How much did I love this book? So much that I wanted to rip open a page and slip inside.

Imagine an ensemble cast, a.k.a St. Elmo’s Fire, but smarter and straight out of The Royal Shakespeare Company set down in a thriller of their own making (i.e. The Girl on the Train.) This is an addictive read.

I haven’t felt this strong an urge to live inside a book since The Secret History or The Raven Boys. I guess I can’t resist complicated and intriguing ensemble casts. And even though this is squarely an adult book, mature YA readers will love it too.

So you know the deal–no spoilers–which makes this one difficult so instead of telling you about the book I will tell you what kind of reader will love it.

If you love Shakespeare RUN and get a copy. The characters, 4th-year thespians at an ivy-covered art college, live in “The Castle” and speak a language all their own pulling from every play and every line they ever learned intermixed with a sharp wit and biting commentary. If you want to see what I mean check out Act 1 Scene 1 posted on M.L. Rio’s website. And pop over to the about me page–she knows her Shakespeare–having a master’s degree in Shakespeare Studies from King’s College London. (Before that M.L. Rio was a Tarheel, I said I wouldn’t hold it against her.)

Needless to say, this is a smart book. But read closely–the devil is in the details.

If you love dark stories with complicated fully flawed characters this is the book for you. I loved them all, in a way. Wanted to be them all, in a way. Sometimes even the ones I later hated.

If you are/were/wished to be a thespian it would be a tragedy of historic proportions not to read this book because you too will want to rip open a page and crawl inside. (You know who you are friends. I plan to tag you.)

I honestly don’t know how I missed If We Were Villains when it released last April, but that just goes to show how many books are out there and all the more reason to write this blog. It was suggested to me by an agent at Muse18 and I am glad she did. Lucky for us the paperback version

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came out Monday and M.L. Rio is happy to sign the copy I ordered from Malaprops for one of you. (I just love personally signed books.) This one has been published in multiple countries, even Italy. (Goal: Book launch in Italy ;))

I will be using the handy random number generator to gift a personally signed copy later this week. So comment, share, retweet, like, love or just give me a 🙂 to be entered. And if you wish to follow this blog. Look for a small pop up button in the bottom of the screen.

Until next time,

Lee

What do Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, and Annie Dillard have to do with me? Everything it seems.

*I’ve had an epiphany of sorts and wanted to share it, but I will be back soon with more recommendations as I have just finished an amazing novel and I cannot wait to pass it along.*
I spent last weekend at the writers’ conference called Muse in the Marketplace.leeatmuse

Put on by Grubstreet, it is held at the grand old hotel the Boston Park Plaza. The ballroom, from another age with chandeliers as large as cars and art deco embellishments, housed a thousand writers all seeking to celebrate the Muse.

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I attended workshops on the business of writing as well as the craft. I met extraordinary writers, authors, agents, and editors. The vibe was uplifting and embracing—the lesson, be true to your story.
As I re-enter my day job today as a Guardian Ad Litem attorney advocate I wonder, how did I get here? How did I become an attorney and a writer? It isn’t easy. I tweeted earlier this week that sometimes I feel disjointed like I have two full-time jobs—one I cannot give up and one I am unwilling to. But that is not exactly true. I am very proud of the work I do giving a voice to foster children in court. It fulfills my need to use whatever talent I may have towards a worthy purpose and it inspires my writing (and pays the mortgage). But my writing inspires my life (even though it pays for nothing—for now ; )
But there is a saying: writers must write. But how did a biochem major with a law degree catch the bug?
It is true that my family is full of writers. My mother, Elizabeth Friedmann, is a biographer—her seminal work A Mannered Grace: The Life of Laura (Riding) Jackson was published in 2005. She worked on it throughout my high school and college years. My younger sister, Marie Marquardt, writes beautiful and powerful young adult fiction, with her latest, Flight Season, newly released. My eldest sister, Carroll Ann Friedmann, has also published, working with my mother to edit Laura (Riding) Jackson’s works for publication. All are inspirations to me, and yet for years, I was able to support their writing without feeling the itch myself.
What happened?! I am quite positive my husband wants to know.

At first, I thought it was my competitive side, that I could not stand to be the odd woman out, but then I considered that maybe I was influenced at a very young age, and the effect lay dormant in me until three years ago, when I spent eleven days walking around Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. In that quiet space infused with the energy that only nature in the wild contains, I believe something in me might have cracked open.

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If you’ve gotten this far you must be asking, “But, Lee what does that have to do with Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, and Annie Dillard?” Well, I believe they were the ones who affected me.

You see my mother in my youth was the founding editor of Kalliope: A Journal of Women’s Art *.

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Marsha Bryant of The University of Florida described the publication in her blog.* “Founding editor Peggy Friedmann explained the Kalliope collective’s epic task in her introduction to the Tenth Anniversary Issue, noting the great difficulty women writers had getting their work published in the reigning literary journals of the late 1970s. (The journal received 8070 literary submissions in 2001.) The journal’s namesake also appeared in the quote from Anne Bradstreet printed in each issue. It begins

‘I am obnoxious to each carping tongue / Who says my hand a needle better fits,’ and ends with these lines:

‘But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild/ Else of our sex, why feigned they those nine/ And poesy made Calliope’s own child…”

My mother was a trailblazer for women writers everywhere, making sure they had a place for their own voices to be heard. She brought Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Annie Dillard, Maxine Kumin, Denise Levertov and Marge Piercy and many more female poets, writers and artists into my home. In “peace and sisterhood” they sat in our living room, stayed in our guest bed, ate breakfast at our table, and talked with my mother about their work, all the while I listened having no idea how extraordinary an opportunity it was. Alice Walker signed the book below for my mother, and later mom gave it to me.

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At the time I did not fully understand these remarkable women’s importance or their work, but I believe their presence and their energy were encapsulated in my home. Along with my mother, who loves the written word as much as anyone I will ever know, I think they planted a seedthe beginning of a new life. I believe it lay dormant in some space inside me and then, only in the quiet of nature on the ninety-three miles of the Wonderland Trail, was it fertilized.

And sprouted.

Because there, I began my first manuscript, Wonderland. It led to my second, Puck Restored, and then the next, that is barely a whisper in my head, but already loved enough to be named The Last Continent. I am saving that one to begin at a week-long workshop this summer with Cheryl Strayed.

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**

The painting above represents these strong brilliant talented writers: Walker, Atwood, Dillard, Kuman, Levertov, Piercy, Friedmann, and the picture below me.

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I will never be a mighty live oak, but with the energy of these women in my soul, I believe I can grow as a writer until one day I am a tree.

 

 

 

 

*To learn more about the cutting-edge journal Kalliope see Marsha Bryant’s blog Kalliope and the Communities of Women’s Poetry/

**Live Oak from Second Floor Studio, acrylic/canvas used with permission of the artist Beau Redmond, my very-much-loved stepfather. Explore his work at http://www.beauredmond.com/

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Thank you for reading. I will be gifting a book of prose or poetry of the winners choice from one of the seven authors mentioned above. Please comment or share on FB, reply or retweet on Twitter, or comment on the blog to be entered. If the winner is unsure of the book they wish to have, you can ask my mother, who this blog is dedicated to. She can help you choose for she knows these writer’s work well.

Gratefully,

Lee

In Sight of Stars ~ by Gae Polisner

This is the post excerpt.

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I can ask no more from a book than to teach me something about myself. In Sight of Stars did just that, and I hope the lesson stays with me, just like the stars ~ that are always there even though it may be dark and cloudy.

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This book is not about mental illness but mental health — something we all need to be cognizant of. I am recommending it because it will remind us when we are low or scared or overwhelmed or anxious that we should always turn out to those who love us rather than turning in. Turning in may feel safe, and yet it can have devastating consequences as it did for Klee (pronounced Clay as he was named after the painter Paul Klee).

Maybe I connected so closely to the story because Klee’s father at seventeen was the center of his life and he had just lost him, as my father was in mine when I lost him at twenty-three.  When the story opens, Klee finds himself, hurt, confused and scared and in an inpatient PRTF (Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility). As he struggles to come to grips with the trauma in his life, we struggle with him and learn not just about him but about ourselves. This book has so many moments of wisdom ~ one of the things I think make it a crossover book. Whether you are younger than Klee or more than twice his age, this book will move you. Although it is for mature YA readers and up (with explicit language and sexual content, but not gratuitous and always consensual.)

One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is it uses Van Gogh’s paintings to help tell the story of Klee and his father, both painters, such that a crow can fly out of a painting and become a character, representing Klee’s inner self. I hated that crow and yet we all have one. The voice in our head that can be so cruel.

The painting above is, Van Gogh’s Daubigny’s Garden, and it is central to the story so I wanted to share it with you before you read the book. Notice the cat. The cat is important 😉

I recommend this book to mature YA readers and up but specifically to my social worker and Guardian Ad Litem friends because Klee’s trauma and his journey are so similar to the ones we see all too often.

But this book will not bring you down, it will lift you up.

About the authorgae pic *

Gae Polisner is also a domestic attorney and mediator (go figure) who writes YA and women’s fiction and like me loves water (did you know a hot bath can burn as many calories as a 30-minute walk?!!? Afraid to Snoops that article.)  She was kind enough to donate a copy of In Sight of Stars to Crossoverbooks.  So comment below, (a 🙂 will do) and I will add you to the drawing to occur at the end of the day. And if you have questions for Gae post them here and I will see if I can get them answered.

In Sight of Stars can be found at your favorite local bookstore (mine is Malaprops) and at Barnes and Noble or online at Amazon/Nook/Indibound. Links here: http://gaepolisner.com/

 

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*Pictures used with permission of the author.