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Book Review ~~ Haiku Journal

Book Review             D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review 

Haiku Journal acts as both an inspirational collection of diverse haiku by master writers such as Matsuo Basho and Masaoka Shiki and an encouragement for readers to fill in their own blank books with haiku creativity. It pairs lovely black and white drawings with examples of the diversity that can be incorporated into the traditional haiku form.

Where creative writing books might focus on the three-line stanza approach of its poetic structure, Trisha Sugarek provides a deeper interpretation of what makes a haiku piece stand out: “A haiku is a way of looking at the physical world and seeing something deeper, like the very nature of existence. It should leave the reader with a strong feeling or impression. Traditionally the natural world is mentioned.” She also includes works by master poets which didn’t always strictly adhere to the 5/7/5 haiku foundation because “They were too beautiful to ignore and not be included.”

This note advises readers that there is an attention to excellence, here, that goes beyond strict regimentation. Any poem that is uplifting, beautiful, and an example of unique expression is included, such as this: “Well, what must we think of it?/From the sky we came./Now we may go back again./That’s at least one point of view.” –Hôjô Ujimasa

These works appear alongside lined blank pages that encourage readers to become writers through example. The poems are juxtaposed with tips on how Sugarek chooses to write, including creative writing and history information that supports various approaches (i.e. producing a complete poem in three sets of three lines, known as Renku).

Sugarek’s own poetry is juxtaposed with verse and free verse from others, adding just the right blend of encouragement and a flavor of diversity to a haiku journal that serves as both an encouragement and an example.

Wannabe haiku writers looking for inspiration could not find a better wellspring of support than in Haiku Journal. Its format and presentation lend to not just inspiration, but creative effort.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    October: George Scott, November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, February: Mike Lupica 
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Storytelling…across Generations

Griot

It occurred to me the other day that storytelling in my family didn’t begin with my mother. I come from a long line of strong women, story tellers all. Since the beginning of time griots  have passed down our history in oral form from generation to generation. Griot:   (/ˈɡriːoʊ/; French.  Mandinka.  A West African historian, storyteller, praise singer, poet, or musician.) My grandmother and mother were no different.

Yes, I was told fairytales, as a very young child, but somewhere along the way my mother switched over to true stories about when she was a child (early 1900’s) living in a logging town in western Washington.  The family tales of thirteen kids, roaming the woods, swimming in the rivers and tipping over outhouses. The stories never ended and, like any child, I requested my favorites to be told over and over. My mother considered the telling of

Since the beginning of time

tales very natural.  She and her siblings had grown up listening to their mother telling stories about how she and her new husband (my grandfather) fled France, migrated to America, and then trekked across the country to settle in the Northwest. They boarded a ‘flatboat’ in St. Louis, Missouri and traveled on great rivers until they reached Great Falls, Montana.  They finally debarked and joined wagon trains going further west. My mother told me the story of my auntie (her sister) who, at the age of seventeen, ran away from home and worked her way aboard a freighter to Anchorage, Alaska. She homesteaded in the Tanana Valley for over twenty years. (Song of the Yukon)

Mother at a friend’s cabin

Since I was born long after my brother and sister, I do not know if my mother had the time to spend on telling them stories. She was a single mom who worked long hours building a bar and grill business. She frequently ‘farmed out’ my siblings for long periods of time. It wasn’t for financial reasons and so was always unclear why . (Wild Violets) By the time I discovered this appalling fact, my mother was gone and there was no one left to ask. And those were stories she certainly never told. 

My mother and I

She was very vain and perhaps didn’t want the men in her life to know she had two children. Anyway that’s what my sister thought. She was eleven when my mother began sending them away.

And so here I am, the next generation of storytellers….Would my mother be surprised?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review~~the friendship list by Susan Mallery

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing            4 out of 5 quills  ~~  Book Review

Susan Mallery has done it once again!  She has woven a mundane story of a single mom, Ellen, and a young widow, Unity into a riveting journey that both women take, each in their own way.  I don’t believe it would be a spoiler to reveal that the friendship list is not a list of friends.  It is a bucket list that each woman (who are friends) has written out for themselves. They have decided that it will be a challenge, a contest if you will, with a reward at its end.  Sharing their victories, as they check off the list, and cheering each other on when a challenge seems unsurmountable. 

Susan Mallery writes wonderful stories and I know her fans agree with me when I say, Thank God she is so prolific as we all wait for the next new one.  This is a great summer read and I highly recommend it!

Release date August 4th. Pre-order now

Did you miss my Interview with Susan Mallery?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Book Review ~~ An Unfinished Story by Boo Walker

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing                5 out of 5 quills 

Die-hard fans of Boo Walker’s Red Mountain Chronicles really wondered what Boo would write about once he left the real red mountain wine country of Washington state. He transplanted himself to Florida, of all places. Boo knows so much about wine and growing grapes that it was hard to imagine what stories would be born out of the swampy, hot days in Florida. 

Oh ye of little faith (reviewer)!  An Unfinished Story is superb!  A bitter ‘has been’ writer and a grieving widow meet by chance and form an unlikely bond. The arc of the story is unexpected and fresh.  I loved the conflict,  the set-backs, the temporary truces, the tension, and the surprises.

Of course Boo couldn’t ignore the wine running through his veins totally so his protagonist, in this story, is a wine aficionado.  I loved the ‘nod’ to the Red Mountain Chronicles! Which is a series not to be missed. 

I highly recommend this wonderful story! 

Release date August 4th. Pre-order Now!

Did you miss my Interview with Boo Walker?

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Interview with Writer for Tom Clancy, Mike Maden (Conclusion)

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

MM. The first lie every writer tells themselves is this: I don’t have the time to write. The second lie is this: I can’t write. Here’s the truth: writers always write. Are you a writer? But you’re not writing? Then ask yourself this: why aren’t you writing? What are you trying to avoid by not writing? I promise you the answer is going to be some variation of abject fear. Fear of failing as a writer, of falling short of our ideal of good writing, of disappointing others, etc. In other words, it’s all about self-preservation or to be more blunt: death. Death of my ideal self, death of my status in the world as “a great writer;” some painful, shameful, hateful permutation of emotional and/or psychological destruction. Don’t believe it! Don’t define your sense of self in the world through writing. Rather, your writing is defined by your sense of self. You are not your writing. Your writing is you.

Here is the irony (and I’m stealing this from the best): if you seek to save your writer’s “life” by not doing the work in order to protect yourself, you’re going to lose the very life you’re trying to save. More simply, not writing is the death of your career. Everything you think you’re avoiding by not writing is actually going to occur when you don’t write—so write! Here’s one more tip (also stolen, in this case, from Hemingway): the first draft is always (rhymes with) “spit” so you’re only job is to “spit” out your first draft—the complete and entire first draft—and then you can fix anything later in edit, i.e., “all writing is rewriting.” If Hemingway thought his first draft was “spit” then I’m in pretty good company and so are you. I spend most of my time spitting—from an outline.

If that’s still not enough, attack the problem from the other direction. Forget yourself and simply obey the work.

Slovenia ~~ the river below the narrow trail

If you say you’re a writer then you’ve made a commitment to a “vocation” in the oldest sense of the term. Writing (truth telling, either fiction or non-fiction) is holy work; “holy” as in set apart for service. Whether or not you are religious, you committed yourself to the priesthood of Art once you said, “I am a writer.” What follows is both necessary and clear. You must recover and practice with earnest devotion the disciplines of the disciple—a follower, a student, a servant of the Work. Faith—the evidence of things hoped for, like a completed manuscript when you’re staring at the first blank page—and Love of the word are the first two hallmarks of the writer/disciple. Commitment, sacrifice, suffering…the list of the qualities of the true disciple are well known or easily discovered (e.g., the Gospels or whatever you prefer). In other words, writing is not about “you” it’s about answering the call, to saying “yes” when summoned and exerting inexhaustible effort toward the completion of the task, denying self and even other people and all other things that distract or dissuade you from your mission. “Not my will, but Thine.” If you happen to be a person of true religious faith, then your discipleship is twofold: obedience to the One who calls and fulfilling that call through the faithful exercise of the gift that the One has given you.

If all of that is too abstract then here’s the most practical advice I can give you: do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art. Study it, memorize it. Let it be your missal. Then get your derriere in the chair—and write!

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

MM. Characters are all that matter. Situations, scenes, plots, actions…it all comes out of character choices, character collisions, character flaws, character construction.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

MM. I start with a solid outline so I always have those touch points that keep me on the path from A to Z. But if I’m really writing—really doing it the way it’s meant to be done—I get completely carried away in the moment, plunging headlong into the river, carried along by the surging rapids.

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

MM. Yes. Can’t. Top secret. But it’s gonna be awesome and my first collaborative effort. News coming soon.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

MM. I’ve always written seriously beginning with my academic, non-fiction writing. What surprised me was to find out I was actually a writer. Yes, I could write. But I never thought of myself as a writer because of the mystery that surrounded that term. I was forty years old before I gave myself permission to call myself one. And what really surprised me was that I could write fiction. I was utterly stunned to discover I could write a screenplay but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I could never write a novel. Until I did. But one novel was it. Finito. No way could I do another even though I’d just signed a two-book deal. I knew I couldn’t write the sequel. Until I did. And another two-book contract showed up. And then I knew the game was up. My publisher would finally realize their big mistake. Until I finished those up too. And then…well, I think you get the idea. A serious writer writes. And writes. And writes. It’s hard work. Really hard. And it only gets harder—but only if you’re doing it right.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

MM. Absolutely not. They may become rare or expensive but they will never disappear. For people of a certain age, ahem, me, the tactile nature of the printed page never ceases to amaze or comfort.

Q. What makes a writer great?

MM. All writers are great but only if they write. The act of writing—of completing the work—is an act of obedience unto the Muse. It is our offering on the altar. The mere doing of it is its own reward. Whether or not the work will be judged as “great” by history or the literati or the New York Times bestseller list is completely outside the control of the writer. We can’t choose to be “great” but we can choose to do the work. Tell the truth, be yourself (i.e., original) and do the work—the rest will follow whether you like the outcome or not.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

MM. Get a bucket. Fill it with kerosene. Carry it to the top of a ten-story building. Stick your head in the bucket. Light your head on fire. Throw yourself off the roof. Hit the pavement. Douse the flames. Type, “end of chapter one.” Do it again. Sixty-five more times. Now you know what it feels like to go from “no book” to “finished book.” Easy as pie. Or as some wag said, just open up a vein and bleed onto the page.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

MM. Everything. You write out of your life.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

MM. Reading. Watching the best film and television I can. Hanging out with my best friend (my wife). Exercise. Golf. Guns. Hiking.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

MM. I wish I was smart enough to write science fiction.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

MM. General life lesson: “Discipline Equals Freedom.” (Jocko Willink)
General writing life lesson: “The bad news is, the Problem is Hell. The good news is, it’s just a problem. The Problem is not us. The PROBLEM is the problem. Work the Problem.” (Steven Pressfield)

PS. (from Mike Maden)  My Clancy novel ENEMY CONTACT was set in Poland. Amazing history, culture, people…and food. We love travel and learning new things but unfortunately it also means encountering the human condition in its worst permutation. Auschwitz is one such place and of all of the things that wounded me in that terrible place nothing grabbed me more than this moment. Those red shoes took me to a very dark moment. I could just see a young woman picking them out of the shop window one bright sunny morning, so happy and proud of them…having no idea where they would one day take her.

Did you miss Part I and Part 2 of this fascinating interview?

Book Review of Firing Point

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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Firing Point, by Mike Maden, writing for TOM CLANCY~~Book Review

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5 out of 5 quills             ~A Book Review~

 

From the first sentence, on the first page, begins a riveting new story for Jack Ryan, Jr.  Our readers would never know that Tom Clancy wasn’t writing this book. Mike Maden does his usual magic in creating another harrowing international intrigue. 

The story winds and weaves through Spain, with flash-backs to Washington D.C., and cruises the deep seas of the South Pacific.  Supreme intrigue, international terrorists, spies, and lots of techno stuff that I adore.  An extremely complex story plot made simple and clear in the deft hands (and pen) of Mike Maden. 

My new readers (Tom Clancy fans) may not know this about me: I don’t write spoilers. I don’t write cliff notes for the book. I review the WRITING! And it is a pleasure to report that the writing here is superb. 

I highly recommend this book to my readers. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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Interview with Author, Mike Maden, writing for Tom Clancy (Part 2)

Mike Maden

Q. what it is like to be a co-author on this hit franchise?

MM. I’m certain that Tom Colgan got the wrong phone number and accidentally called the wrong guy when he offered me the chance to be

Tom Clancy

an author in the Tom Clancy franchise. (To the other Mike Maden out there: sorry about that. Okay, not really.) It is such an honor and privilege to write in this world and to hang out with the iconic characters that he created. I care deeply that I get the characters right and to do the research to the best of my ability. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry on the Clancy legacy but it is also a heck of a lot of fun. It’s also crazy weird to see my name beneath Tom Clancy’s. My only regret in writing for the franchise is that I never got to meet Tom who sadly passed away in 2013.

Q. Did you write some of the teleplays or contribute as a consultant?

MM. Having written screenplays in the past, I would dearly love to contribute to the Jack Ryan TV franchise put out by Amazon Prime. Sadly for me, the creators of that show don’t need my help. They’ve re-imagined Jack Ryan senior as a young man operating in today’s world rather than in the 1980s when he was first created by Tom Clancy. Judging by the huge fan base they have (including me) I’d say they have their hands firmly on the tiller. And in a way, I have the best of all worlds. Because the TV series features a young John Krasinski, readers think the series is about Jack Ryan Jr. (which is my bailiwick) so I’m getting all kinds of credit that I don’t deserve—and at the same time, I get to watch a really great TV series without having to do any of the hard, hard work that those folks have to do to create a smash hit.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

MM. Every time one of my novels appears on the shelf it seems like an impossible gift. Why in the world is my name on the cover? How did that happen? How have I managed to win the lottery eight times in a row? I am one blessed dude. Speaking of blessed, I also have a secret weapon at my disposal. My amazing wife is always my first reader but she goes the extra mile and also reads the entire manuscript to me out loud before I send in the first draft to the editor. All one hundred thousand words. (She is a saint.) Sometimes a sentence reads fine on the page in your mind but when read aloud it punishes the ear like nails on a chalkboard—syntax, cadence, word choice all have a different resonance when heard as opposed to read. And the typos? Those last, lurking, invisible wee beasties that are the bane of every writer? She manages to scare them out from under the covers by the sound of her parched and rasping voice. (Okay, not all of them. But a lot of them. Thank heavens for professional editors who wrangle the rest of them.) Here’s my pro tip for the day: audiobook sales are becoming a huge percentage of total book sales. By doing an “audio” edit, I’m creating prose that will read and sound better for amazing audio talents like Scott Brick (www.scottbrick.net) who has read all of my Clancy stuff.

Research is very, very important. Of course, no one was better at research than Tom Clancy and his fans expect it of me as well. A lot of my internet research focuses on weapons and technology. But I prefer spending time in the countries featured in my novels in order to provide context for the characters and story. It’s also a way to show respect for the people and cultures I write about. Fortunately, I travel with a beautiful and amazing research assistant who happens to be my wife. Here Angela is in Spain helping me thoroughly research a plate of freshly sautéed pimientos de padrón for FIRING POINT.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

MM. My favorite tool is my giant white board—which is actually a 4’ x 8’ piece of white panel board I bought at Home Depot for about $15 . I use a lot of “mind mapping” to brainstorm my way through each story problem—or just dream. I do all of my writing on my laptop (MacBook Air) and I break the first draft completely on Scrivener which is the best word processing program in the world to do it—and it’s very inexpensive.  The subsequent drafts that the publisher and I trade back and forth are on Word because that is their software of choice. My 4’ x 8’ white board (newly installed, soon to be marked up with my next story):

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

Hiking the Julian Alps

MM. I have a strict word count I hold to slavishly seven days a week. If I meet my word count early, I stop and do something fun as a reward. But I will work as many hours as it takes to hit my number even if that means I don’t go to bed. At the end of the day, I can’t hand in my calendar to my publisher and show them how many days I worked. My contract specifies that I must turn in 100k words of polished prose so my focus is on words and not hours worked. Neither publishers nor readers care how hard you work. They only care about what you write.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

Did you miss Part I of this Interview?

For the answer come back on June 26th for the conclusion of this wonderful Interview.
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY
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The Goodbye Man by Jeffery Deaver ~~ Book Review

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

Most people, who have not been seduced into a cult, are fascinated by them. For example, I find it hard to imagine subjugating myself totally to a ‘family’, a group, a commune of people with one belief. Coming under the spell of one person (usually a man) who preaches whatever just to lure you in. To give up all my worldly possessions, including money (first red flag) and surrendering my mind and soul. 

But death, grief, depression, tragedy, desperation can and does drive thousands of people to hundreds of cults across this country. The Goodbye Man takes the reader into a fictional cult who promises immortality.  Jeffery Deaver weaves a wonderful story with a plot that twists and turns with regularity. He writes with a flare that is slightly scary and causes a pit of fear in the bottom of the reader’s stomach. 

The irony, for me, was I kept seeing Donald Trump in the Deaver’s character, Master Eli (the Leader). The cadence of Eli’s speech, the repetition of certain words, (‘gorgeous’, ‘the best ever’, ‘the best in his class’, etc.) and the lies that no one could fact-check.  When a cult expert was consulted (in the story) they listed the narcissist traits in cult leaders and really!… Donald Trump was all over the page. The parallels were so starkly drawn for this reviewer, I couldn’t help but comment on it. 

Cult Leader                                            Donald Trump
all consuming ego                               all consuming ego
attacks his enemies                              attacks his enemies
lashes out in anger                                lashes out in anger
an absolute belief that he’s always    an absolute belief that he’s always right
right                 
won’t listen to advice or criticism      won’t listen to advice or criticism
paranoid                                                  paranoid
craves worship and adulation            craves worship and adulation

and…sorry, America but….43% of you are in the biggest cult existing in modern history.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend it.  

 

Did you miss my Interview with Jeffery Deaver?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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Book Review ~~ Robert B. Parker’s Grudge Match

reviews, authors, writing  reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing    4 out of 5  quills      ~~  Book Review   

 

This reviewer is a big fan of Robert B. Parker but I  hadn’t  read  a Sunny Randall story  in  about ten years. Grudge Match was an excellent way to get reacquainted with Sunny. 

Sunny is hired by one of her nemesis, gangsta’, Tony Marcus. His business (criminal enterprises) partner has disappeared and he needs to find her. All the old characters are back; Susan Silverman, Spike, Junior, Ty Bop, Jesse Stone and Molly Crane, just to name a few. 

There’s a sub-plot involving Sunny’s ex-husband, Richie, that nicely breaks up the through-line of crime, murder and mayhem. Richie becomes,almost over night, the awkward step-father to a endearing, wise (beyond his tender years) boy, Richard. Completely unprepared he sucks Sunny into a sometime auntie/babysitter role. 

Mike Lupica, the writer, does a superb job of continuing this series. The writing is total Robert B. Parker and Mike doesn’t miss a beat. 
Enjoyable story and I was delighted to, once again, run the streets with Sunny Randall .

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    March: Olivia Hawker, April: Dan Sofer, May:  Joram Piatigorsky
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Books by Trisha Sugarek

 

 

 

Book Review ~~ ‘Stay’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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5 out of 5 quills   

 

The exclusive Club that only faultless writers belong to is, in my view, a small membership. John Steinbeck, Robert Service, Dean Koontz, Charles Bukowski , Jane Austen, and most certainly, Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Does Hyde even know how to write a bad sentence? Are the first drafts as lovely as the final product? Or does she scourer her work until it’s perfect? Doesn’t matter. Stay is perfection. And after I read Have You Seen Luis Velez? I didn’t think it could get any better.  I know, I know, I sound as though I must be Hyde’s sister-in-law or something. I promise I’m not. What I am is a very discerning reader and lover of books and stories. 

Lately I had written a post for my blog, (about writing) and the need to always have conflict in your story. A complex story line (which you should always strive for as a writer) has a lot of loose threads to ‘tie up’. Hyde is a master at both. Multifaceted tales with every loose thread tied. In the last ten pages of the book I had a meltdown because she hadn’t revealed what had happened to the two dogs. And then there it was. 

As my readers know, I don’t write spoilers so you will never get a synopsis of the story in my reviews. What I will tell you is Stay is a compelling, heartbreaking, shocking (at times) story full of friendship and hope. While I was reading it, the song ‘Amazing Grace’ would flitter through the  auditory cortices of my brain. Because sometimes human beings can be full of amazing grace.  Buy this book, read it and tell me I’m wrong. 

 

Available at all book stores. 
Did you miss my Interview with Catherine Ryan Hyde?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
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