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Nutcrackers & Handsprings: Books About the Cutthroat World of Ballet and Gymnastics

Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguin (Henry Holt & Company)
The Turnout by Megan Abbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Happiest Girl in the World: A Novel by Alena Dillon (William Morrow)
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Books)

September 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Like so many young girls, I wanted to be a famous ballerina AND an Olympic gymnast.  I was little, so both professions seemed like reasonable career goals even though I could barely touch my toes. Images of me gracefully dancing across the stage in a white nightgown clutching a wooden nutcracker or sticking a round-off back handspring on a balance beam filled my wandering mind.  I, of course, only saw what was directly in front of me.  Beauty, elegance, strength, and perfection were what graced the stage and gym mats for all the dreamers like me who dared to dream.  Little did I know what the making of an elite athlete indeed looked like.  Today I am sharing four books that capture the fierce passion and wild side of ballet and gymnastics.  Scandal, abuse, injuries, eating disorders, and love fill the pages of today’s reads.   The lineup is dripping in all of the blood, sweat, and tears that we love to read about.   And GUESS WHAT?  Legwarmers and leotards are entirely optional.   You can be captivated by these stories from the comfort of your living room couch wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt.  How great is that!!!! 

Point shoes and tutus, anyone??? I LOVED Georgina Pazcoguin’s memoir, Swan Dive. Pazcoguin was the first Asian American soloist in the New York City Ballet.  Her story from leaving her small town in Pennsylvania at age 16 to train in New York City was mind-boggling.  Pazcoguin’s memoir is a backstage pass into the making of a true ballerina.  She is brutally honest with the highs and lows of the profession.  From bloody toes to dancing with injuries to the abuse and racism she experienced, Pazcoquin’s story of dancing in the ballet to performing in the Broadway musical CATS is exceptionally enchanting.  I could not put it down.

While we are still in the mood for tortured ballerinas and scandal galore, let’s move on to a work of fiction that takes place against the provocative backdrop of a ballet school and its yearly performance of The Nutcracker.  The Turnout by Megan Abbott is one heck of a page-turner.  Sisters Maria and Dara Durant run their family’s ballet school.  Things unravel when they hire a contractor to rebuild part of their studio that recently caught fire.  All I can say is that this man is more significant than he lets on. Nutcracker drama, family secrets, irresistible sexual encounters, razor blades in point shoes, and even a dead body fill the pages of this “un-put-downable” book.  I officially know what a “turnout” is and OUCH! The Nutcracker will never be the same again!

All you gymnastic fans out there will love Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein.  Avery’s Olympic dreams come to an end after an injury occurs during her Olympic trials.  To make matters worse, she is newly single and moving back to her hometown in Massachusetts.  In comes Ryan, Avery’s childhood acquaintance, and Olympic gold medalist.  When Ryan discovers that Avery is back home, he eagerly asks her to take the job as his assistant coach to Hallie, an up-and-coming gymnast.   As these two former gymnasts train the next Olympic star, sparks begin to fly on and off the mat.  Picture twists and turns, switch leaps and layouts, and maybe just maybe, some steamy fooling around on a sticky pile of mats.  Head Over Heels has it all…the love of gymnastics, the tension, the hot topics, and most of all, the romance.  Can you say perfect 10!

Alena Dillon’s book, The Happiest Girl in the World is a work of fiction reminiscent of the recent sexual abuse scandals in gymnastics.  Sera and her best friend Lucy are training for the Olympics.  Everything changes for these two when Lucy reports to the authorities that the team doctor sexually abused her during treatment sessions.  Sadly, Sera denies these facts to protect her career and destroys their friendship.  Dillon’s book is overflowing with dusty chalk and intense training but also takes a deep dive into the byproduct of sexual abuse and the ultimate drive for perfection in the cutthroat gymnastics world.  Reading this book felt very timely, especially with the 2021 summer Olympics still in the rearview mirror.  

Now that I have filled your To Be Read pile with pirouettes, flips, and spins, it’s time to get reading!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. When I was little, my sister and I used to pretend the black lane lines in our community pool were balance beams.  In between swimming around, we would put together gymnastic routines and perform them in the pool, making sure to always stick our landings on the lane lines.  So much fun!

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DIG HERE

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books) September 7, 2021

August 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am over the moon to share with you one of Fall’s most anticipated and buzziest new books.  This September, Lisa Jewell is back with her latest creation,The Night She Disappeared.   I feel like I write to you often about my love of dark mysteries and thrillers, and this is certainly not the first time I’ve written to you about this lovely author.  I always chuckle to myself with each of these letters because the books I share with you are pretty much the opposite of your writing.   However, even though your genre and style differ from Jewell’s, you both know how to create an atmosphere that brings out the very best in your stories. I believe you would enjoy Jewell’s moody vibes and dreary skies covering the English countryside that serve as the backdrop to her new chilling tale.  I most definitely did and today I am here to tell you why.  

The Night She Disappeared is set in a small English town between 2017-2019…basically right before Covid-19 hit and the whole world shut down.  Again, with mysteries and thrillers my plot summary will be cautious to keep every twist and turn from being spoiled.  One night in 2017, Tullulah and her boyfriend Zach (who is currently living with her at her mother’s house) decide to go out for the night and enjoy an adult evening of dining and hanging with friends.  They leave behind their young son with Tallulah’s mom Kim to mind.  Kim is alarmed when they do not come home that night or even the next morning.  She knows how strong Tallulah’s love is for her son and can’t fathom her disappearing by choice.  Tallulah and Zach are officially declared missing and a search begins.  Fast forward to 2019 and we meet Sophie.  Sophie is a cozy mystery writer who just moved to the area with her boyfriend who is a new educator at the Maypole House.  On her walk one day, she discovers something that opens back up the closed case of missing Tallulah and Zach.  Will this unsolved mystery finally be solved and at what cost?  

My summary may be sparse, but the story is surely not.  I loved how Jewell wrote this book using different timelines and from multiple points of view.  To me this created a well paced mystery that had me waiting with bated breath for 2017 to sync up with 2019. The back and forth between timelines generated the suspense I so desire and because of this, I was immersed in The Night She Disappeared from start to finish.  And let’s face it, short chapters with mini cliffhangers will always KEEP ME READING.  Jewell added a few of my favorite elements to her mysterious tale…the quintessential  private school and the ever so beloved “strange house”  that both hoard secrets and lies galore!  My perfect cup of tea! I loved the history of the Maypole House and all who dwelled there.  I was obsessed with Tallaluh’s temperamental friends and their unsteady yet eager behaviors. I was absolutely delighted with the eeriness of “Dark Place” and the neverending woods that encroached upon its morose existence (you’ll see).  I was entertained observing the characters take on the dangerous work of investigating a threatening affair even though the police and officials were already involved.  I was mesmerized by the darkness that seeped out of this story with each page I turned and tucked under my blanket a little tighter to absorb my chills.  I adored how fired up I was while reading and for the life of me… couldn’t predict the ending. I hoped for this kind of reaction and I am stoked that Lisa Jewell delivered me another fantastic reading experience.  So while I continue to chip away at all of her backlist books, I can say with confidence that I may just be…Her Biggest Fan! This book comes out September 7, 2021!  Be sure to grab yourself a copy!

Peace, Love and Reading…and a few dead bodies!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you haven’t read Jewell’s 2020 book, Invisible Girl….Let me convince you to do so.

Invisible Girl was an absolute clever read! I was instantly invested in all of Jewell’s characters from the very start. I desperately wanted to know EVERYTHING about them. Childhood trauma, family drama, strange neighbors, buried secrets, and a MISSING GIRL… this book had me at HELLO! Throw in some crazy twists and turns and a wicked moody vibe and I crossed the finish line with this book in just shy of two days. It’s fast and crazy and the perfect fall treat.

Click on my poolside reading pic to purchase. I spy my hubby in the hot tub 🥰🥰!
Click on this pic to purchase Invisible Girl!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Love Me Tender

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Penguin Random House)  August 17, 2021

August 12, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Never judge a book by its cover, right?  I can’t say that any of your first edition book covers (or even later ones) persuaded me to read your work (sorry 🤷‍♀️). However, the words you wrote made up for some wickedly boring covers. I will admit though that I was instantly seduced by the cover of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s newest sensation, Velvet Was the Night.   Luscious lips coated in a sticky pink gloss about to take a drag off of a tantalizing cigarette being gracefully handled by pointy manicured nails with a drizzle of smoke permeating the air!!!    Ummmmm, I had to see what’s inside! And guess what????  I am happy to report that the pages of this historical noir were just as mesmerizing as its cover.   Let’s take a look.

Moreno-Garcia’s latest work of art takes place in Mexico City during the 1970s, the start of the “Dirty War”.  Our leading lady Maite is for all intents and purposes, a bored and lonely secretary who enjoys her weekly romance comics with a small side of kleptomania.  When her neighbor goes missing, Maite is determined (out of sheer annoyance) to find her, which leads us to Elvis.  Elvis is a young gentleman who unofficially works for the government as a member of the HAWKS.  His position is everything he despises…attacking, torturing and basically killing protesters.  Elvis and Maite’s paths get tangled when they discover they are both searching for the same missing woman but for entirely different reasons. Maite is very surprised to learn the depths of this search. Government involvement, Russian spies and a whole lot of danger give this underwhelmed secretary an unexpected run for her money.   

Velvet Was the Night was 100% my cup of tea.  I loved how the setting was smothered in dimness with a heavy sense of danger lurking in the background.  I enjoy sunny stories with blue skies and laughter from time to time.  Who doesn’t? However, being engrossed in a slow burn mystery while drenching myself in inky vibes brings me tons of reading joy. I want to feel like I am somewhere different.  I read to learn, to escape, to bear emotions that are different from those in my own life. Moreno-Garcia invited me somewhere tense and unsettled while occupying my mind with an absorbing tale.  I just adore when my reading expectations are met. 

Maite and Elvis’ are not polished or shining brightly through the pages for that matter. In all honesty though, sparkly characters are not the ones who rock my literary world.  I prefer the dreamers, the characters with jagged edges. While I was wildly entertained with a weary secretary suddenly getting involved in such threatening affairs, I was also thrilled to be engaged in a setting/time period that opened my eyes to a part of history I knew very little about.  Lastly, Moreno-Garcia brings on the noir, lonely hearts and political “riff” with an incredible nod to vinyl and good old fashion rock n’ roll.  Authors who braid in the love of music (forbidden music in this case), always win me over. 

Velvet Was the Night comes out August 17, 2021.  Be sure to grab yourself a copy!  Now, “A Little Less Conversation” and a whole bunch of reading please!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Be sure to check out what I had to say about Moreno-Garcia’s previous book, Mexican Gothic.

Click on this incredible book cover to purchase!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

The Way You Look Tonight

Home Again by Melissa Grace (July 27, 2021)

July 24, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy Saturday! Do you remember when I told you about how much I loved Melissa Grace’s book, Home is Where You Are? Well guess what??? The sequel, Home Again, is coming out for all the world to read on July 27, 2021 and I am here to tell you how fabulous it is. Grace once again dazzled me with her passionate characters and heartfelt tale. The spotlight is on Ella and Cash this time around, and their love story does not disappoint. I am now impatiently waiting for book three ❤️❤️❤️.

“Ella Claiborne is ready to find love again. Long since widowed and with her daughter Grace leaving the country, Ella dives headfirst into the dating pool to ease her loneliness. After her date ditches her at her best friend’s wedding, Ella quickly realizes there’s only one man she’s truly interested in. There’s just one problem–he’s her daughter’s boss.

Cash Montgomery has already loved and lost. After losing his wife to cancer, he isn’t sure he’s ready to put himself back out there, but he finds himself drawn to Ella. After one unforgettable night, Cash begins to wonder if there could be a future for the two of them.

With one devastating phone call, Cash and Ella are tossed into a whirlwind of emotions. Once the dust settles, Cash must decide if he’s ready to let go of the ghost of his former love, and Ella is faced with the realization that grief changes us forever.

Home Again, the second installment in Melissa Grace’s Midnight in Dallas series picks up right where the first book left off. Liv and Dallas are still very much present in this book with their story continuing on in the background, but the main focus is on Ella and Cash’s journey. Second chance love is a trope that I LOVE reading and this magical story of love after loss melted my heart in all the best ways. This time around Grace turned the heat up on her bedroom scenes and I was pretty psyched to get a glimpse early on in the book. Cash and Ella’s chemistry was seeping off the pages and I happily absorbed every bit of it. While the passion was no doubt alive and thriving, so were the relationships between family and friends. The thing I love about Grace is she is extremely thoughtful when writing about all of her characters. She is constantly finding ways to nourish their relationships during times of change and does a beautiful job infusing life’s everyday challenges into their stories. Grace makes me want to jump into this book and hang out with this crew at Sunday dinners. Now that is a sign of a stellar story.

If you are in the market for a touching story filled with tons of hope after sadness, then I can’t recommend this book enough. I imagine you can read this as a stand alone, but I encourage you to read Home is Where You Are first. I am a huge devotee of reading book series in the order they were written 🤷‍♀️. Why skip around when you can read them all 🥰🥰!

Pre-order this book NOW…I INSIST!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Did you know that Melissa Grace was a Guest Writer on Dear Mr. Hemingway? Check out what she had to say to the big guy RIGHT HERE!

Click on this Gorgeous book cover to pre-order this book.

***I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Watermelon Queen

Passerby by Britney King

So here I am, standing over two dead bodies, surveying the blood splatter, wondering if I’ll ever be able to find wallpaper this pretty again.  It’s like two paths diverged in a wood.  I know this isn’t a Robert Frost poem, but bear with me, it’s my favorite, and at this moment, my mind is going to strange places.  

July 22, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today is a GREAT DAY!  One of my favorite/go to authors has a new book out and I had the pleasure of getting an early peek at it.  Passerby (Out Today), by the lovely Britney King was my perfect Saturday night read. King never fails to thrill me with her suspenseful tales and her latest did not disappoint.  Small town living and dead bodies wrapped in a bit of southern charm is what’s on tap today my literary friend.  Grab an ice coffee and your sunnies….the heat is on!

I personally find thrillers tricky to talk about without spoiling all the juicy surprises.  Because of this, I am sharing just the basic storyline and will tell you why it worked for me.  Jester Falls is the quintessential small town where you went to kindergarten with the local police officer and there is a life long feud between two of the big families in town.  Ruth Channing was born and raised here with her brothers and runs the Magnolia House, the most popular bed and breakfast around.  One of her brothers comes home with a random girlfriend that he quickly decides to marry. Ruth is on to her though.  After some digging around, she discovers that her sister-in-law, to be, has been lying about her name and her past.  To make matters worse, mysterious murders are happening under foot leaving Ruth suspicious and concerned for her family’s well being and the livelihood of The Magnolia House. 

It sounds lovely.   But it wasn’t all fun and games.  It takes an incredible amount of strength to hold a person under the water against their will.  Thankfully, not nearly as much to entice them to get sloppy drunk.  If you can imagine that, the rest is easy.

Now let me share with you the really good stuff.  The story is narrated by Ruth and the anonymous Passerby.   Let me just add real quick that I LOVE an undisclosed narrator.  Talk about fast paced and keeping me guessing !!!  King immediately presents two dead bodies and someone struggling with what to do about it right out of the gate. What I quickly learned was that King was teasing me with a scene that happens later on in the book, hooking me and reeling me in to the finish line.  The characters in Passerby weren’t exactly loveable, but instead hardened and even layered for that matter (side-effect of small town living).  As I was trying to figure out who was responsible for the different murders, I can honestly say, I was STUMPED! King threw me of course every step of the way and having that secret narrator made the journey way more fun.  In case you are wondering, yes there are murders and a few dead bodies, but the story is not overly graphic.  Passerby moves at a speedy pace, so plan on reading this in as close to one sitting as possible.  I promise, it’s easy to do.  

Enjoy this stellar read!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. See what I had to say about some of Britney King’s other books.

Kill Me Tomorrow

Savage Row

The Book Doctor

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***I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Happy 122nd Birthday Ernest Hemingway

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (Scribner)

July 21, 2021

Hello Gorgeous Readers!

I am here to share with you that today would have been Ernest Hemingway’s 122nd birthday.  Just to refresh your memory, Hemingway was born in 1899 and died at the age of 61 years of age. He is considered one of America’s greatest novelists and short story writers of all time.  This past spring, filmmaker extraordinaires Ken Burns and Lynn Novick made a three part series on Ernest Hemingway for PBS.  Because of this, there has been a renewed interest in this literary genius!  To celebrate Hemingway on this day, I am sharing with you one of his most controversial novels, The Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was published posthumously in 1986 by Scribner.  The story takes place in the 1920s in the French Riviera and Spain and follows American writer David Bourne and his wife Catherine on their honeymoon.   Catherine announces to David that she has a big surprise for him and that she will be “changed”. She runs off to the local coiffeur (French barber) and has her hair cut short in a masculine style.  She insists that David not refer to her as a girl during certain times and that he too, will be changed to… “her girl”.  

If you are familiar with Hemingway’s other work you might be saying, hmmmmm.  However, just when you think there is enough unexpected drama to work with here, Hemingway brings a woman named Marita into their lives and a new menage a trois develops. Through all of this, David continues on with his writing.  He abandons his original piece documenting his and Catherine’s extended honeymoon and moves on to writing about Africa.  Catherine does not like this one bit and they argue about his disloyalty to her. 

So here is the scoop.  I am an everyday reader and not an English scholar who can provide you with a deep analysis of this book.  I can assure you, there are TONS of qualified people who have done that already.  What I can tell you is that Hemingway worked on this book sporadically from around 1946 until he died.  Because this book was published after he died, it was edited immensely.  Literary scholars argue how much of this writing is actually his and how much was slashed or rearranged before publishing.  With that said, I will tell you my thoughts. 

The Garden of Eden opens up with a classic fishing scene and scrumptious descriptions of food and drink.  My mind immediately went to The Old Man and the Sea and of course, A Moveable Feast. It felt very much like the Hemingway I was familiar with…  straightforward dialogue, and an undemanding prose.  What was different about this novel was its contemporary vibe.  Hemingway was clearly exploring gender roles, transgenderism, and sexuality between the pages of his book.  Catherine appeared uncomfortable in her own skin and was desperately trying to examine her gender and how she fit into the world around her.  She had no guidance in this arena and instead not only leaned on David, but tried to incorporate him into her journey for validation and acceptance.  

My thoughts on David are still all over the place.  Yes he loves Catherine and accommodates many of her wishes, but I am trying to determine where he stands with all of this change. His own feelings on gender roles, love and even marriage are confusing in my opinion.  His nickname for Catherine is Devil, which in all honesty, can be discussed for days on end.  

The Garden of Eden is a tremendous read.  Though it was a huge success in 1986, I wonder how it would have been received if it was published in the 1940s.  I love how it was ahead of its time and fits so well into present day literature. I enjoyed how this wasn’t a plot driven story, but more of an exploration into the main characters.  This is a book I plan on reading again and again and again.  There is so much to unpack that I imagine each re-read will bring more clarity and perhaps even more questions to dissect.

If you are a Hemingway fan or just an inquisitive reader, I highly recommend checking this one out!  An excellent book club choice!

All my best to you!

Kelly

P.S. I Highly recommend you check out the three part series on Hemingway on PBS if you haven’t already.


P.P.S.  Click here to read some of my previous Hemingway Birthday posts.

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A Letter To Steven Rowley


Lily and The Octopus
by Steven Rowely (Simon & Schuster)
The Editor by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Guncle by Steven Rowley  (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

July 17, 2021

Dear Mr. Rowley,

Now that sounded weird.  Since we are so close in age I toyed with just calling you Steven, but because we do not know each other personally, I’m keeping it “profesh” and using your last name with a big old MR. right in front of it.  For the past three years, I have exclusively written my letters of bookish love to Hemingway…you know, that famous American writer who is beyond controversial in his professional and personal life, and who is also DEAD! Today, however, I am not only trying my hand at writing to someone new, but also to someone who is actually alive for that matter (AKA…YOU).  But please do not panic.  I assure you that I am not changing my Blog name to Dear Mr. Rowley. I know, I know, I know it would be so fantabulous to have me as a pen pal gushing (yes I just said gushing) about our favorite books, authors, and other shenanigans on the regular, but I promise to curb my enthusiasm. 

Let me start by saying that I have read and loved all three of your books immensely.  In Lily and the Octopus, you basically shattered my heart into a million pieces, then without fail, assembled it back together again with your magical writing and approximately 3.5 boxes of tissues (we can talk later about how fantastic my puffy and tear-stained eyes looked upon completion of this book and what future remedies you recommend for these casualties that come from your brilliant writing).  I digress. In your sophomore novel, The Editor, you completely roused me with how you mindfully placed THE Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the midst of James Smale’s story to offer truth and wisdom to his writing and personal life in the most ingenious manner. But what I really want to chat with you about today though is your latest creation, The Guncle.  The second you mentioned Cassie’s solo in this work of art, I knew I had a friend in you.  

When I first read the premise of The Guncle, I was ready for a light and funny tale of Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP) prancing around in his Kaftans and cocktails taking in his niece and nephew for the summer in his Palm Springs home after their mom died and their dad went to rehab.  I mean, a single and gay forty-something-year-old/ex-sitcom star taking care of two small kids has to be funny, right?  Obviously, you know the answer to this, but I am announcing to you out loud that it was truly hysterical.  I mean, as a mom to three kids, I have been to hell and back with that Blue Lizard sunscreen you cleverly mentioned.  This thick pasty white lotion can repel the sun’s harmful rays and any other toxins lurking in the air, but it also has the unique ability to push parents to the edge of their sanity while leaving children with white stained faces to frolic about in the pool.  Funny, funny, funny. And while I loved Patrick’s chucklesome side with his Guncle rules to live by and daily interactions with the wee ones, I loved him most for his oversized heart and profound emotions he slowly revealed. 

You see Mr. Rowley, you did something pretty damn special in The Guncle.  You brought out the unexpected beauty that is sometimes embedded in the walls of grief. You wholeheartedly wrote a story that captured the unimaginable feeling of hope after a tragic loss.  You showed how experiencing grief through the lens of a child can be the ultimate lesson in healing for an adult’s aching heart.  You tackled grief, loss, addiction, family and so much more by infusing laughter and love throughout the pages of your book, making life’s challenges a little less scary to read about. You wrote a book that captures the human spirit in more ways than I could ever count.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  

So here’s the scoop Mr. Rowley.  It is pretty obvious that I admire your writing. You have dazzled me on three different occasions by keeping me up way past my bedtime reading your splendid tales.  You have moved me to a rainstorm of tears and to a belly full of laughter all in the matter of a few pages.  But most importantly, you have provided me with stories that continue to keep my love of reading alive and thriving.  

One last thing before I go.  Because we grew up more or less during the same time period, I will always be in tune with your subtle jokes and pop culture references. Your sarcasm and wittiness are totally my jam. For the record, when you said “Dance 10 Looks 3”, I immediately shouted, “And I’m still on unemployment”. 

On that note, I will gracefully end my letter to you.  I wish you health and happiness and many more books to come. Feel free to write to me any time!  Your words are always welcome here!  

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly Fredericks


P.S. If you ever want to watch A Chorus Line (the movie version) with me, I will happily make you an incredible mimosa (minus the orange juice plus the Veuve) with an organic orange slice placed on a nearby cocktail napkin for your drinking pleasure.  We can critique the dancers while giggling how Michael Douglas was such a “baby” back then and WHERE DID THE TIME GO!

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Five Hours and Twenty-Four Minutes

Falling:  A Novel by T. J. Newman (Avid Reader Press)~July 6, 2021



June 27, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I hesitated writing to you about my latest high octane read because it involves an airplane and a potential crash.  Having survived two plane crashes in literally two days, you of all people are no stranger to airplanes not landing as expected.  However, I think you can handle this one, seeing that it is completely different from your experiences.  Former flight attendant T.J. Newman is about to release her debut novel, Falling:  A Novel on July 6th and I believe this will be a hit for more than one reason.  Let’s take a peek, shall we?

I am going to be very cautious with my plot summary in an effort to NOT SPOIL a thing for you.  The setup is this: Captain Bill Hoffman is an airline pilot with a wife and two small children.  Thirty minutes before he takes off on a routine domestic flight, he is contacted and informed that his wife and kids have been kidnapped.  He has a choice….crash the plane and kill all souls on board to save his wife and kids OR, save the flight and his family will be killed.  In addition, he can not tell any of the flight attendants OR his first officer of this situation.  He has five hours and twenty-four minutes to decide everyone’s fate!  ARE YOU READY?????

Adjust your tray tables and seat backs into their upright positions, Newman’s novel is a high tension read with a ginormous helping of suspense and terror.  Newman does a fantastic job making a routine morning feel like it happened in a completely different lifetime.  Her gripping tale teases and torments, keeping you glued to your cozy couch until the very end.  There is no time to come up for air and putting this book down to go to sleep is basically not happening.  Plan to read this in as close to one sitting as possible. 

I love the way Newman delivers heart pounding action in the air and on the ground.  Because Newman was a flight attendant for so many years, her descriptions of what happened inside the plane felt authentic to me.  The chapters that took place in-flight had details that I imagine only a seasoned flight attendant would know. My knuckles turned white as a ghost from clutching the side of my chair so hard from all the jumpiness on board.  Let me also share that the simultaneous drama happening on the ground not only left me with a spinning head, but managed to tug at my heartstrings a bit too hard.   The greatest aspect of Newman’s book is that you can read it as an action packed story without overthinking it OR enjoy it as a pulse pounding read while also examining why a scenario like this comes to be and what are the moral dilemmas at stake for everyone involved.  In my opinion, Falling makes an awesome book club choice. Whether you choose to read Falling as an entertaining tale or want to explore it further, one thing’s for sure…DO NOT READ THIS AIRBORNE!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  T. J. Newman is a former bookseller turned flight attendant.  She worked for Virgin America and Alaska Airlines from 2011 to 2021. She wrote much of this book on cross-country red-eye flights while her passengers were asleep. How cool is that!!!!!

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***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life For Me)

The Illustrative Anthology of Pirate Jokes by Teddy Stoecklein

June 13, 2021

Ahoy there Mr. Hemingway!

Father’s Day is right around the corner and I am serving up a ginormous scoop of laughter to make this day extra special for all the Dads out there. I am keeping it light by diving into the fictional arena of Pirates.  Characters who have hooks for hands, patches over their eyes and  say “aarrgh” like it’s no one’s business is what I am talking about.  Pirates have been the butt of hundreds of jokes for decades upon decades and because of this, Indie Author Teddy Stoecklein compiled and wrote 50 of the best Pirate jokes to share with his readers in The Illustrative Anthology of Pirate Jokes. Did I mention he illustrated this chucklesome read as wellWhether you are on a boat, sitting around a firepit or chatting it up at your neighbor’s BBQ, Stoecklein offers his readers all the tricks they need to be the greatest jokester around.  Let’s take a look.  

Very few individuals can deliver a rock solid joke with the confidence and delivery that ignites laughter from their audience.  Stoecklein puts an end to this dilemma with his rib-tickling joke book.  He kicks off all the howling with some very important advice on how to actually tell a successful Pirate joke.  He recommends using your everyday voice for the joke setup.  Easy, right?  It’s the punchline however, that can erupt laughter from the masses or leave you staring out into a sea of blank faces.   Pirate lingo is the name of the game here and how you pronounce those vowels and consonants will make or break your joke telling career. Accents need to be thick and theatrics need to be high “me hearties”. These quick-witted examples will give you a splash of credence to set sail on your merry joke telling way.

Why don’t pirates shower before they walk the plank?

Because they usually wash up onshore.

Who is a pirate’s favorite author?

J. Arrrgh Arrrgh Tolkien.

Why do pirates love Black Friday?

The sales!

Avast Ye all me maties!!!! Treat the dad in your life or any fabulous person you know with the gift of laughter this June 20th. Get ready to walk the plank Jack Sparrow, Teddy Stoecklein is the new pirate in town and his book will have you grinning from ear to ear. 

Until we sail again my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. A BIG shout out to Stoecklein’s crew aboard his ship. His first mate…Joelle. The crew…Mike, Krissy, Katherine and Grace. His little Bucs…Lulu and Wylie! Did I mention that Lulu illustrated the cover 😮

P.P.S. Be sure to check out Stoecklein’s Cowboy YoYo’s. Your camp fire keeps getting better and better.

Click on the book pic to purchase!

The Underworld

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides (Celadon Books) June 15, 2021


June 10, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Ahhhhh, the moment the world has been waiting for is less than a week away.  Alex Michaelides, author of the best selling book, The Silent Patient is back with summer’s most anticipated read.  The Maidens comes out June 15th and it does not disappoint.  Don’t get too comfy basking in the sun reading this thriller.  Plan on having to remove your sun soaked body from your beach chair to pick your jaw up off the ground when you finish.  Need I say more?

So here is the set up.  Mariana is a newly widowed group therapist.  One evening she learns that her niece Zoe’s close friend is brutally murdered at Cambridge University, where the girls attend school.   Mariana, once a student there, heads on over to comfort her niece and get to the bottom of things.  She is convinced that Professor Edward Fosca is the murderer.  This bewitching professor of Greek Mythology may be well loved by fellow teachers and students alike, but there is a mysterious air to him that just doesn’t sit well with Mariana.  For one, he has an ongoing obsession with Persephone (the goddess of death) and two, he has a gaggle of girls that make up a secret society called The Maidens that worship and learn from him privately.  The first girl murdered is a member of this underground group and soon after, another member is murdered as well.  Coincidence???  Mariana’s connections at the university coupled with her therapy skills, allow her to dig deep into this case, but not without ruffling a whole bunch of feathers.  As she explores the death’s of these women, Zoe’s relationship with them and Professor Fosca’s love of Greek tragedy, Mariana believes she is getting closer to the truth.  Is the Professor guilty of all these murders?

OK, so the premise of the story seems rather simple, but do not be fooled.  Finding out who killed these university women and why is what we are trying to discover. Beware though, the road to that realization will mock you every step of the way.  Michaelides did a brilliant job misleading me on every page.  He not only directed me down many deceiving paths, but peppered in some back stories and even a few side characters that muddied up the water and kept things beguiling.  Here is the thing. Dark and moody campus novels with a few dead bodies are 100% my jam.  Bring on the academic vibes, distorted passion and exclusive secret societies…I am in!  I loved Michaelides intricate details on Greek mythology and the psychology element he infuses into his tale.  He has mastered having a therapist in his story once again.  If you have read The Silent Patient, then you will appreciate the subtle nod he gives to it in this story.  Always fun in my opinion. 

Here is the scoop, Michaelides set the bar as high as it can go for his future novels with his 5 star debut, The Silent Patient. I truly believe his sophomore novel reached that bar and will be loved this summer by all the book lovers looking for a solid, high quality read. Remember though, comparison is the thief of joy so LET IT BE!

Reading The Maidens is the perfect escape from the daily grind.  That is what we are looking for this summer, am I right? It’s a sand between your toes, cocktail in your hand entertaining summer book.  I am not going to lie, it felt so amazing to stimulate my brain with a dark thriller instead of obsessing over work, laundry and what to feed my family next. Any chance to sit in my beach chair for an extended period of time is an absolute win for me. I literally remained seated (miracle) until the very end (remember, I had to pick my jaw up off the ground when I finished).   I mean how perfect does that sound? Go grab yourself a copy on pub day or if you are feeling spontaneous…..pre-order it today from your local indie bookstore.  My job is done here. Happy Reading!

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. Michaelides was inspired by  In Memoriam A. H. H. by Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892.  Check out this poem RIGHT HERE!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

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