Sunday, April 26, 2015

Showcase with review: Girl Underwater by Claire Kells


An adventurous debut novel that cross cuts between a competitive college swimmer’s harrowing days in the Rocky Mountains after a major airline disaster and her recovery supported by the two men who love her—only one of whom knows what really happened in the wilderness. 

Nineteen-year-old Avery Delacorte loves the water. Growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts, she took swim lessons at her community pool and captained the local team; in high school, she raced across bays and sprawling North American lakes. Now a sophomore on her university’s nationally ranked team, she struggles under the weight of new expectations but life is otherwise pretty good. Perfect, really.

That all changes when Avery’s red-eye home for Thanksgiving makes a ditch landing in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She is one of only five survivors, which includes three little boys and Colin Shea, who happens to be her teammate. Colin is also the only person in Avery’s college life who challenged her to swim her own events, to be her own person—something she refused to do. Instead she’s avoided him since the first day of freshman year. But now, faced with sub-zero temperatures, minimal supplies, and the dangers of a forbidding nowhere, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could’ve imagined.

In the wilderness, the concept of survival is clear-cut. Simple. In the real world, it’s anything but.

Claire Kells

I'm a writer, a second-year resident, and a bagel eater. Seriously, I can't start my day without a hot bagel and a Diet Coke (from the fountain only - and yes, this means I'm out there walking those San Francisco hills at dawn to get it!). I don't have many other quirks. That's not true. I have many. Thanks for stopping by and I hope I haven't confused/scared you.

I love a good story - fiction, non-fiction, mystery, spy novel, romance, Young Adult. I'll read anything with a good story at its core. As a writer, I live by the same rule. 

GIRL UNDERWATER is my first novel, coming in March 2015 from Penguin/Dutton.

Brilliant, emotional and completely stunning, Girl Underwater, will leave the reader emotionally exhausted in the best possible way! 4 stars

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. Great books. I have always been inspired by stories.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

A. I love connecting with readers. Nothing is more gratifying than hearing from someone who escaped into your story for a few hours. 

Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?

A.  For a long time, rejection was the toughest part for me. After a while, I somehow learned to accept that rejection is a reliable and permanent part of this process. It’s not personal. I had been through the submission process twice before with manuscripts that didn’t sell, and it was that experience that taught me how to fail gracefully! 

These days, the hardest part is finding the time to sit down and write. I prefer to write for days and hours at a time, but my job makes that impossible. My time is never really my own. I do look forward to vacations when I can sit down for long periods and lose myself in whatever I’m writing. 

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A. Well, I’ve got my medical career, so I guess there’s that! But in a fantasy world, I would love to be a director. I’m kind of obsessed with the entertainment industry.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A. Can You Speak Up?

Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?

A. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Q.  Which character from ANY book are you most like?

A. Esther Greenwood from The Bell Jar. When I read this book for the first time in college, I felt as though I was reading my autobiography! I connected with Esther on so many levels, which I know is worrisome because Esther is so depressed, but it was more than that. The ways in which she glimpsed happiness and purpose despite all the “noise” in her life really resonated with me.

Q.  What character from all of your books are you most like?

A. I’m probably most like Colin’s youngest sister for reasons that are hard to explain because she’s hardly in the book. She’s kind of my cameo.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. Harry Potter.

Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

A. I hope someone remembers that I existed 100 years from now. That to me would be a victory.

Q.  What is your favorite season?

A. Summer—except in San Francisco. Summer in SF is cold and damp! I love a hot, humid New Jersey summer down the shore.

Q.  What inspired your book cover?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?

A. I didn’t have much say in the cover design, but that turned out to be a good thing because I absolutely love it. 

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A. When I first received the Advanced Reader Copies, I showed them to friends and family. Everyone was like, “Wow! That’s so cool that you’re on the front cover!” It is true that the girl on the front looks like me, but it’s definitely not me. My friends and family still don’t believe this. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes! Always.

Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?

A.  I’m just so thrilled and flattered to be here! Thank you for having me. 

Review: Save Me by Kristyn Kusek Lewis


Daphne Mitchell has always believed in cause and effect, right and wrong, good and bad. The good: her dream job as a doctor; Owen, her childhood sweetheart and now husband; the beautiful farmhouse they're restoring together. In fact, most of her life has been good--until the day Owen comes home early from work to tell her he's fallen head over heels for someone else.

Unable to hate him, but also equally incapable of moving forward, Daphne's life hangs in limbo until the day Owen's new girlfriend sustains near-fatal injuries in a car accident. As Daphne becomes a pillar of support for the devastated Owen, and realizes that reconciliation may lie within her grasp, she has to find out whether forgiveness is possible and decide which path is the right one for her.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I'm the author of SAVE ME (Grand Central, Dec 2014), a novel about two doctors, a tragic accident, and the power of forgiveness, and HOW LUCKY YOU ARE (Grand Central, Sept 2012), a novel about three women and the growing pains of their enduring friendship. How Lucky reached #1 on Barnes & Noble’s Top 100/Bestselling NOOK Books and was a Target Emerging Authors Pick, a Working Mother "Five Best Fall Books" and Parents Magazine "Mom Must-Read."

A former magazine editor at publications including Glamour and Child, I've been writing for national publications for nearly twenty years. My work has appeared in the New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Reader’s Digest, Glamour, Self, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Parents, Allure, Good Housekeeping, Cooking Light, Health, Men’s Health, the New York Daily News, and many more.

I'm a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I earned an MFA in creative writing, and the College of the Holy Cross. I live in NC with my family.

With emotion, truth and pure heart, Save Me, is a novel not to be missed.  Lewis has a way to develop a story and a character and pull the reader into the lives within the pages.  
A great read 4 stars

Showcase: A Foolish Consistency by Andrea Weir

Book Description
When a trip to the emergency room on Christmas Eve brings Callie Winwood together with Will Tremaine, the man she once thought she’d marry but has not seen in twenty-five years, their chance meeting reignites feelings each has harbored for more than two decades. 

Their journey toward one another is anything but simple, however. Following the death of his wife, Joanna, two years earlier, which he believes he caused, Will has devoted himself to his two young children. 

As Will and Callie struggle with their own personal histories of love and loss, they must also navigate the complex emotions of Will's children who still grieve for their mother. At the same time, they must struggle with Joanna's family, who refuse to accept that she is gone, and will do anything to avoid facing the truth. 

Just as Callie and Will find happiness at last, they are forced apart when a scandal threatens to unravel their respective families. Putting their children above all else, Callie and Will separate — willingly but painfully — until an unexpected ally intervenes. 

A Foolish Consistency explores the damage — emotional and otherwise — wrought by unacknowledged fear and grief, as well as the futility of trying to control the uncontrollable. Yet, it is also a passionate love story, and a statement on the power of hope, the importance of forgiveness, and, ultimately, the joy of redemption.

About Andrea
Andrea Weir is an accomplished journalist whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country and around the world. Born in Boston, she grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area then completed a degree in English literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She and her husband continue to live in Santa Barbara, where they raised their two daughters, Rebecca and Catherine. An avid reader and writer since childhood, Weir composed her first stories in grade-school notebooks, and has filled upwards of 30 journals since she received her first one as a gift at age 13. She has led writing workshops for high school students, and seminars on journaling for people of all ages.

Among the highlights of her writer’s life is a trip to the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth Village in West Yorkshire, England, where Charlotte Brontë created Jane Eyre and Emily Brontë penned Wuthering Heights.

A Foolish Consistency is Weir’s first novel. She is currently working on the sequel.

Q.  What inspires your writing?
A. I am inspired by the stories of people’s lives. In my own writing I like to explore universal human emotions and experiences — love, loss, sadness, grief, joy, redemption. In A Foolish Consistency, for example, grief plays a central role (“looms large … becoming something of a character in itself,” according to Kirkus Reviews), but the story is about how people deal with it, and what happens when they don’t.

The best works of fiction, I think, are those that resonate with people and allows them to glimpse reflections of themselves.
Q.  What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
A. The freedom of expression. My characters say whatever words I put in their mouths, and through them I can explore all kinds of circumstances, situations, and experiences. I start with the statement, “I wonder what would happen if …” and see where it takes me.
Q.  What is the toughest part of being a writer?
A. Exercising the self-discipline to sit down and write. Actually, I think the toughest part is first telling the internal editors and other naysayers in my head to be quiet, and then exercising the self-discipline to sit down and write.

It’s also tough to stay balanced and not be undone by the business of writing and publishing. For a writer, the only thing that matters — that should matter — is to tell a good story. Sometimes I have to remind myself that. A writer writes, first and foremost. The rest — be it fame, fortune or anything else — is secondary to the work itself.
Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?
A. I would probably teach literature. I love that fiction enables us to explore different worlds and try on different personas. It gives us opportunities to practice compassion and empathy; it allows us to consider people in ways we might not otherwise, and to understand motives behind their actions. And we can bring some of that understanding into our real lives.
Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?
A. “All In Good Time”
Q.  What is your favorite book of all time?
A. There are so many books I love, but I think my favorite of all time is Becky’s Birthday by Tasha Tudor. It’s the first book I checked out of the library when I was six or seven years old, and I absolutely adored it. We were allowed to keep books for two weeks, and I’d check it out every other visit. I was enthralled by the writing, the illustrations, and by Becky’s loving family.

It is the book that taught me it’s possible to get lost in fiction, and it is the first book I fell in love with.
Q. What character from ANY book are you most like?
A. Jo March in Little Women. There’s the writing, of course, but also her commitment to her family, her strength combined with compassion, her stubbornness, and also that she’s a bit unsure of herself.
Q.  What character from any of your books are you most like?
A. I’m probably most like Callie, because our childhood experiences are so similar. She has taught me a lot about life and about myself.
Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?
A. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin. It’s the book on which the film Enchanted April is based. Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend in San Salvatore, a castle high above a bay on the Italian Riviera? Who wouldn’t want to spend a weekend with those four women?
Q.  What is your favorite season?
A. I don’t have a favorite season. I really like them all for their individual qualities. I love long summer days and warm evenings, but I also like curling up by the fireplace on a cold winter night. Shakespeare said it much better than I can: “At Christmas I no more desire a rose,/Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;/But like each thing that in season grows.
Q.  What inspired your book cover(s)?  Or what is your favorite book cover and why?
A. Roses figure prominently in my novel, beginning with the epigraph, a quote from Emerson’s essay on self-reliance: “The roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are …”

Also, the background is reminiscent of an exterior wall or a headstone — depending on how you look at it.
Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.
A. I don’t know that I’d call this funny, but a woman approached me in a bookstore after a reading and shared practically her entire life story with me. Over the course of the conversation she interrupted herself a few times to say she couldn’t believe she telling me such personal details when we had only just met.
Q.  Are you working on something new?
A. Yes, I’m working on the sequel to A Foolish Consistency, though it doesn’t have a working title yet. It answers some of the questions that didn’t get completely resolved, and explores a new set of themes (though loss and grief and difficult relationships still figure prominently). It also provides a broader family history and looks at issues related to mental health.  
Q.  Anything you want to say to followers of this blog or those that are just stopping by?
A. Aside from, “I hope you’ll read my novel?” (That was a joke.) Actually, what I’d like to say is, “Thanks for reading — anything.” Books make us more intelligent, more interesting, more curious, more discerning, more everything. They make us better people. 
And can I put in a plug for my novel by way of mentioning that I just learned I am a finalist for a Foreword Review’s 2014 IndieFAB Book of the Year Award? The winners will be announced in June.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Video Reviews: BBC HOME ENTERTAINMENT Wings 3D, Planet Dinosaur 3D, Tiny Giants 3D

My Review:
This is such a magical movie that takes you on a journey with a variety of birds through a variety of settings. There is something for everyone in this movie. Weather you love birds, like I do, or are somebody who just enjoys nature this movie will blow your mind.  You will see what wonderful video and photography. along with some of the latest technology can create.  This movie was both awe inspiring to myself and my kids.  It has so much beauty, just enough narration and a story that makes you marvel as nature and it's wondrous ways.  5 stars

Planet Dinosaur 3D (Blu-ray)

Transporting viewers to locations across the planet and back through hundreds of millions of years, Planet Dinosaur brings to life the most amazing, surprising and strange prehistoric creatures that ever lived. Narrated by John Hurt (Doctor Who, the Harry Potter films), this groundbreaking series uses the latest CGI and cutting-edge research to reveal the secrets of these newly discovered giants, weaving a dramatic story of survival laced with scientific developments. This is unlike any dinosaur show you’ve ever seen – a completely immersive 3D experience studded with curious facts, jaw-dropping action and charismatic monsters whose discovery entailed a re-write of the prehistory books.

My Review:
Wow, this is such an awesome movie that both adults and children will enjoy.  I was obsessed with dinosaurs when I was a child and this movie brings that love and admiration jumping out of the TV in the most brilliant way.  My boys and I were enthralled by this movie.  Created through some of the latest technology this movie is a must watch for all dino lovers out there.  Simply amazing and awe inspiring.  5 stars

Tiny Giants 3D (Blu-ray)

The incredibly immersive power of specialist 3D cameras transports viewers in a very intimate way into another world to experience the titanic battles these creatures face to survive. Narrated by Stephen Fry (TheHobbit films, 24: Live Another Day), Tiny Giants 3D reveals the astonishing lives of tiny animals in an adventure of giant proportions.

My Review: 
I think this is seriously one of the cutest and most interesting videos I have ever seen.  These 2 tiny giants were a hoot to watch and amazing to learn about.  My kids, and the neighbor kids, sat quietly totally engrossed by the 2 tiny giants...a chipmunk and a mouse.  I never knew the things they had to do to survive.  It was so inspiring to see nature at its best and to see how much fight these tiny animals have inside of them.  You cannot help but cheer them on.  I cannot say enough how much I adored this movie!  Add in 3D and you have a unforgettable movie experience!!!  5 stars. 


Friday, April 24, 2015

Showcase: Shotgun Lovesongs and Beneath the Bonfire by Nickolas Butler

Well, here is WI we are in the middle of my favorite week ever, well next to Christmas that is...
is now underway!  I have had so much fun so far and saw some amazing writers that I have always wanted to see and some that are new to me. And I still have 3 more days to go!!!  
What an amazing week it has been.  
Making memories, building up my signed book collection and being inspired by the writers that create stories that change my life.

  Yesterday, I was honored to listen to Nickolas Butler read from his novel 
and what a brilliant book...such honestly, imagery and characters worth getting to know.  Butler was kind enough to be interviewed by me and I am so thankful that he took time to answer of few of my questions.  

Thanks so much Nickolas!!!


Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town — Little Wing — and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them—both then and now—fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of love songs and rivalries.

Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed.

There is conflict here between longtime buddies, between husbands and wives — told with writing that is, frankly, gut-wrenching, and even heartbreaking. But there is also hope, healing, and at times, even heroism. It is strong, American stuff, not at all afraid of showing that we can be good, too — not just fallible and compromising. Shotgun Lovesongs is a remarkable and uncompromising saga that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again — and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires.


Nickolas Butler's debut novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, has become an international bestseller and won numerous accolades, including France's Prix Page/America, previously won by Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding. Now, in Beneath the Bonfire, he demonstrates his talent for portraying "a place and its people with such love that you'll find yourself falling for them, too" (Josh Weil, author of The Great Glass Sea).

Young couples gather to participate in an annual "chainsaw party," cutting down trees for firewood in anticipation of the winter. A group of men spend a weekend hunting for mushrooms in the wilderness where they grew up and where some still find themselves trapped. An aging environmentalist takes out his frustration and anger on a singular, unsuspecting target. One woman helps another get revenge against a man whose crime extends far beyond him to an entire community. Together, the ten stories in this dazzling, surprising collection evoke a landscape that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has traveled the back roads and blue highways of America, and they completely capture the memorable characters who call it home.

Nickolas Butler

Nickolas Butler is the author of the novel "Shotgun Lovesongs" and a forthcoming collection of short stories entitled, "Beneath the Bonfire".

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and raised in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he was educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. His work has appeared in: Ploughshares, The Christian Science Monitor, The Kenyon Review Online, Narrative, The Progressive, and many other publications.

Along the way he has worked as: a meatpacker, a Burger King maintenance man, a liquor store clerk, a coffee roaster, an office manager, an author escort, an inn-keeper (twice), and several other odd vocations.

He presently lives on 16 acres of land in rural Wisconsin adjacent to a buffalo farm. He is married with two children.

Q.  What inspires your writing?

A. On a pragmatic level, writing is how I make my living.  If I'm not writing, I'm not making money; I don't have another job.  On a more romantic level, I'm inspired by nature, by art of all kinds, by friends, by things overheard in everyday life...  I think, as a writer, you have to be paying attention to everything and everyone.  There are stories everywhere, inside everyone.

Q.  What is your favorite thing about being an writer?

A. I'm living my dream.  Short of holding a clipboard for Aaron Rodgers, I wouldn't want to do anything else.  Being a writer is an amazing blessing.  When I'm writing, I'm engaging my imagination, my memory, my senses, my own philosophy.  And I get to travel the world meeting readers, librarians, professors, teachers, and booksellers.  What could be better?

Q.  What is the toughest part of being an writer?

A. Writing.  When I'm feeling very inspired, writing comes easily, everything flows.  But it isn't always that easy, and that's when writing becomes tough.  You're all alone, staring at a wall, or a computer screen, waiting for a mysterious muse to whisper into your ear - which is of course a joke.  There is no muse.

Q.  If you could not be writer, what would you do/be?

A. I was a coffee-roaster for three years, and I very much enjoyed that.  I think brewing beer would also be fun.  I don't know.  I also think being a librarian would be rewarding - surrounded by books and movies and music.

Q.  What would the story of your life be entitled?

A.  I don't know...  It's a good question.  I'm 35 years old, and I feel like my life is just beginning.  Two small kids, a great marriage, doing exactly what I want to be doing.  Ask me again in five years.

Q.  Which book would you love to take a weekend vacation inside of?

A. A Moveable Feast or The Sun Also Rises or The Nick Adams Stories...  all by Hemingway.

Q.  What do you want to be remembered for 100 years from now?

A. 100 years from now, my grandchildren will be in the middle of their lives.  I hope that they remember me as a kind old man who was still curious about the world, who loved cigars, beer and wine, and the natural world, and everything that makes us human.  I'd love to have a pet crow.  I'd love to learn how to care for horses.  I'd like to become a better poet.  I just want to people to remember me for being kind, generous, maybe brave.

Q.  Tell me something funny that happened while on a book tour or while promoting your book.

A.  I met a woman in a bookstore who thought I was Nicholas Sparks.  When she finally accepted that I was NOT Nicholas Sparks, she seemed very disappointed that she had purchased my book. 

Q.  Are you working on something new?

A. Yes.  Working on a new novel about three generations of fathers and sons and mothers and sons visiting the same northern Wisconsin Boy Scout camp.  I think its about love, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, and becoming a man.

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