What I Read this Year


Not enough! So many books, not enough time. But perhaps there are a couple of books on my list that didn’t make it onto yours, and maybe you’ll want to add them to your TBR pile:

fire and fury Fire and Fury – Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff lived up to its hype. I don’t know that there was anything startling in it, because this administration has been reported on every day. And by now, there’s just so much more…

Galway Stories Galway Stories by Kevin Barry and Mary Costello really helped me understand more about Galway, the setting for my most recent novel. Sometimes gritty, sometimes delightful.

No Excuses No Excuses by Yolanda Alvarez. Let yourself be uncomfortable as you read this stark memoir. My bet is that your upbringing was very different from the author’s. Still, in spite of all the negatives that can be associated with Alvarez’s childhood, she survived. And thrived. And succeeded. Her story will fill your heart.

The Paris Wife The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. This book is about Ernest Hemingway’s wife Hadley Richardson. Written mostly from her perspective, this is a must-read.

This Unfamiliar Road This Unfamiliar Road by Jill Fague. Fague’s first-person account of her battle with breast cancer will move you. With clear and honest writing, she details not only the procedures but all of her emotions.

Thirteenth Star Under the Thirteenth Star – an anthology of writing by Rhode Island authors is the Association of Rhode Island Authors’ second annual anthology. Inside you’ll find a variety of selections from some of Rhode Island’s best.

corey I’m Still Here by Corey Calligano. Another young woman who battled breast cancer. Calligano writes in an honest voice, holding nothing back. A brave and compelling journey.

Damiani Il Bel Centro by Michelle Damiani details her family’s year abroad in the small town of Spello, Italy. Written with humor and introspection, you’ll follow the Damiani family from their home in Virginia to their new home in Italy.

Whitman Have Mercy by Barbara Ann Whitman. Using her extensive knowledge as a family support counselor, Whitman created a novel based on a young girl in the foster system. You’ll feel as if you know Mercy as she navigates the complex road to adulthood.

Matilda Messing with Matilda by Cat Lavoie. Lavoie is one of my favorite romantic comedy authors, and for a sweet escape, pick up this one. Actually, read everything Cat has written!

How to Walk Away How to Walk Away by Katherine Center. Give me a book about hope and despair and I’m hooked. This one ticks all the boxes, with wit, raw emotion, pain, heartache, and ultimately, love and acceptance. Probably the best book I read this year.

North Haven North Haven by Sarah Moriarty. I’ll admit, I picked up this book because I lived in North Haven (Connecticut) for a short time as a small child. This story, however, has nothing to do with Connecticut and everything to do with an island in Maine and a family vacation home. It’s a great summer read.

Hood The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Hood’s early works are magnificent, but like The Obituary Writer and An Italian Wife, this one left me less than thrilled. It’s somewhat autobiographical, and the ending was so far-fetched I was left disappointed.

Stranger Stranger or Friend by Silvia Villalobos. This thriller will grip you from the beginning. The writer uses tension skillfully in her scenes, and if you’re a murder-mystery reader, grab this one.

Mai Crossing the Bamboo Bridge – Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl by Mai Donohue. You’ll find it difficult to pause your reading of this riveting memoir. From her forced marriage in a Vietnamese village to her escape and survival, against extreme adversity, you’ll come to admire this remarkable woman.

truth The Pendulum’s Truth by Leigh Brown and Victoria Corliss. The writing team of Brown and Corliss make team-writing work so well, you’d think they were just one person. They convey emotion with excellence and tell a great story that you’ll truly enjoy.

How Hard How Hard Can it Be? by Allison Pearson is a laugh out loud funny, brutally honest account of how women of ‘a certain age’ find themselves being pulled from both directions. So relatable to women dealing with work, kids, aging parents, and marriage.

Fear Fear by Bob Woodward. I probably didn’t need to read another book about the chaos in the White House, by the chief chaos creator, but it’s Bob Woodward. This account of the Trump presidency is spot-on, but it’s not like you’re going to feel any better after reading it.

print A Printer’s Choice by W.L. Patenaude. I’m not typically a reader of science fiction, but I was thoroughly engrossed in this well-written novel about the classic battle between good and evil.

A Place of Springs A Place of Springs by Hannah Colby. Colby’s big book was years in the making, and her dedication to scene and detail is evident. An epic tale of love and loss, despair and hope, against a backdrop of the horrific Bosnian War.

Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen. How I missed this one is beyond me. No wonder she’s one of my favorite authors.

Well, that’s it! How about you? What was the best book you read in 2018? What book are you looking forward to?

Welcome to the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop!


The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time for Chick Lit Chat HQ’s annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop and this year it’s bigger and better than ever! 63 bestselling and award-winning authors in the Chick Lit and Romantic Comedy genres are participating in this fun-filled event and each one is doing a fantastic giveaway. Books, author swag, gift cards, and other assorted holiday treats are all up for grabs.

But wait! There’s much, much more. On the hop’s Facebook group page, you can enter to win our Grand Prize—a large holiday gift box filled to the brim with a fabulous variety of holiday and winter-themed goodies (the darling, KitschNStyle gingerbread house apron, Snoozies! sherpa socks, Calvin Klein cashmere pom-pom beanie in petal pink, Too Faced sugar cookie eye shadow purse palette, Sally Snowflakes mug by Bella Pilar, Well Read Women: A Reader’s Journal, and handmade chocolate soaps shown in the graphic below are just a few of the items included in the box!).

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We’ll also be handing out four Runner-Up Prizes. Each one is a pair of Fitz & Floyd holiday mugs that will be accompanied by a canister of Williams-Sonoma classic hot chocolate as well as a tin of The Republic of Tea’s Hallmark Channel Countdown to Christmas Tea. So, you’ll have delicious, warm beverages to keep you cozy all winter long!

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The celebration runs from Monday, Dec. 3rd through Sunday, Dec. 9th, so head on over to the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Facebook group for some lively conversation with both authors and readers, incredible prizes, and lots of holiday fun! You’ll find each day’s featured authors, along with the links to their pages/giveaways, in the pinned post at the top of the group. We look forward to seeing you there!

3rd Annual Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop Schedule

Monday, Dec. 3rd

Rich Amooi https://www.facebook.com/author.richamooi

Tracie Banister https://www.facebook.com/tracie.banister

Beth Carter https://www.facebook.com/authorbethcarter/

Susan Hatler https://www.facebook.com/authorsusanhatler

Holly Kerr https://www.facebook.com/HollyKerrAuthor/

Jennie Marts https://www.facebook.com/JennieMartsBooks/

Robyn Neeley https://www.facebook.com/RobynNeeleyAuthor/

Melanie Summers https://www.facebook.com/MJSummersAuthorPage

Avril Tremayne https://www.facebook.com/avril.tremayne/

 

Tuesday, Dec. 4th

Glynis Astie https://www.facebook.com/glynisastieauthor/

Christina Boyd, plus Yuletide anthology authors

https://www.facebook.com/TheDarcyMonologues/

Whitney Dineen https://www.facebook.com/Whitney-Dineen-Author-11687019412/

Jenny Gardiner https://www.facebook.com/jennygardinerbooks

Amy Gettinger https://www.facebook.com/Amy-Gettinger-Author-1412625005719904/

Virginia Gray https://www.facebook.com/Virginia.Gray.Author

Cassandra O’Leary https://www.facebook.com/cassandraolearyauthor

Jean Oram https://www.facebook.com/JeanOramAuthor/

Janice Williams https://www.facebook.com/booksbyjanicewilliams

 

Wednesday, Dec. 5th

Maggie Aldrich https://www.facebook.com/maggiealdrichwrites

Shanna Hatfield https://www.facebook.com/AuthorShannaHatfield/

Erin Huss https://www.facebook.com/authorerinhuss/

Julie Evelyn Joyce https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJEJ

Maida Malby

https://www.facebook.com/carpediemchroniclesbymaidamalby/

Kirsty McManus https://www.facebook.com/kirstymcmanusauthor/

Diane Michaels https://www.facebook.com/dianemichaelsauthor/

Becky Monson https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBeckyMonson/

Joslyn Westbrook https://www.facebook.com/JoslynWestbrookOfficial

 

Thursday, Dec. 6th

Traci Andrighetti https://www.facebook.com/traciandrighettiauthor/

Alex Bailey https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAlexBailey/

Kristina Beck https://www.facebook.com/krissybeck73/

Angie Ellington https://www.facebook.com/angienellingtonbooks

Hilary Grossman https://www.facebook.com/HilaryGrossmanAuthor/

Daisy James https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009889775019

Kate Kisset https://www.facebook.com/authorKateKisset/

Tracy Krimmer https://www.facebook.com/krimmerauthor/

Joy Norstrom https://www.facebook.com/joynorstromwrites/

 

Friday, Dec. 7th

Melissa Baldwin https://www.facebook.com/authormelissabaldwin

Aimee Brown https://www.facebook.com/authoraimeebrown

Annabelle Costa https://www.facebook.com/annabellecostaauthor/

Lindsay Detwiler https://www.facebook.com/lindsayanndetwiler

Patricia Fischer https://www.facebook.com/patriciawfwriter

Laura Heffernan https://www.facebook.com/lauraheffernanbooks

Beth Labonte https://www.facebook.com/bethlabontebooks

Monique McDonell https://www.facebook.com/MoniqueMcDonellAuthor/

Meredith Schorr https://www.facebook.com/MeredithSchorrAuthor/

 

Saturday, Dec. 8th

Laurie Baxter https://www.facebook.com/LaurieBaxterAuthor/

Laura Kenyon https://www.facebook.com/laurakenyonwrites

Cat Lavoie https://www.facebook.com/CatLavoieBooks

Nikki LeClair https://www.facebook.com/NikkiLeClairBooks/

Just Call Me “M” https://www.facebook.com/BooksbyJustCallMeM

Natalina Reis https://www.facebook.com/authornatalinareis/

D.L. Stewart https://www.facebook.com/AuthorDLStewart

Holly Tierney-Bedord https://www.facebook.com/HollyRecommends/

Maggie Wells https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMaggieWells/

 

Sunday, Dec. 9th 

Roseanne Beck https://www.facebook.com/RoseanneBeckWrites/

Laura Chapman https://www.facebook.com/laurachapmanbooks/

Karen M. Cox https://www.facebook.com/karenmcox1932/

Rachel Cullen https://www.facebook.com/RachelCullenAuthor/

Hannah Ellis https://www.facebook.com/novelisthannahellis/

Ciara Knight https://www.facebook.com/ciaratknight

June Moonbridge https://www.facebook.com/JMoonbridge/

Kate O’Keeffe https://www.facebook.com/kateokeeffeauthor/

Stacey Wiedower https://www.facebook.com/StaceyWiedower.author

 

*The Grand Prize giveaway is open to US residents only. However, all of the individual author giveaways and the Runner-Up Prize giveaway are open internationally.

Indie with Ease!


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If you self-publish your books (as I do), this new book by my friend Pauline Wiles is a must-have. We who self-publish – we indie authors – do a lot of work to get our books out there. And sometimes the entire process is overwhelming, because it’s not just about writing the book.

As Pauline writes, “Being an indie author should be a delight, not a drudgery. Indie With Ease demonstrates how a blend of clear purpose and steady pragmatism will enable you to thrive as an independent publisher. Through simple self-care techniques and a few mindset secrets, you’ll maximize motivation and minimize author anxiety.”

The book includes contributions and advice from over a dozen indie authors (including me!) and also includes templates, checklists, and trackers – all designed to help you with your writing journey.

I would love to give away a digital copy of this book! Just comment on this post and tell me one reason you’re an indie author (or would want to be!) I’ll choose a winner randomly a week after this date and will correspond with you directly.

Pauline

British by birth, Pauline is now a contented resident of California, although she admits to occasional yearnings for afternoon tea and historic homes. You can find all of her books here.

Forty Years Back


Nice, France

Forty years ago today, I boarded my first airplane and began a year abroad that would forever mark my life. The thirty or so students who went with me might well have the same thought – we all were impacted by a year in Switzerland, with no internet or cell phones.

My first novel, Chocolate for Breakfast, was (very) loosely based on that year. Like Bernadette Maguire, I was 20, naive (yes), and hopeful. Unlike Bernadette, I did not have an affair with a married man, nor did I get pregnant with his child. 😉 I recall explaining that to friends, who took my storytelling literally.

I’ve returned to my beloved Switzerland often – in 1981 to work as an au pair (there’s a book I should write), again a few years later, multiple times in the 1990s, and most recently in January 2017, where I was inspired to write Villa del Sol.

But the year that began on 28 September 1978 was my year. I don’t have any Cardinal beer to drink, no Giandor chocolate bar, and the Café Chemin de Fer is now, I believe, an Indian restaurant. Things change, even in Fribourg, Switzerland.

“Mesdames et messieurs, it is time to go sleep!” 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭

It is the heat. And it is the humidity.


Nearly September. 95 degrees today. Heat index 104. Just like yesterday.

So who else is cranky? I know (at least) three people who live without air conditioning. I don’t know how they live, though. Our thermostat is set at 74 and I’m hot. But I’m grateful for A/C, especially at night.

I’ve never liked summer best. Fall is my favorite. How about you? Depending on where you live, you might not experience four distinct seasons. But by September, the sun rises later and it’s dark by 8:00 now, so I want that cool air to follow.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the second round of edits for my new novel, so now it’s off to my trusted readers, who give me honest feedback. I sometimes can’t see a plot hole or a character who uses repetitive language, but they can! I’m still on track to have this book ready by December 1 – the day I’ll be at the Rhode Island Authors Expo!

Until then, I’m reading a lot (what are you reading?). I loved How to Walk Away by Katherine Center and Crossing the Bamboo Bridge by Mai Donohue (her memoir of growing up in Vietnam – you won’t be the same after reading it). I’m almost done with How Hard Can It Be? by the hilarious Allison Pearson, just started Alternate Side by the wonderful Anna Quindlen, and The Pendulum’s Truth by the very talented writing team of Leigh Brown and Vikki Corliss. Vacation next week means lots of reading!

Autumn will get here, eventually. You won’t hear me complain about the cold. Not me.

Five Questions for Hannah Colby


Today is the US release date for A Place of Springs, the sweeping epic novel from author Hannah Colby. Published by Unicorn Publishing Group in the UK, the novel is now available for American readers, and is highly recommended as a masterpiece of “love, loss, and the transcendent power of music.” I am so enjoying this novel – the writing is first-rate and you are transported into the lives of Daniel and Irena. I do highly recommend it.

A Place of Springs

Q. Tell us a little about yourself. I was born in Norwich (about 100 miles northeast of London) during World War II. My parents divorced and my brother and I were brought up in London by our mother.  She was an artist, and taught me to paint and draw, a little easel set up beside her own. At 17, I went to Paris, first to a traditional “finishing school,” then to study French Civilization at the Sorbonne.

I’ve written this novel under the pen name Colby – my maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was an American from Newton Center, Boston, who married a highlander from the Isle of Skye.

I married young, had four children, and continued to paint. My first husband and I set up a day center for young disabled adults, which I ran for seven years. My present husband and I lived in London and southwest France until we moved to Norwich. Six years ago I began to write the novel that has become A Place of Springs.

Q. What inspired you to write A Place of SpringsThe inspiration came from a lifetime of interests and experiences which seemed to demand expression. First, the horror and shame of the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 and all the appalling violence of the Balkan Wars. Then, a legacy of my London school, where I studied the piano and viola, my joy of classical music.

The story began to take shape when I was attending a creative writing course. From a collection of photographs, I picked up one of a young girl playing the violin. Without knowing anything about her, I decided she was Irena from Sarajevo, and wrote a short story for my homework. I continued to write about Irena and Daniel for the next six years.

Q. Can you tell us a little about the book? A Place of Springs follows the fortunes and misfortunes of concert pianist Daniel Danuczek, from the time he goes to teach at the Sarajevo Conservatory the year before the siege of that city in 1992. He lodges with Adam and Finola Vidaković and their young daughter, Irena. The tranquil opening chapters end when Daniel must return to London and the peace that Sarajevo has known is shattered.

Having had no news of his friends, Daniel returns to war-torn Bosnia. He learns that Adam and Finola are dead and Irena has disappeared.  Finding her becomes an obsession as he comes and goes between London and Sarajevo. His quest ends abruptly on his hotel balcony when he is shot by a sniper.

Daniel’s injuries force him to re-evaluate his career and change much about his playing if he is to return to the concert platform. His sister and his agent play important parts in his painful and emotional recovery. The main part of the book is written in three voices: the narrator’s, Irena’s, and that of Sam, one of Daniel’s pupils. During this time, Irena’s aunt writes from New York, where she is caring for Irena, now very changed after two years of brutal and abusive captivity.

This is, of course, a love story, but it is played out against a background of several elements. Music is a constant theme, as are ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and friendship.

To me, this book is about acceptance, forgiveness, courage, and the artist’s dedication to his art. But above all, its subject is healing.

Q. What genres do you like to read? I mainly read art history, ‘pop’ science and psychology, nineteenth and twentieth century novels, modern poetry, cookery, and travel books.

Q. Do you have a “Top Ten” or “Top Five” book list? This is difficult, but here are some that spring to mind:

  • Middlemarch (George Eliot)
  • Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy)
  • Fortunes of War (Olivia Manning)
  • Alexandria Quartet (Laurence Durrell)
  • Short Stories (Katherine Mansfield)
  • My Mother’s House (Colette)
  • The Pursuit of Love (Nancy Mitford)
  • A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf)
  • The Glass Room (Simon Mawer)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera)
  • Flaubert’s Parrot (Julian Barnes)
  • The Color Purple (Alice Walker)  [note: my favorite!!]
  • The Jews (Roger Peyrefitte)
  • Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
  • Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)

You can purchase a copy of A Place of Springs here

Woman of Heart and Mind


If the title of this blog post sounds familiar to you, then you, too, are a Joni Mitchell fan. I’ve been reading David Yaffe’s biography  of my favorite female singer/songwriter (Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell) and so often I’ve interrupted my reading to listen to one of her songs.

for the roses

The very first album (yes, I’m old, and albums were wonderful) I ever bought was For the Roses, Joni’s fifth studio album. I was 14 years old. For those of you who know me, and thought my first album purchase would be something by James Taylor, Mud Slide Slim was my second purchase. Those two sufficed for a long time. While I could stare at the cover of Mud Slide for hours, it was Joni’s lyrics that really resonated with me and my teenage angst.

mud slide

joni and james

I started collecting Joni’s earlier records, and reveled in “Cactus Tree” (‘she’s so busy being free’), “Michael from Mountains” (‘there’s oil in the puddles in taffeta patterns’), and “Carey” (‘maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam, maybe I’ll go to Rome’). By the time I was in college, I listened to her constantly, finding meaning in exquisitely-crafted lyrics. As a painter first, Joni crafted lyrics the way a painter creates art. In 1978, I was in Vienna with my friend Peter on Christmas Eve, and I think both of us were missing home separately. I wrote the entire lyrics to “California” on the bathroom wall of our hostel room. I apologize for the vandalism. I’d not yet traveled to California, but the words to this song felt right for that year abroad:

"Sitting in a park in Paris, France, reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance, that was just a dream some of us had...

...Oh, it gets so lonely, when you're walking
and the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues...

Joni’s nearly 75 now, and after a brain aneurysm in 2015, she’s been reclusive. However, she did attend a James Taylor concert last month at the Hollywood Bowl. You Tube has many of her recordings, concerts, and interviews. And it’s comforting to know that her songs are timeless – from the folks songs of the Sixties to her jazz efforts in the late Seventies and forward*, this self-described “painter derailed by circumstance” has created works of art with her lyrics and melodies. I can’t possibly pick a favorite song, but one of the best, in my opinion, in this one (written about the baby girl she gave up for adoption – mother and daughter reunited years ago):

*By the way, I don’t mean to discount any of Joni’s brilliance post-Court and Spark. I marvel at her talent and can lose myself in her later recordings. But the earlier lyrics spoke volumes to me in my youth.