Saturday, December 18, 2010

Becoming Scarlett by Ciara Geraghty

Most people (here in Ireland) feel that Marian Keyes is the Queen of Chick Lit. To them it is an undisputable fact. But I have to disagree and put in my own two cents and say that Ciara Geraghty is the Queen of Chick Lit. Her first book, Saving Grace, was so damn good that I wanted to give up my own writing (what was the point?) and take to my bed. For the rest of my life. Equal parts poignant and equal parts outrageously funny (my stomach hurt from laughing so much).
Becoming Scarlett is in the same vein- both poignant and funny. The story centers around Scarlett O'Hara, a wedding planner and an all around planner for everything else in her life: she even coordinates her wardrobe by color and season. Anal retentive is the word that comes to mind. But things are soon thrown into turmoil when her equally anal retentive boyfriend, John, ups and leaves her to join an archaelogical dig in South America. Hurt and angry, and very drunk one night, she has a one night stand with a barman named Red Butler. Soon she discovers she's pregnant and she's unsure of who the father is.
To further complicate things, Scarlett soon discovers that Red Butler is the fiancee of a one Sofia Marzoni, who is looking for a big, fairytale 'pink' wedding, of which Scarlett is trying to plan. Head meet desk.
We happily follow along for the pregnancy as Scarlett tries to wrestle with coming to some decision about her life and who is best suited to be the baby's father. The stable, ultra dependable John or the infectious, happy Red, who is as opposite of Scarlett as day is to night. He doesn't even own a watch, or apparently a brush, but he is a breath of fresh air.
Add to the mix the outrageous cast of characters- Scarlett's parents, Declan and Maureen, are both actors and outrageous and pure camp in their own right. There's Filly and Elliot, co workers who also are fun to be around. I want an assistant like Filly.
But where Geraghty shines is her ability to weave expertly both humor and gravity. In Saving Grace, it was about grief. Here, Scarlett's baby comes early, at 28 weeks (and not according to plan) and being familiar with this personally, having had a son at 24 weeks, I was anxious as to how it would be handled. But Geraghty nailed it. After she delivers and the baby is immediately taken away from her, she writes: "Hands reach for her but they are not my hands. I feel like I am standing with my face pressed up against the window of my life. There is nothing I can do but watch." That is exactly how it feels. And the waiting. She mentions how all she can do is wait. And that is what you do when your baby is born early and spends a lot of time in the neonatal unit. You sit and wait. And try not to go crazy with worry.
It's lovely to watch Scarlett evolve and 'become' Scarlett.
Then Geraghty comes in with the sucker punch which leaves you dazzled. You're expecting the book to end one way- the inevitable way and in some ways it does, but she goes off in another direction, veering away from plan and gives you the best ending.
All hail, Queen of Chick Lit, Ciara Geraghty.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott

Ahem- sorry for not being around, I stepped away from my desk for a minute. 'Nuff said.

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott is a young adult, coming of age novel centering on seventeen year old Lauren Smith. Despite being abandoned by her mom as a young girl and raised by an absentee father, she has managed to maintain good grades, make great friends and has nailed the 'perfect' boyfriend, Dave, thus making her the envy of every girl in her high school.

But then Lauren runs into Evan, a dark, quite kid, who is quite literally from her 'past.' Evan had briefly lived with Lauren when they were younger and when his mom had been romantically involved with Lauren's dad.

Inexplicably, she finds herself drawn to Evan and begins to question everything in her life from her choices of friends to her relationship with Dave and even her own future. Her boyfriend is perfect and she feels she should be happy but there's something lacking. He's kind and courteous and includes Lauren on all his family outings which mainly deal with going to church and sitting in the woods with his parents and talking about his feelings.

Then there's Evan- working under the table and at night and living with his single mother in an apartment.

I loved the characters, and Lauren is so well written with her confusion, awkwardness and that feeling of not fitting in. She has some marvelous, wry insights.

I loved this little book so much that I devoured it. Scott explores the very fine line of doing what's expected of us and choosing to do what makes us happy.

A great read.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Writing, Interrupted

Last week, I did not meet my weekly target of 5k words. I wrote only a paltry 600 words and I struggled with that, but managed to limp over the 50k mark.

It wasn't lack of interest or lack of ideas; it was because life interrupted- and in an important way. The little, old lady that I'd been blessed to take care of for the past two and a half years was dying and at the great age of 96. And suddenly, my three days a week turned into everyday and two overnights. I readily volunteered to be there, even though this lady was no relation of mine. Three months after I moved to Ireland in 2006, my own grandmother died in my sister's home and I was unable to get home to be at the bedside or the funeral. That has bothered me ever since. In a way, this was a chance for me to make amends as well as be there for my friend who had always been kind to me at a time when I needed kindness in my life. Dying is a funny, unpredictable business. It conveniences no one and although end of life symptoms tend to be universal, what may take one person twenty fours hours to transition will take another person ten days. And for those at the bedside, dying is a watch and wait type of thing. Keeping your patient comfortable is the most important thing as well as supporting them and reassuring them that they are not alone and that it is ok to leave. It's also an exhausting and draining experience- just ask anyone who has taken care of a dying loved one at home.

But there is a sense of satisfaction in helping someone transition out of this earthly plane to whatever waits on the other side.

In this particular home last week, there was a sense of calm and serenity. At times, it was almost meditative. In an extraordinary moment, as she embraced her daughter, I saw how she looked at her with a love that was bursting, unconditional and pure. It was beautiful to see.

By the end of the week, she died a peaceful death with her family by her side.

And despite being away from my book for a week, I am happy for that rich experience of having the chance to say goodbye to My Darling ( the name we called each other).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My first published article comes out in Writers' Forum on Thursday. On the cover is my fab writer friend, Keris Stainton, who graciously agreed to be interviewed for the article on self promotion for the debut author. Keris recently published Della Says: OMG!

It's taken me 30+ years to get something published and along the way I've certainly been distracted. My journey to publication has been an overland route. The fact that it's taken so long doesn't bother me as I've made peace with the fact that I'm a late bloomer -with everything.

A girl never forgets her first time, and I certainly won't forget this. On the way to work today, I heard the song, Walking on Sunshine, and yes, that's exactly how I felt.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

It was a roundabout way that I came to read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I had followed its meteoric rise in the charts and watched it and its sequels, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest and The Girl Who Played With Fire get planted on just about every bestseller list on the planet. But I tend to hang back and watch and wait with these type of books if only to let the furor die down. I did that with both the Harry Potter and Twilight series, probably being one of the last people on earth to read those ones as well.
Actually it was the back story that intrigued me and hooked me into buying this book and reading it.
The author, Stieg Larsson, was a Swedish journalist who wrote all three books under the umbrella of the Millennium Trilogy. According to rumor, he wrote these books for the sheer pleasure it gave him and did not show it to a publisher until all three were completed. In 2004, he died of a heart attack at the age of 50 and didn't live long enough to see his work published. He died intestate, so all the earnings go to his father and brother and not his long time partner.
'Nuff said.
Now onto our story.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is literary crime fiction at its best, in the same vein as Elizabeth George and PD James.
This gripping page turner centers around two people. First there's Mikhael Blomkvist, a journalist who, when the story opens, is convicted of libel against a businessman involved in a supposed arms deal. While waiting to serve his prison sentence of a few months, he agrees- very reluctantly to delve into the mystery of Harriet Vanger- who disappeared decades earlier- at the request of her uncle, a wealthy businessman, Henrik Vanger.
Mikhael doesn't hold out much hope and it takes him the better part of a year to sort through the muck of the mystery.
Helping him is the mysterious Lisbeth Salander, kind of an adult Pippi Longstocking with tattoos. Lisbeth is an expert computer hacker and works freelance for a security company. Her own background and persona are mired in their own mysteries. She's one of the most complex characters you'll ever meet. No description that I could give could do her justice. You have to read about her and discover her for yourself.
It's set on Hedestat island where the winters are cold and bleak. I loved the feel of the book- it had a crime noir feel the same way that a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler novel might have.
I only had two small nitpicks with it.
First, Lisbeth being a computer hacker involved some passages that covered a lot of technical jargon which at times caused my eyes to glaze over.
Second, Mikhael an unassuming middle aged man seems to bed every woman he meets and I found that a little annoying. Considering the amount of female characters in the book, his success rate was practically 100%.
But those are small things. And truth be told, I couldn't put the book down and I can't wait to read the two sequels.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Blogger: Clodagh Murphy

Clodagh Murphy, author of The Disengagement Ring and Girl In A Spin, has graciously agreed to do a guest blog today. She tells us about the novel that she's currently working on and even provides an excerpt of it for the first time. I'm so excited my feet are barely touching the ground. Read on:

The initial spark for this novel came from a house I saw when I was out walking – a big detached pink house with a green gate. I fell in love with it, and since I couldn't buy it myself, I decided I'd let one of my characters live there – much cheaper, and the moving is effortless!
So that's where Romy lives. She sort of grew from thinking about who would live in this house, and she was one of those characters who came fully formed. However, I had no idea what her story was when I started writing this novel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNo).
As NaNo happens in November, I guess it's no surprise that the first scene that popped into my head when I started writing on November 1 was a Halloween party. What was a surprise – a big one – was that next thing I knew Romy was having a close encounter of the sexual kind with a stranger dressed as Darth Vader. I knew that was totally out of character for her, so I had to decide whether I should discard it as a bit of NaNo madness or give her a reason for behaving so recklessly. The idea of Darth had taken hold, though, so he had to stay.
The fact that Romy is a property developer got me thinking about the recession and how it affects people's lives. Around the time I started writing this, I'd read an article about people who had lost their jobs and had to move back home. Some had reverted to living like teenagers, relying on their parents for everything while they went out every night and enjoyed themselves. It seemed like a situation with a lot of interesting possibilities and that's where the idea for Kit's story came from. Kit is based on a celebrity crush, as is his brother Rob – but I won't say who because one woman's meat is another woman's wet lettuce.
I don't do much planning, so the story and characters are still evolving as I write. But here’s the story so far ...

Romy Fitzgerald’s son, Luke was conceived last Halloween when Romy had an encounter in a cupboard with a stranger dressed as Darth Vader.
Now, one year after the fateful Halloween party, she is no closer to discovering the identity of Luke's father, and she is ready to give up the search. It has got her nowhere and she needs to move on. Her professional life is in a holding pattern too. As a property developer, she made enough money during the boom years to enable her to ride out the recession living on rental income, but she misses the buzz of developing.
So when her first ever boyfriend, Kit suddenly turns up at her door with a proposition, she thinks it might be just what she needs to shake things up. Joined at the mouth in their teens, Kit and Romy spent their days snogging and their nights snogging some more. But when school ended, Kit emigrated to America, and Romy hasn't seen him since.
Now he has lost everything in the recession – his job as a trader on Wall Street, his trophy girlfriend and his New York lifestyle. He has been forced to return home to Ireland and move in with his parents, and he wants Romy's help in putting his life back together. She is only too happy to throw herself into helping him renovate the dilapidated mansion in the country he has inherited, which he's hoping will help him get back on his feet.
As they spend time together, Romy begins to wonder if she got it right first time all those years ago, and Kit is the one for her. They used to love each other – maybe they can again. But she's getting mixed signals from him – and why is he so secretive about his life in New York?
As she finds herself seeing more of his ramshackle house than she does of Kit, Romy starts to wonder if he's only interested in her skills as a developer. And when his little brother, Rob, is roped in to help it only adds to her confusion. She remembers Rob as a sweet kid, but he's all grown up now and hotter than coffee from a polystyrene cup. Maybe a fling with a younger man is just what she needs. But isn't it wrong to be thinking that way about someone who used to be twelve?

If she just lets go and follows her heart, where will it lead her?

[Ian is Romy’s brother]

She knew Ian had always assumed that she knew who Luke's father was, and was keeping it a secret because he was married or just didn't want to know. Finally one night, feeling a little drunk and very much in need of an ally, she confessed all. She told him about the Halloween party, Darth Vader, the cupboard – everything.
'So, what you're saying is, Luke's father is ... Darth Vader?'
'Yes.' She glanced at him warily, bracing herself for his response. To her amazement a big grin spread across his face.
'Cool!' he breathed.
She laughed in relief. 'Well, that wasn't the reaction I was expecting.'
'So that was why you were always asking about him. I wish you'd told me this sooner.'
'What difference would it make? We've already asked everyone we know who as at the party. No one knew who he was.'
Ian sighed. 'Let's go over it again. What do we know about him?'
Romy shrugged helplessly. 'He was tall,' she said eventually.
'Okay, good,' Ian nodded encouragingly. 'And he likes Star Wars, we know that.'
'I suppose.' Romy bit her lip. 'But he might not. I mean, what if that was the only costume he could get?'
'Okay, tall and possibly likes Star Wars. Anything else?'
'Um ... I think he might be asthmatic.'
'Really? What makes you think that?'
'Well ... he was breathing really heavily the whole time – sort of wheezing.'
'Romy,' Ian said, smiling pityingly, 'you were having it off.'
'You know I hate that expression.' She frowned.
'Okay, you were ... making love, whatever.' Ian sniggered. 'You were making love in a wardrobe with a guy you couldn't pick out in a crowd –'
'Oh, shut up!' She grabbed a cushion and swatted him with it.
He laughed more, raising his hands to defend himself. 'Okay, okay. But y'know, everyone breathes deeply when they're in the throes. Plus you were in a wardrobe – it was probably pretty stuffy in there. And on top of all that he was wearing a mask.'
'Yeah, I know. I'm just clutching at straws.'
'And he might have just been getting into character – you know, if he thought the Vader thing turned you on. Did he say anything?'
'Ugh! I'm not giving you details.'
'I don't want details, thank you very much. I just mean, did he say anything to make you think he was trying to fulfil your Darth Vader fantasies?'
'Like what?'
'Like, "can you feel the force, baby?" he boomed in a Vader-like voice. "Get a load of my light sabre". Ian collapsed in giggles. Romy looked at him crossly.
'Sorry, sorry,' he said, trying to rein in his grin.
'If you're not going to take this seriously –'
'I am, honest. Sorry.' He reached out to her and pulled against him and she laid her head on his shoulder.
'I just think he should know he has a child, whoever he is,' she said. 'And Luke should have a chance to know who his father is.'
'Well, there has to be some way of tracking him down. We just have to be more creative.'
Ian was silent for a while, thinking. 'We could hold a DNA party!' he said finally, shaking her off and sitting forward.
'A what?'
'A DNA party. We throw a party, right, and then we keep a glass or something that everyone's touched, so we have their DNA. We'll get a load of freezer bags and mark who each glass belongs to. Then we send them all to the lab –'
'What lab?'
'You know – the lab. The DNA testing lab. You've seen Sea of Love, right? They did that. They went on dates with all these women and –
'They were cops. They had access to a lab.'
'Well, there are places that do DNA testing, aren't there? What about all those skanks who don’t get onto the telly? They must have somewhere to go to find out who the father of their baby is if they don't get picked for Jeremy Kyle.'
'And what kind of skank would I look like, turning up at the baby-father clinic with a hundred-odd DNA samples? Even those ones on the telly usually have it narrowed down to three or four suspects. Anyway, you can't collect people's DNA without their permission.'
Ian flopped back against the sofa defeatedly. 'Well, maybe he'll start to look like his father.'
'Big helmet?' Romy said, her lips twitching.
'Big helmet, mouth breather. Seriously, though, maybe he'll turn into a dead ringer for someone we know.'
'You know, sometimes he does almost remind me of someone. But I can't put my finger on who it is.'
'Mr Potato Head.'
'Mr Potato Head – that's who he reminds you of. I've often thought that myself.'
'My son does not look like Mr Potato Head.'
'Hey, calm down. I'm talking about if you do the button nose and don't use the moustache.'
'He still doesn't look like Mr Potato Head, okay? Anyway, it definitely wasn’t Mr Potato Head. This guy was much taller. And less ... potatoey.'
Ian sighed heavily. 'I guess we're back to square one then.'

Sunday, August 1, 2010

My New, Old WIP (Work in Progress)

As you can see by my wordometer on the left hand side of the blog, I'm no longer working on A Blast From The Past - that's been put away for future use.
Instead I'm working on WIP- work in progress as it is yet untitled. I call it my newest, old WIP, as this is my 3rd attempt to write a paranormal YA.
This story came to me in an idea in February 2009 as I stood outside staring at a cloud- I know, what can I say? During that year, I wrote 2 different drafts of the same story and each stalled out around the 30k-40k mark. I knew the characters and basically what I wanted to write but I could see no end in sight and worse, I had no plot. I shelved it for a while and moved onto something else.
Fast forward to July 2010 and after a rough personal year, I'm finally separated from my husband and living on my own with the boys. I also have some spare time. The idea of the paranormal YA came back to me with a vengeance- well, the characters had never really left my head- but all of the sudden all these ideas for it kept popping up out of nowhere, when I'd least expect it. I had no other choice but to sit down and write it.
On July 7, I started writing the 3rd attempt, with an aim of 5k words per week with the week ending every Sunday. As of today, I'm just shy of 25k.
There is one thing that is different this time, than the previous 2 attempts. I'm writing it in longhand. For whatever reason, this works for me. There's something about the physical act of writing- pen to paper- that propels me forward. Looking back, I realized that 2 previous manuscripts that I wrote- one mystery, the other chick lit- were initially written in longhand. In the end, both were completed and sent onto agents. So, I'll stick with what works.
I'm curious: does anyone else write any of their drafts in longhand or do you sit right down at the keyboard?
One thing is certain: I'm happy to be writing again.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Girl in a Spin by Clodagh Murphy


Jenny Hannigan might be a good-time party girl but all she secretly craves is a life of domestic bliss and solid respectability- worlds away from her troubled upbringing back home in Ireland.
So when she crashes into the arms of Richard Allam- the young, handsome, recently separated politician hotly tipped to lead his party to victory in the upcoming election- she thinks she's found exactly what she is looking for.
But Jenny isn't exactly politician's-wife material so Richard recruits the intensely private, charismatic publicist Dev Tennant to 'spin' Jenny to the party...and the public.
As the election gathers momentum, it turns out that Jenny has more than one skeleton in her closet and Dev is working overtime to try to keep them there.
And suddenly Jenny isn't sure what she wants anymore...

-Back cover blurb from Girl In A Spin

This is Murphy's 2nd book and she really flexes her writing muscles here. Her debut was the hilarious rom com, The Disengagement Ring. However, her current novel, Girl In A Spin, would be categorized more as mainstream or women's fiction.
Jenny is a petite, platinum blonde pixie of a girl. That alone was refreshing- it seems lately that all heroines are tall, redheaded and big boobed. Jenny isn't a 3 dimensional character, she's a multi dimensional heroine. She's a complex yet lovable character whose ex-boyfriends form a 12-step program just to get over her. A rough childhood sets the foundation for who she is and if you're like me, you'll fall head over heels in love with her roughly around page 73 when she justifies the existence of a certain Mr. Hodge in her life. That whole scenario was brilliant.
It's set in contemporary London with a trip to NYC at Christmas. It's hard to resist Rockefeller Center and skating at Christmas time.
As soon as I met Dev Tennant, I immediately thought of Colin Firth as either Mr. Darcy or Mark Darcy. A young Patsy Kensit would make a great Jenny and I kept seeing David Cameron as Richard Allam, don't ask me why. Dev Tennant has his hands full with spinning Jenny. Initially, he's bewildered and at times, frustrated by the free spirit Jenny but as the book evolves, he proves he's inherently kind and decent. And Richard is what I think all politicians are- consumed with politics and one can easily see why someone like Jenny would appeal to him-she must have seemed like a breath of fresh air for him.
Serious issues such as child abandonment and anorexia are a core thread throughout the book and Murphy deals with them deftly and realistically without being trite.
With this second book, Murphy proves that she has the potential to wear many hats as a writer. Can't wait to read her next book.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Book Review: A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson

Pocket Books
482 pages
Long gone is the outrageous girl who once dreamed up wild plans with her best friend Deb. Now Lou is a lonely, picked-on woman who no longer realises when she's being taken advantage of - whether by her never-satisfied mother or unfaithful husband Phil.
Then one day she picks up a dog eared magazine and spots an article about clearing clutter, little realising how it will change her life. What begins as an earnest spring-clean soon spirals out of control. The more Lou lets go of, the more light and air can get to those painful, closed-up places at the centre of her heart.
When she meets hunky local man, Tom Broom, she sees her philandering husband in a very different light. But, even with Tom's help, can Lou Winter manage to put the spring back into her step? And who knows where her newfound zest for the stripped back life will take her next?
-Back cover blurb
I happened to read this book just as I was packing up my own things and moving house. It made me realize how tied we can be to material things, especially if there's any sentiment involved. Lou's life is weighed down by her clutter. And as the story evolves, it's nice to see her detach from her current miserable life with every load she throws into the skip.
It's a story that many women can relate to- myself included- where you get bogged down by an unhappy marriage and soon, you no longer recognize the person you've become. You can't help but cheer Lou on as she puts her foot down to her circumstances and the people who clearly take advantage of her. Lou's a likable sort- you'll see yourself or your best friend in her. One endearing trait she has is that she butchers sayings and words, but you know what she means.
All the characters in this book are well drawn. Her husband, Phil is such a cad and bounder that you'll love to hate him. I kept looking forward to his scenes because I wanted to see what the sneak was up to. Tom Broom provides a great contrast to Phil as the sensitive, thoughtful skip man with a sense of humor who sweeps (sorry, pun intended) Lou off of her feet.
One thing the author does really well is provide multiple points of view in the same scene. Knowing how difficult this is, I must tip my hat off to Milly Johnson for making it fluid and seemingly effortless.
A definite feel good book.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book Habits Meme

I have to tip my hat off to Cara Murphy, fellow blogger, 'Murf-more than meets the eye!' for this post. I pinched it from her.

Do you snack when you read? If so favorite reading snacks?
Not really, only because I find it hard to eat and hold the book open and turn the pages at the same time.

What is your favorite drink while reading?
Tea, however, it usually has gone cold by the time I get around to drinking it.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
The only books I mark up are self help books. And my weapon of choice is a yellow high liter.

How do you keep your place when reading a book? Bookmark? Dog ears? Laying the book flat open?
I've never done dog ears. There was a time when an official bookmark couldn't be found in my life, so anything would do: envelope, flyer that arrived in the post, post it note...

Fiction, nonfiction or both?

Are you a person who reads to the end of the chapter or can you stop anywhere?
My goal is always to get to the end of the chapter, but my eyes dictate it in the end. If they start closing, I have been known to stop in the middle of a sentence.

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?
No, I treasure my books, so I take care of them. In high school, my friend Barb M., an avid reader herself, showed me the perfect spines on her paperbacks- she didn't crack them. Since then, I'm conscious of how I open a book and aspire to take great care to keep the spines intact, although it doesn't always work out that way.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
No. But that word will stick with me and I will look it up when I get a chance. I still remember the word, 'moue' from an Elizabeth George novel I read. I had never heard of it before. In saying that, I find that when I read George, I'm going to the dictionary at least once.

What are you currently reading?
The Amazing Power of Deliberate Intent by Esther and Jerry Hicks. But I'm dying to read Clodagh Murphy's Girl in a Spin which is on the top of my books at the bedside.

What is the latest book you bought?
Girl in a Spin by Clodagh Murphy and A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time or can you read more than one?
I prefer to read one book at a time if only to give it my undivided attention. I'd never be able to read 2 fiction books simultaneously but I have, in the past, read a fiction and nonfiction book.

Do you have a favorite time or place to read?
Anytime, anywhere. But my favorite is at bedtime, curled under my blanket late at night and knowing that I won't be disturbed.

Do you prefer series books or stand alone?

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind.

How do you organize your books?
First by fiction and nonfiction and then by genre.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean- Antartic Survivor by Michael Smith

Collins Press


332 pages

Anyone who knows me, knows of my love of the Dingle Peninsula off the Southwest coast of Ireland in my favorite county, Kerry. I spend a lot of time(but not nearly as much as I like) in a place called Inch beach- with unparalleled beauty and where the movie, Ryan's Daughter was filmed. A stone's throw from Inch is a little village called Anascaul- a place I've been several times. There's a little pub- unremarkable despite its bright blue and pebble dash exterior, called The South Pole Inn. The pub's former owner was Tom Crean, who made, not 1 but 3 trips to the Antarctic at the turn of the last century in the race to the South Pole.

I could not put this book down. Initially, I was afraid that it would be one of those dry books that make you dread opening it. Not this. It's written in an easy style and examines the personalities of the leaders, Scott and his disastrous expedition to the Pole in 1909 and then Ernest Shackleton's adventure during the outbreak of World War I when their ship, The Endurance became trapped in ice in the Antarctic and eventually lost to the sea, leaving all 28 men stranded on an ice floe and cut off from civilization.

But this man, from Kerry, Tom Crean, is truly remarkable. During his second trip to the Antarctic with the tragic Scott expedition, he walked- walked- 35 miles in 18 hours to save the life of another man despite the fact that he himself was starving and despite the fact that it was sub freezing temps.

The photos in the book are fantastic and one can't help but fall a little in love with the mythical figure of Tom Crean. Both Scott and Shackleton wanted him on their expeditions. He's handsome in a rugged way- in a 'come to my Antarctic tent' kind of way.
The first 2 trips are Scott's attempts to be the first one to reach the South Pole. They had to abandon that goal on the first trip. On the second trek, it was a Norwegian who beat them to the Pole, Scott made it eventually only to die along with his comrades in their sleeping bags in a tent on the way back due to blizzard conditions. The third trip with Ernest Shackleton was not so much to reach the South Pole but to walk across Antarctic itself. That goal was soon abandoned once Endurance was lost to the ice right at the beginning of the journey and they had no contact with civilization. It became a journey of survival and it took them almost 2 years to make it back to civilization. It's a gripping, entertaining read and it's miraculous that they survived at all.
But on all three treks, Crean comes across as mentally resilient, unafraid of any task and an even keeled kind of fella. Just the type you'd want around in a crisis.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


There won't be any posts this week as I am in the middle of moving and the broadband won't be available until the end of the week.
See you soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Guest Blog: Keris Stainton

Today, I'm excited to have Keris Stainton as a guest blogger. Keris is the consummate multitasker when it comes to writing. She's written articles for magazines and newspapers and hosts 2 blogs of her own. She is a former book reviewer for Trashionista and now reviews books for Five Minutes Peace. She co founded Chicklish with fellow author Luisa Plaja. I met her through Write Words, an online writing group where she founded and hosted the Chick Lit group. Her first book, Della Says:OMG! was released last week. Today, she talks about her current work in progress- see collage above.

Keris Stainton:

I am completely obsessed with New York. I've been five times and think of it as my spiritual home (I'm not sure I'm tough or cool enough to make it my actual home, but still). So when I was trying to think of an idea for my next book, a New York setting seemed like a good one. This was partly because I like to write the first drafts during National Novel Writing Month and so I try to think of things that will make writing every day for a month more enjoyable: researching New York locations and basically pretending I was there for 30 days appealed to me.
I've already forgotten how I came up with the character of Jessie, but Finn appeared in my mind, fully-formed. I just saw him, standing in Times Square, wearing a tuxedo, holding a bunch of red roses and trying (and failing) to hail a cab. I hadn't planned to have a boy's point of view, but I kept coming back to Finn and so the book alternates between Finn and Jessie.
I don't want to say too much since I haven't finished writing yet, but this is the synopsis I sent to my editor. I hope you like the idea, at least!
Jessie and Finn would be perfect together. But first they have to find
each other.
Jessie's had a horrible relationship experience and wants to get away. Far away. Fortunately, her mother lives in New York. Unfortunately, her mother didn't have much time for her when they were living together and Jessie doubts anything will be different now. Particularly since Jess suspects the big-shot theatre producer responsible for taking her mum's play (and her mum) to Broadway may have a more than professional interest... Jessie's dad can't chaperone (or stand to spend the summer with his ex-wife) - he's too busy with his architecture practice and with moving his boyfriend (yes, boyfriend - no one said Jessie's life was simple) in. When Jessie arrives in New York, she notices the good-looking, tuxedo-wearing, red rose-carrying American boy who takes their cab (how could she not?), but she's not likely to see him again in a city of eight million people, is she?
New Yorker Finn has some issues of his own - the main one being that he's completely and utterly in love with his best friend's girlfriend, Samantha. Of course he has no plans to do anything about it... unless Sam and Josh break up. Which could happen, couldn't it? When Finn's not preoccupied with Sam, he's worrying about what he's going to do with his life. His mother's a journalist and theatre critic and his father works in insurance. Finn's not interested in insurance, but he is fascinated by the building his father works in - the Empire State Building. In fact, he wonders if he might like to be an architect. When Finn's running late for his (totally not a surprise) surprise 18th birthday party, he's intrigued by the curly-haired British girl
whose cab he takes. Maybe she could take his mind off Sam. If only she wasn't a tourist - a holiday romance is not what he needs right now. Or maybe it's exactly what he needs. But he's hardly likely to bump into her again in a city of eight million people, is he?
Jessie *hearts* NYC is about first love, chance meetings and travelling thousands of miles to find yourself.
Since it was a nice day for once, they met in Cathedral Gardens. Molly was wearing tiny cut-offs and causing the boys on bikes to almost wheely straight into the side of the Urbis Centre. Jess sat down on the grass and Molly perched cross-legged next to her.
“So do you want the good news or the bad news?” Jess asked. She was almost certain Molly would ask for the bad news, she always had done before. Although if she asked for the good, Jess was in trouble.
Molly pulled a face. “Bad.” She wrinkled her nose and closed her eyes.
“I'm going away for the summer,” Jess said.
Molly opened her eyes. Wide. “Noooo!”
“Yes. I have to. I can't be around Taylor all summer, I just can't.”
“Oh I know what you mean, but we don't need to go anywhere we know he'll be.”
“He goes to all the same places as us,” Jess said. She plucked some grass and fiddled with it.
“We'll find new places. All our places are shit anyway.”
Jess laughed. “They're not. But they would be this summer. I just can't stay. I'm sorry. I know we had loads of plans.”
“Well, exactly! Plans to do new things! Away from Taylor. You don't need to go away away.”
“But I want to, Mol'. You know how my mum's been--”
Molly leaned forward so fast she almost knocked Jess over backwards. “You're going to New York? Shit! God, I'm not surprised you'd rather go. Bloomingdale's beats The Trafford Centre. God. You lucky cow.”
Jess smiled. “And do you want the good news?”
“You'll bring me back some Krispy Kremes?”
“Nope.” Jess grinned. “You're coming with me.”
-- Keris Stainton

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review: Saving Grace by Ciara Geraghty

Hachette Books Ireland
440 pages
One minute I'm in a long term, if long distance, relationship with Shane. The next I'm waking up in bed beside Bernard O'Malley, geek almighty and newest member of the IT department.
Another entry in a list of mistakes. The worst was Spain. What I did there. And what happened to my brother Patrick. Ever since that night things have been spiralling out of control.
But what can a girl do except dust off her stiletto boots, have a sneaky cigarette and face another day...
I sometimes wonder though, who would be there to save me if I can't save myself?
I took this book out from the library and I loved it so much, that I'm going to have to order my own copy from Amazon. This is by far, the best chick lit book I have ever read. It's not just funny, it's piss your pants, laugh out loud funny. And Grace isn't just a character you'll like, she's someone you'll love.
The story, set in contemporary Dublin, opens up with a Prologue giving us a glimpse of what did happen in Spain with Grace and her brother Patrick. Fast forward to the present and Grace is waking up besides Bernard O'Malley, geek extraordinaire. Everything soon spins out of control and finally comes to a head at her sister's wedding.
This fabulous book is not only funny but heartbreaking as well as we watch Grace try to reach out to her mother, who is difficult at best and haunted by what happened in Spain. Single-handedly, she's trying to keep her relationship with Shane afloat despite the explosive chemistry between her and the geek, Bernard. She smokes too much, she drinks too much and she eats all the wrong foods- but you can't help but love her and cheer her on. And the supporting cast of characters are all oddballs and just as hilarious.
On a final note, I'd like to add that as an aspiring writer, Geraghty is the type of writer I'd like to be. But after reading this, I realize I am light years away from this. It made me want to give up writing and spend the rest of my life face down in my bed, that's how good it is.
If you like chick lit, you'll love this.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Body Surfing
Little, Brown & Co.
264 pages

At the age of twenty-nine, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to find her footing again, she answers an advertisement to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage.
But when the Edwards' two grown sons arrive at the house, Sydney finds herself caught up in old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened.

It's no secret that I think Anita Shreve to be one of the greatest prose writers alive today. Having read her previous endeavors such as The Weight of Water, Resistance, The Pilot's Wife, and Sea Glass, this book only solidifies my opinion.
I think you could hand Shreve a telephone book and she'd be able to weave something magical out it.
She tells the story with such simplicity and subtlety that it really is sublime. And the setting- summer at an oceanfront cottage is just gorgeous- reminds me why I love the beach so much.
I love the evolution of Sydney- at the beginning, after the loss of her second husband, she's obviously detached and somewhat aloof. But as the novel progresses, and she becomes involved with this family, you watch as she slowly drifts back down to earth and reconnects with life.
It's another amazing book by Shreve- read it if you can.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Della Says: OMG! by Keris Stainton

Orchard Books
270 pages

Della's over the moon when she kisses her long-standing crush at a party-but then she discovers her diary has disappeared...When scans of embarrassing pages are sent to her mobile and appear on Facebook, Della's distraught-how can she enjoy her first proper romance when someone, somewhere, knows all her deepest, darkest secrets.

To say that I and a host of others have been waiting to read this book, would be an understatement. Della Says:OMG! is the debut novel by Keris Stainton. Let me say from the start that Keris is an online writer friend.
Friend or not, this is a little gem of a book. It rained all day Saturday and I literally curled up with a good book to read. I read it in one day and I can count on one hand how many books I've read in one day over the past 30 years.
I loved Della. She possesses a self-deprecating sense of humor, her parents embarrass her and her self-confidence just isn't where it should be. In other words, she has universal appeal.
But this book is also peopled with fabulous characters as well: her outrageous best friend, Maddie; Bob, who works in her parents' deli and goes to a Zen place to cut salami and her own mother, with the gorgeous model looks (what kind of nightmare is that for a teen aged girl?).
Keris bravely and deftly deals with an issue in the book that you rarely see mentioned in YA books. At first it took me by surprise but then I was glad it was there and I admired her for putting it there.
Another reviewer said it's the Forever of our century. I'd go one further and say it reminded me of the award winning, classic Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly which was published in 1942.
It's a great coming of age book: witty, tender and warm. It's also the type of book that I wished was around when I was a teenager- it might have helped, or at the very least, given me hope.


Friday, April 30, 2010

Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

This is what the back cover reads:



When Sister Evangeline finds the mysterious correspondence between Mother Innocenta of the Saint Rose Convent and legendary philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, it confirms that angels walked among us- and their descendants, the cruel Nephilim, still do.

Indeed, the Nephilim are hunting for artefacts concealed by Abigail Rockefeller during the Second World War- objects that will ultimately allow them to enslave mankind- and they have so far been prevented from reaching their apocalypse goal by one, clandestine organization: the Angelology Society.

And if the Angelologists are to stand any chance of winning this new battle in the ages-old war, they must find the artefacts first. But their fate rests in the hands of the innocent Sister Evangeline, who holds the key to unlocking Abigail Rockefeller's hiding places...and whose own destiny may yet find her prey to the terrifying Nephilim army, with horrifying consequences for humanity.

I had really high hopes for this book especially now that vampires are out and angels are in. I wanted to read a can't-put-downable book about angels. But I could put this book down. Alot. It took me almost 3 agonizing weeks to finish it.
This book reminded me of Dan Brown's DaVinci Code in that the characters are secondary to the plot.The main character, Sister Evangeline, the young nun, just didn't resonate with me. I wanted to like or be able to relate to the MC, but I couldn't even sympathize with her as she was vapid. I didn't hate her- it was much worse- I felt ambivalent towards her. Every time she was around it was like watching paint dry. The premise is that she was dropped off at this convent by her father for boarding school and became a nun. There's never any sense of vocation.
The supposed? hero Verlaine was a character that I couldn't get a grasp on- he was so slippery. Was he young? Was he old? Was a nerd? Was he workaholic? After reading 450 pages of the book, if you were to ask me to describe him, I couldn't.
I've come to the conclusion that I prefer character driven stories.
The story goes back and forth between 1999 NYC and World War II Paris. The story in NYC takes place over a day, day and half period, so it is suspenseful in that sense. The story in Paris against the backdrop of Hitler's tanks rolling in is quite good and that would have to be my favorite part of the whole book.
There is the inevitable twist in the end but the reader is left with some loose ends, mainly in regards to Evangeline. Perhaps there will be a sequel. I prefer some resolution at the end in regards to the main character.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Favorite Quotes from Books I've Read

Of all the books I've read over the years, there are certain books that will stay with me forever, be it a line, a passage, an image or just a real good laugh. Here are just a few:

"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge."

The Blind Assassin
Margaret Atwood

'You've got to stop being so spineless,' Freddie said, trying to sound stern. 'Oh, this is so cool,' he squealed excitedly, spoiling the effect. 'I feel like the head nun in The Sound of Music, telling Maria to get back and nail the Captain before the Baroness gets her mitts on him.'

The Disengagement Ring
Clodagh Murphy

Then she sat down at his table, and put her head on it, and was silent, with the patient suffering of black women, with the suffering of all oxen, with the suffering of any that are mute.

Cry, The Beloved Country
Alan Paton

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Predjudice
Jane Austen

"I mean that you paid us more than if you'd been telling the truth," he explained blandly, "and enough more to make it all right."

The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett

He is coming and I am here.

The Time Traveller's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

‘Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything.’

Gone With The Wind
Margaret Mitchell

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.

Daphne DuMaurier

He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.

The Old Man and The Sea
Ernest Hemingway

The garden was still wet with last night’s rain and the black earth was streaming in the sun, while between my toes the ground was soft and squishy-I had taken off my shoes and left them on the garden path so they wouldn’t get caked with mud-and I remember thinking how much fun it would be to go barefoot all the time.
Seventeenth Summer
Maureen Daly

He looked up with a face filled with yesterday. “I want her to know the feeling of being in love,” Tomas said, “if only once and if only for a little while. It might help later on to know that for one little time there was a boy desperate for her. She’s got to have that much,woman, she’s got to have that.”
Leon Uris

For sixteen days, Tomas Larkin, son of Kilty, lay in a coma…On the seventeenth day, the giant fell.
Leon Uris

Monday, April 19, 2010

Write Away

Perhaps you've noticed my new 'wordometer' to the left of my blog. It will keep track of my new WIP-work in progress, tentatively titled, A Blast from the Past.

I've spent the last 14 months laboring over a paranormal YA and it has come to the point where I have to retire it to a drawer for the time being and move onto another project. I'm stuck. The characters still bang on in my head but I've stalled at 40k words. When I got stuck the first time at around 40k, I put that draft aside and wrote a completely different version, 2nd draft and became stuck at 40k. You'd think if you'd put them together you'd have 80k and a book- (is it too much to ask?) and everything would be golden but it didn't work out that way. At the end of the day, I still had 2 very different drafts of the same book. However, I don't see it as a waste of time. Instead, I choose to look at it as a writing exercise. I loved writing it and I loved the characters, but for now it's time to move on.

Anyways, I was already to start my first 'Irish' themed book centering around 3 very different women from one housing estate. It's presumptuous of me to think I could pull it off being an American but I thought I'd give it a try. That is until an off the cuff comment from my fellow writer friend and published author, Clodagh Murphy (The Disengagement Ring, Girl in a Spin) said, "What about that one book you were writing about the detective?" Jesus, I'd forgotten all about that. It was a story about a 30 something woman whose questionable uncle returns after a 30 yr absence. I opened that document up this morning and reread it and still loved it and what's more I knew how that story had to end. Oh yeah, this is what I want to write!

It was a simple conversation with Clodagh Murphy and Trina Rea about where we were and what we were writing next and I mentioned about the Irish themed book when Clodagh asked me about my previous WIP. It was serendipity at it's best.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Heaven Can Wait by Cally Taylor

375 pages

This book set in contemporary London, revolves around Lucy Brown who dies in a freak accident the night before her wedding. Distraught at leaving her finance Dan, she is given 2 options while in Limbo. She can either go straight on to Heaven and leave Dan or remain behind, accomplish an assigned task and become a ghost and stay with Dan forever. She chooses the latter and joins the House of Wannabe Ghosts where the 2 other 'dead' residents are the angry Goth girl, Claire and the smelly, trainspotter, Brian. Lucy's task is to find love for someone. But there are two pressing problems: she only has 21 days to do it and she's distracted by the fact that one of her supposed best friends, Anna, is getting ready to go in for the kill in regards to Lucy's fiancee, the heartbroken Dan.

The book is a funny, breezy read and I really admire Taylor's imagination regarding the undead and limbo. Her characters are so likeable that before you know it, you'll find yourself caring not only what happens to Lucy but to Claire and Brian as well. The ending was a shock but in a completely satisfying way.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The plot of this amazing tale is simple and straightforward: 3 women come together, 1 white and 2 black to collaborate on a book depicting the experiences of black women serving white women. Straightforward, right? But set it during the backdrop of the 1960's sad, segregated Deep South with its Jim Crow laws, the murder of Medgar Evers and the civil rights movement and you've got a lit match on top of a powder keg of dynamite.

But it is her characterization that makes the book shine. The story is about 3 very different women, Aibileen, the noble black maid raising white babies, the sassy Minnie whose mouth loses her one job after another and Skeeter the cotton trust fund college girl who starts to question the boundaries and prevailing attitudes of the day. It's a beautiful tale of how strength and a voice can come from the most unlikely of places. I am reminded of a passage from Alan Paton's Cry, The Beloved Country: "Then she sat down at his table, and put her head on it, and was silent, with the patient suffering of black women, with the suffering of oxen, with the suffering of any that are mute."

It's the type of book that makes you resent the things you have to do: go to work, cook, clean, etc., when you know that this book waits for you, needing to be read.

Run, don't walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick up this new 'classic.'


Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Love of Words Part 2

I remember distinctly the moment in my life when I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I was 9 and my best friend, Lisa and I had just finished watching an old B&W movie( name escapes me) where the storyline line revolved around 7 sisters with boyfriends but their widowed father had a rule that no one gets married until the oldest one does. Of course, the oldest one was a spinster sort type of bookworm. After that movie, I felt compelled to write something similar but better.

I wrote short stories for school and at high school graduation, my senior English teacher, Mrs. Hagelin, came up to me and said, "I hope someday that I read about you winning an award for your writing." She made me feel very proud of myself at that moment as well as reinforced the belief that I had in myself that I could write. I never forgot her kind words. Throughout high school, I wrote, mostly civil war dramas ala Gone With the Wind. I knew more about the Battle of the Bull Run than any other teenager I knew.

I floundered in college the first time around and rudderless, dropped out during my senior year. I didn't know what I wanted to do or become. The only thing I was sure of was writing but was told to put it on the back burner as I wouldn't be able to support myself. Young and impressionable, I took that advice. Finally at the age of 27, I went back to college for my nursing degree- I'm a carer at heart and although it wasn't my first choice, nursing was definitely my second and I would always have a job- I was told. While I completed my degree in nursing and worked full time, I wrote a manuscript called Blood is Thicker Than Water. This was in 1996, the year I graduated from nursing school. Off it went to different agents. A lot of rejections came flying back. But two agents said if I polished the manuscript up, they'd look at it again. I threw it in the drawer. Talk about a missed opportunity. Reading that manuscript now, I see how fundamentally flawed and unpolished it was, but there was a little spark of potential.

When I first moved to Ireland, I wrote a romantic comedy, titled, By The Seat of Her Pants. 44 rejection letters later, that too went into the drawer but I still pull that out from time to time to read it as I still love it. Now I've stalled on a novel but I have been writing short stories, which I haven't done in 25 years. I've found some pleasure in that. The first one dealt with divorce, current one deals with dying- these dark themes surely resonant with what's going on in my personal life at this time. If I continue in this vein, I'll be able to pull together an anthology and label it 'Doom & Gloom' or the 'Debbie Downer' anthology ( no reflection on you, Debs)

It was while I was living in Ireland that I became involved in an online writers' group, WriteWords. It was the best thing that had happened to me thus far, writing wise. I happened to be reading Claire Allan's fabulous Rainy Days and Tuesdays and she mentioned Write Words in her acknowledgements. I looked it up and quickly joined the chicklit group and have made fabulous online friends. Suddenly, writing was and is no longer an isolating experience.

But I will continue to write, even if it's just a note on the inside of a card. It's been 26 years since my English teacher made those lovely comments to me and I have not published one thing. Ever. The fact that I'm older doesn't bother me in the least as I've always been a late bloomer with everything in my life. I've decided to take my writing off the back burner and put it front and center. Maybe I'll never get published, but at least I'd have no regrets at the end of my life.

I write, not because I want to, but because I have to.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Love of Words Part 1

My love of words began at an early stage. My mother told me that I came home from kindegarten one day with library books and I cried because I didn't know how to read. However, once I started reading, I never stopped. It wasn't Harry Potter in those days, it was the Little House on the Prairie Series(Laura Ingalls Wilder), and I read every book in the series several times over. My favorite book as a child would have to be Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting. My mother, a reader herself, encouraged my love of books by enrolling me in a book of the month club when I was 9 or 10- thank you Mom. I read the hefty tome of Gone With The Wind when I was 11, and I still remember the passage of Scarlett returning to Tara and that awful dawning realization that her mother was dead. At 14, my friend Elaine and I would go to the Lackawanna library on a Saturday afternoon to get our books. I loved the library, there was not one modern thing about it. It was an old building with high ceilings, hardwood floors and wood panelled walls and shelves that had darkened with age. There was an echo in the library and a wonderful smell of books and an old building. At that time I started reading Barbara Cartland and read her voraciously before passing it on to my sister. I read Leon Uris' Trinity when I was 17 and thus began my lifelong love affair with Ireland and all things Irish. In my last year of high school, I bawled my way through Colleen McCullough's The Thornbirds. But the seminal book of my teenage years would have to have been Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly. I recently reread it and I still love it.

In college I took a course labelled Bestsellers and loved it- got to read Philip Roth, Stephen King, Dashiell Hammett and others.

During the 80's and 90's, I began to 'follow' authors and read everything by Sue Grafton, Paticia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich and Elizabeth George. Anita Shreve, to me, is the best prose writer by far. Her novels, The Weight of Water, Resistance, The Pilot's Wife and Sea Glass still stick with me and the feeling I had when reading those books still resounds with me.

More recently, I read the Pulitzer prize winning, The Hours by Michael Cunningham and could totally relate to Laura Brown, the unhappily married woman who didn't want to be bothered by all things domestic, she just wanted to be left alone to read her book. Months ago, I read Colm Toibin's Brooklyn again could relate to the tale of emigration, homesickness and settling in to one's new life in a foreign country.

I read voraciously and widely. I love the classics, chick lit, young adult, mystery, crime and women's fiction and self help and the list goes on and on. I am addicted to books. Sometimes, I can read 2-3 books in a week. When I was on bedrest for my pregnancy in 2004, I was reading a book in a day and a half.
There have been times that I've picked up a book 3 times in an attempt to read it but failed. But the third time is always the charm and for whatever reason, that book with it's previous failed attempts turns out to be one of the best books that I've ever read. Trinity, The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) How Green Was My Valley (Richard Llewellyn) come to mind.
There is nothing better than to be pulled to into the pages of a great book and the boundaries between your life and the pages blur and you are right in the midst of it. A good book makes you a silent 'watcher' but a great book makes you a silent 'character.'
As the saying goes, 'so many books, so little time.'