Monday, March 30, 2020

The Red Lotus

It is late on Saturday night when Austin turns up in the busy ER where Alexis is working the night shift. This pretty, intelligent doctor expertly cares for his arm and feels lucky to learn that this handsome charming guy works in the hospital administration office. Six months later they are exclusively dating and enjoying an exciting cycling adventure vacation in Viet Nam. Austin, an avid biker, heads out on his own one morning to pay respects at the exact location his uncle died and father was injured during the war. When Austin is late returning, Alexis becomes worried. When Austin disappears, she panics. The truth becomes harder and harder to grasp when every clue leads to a dead end. It would be so much easier to walk away from this mess but as more details are revealed Alexis begins to see patterns and is determined to find out the truth. This suspenseful thriller takes the reader through the hills of Viet Nam and busy streets of New York, following FBI agents, a worthy private detective and clever cast of suspects. Could not put down and highly recommend this well written, fast paced mystery that hit a little too close to home during these trying times. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

North

Challenge: To break the speed record (FKT - Fastest Known Time) running the 2,189 mile Appalachian Trail. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every single day for, 46 days. After many accolades and more than twenty years competing, speaking and writing, Scott felt he was at a point in his life that needed another challenge. Scott Jurek, world renowned distance runner sets out in the spring of 2015 with his best friend/wife Jenny, to accomplish this great feat. While Jenny would provide supplies, meals and directions she also assisted Scott through injury, sleeplessness, bad weather and unwelcome strangers. Narrated by both Jenny and Scott this memoir reveals the depths of their marriage and the magnificent terrain they pass through. Friends of the most interesting nature meet up with them along the way offering motivation and advice. The physical demands strip Scott of every ounce of energy he tries to maintain but he once again proves to athletes everywhere how the mind controls so much of our bodies. A beautiful journey through nature, this tale of friendship and perseverance will equally inspire runners and non-runners alike.

And They Called it Camelot

In 1952 Jacqueline Bouvier was a highly educated, multilingual, beautiful young woman working at the Washington Times Herald, when John F. Kennedy asks her out for a drink. The very charming and extraordinarily handsome Congressman from Massachusetts quickly swept her off her feet and a year later they were married. On to the Senate and then campaigning for Presidency, Jackie became an integral part of John’s team. Embracing her role with diplomatic ease, this well dressed woman with a refined manner and brilliant smile won the hearts of every American. Jackie’s road is rocky from the start. Her all encompassing love and devotion to both John and his family is often overwhelming and arduous, but Jackie appears to manage even the very dark side with exceptional grace. This touching portrayal of her life, from her fictional perspective is riveting and tearful. Her public persona, deep desire to contribute to society and unwavering love for her children, John Jr. and Caroline, make this novel an unforgettable journey. Exceptional author Stephanie Marie Thornton brings the Kennedy’s to life - every word and nuance captures the magic of this golden family, the closest we have to American royalty. Highly recommend this fabulous new read! FIVE STARS!!!

Bimini Rocks

Sirena, a mermaid actress and avid scuba diver from Florida, arrives at Isabelle’s Hideaway ready to explore the beautiful waters of Bimini, a magical chain of islands in the westernmost district of the Bahamas. Isabelle, her dear friend and hotel proprietor has arranged for Sirena to dive with her handsome brother Blue. He immediately takes Sirena to visit a secret cave he found near the reef and rock formations on the unexplained Road to Atlantis. For hundreds of years the story of the sunken city has filled the dreams of every historian and fantasizer in the area, these divers included. Unexplained severe shaking underwater leads the duo to investigate explosions that resulted from an array of illegal business activities threatening the nature of this lovely island. Submerge yourself in history, marine life, suspense and even a little romance with this fast paced underwater adventure. Thoroughly enjoyed this debut author (scuba diver!) and easy read. Perfect getaway - especially if you are stuck at home! 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Grace Kelly Dress

In 1958 Rose is an orphaned seamstress working at madame’s fancy atelier. Only the most prestigious and wealthy customers can afford to have their wedding dresses designed at this historical establishment. Rose has a special talent and behind the scenes she is completing one of the most important gowns they have ever worked on. She is more than capable of the task but the question remains if she can hide the fact that she is head over heels in love with the bride’s handsome brother, who is engaged to another woman. 60 years later, Rocky, a recent twenty something tech success is getting her mother’s dress refitted for her own wedding. As Rocky’s mother Joan lovingly arranges every last detail of the upcoming nuptials, she cannot help but relive her own emotional past. Rocky cannot find it in her heart to share the truth: she wants a wedding that represents who she has become and doesn’t want to wear the dress. Flashing back to the origin and details that created this family heirloom - Rose, Joan and Rocky find that what they have in common is much more precious than what makes than different. A love story of weddings and truth, highly recommend this delightful, easy read. Perfect for a day at the beach!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Fast Girls

Sports pioneers of the twentieth century; Betty Robinson, Helen Stephens and Louise Stokes were among the few female athletes headed to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Nazi Germany. After years of fighting to be part of their local track and field teams, these fast and feisty runners overcame adversity at every turn. Repeatedly told their sex was too fragile to compete, reprimanded for this unladylike behavior, in addition to racial discrimination;  Betty, Helen and Louise, along with many others spent years proving their abilities and strength on and off the course. With a tiny taste of success in 1928 and 1932, the women were training hard to make the U.S. proud and refute Adolf Hitler’s attempt to prove his theories of Aryan racial superiority. As the politically charged Berlin Games became a powerful propaganda tool for Nazi Germany the athletes who had considered boycotting the events, continued to strive for greatness. Narrated by their personal histories and newspaper clippings, Fast Girls shares these often untold historical stories of champions who paved the future for female athletes everywhere.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

You Are Not Alone

Shay Miller lost her job. Her adorable roommate Sean suddenly has a girlfriend. Feeling sorry for herself, imagining things can’t get any worse, Shay witnesses a beautiful woman jump in front an oncoming train. Still shaken, she gives her statement to the police but can’t let go of this horrific event and decides to attend the woman’s memorial service. It is there she meets the Moore sisters. They are exquisite, fashionable and successful. A small group of their friends closely gather and Shay can barely imagine what life would be like if she had that kind of support. Surprisingly Shay continues to bump into the sisters, which statistically in NYC is unlikely. And just like that her life begins to turn around. A job, a new apartment, new friends. As things spins out of control Shay realizes there may be nothing she can do to stop it. Murder, intrigue and suspense fill the pages of this fast-paced story of deceit. Just how far would you go for your friends? Highly recommend this latest release from the amazing writing duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Last Train to Key West

Mirta Perez, Elizabeth Preston and Helen Berner. Three women that have little in common are brought together by The Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the most intense Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall. In Key West, Helen waits tables at the local diner. A born and bred local, she is 9 months pregnant and abused daily by her no-good fisherman husband, Tom. It’s a holiday weekend, the town is packed and The National Weather Service is unsure if this tempest will descend its wrath on the Florida Keys. Elizabeth who is escaping from her wealthy past and grim future marriage has traveled to Florida to find her long lost brother, whose help she desperately needs. Mirta, a socialite from Havana, sits in silence next to her handsome and powerful husband whom she barely knows. Fate has brought these three women together, to survive the storm of their lives and find their rightful place in the world. Over the course of this weekend these women must uncover the strength to protect themselves and act in good conscience. Gifted author Chanel Cleeton brings us back to the eye of the storm with a story of resilience, love and hope. A fast paced page turner you do not want to miss, will release June 2020.

Writers & Lovers

Casey Peabody is a writer. She is an artist through and through. Casey is a compilation of everything she has ever written and ravenously read throughout her young life. At 31 she never expected to feel so lonely, but since her mother tragically passed away this creative soul can no longer feel the words. The last 6 years Casey has spent traveling the world, waiting tables in bougie restaurants and working on her novel. She is exhausted by all the details that once inspired her, including all the men she cannot seem to hang on to. While working at a bistro in Boston near Harvard Square Casey crosses paths with a cast of quirky characters that may be just what she is looking for. She must dig deep inside herself to find the answers. Highly recommend this unique, imaginative journey of self discovery that is perfect for any book lover as the eloquent words of author Lily King take you away.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

This Terrible Beauty

Bettina Heilstrom is a young woman during World War II and has spent her entire life on the shores of Rugen, Germany. She had always been content with this quiet island living, working in her father’s fish shop. After both her parents are gone, the brutalities of war are on her doorstep. Resolved to remain alone, she unexpectedly marries Werner, not exactly love, but for companionship and maybe a chance to have a family of her own. Werner is a politico who works for a government agency. He derives great power controlling peoples lives with the information he gathers, including Bettina’s. When the Russians ultimately win control of the Eastern Bloc, a socialist republic is instituted and freedom is scarce. Bettina secretly falls in love with a writer/teacher named Peter and they begin a dangerous love affair. Flashing back from Bettina’s life in Chicago circa 1960 to her previous years in Germany, this now famous photographer must decide if she can start anew or if the past will haunt her forever. Excellent writing and a interesting history of postwar Germany that is rarely depicted.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Postscript

Holly Kennedy has spent the last seven years trying to build a new life for herself. After her husband’s tragic illness ended, Holly felt like she too disappeared. With much help from friends and family and most importantly a year of P.S. I Love You letters, Holly has finally found her way back to the living. She works in her sister’s shop, has a sexy tree trimming boyfriend and can see the future more brightly than ever. One day, as a favor to her sister’s podcast, Holly reflects in public for the very first time about her unexpected year of letters and adventures she received from Gerry after he died. Holly explains the pre-arranged monthly surprises that got her out of her house, anticipating all her needs and tremendous sadness. After the broadcast, a small group of terminally ill people form a club to create something similar for their loved ones and they want Holly’s help. Instantly threatening all the strides she has made personally, she still cannot resist the magnetic pull of Gerry’s love. Having waited more than a decade for a sequel to bestseller P.S. I Love You, (book & movie!) get ready to laugh and cry in Dublin with one of my all time favorite Irish authors, Cecilia Ahern.

Freedom Lessons

Colleen is a young woman on the cusp of realizing her dreams. She has just become an elementary school teacher and even though it is 1969 and America is deep in the Vietnam War, Colleen continues to envision a world where everyone is equal. When her husband is transferred to become a drill sergeant in Louisiana, Colleen quickly learns the deep South is nothing like New Jersey. She must disturbingly fight for the very basic freedoms and assistance all students deserve. Narrated alternately by Colleen; Frank - an outstanding local black high school student and Evelyn - an accomplished teacher and advocate who has become Colleen’s mentor. These different perspectives reflect the many ways that segregation, separate but equal and choice schools affected the painstakingly slow changes mandated in the United States with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. A fictionalized account of the author’s own young life experiences, this dynamic teacher went on to become an educational advocate for the next forty years. Bravo, Eileen Harrison Sanchez, thank you for sharing your story; a wonderful, well-written historic reminder to keep moving forward, always striving to do even better for our children.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Girl with the Louding Voice

Adunni is a fourteen year old girl living in a small village in Nigeria. There is nothing she loves more than going to school. She dreams of becoming a teacher someday and helping all the village children learn how to read and write. When her mama unexpectedly passes away Adunni’s life changes dramatically. Her father quickly arranges a marriage as third wife to the old man who drives taxis so he can use her bride price to pay community rent. School is no longer an option and Adunni sees her future slipping away. Surviving both verbal and physical abuse, Adunni finds herself escaping to the big city of Lagos where she becomes a housemaid. It is while scrubbing floors with a toothbrush that Adunni embraces her louding voice. Realizing a slave does not always have chains you can see, Adunni is desperate to be heard, right the wrongs young women suffer and speak for those who cannot. With a little help she can once again find her future. Written in a surprisingly easy to follow broken English, this debut novel is a unique, deeply moving story of resilience and hope.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Where I Can Breathe


Guest Review and Author Interview 
by Sara Matthis
editor of the Marathon Keys Weekly

FROM A to Z

Hays Blinckmann is super happy she’s making people cry.  “I know it sounds weird, but I love it. It means people are connecting to this story,” she said, laughing. “I cry when I read it!”

The former Keys Weekly staffer (2015 to 2019) and Key West resident just published her second novel, “Where I Can Breathe,” on Amazon. It’s available in paperback or for Kindle. The positive feedback from readers is feeding a happy “high” as she rides the wave of another success. In fact, she’s already at work on her third novel. Her first, “In the Salt,” was published in 2015.

The Keys Weekly had the opportunity to read the book, and then sit down with the author and former colleague. We had questions. So. Many. Questions.

Do your first and second novels have similar themes? They’re both “dramedies” (dramatic comedy) about family — children and parents. And they’re both about the struggles of a family trying to stay together in the midst of alcoholism. Both feature large personalities and adversity. The difference is that “Salt” was an angry look at the family’s circumstance. “Where I Can Breathe” is much more compassionate and understanding.

You’re getting this question a lot, so we’ll go ahead and get it out of the way. How much is autobiographical? The only true-life part is that my late mother was an alcoholic who entered hospice. And the character of Agnes is based on my mother. My mother did grow up in the last half of the century, she was part of that generation that was lost between being housewives and feminists. She did her best to chart the new world as a young mother, in a time when things were constantly changing. I think they started their lives out with big dreams but things got in the way  — marriage, children, horrible events. 

Was the second novel easier to write? Writing for the Keys Weekly for four years was like getting up every morning and going to the gym. Then, when it was time to run the marathon, I was ready. I don’t want to say it was easier, but it was better. One thing I want to say is that when writing for the paper, I learned to write for other people. It wasn’t self-serving. In writing the second novel, I made the same adaptation; I was focusing on the subject and the end reader. 

For such a serious subject, there’s a lot of humor in this book. I grew up with a very good sense of sarcasm; there were high levels of that in my home, as well as comedy. It’s the way we dealt with our issues and I rely on sarcasm and humor to get me through horrible situations. It was so much fun writing these characters, and this dialogue. 

Who is your favorite character in “Where I Can Breathe”? Ansel. He’s just very large, and passionate, and angry and wears his heart on his sleeve. (His sister Abby and big brother Arthur have to be more metered. She’s a mom, he’s a businessman.) But Ansel is all over the place until Hector, his love interest, pulls him together.  I love Hector, the Cuban American doctor from Miami. A lot of people love that character. Ansel is the youngest in the story, and has the hardest time finding love. 

How long did it take you to write “Where I Can Breathe”? Well, I thought about it for two months, and then it took 10 weeks to write. I knew the ending and the beginning, I just had to fill in the middle. So a lot of the events were unscripted until I actually sat down to write it. I just had to answer the biggest question: How did this beautiful woman who seemingly had everything – wealth and family – choose to end her life on the most tragic note possible? How do you get from A to Z?

Can you describe a good writing day? I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I chauffeur to soccer practice. I have lunchboxes to make. So I wait until the kids go to school and my husband goes to work. I tried to put in four or five hours a day. On a good day, I would get 6,000 words. The funny thing is that sometimes it wasn’t like that. There would be a bunch of screaming, 10-year-old boys in the house and my husband using the chop saw outside. But if you’re really writing, and really dedicated, you do it.

I thought the parts about Agnes’ and Asher’s early life in New York City were really evocative. What was the inspiration? I drew on my grandfather’s annual New Year’s Eve party for his business associates. It was about breeding and education. And Agnes and Asher came at it from a disadvantage – trying to assimilate into the upper city echelon although they came from rural suburbia. It was a way to describe Asher’s drive by contrasting it with these socialites, that maybe didn’t have the same drive because they grew up so privileged. And Asher needed a wife that would play along. Plus, back in the ’70s, everyone wanted to be a tycoon. It was the American dream.

What’s the most satisfying part of this book? I think that readers start out wanting to hate some of the characters in “Where I Can Breathe,” but by the end, they couldn’t. And I didn’t want the readers to hate the characters. We’re human, though, so we want to see things in black and white – you want the villain and the good guy. But, listen, parents do horrible things, children do horrible things and the truth is somewhere in the middle where it’s murky. I love that the readers are responding to that natural sense of confusion and love and raw emotion that the family has for each other. Oh, and also that reviewer who wrote “This is not chick lit.” I love that.

What’s the third novel about? Well, it’s more mystery, not as “weepy.”

Oona Out of Order


In 1982 Oona is living in Brooklyn, New York. She is madly in love with her rockin roll boyfriend Dale and they are throwing a New Year’s party with all their friends to celebrate Oona’s birthday at midnight. Their band has been offered a killer gig to open for the coolest band, Oona is beautiful and only 18! The world is her oyster! But the darnedest thing happens. When midnight strikes Oona finds herself in the body of a middle aged woman, an unrecognizable version of herself. In a beautiful mansion her handsome assistant Kenzie begins to explain that it’s 2014, she is a generous philanthropist and along with her mother Madeleine, no-one else knows about this mysterious affliction Oona has developed. Every year on her birthday she is sent on a time traveling experience to another year of her adult life. Out of order. She can hop from 19 to 40 and will remain there for one year. As society, technology and her heart goes on a rollercoaster through time Oona tries to figure out the meaning and value of each day when she knows it’s all about to disappear. Oona experiences good years and bad, trying to leave clues for her future and past selves to smooth over the often confusing transition. WARNING: If you want to enjoy this unique, well written story you must be open to time travel that doesn’t always make sense. There is some meaning here but it is in tiny little bits scattered throughout and you just gotta roll with it.