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Nothing Lasts Forever

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas (Avid Reader Press)
Pub Date~February 1, 2022

January 26, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

There is nothing more thrilling to me than reading a debut novel. Because I have no preconceived notions or backlist titles to compare it to, I have the opportunity to absorb the writing while getting to know the writer one page at a time.  With that said, I just finished Julia May Jonas’ debut novel, Vladimir, and I can honestly say that I was dazzled by her beautiful words. 

The narrator of Vladimir is a female literature professor in her mid-50s.  Her husband John, a professor at the same small liberal college in upstate New York is facing allegations from former students of sexual misconduct.  His relationship with other women has never been an issue within their marriage because they have a mutually agreed upon “open-marriage” and dating students wasn’t as controversial back in the day compared to present times.  As the atmosphere at the college becomes polluted with these affairs, the narrator develops her own fascination with a younger professor named Vladimir that leads her into uncharted territory. 

Here is the scoop on Vladimir. Jonas’ book is not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat kind of read. It is a multi-layered character-driven tale.  I absolutely love books with a huge emphasis on character study. Getting a sneak peek into the nitty-gritty crevices of a character’s mind is totally my cup of tea.  Being inside this narrator’s brain was like being lost in the woods somewhere.  Her constant search for validation was like foraging for berries in a snow storm. I was lured into her unconventional marriage and was surprisingly intrigued by this couples’ perpetual need for external approval to feel fulfilled. The dynamics between the narrator and her husband were compulsive and faultlessly showcased the dysfunction they both endured on a regular basis.  Jonas’ story felt heavy at times and even a bit melancholy, but it connected me to the internal turmoil experienced by the characters.  So many times throughout the book I thought I figured out what made this narrator tick, but I was pleasantly surprised by her hidden darkness and eager to see where it would lead her. My thoughts on her younger colleague Vladimir remain complicated and his presence in this story no doubt plays an interesting role in the narrator’s development.  I was curious to find out how this story would end and was satisfied with the conclusion.  

Jonas’ writing is superbly edgy. I was fascinated by how fragile the human spirit can sometimes be and what makes a moral compass waver.  The academic backdrop for this story was wonderfully brainy with a literary flair. Her book worked for me because it opened the door to intimate conversations and analyses that I love to engage in.  Her characters prompted me to think outside the box and examine more closely the idea of “perfect love”, motherhood, unconventional marriages, and the daunting quest for approval.  Let’s not forget the complexities of the #metoo movement and the internal and external power struggles that exist.  

I gobbled up Jonas’ lyrical prose and stimulating story and look forward to more of her writing.

Until next time.

Your Biggest Fan,


P.S.  If you are looking for more books with academic vibes, CLICK HERE

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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!

9/11 ~ 20 Years Ago

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff (Avid Reader Press)

September 10, 2021

Today there will be no letter to Mr. Hemingway. I have no words. I have been moved to complete stillness.



“Over the past eighteen years, monumental literature has been published about 9/11, from Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower to The 9/11 Commission Report. But one perspective has been missing up to this point—a 360-degree account of the day told through firsthand.

Now, in The Only Plane in the Sky, Garrett Graff tells the story of the day as it was lived—in the words of those who lived it. Drawing on never-before-published transcripts, declassified documents, original interviews, and oral histories from nearly five hundred government officials, first responders, witnesses, survivors, friends, and family members, he paints the most vivid and human portrait of the September 11 attacks yet.

Beginning in the predawn hours of airports in the Northeast, we meet the ticket agents who unknowingly usher terrorists onto their flights, and the flight attendants inside the hijacked planes. In New York, first responders confront a scene of unimaginable horror at the Twin Towers. From a secret bunker under the White House, officials watch for incoming planes on radar. Aboard unarmed fighter jets in the air, pilots make a pact to fly into a hijacked airliner if necessary to bring it down. In the skies above Pennsylvania, civilians aboard United 93 make the ultimate sacrifice in their place. Then, as the day moves forward and flights are grounded nationwide, Air Force One circles the country alone, its passengers isolated and afraid.

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real time: the father and son caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from trying to rescue their colleagues.

At once a powerful tribute to the courage of everyday Americans and an essential addition to the literature of 9/11, The Only Plane in the Sky weaves together the unforgettable personal experiences of the men and women who found themselves caught at the center of an unprecedented human drama. The result is a unique, profound, and searing exploration of humanity on a day that changed the course of history, and all of our lives.”

NEVER FORGET 09.11.2001

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,


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!

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