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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

Save

Save

Save

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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.

#bestbirthpicever

See the full story on Today Parents.

Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell

 

But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.

And…

pro rwa

 

I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.

 

10 Things I Learned During an Evening with Bill Bryson

1. I can make Bill Bryson laugh!

Bill Bryson Rollins College book signing

No, that doesn’t count. To be honest, I simply cannot recall what witty quip I must have whipped out to cause the celebrated travel, science, and historical writer to chuckle, but I have the picture to prove I said something good.

During Notes from All Over: An Evening with Bill Bryson, the writer entertained the crowds with his renowned brand of cerebral yet homespun humor. Before a packed house at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, Bryson spun tales about his life between readings from some of his well known works, sparking alternating bouts of laughter and applause. I’ve binged on his audiobooks recently, so listening to him read passages from A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country, and his new release The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain truly brought the books to life. The evening proved that America and Britain’s bastion of curmudgeonly wanderlust is just as charming, hilarious, and endearing off the page as he is on.

Some highlights:

1. On how to avoid a bear attack: wear bells so the bears know you’re coming. And keep your eyes open for bear scat on the ground. It’s easy to spot — it has bells in it.

2. When a British bookstore author questionnaire asked what he would like people to say about him 100 years from now: “Well, at least he was still sexually active.”

3. He’s never thought of writing fiction.

4. Reviewers of his new book,The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, have written that he’s far grumpier than he use to be. He used this as a segway into reading a passage from the book, a cautionary tale regarding the horrors of ordering for a large family at McDonald’s with grossly incompetent staff.

5. He profoundly curious and always does his own research. Writing is a difficult art, but through research, one gets to enjoy the joy of discovery. You never know what you’ll find.

6. On embellishment in his writing: it depends on which of the two types of books he’s writing. Ernest books of information have no embellishment. They’re meant to be reliable sources of information. However, when writing of his personal adventures, he freely expands and uses hyperbole or it wouldn’t be funny. He suspects his readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference.

7. He had nothing to do with making the movie version of A Walk in the Woods, having sold the rights to Robert Redford over a decade ago. The movie was supposed to reunite Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the first time since The Sting, but Paul got sick, and the movie was put on the back burner. When Redford decided to go forward with the production, Bryson wasn’t involved with the script writing. Bryson watched the movie for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival. He sat between his wife and Redford, and found it insane because there was Redford on the screen answering to his name.

8. Bryson thought the film somewhat accurately reflected his book until one particularly awkward scene. “Bryson” on film began flirting with a hotel-keeper (portrayed by Mary Steenburgen) and there’s obvious chemistry. He felt the strong need to lean over to his wife and swear this scene was not in the book and it never happened.

9. He sent his friend Katz (not his real name) the manuscript for A Walk in the Woods because he felt a bit bad that he’d portrayed him as such a buffoon (even though he was a total buffoon). Katz read the manuscript and said it was funny, but all fiction. Bryson walked him through each scene, and Katz fessed up to each antidote. Then how was it fiction? According to his Appalachian Trail companion, the stories were all true, but it was just fiction in the way Bryson told them.

10. Bryson’s greatest regret in life is not completing the (somewhere around) 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike. He never hiked or even saw Mount Katahdin, regarded to be the most difficult climb in the entirety of the A.T. Someday. Maybe.

Bonus: When asked what inspires him to write: bills.

Bill Bryson signed copy a short history of everything

My son’s first signed book!

And that, my friends, is the witty and wonderful Bill Bryson. If you haven’t read his books, you absolutely must. I highly recommend the audiobooks.

Some of my favorites:

And next in my queue:

#Friday Reads — A Bollywood Affair, Frisky Business, and Tiny Beautiful Things

What a wonderful week for reading, full of laughter, love, and maybe, just maybe, a few tears. These three selections are highly recommended.

 

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.

Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.

Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity.

 

 
Frisky Business by Tawna Fenske

No more rich men for Marley Cartman. Absolutely not. Thanks to her dad, her ex-fiancé, and the overbearing donors she schmoozes for a living, she’s had more than her fill. From now on, she wants blue-collar men with dirt under their fingernails. But when Marley makes a break to handle donor relations for a wildlife sanctuary, she finds herself drawn to the annoyingly charming—and disturbingly wealthy—chairman of the board.

The kind of man she doesn’t want

Judging by his hipster T-shirts, motley assortment of canine companions, and penchant for shaking up stuffy board meetings, you’d never guess that William Barclay the Fifth is a brilliantly successful businessman. Will has good reason to be leery of scheming women, and as he and Marley butt heads over the wisdom of bringing grumpy badgers to charity events, he can’t help but wonder if his new donor relations coordinator is hiding something other than a perfect figure beneath that designer suit…

 

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills. And it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar-the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir Wild-is the person thousands turn to for advice. Tiny Beautiful Things gathers the best of “Dear Sugar” in one place and includes never-before-published columns. Rich with humor, insight, compassion-and absolute honesty-this book is a balm for everything life throws our way.

The audiobook is riviting, rich, and bursting with heartbreak and beauty.

Minecraft Snowflakes!

Minecraft + Christmas. An odd combination, right? With so many Minecraft programs at my library, I’ve been trying to come up with a little something different for each one. Since my next one is the Saturday before Christmas, I needed something…festive.

How about some Minecraft snowflakes?

Have yourself a creeperish little Christmas just doesn’t sound quite right, but it works for kids.

If you do an internet search, Star Wars snowflakes abound. But Minecraft? I found one. And it was challenging for me to cut it out, so leading 50+ five to twelve-year-olds through the tricky cuts wouldn’t be feasible.

So I designed my own.

Minecraft Snowflakes

I think they turned out pretty cool!

If you’d like to make these, the pdf templates are below:

Easy Minecraft Snowflake

Minecraft Snowflake

Tips:

-You don’t have to cut it all out in one continuous cut. You’ll get much cleaner outlines if you cut straight lines, bit by bit.

-The mouth is right along the fold, so it’s pretty easy (especially when you heed above advice). The eye is attached to the nose/mouth, so make a straight cut from the nose to get into that square eye.

Have fun, impress you kids/students/patrons with your knowledge of Minecraft, and get your craft on!

 

5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and Devid LevithanWriters are my rock stars. I am not afraid to admit I am an unabashed Rainbow Rowel fangirl. And when the Orange County Public Library hosted An Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan, over four hundred writer-groupies drove from across the state to get up close and personal with two of the hottest names in YA fiction.

Rainbow is on tour for her latest release, Carry On, a Potter-eque/Twilight mashup story that delves into the fanfic world Cath created in the novel Fangirl. (Read both. Love both. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READS.)  David is promoting Another Day, a retelling of his previous bestseller Every Day told from Rhainnon’s point of view. Both novels are considered “companion” stories opposed to sequels, made to stand alone (though I recommend reading Fangirl before Carry On).

The dynamic duo entertained the crowd of booksworms with an hour of engaging conversation and readings from their new releases, followed an hour of Q&A.

rainbow rowell and david levithan at Orange County Public Library

Then came the book signings. Previously, the longest line I’d ever seen for a book singing had been for Queen of Romance Nora Roberts at the RWA Literacy Signing. This one beat it by a mile, but Rainbow and David stayed as long as it took to sign every books. (One public school librarian hauled a bag filled with every book by Rainbow and David in her school’s collection to autograph!)

rainbow rowell book signingThis fuzzy pic shows the people ahead of me when I finally made it to the line. There were just as many people behind me. And they’d been signing for at least 45 minutes.

 

 5 Things I Learned During an Evening with Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan

1. Rainbow’s voice in real life is as funny, quirky,  and accessible as her voice is in her books. Seriously. I wanted to beg her to move next door so we could sip wine after a day of writing and I could stealthily siphon some of her literary juju. Rainbow and David bantered like best friends hanging out, who just happened to have an audience of hundreds hanging on their every word. Oh, and neither mind swearing.

2. Fangirl was a NANO book. Rainbow wrote the first chunk of that favorite during November’s National Novel Writing Month. She still uses daily word counts to get her shit done. She and David disagreed on this one. He’s all quality, not quantity.

3. Rainbow is a semi-plotter. She starts with a basic 1 1/2 page outline, whereas David is a total panster, letting the characters lead him where they want to go.

4. Eleanor & Park was not intended to be a YA novel, but her publisher marketed it that way in the U.S. When writing her first novel, Rainbow wanted to explore a first love story set in a place she held deep in her memory. As she commented during the program, no one else knew Omaha in the mid-eighties like she did: the neighborhoods, the hangouts, the music. She wanted to capture that unique place and time before she forgot. In a high school that was either black or white, she’d always wondered what it would be like to be one of the four Asian kids in her school. She’d looked back to that one cool Asian kid on her bus, and tried to imagine his life.

5. Rainbow, admittedly, writes better than she reads aloud. (Don’t we all?) The pair funked things up by switching gender rolls when reading from David’s Another Day. Rainbow read as Soul A (a boy), while David read as Rhiannon. This gender-bending was deliberate, not just for laughs. Both authors write gay characters indiscriminately, reflecting a fresh perspective for teens and adults alike. The laughs came when they read from Rainbow’s Carry On. David read chosen-boy Simon’s role and Rainbow voiced brooding possible-vampire Gaz. Sound effects and flubbed lines ensued. The selected passage contained an actual sword.Yet when read aloud, both authors and audience picked up on some “swordplay” of another variety as the characters attempted to outsmart each other with witty remarks and counter-moves, while fighting their growing romantic feelings for each other. Everyone laughed, and Rainbow swore that Simon’s sheathing and unsheathing of his blade had not been written with ulterior motives.

Rainbow rowell

.

david levithan
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
#1 New York Times best seller!

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here–it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Another Day by David Levithan

The eagerly anticipated companion to David Levithan’s New York Times bestseller Every Day

In this enthralling companion to his New York Times bestseller Every Day, David Levithan (co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green) tells Rhiannon’s side of the story as she seeks to discover the truth about love and how it can change you.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has accepted her life, convinced herself that she deserves her distant, temperamental boyfriend, Justin, even established guidelines by which to live: Don’t be too needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Until the morning everything changes. Justin seems to see her, to want to be with her for the first time, and they share a perfect day—a perfect day Justin doesn’t remember the next morning. Confused, depressed, and desperate for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts questioning everything. Then, one day, a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that day with, the one who made her feel like a real person . . . wasn’t Justin at all

 

Thanks to the Orange County Public Library for a delightful evening!

She Reads Books of Fall

she reads newThough the calendar page announced fall’s entrance well over a month ago, the upper-eighties temperatures here in the Sunshine State have left me thinking it’s still summer. But now that holiday decorations have started taunting me from every store, I’ll accede to the truth: fall has arrived. In all of its blazing hot glory. (Seriously, I’ll need beach towels, on Thanksgiving Day!)

That means it’s time for the She Reads Books of Fall. Drop by She Reads for posts from all of the Books of Fall authors to get a glimpse into their writing processes and their writing spaces and discover how these diverse stories came to life. And, as always, gain access to the dozens of reviews from other She Reads book bloggers. You can find your new favorite Fall read!

And now, with out further ado, the Books of Fall:


The Admissions by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Hawthorne family has it all. Supposedly. Great jobs, a fancy house, and three charming kids with perfectly straight teeth.

Only their lives take place inside a pressure cooker. (From an appropriately upscale store like Williams-Sonoma or such.) And untended pressure cookers have been known to explode.

It’s firstborn Angela’s senior year of high school. Her valedictorian status is under attack, her legs have started turning to led during track meets, and her extracurriculars and hours of AP class homework have left the perfect girl needing an extra edge to stay ahead. She’s set her sights on Harvard, her father’s alma mater, but her early admissions application is not going to write itself.

Angela’s mother, Nora, is similarly stretched to the limit, juggling parent-teacher meetings, carpool, and a real-estate career where she caters to the mega rich and super-picky buyers and sellers of the Bay Area. The youngest daughter, Maya, still can’t read at the age of eight; the middle-child, Cecily, is no longer the happy-go-lucky kid she once was; and the dad, Gabe, seems oblivious to the mounting pressures at home because a devastating secret of his own might be exposed. A few rash choices crank up the heat on their pressure cooker lives, and the resulting mess is both achingly real and delightfully entertaining.

I zipped through this this almost satirical cautionary tale, both cringing and cheering as the Hawthorne family struggled with the thoroughly modern vices of over-scheduling, over-working, and under-appreciating each other while striving to achieve the perfect life. Recommended read.

 


The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Most of us have a ghost from our past who still haunts us: a bully, a back-stabbing best friend, or some person who forever altered your place in the world. Perhaps you’ve dreamed of some ultimate confrontation when you finally stand up for yourself and made that person pay (I know I have!). So when meek mom Caroline Jacobs decides to take her childhood demon on—cashmere twin set and all—readers can’t help but root for her on her quirky and heartfelt comeback tour.

Caroline is a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams (the F-bomb, no less!) at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline’s life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks’ signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way. Short but sweet recommended read.

 

::hanging head::  I haven’t squeezed in the last two She Reads Books of Fall, but they are on my TBR list. They’ve earned five-star reviews and accolades from many writers and reviewers I respect, so they are certainly worth a mention.  Both have elements of mystery and suspense, and both look like books to add to your TBR list.

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn

London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.


The Last September by Nina de Gramont

Brett has been in love with Charlie ever since he took her skiing on a lovely Colorado night fourteen years ago. And now, living in a seaside cottage on Cape Cod with their young daughter, it looks as if they have settled into the life they desired. However, Brett and Charlie’s marriage has been tenuous for quite some time. When Charlie’s unstable younger brother plans to move in with them, the tension simmering under the surface of their marriage boils over.

But what happened to Charlie next was unfathomable. Charlie was the golden boy so charismatic that he charmed everyone who crossed his path; who never shied away from a challenge; who saw life as one big adventure; who could always rescue his troubled brother, no matter how unpredictable the situation.

So who is to blame for the tragic turn of events? And why does Brett feel responsible?

 

Have any favorite fall reads yet?