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


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


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.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

The Honey Don't List

Carey has spent the last decade working for America’s king and queen of home remodeling - superstars, Melly and Rusty Tripp. Their home decor stores, television series and books have been a smashing success. At 27 yrs old, Carey has essentially spent the last decade of her life working her fingers to the bone as Melly’s assistant. James is hired as Rusty’s nerdy sidekick/engineer and is expected to keep the handsome celebrity squeaky clean and out of trouble. At first Carly and James find themselves at extreme odds battling their level of importance over who has been there longer (Carey) and who has fancy degrees and a chip on his shoulder (James). As they begin to truly accept that their future success is completely dependent on the Tripp’s business, the duo make a plan to keep the rocky show on the road and prying social media fans at bay. The public must never find out that Melly and Rusty’s marriage is falling apart behind the scenes. Trapped on the tour bus from hell tests all of their shortcomings and the young colleagues finally take the boxing gloves off. This sweet, laugh out loud rom-com will have you begging for more and perhaps preparing your very own honey-do list. Add to your TBR, release date set for March 24th!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Sun Down Motel

In 1982 Vivian Delaney left home in Illinois to make her way in the world. Young and pretty, she dreamed of the bright lights of NYC. After a creepy ride with a stranger she unexpectedly lands in Fell, New York. This chilly, broken down little town doesn’t have much to offer but she finds work as the night shift clerk at a dilapidated motel, she even finds a nearby apartment to share with another young woman. Viv figures she will save her money and make her move to the big city very soon. What Viv doesn’t count on is that The Sun Down Motel is creepy and haunted, the town has a string of unsolved murders and Viv has an insatiable curiosity for the morbid. Thirty-five years later Viv’s niece Carly shows up in Fell determined to find out what happened to her aunt. She weasels her way into a job at The Sun Down and the very same apartment her aunt once inhabited. As years of secrets begin to unfold this dual narration will take you on a hair raising rollercoaster ride. Highly recommend this absolutely unputdownable thriller that had me guessing until the very spine chilling end. Will be an incredible book club discussion. Perhaps our meeting at night - at a hotel will add to the fun?!