot inside. This was a piece of information very worth the time and energy that went into its discovery.

At another point, however, I became fixated on a historical detail that wasn’t nearly as relevant. For whatever reason, I became obsessed with learning how it was that armory residents received their mail. They didn’t have mailboxes, so where was it delivered? Was there a separate mail room? Mail slots in the doors? I never found the answer, and the curator couldn’t help me. Ultimately, I had to let go of that small detail. I knew in my heart that writing about the specific path of a letter from the post office to the postman to my character’s hands wasn’t going to move my plot along. And, to be honest, it probably wasn’t going to be interesting for readers either.

So, there you have it – two tiny mysteries, but only one solved. The mail question continued to bother me for a while, but I forced myself to stop thinking about it. Instead, I focused on my writing and the contents of that letter I had been worrying about. Ultimately, what the letter said about my character was much more important than how it got delivered.

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Writing historical fiction is not an easy task, the research alone is endless and the commitment to accuracy seems like it could be a draining process.  I admire Lynda and so many others who put in the time to write such wonderful, creative and fulfilling stories, creating opportunity to learn about a specific time in history.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a law degree from Columbia Law School. Lynda practiced trusts and estates law in New York City for eight years before moving out of the city to raise her two children with her husband. She wrote The Two-Family House while she was a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. The Two-Family House was chosen by Goodreads as a best book of the month for March, 2016, and was a nominee for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction. Lynda’s second novel, The Wartime Sisters, was published on January 22, 2019.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nathalie Jacob shows us how to stay positive after trauma in her memoir…8 – Rediscovering Life After a Brain Tumor

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My  Review:

In 8: Rediscovering Life After a Brain Tumor, Nathalie Jacob tells us her incredible story of bravery and rediscovering life and purpose after doctors discovered a golf ball size tumor in her brain. Enjoying a successful career and an exciting and energetic lifestyle with her new husband and friends, she was shocked when told she required surgery. Assuming she could be back to work and usual life in 3 weeks time, Nathalie and her family were blindsided when the results were not what was expected, and all of a sudden her hopes and dreams were not attainable. A devastating situation with a glimmer of hope, Nathalie had to adjust to the new normal and redefine who she is and what she can accomplish.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nathalie, and without a doubt, she is an incredible, eloquent woman with strength and a kind heart.  She is worldly, well traveled, educated, accomplished, trilingual, with fantastic memories and stories from her days training for the Olympics in sailing and living in Madrid, Columbia, the Caribbean and Miami.  Left with some considerable deficits that prevent her from getting a full time job and returning to her active lifestyle, she is now creating new memories in Connecticut with her husband and beautiful young daughter.  Nathalie started several groups on Facebook, some the are social and one that is for Spanish speaking brain tumor survivors and their families.  She likes connecting people, has found playdates and enjoyed mom’s outings with many of the people who have joined her groups, and her next challenge is to develop a not for profit to benefit children in Colombia.   Her planned path in life may have changed but she is destined for great success.

Here is a video interview of Nathalie talking about her book.  Please take the time to read her story!

Check out this article about celebrities who have had brain tumors.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Nathalie Jacob was raised in Colombia, went to high school in France, and later moved to the United States. She is trilingual in English, Spanish, and French.

Nathalie studied business administration at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and received her master’s in business administration from IE Business School in Spain. She spent ten years working in high-level marketing jobs for Fortune 500 companies in five different countries. In her spare time, she enjoyed sailing and won several national championships.

The aftereffects of a brain surgery left Nathalie disabled and unable to work. She has done three voluntary jobs since, until the birth of her first child. She is now focusing on being the best mother she can be to her baby daughter, Nicole.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, memoirs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Insightful Q and A with author Bianca Marais – includes inspirational photos for her summer release of If You want to Make God Laugh

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My Review:

I loved the author’s debut, Hum if you Don’t Know the Words, and feel the same about this wonderful upcoming novel out this summer.  The beauty and strength of the South African women will stick with you…PREORDER your copy today!

If You Want to Make God Laugh is the fast moving and compelling story of three ladies, Zodwa, Ruth and Delilah, set in South Africa.  Easy to read chapters alternate points of view:

Zodwa is young girl, raped, pregnant, living in a squatter camp and ashamed of her romantic feelings of infatuation with her close girl friend.  When her baby is born, she was taken from her and later the same day her mother dies, leaving her alone, desperate and feeling lost.

Delilah was raped when she was a teenager and was forces to leave her child at the convent she was excommunicated from due to her pregnancy.  She spent her years repenting while working at an orphanage, alone and lost.

After a career of stripping and feeling unhappy in her relationship, Delilah’s older sister, Ruth left her husband feeling sad and regretful for never being able to have a child.  Ruth and Delilah hadn’t spoken to each other since they were young.

The estranged sisters meet at their parent’s empty house, Ruth intending to sell it and Delilah hoping to live there.  Tension runs high between the siblings, but after a newborn black baby was left on the doorstop, Ruth realizes her calling is to adopt this child and give him the life he deserves.  Delilah is not in agreement and so much pain rises to the surface due to the past.  As the sisters work to break down walls and understand each other’s emotions, they are faced with prejudice and harassment from the neighbors.  The sisters decide to secure the house and hire a live in maid to help with the baby.

If You Want to Make God Laugh is a masterfully written emotional journey of three women where everyone is either running to or from something as they try to find peace and understand in their calling.  It is a testament to the incredible strength women have and what lengths mothers will go to to protect and care for their children.

Q and A with author Bianca Marais

How did you come up with the title If You Want to Make God Laugh?  The words appear once in the text – do you write the book first and then choose the title out of the text or do you fit in the words of the title after the book is written?  Was this the same process for Hum?

HUM was originally going to be called ‘It Aint Over Till the Fat Lady Sings’ because I envisioned Mama Fatty, the shebeen queen of Soweto, singing at the end. But that changed during the writing of the book when Robin’s aunt Edith tells her to hum if she doesn’t know the words to a hymn at her parents’ funeral. That line stayed with me because it was such a great metaphor for what the characters were going through.

With LAUGH, the title stuck from the beginning because of that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” which really sums up what all three of these women are going through. It’s always a thrill for me to write the title into the book because I love discovering the title when I’m reading a novel.

It comes clear while reading the novel that for your characters, having ideas and making plans for the future have minimal impact on how things turn out.  Do you believe in fate?  How much control do you think we have of our future?

Oh wow, this is a tough question. 

I think we have a lot of control over our lives in that the decisions we make today will influence the way things play out for us down the line. Work hard and you’ll generally reap the benefits. Be a kind person and it will definitely have a knock-on effect in both your life and in the lives of others. Take care of your health and you’ll live longer than if you treated your body like a garbage can.

But there are definitely things in life that we can’t possibly see coming: accidents, illnesses, bad luck. And this is the part that’s tough for me as an A-type Capricorn to accept: that there are certain things in our lives that are completely beyond our control. And that we can be good people and do good things, and we can plan and save and do everything right and still have tragedy strike. But even when the unimaginable happens, we then still have agency in terms of how we move forward and how we handle that situation which is what the women in my story show: how to keep going when the worst has happened.

In terms of believing in fate: it’s hard not to believe that some things are fated because they seem so improbable and yet they happen regardless. I want to believe in fate and that some things are meant to be. 

AIDS was an epidemic in South Africa at the time of the story and in it, the white people seemed to put blame and shame on the black women and children…what about the black men?  Did we just not see it in the story because the black men did not infiltrate the white people’s world in the same way that black women maids and housekeepers did?  

Black families were torn apart during apartheid with most black men being forced to work in gold mines and black women having to work as maids in the city. Husbands and wives got separated from their children and lived miles and miles apart from one another, often only seeing one another once a year. This led to the disintegration of the black family and allowed the perfect conditions for the spreading the HIV virus. Also, many black men refused to wear condoms despite having multiple sexual partners which put women at greater risk. 

Since most of the black men worked in gold mines or as laborers, they weren’t a part of white people’s lives like black women were. These were the women caring for white people’s children, living in their homes and being a huge part of their daily existence. When they began to get sick, white people were forced to take notice of the epidemic and focused that attention on the people who were closest to them and therefore at most risk of passing the virus onto them. 

The saying Blood is Thicker Than Water means relationships built through choices will never be as strong as family bonds.  The bonds your characters have seem to support this theory; Delilah and Ruth slowly reconcile through the course of the book (so skillfully written, I might add, that at first they were so at odds, and without realizing it, little by little they developed a wonderful, supportive relationship right before our eyes), Zodwa and Mandla felt connected the moment they met, Delilah and Daniel were drawn together virtually although they never met.  How do you feel about this?

Family bonds are incredibly strong in the story in all the ways you mentioned but I also believe that friendships and the relationships we choose can be just as strong if not stronger. I believe that it’s hardship and struggle that truly puts a relationship to the test, and it’s in overcoming adversity that true bonds are forged whether they’re familial or of another nature. Something I find fascinating is that often the people who are meant to love us most are the ones who can hurt us the deepest which we see playing out with Ruth and Delilah. For me, the important thing is choice. Choosing to work on a relationship and to be there for someone through the difficulties, and choosing to have them in your life. 

How did you come up with the rustic home environment for Zodwa?

A lot of Zodwa’s experience in the squatter camp was inspired by my ten years of volunteering in squatter camps in Soweto and the rest of Johannesburg. Here are some photos from that time.

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It was a joy to see Beauty and Robin from Hum weaved into this story…did you start this new book with them in mind with the story growing out of them or did you add them in after?

I started writing the sequel to HUM which I never got to finish, and so it’s always been very clear in my mind what Robin and Beauty were doing in the 90s. When I started writing this book, I very much wanted to incorporate their stories in this one but in an organic way so that if readers hadn’t read HUM, they wouldn’t find Robin and Beauty’s presence strange. It was lovely to get to spend time with them again and to give HUM readers a glimpse into their futures.

All of your characters have lost so much.  They are all searching for something…Ruth wants to fulfill her lifelong dream to be a mother, Delilah wants to connect with Daniel, Leleti wanted to find her son, Zodwa wants to be a mother to Mandla…they also have secrets from suicide attempts, to a secret child to sexual orientation.  These women are so well developed with a past, present and hopes for the future; do you have a formula you use or a certain process to create them?

Thank you. That’s a wonderful compliment!

I don’t have a formula, per se. I always start with characters. They come to me before the plot or the storyline comes to me. I see these characters as real people who are struggling with something and that then forms the basis of the story. I write to get to know them better and by the end of the book, I always know so much more about my characters than what finds its way onto the page. In that way, they become real to me. If I’m not suffering and laughing and crying with them while I write, then I’m not connected to them and how can I expect my reader to be? 

If this were to become a movie, who would you want to play the main characters?  

When I write, I often picture characters as actors or people I know, etc. They were pictured as follows for LAUGH though they obviously couldn’t all play the characters now:

Ruth: Debbie Reynolds 

Delilah: Dame Judie Dench

Zodwa: Lupita Nyong’o

Riaan: James Brolin 

Vince: John Goodman

Leleti: Lupita Nyong’o’s mother, Dorothy Nyong’o

Thembeka: A young Leleti Khumalo (a South African actress)

Here is what my vision board looked like while writing LAUGH:

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What are you working on next?

In a complete change of genre for me, I’m working on a psychological thriller. I thought I’d try my writing chops at murder, sex and mayhem. I’m having a lot of fun! LOL. 

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Bianca Marais holds a Certificate in Creative Writing from the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.

Before turning to writing, she started a corporate training company and volunteered with Cotlands, where she assisted care workers in Soweto with providing aid for HIV/AIDS orphans and their caregivers.

Originally from South Africa, she now resides in Toronto with her husband and three pets (Muggle, Mrs Norris and Wombat). Yes, she is a huge Harry Potter fan. And also isn’t at all uncomfortable talking about herself in the third person.

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, Q & A | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

33 Books for Vacation 2019

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Many authors I enjoy have recently released new books or have a new one being published this year.  Below are the beautiful covers with links to reviews and summaries so you can choose some books for the next snow day, a long ski weekend or a coveted beach getaway.  Catch up with the authors’ earlier novels this winter and order the new ones so you have a great stack for the summer!

The Best Books to Take on Vacation!

If you enjoyed the addictive psychological thriller The Wife Between Us,

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you will love the latest bestseller An Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks.

 

If you enjoyed the Brooklyn Jewish family saga The Two-Family House,

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you will love to read about Jewish sisters, secrets and the Springfield Armory in The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman.

 

If you loved reading about the internet, addiction and crime in The Truth About Thea,

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you will love the new political thriller, Why We Lie, by Amy Impellizzeri, available March 2019.

 

If you loved these beach read favorites, The Forever Summer and The Husband Hour,

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you won’t want to miss reading about the glamorous Hamptons in Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner, available May 2019.

 

If you immersed yourself in old New York and read about the Barbizon Hotel, The Dakota, and Grand Central Terminal, in The Dollhouse, The Address and The Masterpiece,

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you will want to read about the theater district, 1950s New York and the Chelsea Hotel in The Chelsea Girls: A Novel by Fiona Davis, available July 2019.

 

If you enjoy reading about family and tragedy set in Apartheid era South Africa and loved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words,

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you will definitely want to read about love, family bonds and three South African women in If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais, available July 2019.

 

If you enjoyed reading about tragedy and love in How to Walk Away

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you will want to add to your list Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center, available August 2019.

 

If you cried your eyes out and loved The Memory of Us and Before the Rain Falls,

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you won’t want to miss The Way of Beauty and the newest novel, The Beautiful Strangers by Camille Di Maio, available March 2019.

 

If you enjoyed learning about a real World War ll heroine in Lilac Girls ,

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you will love learning about the Women of World War l in Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly, available April 2019.

 

If you were overflowing with emotion after reading The Orphan’s Tale,

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you will surely want to read about World War ll spies in The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff.

 

If you were moved and impacted the story of racism and police violence in The Hate U Give,

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you will want read about hip-hop and the struggle to achieve dreams in On the Come Up by Angie Thomas.

 

If you loved reading about a love letter and World War ll Austria in The Lost Letter,

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you will want to read about a family secret and World War ll in In Another Time by Jillian Cantor, available March 2019.

 

If you adored learning about the all women spy ring from World War l in The Alice Network, 

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you will want to follow the journalist and pilot as they search for the Nazi war criminal in The Huntress by Kate Quinn.

 

If you enjoyed reading about the woman who made the final meals for death row prisoners in The Last Suppers

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you will want to add to your list this story of three generations of women and a dark secret in Forgiveness Road by Mandy Mikulencak.

So many books, so little time.  What will you take on your next vacation?

 

 

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, Historical Fiction, psychological thriller | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

In need of a distraction? Look no further…These addictive psychological thrillers keep you hooked right up to the end!

 

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My Review:  Authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are superstars when it comes to psychological thrillers.  Last year they came out with The Wife Between Us which has you working hard to figure out what is going to happen next, and with unexpected plot twists,  the authors rewards you with continual surprises and unanticipated shocks.  A bitter ex-wife, a younger, prettier replacement…you think you know what’s going on.  But you don’t!  Little tidbits feed your knowledge of what you believe could be the truth but you will be fooled.  Skillfully written with all loose ends tied up by the conclusion, this is impressive writing by the author duo and so much fun to read.

 An Anonymous Girl, their recent bestseller, currently headed to the big screen, delivers continual suspense and gives you much to think about.  A doctor conducting a study on morals and ethics is looking for women volunteers to participate.  The questions are simple but get increasingly more challenging and unpredictable.  Relationships become murky when overcome with jealousy and deceit.  What is real?  And who can be trusted?

Manipulative and oh, so addictive, these two fantastic thrillers are not to be missed!  I read each book in less than 24 hours, one after the other!  All you need is a weekend of no plans – you must cuddle up with these gems and your favorite stress eating snacks (gummy bears and licorice😜)…and dive right in…you will be on the edge of your seat!

Check out this Video interview; Sara Haines of GMA talks with Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen about their writing process and how they work together.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Authors:

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are the co-authors of the blockbuster New York Times bestseller, THE WIFE BETWEEN US, as well as the forthcoming, AN ANONYMOUS GIRL. AN ANONYMOUS GIRL has been optioned for a television series by eOne, with Sarah and Greer executive producing. THE WIFE BETWEEN US has been optioned for film by Amblin Entertainment, with Sarah and Greer screenwriting the adaptation.

 

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, psychological thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

War, Women, Spies, Revenge and the Truth Revealed in The Alice Network…Who should be cast in the movie…and FAQ with author Kate Quinn.

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My Review:

The Alice Network, a suspenseful dual timeline historical fiction novel, begins in the early 1900s…In 1915, stuttering Eve is identified as a good liar, speaks several languages and is asked to spy on the German soldiers in France during WWl.  In 1947, Charlie, a young, pregnant girl is looking for her beloved cousin, Rose, who disappeared in France during WWll.  Charlie follows a lead to located someone in London who can help and finds herself on a journey with Eve, now an older, often drunk woman with a secret past.  Together with Finn, the driver, they set off to track down Rose and ultimately are faced with old and painful memories.  While perseverance and bravery prevail, we learn the history of a women’s spy ring in France, based on real happenings – during challenging, dangerous and secretive times.   We follow the wonderful characters through the successes and failures of their lives, as they confront the ghosts of the painful past and unravel the mysteries of the wartime to discover the truth.  A fantastic novel, not to be missed.

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This is a photo of Louise de Bettignies, known as The Queen of Spies, the real woman who ran the spy ring called the Alice Network, right under the noses of the German soldiers.  Kate Quinn’s character, Lili is based on Louise.  Should the book become a movie, the author talks about her preferences for the cast.  Click the link below to see who she recommends.

http://www.katequinnauthor.com/uncategorized/the-alice-network-fantasy-movie-cast/Unknown.pngSOME FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH KATE QUINN

Where do you get your ideas for writing?

KQ:  Generally something will hook me—a person, a historical event, a place—and it’s something so interesting, so cool, so off the wall, that I realize it would be a great hook to hang a story on.  For The Alice Network it was the realization that there had been this network of WWI spies, many of them women, who had been organized and led by a woman nicknamed “The Queen of Spies”—that was so fascinating to me, I had to write about it!

Writing a story that goes back and forth between two time periods musts be a difficult process.  How did you do it?

KQ:  Some authors, when writing a dual timeline, write all of one and then all of the other, then go about the work of intercutting them.  I might do that in the future for another book, but for The Alice Network, I cut back and forth between the two even while drafting my rough draft.  It helped me draw parallels between the two stories that much more easily.

Eve’s hands were a focal point and the cause a mystery throughout the story. The scene where we witness what happened to her was so gruesome and upsetting… how did you come up with it?

KQ: The thing with writing a dual timeline is that the timeline that takes place in the past must still have tension.  I can’t keep the reader in suspense about whether Eve survives whatever danger she encounters in WWI, because you see in the second, 1947 timeline that she’s alive.  So giving her the disfigured hands was an immediate way to set up a mystery: from the first time Charlie and the reader meet Eve, the question is “What happened to her hands to mak them look that way?”  It’s one of the questions that drives tension in the 1915 timeline, since you know at some point you’re going to find out what happened.

Smashing knuckles is a fairly standard torture throughout the ages, I’m sad to say, because people have so many nerve endings in their fingers.  Finger injuries are very painful but not life threatening, which is just the kind of injury torturers want to inflict on people from whom the are trying to extract information.

How did you come about including poetry references in your novel?

KQ: I love Baudelaire’s poetry—it’s both lush and disturbing in the imagery, perfect for my villain with his lush, disturbing tastes.  And with “Les Fleurs du Mal,” Baudelaire’s most famous volume of poetry, I saw the chance to incorporate the broader metaphor about women as flowers, and my various ladies with their floral names!

Which character did you identify with the most?

KQ: I identified more closely with the young Eve and her struggle with her speech impediment, because my husband has a stutter (it was his idea in part to give Eve her speech impediment) and I have for nearly 20 years watched his frustrations in dealing with the world that makes assumptions about people with stammers.

Unknown.pngTo commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the death of Louise de Bettignies, France issued a postage stamp with her likeness in 2018.

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The Alice Network was the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award Winner for best historical fiction.  Kate Quinn’s highly anticipated new book, The Huntress is available Feb. 26, 2019.

 

Goodreads Summary

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About the author:

Kate Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written seven historical novels, including the bestselling “The Alice Network,” the Empress of Rome Saga, and the Borgia Chronicle. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in San Diego with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction, Historical Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart …literally. Stories, medical research and discoveries over the years shed a light on matters of the ❤️.

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My Review:

I devoured this book, thoroughly enjoyed the anecdotes and learned so much. According to author Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, “This book is about what the heart is, how it has been handled by medicine, and how we can most wisely live with – as well as by – our hearts in the future.”

Dr. Jauhar, a medical doctor, found himself out of breath, went to go get checked out and learned, along with other minor issues, his main artery feeding into his heart had a “30 to 50 percent obstruction near the opening and a 50 percent blockage in the mid portion.”  His paternal grandfather died of a heart attack at 57 years old and his maternal grandfather at 83.  His personal and familial experiences have guided his career and currently he is a cardiologist and the director of the Heart Failure Program at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.  “Understanding how and why my grandfather had died, and what implications his premature death had for my father, my siblings, and me, was fundamentally intertwined with my decision to train in cardiology.”

Filled with medical history and peppered with incredible stories of brave doctors who risked their own lives to study the heart, Heart: A History is incredibly informative and includes comprehensible descriptions of experiments and procedures that assisted in the understanding of how the heart works and how medicine has improved drastically so today we can fix certain problems.

Since 1910, cardiovascular disease has been the number one killer, claiming 18 million lives a year.  “The scale of heart disease in the 1950s was like that of AIDS in the 1980s: a disease that dominated American medicine both clinically and politically. More than 600,000 Americans were dying of heart disease every year. In 1945, the budget for medical research at the National Institutes of Health was $180,000. Five years later, it was $46 million. ”  Based on research, heart health in this country is declining and we are challenged with finding new solutions.  Heart transplants are successful but we will never have enough hearts available for those in need, so other solutions to heart disease must be pursued.

Dr. Jauhar talks about how we associate the heart with our feelings and use the name of the organ to represent emotions, like wear your heart on your sleeve, your heart’s not in it, change of heart, bleeding heart.   Even though these are just expressions, feelings and emotions often have a big effect on the heart and how it reacts to stresses and general overall function.  “Over the years, I have learned that the proper care of my patients depends on trying to understand (or at least recognize) their emotional states, stresses, worries, and fears. There is no other way to practice heart medicine. For even if the heart is not the seat of the emotions, it is highly responsive to them. (The) “biological heart is extraordinarily sensitive to our emotional system—to the metaphorical heart”. “The autonomic nervous system has two divisions: the “sympathetic” system, which mediates the fight-or-flight reaction, using adrenaline to speed up the heart and increase blood pressure; and the “parasympathetic” system, which has the opposite effect, slowing respirations and heartbeat, lowering blood pressure, and promoting digestion. Both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves travel along blood vessels and terminate in nerve cells within the heart to help regulate the heart’s emotional reactions.”

Procedures and practices have advanced greatly over the past 75 years. In the late 1940s chest compressions were discovered to help raise blood pressure and now are common practice in resuscitations. In 1954 advanced open heart surgery was extremely rare (being done by only one doctor) using cross circulation (another healthy person as a donor).  In 1977 the first balloon coronary angioplasty was performed in Switzerland. The doctor came to the United States in 1980 to continue his research.  This led to clot busting drugs (which although still experimental and not approved by the FDA at the time, saved my father’s life as he suffered a heart attacking in the late 1980s). The automatic defibrillator was approved by the FDA in 1985. Even though there has been a drop in cardiovascular mortality, we still must continue on the path of research and discovery.

Heart: A History was easy to read, filled with great stories and research and provided an exciting overview of monumental strides made in twentieth century medicine.  It also fed my curiosity and obsession with surgery that often gets fulfilled while watching medical shows on tv including Chicago Med, Untold Stories of the ER and the graphic Dr. Pimple Popper!  I highly recommend this book to those who have a curiosity about science and the heart.

 

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Sandeep Jauhar has written three books, all published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. His first book, “Intern: A Doctor’s Initiation,” was a national bestseller and was optioned by NBC for a dramatic television series.

His second book, “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician,” released in August 2014, was a New York Times bestseller and was named a New York Post Best Book of 2014. It was praised as “highly engaging and disarmingly candid” by The Wall Street Journal, “beautifully written and unsparing” by The Boston Globe, and “extraordinary, brave and even shocking” by The New York Times.

“Heart: A History,” his latest book, an Amazon Best Book of the Month, tells the colorful and little-known story of the doctors who risked their careers and the patients who risked their lives to know and heal our most vital organ. It has been praised as “gripping…(and) strange and captivating” by The New York Times, “fascinating” by The Washington Post, “poignant and chattily erudite” by The Wall Street Journal, and “elegiac” by The American Scholar. It was named a best book of 2018 by the Mail on Sunday, Science Friday, Zocalo Public Square, and the Los Angeles Public Library, and was the PBS NewsHour/New York Times book club pick for January 2019.

A practicing cardiologist, Jauhar is currently a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. He has appeared frequently on National Public Radio, CNN, and MSNBC to discuss issues related to medicine, and his essays have also been published in The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Slate. To learn more about him and his work, visit his website at http://sandeepjauhar.com or follow him on Twitter: @sjauhar.

Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, nonfiction | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How Family, Faith and Friendship contributed to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

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My Review:

Sometimes you luck out and find a book that is just what the doctor ordered. There is nothing like a quick escape, when you can lose yourself in a touching, inspirational, easy to read story.  I loved this book so much!

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell is about a boy born with ocular albinism to a loving and devoted Catholic mother and hardworking pharmacist father.  Sam Hill has the eyes of a devil; they are red due to his condition, and his unusual look makes it difficult for him to blend in.  His classmates shun him and even the Sister at his Catholic school treats him unkindly. He becomes the target of a bully and chooses not to rat him out due to fear.  Eddie, the only black child in the school and possibly the entire town, and Mao, the daughter of an alcoholic who has a reputation for being promiscuous, both outcasts in their own right, are Sam’s only friends.  Embolden with his mother’s faith and his father’s guidance, Eddie’s kindness and sports expertise, and Mao’s unconditional love and friendship, Sam and his devilish eyes make it through high school.

Sam faces challenges once again when his big goals that include pursuing higher education are put on hold. His love for family supersede his desire to go to college and he stays around to help when his parents need him most.

Sam struggles with relationships and acceptance but has a big heart and an open mind.  His experiences allow him to grow to be a man with confidence, skills and admirable values. We see how his belief system is created and influenced in childhood by his parents, friends, teachers and bullies and challenged by the same in his adult life.  Sam is understanding and compassionate, and he believes in forgiveness.  His love for his family and friends is unwavering and author Robert Dugoni shows us that our differences provide even more opportunities to lead extraordinary lives.

If you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Man Called Ove, and The Rosie Project you will like The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.  I highly recommend this one!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author: 

Robert Dugoni is the New York Times, #1 Amazon, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author of the Tracy Crosswhite series: My Sister’s Grave, Her Last Breath, In the Clearing, The Trapped Girl and Close to Home, as well as the short prequels The Academy and Third Watch. The police procedural featuring Seattle Homicide Detective Tracy Crosswhite has kept Dugoni in the Amazon top 10 for more than three years and sold more than 4 million copies. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, released April 2018. Dugoni’s first series featured attorney David Sloane and CIA agent Charles Jenkins.
He is the winner of the Nancy Pearl Award for fiction, a two-time nominee for the Harper Lee Award for Legal Fiction, A two-time nominee for the Mystery Writer’s of America Edgar Award and a two-time nominee for the International Thriller of the year. His non-fiction expose, The Cyanide Canary, was a 2004 Best Book of the Year. He is published in more than 30 countries and two dozen languages.
You can sign up for his newsletter at:
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Posted in Authors, Book Reviews, fiction | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments