One Step Too Far – Free Kindle Download!

Readers:  It isn’t very often that we repost a blog that we’ve already run; however, today I felt compelled to do so.  Last week we Featured Tina Seskis as an Author  Spotlight and ran a review of her book, One Step Too Far.  Today only, this book is a FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD.  To download this book to your Kindle or Kindle App, follow this link. In the meantime, I’m reposting our review of Tina Seskis’ debut novel, One Step Too Far.  Enjoy!  CHA

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17404760One Step Too Far
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Sometimes a person’s life falls so completely apart that the only solution, it seems, is to simply walk away and start over. Leaving behind her husband and family, that’s exactly what Emily Coleman does…walk away. As she leaves the home she’s shared with her husband for many years, Emily carries with her almost nothing with her, except for the painful memories that she can’t seem to escape.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis is a story of one woman’s attempt to heal from her past in the only way she knows how: by leaving behind everything that provokes daily memories of all that she’s lost.

As a reader, you’re not really sure what Emily has lost or what provokes her painful memories, but you know it’s huge. There are hints along the way, but the author does a wonderful job of keeping the reader guessing and clueless until she’s ready to let you in on the secret. And when she finally does, the reader should be prepared for a jaw-dropper.

Seskis’ book was a wonderful read that I fully expect to quickly rise on the list of bestsellers.

This book is currently on order at the Rochester Public Library and should be shelved soon.

In celebration of the release of this book, Tina Seskis will be our Author in Spotlight on tomorrow’s blog! Come back tomorrow to read our exclusive interview with Tina Seskis. Learn about the background of this book and you’ll be surprised at the evolution of this book!

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Author Spotlight – Tina Seskis

by Catherine H. Armstrong

17404760Yesterday our blog featured a book review of the debut novel by Tina Seskis, One Step Too Far – a gripping story about one woman’s loss and her journey toward redemption.  As a reader (and maybe even more as a mother), I loved the story so much that I contacted the author and asked for a Q&A interview for this blog.  She graciously accepted and I’ve had more fun these last few days with the back and forth e-mails with this amazing author. 

Tina’s book officially hit the bookshelves this past Monday and is currently on-order at the Rochester Public Library.  It is also available at amazon.com in traditional and e-book formats. While you wait for your opportunity to get your hands on a copy of this wonderful story, I hope you enjoy this Q&A with the author, Tina Seskis.

Tina close-up B copyTina Seskis – Author of One Step Too Far

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Q:  I read somewhere that you never intended to be a writer and have your work published. What changed for you and why did you take that first big leap?

A:  During one of my many career breaks(!) I decided to take a couple of months out and have a go at everything I ever wanted to do (my husband is very long-suffering), so for fun I joined a writing group, acting classes (my drama teacher said I had no potential by the way), took up yoga and tennis again, joined a choir, you get the picture.  But the two hours’ writing class was the absolute highlight of my week, although funnily enough I didn’t write at all outside of that.  And then 3 years ago we were on holiday in Venice and out of nowhere I got the idea for One Step Too Far’s big “twist” and I thought, that would make a great novel, so when I got home I started writing it down on my laptop, in between working and being a mother.

Q:  I understand that there is a backstory behind the writing of “One Step Too Far.” Can you tell us a little about it?

A:  Around the same time I’d been getting worried about my mum, who had started having pains in her legs and inexplicably losing mobility (the doctors thought she had Vitamin D deficiency), and she was getting a bit depressed about it, so to give her something else to think about I’d send her chapters to read.  So often I’d be writing in front of the telly and then propped up in bed at two in the morning so I’d have something to send her the next day.  Sadly my mum died a few days after I finished the first draft, just two months later, of cancer as it turned out.

Q:  How difficult was it for you to find someone willing to take a chance on you and see this book published? Did you find the process easy? Grueling? Exactly as you expected?

A:  I didn’t get someone to take a chance.  I sent the book out to agents in the days after my mum died (I had all this nervous energy before the funeral that I didn’t know what to do with) and the only response I got was a couple of standard rejection letters.  Then I forgot about the book for a year, until a friend of mine recommended me to The Literary Consultancy, and I paid them to read my manuscript to tell me whether it was any good or not – because if it was rubbish I didn’t want to waste time trying to get it published, it would just have remained something private that I’d written for my mum.  And TLC liked it so much they became the match-maker between myself and agents, and six or seven agents were personally offered it, one after the other, and in the meantime I wrote my second book – and then two and a half years later I still hadn’t got an agent for either book, let alone a publisher, and I looked at the publishing model and how much it had changed and decided I could do it myself.  So in January of this year I set up my own publishing company and had just two goals – make the book as good as it could be, and get it out to as many people as possible online to try to drive word of mouth.  And here it is now.

Q:  Are any of the characters in One Step Too Far based upon people in your real life? If so, can you talk about that a little bit? Maybe give examples?

A:  It sounds corny but Ben is based on my husband, he’s infuriatingly too good to be true too, and without giving too much away the very final ending is the one my mum wanted.  Many of the characters are mixes of people I’ve come across, especially the housemates, the people from advertising and the father, and some of the scenarios really happened to me (think the parachuting scene and I’m ashamed to say the lemon tart, but in my defense I was very young).  But no, no-one else is real.  I’ve always been fascinated by people, and I ALWAYS read the newspaper articles entitled things like “My husband left me for a man who used to be a woman,” so I tried to make all the characters believable because they were based on truth (and without doubt truth is stranger than fiction).

Q:  If you could go back and change any one thing about your novel, what would it be and why?

A:  Well obviously my own personal circumstances, but regarding the novel I got so much brilliantly candid feedback over the years and I was still changing it right at final typesetting proof stage.  A friend’s husband told me about a month ago he didn’t like the way Angel’s story ended, and I realized I didn’t either – so I changed it!  A lot of reviewers online said one aspect of the ending was a bit callous and I agreed with them so I changed that a little too.  And then lots of people said the end was rushed but I didn’t agree so I ignored that comment!  I was also told that I HAD to have the novel copy-edited and I did try to get a couple of people to do it, but I didn’t like having my words messed with, so against all advice (and to save money!) I did all the copy-editing and proof-reading myself (I’d never thought of myself as a control freak before…).  The only thing I’d forgotten about until too late is that I wrote a couple of chapters from Emily’s perspective once the mystery was revealed that I took out and I can’t even remember why now, so if there’s the chance to do a reprint I might look at putting those back in.

Q:  As a reader, there were so many twists and turns to the book that literally made my jaw drop open while reading. I’m wondering whether – as the writer – did you “know” those twists and turns were going to happen (i.e. did you have an outline that you were following) or did they just sort of develop and take you, as the writer, by surprise as well?

A:  I knew the big twist, but how I was going to get there I didn’t really know, I just got the ideas as I wrote them, which made some of the chapter endings a bit of a surprise to me too.  And what with the pace I was writing at I didn’t have too much time for plot development.  A few months ago I read Stephen King’s quite brilliant book On Writing and it seems like that’s how he does it too, so that made me feel a bit better.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about “how” you write. That is to say, do you have specific habits that you follow when you’re writing?

A:  One Step Too Far I literally wrote anywhere and everywhere.  If I didn’t have my laptop with me and found myself waiting for a bus or in the hospital I’d just start writing long-hand to carry on the story.  If I was writing watching the telly I’d often find something someone said would go into the book.  I’d write whilst hanging out with my friends in the garden with our children.  I don’t have a desk – just a shelf with our Mac on where I do all my “work,” but I never use that to write.  These days I write on an ipad with a wireless keyboard, as it turns on instantly and the story is always where I just left it, and I can follow the sunshine (when we get it!) around the house and sit where I fancy, often with my dog curled up next to me.

Q:  Are there any books or authors in your own life who have influenced your writing? If so, in what way(s)?

A:  I was obsessed with Agatha Christie as a child and she’s probably my biggest influence in terms of how I write, as I love twists – I read that she never knew who the murderer was until the end and I thought no wonder I could never guess.  When I was younger I also devoured the likes of Jilly Cooper and Harold Robbins for the brilliance of their page-turning ability.  But throughout my life I have always loved books that are really well-written – Salman Rushdie is probably my favourite modern author for his genius with words.  And I’m embarrassed to say that lately I’ve hardly read at all.

Q:  Besides the love of a story well-told, is there anything you’d like your readers to take away from this book? Any deep message or theme that you hope will resonate with them?

A:  I think the novel is ultimately a story about love and redemption.  I’d just like people to be a bit kinder to each other, and understand that everyone has their problems and insecurities, and be more forgiving of them.  As I’m finding out, people can be very quick to judge!

Q:  Do you have any future projects in the works and, if so, can you tell us a little about them?

A:  I’ve already written my second novel, A Serpentine Affair, which I’m enormously fond of, and which I will be dedicating to my six best friends from University in the hope that they won’t hate me forever!!  I got stuck on my third novel (working title Collision, as it’s the coming together of the story of a character from each of the first two novels) in November, and after a bit of a miserable Christmas on 2nd January I decided to give writing a break and have a go at getting One Step Too Far out there, as otherwise our finances dictated I’d have had to go and get another job in marketing…

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with reader? Anything specific you’d like them to know about you, your writing, this book, etc?

A:  I can’t think of anything else for now!  Thank you for being the hosts of my first ever Q and A, and to Cathie for her feedback and support in the process.

From the Friends of the Rochester Public Library – and myself, personally – we send our deepest appreciation to Tina Seskis for her time. We wish her great success on this new novel and I am personally looking forward to reading much more from her in the future! ~  CHA

Author Spotlight and Interview – Paula McLain

By Helen McIver

Author Paula McLain

Author Paula McLain

After I reviewed Paula McLain’s new book The Paris Wife earlier this year, one of my book clubs decided to read her novel. I was volunteered to do the “Author Review” that normally accompanies a book we read. Having already delved back into Hemingway, I was more than ready. However I decided to add something extra: I contacted her and asked if she would answer a few questions about her reading habits.  She decided which questions she had time to answer, and we ended up with a few more books to read!

Paula McLain was born in Fresno, CA in 1965.  After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could – and wanted to – write.  She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and since then has been a resident at Yaddo and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.  She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family, and one previous and well-received novel, A Ticket to Ride.  Paula McLain lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her family. Visit her website, www.pariswife.com.

Helen McIver:  Do you remember the last time you said to someone, “You really must read this book now?” and the book was? Are you part of a book club?

Paula McLain:  I haven’t been in a book club for years and years, but when I speak with book clubs or go into local Indy book stores, I’ll always ask for glowing recommendations. Recently I found Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic that way, and also Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.  Loved them both

Helen McIver:  What is your favorite line from a book?

Paula McLain:  From Willa Cather’s My Antonia: “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

Helen McIver:  A recent Book you bought just for the cover?

Paula McLain:  Amor Towles’, Rules of Civility. Isn’t that a great looking cover?

Helen McIver:  Have you heard any good books lately?  Driving?  In an airplane?  Did you choose the reader of your book?  Did you like the audio version of your book?

Paula McLain:  I just listened (yesterday!) to Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which was terrific.  I love him and also loved, lately, his On Chesil Beach, which I also got as a book on tape. In general, I love to be read to.

I had a lot of trouble with the casting for the audio for Paris Wife.  None of the actors they liked sounded like Hadley to me, including the one who actually was chosen. Maybe no one would have pleased me, though, since I had a strong “Hadley” voice in my head for years, which I just wasn’t going to hear again out in the world, if you know what I mean.

Helen McIver:  Do you have a genre to beach read?

Paula McLain:  Lord, I wish I had time to read on the beach. Oh, and a beach to read on!

Helen McIver:  Do you have a favorite literary adaptation on TV or film? Is there something coming out you can’t wait (Hemingway?!)

Paula McLain:  There’s a great BBC production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that I HEART and have watched maybe fifty times….

Helen McIver:  What book is on your nightstand?

Paula McLain:  Rules of Civility.

Helen McIver:  Paper or electronic? Do you take notes?

Paula McLain:  Electronic, always. I take lots of notes, some of which I actually find again!

Helen McIver:  Is music important to your writing? (Do you listen to music when you write? When you read? Do you incorporate songs into your work that have “hidden” meaning or help set the tone?)

Paula McLain:  I have to listen to music, and keep my iPhone tuned to Pandora, on a sound dock for my whole working day. Usually something low-key and croon-y. I like whispery male singer-songerwriter types like Bon Iver……

Helen McIver:  What were your most cherished books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero / heroine from one of those books?

Paula McLain:  Charlotte’s Web, The Borrowers, tons of Roald Dahl.

Helen McIver:  Is there one book you wish all children would read?

Paula McLain:  Watership Down – those rabbits!

Helen McIver:  Is there one book you would like adults to read?

Paula McLain:  Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. A lot, there, about the act of storytelling. Why we tell stories and what they mean to our lives.

Helen McIver:  Do you tend to keep books, lend them out or give them away?

Paula McLain:  I horde them and lend the ones I feel evangelical about.

Helen McIver:  Any guilty reading pleasures?

Paula McLain:  People Magazine in airports! Ooh, and I love food magazines and cook books: essentially food porn!

Book Review – Backseat Saints

backseatsaintsBackseat Saints
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Several years ago, my mother-in-law passed on a book to me titled gods in Alabama about a  young woman who returns to her hometown after finally “getting out” after high school graduation.  She’d moved to Chicago and sworn to herself that she’d never return, only to be forced to return ten years later to face the ghosts of her past.

I read dozens of books every year, so – while I read a lot of really good books – it’s rare that one sticks with me.  But that’s what happened with gods in Alabama.  It took over a tiny corner of my brain and, every once in a while, I’d feel the need to pull out that file and ponder over the characters.  It was with great excitement, then, that I realized that the author – Joshilyn Jackson – had written another book featuring a very minor character from the first.  The title:  Backseat Saints.  Even the title was enough to grab my interest!

Backseat Saints tells the story of Rose Mae Lolley who was abandoned by her mother at age 8 and left to be raised by her abusive drunkard father.  Like Arlene Fleet in gods in Alabama, Rose Mae can’t wait to escape her hometown and her father’s brutal beatings.  But history has a way of repeating itself.  Though she recreates herself as Ro Grandee, the outwardly perfect wife of Thom Grandee, she continues to be that same beaten and broken little girl…only this time at the hands of her husband and his forever question, “Who is he?”

When she can finally take no more and realizes that her life is in serious jeopardy, the former Rose Mae Lolley, who has already once recreated herself as Ro Grandee, recreates herself once again as Lily Rose Wheeler.  With a new identity, she flees her husband and begins to retrace her steps back to the ghosts of her past…all the way back to her abusive father and the mother who abandoned her, and begins a desperate search for the one-time boyfriend who was the only man who’d ever shown her kindness.

Backseat Saints was a wonderful read and so much more than I’d expected.  The subject matter – spousal abuse – could easily have been a sad novel about the abuse of one woman and her hopelessness to escape.  Instead, the book was one of suspense, coupled with a bit of humor and a whole lot of Southernisms.

Backseats Saints is not a sequel to gods in Alabama, nor do the two books need to be read in order, or even together.  The are completely independent works and a reader could choose to read either book and not the other without “missing” anything.  The interesting thing about the books, however, is that the main characters from the two books cross paths and – if you read both books – you get a different perspective from each character on a shared high school classmate.  One is trying to run away from the past and that classmate, and the other is desperately attempting to find him.

This book is available at the Rochester Public Library, as is gods in Alabama by the same author.

Series Review: Faye Longchamp Mysteries

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A Review by John Hunziker

I would like to share with you a series of books by the author Mary Anna Evans featuring Faye Longchamp as the amateur archeologist, heroine and looter of artifacts on her own property.

Faye is the last of her family and struggles to repair and keep up her childhood home, Joyeuse, hidden in the backwaters of the Florida Panhandle.  The biggest problem she deals with is the looming unpaid property taxes. Her way of solving the issue is central to her love/hate relationship with herself as an amateur archeologist and the fact that she is forced to loot artifacts from what should be an archeological site, the slave quarters on her own property.

Another string of the story is how her great-great-grandmother Cally, a freed slave, came to own Joyeuse in the first place and then keep it throughout the years.

As Faye begins digging in the area she finds a woman’s shattered skull and a 1960’s styled earring. If she talks to the police she has a serious problem; but not talking to the police brings its own set of problems – particularly when she returns to the area and everything is gone. Somebody knows that she knows.

There are enough strings to the story to keep everyone interested and I certainly was. My wife has begun reading this book and is also enjoying it.

There are, so far, seven books in this series: Artifacts, Relics, Effigies, Findings, Floodgates, Strangers and Plunder, with the newest, Rituals, due to be published in 2013. I would suggest reading them in order as the characters grow in depth and interests, and her relationship with Joe, described by one reviewer as “Yum,Yum,” is one I enjoyed watching develop.

I will read almost anything dealing with art, antiques and archeology; and working at the library offers many opportunities.  However, I’ve enjoyed this series so much that I have purchased these from the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press.  I enjoyed them enough to own them and plan to reread them in the future. They can also be found on Amazon, and of course the library has all of the series except the first one which can be requested through interlibrary loan.

I highly recommend this series. Faye Longchamp is a heroine that makes you root for her, and the locations and plot lines in all of the books are believable and interesting.

Book Review and Author Visit – Martha Fitzgerald’s “The Courtship of Two Doctors”

The Courtship of Two Doctors:  A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing
A Review by Catherine H. Armstrong

Letter writing has become, unfortunately, a lost art.  In earlier generations, people would sit down and write some of the most beautiful letters to their loved ones, often including descriptive passages to give the recipient a little taste of their life and experiences.  The letter would be stamped, taken to a mail drop somewhere, and then carried by a variety of different methods to places far and wide.  Upon arrival at its destination, the letter would be placed in the hands of the recipient, who had often been counting the days until that next letter would arrive and he could finally read the words of the sender.

Many beautiful relationships were formed by these letters throughout the years, with the postal service acting as the go-between who connected the two parties together.  And then, after having been read, they were often lovingly kept together –  sometimes held together by a bit of ribbon or twine – so that they could be read again in the days to come, as the two parties waited for the next letter to arrive.

And then the internet was invented and letter writing as we once knew it quickly became a thing of the past.  These days, there’s no need for descriptive passages to describe the landscapes and events; we simply include a jpeg file of a picture in the e-mail.  Thank you notes have become a quick e-mail or text message, often reading something as brief as “Thx!”  We can’t even spell the words out anymore.   What an incredible loss!

What could be more fun, then, than to unearth the old letters of a young couple as they come to know each other and build a relationship? That’s exactly what Martha Fitzgerald has done in her book, The Courtship of Two Doctors:  A 1930s Love Story of Letters, Hope & Healing.  In tribute to her parents – and with a Prologue written by her father before his death – Fitzgerald has painstakingly collected and ordered the hundreds of letters sent and received between her parents, spanning from the early years of their beginning acquaintance as medical students visiting the Mayo Clinic in the 1930s, through their budding romance that begins to grow through their written letters as they separate to different learning institutions, and finally ending in a love that will withstand the test of time.  While separated by more than a thousand miles, the letters between the two cemented not only their friendship, but eventually became the very foundation of the love they would share for decades.

Fitzgerald’s book is not only well organized, but is also a very enjoyable read.  And what a beautiful tribute to her parents to have been able to bring their love to readers throughout the world!

Rochester readers, library patrons and area residents are in for a real treat tonight!  The Rochester Public Library will be hosting Martha Fitzgerald as she comes to speak about this wonderful book!  Join us this evening, Sept. 24th, at 7:00 PM in the auditorium hear Fitzgerald speak, and then stay around for an opportunity to have your own copy signed by the author.  You can even purchase a new copy if you don’t have one!

This is one author event you won’t want to miss!

Book Review and Visiting Author – Brenda Child – “Holding our World Together”

Holding Our World Together:
Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community

A Review by Marie Maher

History books contain many stories of great leaders, but oftentimes the stories about quiet greatness stay behind the scenes.  Holding Our World Together highlights the stories of remarkable Ojibwe women who struggled through trying times to preserve a valuable community; a culture that may very well have been otherwise lost. Unsung Ojibwe leaders, as one example, did the hard labors necessary to produce, process, and distribute wild rice in order to economically maintain a community.  The Ojibwe women handled all of these tasks as an effort to survive, and they were oftentimes the business leaders of a community that did not limit women’s roles.

The unsung leaders of the Ojibwe women maintained traditions and cultural values when patriarchal European settlers did their best to Christian-ize Native American spirituality.  These women were strongholds in preserving their culture’s traditions.  These unsung leaders fought for strong family values and stood up for their children.  When the government insisted (often forcibly) that all children be sent to boarding schools so that they could be culturally assimilated, Ojibwe women knew that wasn’t “right” and did their best to make their voices heard and regain custody of their children.  “It seems it would be much easier to get my daughter out of prison than out of your school,” stated one woman who bravely approached government officials to voice her dissent.

We all know that atrocities were committed against Native Americans as our country was developed.  Brenda Child’s book, however cognizant of these acts, looks well beyond destruction to the courage and perseverance of a nation’s women:  women  strong enough to help the nation survive and thrive.

Using oral tradition and written documents, Child brings the Ojibwe women to life.  More than a well-researched history of Native North Americans, and more than an acknowledgement of Ojibwe women’s accomplishments, this book is a tribute to the courage, resiliency and leadership of the Ojibwe women.  What a wonderful tribute Child has written!

As part of the Rochester Public Library Visiting Author Series, Brenda Child will be joining us on Sunday, September 9th, at 2:00 PM in the Library Auditorium.  Admission is free and open to the public.