Archives for October 2013

Review: In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

in the heart of the seaIn the Heart of the Sea
written by Nathaniel Philbrick
published by Penguin Books

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I’m enamored with Nantucket, MA with its stately homes and quaint cobblestone streets.  It’s hard to fathom that all that peaceful Quaker charm was largely funded by the gruesome and dangerous practice of slaughtering whales for their oil. So I guess it was the setting that caught my attention.

Did I enjoy this book: I did. It was long and detailed. I read it over the course of six weeks where I put the book down to read some lighter comedy or chick lit. But the book continued to beckon my attention. describes In the Heart of the Sea as the, “true life horror that inspired Moby Dick.” Indeed, Melville himself documented in his masterpiece meeting the Captain of the Essex and described him as, “the most impressive man . . . that I ever encountered.”

Ok -enough with the name dropping. This book gets off to a slow start but mightily rewards the reader who sticks it out to the end. Great stories force us to examine some aspect of ourselves, our beliefs, and/or the culture around us. In the Heart of the Sea deals with the depths of human suffering and ultimately how we survive the unsurvivable.  This novel sails somewhere south of Viktor Frankl’s  Man’s Search for Meaning but never quite reaches the depths of depravity that we see in Joseph Conrad’s  Heart of Darkness. But that undefinable grey area frequently described as “situational morality” makes this story memorable and worth exploring.


Would I recommend it: Yes.

Will I read it again: I will not.


About the book – from Goodreads: In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex—an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers. Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long-lost account by the ship’s cabin boy. At once a literary companion and a page-turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man’s relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history.




Blog Tour: Aliens & Other Stories by Kathleen Wheaton (spotlight, interview, giveaway)

aliens banner
aliens coverAliens & Other Stories
written by Kathleen Wheaton
published by Washington Writers’ Publishing House

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book: This loosely-linked collection of stories is above all about people in exile –from their native countries, their families, their objects of desire. Political refugees from Argentina’s “dirty war,” survivors of a Cuban shipwreck and of Franco’s Spain, all navigate life far from home, whether in Madrid, Buenos Aires or suburban Washington, D.C.  Minor characters in one story become protagonists of another, as different generations confront a legacy of loss and longing.



“Kathleen Wheaton’s characters are exiles: from their nations, their native families, their objects of desire. These ‘ruined specimens,’ as one character calls them, are almost always rescued – if not by circumstance, then by Wheaton’s compassionate, penetrating prose. These cleverly interlinked stories are a homeland of their own.” – Michael Lowenthal, author of “Charity Girl” and “The Paternity Test”

“In ‘Aliens and Other Stories,’ Kathleen Wheaton captures the disparate narratives of immigrants adrift in middle-class America – from the displaced and underemployed to the haunted legacy of Argentina’s desaparecidos. She imbues these stories with warmth and nuance and – perhaps most remarkably of all – with humor.” – Susan Coll, author of “Acceptance” and “Beach Week”

“With a keen eye and a rich and precise prose, Kathleen Wheaton embarks on a journey into the hearts and minds of exiles and expatriates. From the alienated and somber atmosphere of Argentina’s ‘dirty war’ to Madrid and Washington D.C., her characters are castaways, trying to find meaning in a reality that seems suspended in a moral vacuum. ‘Aliens and Other Stories’ is a remarkable first book.” – Mario Diament, former editor of La Opinion, author of “Lost Tango” and “Martin Eidan”

“What a pleasure it is to read Kathleen Wheaton’s collection of short stories, all of which expose with knife-like clarity the all-too-human flesh of contemporary life. Wheaton connects her characters to the world beyond the front door and the community while at the same time, and often with a sweet touch of humor, invites us into the heart of the family. Wheaton reveals the worst and the best of people unsure but still trying.” – Anne Bernays, author of “New York in the Fifties” and “The Man on the Third Floor”


What inspired you to work on this book? When I went to Buenos Aires to write a guidebook to the city, Argentina was recovering from the trauma of a brutal military dictatorship in which 30,000 people disappeared. It was a strange time to be writing a travel book. Often I’d be in a cafe discussing maps or photos with a contributor and the person would casually mention having been arrested during the “dirty war”, or having gone into hiding, or that someone close to them had disappeared. These abrupt revelations haunted me, and later I wrote a couple of short stories based on them. When I moved to the D.C. suburbs, after years of living abroad, I identified more with people who had come from other places and were struggling to adjust than with fellow Americans who’d always lived here.  These experiences have informed the stories in “Aliens.”

Have you visited Buenos Aires since you were there to write the guidebook? If so, what had changed? What was the same? My husband and I returned together in 2007 and then with our teenage sons in 2009. There were some shiny new shops and condos built along what had been a smelly and derelict wharf, but in 20 years the city had changed less than I’d expected—some of my favorite cafes had the same waiters, 20 years older. But the dirty war was farther in the past, so it wasn’t the subtext of every conversation. The internet has connected Argentina more to the rest of the world, and yet there remains this sense of remoteness. Most Argentines have roots somewhere far away, and so Buenos Aires has an air of melancholy and nostalgia that is very enticing to a writer, since we traffic heavily in those two emotions.

Do you consider yourself more of a journalist or a fiction writer? I began as a fiction writer and fell into journalism when I went to South America and fell in love with a journalist. It seemed like such an interesting life, though I felt I wasn’t aggressive enough to be a real reporter. But I was encouraged by something Joan Didion said to the effect that a harmless appearance can be an advantage. If you are just quiet and willing to listen, you hear the most extraordinary things. In DC, where people are practical and career-oriented, I’ve noticed that a lot of fiction writers use their day jobs as cover. Then they’re outed when they publish a novel or story collection. But I continue to enjoy doing journalism—connecting with real people, not having to struggle to make an unbelievable story sound plausible.

How do you juggle your two writing careers? When we moved to Bethesda I had the good luck to begin writing for a bimonthly magazine that was just starting up, and which has continued to give me assignments. This meant that if I was diligent I could spend a month reporting and writing a nonfiction piece and then have a month free to write a short story.  This has made both kinds of writing feel like a “vacation” from the other—at least for the first few minutes, until I actually sit down and start working.  Because then you come up against the reality that all writing is really, really hard.

Have you used stories you’ve reported as a journalist in your fiction? Journalism would seem to be a rich source of plots and characters, but the truth is that once I finish a nonfiction story to my and my editor’s satisfaction, I’m done with it. I might claim some high-minded refusal to use the people I’ve interviewed as fictional fodder, except that I do steal things from them—their home furnishings, their mannerisms, something they mentioned in passing about their grandparents. Fiction writers are magpies.

You lived in Spain and Latin America for 12 years before moving back to the United States in ‘97. Why do you think these stories stuck with you for so long? Maybe even more than childhood, a person’s twenties are a really formative period. So many great (and not-so-great) works of art seem to center around the themes and preoccupations of that time of life. And it takes a while to figure out what it all means. At least it has taken me a while. Because the minute I say this I think of writers from Fitzgerald to the Spanish novelist Carmen Laforet, who wrote so beautifully and profoundly about youth while they were young, as it was happening.

What do you hope readers take away from “Aliens and Other Stories?” For me the experience of going to live in another country and learning another language was a revelation—my sense of the strangeness of life was suddenly, objectively, true. Being an actual foreigner struggling to understand was both freeing and reassuring. So I hope that readers who literally have been aliens as well as those who simply have felt that way will find they have something in common with my characters.

What countries would you like to visit next? About a year and a half ago I wrote a magazine piece about an Iranian family and decided to study Persian, which sounded to my uncomprehending ear beautiful and poetic. I don’t have much hope of visiting Iran or even of mastering the language enough to read the Persian poets in the original, and yet I keep at it.  It’s opened up another world.

kathleen wheatonAbout the author: Veteran journalist Kathleen Wheaton’s byline has appeared in publications all over the world, and this fall, her name will grace the cover of her newest work, “Aliens and Other Stories.”

Wheaton was born in 1957 on a U.S. Army base in Germany and grew up in Pasadena and Palo Alto, Calif. After graduating from Stanford University in ’79 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing and Spanish, she packed her bags and headed to Madrid, Spain, where she taught English for two years. Wheaton earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University in ‘82. She lived in New York until ‘86 and returned to Spain for a year to write and edit a travel book for Insight Guides. She then traveled to Argentina for a second guidebook, where she met NPR reporter David Welna.   They married in 1988 and lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tepoztlan, Mexico before returning to the United States in ’97 along with their two sons, Ben and Alex, both born in Latin America.

Wheaton has been honored with three Dateline awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for profiles of public radio host Diane Rehm and opera singer Denyce Graves as well as a story about teen suicide published in Bethesda Magazine. She has received three grants from the Maryland Arts Council and in 2005, and she claimed the top spot at The Baltimore Review’s fiction contest. Her interviews and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The San Francisco Examiner, The Paris Review, Town & Country, European Travel & Life, Via, Applause and Smithsonian Magazine.

Wheaton’s short stories have been published in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, Byline, Flyway, The Baltimore Review, Timber Creek Review, New South, Smokelong Quarterly, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Artisan, River Oak Review and Narrative as well as anthologies Flash Fiction Forward and Amazing Graces.

Wheaton’s collection of short stories, “Aliens and Other Stories,” will be released Oct. 15, 2013, by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House. The book recently won the publishing company’s 2013 award for fiction.

Wheaton is an assistant editor at Narrative, an online literary magazine. She works as a Spanish and Portuguese interpreter for Montgomery County public schools in Maryland. She lives in the Washington D.C. area with her husband.

Find Ms. Wheaton here: web, Facebook, Goodreads

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DNF: Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta

Jo Joe coverJo Joe
written by Sally Wiener Grotta
published by Pixel Hall Press

find it here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publisher to review this title. I featured Jo Joe on the blog on September 17, 2013. That feature included a wonderful guest post by Sally Wiener Grotta. See that post here. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Where I stopped reading: 36% on my Kindle

Why I stopped reading: It is just a bit slow for me. It took me 4 days to get to 36%, and I wasn’t that busy. I just couldn’t get into it.

Ms. Grotta is a beautiful writer. Her descriptions are detailed and I could see everything. But that was part of the problem for me, too much detail. I could see too much. It was hard to get into a flow and rhythm. The story is there, and it seems like a really good one. I wanted to finish it. I wanted to see what Judith discovered. But. I just couldn’t keep reading. I didn’t want to keep reading it. Maybe it is me and I wasn’t in the mood for this book at this time. I don’t know.

Will I pick it up again: I just may. The story seems interesting, and I think I want to know what happens. We’ll see.


What others have rated this book:
According to Goodreads, the average rating for Jo Joe is 4.57. It looks like a majority of readers gave this book 5 stars. There were 25 5-star reviews on Amazon. At Barnes & Noble, the reviews were split, 3 5-star reviews and 3 4-star reviews. Just because I didn’t finish this book doesn’t mean you may not.

About the book: Jo Joe is a mystery of the heart about Judith Ormond, a young mixed race Jewish woman. Seventeen years earlier, violence and hatred drove Judith away from the small Pennsylvania village where she was raised by her white Christian grandparents. Only with the death of her beloved grandmother and the need to settle the family estate does she reluctantly break her vow to never return. During the one week visit, she’s forced to deal with her first love who cruelly broke her heart and is menaced by an old enemy who threatens new brutalities. But when she uncovers a long-hidden secret, Judith is forced to look anew at the bigotry and betrayal that scarred her childhood.


Review: The Water Thief by Nicholas Lamar Soutter

the water thiefThe Water Thief
written by Nicholas Lamar Soutter
published by Nicholas Lamar Soutter

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Smashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publicist to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Did I enjoy this book:
What can I say?  I’m a sucker for Dystopia.  I chuckled at the Easter Eggs in the first few pages (though now I’ve got an undeniable urge to dig out my copy of Lord of the Flies), and once things progressed far enough that libraries started to be named after railroad lines I was hooked.

The Water Thief is thought provoking and extreme, and though at times it felt a bit preachy, I didn’t mind too much.


Would I recommend it: If you’re a fan of dystopian novels (especially if you’re fostering a secret hatred of capitalism), you’ll love it. Literature professors ought to add it to their syllabi, because I bet I’m not the only one nerdtastically awaiting the Rand versus Soutter theses.

Will I read it again: If I can afford it.


About the book – from Goodreads:
 “There is no difference between the saint who gives food to starving children and the worker who operates the gas chamber that kills them, except that one is making money and the other is losing it.”

CHARLES THATCHER is a private citizen, which is to say that he’s the private property of the Ackerman Brothers Securities Corporation. He’s got problems: the cost of air is going up, his wife wants to sell herself to another corporation, and his colleagues are always trying to get him tossed into the lye vats.

But when he discovers a woman stealing rainwater, he sees his chance to move up in the world, maybe even become an executive. He reports her, painting a picture, not just of a thief, but of a seditionist and revolutionary, someone who believes in that long-dead institution called “government.”

When she suddenly vanishes, he fears the worst and begins trying to track her down. What he finds is a nightmare far worse than he’d imagined-that his report on her may actually have been right.

Now engaged with a small rebel group, Charles learns about life outside his corporation. But in a world where everything is for sale and lies are more profitable than the truth, he begins to wonder if even these revolutionaries have something to hide.



Spotlight: The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series (giveaway)

The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series

Enjoy this exciting new series of clean novellas by six critically-acclaimed authors.

“Like a pebble tossed into calm water, a simple act can ripple outward and have a far-reaching effect on those we meet, perhaps setting a life on a different course—one filled with excitement, adventure, and sometimes even love.”

Book 1: Home Matters by Julie N. Ford

Book 2: Silver Linings by Kaylee Baldwin

Book 3: Righting A Wrong by Rachael Anderson

Book 4: Lost and Found by Karey White

Book 5: Second Chances 101 by Donna K. Weaver

Book 6: Immersed in Love by Jennifer Griffith


Home Matters
written by Julie N. Ford

About the book: According to her mother, Olivia Pembroke was born to be a star. But how is she supposed to be famous when she can’t even get a decent acting gig? Her lucky break comes when she lands an audition for a wildly popular home improvement show. Even though she has no design training and has never even held a power tool, she refuses to let that stop her. She’s confident that her destiny is finally within reach.

When her affections are torn between her heartthrob co-host and the irritating, yet somehow endearing lead contractor, does she continue to reach for the stars? Or does she design a new happily ever after? One that leads not to the fading lights of fame and fortune, but to a love that will burn forever.

Silver Linings
written by Kaylee Baldwin

About the book: Drew Westfall wants nothing more than to forget what he had to do in the name of “smart” business. Cutting off all ties with his parents—including handing over the entire contents of his trust fund to a charity—he takes off for Bridger, Colorado where his best friend has an extra room for him. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that his business degree won’t do him much good in a town as small as Bridger, but he’s broke and has nowhere else to go.

Eden Torresi has every reason to wallow. Not only did she lose her mother, but she had to drop out of nursing school and is in a relationship with a guy unwilling to commit. But Eden isn’t the wallowing type. Instead, she chooses to spend most of her time taking care of the seniors at Silver Linings Nursing home. When she learns that her boyfriend’s new roommate is down on his luck, her caring nature makes her want to reach out to him and offer what help she can. But the more time they spend together, the more complicated things get, especially when the seniors of Silver Linings decide to play matchmaker.

Righting a Wrong
written by Rachael Anderson

About the book: Seven years ago, Cambri Blaine fled her small hometown of Bridger, Colorado after her senior year ended in a fiasco. Only Jace Sutton knew the real reason why—that she was a spineless coward. Now, seven years later, her father’s been in an accident and needs help, and Cambr has no choice but to return home. So with trepidation, she takes a leave of absence from the landscape architecture firm where she works and boards a plane, hoping against hope that Jace is no longer around and that the past can stay where it belongs—in the past.

If only life worked that way.

Jace never expected to see Cambri again. After she’d led him on, bruised his heart, and left town without a backward glance, he was forced to pick up the pieces and try not to hate her for it. Eventually, he put it behind him and moved on, creating a life for himself in his beloved hometown. But now that Cambri is back and looking more beautiful and sophisticated than ever, some of those old feelings resurface, and Jake instinctively knows, for the sake of his heart, that he needs to avoid her at all costs.

If only it were that easy.


Lost and Found
written by Karey White

About the book: Lydia was supposed to have an adventurous and exciting summer. Instead she’s done nothing more than read and eat takeout. Now it’s time to go home, and what does she have to show for it? A big fat nothing. Unless, of course, her trip to the airport somehow turns into something more than just a flight home.

Blake feels like he’s been sent on a wild goose chase. While work is piling up back in Denver, he’s on the other side of the country, hunting for some mysterious box that his grandfather left him. Well, no more. Nothing inside that box could possibly be more important than the opportunity to make it as the youngest partner at his firm. So he’s going home, and that’s that. But that’s before he discovers his flight has been cancelled.

When these two strangers meet at the airport, they make a split-second decision to search for the box together. Maybe with both of them on the hunt, Lydia can have her adventure and Blake can find the box. And maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll even find some romance.

Second Chances 101
written by Donna K. Weaver

About the book: Thirty seven year old Francie Davis, a recent widow and empty nester, gets to attend college at last. She’s sure her luck has changed when she also lands a job on campus that will pay her tuition, as administrative assistant to a history professor. When her handsome new boss yells at her on the first day of work, Francie worries she will never be good enough.

For Professor Alex Diederik, life is going downhill fast. Not only is his bitter ex-wife trying to poison their only daughter against him, but now his one place of solace—his work environment—is being complicated by his attractive new administrative assistant. She drives home his feelings of failure as a husband and father, and Alex wonders if hiring her was the right thing to do.

Francie will have to put aside her hurt and insecurities or risk her dreams, while Alex must look outside himself if he’s to mend the breach with his daughter. And, perhaps, find someone who can help heal his pain.


Immersed in Love
written by Jennifer Griffith

About the book: Lisette Pannebaker speaks five languages and has a brilliant business plan—personal language immersion. Clients can hire her to shadow them and speak all day in any language they need to learn for business or travel—whatever.

But there’s a major hitch: she’s far too pretty. Clients with less than honorable intentions sign up just have Lisette at their side. Solution? A make-under. Way under.It works like a charm. None of her male clients show her the least bit of interest.

Until… Erik.

Erik Gunnarsson is charming, kind, and smart—everything she’s ever looked for. Even though he seems to have a secret and she swore she’d never date a client, Lisette is tempted to shed her disguise—even if it means jeopardizing her career.


(Ends October 31, 2013)

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Bloggers who put up a spotlight post about these books on their blog can enter to win an additional $25 gift card or paypal cash.  See details in the Rafflecopter.
Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Review: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

mountains beyond mountainsMountains Beyond Mountains
written by Tracy Kidder
published by Random House

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: My dear friend, Linda, recommended it for our book group.

Did I enjoy this book:
 Not really. USA Today calls it a “masterpiece . . . an astonishing book . . . ”  I’m afraid I must have missed that part.

I agree Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing character. He has obviously changed the way international health organizations treat infectious diseases in poor countries. His accomplishments are, to use a word from USA Today, “astonishing.”

Reading about every detail of every location, patient, and day-to-day decisions, arguments, and small victories, however, is not “astonishing.”  For me, it was a bit boring.

A common complaint I hear from my book geek friends about non-fiction is that the book drags on for too long.  The 100% unscientific, expert on absolutely nothing,  general consensus seems to be that most non-fiction books would be more interesting if they were about 1/3 in length of what actually gets published.  I believe that is the case with Tracy Kidder’s account of “the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would cure the world.” Really? Cure the world? I guess I’ll have to wait for the sequel.

These are generous stars...

These are generous stars…

Would I recommend it:  No.

Will I read it again: I will not.

~ Belinda ~


About the book – from Goodreads: Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, and Home Town. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is in love with the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.

At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.

Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity” – a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.

Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”




Spotlight: Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon (interview, giveaway)

confessions cover final smallConfessions of a So-Called Middle Child
written by Maria T. Lennon
published by HarperCollins

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

About the book: Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child stars hilariously spunky recovering bully and tween hacker Charlie Cooper, who gets expelled from her fancy Malibu Charter School for a prank gone wrong and finds herself “shrinked” for middle child syndrome and getting more than she bargained for at her new school in the ueber hippy community of Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles.

In Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, Maria Lennon has created a fresh and fun story that brings “Mean Girls” to the tween level, peppered with snarky comments, major attitude, and advice to spare from Charlie Cooper, whose virtues, flaws, fears and sheer humanity promise to hit home among young girls, braving middle school in the 21th century, with all the pressures that come with it: popularity, bullying, social media, the list goes on.

efcpraise“Lennon’s tale addresses manifold topics, including the pressures and social issues of middle school, friendship quandaries and bullying. Charlie’s eclectic mix of interests–she’s a computer prodigy with a talent for hacking and an aspiring fashion trendsetter who harbors a keen interest in Harry Houdini–contribute to her distinctive narrative voice.” –Kirkus Reviews

“In her first book for children, adult author Lennon offers a fast-moving story with a satirical edge.” –Publisher’s Weekly efcinterviewPlease tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. All right here we go: Because it deals with real-life issues girls face at school every day and it’s wrapped in a funny package.

Where did you get your inspiration for Confessions of a So-Called Middle ChildI have two girls and two boys. And over the years, I’ve watched the way girls can treat one another.  It bummed me out. So I wanted to write a book about a girl who overcomes the labels people put on her. Labels are useless. Kids change too fast to be labeled.

Was it difficult to switch from writing a general fiction novel (Making It Up As I Go Along) to a middle grade novel? It was a natural progression–I wrote my first novel after my first baby when I was still firmly entrenched in the land of the adults. As I had more children, I gave up the adult world and spent all my time with my kids, other parents and hung out at schools an awful lot. I really began to see life through their eyes and it’s so much more fun. I love writing for kids.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? Yes. I just finished the second book in the Confessions of a so-called Middle Child series. In this one Charlie tells a small white lie to get what she wants—a staring role in a TV series. And it blows up in her face, of course. Also I’m working on a middle-grade series for boys, which I am so excited about. At night I read installments to my boys. They’re my first editors.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer? About being a screenwriter? Do you prefer one over the other? Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s oral, written or comes at you from a screen? We all love stories. I am first and foremost a novelist but I want to write more and more for the screen. It’s a very concise way of breaking down a story and it appeals to me. Also television is so great right now. I would love to adapt.

What is your favorite genre to read? Great middle grade fiction of course. Books like the House of Scorpion by Nancy Farmer are unbelievably good. And I keep a classic by my bed at all times to reconnect with the greats. Right now I am reading Lolita again. Talk about voice! Talk about pace and emotion. Wow. Amazing stuff

Who is your favorite author? This is a question I like to dodge because there are so many. I have no favorite. I love Dave Pilkey of Captain Underpants, Sherman Alexie of Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Tolstoy for giving us Levin, my favorite character of all time. Shakespeare.  Suzanne Collins for the great Hunger Games. Awesome stuff.

In your opinion, what is one book that everyone should read? Heart of Darkness by Conrad.

Tell us three things about yourself that cannot be found on the internet…at least not found easily.

  1. I have a plastic finger.
  2. I am not a morning person
  3. I am obsessed with Breaking Bad and pretend to be Jesse when I’m stuck in LA traffic.

MLennonAbout the author: At fifteen, Maria left Santa Barbara to study at The American School in Switzerland. She continued her studies at Brillantmont in Lausanne, then went on to London to complete her A levels. She was accepted to the London School of Economics and studied International Economics and Politics of International Aid. After graduating, she moved to Italy where she taught summer school at The American School in Genova, an elementary school. Maria later moved to Paris and wrote her first novel, Making it Up as I Go Along (Random House, 2004). Today, she finds herself living under a heap of Disney paraphernalia in a slightly disheveled tree house in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, with her husband, four children ages 5-13, a dog, three cats, and a caterpillar named Harry.

Find Ms. Lennon here: web, Goodreads

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Review: Seeing Cinderella by Jenny Lundquist

Seeing CinderellaSeeing Cinderella
written by Jenny Lundquist
published by Aladdin Mix

find it here: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I won this book from a giveaway hosted by author Shannon Dittemore

Did I enjoy this book:
I did enjoy this book. I read it every free chance I had and finished it in short order.

Seeing Cinderella was a sweet, middle grade book that would be excellent for tween girls. We go along with Callie as she discovers the power of her new glasses. They allow Callie to read other people’s thoughts. This is both  a blessing and a curse of sorts for Callie as she learns to navigate through this new world and truly learns what other people are experiencing and thinking.

This book has a fantastic message – not everyone is as they seem. You have to look at a person to truly see them. You have to get to know them inside and out because you never know what that person is experiencing.


Would I recommend it: I would recommend this book to any tween girl and their moms. It was a worthwhile read.

Will I read it again: Maybe when my daughter is ready to read it. I want her to read it when she is the right age.

About the book – from Goodreads: 
Calliope Meadow Anderson wishes her life could be more of a fairy tale—just like the stories she writes. Her best friend, Ellen, is acting weird, her parent’s marriage is falling apart, and to top things off, she found out she needs hideously large and geeky glasses.

But Callie soon learns they aren’t just any glasses—they are magical and let her read people’s thoughts. For the first time ever she’s answering all the questions right in math class, and gets a glimpse of what goes through people’s minds all day, including what Ellen—and her longtime crush—really think of her.

As if dealing with these crazy glasses weren’t enough, Callie tries out for the lead in her school’s production of Cinderella and actually gets the part. Instead, Callie chooses to let Ellen have the lead and be Ellen’s understudy—just like she has done for their entire friendship.

Add in a new girl who has something to hide, a secret admirer, a best friend stealer who isn’t what she seems, and Callie’s year just went from ordinary to extraordinary.

Can this supporting actress learn to be a leading lady in her own life? Or is she destined to stay in the background forever—even with her super-freaky-magic glasses?


Happy reading wherever you are and whenever you get a free chance!!!


Spotlight: Keeping Score by Jami Deise (excerpt, guest post)

KeepingScore_JamiDeiseKeeping Score
written by Jami Deise
published by Jami Deise

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, AmazonSmashwords, Book Depository, Goodreads

About the book: When her son Sam asks to try out for a travel baseball team, divorced mom Shannon Stevens thinks it’ll be a fun and active way to spend the summer. Boy, is she wrong! From the very first practice, Shannon and Sam get sucked into a mad world of rigged try-outs, professional coaches, and personal hitting instructors. But it’s the crazy, competitive parents who really make Shannon’s life miserable. Their sons are all the second coming of Babe Ruth, and Sam isn’t fit to fetch their foul balls. Even worse, Shannon’s best friend Jennifer catches the baseball fever. She schemes behind the scenes to get her son Matthew on the town’s best baseball team, the Saints. As for Sam? Sorry, there’s no room for him! Sam winds up on the worst team in town, and every week they find new and humiliating ways to lose to the Saints.

And the action off the field is just as hot. Shannon finds herself falling for the Saints’ coach, Kevin. But how can she date a man who didn’t think her son was good enough for his team … especially when the whole baseball world is gossiping about them? Even Shannon’s ex-husband David gets pulled into the mess when a randy baseball mom goes after him. As Sam works to make friends, win games and become a better baseball player, Shannon struggles not to become one of those crazy baseball parents herself.  In this world, it’s not about whether you win, lose, or how you play the game… it’s all about KEEPING SCORE.efcexcerpt

In the spirit of the guest post, here’s an excerpt on how Sam handles losing his first travel baseball game… and what Shannon does about it…

“You did fine,” Ron reassured Sam. “You struck out two, picked off a guy at first base, and no one got a hit off of you.”

“Did you see all the stuff that happened in between?” Sam asked.

“Everyone walks people,” Ron argued. “Everyone balks. Everyone hits batters. That doesn’t matter. What kind of pitcher you are when you’re at your best, that’s what matters. And none of the Saints kids could get a hit off you.”

Since Sam had hit two and walked two, four Saints hitters didn’t get a chance to try. But there was no point in bringing that up.

When we got back to the parking lot, Kevin was waiting by my car. He looked at me, then to Ron, then back to me again.

“Just wanted to tell Sam he did okay out there,” Kevin said gruffly. “Not too bad for his first time. Got thrown to the wolves and did okay.”

“Thanks,” Sam mumbled. He looked sideways at Ron, probably worried that Ron would realize Sam was taking lessons from Kevin and get mad.

“Thanks for sticking up for Sam with the umpire,” I said.

“Not a problem. Just don’t want the boy to get a reputation. You see the same umps over and over. You want them to like you.”

“Should I bring him a candy bar next time?” Sam asked. We all laughed.

I shook Kevin’s hand. “I’ll email you.” Kevin walked back to his car.

I turned to Ron and thanked him for coming. “I really couldn’t have gotten through it without you.”

“Any time,” he said gallantly.

“The next game’s tomorrow morning at nine,” I joked.

“You don’t have to come,” Sam assured him, “because I’m quitting baseball.”

I spent the entire ride home trying to convince Sam to change his mind. He loved baseball. We made a commitment to the team. He’d already quit swim team. What else was he going to do with his summer? By the time we got home, he was still saying that the night’s game had been his last. I didn’t know what else to say.

I called Kevin.

“Put him on the phone,” he commanded. I handed the phone over to Sam.

Sam didn’t say much. He mostly nodded. Then he handed the phone back to me and scampered upstairs. Soon I could hear the bath water running.

“It’s fine,” Kevin said. “Have him at the field at eight am tomorrow.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I said he needed to play for the rest of the summer season. And if he still hated it, then he could quit.”

“And he agreed?”


“But I said the same thing!”

“Yeah, but you’re his mom. I’m a coach.”

“Can I call you when he won’t do his homework?”

# # #



Happy first day of the World Series!

Baseball has the longest season of any professional sport. Factoring in spring training, which starts in February, baseball players are playing for most of the year. It’s no wonder that the two teams who actually make it to the Series are rarely the ones with the best regular season records. It’s just too difficult to sustain a high level of performance over that long a period of time. The two teams slugging it out over the next four to seven games have battled their way through losing streaks, games blown in the last inning, injuries, umpires’ bad calls, and rain delays.

In that respect, baseball players are a lot like writers. Each profession has its shares of highs and lows, but in the end, it’s the ones with the strongest work ethic, who won’t quit no matter what, who end up winners at the end of the day or the end of October.

My book, “Keeping Score,” is about a divorced mom, her 9-year-old son, and his first summer playing travel baseball. It is loosely – very loosely – based on the first summer my son played travel ball, when he was also 9. While he has had a lot of highs and lows over the years, most of the stories in “Keeping Score” were inspired by those episodes, not based on them. But it was a very tough summer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d wanted to quit baseball all together as a result. Luckily, he didn’t, and 10 years later, he’s still playing. And the highs and lows are still there, too. He’s learned to handle them better, but I’m not sure I have.

Each profession has its share of naysayers, too. Writers often hear that it’s too hard to write a book, too hard to get an agent, too hard to publish, too hard to sell. Of course it’s hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It’s also pretty difficult to throw or hit a 92 mph fastball. When kids in elementary school say they want to be baseball players when they grow up, someone pats them on the head. When they say it in middle school, they get frowns and comments like, “That’s a fun game, but what do you really want to be?” Yes, it’s true that there are only 1000 major league baseball players and only 100 books on Amazon’s best seller list. But every single one of those players and every single one of those writers heard that they weren’t good enough. Are there baseball players and writers who were once better than they are? Of course. But at some point, they sat down. At some point, they stopped writing.

Winners are the ones who don’t quit. Whether the game is baseball, writing, or life.

That little voice inside your head whispering you’re not good enough? I don’t listen to it. My son doesn’t listen to it. And you shouldn’t listen to it, either.

Jami cover shotAbout the author: A lifelong resident of Maryland, Jami Deise recently moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, along with her husband Tom, son Alex, and dog Lady. A baseball mom for over 10 years, Keeping Score is her first novel. Jami is an associate reviewer at and a generalist reader for an NYC-based literary agency. Along with women’s fiction, she loves all things horror and watches too much TV.

Find Ms. Deise here: blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads




Promotion: United Authors of Chick Lit

UACL final promo art US

Fasten your seatbelts and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position. Over the next few days, some of your favorite Chick Lit characters will be jetting across the Atlantic to visit with fictional friends on the other side of the pond.


  • The event kicks off on Monday, Oct. 21.

  • On Tuesday, Oct. 22, read about Stella from Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes and Chloe from Lying to Meet You as they travel across the Atlantic to visit each other.

  • On Wednesday, Oct. 23, it’s time to discover what happens when Emma from The Pollyanna Plan and Kim from Blogger Girl meet.

  • On Thursday, Oct. 24, Izzy from Izzy’s Cold Feet and Jamie from Finding Lucas will be taking you on a trip alongside their characters.

  • And on Friday, Oct. 25, Kate from Sealed with a Kiss and Pilar from In Need of Therapy will be chatting about their overseas experiences.


Here’s a little sneak peek at the fun, frothy books and sassy gals featured in our international promo, all of which are priced at $3.99 or less:


finding lucasFinding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey – Daytime talk show producer Jamie Ross is beyond fed up with her toxic bad boy turned metrosexual boyfriend. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she goes on a hilarious, at-times disastrous, and totally life-changing hunt to track down the ”one who got away.” But are some loves best left behind?

See my review here.

Find it here:, Amazon UK, and Kobo

INOTFinalCoverArtSMIn Need of Therapy by Tracie BanisterHandling the problems of hysterical hypochondriacs, lovelorn neurotics, and compulsive man whores is all in a day’s work for super-shrink Pilar Alvarez. But can she deal with her crazy Cuban family, a trio of unsuitable suitors, and a threat to her practice without ending up on the couch herself? 

See my review here.

Find it here:, Amazon UK, and B&N

Lying to meet youLying to Meet You by Anna Garner – Overworked New York fashion girl Chloe Lane has no time for a real relationship, but when her childhood pal asks her to play the part of his girlfriend in order to test a theory, she decides to go for it. The lies start piling up and things start getting crazy. Will Chloe be able to keep it together?

See my review here.

Find it here:, Amazon UK, and B&N


sealed with a kissSealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas – Kate breathes a sigh of relief when she’s dumped at her best friend’s wedding. When she takes a job on the island of Auchenmor, she’s determined to have a year off men, but that’s before she rescues Flora the seal pup with the help of Roddy, her mysterious new boss…

Find it here: and Amazon UK



the pollyanna planThe Pollyanna Plan by Talli RolandEmma Beckett has always looked down on ‘the glass is half full’ optimists. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé, Emma makes a radical decision: from here on in, she’ll attempt to see the upside, no matter how dire the situation. Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea? 

Find it here: and Amazon UK


blogger girl coverBlogger Girl by Meredith SchorrKimberly Long has two passions: her successful chick lit blog and Nicholas, her handsome colleague down the hall. But when her high school nemesis pops onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book and eyes for Nicholas, Kim has to make some quick revisions to her own life story.

See my review here.

Find it here:, Amazon UK, B&N, and Apple iTunes


izzy's cold feetIzzy’s Cold Feet by Sarah Louise Smith – Izzy is engaged to Greg, who is everything a girl could want. The trouble is – all she can think about is the men she loved before she met him. In the week leading up to her wedding day, Izzy is forced to ask herself who she loves the most. And, given the choice, who would she want to spend her life with?

Find it here:, Amazon UK, B&N, and UK Nook


fat girlsFat Girls and Fairy Cakes by Sue Watson – TV Producer Stella is over worked, over weight and under fire battling to balance family, career and those weighing scales. In the past she’s always found comfort at the bottom of her mixing bowl but now the most delicious lemon sponge with zesty frosting has no effect. However, life is about to get even tougher… and Stella has to face some truths about herself, her life and her future.

Find it here: and Amazon UK





Tuesday, Oct. 22

Stella will be on Anna Garner’s blog and Chloe will be on Sue Watson’s blog


Wednesday, Oct. 23

Emma will be on Meredith Schorr’s blog and Kim will be on Talli Roland’s blog


Thursday, Oct. 24

Izzy will be on Samantha Stroh Bailey’s blog and Jamie will be on Sarah Louise Smith’s blog


Friday, Oct. 25

Kate will be on Tracie Banister’s blog and Pilar will be on Rachael Lucas’s blog