The Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff

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Paperback, 416 pgs.
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Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is an epic debut in the historical fiction genre in which both strong women — Lady Katherine Trenowyth and Anna Trenowyth — are challenged. Katherine, a budding artist, bucks societal expectations to follow her heart, but her actions have ramifications. Nurse Anna closes herself off from others following a tragic sinking of a ship and deaths that rock her world. These women choose hard, lonely paths, but their strength carries them through the good and bad. While Katherine knows when to accept help, Anna must learn this lesson on her own, which can be tough during a WWII when many things are uncertain and tragedy can strike at any moment.

Panicked like a wild thing caught and frozen by the hunter’s lamp. (pg. 293 ARC)

As Rickloff shifts between the points of view and the time periods, readers may expect to lose their place in these stories, but she does such a wonderful job integrating them, readers are bound to fall in love with both characters. Although we may want the best for them, the realities of war and circumstance will intervene. When Anna shows up to tend to the patients at Nanreath Hall, an ancestral home she’s never seen, her curiosity takes over, forcing her to uncover the secrets of her mother, where she comes from, and the family she never knew as a child.

Secrets of Nanreath Hall by Alix Rickloff is a carefully woven tapestry of generations of Trenowyths, whose lives are upended by the decisions they make, the passions they follow, and the wars they cannot control. This is historical fiction at its best with elements of romance, artistry, romance, and mystery. Get swept away by the mysterious ruins of lives past and learn to make a new path from the old.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Alix Rickloff is a critically acclaimed author of historical and paranormal romance. Her previous novels include the Bligh Family series (Kensington, 2009), the Heirs of Kilronan trilogy (Pocket, 2011), and, as Alexa Egan, the Imnada Brotherhood series (Pocket, 2014). She lives in Chestertown, Maryland, with her husband and three children.  Find out more about Alix at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her on Pinterest.

The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler

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Paperback, 368 pgs.
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The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is a stunning mystery that unravels piece by piece, and readers will first meet Mary Browning, an elderly woman in a writer’s group.  She believes she sees an apparition of her sister, Sarah, as a young lady walks into their public writing group.  This vision prompts her memories to resurface, and with the help of this young transcriptionist, she begins again on her memoir.  Leffler deftly weaves between the past and present, creating a multi-layered story that will capture not only the nostalgia of a former airplane pilot during WWII but also the immediacy of a young woman’s search for herself among the detritus of family drama.  Her characters resonate off of one another, like echoes of the past pushing forward the lives of the present into the future.  This ripple effect builds throughout the novel, until the final mystery is revealed.

“But my greatest fear of all was not having a voice of my own.” (pg. 5 ARC)

We all fear losing ourselves and not having a voice.  We are individuals in search of ourselves, but we also are sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends, among other roles that we play.  These connections can help us breathe life into our passions and desires, or they can stifle them.  The trick is to balance the needs and expectations of others with our own without hurting ourselves or those we care most about.

“… I learned how to squeeze my face closed and let myself soundlessly shudder, imagining my tears deep inside, dripping off my organs.” (pg. 31 ARC)

Mary has lived her life, much of it on her own terms, and while she has had a hard time compromising, she was able to do it for love, even to her own detriment.  When WWII was in full swing, she left home to do what she loved even as many told her she shouldn’t, and when she fell in love, she made a sacrifice that many would now see as unnecessary without having lived with the fear of persecution.

Very rarely is there a book that can equally make emotions soar and crash, taking readers on a complete journey wrought with obstacles and choices that you can only imagine facing.  For Mary Browning to have survived them and to have created a satisfying, but not ideal life, is nothing short of miraculous — much like when a heavy metal plane takes to the air with the birds and clouds.  The Secrets of Flight by Maggie Leffler is equal parts coming of age story, WWII historical romance, and mystery, and it is so well balanced and amazing, readers will be left spent at the end of the runway.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Maggie Leffler is an American novelist and a family medicine physician. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from the University of Delaware and volunteered with AmeriCorps before attending St. George’s University School of Medicine. She practices medicine in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and sons. The Secrets of Flight is her third novel.

Find out more about Maggie at her website, and connect with her on Facebook.

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith

The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith, published by Milkweed Editions on 100 percent post-consumer waste paper and who will be at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival) allows nature to run rampant through the poems, lifting up the reader and at the same time opening the door to reality.  While we strive to compartmentalize our lives to the before, during, and after of pivotal moments, the reality is that these moments are not separate and cannot be separated.  This analytical approach to our very journeys runs contrary to the emotional and experiential ways in which we live.  The struggle between the logical part of the brain and the emotional part can be seen in every poem, but it is particularly pronounced in the poems “Providence,” “Knot,” and “Crane.”

Keith’s use of nature elements, especially wind, provide readers with not only emotional cues to the state of things, but also paints vivid landscapes that evoke emotional responses.  In each poem, there is a longing for the past and what was, but it is not so overwhelming that the present moment nor the emotional memory of the past is lost.  While facts play a key role in grounding some of these poems, behind the scenes Keith weaves a narrative that haunts each poem with a depth of emotion and progression toward the realization of one’s own mortality and its nearness at all times.  “What is Nothing But a Picture,” is a prime example of this technique as the narrator paints a mural of seascapes and battles in the past, while examining the past, present, and end.  Like with many artists, there is a restless to the narrative, and this restlessness becomes overwhelming by the end of the poem when “The dogs’ hot breath hits in gusts./Clouds thicken.  Clouds splice/down far-off mountainsides no one sees./The surface of the ocean is heavy./The surface is a ruin that breathes./”  (pages 27-42)

For Example (page 52)

The pale undersides of sycamore leaves, knocking
at seed pods hanging in brown bunches

so that they helicopter down.
Slag heap, mad slack, taut song:

Which morning am I making up now?
Somewhere wild animals are seeking cool hollows

in which to lay themselves down.
A wall of cotton disperses in the wind.

Keith references the great battles and losses of Achilles and Hector on more than one occasion, and it would seem that these references point to a kinship between these heroes and the people of today, although the losses may not achieve the same legendary magnitude.  The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith explores not only the facts of matter, but also the emotional ties that bind us and the art that is born out of those experiences, which can never truly capture those moments in the same way that they were lived — a kind of existential examination of grief and mortality.

About the Poet:

Sally Keith is the author of two previous collections of poetry: Design, winner of the 2000 Colorado Prize for Poetry, and Dwelling Song, winner of the University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, New England Review, and elsewhere. Keith teaches at George Mason University and lives in Washington, DC.

This is my 20th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.



This is my 30th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




She’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio

Click the image above for today’s National Poetry Month tour post!

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio is a poetry collection that defies convention in its cathartic purpose as a series of free-association dream poems with accompanying notes on those dreams from the poet at the time she was tackling some serious trauma.  It is more than a collection of poems and notes about those dreams they capture, it is a memoir written as she uncovers some deeply traumatic events in her childhood as she was on the cusp of womanhood.

“It’s easy to forget how complex and intense are the thoughts of children, and how everlasting.  I mean that the thoughts last in the mind, enacting their meanings, even when they seem to be forgotten.”  (page 132)

Arvio’s notes are essential in many ways to the understanding of her dream poems, which are often surreal and disjointed.  The notes help carve out her images and how they associate to one another and which dreams came to her in the same span of time.  She breaks down her word choices for lines in the poems, the origins of words and how their meanings are uncannily related to the trauma she experienced and subsequently forgot.  She also provides insight into the artwork that she saw and that reminded her of the trauma and how certain colors appear and reappear in her poems because of their relation to the trauma.

watermelon (page 19):

in the brightwhite kitchen a tiny pink
watermelon lies on the pink counter
or white it may be white by the fruit
is pure pink flesh I take a bite of it
then I recall a photograph of me
standing & biting the watermelon
in the newspaper that was black & white
though I know my shirt was white & pink
at the fair on something hill (named for
a fruit) where my father bought me a book
that was called something hill something that meant
flesh & then I knew it was fanny hill
the place was strawberry hill & little 
me as francesca seduced by a book

Arvio utilizes repetition of color and words in her poem to illustrate the remembering of a dream while awake, as the mind filters through the image details to carve out the truth of the events. Her poems read like dream interpretations without the conclusion, and in this way, she leaves the poems open to interpretation until the reader gets to her notes section. While these are dream poems, the images and actions will likely make some readers squirm and look away, particularly with the maiming of animals, among other things. These poems are stark and sometimes profane, much like the shame and the trauma explored in the dreams.

night thoughts: 70 dream poems and notes from an analysis by Sarah Arvio is poignant, frightening, and “super real.” Start with the notes at the end of the book, if you want background on her dream poems before you read them, or hold off and read them at the end to get a richer experience. This memoir/poetry collection is meant to disturb.

About the Poet:

Sarah Arvio is a poet who has lived in New York, Paris, Caracas, Rome and Mexico.  For many years a translator for the United Nations in New York and Switzerland, she has recently also taught poetry at Princeton.

Her poems are widely published, in such journals as The New Yorker, The New Republic, Literary Imagination, Boston Review, The Kenyon Review and Poetry Kanto and in many online reviews.

Composers have set her poems to music:  Miriama Young set “Cote d’Azur” as “Inner Voices of Blue”; Steve Burke set “Armor” for the song cycle “Skin”; and William Bolcom set “Chagrin” for the song cycle “The Hawthorn Tree.”

She’ll be at the May Gaithersburg Book Festival for “Poetry in the Afternoon” moderated by me!

This is my 16th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

This is my 25th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer

The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer, published by The Word Works in Washington, D.C., is a beautifully lyric collection of poems that explore the fine line between imagination/hope and reality, and on many occasions, Geyer’s poems end with an unexpected result.  In the first section, she explores the wonders of childbirth and miracles, but these poems also hover on the edge of death and the power that comes with bringing about the end.  In “Without Warning,” the onset of death is wrought with many to-do lists, but never on the list is what can be done with the last breath.  But in “After Having Been Distracted,” the narrator’s attention is called to the struggle for life of a cicada only to find that she must be the one to end it.  In many ways, these are poems about miracles, but miracles that don’t exactly have happy endings.

From "Afternoon on Portland Harbor" (page 18-9):

... Gravity tugs
us along the tilted deck -- our braced thighs hum

to the heartbeat of keel against water.
The crew feathers the sails to lessen the heel.

Hush the harbor soothes as we slow
to a near-stall.  Buoy bells toll

Geyer’s poems are musical and the rhythm transports her readers to that place she’s describing, like the boat in the poem cited above.  In the third section of poems, illusions — many of them held since childhood — are broken down, like the superhero hands of a mother being scarred and gnarled.  There also are poems that touch on the healing, or maybe numbing, effects of time, particularly its ability to make the hurt of abandonment not as fresh as it could be, like in Geyer’s “The Door.”  But then there is the silence of widowhood, which calls to mind Plath’s version of this topic in her collection Crossing the Water.  While Plath talks of widowhood as a crushing state for women who are overshadowed by their husbands even after death, Geyer’s poem speaks to the silent pride of the state and the perseverance it takes to keep moving forward.  And while there is a sense of loss in many of these poems, this section also speaks of hope — the unexpected still to come with renewal, particularly in “New Porch.”

Geyer deftly combines fairy tales with nature imagery and more modern situations and sensibilities in a collection that strives to sing the praises of restraint and letting go.  The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer explores the tipping point between expressing fear, anger, sadness, and other emotions at any moment and the decisions to remain silent and strong in the face of others and for others.  Like the scabbard that holds the sword from the fight or releases it, the throat becomes that scabbard to hold back or let loose the voice and emotion of these poems.  Another collection that has spoken and blow me away with its lyricism and poignancy.

This is my 12th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.




This is my 21st book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.




About the Poet:

Bernadette Geyer is a poet and copy editor in the Washington, DC, area.  Geyer’s first full-length manuscript, The Scabbard of Her Throat, was selected by Cornelius Eady for publication in the Hilary Tham Capital Collection series of The Word Works. Geyer is the author of a poetry chapbook, What Remains, and recipient of a 2010 Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County. Her poetry has appeared in Oxford American, North American Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Verse Daily, and elsewhere.  Geyer’s non-fiction has appeared in WRITERS’ Journal, The Montserrat Review, Freelance Writer’s Report, World Energy Review, and Marco Polo Magazine. Photo by Emily Korff, Veralana Photography

Click the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Tour Post!

The Voice I Just Heard by Susan Dormady Eisenberg

Look at this book’s cover, as the woman walks out on the stage and sees the waterfalls before her, this is a perfect metaphor for the stage fright that grips Nora Costello when she sings, especially when her dismissive parents are in the audience. Imagine what singing is like for an artist, it is the air they breathe and the thrum of their soul, but imagine how it would be to recapture your flagging confidence in the presence of parents who disapprove of the theater as a career, particularly after one of your staunchest supporters, your brother Liam, dies in the Vietnam War dashing your father’s hopes of another brilliant doctor in the family.  The Voice I Just Heard by Susan Dormady Eisenberg is an operatic debut of epic proportions, with a story that takes readers behind the scenes of theater and opera through an emotional journey of losing a brother at one of the most controversial times in U.S. history — the Vietnam War.

“As Liam and I stood elbow to elbow at the fence, he said, ‘I should’ve memorized the whole poem, but I only recall the first four lines and the last four.’  His expression turned solemn.  ‘Here’s how it ends.  “Oh may my falls be bright as thine, may heaven’s forgiving rainbow shine, upon the mist that circles me, as soft as now it hangs o’er thee.”‘

‘That’s sweet,’ I said.  ‘But what does it mean?’

‘I asked Sister Perpetua.  She said we have the power of the falls in each of us.  When we screw up, heaven sends us a rainbow to tell us we’re forgiven.’  He shrugged.  ‘It’s weird.  I’ve come here three times and never seen a rainbow, so I wonder if Moore made it up.'”  (page 152)

Eisenberg, who has written profiles of singers, actors, and more, deftly weaves in the story of Liam and Nora’s childhood and the pressures they faced to be perfect for their upper crust parents — even if that meant tamping down their desires for a new direction and passion — with the present day family dynamics of losing a son to war.  Nora is set adrift without the anchoring relationship of her brother, who in a way was her buffer between her passions and dreams and her parents’ disapproval.  Her father is stoic in his response to his child’s death, and her mother withdraws from everything.  Eisenberg’s prose brings to life the grief of these characters as the mother goes to mass daily, the father buries himself in work, and Nora seeks solace in the theater where she runs public relations for the summer showing of Annie Get Your Gun in Cohoes, N.Y., alongside her gay boss Graham Chase.  A former mill town, Cohoes is a hot bed of hidden beauty in more ways than one, and it’s the perfect setting for two battered singers to meet — Nora Costello and Barton Wheeler, where they can come to terms with the right path for their artistry and their souls.

Eisenberg’s characters are deeply emotional, high strung, and respond before thinking, which gets them into a number of situations that can be misinterpreted and blown out of proportion, and in this way, her dramatic story resembles the missteps in Pride & Prejudice.  Nora must learn to see the courage within herself, repair her relationships with her parents and childhood friend Liz, and determine what path is best for her without the influence of others.  Bart, on the other hand, is balancing his true career with the need to support his two daughters from a previous marriage, while still holding onto the family business.  When they come together sparks fly.

The Voice I Just Heard by Susan Dormady Eisenberg is about finding the confidence in oneself to reach out passionately for the life you want to lead and to never let go of it, not matter what the detractors say.  Sage advice for any artist — whether singer or poet.  Nora is spunky, head strong, and passionate, while Bart is more restrained (probably due to his age and life experiences), but he’s equally adrift as he’s lost confidence in his abilities and the right path for himself.  From the stage in Cohoes to Washington, D.C., Nora and Bart grow into themselves and their voices — voices that are their own and remind them of where they belong.  When overture sounds and the cast steps on the stage, the voices in this novel will sweep the reader away into a operatic crescendo like no other.

There is some strong sexual language in this book, so beware.

About the Author:

Susan Dormady Eisenberg is a writer based in Maryland. She has published articles in Opera News and Classical Singer (such as a November 2011 cover profile of baritone Robert Orth), as well as The Hartford Courant and The Albany Times Union. On February 3, 2012, she released her first novel, The Voice I Just Heard, as an indie ebook.

As a freelancer Susan has written promotional publications for clients throughout Greater D.C. Prior to launching her business, she did publicity for Goodspeed Opera House and Syracuse Stage, and marketing for the Joffrey Ballet/New York.

Please also check out my interview with her for the D.C. Literature Examiner.

This is my 61st book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.



The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline

The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline, published by Maryland-based Atticus Books, is loosely based upon F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (my review — no, you don’t have to read Fitzgerald to enjoy Tohline’s novel), but it’s also part Edgar Allan Poe(m)-inspired.

Richard Parkland takes up his friend’s offer of using his summer home on Nantucket during the winter to write his next novel, and he soon comes in contact with the Montanas, who live in an ornate home much like that of Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s novel.  Richard parallels the narrator of Gatsby, Nick Carraway, while Lenore is the female lead here and is not as insipid or self-absorbed.  Many of the elements are similar in that the Montana’s are a rich family and that their members are embroiled in drama, particularly the brothers Maxwell and Chas.  There are great loves and there are mistresses, but there is much more in these pages than a replication of Fitzgerald or any other writer.

“We stopped looking at him, and he drifted through the house like an orange blob inside a lava lamp, with a cold glass of whiskey glued to his hands.”  (page 53 ARC)

The dialogue between the characters is reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby as they tiptoe around what they really want to say to one another or shout uselessly in anger and frustration because of the situations in which they find themselves.  These characters are acting and reacting to one another in a vacuum in which no one else matters, not even Richard.  He’s a sounding board more than once, and he’s meant to just listen — he’s the outsider, the observer, the recordkeeper.  But one of the clear gems in the novel is the setting of Nantucket, which is a small, exclusive island.  It comes alive under Tohline’s talent creating a deep sense of other-worldliness and isolation.

“Clouds of frustration and anger and betrayal eddied off behind me, and the same clouds lay before me.  The same clouds wrapped their cold, iron claws around me, scraping over my veins and shuddering through my nerves.”  (page 116 ARC)

Tohline addresses the waffling nature of humanity, our fear of making decisions and our fear of the decisions we’ve made and the regret that comes with choosing the path we’re on.  In more ways than one, Lenore becomes mythical, she is no longer a real person until her untimely death.  At this point in the story, readers would expect the “prefect” Lenore to take on an even more ideal hue, but Tohline has a different experience in mind.  He breaks down her character through the eyes of others, and as secrets are revealed about her relationships with Chas, Maxwell, and others, Lenore becomes like the rest of us — fallible.  The narration allows the reveal to come gradually, providing the reader with a faster paced page-turner than expected from a piece of literary fiction.

The Great Lenore by J.M. Tohline is a literary debut from an author whose prose is at times poetic and suspenseful, but always hovering on the edge of the mysterious.  His novel is a testament to the inevitability of choices we make and the inability we have to change them even if we have the desire and opportunity to change them.  It’s about the idealizing the past and those we love and the journey it takes to realize that the reality of those times and people was not at all what our minds remember.  Tohline’s novel is one of regret and hope for a better future, but there also is a hopelessness reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.

About the Author:

JM Tohline grew up in a small town just north of Boston and lives in a quiet house on the edge of the Great Plains with his cat, The Old Man And The Sea. He is 26 years old. The Great Lenore is his first novel.  Check out his Website and this Atticus Books interview.


This is my 52nd book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

There are some books that you read quickly through and there are those books are almost too seductive and you want to slow down and savor every moment with the characters, and The Reckoning by Alma Katsu — the second book in The Taker series (check out my review of The Taker) — is the latter.  Once plunged into this world of immortal, devilish, and sometimes wayward beings, readers will not want to leave and by the end of the book, they will be clamoring for more.

The novel picks up just where Lanny and Luke leave off in the previous novel, and just as he begins to settle into their new life together — helping her to purge her past — the unthinkable happens.  The terror Lanny feels is palpable and forces her to take action in a way that she never thought she would, leaving Luke devastated.  What makes this all work so well is the tables are turned not just on Lanny forcing her to react, but the tables turn on other characters as well, including the powerful and frightening Adair.

“Inside, he detected a scent that he associated with Lanore, her musk making a part of his brain fire excitedly, re-creating the feeling of being in her presence.  She felt so real, so present, that he expected her to walk around a corner or to hear her voice carry down the staircase, and when neither happened, he felt his loneliness more profoundly than before.”  (Page 236)

The Reckoning is not only about the revenge that Adair will take upon Lanore and the events that lead her back into his path, but also it is about the judgment we all must make of ourselves, our past deeds, and our future path.  Readers will uncover more of Adair’s secrets, learn about the great Lord Byron, and come to find out that Lanore is not as immune to the charms of the dark side as she’d like to think she is.  There is a great blurring of the line between good and bad, with each character playing along the edges in their actions and thoughts.  Lanore’s character grows stronger here, burning with fear, yet conviction, while Adair’s softer side is revealed without taking over.  Katsu does well to blur these lines and show us the reality of this surreal world — that not everything is as black and white as it seems  (dare I use the pun that there are more than 50 shades of gray?).

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu is an addictive world that readers will plunge into without looking and emerge from emotionally spent and eager for the next whirlwind with The Descent.  Katsu is a phenomenal writer who is adept at building worlds and atmospheres that will hold readers in their grip and never let go, and many of these worlds straddle reality and fantasy like no other.  History, even its alternate versions, come to life in her hands as her characters run through the pages, fearing the worst and never expecting redemption.

She’s made me into a believer, enticing me back into the world of fantasy, horror, and, dare I say, the Gothic, which I had given up as trite and overwrought long ago.  I’ve been seduced.  The Reckoning by Alma Katsu is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I don’t say that about many sequels.

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is a 30-year DC veteran who lives in two worlds: on one hand, she’s a novelist and author of The Taker (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books). On the other hand, she was a senior intelligence analyst for CIA and NSA, and former expert in multilateral affairs.  Check out this Interview With Alma.






This completes my first series for the Finishing the Series Reading Challenge 2012.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen is about an empty shell of a woman whose career is her life and nothing else matters, other than being smarter than her twin sister, Alex, who looks nothing like her and is a beautiful model.  Lindsey is in line for a vice president position at her advertising agency in New York City when she’s outmaneuvered by a competing colleague who is not afraid to use her sexuality to get what she wants.  Cheryl’s down-and-dirty tricks shatter Lindsey’s hopes, leaving her twisting in the wind and rudderless after the announcement that Cheryl is the new VP.

“He kept hold of my hands as he rubbed his thumbs along my palms.  Doug made Bill Clinton look like a nun wearing a chastity belt at a Victorian tea party.”  (page 67)

While this may sound like the crux of the novel, it isn’t.  Lindsey is tough to like from the first pages with her obsessive nature and her workaholic personality.  It’s almost like she’s forgotten how to be a human being and interact with people beyond work projects and business dealings.  Although she knows the ins and outs of her job and refuses to play dirty, she also lacks the social skills to really connect with her co-workers and fails to have friends outside of work.  Her only friend is her colleague Matt, who she jokes with about Cheryl and other work-related things.  Once forced to start over, she heads back to Washington, D.C., and rethinks more than her advertising job.

“I put on my new black bra and matching panties, then slipped into my Rock & Republic jeans and black turtleneck.  The turtleneck looked simple and classic from the front, which made the flash of bare skin in the back all the more unexpected.  And my jeans hadn’t gotten any looser since yesterday.  I squatted and squeezed and shimmied my way into them, working up a light sweat.  On the bright side, if I wore them often enough, I wouldn’t ever have to go to the gym.  (On the not-so-bright side, I might be developing multiple personalities.  But hey, at least one of my personalities would be skinny!)” (page 174)

Pekkanen has created a dynamic that any reader with siblings can relate to, a deep-seated jealousy of what the other sibling seems to have.  Whether it’s Lindsey’s jealousy of her sister Alex’s beauty or the nuanced envy of her sister Alex for what Lindsey has, Pekkanen has created a set of characters with stories interwoven in a way that keeps readers in a state of anticipation.  What’s even more ironic is the job Lindsey lands once back home living with her parents and how much in common she has with the desperate people she meets.

In many ways, the title of the book is ironic because her sister is no more different from Lindsey than the clients she meets.  Each searches for the human connection that’s missing from their lives, whether that means connecting with their soul mate or connecting with their sister.  Lindsey’s clients help teach her to seek out what’s been missing from her life.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen is fun and serious, with a deeper message about finding confidence in yourself and your skills so that you can grab everything that life has to offer, even if it isn’t exactly what you planned. To answer Lindsey’s question about how you know which life is the right one for you: You Feel It. And Sarah Pekkanen has definitely chosen the “write” life.

About the Author:

Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of the novels The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat and the upcoming These Girls, as well as the linked short stories available for ereaders titled “All Is Bright” and “Love, Accidentally.” For more information please visit her Website, Facebook, and Twitter.





This is my 38th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Guest Post: Tabatha Yeatts Presents William Stanley Braithwaite

Tabatha Yeatts is a young adult author who also has written dozens of articles for magazines and newspapers from Cricket to Logic Puzzles and The Christian Science Monitor.

She grew up in Blacksburg, Va., and went to University of Mary Washington (undergraduate) and University of Iowa (graduate school) and also lived in Georgia.  Her current home is Maryland, where she lives with her husband, three children, and four pets. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  She blogs at Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference where she hosts Poetry Friday. She loves the intersection of poetry with other media streams and videos.

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
–Albert Einstein

Poetry can be a powerful force for inspiring children’s imaginations, especially if we give them multiple ways to experience it.

Here are ten ways I’ve shared on The Opposite of Indifference:

* Creating poetry hunts
* Holding March Madness Poetry Tournaments
* “Discovering” poems in books such as The Great Gatsby
* Picking favorite poems for fictional characters
* Making Artist Trading Cards (which can have favorite poems on them)
* Crafting poetry pictures with Tagxedo
* Putting together poetry Storybirds
* Playing poetry games
* Reading poems for two voices
* Finding intersections between poetry and other things

Another way to get kids involved on a new level with poetry is to let them make poetry videos. I’m sharing a poetry video today that was primarily made by my 10-year-old daughter. I found the poem and the photos, and she put it all together. The poem is Rhapsody by Harlem Renaissance poet William Stanley Braithwaite (1878–1962). In addition to the video, we have an audio reading of it by Katherine Rekkas.

Video: Rhapsody by William Stanley Braithwaite

Audio Reading: Rhapsody by William Stanley Braithwaite

Thanks, Tabatha, for sharing this poem with us in its many forms.

Poet William Stanley Braithwaite

About the Poet:

Poet William Stanley Braithwaite was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His father was from the West Indies, his maternal grandmother was a slave in North Carolina, and his mother may have been the daughter of the property owner. When he was young, Braithwaite was educated at home by his father. However, his father died in 1886, and Braithwaite did not finish his schooling. By the time he was 12, he was working to help support his family. He took jobs as an errand boy and then as an apprentice at a publishing company, where he learned typesetting and discovered his love of poetry.

During his lifetime, Braithwaite edited a number of influential poetry anthologies. He founded a publishing company and became a professor of creative writing at Atlanta University, authoring a biography of the Brontë family and several collections of poems. His admiration for the English Romantic poets John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth influenced his own poetic style.

Braithwaite and his wife had seven children. After he retired from Atlanta University, he moved to Harlem in 1945. Braithwaite died in 1962.

Since Tabatha Yeatts is a local writer, this is another stop on The Literary Road Trip.

Guest Post & Giveaway: Sarah Pekkanen Shares Poetry from John Pekkanen

Sarah Pekkanen is a best-selling author, whose work is very popular in the book blogging community and she’ll be attending the Gaithersburg Book Festival (I hope I get to see her there).

Her latest novel, These Girls, is about three women — Cate, Renee, and Abby — who come to New York City for very different reasons and end up as roommates struggling with their careers and life.  Check out some early reviews from S. Krishna’s Books, Devourer of Books, Life in the Thumb, and Raging Bibliomania.

Today, as part of her online tour and for the 2012 National Poetry Month Blog Tour, Sarah Pekkanen will share one of her favorite poets, her father John Pekkanen.

Without further ado, please give Sarah and her dad a warm welcome.

The poet who wrote this isn’t rich or famous. You never studied his work in a class textbook, or saw it inscribed on a greeting card. In fact, he just began writing poetry a couple of years ago. The reason this particular poem speaks to me? It’s one my Dad wrote for my mother. He gave me permission to reprint it here, so it’s the first time it’s being published.

When you ask my father how long he has been married to my Mother, he’ll say, “For forty-five wonderful years. And three so-so years. And two really horrible years!” So if you’ve done the math, you know my parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They dealt with a lot during their marriage: parents who didn’t support them, my father’s risky open-heart surgery, my mother’s complicated siblings. And sometimes I wonder if their golden years are sweeter now because of all they’ve been through. Sure, they fight – in fact, their fights remind me of the squabbles teenagers have. And their life isn’t perfect, by any means. But they say they’ve never been happier, and when I see them together, I know it’s true.

Early Awakenings by John Pekkanen

Red numbers blink to 3:25.
The hard bite of winter drifts
through an open bedroom window.
I sleep best in cold rooms, blankets
tucked tight under my chin.

Early morning awakenings lay open
what lies darkest in me, reopening
old wounds to replay a familiar narrative
of my fears and failures,
thoughts of my lost brother.  

In grainy half-light I watch her move,
listen to her cat-like murmurs.
I turn on my side to touch this woman
I’ve loved and desired
more than forty years, who centers me,
gave us children, makes me laugh.

I stroke the smooth arc of her back,
place my hand on her thigh’s warm skin,
her soft, sensual terrain more familiar than my own.
I fold my knees into her’s and our bodies
intertwine as if by muscle memory,
and I feel whole again.

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your dad’s work with us.

If you’d like to win a copy of Pekkanen’s latest book, These Girls, please leave a comment here about what favorite non-famous poet you know.

Deadline for U.S. residents only is April 22, 2012.

About the Author:

Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally-bestselling author of the novels The Opposite of Me and Skipping a Beat and the upcoming These Girls, as well as the linked short stories available for e-readers titled “All Is Bright” and “Love, Accidentally.”

She has worked in journalism for Bethesda Magazine, Baltimore Sun, and Gannett New Service/USAToday.

Please follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and check out her Website.






Today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour Stop is at Book Chatter; check it out!

Perfect Gifts for Readers Supports a Cause & 25 Percent Off for You

Gone Reading recently contacted me and offered a coupon code for my readers who are looking for just the right gift for their reader friends and family.

The organization, which is based near Washington, D.C., seeks to spread the love of reading to countries across the globe where libraries are few or even non-existent.  Even in the United States, libraries are struggling to stay afloat as state budgets are reduced and some states find themselves running a deficit and in dire need of balancing, which means spending on libraries and other public services are reduced.    As part of their effort to spread the love of reading and literary discussion, Gone Reading offers a number of products for book lovers, and the group “donates 100% of our after-tax profits to provide new funding for libraries and reading-centered non-profits.”

For those interested in helping libraries in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia, Gone Reading has an excellent, pilot fundraising program in the works.  If you work with libraries or are a librarian, please feel to contact the group about the effort.

I’ve checked out the products they offer, and there are some great Jane Austen items available for my fellow Janeites, like Anna and those at Austen Blog and Austenprose.  There are games centered on reading, book journals, gorgeous bookplates, posters, and more.  They even sent me my own sample T-shirt:

I hope you’ll all take advantage of an exclusive coupon code for Gone Reading this month for 25% off any item in the Gone Reading store, except for book ends:


The code expires on April 21, so get your orders in, and feel free to spread the love to other readers you know.