HAMILTON: the Book, the PBS Special, the Revolution


The story of tonight: HAMILTON’S AMERICA premiers on PBS! Those of us with HAMILTON fever have been gleefully waiting for it – a behind-the-scenes look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical.  (Just you wait! 12 hours and counting!)

The trailer shows a mix of interviews, history, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and WE HOPE plenty of footage of the live show with the original cast.

HAMILTON’S AMERICA will air on PBS tonight, Friday, October 21 at 9:00 p.m. My DVR is set, my couch cushion reserved. No cable? No problem. It will also stream online through Facebook Live on the Great Performances Facebook page, be available on the PBS Anywhere app, as well as PBS’ website. But if your plan is to watch it online, don’t waste your shot, as rumor has it the documentary will only be available on those platforms for four weeks following the broadcast.

And now, on to the book and soundtrack combo, or how I spent a good eight hours immersed in Hamilton bliss.

You’ve listened to the soundtrack non-stop. Maybe you think you have most of it memorized and sing along with it in the car, at the grocery store, and on your lunch break. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Get the book.  HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION is a stunning creation, from the detailed behind-the-scenes stories, drool-worthy photographs, and yes, full lyrics for you to read as you listen to the score for the zillionth time.

Even the feel of the book will blow you away. Leather spine, thick, lush paper–it’s a book that will earn a prime spot on your bookshelf for years to come.


Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton is as revolutionary as its subject, the poor kid from the Caribbean who fought the British, defended the Constitution, and helped to found the United States. Fusing hip-hop, pop, R&B, and the best traditions of theater, this once-in-a-generation show broadens the sound of Broadway, reveals the storytelling power of rap, and claims our country’s origins for a diverse new generation.

HAMILTON: THE REVOLUTION gives readers an unprecedented view of both revolutions, from the only two writers able to provide it. Miranda, along with Jeremy McCarter, a cultural critic and theater artist who was involved in the project from its earliest stages–“since before this was even a show,” according to Miranda–traces its development from an improbable perfor­mance at the White House to its landmark opening night on Broadway six years later. In addition, Miranda has written more than 200 funny, revealing footnotes for his award-winning libretto, the full text of which is published here.

Their account features photos by the renowned Frank Ockenfels and veteran Broadway photographer, Joan Marcus; exclusive looks at notebooks and emails; interviews with Questlove, Stephen Sond­heim, leading political commentators, and more than 50 people involved with the production; and multiple appearances by Presi­dent Obama himself. The book does more than tell the surprising story of how a Broadway musical became a national phenomenon: It demonstrates that America has always been renewed by the brash upstarts and brilliant outsiders, the men and women who don’t throw away their shot.

Have you read the book? Are you counting the minutes until the special airs tonight?



#Friday Reads: Bring on the Laughs with Razor Girl and First Star I See Tonight

This week’s theme is humor. I tend to write with a slight sway to what I’m reading, and since I’m pushing towards the end of a contemporary romance that will hopefully be infused with a marbled layer of chuckles, humor I need.

Humor I got.

Book 1: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen.
Carl Hiaasen is ALWAYS good for a laugh. Wait, no, I’ve known people who have suffered stomach cramps from doubling over in laughter while reading his books. And because truth is stranger than fiction (especially in Florida), many of  Hiaasen’s nut-job characters and insane situations are inspired by news clippings. Here you go: Woman Crashes Car While Shaving Her Privates –your real life Razor Girl. I still haven’t figured out if Hiassen satirizes or merely exaggerates the impossible realities of our beloved screwball state, but as always, his humor hits razor sharp.

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

The new full-tilt, unstoppably hilarious and entertaining novel from the best-selling author of Skinny Dip and Bad Monkey

When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!). Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield–the eponymous Razor Girl–and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page. There’s Trebeaux, the owner of Sedimental Journeys–a company that steals sand from one beach to restore erosion on another . . . Dominick “Big Noogie” Aeola, a NYC mafia capo with a taste for tropic-wear . . . Buck Nance, a Wisconsin accordionist who has rebranded himself as the star of a redneck reality show called Bayou Brethren . . . a street psycho known as Blister who’s more Buck Nance than Buck could ever be . . . Brock Richardson, a Miami product-liability lawyer who’s getting dangerously–and deformingly–hooked on the very E.D. product he’s litigating against . . . and Andrew Yancy–formerly Detective Yancy, busted down to the Key West roach patrol after accosting his then-lover’s husband with a Dust Buster. Yancy believes that if he can singlehandedly solve a high-profile murder, he’ll get his detective badge back. That the Razor Girl may be the key to Yancy’s future will be as surprising as anything else he encounters along the way–including the giant Gambian rats that are livening up his restaurant inspections.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 6, 2016)

Book 2: First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
While many readers may have caught on to Susan Elizabeth Phillips stories a good decade or two ago, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m late to the contemporary romance party. Phillip’s books pretend to fall into the crossover category: they’re released at hardcovers on the mainstream fiction shelves, so readers who are above or afraid to pick up a skinny Harlequin paperback can read without having to explain. But I’ll let you in on a secret: though they are sometimes labeled as “romantic fiction” they are still  romances. Funny, flirty, and zany romances. Why else would Phillips have won the prestigious RITA award four times and be a recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award? Try one, you’ll like it…

 First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

A no-nonsense sports hero and a feisty female detective go head-to-head in this funny, fresh, seductive novel from the award winning NYT bestselling author known for her unforgettable characters, heartfelt emotion, and laugh out loud humor.

He’s the former quarterback of the Chicago Stars football team.

She’s trying to make a success of her very own detective agency.

Her first job? Follow him. Let’s just say it’s not going well.

Not well at all….

Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. The problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.

Which is why a great detective needs a first rate imagination. “The fact is . . . I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just . . . mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not. (Hint: Not!) If only she weren’t also dealing with a bevy of Middle Eastern princesses, a Pakistani servant girl yearning for freedom, a teenager who just wants to fit in, and an elderly neighbor demanding that Piper find her very dead husband.

And then there’s Cooper Graham,, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants just might be an intrepid detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

From the bustling streets of Chicago to a windswept lighthouse on Lake Superior to the glistening waters of Biscayne Bay, two people who can’t stand to lose will test themselves and each other to discover what matters most.

Series: Chicago Stars
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (August 23, 2016)

Are you reading anything good this week?





#FridayReads | Beach Read: No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

Happy Friday! no-breaking-my-heart

Hope y’all are having a good week and didn’t suffer through a holiday weekend hangover. Much of Labor Day weekend around here was wet, wet, WET. Though Hurricane Hermine brushed by with a few puffs of wind and showers, in the days after we got drenched. At one point, we got 3 1/2 inches of rain in just over an hour. Let me tell you, it’s fun to drain the pool in the middle of a deluge.

But Labor Day looked promising. After days of being stuck inside, we attempted a beach day. It sprinkled on us twice in the morning, but hey, we were wearing bathing suits anyway. The wind carried several people’s beach umbrellas and canopies away (including ours!). But then the sun came out, and we settled in for an afternoon of beach reading. Even the kiddo pulled out his book. Yes, we got some stares as all three of us sat in the shade with books in hand.manatee-hi

I took a break to test out the new paddle board in our secret manatee cove. The manatees must have known I was reading a romance, because they were feeling a bit…shall we say “frisky”. It was like paddling around hippos! At one point, I glided over a group who were blocking my boat ramp and rather…distracted by love pheromones. A startled, ginormous bull nearly swamped me when he came up! Luckily I was sitting on the board or I would have been in the water with a mess of randy thousand-pound manatees. Eek!

Despite the showers, mishaps, and animal close encounters, I had a much needed day relaxing with a fun beach read. How many people actually get to read beach reads at the beach?

No Breaking My Heart by Kate Angell

“Known for her charming beach reads.” —Kirkus Reviews

Relationship Status: Complicated

Professional baseball player Halo Todd doesn’t like failure, but he can never turn down a challenge. Especially when there’s a pretty woman involved. How else would he end up dressed as a rooster, helping a complete stranger compete on a wacky game show? Even when they’re eliminated after the first round, Halo isn’t about to lose the girl…

Alyn is stunned when gorgeous, generous Halo whisks her off for a dream vacation to the beach–she’s been let down by friends and even family so many times, she’s lost count. Later, he offers to lend a hand getting her vintage shop up and running. But his constant–and ridiculous–purchases are the last thing she needs. How can she convince the stubborn man that she doesn’t need his help–not when all she wants is his heart…

Series: Barefoot William Beach
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Kensington (July 26, 2016)

Books 1 -3 in the Barefoot William Series:

Up next in my TBR pile:

What’s your Friday read?





#Friday Reads (& a listen): Let it Breathe and my Hamilton Obsession

tawna fenske let it breathe
I’ll admit, part of me just wanted to salivate over this picture taken on a recent lovely summer afternoon. Hurricane Hermine is currently slinging buckets of sideways rain outside. I’d snapped this pic with solid intentions to share my love of the book. I’m slightly belated.

Let it Breathe by Tawna Fenske is a recommended read–hold onto your funny bone and your heart, because it’s a delightfully zany and romantic ride!

The details:
Forbidden fruit can be downright intoxicating.

Vineyard manager Reese Clark is determined to bring her family’s Oregon winery into the big leagues, and she knows building a new tasting room and event pavilion is her ticket there. Having her ex-husband’s best friend—and her secret college crush—turn up to head the construction project, however, doesn’t pair well with her plans. Between her nauseating lovebird parents; her motorcycle-riding, pot-growing grandfather; and her pet alpaca, fond of head-butting groins, Reese has more than enough chaotic characters in her life.

Back in college, Clay Henderson was more likely to be sprawled over a bar than building one. But even if the new clean-living Clay has matured as deliciously as an oak-aged chardonnay, he’s still off-limits. As Reese’s well-laid plans for the winery crumble like bad cork, Clay the newly sober gentleman is sweet enough to rescue Reese from a wardrobe malfunction and still spicy enough to play “I Never” with her. Can he overcome his past rep to offer her a love too heady to ignore?

Let it Breathe by Tawna Fenske
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Released date: March 22, 2016


No audiobooks for me this week, as I am currently obsessed with Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording).

I’d heard it was good, but holey sugar nuts, HOW COME NO ONE TOLD ME HOW GOOD?

Yes, I’m late to the party, but what else is new? When I watched the Tony Awards in June, I knew I had to get my hands on the CD. I haven’t listened to anything else since my copy arrived.

Few videos of the show exist, at least on the legal internet, (trust me, I’ve looked) but below is a recording of the Tony performance of Yorktown.

I’m in love with HAMILTON as a writer, as the story flows with wit and clever turns of phrase. It’s poetry set to music.

I’m in love with HAMILTON because it vibrantly brings history to life for a new generation (and us old folks).

I’m in love with HAMILTION because it proves that rap can be eloquent and erudite, and through with the nimble tongues of the ridiculously talented Broadway cast, every world can be beautify enunciated and understood.

I’m in love with the catchy melodies that I cannot stop singing. (In my head. You do not want to hear me try to rap with a French accent–I’ll leave that to the brilliant Layette.)

I’m in love with HAMILTION because even though the events took place 240-or-so years ago, it feels fresh. Today we’re still dealing with dirty politics; immigrant, women’s, and  minority rights; and the continuous fight for freedom. Our county is still evolving and trying to figure out who it wants to be.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is a bloody genius.


Alas, I searched for tickets in the oft chance we could take a family vacation to NYC next year. Cheapest seats found: $900 bucks a pop. Maybe not.

Oooh, but there’s a touring company! Closest stop: an eight hour drive to Atlanta.

Dear Hamilton Touring Production:

Please, PLEASE bring the show to Florida. We have many bright and shiny new performing arts centers that would love to host your production. We have beaches, theme parks, and outdoor activities galore, and I’m sure your cast and crew would appreciate some down time in the sunshine.

Please, I’m begging you. Give us some culture. We are desperate for entertainment that doesn’t involve sports, race cars, or theme park lines. And if you could keep the ticket prices less than that of a decent used car, I’d appreciate it.


Watch the video above. Then buy or borrow the full Broadway Cast Recording. Sit down with a decent pair of earbuds and two hours of quiet time to just listen. Be amaze-balls.

You’re welcome.




#FridayReads: Results May Vary and The View from the Cheap Seats

bal·ancebalancing act
noun – a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.

As I struggled to describe how challenging it can be to find balance in life between work, family, passions, and sanity, my gaze fell on this lithograph by James Christensen hanging in my front hall. It sums the conundrum up perfectly. (Even the cat is a doppelganger of my own big tomcat reflected in the glare at the bottom of the photo. Wait, no, the beautifully rendered feline would have to be allergic to people and trying to lick himself into becoming a hairless Sphynx. See, messy life.)

To find balance in my life, I chose to drop the ball on blogging.

I must allow myself reading time to maintain my sanity. I have stacks of books I want to recommend, to shout their praises from the virtual rooftops so readers everywhere can enjoy them as much as I have. Though I no longer do formal reviews, I still need to share the love, not only to my patrons at the library, but with my friends out there in Internet Land.

This month I’ve met my writing word count goals (holler!) AND my workout goals, so it’s time to step it up with shaing-the-love goals. Expect to see something bookish, be it here on the blog, or on Facebook or Instagram each Friday.

Because you never know where you’ll discover your next favorite book or author.

Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

From Bethany Chase—whom bestselling author Emily Giffin calls “a great new voice in fiction”—comes a wise and delightfully relatable novel about a woman’s journey to rebuild her life, and her heart, after a stunning betrayal.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

She never saw it coming. Without even a shiver of suspicion to warn her, art curator Caroline Hammond discovers that her husband is having an affair with a man—a revelation that forces her to question their entire history together, from their early days as high school sweethearts through their ten years as a happily married couple. In her now upside-down world, Caroline begins envisioning her life without the relationship that has defined it: the loneliness of being an “I” instead of a “we”; the rekindled yet tenuous closeness with her younger sister; and the unexpected—and potentially disastrous—attraction she can’t get off her mind. Caroline always thought she knew her own love story, but as her husband’s other secrets emerge, she must decide whether that story’s ending will mean forgiving the man she’s loved for half her life, or facing her future without him.

Compassionate and uplifting, Results May Vary is a bittersweet celebration of the heart’s ability to turn unexpected troubles into extraordinary strength.

I devoured this book in two nights. One might imagine a novel about a woman’s betrayal would be a drag, but not in Bethany Chase’s deft hands. The well-crafted story is both charming and sweet. I couldn’t help but root for the multi-faceted characters on their journeys to not just grow up, but grow into themselves. Beautifully written.

Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 9, 2016

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

My husband first introduced me to Neil Gaiman and his Sandman comics not long after we met. (It’s entirely possible he may have every graphic novel, comic, and work of fiction Gaiman’s every produced squirreled away in his library/office. He still reverently hand washes his faded and well-loved Sandman coffee mug several times a week.) While I have read and enjoyed several of Gaiman’s works, I’m generally not a fantasy or graphic novel novel aficionado. There are always exceptions. Neil is shining one.

View from the Cheap Seats is magic, especially if you listen to the audio book narrated by Neil himself, of course. It’s a love letter to the the craft of writing, to artists and creators in a multitude of mediums, and to the pure joy of reading.

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • 1st edition (May 31, 2016)





Pokemon Chapter Books & Manga Kids Will Love

Pokemon chapter books and manga

Pokémon Go is taking the world by storm, a cultural phenomenon that has won the hearts and imaginations of players of all ages. Chances are that if you’re here, you have a Pokémon-loving child in your life that you want to encourage to read. What better way to entice kids read than to give them a book related to the current new craze?

But Pokémon is far from new. Since 1995, fans of all ages have enjoyed the video games, trading card game, and animated series. Pokémon’s appeal comes from the exciting stories and dynamic personalities of Trainer Ash, his friends, loyal Pikachu, and the other Pokémon (short for Pocket Monsters).

The books and Manga listed below have always been popular items at my library, but now, we can’t keep them on the shelves. Countless times each day, excited kids come in begging for Pokémon books.   Excited Kids + Books = Win for All

Check out these recommendations at your library or buy them for your Pokémon fan at your local bookstore, Amazon, or ebay. See for yourself what all the excitement is about!

Pokémon Chapter Books

These chapter books by Tracey West follow Ash as he sets off on his journey to collect all badges and become the World’s Greatest Pokémon Trainer. The series is loosely based on the television cartoon, so fans will find some familiar story lines. Each book is under 100 pages, and the recommended age range is 7–10. (Think equivalent of The Magic Treehouse series, therefore good for any young independent reader.) This series was introduced 15+ years ago, and my library’s copies are battered, worn, and very well loved. You can still find the books new and gently used via Amazon and Ebay.

I Choose You
Island of the Giant Pokemon
Attack of the Prehistoric Pokemon
Night in the Haunted Tower
 Team Rocket Blasts Off!
Charizard, Go
Splashdown in Cerulean City
Return of the Squirtle Squad 
Journey to the Orange Islands
The Secret of the Pink Pokemon
Race to Danger
Talent Showdown
Thundershock in Pummelo Stadium
Go West, Young Ash
Ash Ketchum, Pokemon Detective
Prepare for Trouble
Ash to the Rescue
Tough Enough
Winner Takes All

Pokémon Easy Readers (DK Readers)

Get to know Ash Ketchum, his Pokemon, and his friends in this DK READERS series, part of a multilevel reading program aimed at capturing children’s interest while developing their reading skills and general knowledge. Lively illustrations combine with engaging age appropriate stories. According to DK, Level 2 is ages 6–8, Level 3 ages 7–10, but many younger readers would be encouraged to read by these easy, under 50-page books.

Meet the Pokemon (DK Reader – Level 2)
Meet Ash (Pokemon (DK Reader Level 2)
Pokemon: Meet Ash’s Pikachu! (DK Reader Level 2)
& many more


Pokémon Manga

MANGA is a popular style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels that reads right to left. It sounds weird, but most readers have no problem adapting. Though geared towards children, it has garnered legions of tween, teen, and adult fans worldwide.

Pokémon X•Y by Hidenori Kusaka

This is the most recent Pokémon Manga series (2014 – current). The awesome adventures are inspired by the best-selling Pokémon X and Y video games. All the favorite Pokémon game characters jump out of the screen into the pages of this action-packed manga!

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Paperback: 96 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 1
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 2
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 3
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 4
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 5
Pokémon X•Y, Vol. 6
Pokémon X•Y Vol. 7 


Pokémon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka

This MANGA series follows the adventures of Red as he tries to defeat all eight Kanto Gyms and the Elite Four. It sticks more to the video game story lines instead of the TV series (which is why the main character’s name is Red and not Ash). Many enthusiasts consider this their favorite Manga series, but please note that it’s slightly more violent, as some Pokemon actually die instead of just fainting.

Available individual editions or 7-volume boxed set.

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 208 pages each
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)


Pokémon Black and White by Hidenori Kusaka 

Meet Pokémon Trainers Black and White!

This Manga series, started in 2011, is very popular with kids at my library. His entire life, Black has dreamed of winning the Pokémon League! Now he embarks on a journey to explore the Unova region and fill a Pokédex for Professor Juniper. White has an exciting career as the Trainer of a talented troupe of performing Pokémon. She dreams of making her Tepig Gigi a star! Together, Black and White continue on their journey… What surprising new Pokémon—and people—will they meet next?!

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 80 pages
Reads R to L (Japanese Style)

Available individually or in boxed sets:
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 1: Includes Volumes 1-8
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 2: Includes Volumes 9-14
Pokemon Black and White Box Set 3: Includes Volumes 15-20


Just for fun

Pokemon Go: Ultimate Pokemon Go Secrets

This beginner’s guide to Pokemon Go goes over the essentials of the wildly popular game. Know why Razz Berries are important? How about Stardust? This guide features tutorials with pictures that explain everything from how to set up your Pokemon Go account to fighting gym battles and farming XP.

All ages.


Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon!

Turn your favorite Pokémon into folded art with the easy origami projects in Pokémon Origami: Fold Your Own Pokémon! 80 full color pages featuring 48 pages of instructions and all the special sheets of origami paper needed to complete 10 Pokémon!



How to Draw Pokemon

Have an aspiring artist or Manga illustrator? Encourage them to grab a pencil. Pick up some paper. And get ready to draw the coolest, most action-packed Pokemon art ever. Catch step-by-step secret tips on drawing your favorite Pokemon, like Pikachu, Togepi, Chikorita, Meowth, Pichu, Houndour, Lugia, Cyndaquil, and more!


Pokémon Visual Companion

This is truly a must-have reference for every Pokémon fan, and is the ultimate reference to key characters, famous battles, and important places. Every region has been revised and updated, including new events, people, and Pokémon from Unova. You also meet Ash, trace his journey, and get to know his Pokémon, friends, and travel companions, as well as villains and rivals throughout the Pokémon world. This is the ultimate guide to the Pokémon animated series, guaranteed to delight any Pokémon fan!




Pokemon chapter books and manga kids will love!  These books are perfect for ages 6-8, 9-12, and even tweens and teens love Manga.










The Black Widow – When is fiction is too real to be entertainment?

At 12:56 a.m. a massive boom rocked my house, setting off every dog and car alarm in the neighborhood. After a few eternal moments, I remembered that a Space X rocket landing had been scheduled for the wee hours. Eventually, my pulse slowed.

It’s no wonder that window-shaking booms stop my heart. Eighty-five dead in Nice. Five officers gunned down in Dallas, another three in Baton Rouge. At least five injured in a knife and ax attack in Germany. In Turkey, 294 killed in a failed coup. A terrorist attack in Orlando: 49 killed, 53 injured, the horror that blooding the streets just a few miles away from my home. We’re talking just the last few weeks. Brussels. Paris. Who knows how many lives lost in the Middle East.

Every bang, pop, and crack make me jump. My nerves need a break. I hide from reality in books.

Maybe not this time…

Two minutes before the sonic boom, I’d ripped through the ending of THE BLACK WIDOW, the latest installment of Daniel Silva’s international thriller series featuring Israeli Master Spy Gabriel Allon. It’s a novel that pulls no punches regarding the brutality and ruthlessness of Islamic terrorists. It’s book about death and those who want to cause as much of it as possible. And in light of the world today, it didn’t read like fiction. It it felt all too real.

Now, THE BLACK WIDOW is an excellent novel. I’d give it a solid 4.5 stars, and only that low because it wasn’t my absolute favorite installment in the consistently strong Gabriel Allon series.

But honestly, this book kind of rocked me to the core.

I should have expected what was to come when I read the trigger warning. I raced to finish The Black Widow long past my bedtime, needing something more than the answers to who would live and who would die. (Answer: far too many people would die, far too close to home.) I needed to  escape from my escapism. I wasn’t reading for pure enjoyment. The story and descriptions zoomed over the line between fictional constructs of an author’s imagination and the evil and ugliness that is exploding across the globe now. I needed closure.

Heads strewn on balconies. Crucifixions. Beheadings. Limbs tangled in tree branches raining blood. Viscera on walls. Calculating scrounges of humanity systematically shooting the wounded and dying.

We desperately block these images from our imaginations. But many once ordinary people in places as civilized as Paris – as Orlando – will forever be haunted by such gruesome memories seared upon their souls.

Is art reflecting reality, or is reality reflecting art?

I need a break. Next up: a romance novel that guarantees a few hours of blissful escapism and a happy ending. I don’t think we’re going to find one in reality any time soon.

florida poisonous spiders, brown widow, brown widow florida, brown widow eggs

Did I mention I found  this BROWN WIDOW and her seven egg sacs on my porch Friday night?


 #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva delivers another spellbinding international thriller—one that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind.

Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin described as the most compelling fictional creation “since Ian Fleming put down his martini and invented James Bond” (Rocky Mountain News), is poised to become the chief of Israel’s secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again.

Acclaimed novelist Daniel Silva has thrilled, entertained and educated readers with eighteen thoughtful and gripping spy novels featuring a diverse cast of compelling characters and ingenious plots that have taken them around the globe and back—from the United States to Europe, Russia to the Middle East. From its shocking opening to its explosive denouement in Washington, D.C., The Black Widow reveals itself as Silva’s most timely and powerful novel yet. Following the success of his smash hit The English Spy, this electrifying thriller showcases Silva’s consummate skill and brilliant imagination, and is sure to be a must read for his multitude of current and future fans.










Chuck Wendig in the flesh

Yeah, I’ve have been slacking with the blog lately. Too much going on with life, the family, the day job… Then there’s the recent horrible events here in Orlando which I still don’t have the strength to write about. In fact, I haven’t written much at all over the last month. Mea culpa.

I DID have a chance to meet sci-fi and urban fantasy author extraordinaire Chuck Wendig at the Orlando Book Festival at the Orlando Public Library. Chuck is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more.

But, many of us in the writing community know him best as our beloved foul-mouthed writing guru and author of the blog Terrible Minds. Seriously, he’s like our Yoda. Only taller. And I’m guessing minus the secret bad ass lightsaber skills. (Although he does write Star Wars books, so he may whip out some sabers as he plots in his writing shed.) His no-nonsense posts inspire legions of Penmonkies, driving us to sit our butts in the chair, keep on writing, and not stab our eyeballs out. And laugh. The man is funny.

And he is just as affable in person. Seriously.

The Kick Ass Writer

Writer that I am (ahem), I had him sign The Kick Ass Writer. My hubby had him sign a couple of his favorite novels, then bought a stack more for Chuck to inscribe.

Chuck began his keynote speech by saying he’d considered starting with a moment of silence, but then he realized that writers and artists are not at their best when silent. Six days before, 49 people had been killed and 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub, a few blocks away.  (If you haven’t read his Recipe for a Shooting. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Some of the nuggets of wisdom he doled out to the audience of eager Padawans writers and readers:

  • Telling your parents you want to be a writer is like telling them you want to be a unicorn farmer.
  • In the game of writing, no one knows what their doing. (You’re not alone!)
  • Writing is a game of perseverance. It can be like putting a bucket on your head and head-butting a wall. Either you or the wall will fall down eventually.
  • Care less. Your writing and your life will improve. (And you’ll be less likely to start head-butting walls like a drunken billy goat.)
  • The man can write 30k words in a weekend. That is NOT a typo. THIRTY THOUSAND WORDS IN A WEEKEND. Forget man–he’s a myth. No, a legend.
  • And while we’re on the subject of writing faster than the speed of light, he wrote his first Star Wars book, Aftermath, in ONE MONTH. This was not planned. The publisher kept moving the release day up. The book hit the shelves exactly one year to the day after he tweeted about how he’d like to work on a Star Wars book. Note: this in NOT how anyone else will every procure a publishing deal. Like ever.
  • His measly little blog Terrible Minds get about 10k hits per day. Guess a few folks want to read his rants about writing. And food. And his kid. And don’t mind his creative use of naughty language.

 Chuck 2

Don’t bash the hair. The humidity hovered around 300% in downtown O-town that day. Between sessions, I’d made the pilgrimage to the makeshift memorial filling the grassy lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts just blocks away.

I had to see it with my own eyes. I had to honor those we’d lost. I had to let my heart bleed.

You see, even as I watched the coverage on TV, it didn’t feel real. The 24-hour news feed running “Orlando Massacre” and “America’s Deadliest Mass Shooting” played like a reality show. How could this happen here? We’re the land of fucking Mickey Mouse, fairy dust, and overpriced Harry Potter wands. Not mass shootings. Until now.

I’m going to get off this tangent. I don’t want to write about it. The wounds are too fresh.Pulse shooting, Orlando Massacre, Pulse Memorial, Dr Phillip's Center

Now back to good stuff.

My husband joined me for the Chuck meet & greet keynote speech. He has a thing for signed books (and comics, and photos…you get the drift). He brought along a handful of books, then had to buy a few more because the temptation was just. too. great.

Back at home, our 12-year-old eyeballed the hubby’s loot, and thought Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy Book 1) looked like a good read. Kiddo is pretty bright and an avid reader. But ready for his first “adult” book? And that book be one of Chuck’s? (As I mentioned, the man is infamous for his potty mouth.)

Then I realized that age 12 I was about to start on my Stephen King kick. That shut me up.

Kiddo ended up reading Chuck’s Star Wars: Aftermath first.

Read whatever you want, my child. If books are the most corrupting element in your tween life, we’re doing okay.












Shocked Mom Wins the Internet #it’saboy

surprise it's a boy
Never trust an ultrasound.

This shocked mama just discovered that the baby everyone had said was a girl was, in fact, a boy. Surprise!

Australian mum Koto Nakamura had been told she was expecting a girl. According to Today Parents, they’ll have bundles of pink gifts and supplies to return since their little guy proved to be sneaky during the ultrasounds.

Nakamura’s priceless reaction to the news was even captured on camera by her birth photographer Jessica Jackson.

I’m pretty sure I made the same expression after my ultrasound.Then I went to the parking lot and sobbed. I, however, had several months to adapt to the concept of raising a boy, not seconds.

Don’t worry, according to Today Parents, all is well, and the couple is delighted with their new baby boy.


See the full story on Today Parents.