A gripping, unsettling, thriller…The Whisper Man by Alex North will have you looking over your shoulder!

41940236.jpg

My Review:

The Silence of the Lambs meets The Shining in this gripping, unsettling thriller that is sure to creep you out!

If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken.

Tom Kennedy and his young son, Jake move to Featherbank, a small, charming village for a fresh start, but their new location is not as warm and welcoming as they had hoped.  Years ago there had been multiple child abductions and murders in town, and now another boy has disappeared.  Amidst the fear and suspicions, Jake is talking to himself, Tom has a strange visitor at their new house, and unusual voices are being heard.  The boy and his father are struggling to connect with each other after a terrible loss in their family, and at the same time they are battling unseen demons and losing their grip on reality.

This is a fast paced, hair-raising, psychological thriller that also deals with loss, grief and father-son relationships.  If you love to get spooked, check out The Whisper Man, available August 20th.

Q & A with Author Alex North

Q: What was the initial idea that became The Whisper Man? 

A: I wanted to write about fathers and sons. Very specifically, I wanted to write about a widowed father struggling to connect with his grieving son. But I knew that I wanted it to be a crime novel with spooky elements, and I’ve long been a fan of the forums and threads you find online where people list creepy things little kids have come out with. Like saying “that’s where I used to live” when the family is driving past a graveyard, or talking about the man with the long neck in the closet and then the parents discover someone hung themselves in the house years earlier. 

When we moved into our new house, there was a day when my son, who was about four at the time, talked about playing with “the boy in the floor.” That stuck with me, and I eventually decided that Jake in the book would have imaginary friends and some of them would be quite frightening. The story developed from there. 

Q: Describe the writing process— how long did it take you, and what was your writing routine like as you worked on the book? 

A: The book probably took about a year to write, although I’d been thinking about it and planning it a little before then. My routine was – and is – pretty standard. In terms of time, I take my son to school, then head to the gym for an hour. Depending on the weather, I sit in a park and read for another hour or so, then head to a bar or a café and write until it’s time to pick my son up again. In the beginning, I was writing cautiously, a few hundred words a day, but it certainly accelerated as I went along. Towards the end, I was writing and rewriting tens of thousands of words a day and not sleeping all that much. But that suits me fine. I was always the kind of kid that did all his revisions the night before the exam. 

Q: The story offers a very honest portrait of how difficult it can sometimes be for a father to connect with his son. What was it like to write about such a sensitive subject, and how much did you draw from your experience as a father or from people you know? 

A: I don’t think you can help but draw from your own experience. Even if you’re using your imagination, you’re still going to be influenced by everything you’ve seen and read and done. The book’s entirely fictional, in that nothing in it really happened – or at least not the way it does in the story – but it’s inevitable that real life creeps in a little, because I wanted the book to feel honest. 

I’m not sure how sensitive that particular subject is. You have two characters who love each other and want to connect but aren’t sure how, and I think that to some degree that’s probably the norm rather than being unusual. Especially when it comes to children and parents. As a parent, you are suddenly handed this incredible responsibility. There’s a sense that your child is an extension of you, and that it’s your job to guide them based on your own knowledge and experience. But of course, as they grow older, they become much more of a person in their own right, and you have to hold yourself back more and more. They’re not you. In the book, Tom has to fight against his best intentions for Jake and, as he puts it, “just let him be him.” I think that’s pretty key, but also easier said than done sometimes. 

Q: Jake accidentally reads something his father is writing and is disturbed by it. Have you ever been in this situation in real life? Is it something you think about, as a novelist and as a father? 

A: No, I’m incredibly protective of my writing until it’s done. I write in public places,
but I always want my back to a wall, as I don’t want someone looking over my shoulder and reading part of some terrible first draft. It’s important for me to keep it to myself until it’s as good as possible. So, my son is never going to see anything I’ve been writing on a screen; I’m way too careful for that. 

He’s a voracious reader, though, so maybe he’ll read one of my books when he’s older. That’s a bridge I’ll have to cross when I come to it. He’s only eight right now, so it’s a few years until I need to worry about it! 

Q: Rights have now sold in over 23 territories and counting, and film rights have been optioned by the directors behind “Avengers: Infinity War.” What has it been like to see this reaction to The Whisper Man? 

A: It’s been amazing. As I was writing the book, I just wanted to finish it – to get it done – and I had no real expectations about rights or film adaptations. I think if you imagine that kind of thing while you’re writing, you’re setting yourself up for massive disappointment down the line. Better to have much lower expectations and end up being surprised! And I’ve been not just surprised, but slightly humbled. For various reasons, it’s a personal book for me, and I’m enormously pleased that people have connected with it the way they have. 

Q: Are you at work on another book? 

A: I’m writing something at the moment, but I’m superstitious about talking about work in progress. For one thing, a part of me feels that if you talk about a story too much, you rob yourself of the need to write it down; and for another, it will probably change completely by the time I’m done with it. At the moment, it’s another spooky psychological thriller, this time about a violent murder and an impossible disappearance from years earlier. But I’ll have to finish writing it to find out for sure. 

Q &A courtesy of DAVID ADAMS/Celadon Books

The Whisper Man will be available August 20, 2019.  If you enjoy psychological thrillers, check out some great ones by Clare Machintosh!

About the Author:

Alex North was born in Leeds, England, where he now lives with his wife and son. The Whisper Man was inspired by North’s own little boy, who mentioned one day that he was playing with “the boy in the floor.” Alex North is a British crime writer who has previously published under another name.

Advertisements

Secrets and Suspense Abound In Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Goodrich Royce

43015889._SY475_.jpg

My Review:

Twists and turns kept me glued to the pages of Finding Mrs. Ford, this fun and mysterious debut from Deborah Goodrich Royce, the actress who played Silver Kane, sister to Erica Kane in All My Children.

Summertime, late 1970s, Detroit…Susan and Annie meet at their mundane jobs at a clothing store and become fast friends.   The girls are saving up for college and Annie, the spitfire, decides they both will quit and go to work at a disco to make more money, so Susan goes along with it.  Dangerous and powerful men run the disco and Annie gets caught up with one of the bosses and becomes involved in drugs, while Susan continually tries to keep away from trouble and controversy.  Feeling disappointed in how the girls’ friendship has dissipated, Susan becomes distracted by her thoughts about a handsome and mysterious Chaldean man she meets at the disco.  And then a tragic accident changes everything.

Now it is present day in Watch Hill Rhode Island, and Susan is the widow of  wealthy, respectable Jack, and she and her stepson, Jack Jr are partners in the family business. Then Susan’s past begins to haunt her when the FBI knocks on her door….

Secrets and suspense abound in Finding Mrs. Ford, a true page turner!  Lies from the past are uncovered in this thrilling and entertaining debut – incredibly well written and so visual at times it will catch your breath; this book would make a wonderful movie!

 

Q & A With Author Deborah Goodrich Royce

Q:  Finding Mrs Ford has many wonderful characters who seem to experiment with different identities.  How did you come up with this idea of personal reinvention and what was the writing process for character development?

A:  That is an excellent question and you have hit the nail on the head with it! One of the most important themes of this book is, in fact, identity. Who are we really and are we the same person throughout the entirety of our lives? Can we change? Can we reinvent ourselves to adapt to different social situations. One of the earliest titles of the books had to do with the concept of “slumming”—going into social situations that are perceived to be beneath us, and “social climbing”—entering social situations that are seemingly above us. Mrs. Ford is a woman who has traveled a great distance geographically—yes—but even more so in other ways.

Q:  I enjoyed Susan’s attraction to Sammy and their budding romance.  What is the significance of Sammy’s Chaldean ethnicity?

I have always been intrigued by the Chalean people and their place in both the Middle East and in Detroit. I met several Chaldeans when I was around the age of Susan and Annie in 1979. At that point, like Susan, I was not familiar with them. Simultaneously, I was taking a course on Middle Eastern history in college. When I asked my professor about the Chaldeans, she was surprised that I had heard of them. I had to explain to her that they were quite present in Detroit. So, that definitely played into how Sammy came to be a Chaldean.

On top of that, at the moment I began writing the book, ISIS was all over the news. They were taking over Mosul and gruesomely killing Chaldeans, Yazidis, and many other locals. The dovetailing of my natural interest in this group of people with their emergence on the world scene in such a horrible way made for an interesting back story for the character of Sammy Fakhouri.

Q:  Did you ever have a friend like Annie who pushed you out of your comfort zone to try something new – and how did it work out?

A:  Another great question. The short answer is yes. But I would modify it to say that Annie is based on several women I have known over the years. I have a natural reserve, so I am fascinated by people, like Annie, who suck so much air out of the room. I was also much more impressionable when I was young. I had the tendency to second guess my own instincts and to defer to what others wanted. If you have ever read the book, The Lovely Bones, in which a teenage girl completely ignores her gut feeling and ends up following a man into a fatal setting, well, that book stunned me to my core. I could have been that girl! And I suspect that many girls are like that. I was a good girl (like so many young women)—a pleaser—who often did not listen to the small internal voice that knew what to do. And NOT do. Fortunately for me, the consequences were never as extreme as they were for Susan or for the character in The Lovely Bones.

Q:  Finding Mrs Ford takes place in 1970s Detroit and 2014 Rhode Island. Did you write the book in the order it is presented to the reader or did you write chronologically?

A:  I wrote the book in the order that it is read, which goes back and forth between the two time periods. However, I outlined it chronologically before I wrote it. And then I went back and ripped it apart and outlined it again—just to make sure that there were no mistakes!

Q:  Did you know how the book was going to end when you began?

A:  Before I started writing, I knew what I thought would be the ending, but now turns out to be the middle of the book. I see the structure of Finding Mrs. Ford as being similar to a roller coaster ride. There is that jolt at the beginning, when the car is let loose on the tracks. Then there is the steady chugging upwards to get to the very top. And then the car careens down the other side. That exact moment was originally meant to be the end of the book. But, I ended up giving the rider one more round of it. As I see it now, that first version would have been too short a ride on the roller coaster!

Q:  Often when I was reading, (ex. the scene that took place in the back room of the disco, the scene when the girls were frantically driving away)  I felt like I was watching on the big screen!  How has your career influence this story?

A: I am completely in thrall to and heavily influenced by film. In fact, In fact, I had to do some revisions to make the book LESS cinematic. I had to be careful to not let the reader peek around any corners that the heroine could not peek around. I used a technique of Hitchcock a couple times—specifically in those back room scenes—in which you, the reader, are fully aware that something bad might be about to happen, but something ELSE pulls your attention momentarily. It heightens the jolt when the big thing hits you. For example, when Susan first goes into the store room, the lights are oddly off, which is unsettling. But then she bumps her toe on something. Her—and your—attention is pulled to that object, which turns out to only be a box of ketchup. You start to breathe again, and it is just then that the big thing happens.

Q:  Can you tell us about your theater restoration projects?

A:  My husband, Chuck, and I restored the Avon Theatre—a gorgeous 1939 cinema in Stamford, Connecticut. We run it as a not-for-profit independent cinema where we show first run films and curate lots of series. We have a French film series in conjunction with the Alliance Française of Greenwich, an Indian Film series, and both a cult classics and a documentary series. The one I am most proud of is our newest series called The Black Lens. In it, we take a look at the African American story as seen through the prism of film. What does it mean to be of African descent in our country and how is that story told in movies? We show documentaries and feature films and our moderator, Harriette Cole, interviews the filmmakers. In October we are going to show the new documentary on Toni Morrison.

Additionally, Chuck is hard at work raising the final money to restore the United Theatre in Westerly, Rhode Island (while I am off on my book tour!). The United will be a multi-purpose cultural center that features live theatre, music, art and cinema. What I can tell you about the Avon and the soon-to-be-restored United, is that a theatre is an economic engine for a Main Street setting. People stroll at night, they patronize the restaurants, they engage socially and culturally with others. It is pretty wonderful.

Q:  What have you read lately that you recommend?

A:  I loved The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar and had a more complicated relationship with The Snakes by Sadie Jones.

Q:  I know you lived in Paris for a time. Will you ever have France as a setting in a future book? What are you working on now?

A:  Ooohh…France would be an excellent setting for one of my stories. But Ruby Falls, the book I am working on now, starts in a pitch black cave near Chattanooga, Tennessee, quickly jumps to the Catacombs in Rome, and then plays out for the rest of the book in the Hollywood Hills. That book is more gothic. Think The Woman in White meets Rebecca.

 

If you enjoyed The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine and Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert, you will enjoy the face paced, gripping, thrilling and suspenseful Finding Mrs. Ford.

The Wife Between Us and An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are also addictive psychological thrillers to throw in your beach bag!

Goodread Summary

18660958.jpg

About the Author:

Deborah Goodrich Royce graduated Summa Cum Laude from Lake Erie College in 1980 with a BA in modern foreign languages (French and Italian) and a minor in dance. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the same institution.

Deborah was an actress in film and television for ten years. Her big break came with the leading role of Silver Kane, sister of the legendary Erica Kane, on the long running ABC soap opera, All My Children. Deborah went on to star in feature films such as Remote Control, April Fool’s Day, and Just One of the Guys, television movies such as Return to Peyton Place, The Deliberate Stranger with Mark Harmon, and Liberace, and television series such as St. Elsewhere, Beverly Hills 90210, and 21 Jump Street.

After the birth of her daughters, Deborah moved to Paris in 1992 and worked as a reader for Le Studio Canal Plus. On her return to the US, she transitioned to Miramax Films as their story editor. At Miramax, she worked on the development of such films as Emma, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain, Walking and Talking by Nicole Holofcener, and early versions of Chicago and A Wrinkle in Time. With writing partner, Mitch Giannunzio, she won a grant from the Massachusetts Arts Council in 2002 to develop and workshop their original screenplay, Susan Taft Has Run Amok.

In 2004, Deborah and her husband, Chuck Royce (small cap investment pioneer), restored and reopened the Avon Theatre Film Center, a 1939 landmark in Stamford, CT. The not-for-profit Avon is dedicated to independent, classic, foreign, and documentary films, and hosts an ongoing series of visiting film luminaries. Directors and writers such as Robert Altman, Peter Bogdonavich and Nora Ephron, and actors such as Jane Fonda, Chloe Sevigny, Emma Roberts, and Richard Gere, have all come to the Avon to show their films and talk about their work. The late Gene Wilder, who frequently appeared at the Avon, was an early and avid encourager of Deborah’s writing.

Deborah serves on multiple boards, including the national council of the American Film Institute, the executive board of the Greenwich International Film Festival, and the governing boards of the New York Botanical Garden, the Greenwich Historical Society, and the PRASAD Project.

Deborah and Chuck have restored several hotels (Ocean House—one of only 13 triple Forbes five-star properties in the world—the Weekapaug Inn, and the Deer Mountain Inn), a bookstore (The Savoy in Westerly, RI), and have completed numerous Main Street revitalization projects in Tannersville, New York and Westerly, Rhode Island. They are currently about to break ground on the renovation of the United Theatre arts complex in Westerly.
She and her husband have a tribe of children, stepchildren, grandchildren, and animals.

Finding Mrs. Ford is her first novel.

Q & A with author Mary Beth Keane about her gripping new novel, Ask Again, Yes.

Ask Again, Yes book cover

My Review:

I loved this moving story of young love, family trauma and the aftermath…mental illness, addiction, forgiveness and the power of love kept me engrossed until the very last page.

Two young policeman work together in Brooklyn in the 1970s.  To distance themselves from the job after the workday and to start families they both move to the suburbs with their wives and end up living next door.  Francis and Lena have three daughters, one named Kate, and Brian and Anne have a son, Peter.  Kate and Peter have a strong connection and become very close, yet the families don’t socialize, mostly because Anne’s behavior is a little odd.

A tragic event occurs…no spoilers here…and relationships become strained and crumble under the stress.  Can we find the way back to the people who are important to us?  A gripping new novel with deep characters and an accurate portrayal of the working class, Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is a must read!

Mary Beth Keene, Jennifer Gans Blankfein, Lauren Blank Margolin

Mary Beth Keane, Me, and fellow book blogger friend Lauren Blank Margolin (Good Book Fairy)

Q & A with author Mary Beth Keane

Can you tell me a little about your process of writing and organizing this novel.  Did you know the path each character would take individually or did it come together as you wrote?

I started the novel seeing only two of the characters. Francis, and Peter. I knew Peter was a child and Francis was new to the NYPD, but I didn’t know what they had to do with one another for a long time. I began by writing them separately, and then placing them alongside each other, if that makes sense. Eventually it became clear how these families would have an impact on one another. I never write my books in order, from beginning to end. For example, there’s a scene where Peter slides down a telephone pole. In the final draft, it’s a memory being recollected. But that was one of the first scenes I wrote when I began this book.

Two neighbors have a childhood friendship that ultimately turns to love, and even though they are kept apart for some time, they find each other again.   What inspired you to create this relationship the reader is hoping for?

I knew that they would be childhood friends, and I knew they would find each other again as adults. I also knew they had quite different approaches to life thanks to the environments in which they were raised. I don’t outline, but I did know that much. I did NOT know what form their reconnection would take: whether they’d just meet up once and move on or what. The point of the book, if there is a point, is about the randomness of life, and how our lives touch and change other lives even when we don’t mean them to.

Anne Stanhope’s erratic behavior was due to mental illness, and her husband Brian, his brother George and her son Peter battled alcohol addiction.  Their struggles were painful and actions seemed realistic…how did you prepare to write such complicated characters?

I pull partly from life and partly from my imagination. By middle age most people know someone who has struggled with addiction, whether they know it or not. All I need is a spark from real life and then I can run with it and imagine all the possible outcomes. The thrill of fiction writing is following one possible outcome to its conclusion.

Peter is estranged from his mother – how did you research this idea of being out of touch with a parent?

My husband, who I met when we were in high school, was estranged from his parents for many years. His mother died during that estrangement. Explaining that break to our children, who never met their grandmother, was part of the reason I was driven to write this particular book. Is a parent always a parent? Does being someone’s mother or father or child always have particular meaning, or does that meaning get lost when the relationship is severed?

Guns and unnecessary shootings are in the news all the time; do you think Brian, a police officer, was careless or did he consciously make the decision to be lax?

No, he was just being careless. These were the years before Columbine, so even when that gun showed up where it shouldn’t have, people didn’t yet think immediately of a mass shooter like they would today. I talked to a lot of police officers while writing this book and that was something that came up more than once, stories of off-duty police officers losing track of their off-duty weapons, especially in the 1970s and 1980s.

Did you know how the book was going to end when you started writing it?

Ha! No. Not even remotely.

Did you change anything significant during  the revision process?

Oh yes! So much that I couldn’t possibly answer fully here. I started the book from Kate’s point of view, written in the first person. I scrapped that after about one hundred pages. I changed the structure many, many times. I spent a very long time starting with Peter and Kate as adults, and then looping back to their childhoods, but that felt impossible to pull off without bogging down the narrative with flashback. It took a long time to figure out how to best tell this particular story.

Can you share any information about Ask Again, Yes for TV and Film?

Just that I’m thrilled, and that it’s happening. Right now it seems most likely to be a limited mini-series, and I’m delighted by that. I love that a limited mini-series will provide enough room and time to really tell this story in detail.

What have you read lately that you recommend?

I just finished All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan and I’m completely gutted. It was devastating and brilliant.

Goodreads Summary

Mary Beth Keane

About the Author:

Mary Beth Keane’s first novel, The Walking People (2009) was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, and her second novel, Fever (2013) was named a best book of 2013 by NPR Books, Library Journal, and The San Francisco Chronicle. In 2011 she was named to the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35.” She was a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Fiction and her new novel, Ask Again, Yes, was published in June of 2019.

Exploring Complicated Relationships and the Impact of Performance Art in The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose

My Review:

So much to love in this fictional novel centered around interesting characters and the real Marina Abramovic and her Artist is Present Performance Art exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010 in NYC.  Just as Abramovic explores the human longing for connection in her art, Heather Rose’s characters grow and change as a result of their observation and contemplation at the performance artist’s exhibit.

The Museum of Modern Love explores complicated relationships and the impact of performance art.  Arky is a composer and at this time he is a lost man.  His wife, Lydia is ill and she has requested he not see her.  He is struggling with his music and is drawn to an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art featuring Marina Abramovic, a performance artist.  He attends everyday, watching her sit and face other visitors as they look deep inside themselves.  Arky meets Jane, an art teacher from Georgia who is mourning the loss of her husband and has abandoned her plans to visit art galleries in NYC to attend this intriguing MOMA exhibit.  Captivated by Abramovic and the unique and powerful artistic expression, the two of them work through their thoughts on the importance and impact of art and contemplate their own personal loss and relationships.  This wonderful book is worthy of research and discussion – so much to think about when it comes to love and commitment, and a lot to learn about the courageous and one of a kind artist, Marina Abramovic… all available online, including a very funny spoof video with Fred Armisen and Cate Blanchett, Waiting For the Artist.

Additional Thoughts:

My book group had the wonderful opportunity to FaceTime with Australian author of The Museum of Modern Love, Heather Rose – from Tasmania to Westport, CT.  With a fourteen hour difference, we decided to do a practice run and lucky we did.  At 5AM I awakened by a FaceTime call, but the rehearsal was meant for 7pm my time, not her time! Heather and I tried again her next day, later the same day for me…and ultimately we got it right for the book group meeting!

Heather told us she had been working on writing a book for many years.  At the same time, and totally unrelated, she had come across something about performance artist Marina Abramovic and had been researching her, even though there was hardly any information available.  Abramovic had put her life on the line for her art and self expression – something that intrigued Heather.  Then, while on vacation, Heather was sitting at a restaurant alone at the hotel with an empty seat facing her.  She had this idea that different people would come and sit across from her and it sparked an idea for her book – people who had passed would come to visit the character… so she went up to her room and wrote all night.

Shortly after, she heard that Marina Abramovic was going to be at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC in an exhibit called The Artist Is Present, where she would be sitting with an empty chair facing her and inviting people to sit across from her.  Heather Rose went to NY and spent several weeks there.  She sat in the chair across from Marina 4 times, talked with people waiting in line, and each experience was profound and different.  With approval from Abramovic and her team, Heather rewrote her book with Marina Abramovic as the center piece of her fiction novel.

Heather Rose seemed to have some special connection with Marina Abramovic and heightened intuition and foresight which brought her to writing this novel.  Her personal life greatly influenced the characters and their journeys as well – she has a chronic illness as mirrored in the character of Arky’s wife, and she and her husband divorced during the writing of this story.  Our group was excited to hear she writes childrens books with a friend under the pen name, Angelica Banks, the Tuesday McGillyCuddy series, and knowing she enjoys spending time in NYC, we all hope to see her in person someday!

I loved this book and highly recommend it!  If you enjoy art you may want to check out The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis and On Color by David Scott Kastan.

Jennifer Blankfein's book group

Jennifer Blankfein facetiming with Heather Rose

Goodreads Summary

Author Heather Rose

About the Author:

Heather Rose is the author of five novels with a further two due for publication in 2016. Heather writes for both adults and children. Her adult novels include The River Wife & The Butterfly Man.

Heather writes the acclaimed Tuesday McGillycuddy series for children under the pen name Angelica Banks with award-winning author Danielle Wood.

Heather’s first novel White Heart was published in 1999. It was followed by The Butterfly Man in 2005 – a story based on the disappearance of Lord Lucan in 1974. It was longlisted for the IMPAC Awards in Ireland, shortlisted for the Nita B Kibble Award and won the 2006 Davitt Award for the Crime Fiction Novel of the Year written by an Australian woman.

In 2007 Heather received the Eleanor Dark Fellowship and an Arts Tasmania Wilderness Residency for her novel The River Wife. The River Wife was published in 2009.

In 2010 Heather began collaborating with Danielle Wood and the Tuesday McGillycuddy series for primary age readers was born.

The series begins with Finding Serendipity published in Australia, Germany and the USA in 2013/14. The sequel A Week Without Tuesday has been published internationally in 2014/ 2015 and the third book in the series – Blueberry Pancakes Forever – will be published in 2016/17.

In 2016 Heather’s next novel – The Museum of Modern Love – will be published by Allen & Unwin. It is based on the life and work of the artist Marina Abramovic.

Heather’s work has appeared in journals and anthologies including: Dirty Words – A Literary Dictionary of Sex Terms – edited by Ellen Sussman (Bloomsbury, USA), Some Girls Do – edited by Jacinta Tynan (Allen & Unwin) and Mosaic – edited by Ros Bradley (ABC Books). Her stories and reviews been published in various editions of Island magazine.

Give The Gift of Reading for Father’s Day!

Books for Father's Day

The Dads in your life definitely deserve the benefits of reading, so here are few book recommendations to spark their interest.  From a moving debut set in South Africa to a compilation of Howard Stern’s interviews, there is something for everyone!

FICTION – SOUTH AFRICA

You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr

Purchase You Will Be Safe Here by Damian Barr HERE.

Blurb from Goodreads:  An extraordinary debut that explores legacies of abuse, redemption, and the strength of the human spirit–from the Boer Wars in South Africa to brutal wilderness camps for teenage boys.

Goodreads Summary

NONFICTION – NASA/MUSIC

The Vinyl Frontier

Purchase The Vinyl Frontier by Jonathan Scott HERE.

Blurb from Goodreads: The fascinating story behind the mission, music, and message of NASA’s Voyager Golden Record–humanity’s message to the stars.

Goodreads Summary

THRILLER – PARIS

The Paris Diversion

Purchase The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone HERE.

Blurb from Goodreads:  From the New York Times bestselling author of The Expats. Kate Moore is back in a pulse-pounding thriller to discover that a massive terror attack across Paris is not what it seems – and that it involves her family.

Goodreads Summary

NONFICTION – ENTERTAINMENT

The Battle For Sky

Purchase The Battle For Sky: The Murdochs, Disney, Comcast and the Future of Entertainment by Christopher Williams HERE.

Blurb From Goodreads: The story of how Rupert Murdoch’s Sky became one of Britain’s most successful companies and the hottest property in global entertainment.

Goodreads Summary

NONFICTION – RADIO/HOWARD STERN

Howard Stern Comes Again

Purchase Howard Stern Comes Again HERE.

Blurb from USA TODAY: Howard Stern is revealing why he altered his shock-jock persona in his candid new book, “Howard Stern Comes Again.”

Goodreads Summary

NONFICTION – LIFE-CHANGING LESSONS ABOUT LEADING

Book Nation by Jen with Bobby Herrera, author of The Gift of Struggle

I also recommend The Gift of Struggle by Bobby Herrera…

NONFICTION – FOUNDATIONS FOR LEADING YOUR BEST LIFE

Book Nation by Jen with Israel Ellis, author of Moving Through Walls

and Moving Through Walls by Israel Ellis.

 

Hear from CEO Bobby Herrera Why You Should Go Off the Beaten Path in The Gift of Struggle: Life-Changing Lessons About Leading

Book Cover of The Gift of Struggle by Bobby Herrera

My Review:

CEO of Populus Group, Bobby Herrera has had his struggles.  Growing up in a Mexican migrant worker family, he was not unfamiliar with long hours and difficult times. In school for six months of the year and then traveling to work in the fields to provide food for the people in this country for the next six months, without getting the recognition, Bobby felt socially invisible.  Unable to spend money like the other kids, Bobby and his brother did their best to fit in but knew they were different.  Once he was in the army at 18, fulfilling his father’s lifelong dream, he realized how his difficult lifestyle had prepared him for military training.  Looking back at his upbringing he felt great appreciation for his parents and all they did for him, and he understood that struggle gave him a gift.

Through charming personal anecdotes, Bobby talks about his ongoing leadership journey and the lessons he has learned.  From exploring his own identity, to being aware of how much to give and take with colleagues, bosses and underlings, to choosing where and how he wanted to make an impact, Bobby tells his stories and encourages us to think about our own leadership styles.  Each chapter ends with Questions to Guide Your Journey, allowing you to think about how you respond to different situations and how you might be able to change your thinking and behavior, and venture off the beaten path to improve outcomes.

This is an easy to read, engaging, and thought provoking little book, great for anyone in a leadership position. Whether you are the CEO, middle management, a parent, or recently entering the workforce, there are lessons to be learned and Bobby Herrera can help guide you on your journey.  For me, as a reader, one of the best things he says is “the best leaders are always learning” and “books are the greatest resource I can recommend to you”.  Bobby has a special shelf he calls “Bible Row” where he keeps his books that guide him, revisiting them often.  They make him ask better and bigger questions and make him think.  I believe The Gift of Struggle:  Life Changing Lessons About Leading deserves a place on everyone’s shelf.  How we look at who we are and where we came from, no matter where that might be, can impact how we are treated, how we choose to treat others, and our level of success.  I enjoyed this one.

The Gift of Struggle is for everyone, and it makes a great father’s day gift!

Goodreads Summary

Author of The Gift of Struggle, Bobby Herrera and Jennifer Blankfein

I had the pleasure of meeting the inspirational Bobby Herrera at Book Expo.

Learn more about Bobby Herrera here.

There is a Murderer Lurking Amongst Family and Friends in The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine!

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

My Review:

Can you forgive and repair old friendships and have them be as strong as they used to be?  In this Agatha Christie-like murder mystery where everyone is a suspect, Kate wants to know who killed her mother, Lily, and who is sending her threatening notes.  Her old best friend Blaire returns to her life after being estranged, ready to help, but does she have her own agenda?  And is Kate’s husband, Simon having an affair?  Is her dad keeping a secret?  Is the nanny being honest?  Set in the world of old money and generational wealth of Baltimore,  Kate has suffered more than one tragic loss and her family and friends support her, yet one of them could be a murderer.  Filled with lots of twists and turns, this whodunnit keeps you on your toes!  The Last Time I Saw You‘s author, Liv Constantine is the master of deception and lies, with this fast paced psychological suspense, perfect for a day on the beach!

I was fortunate enough to attend a book talk with the authors and learned about them and their writing process.

Lynne Constantine and Jennifer Blankfein

Liv Constantine is the pen name for Lynne and Valerie Constantine, the dynamic duo sisters who write together over FaceTime; one lives in Maryland, the other in Connecticut.  They figured out the secret to success with their huge best seller, The Last Mrs. Parrish, and are back with a new psychological thriller that will keep you flipping through the pages, called The Last Time I Saw You.  Lynne and Val started working together 20 years ago in person and enjoy having each other as writing partners. They split the writing pretty evenly but both have their own strengths, as Val is best at setting and scene and Lynne is the pro on writing dialog.  They come up with the story line and characters together and luckily, they rarely disagree.

The theme of The Last Time I Saw You is friendship, and it is dedicated to the Tuesday ladies, the special group friends who spent time with their mom and aunt, always elegantly dressed with nice shoes, fancy hair and makeup.

After a big splash in the book world with Mrs. Parrish, there was considerable pressure to follow suit.  This sophomore book took them one and a half years to write, and according to the authors, it was like pulling teeth all the way!  Revisions were plentiful as their publisher told them they needed one more twist in the plot, and then the decision to change who the murderer was in the third draft led to some rewriting.  Lucky for us, the book is complete and out in the world!  FYI, their third book, about a wife stalker, only took four months to write and is in edits now!

When asked about the attention received for The Last Mrs. Parrish, Lynne and Val told a few stories.

Lynne and Valerie Constantine author talk

(Lynne, sorry about this photo with your eyes closed licking your lips…you must be thinking about Patrick Dempsey!)

When The Last Mrs. Parrish was chosen for the People Magazine pick, the sisters were ecstatic and ventured out to CVS to buy up a bunch of copies.  Unfortunately  Harvey Weinstein was on the cover and they got a lot of strange looks from observers!

When they were notified that Reese Witherspoon chose Mrs. Parrish for her book club, over the phone, they screamed with delight but were then told they had to keep it quiet for close to three weeks.   They lied to one of their husbands who was in the room at the time, making up some story about how someone was going to write an article about them.  He thought they were a bit dramatic but they stuck to their story.  Ultimately Lynne and Val were thrilled when Witherspoon announced her pick of The Last Mrs. Parrish and they had the pleasure of connecting with Reese on Instagram.

The most recent, exciting news is that Amazon is developing a series based on Mrs. Parrish, but mums the word on details as of now!

Goodreads Summary

Val and Lynne Constantine

About the Authors:

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine, co-authors of the Reese Witherspoon book club pick, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via FaceTime and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. Their next book, THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, was released on May 7, 2019.

Visit them at www.livconstantine.com

Being A Well Adjusted and Confident Teenager Is Not The Norm in Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People by Sally Rooney

My Review:

Don’t miss Sally Rooney’s newest novel, Normal People.  This engaging page-turner is about two teenagers from Ireland but it is for everyone!  Connell is a smart, popular athlete with a working class single mother, and Marianne is an intelligent, oddball loner who lives in a mansion with her disfunction family, enduring their physical and mental abuse.  They two are intellectually well matched classmates yet socioeconomically incompatible and they steer clear of each other in high school.  Connell’s mom is the cleaning lady for Marianne’s family and when Connell picks his mom up from work the teenagers’ paths cross. Their attraction is powerful, they enjoy conversation, and they secretly spend time together, agreeing to keep it under wraps.

Their relationship is complicated in public. The kids at school would never understand or accept their being a couple, but when they are alone together they are drawn to each other.   “Most people go through their whole lives, Marianne thought, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.” Their feelings grow and the companionship brings them both some sense of normalcy and happiness, until Connell makes a bad decision that hurts her feelings and changes the course of their relationship.  This crucial choice pushes Marianne away, and so begins the rough road of ups and downs these complex Irish teenagers’ experience in this coming of age love story, Normal People.

Marianne struggles with self worth in high school, but in college she appears more confident and popular with many friends.  Connell ends up at the same school but is more reclusive, his security of high school having disappeared.   He truly loves her and tells her he will never let anything bad happen to her.  Their magnetism is mutual and undeniable, and even though they are not a traditional couple, they end up feeling understood and normal when they are alone together.  Unfortunately due to misunderstandings, they have fall outs over and over. They are both on the constant search for self worth and love, and they each have other relationships, but Marianne’s are not always healthy.

“There’s always been something inside her that men have wanted to dominate, and their desire for domination can look so much like attraction, even love.  In school the boys had tried to break her with cruelty and disregard, and in college men had tried to do it with sex and popularity, all with the same aim of subjugating some force in her personality.  It depressed her to think people were so predictable.  Whether she was respected or despised, it didn’t make much difference in the end.  Would every stage of her life continue to reveal itself as the same thing, again and again, the same remorseless contest for dominance?”

Connell and Marianne did not feel normal in their own skin, struggling with intellectual superiority along with insecurities and feelings of unworthiness.  They knew each other best, yet communication was often misinterpreted between them and their reactions based on what they thought was going on impacted the choices they both made along the way.

This coming of age love story deals with social and economic status, depression and dominance…very real and often sad and frustrating.  There were things I hoped Connell and Marianne would have said to each other and I desperately wanted a different ending, but even though they suffered the consequences of poor communication, we are left with the hope that these two young people will ultimately find themselves happy and together.  Sally Rooney’s writing is easy to read, direct and gives a clear picture of the complexities of  a teenage, fluctuating relationship over a four year period.  I loved Normal People and highly recommend it!

Goodreads Summary

Sally Rooney

About the Author:

Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin, where she graduated from Trinity College. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Dublin Review, The White Review, The Stinging Fly, and the Winter Pages anthology.

Rooney completed her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, whilst still studying for her master’s degree in American literature.  She wrote 100,000 words of the book in three months.

Rooney’s second novel, Normal People, was published in September 2018 and it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize of that year.  On 27 November 2018 it won “Irish Novel of the Year” at the Irish Book Awards. Normal People won the Costa Book Award in January 2019 and has been long listed for the 2019 Dylan Thomas Prize. In March 2019, Normal People was long listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

4 Benefits of Reading… This Is What I Know.

people-reading-newspaper-4035406__340.png

Reading helps us to examine our world in new ways.  It provides us with opportunities to become more educated on an infinite number of topics and allows us to look at issues ways we may never have before.  Reading gives us insight into relationships and helps us understand people, teaches us empathy, and presents opportunities to ask questions.

quote about reading

Here are 4 benefits of reading, and 30 book suggestions for you to enjoy!

1.  LEARN ABOUT INTERESTING TOPICS

Exploring places around the world and going back in time through reading gives us access to infinite knowledge.

Different Aspects of World War II

At The Wolf's Table

Women were chosen to be food tasters for Hitler in At The Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino.

Challenges of Assimilation

A Place for Us

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza explores a Muslim Indian American family and their religion and traditions.

Performance Art at MOMA

The Museum of Modern Love

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose is a fiction story centered around Marina Abramović and her performance art exhibit in 2010.

South Africa and Apartheid

Hum if You Don't Know the Words If You Want to Make God Laugh

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais tells stories of women and family brought together through tragedies.

Rwandan Massacre

The Girl Who Smiled Beads

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya is a memoir about a girl who survived the genocide in Rwanda and the aftermath.

Death Row and Prison Life

The Last SuppersThe Sun Does Shine

The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak and The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton give a dismal picture of what goes on behind bars and the strength needed to overcome.

The Korean War

PachinkoIf You Leave Me

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim teach us about the lives of Korean refugees.

AIDS in the 1980s and 90s

The Great BelieversNow Everyone Will Know

The AIDS crisis devastated so many and deeply impacted families in the  The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Now Everyone Will Know by Maggie Kneip.

Famous People

LittleWhite HousesSong of a Captive Bird

Little by Edward Carey is a story based on the imagined life of Madame Tussaud, Eleanor Roosevelt and her unconventional relationship is depicted in White Houses by Amy Bloom, and the life of the strong female poet, Forugh Farrokhzad is revealed in Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik.

Strong Women That Were Wronged

Lilac GirlsRadium Girls

These are devastating stories of women in the past who were not protected by the government, like the rabbits in The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly,  and the factory workers in The Radium Girls by Kate Moore.

Grand Central Terminal History

The Masterpiece

Fictitious stories about the actual art school located above Grand Central Terminal are depicted in The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis.

2.  EXAMINE COMPLEX RELATIONSHIPS

Reading can provide different prospectives, helping us see a story from all sides.

AsymmetryThe Only Story

Loosely based on the author and Philip Roth, we read about a young girl in a relationship with an older male in Asymmetry  by Lisa Halliday. 

A look back on the memories of the narrator’s first love, there is a young male in a relationship with an older female in The Only Story by Julian Barnes.

The Sunshine SistersThe Husband Hour

Complex mother, daughter and sister relationships play out in Jane Green’s The Sunshine Sisters and Jamie Brenner’s The Husband Hour .

3. LEARN TO EMPATHIZE

People are always saying reading encourages empathy and it is really true…When you are reading you are made more aware of other people’s feelings and given the opportunity to understand people that are different.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely FineThe Extraordinary Life of Sam HellA Boy Made of BlocksWe Loe Anderson Cooper

Eleanor Oliphant by Gail HoneymanThe Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Bob Dugoni and A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart are about those that just don’t fit in; similar to the characters in the short story collection We Love Anderson Cooper by R.L. Maizes.

4. EXPLORE THE UNKNOWN

Some books provide opportunities to ask ourselves WHAT IF? 

The CircleReady Player OneThe FarmVox

The Circle by Dave Eggers examines the power of social media.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline shows the future of video games.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos explores surrogate farms.  

Vox by Christina Dalcher takes a dystopian look at government control.

globe and people

Learn about interesting topics.  Examine complex relationships.  Learn to empathize.  Explore the unknown.

 What are you reading today?