Monday, October 20, 2014


Title: The Girl of Fire and Thorns
Series: Fire and Thorns, #1
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: September 20, 2011
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Adventure
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 4/5


Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness. Elisa is the chosen one. 

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will. 

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.


Having recently read several books in which beauty is given as the key to popularity and, ultimately, success, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, with its rather imperfect female lead, was a welcome and refreshing read. Obese and unfit princess Elisa is chosen as bearer of the Godstone; something that happens only once every century. After her politically arranged marriage to king Alejandro of Joya d'Arena, she finds herself involved in far more than just being the queen of a country on the brink of war.

Set in a fantasy world full of magic and prophecy, this book is a compelling, comfortably-paced story. Although it is full of adventure, lots of action and suspense, and some heartrending tragedy, the true magic of this book is in the characters and their interactions.

The main character, Elisa, is ordinary enough for most young girls to identify with. She is overweight, loves her food and comforts, and she is extremely unfit. Her intelligence and studious nature, however, are her main redeeming qualities. Besides her cleverness, she is loyal, brave, adaptable, and will do whatever it takes to save her people.

Other well fleshed out characters include Cosmé with her complex personality and ability to play multiple roles, as well as Rosario, the crown prince of Joya d'Arena. The clever yet always heartwarming way in which Elisa interacts with everybody who crosses her path, brings a profoundly humane element to this book. Although there is a lot of potential for romance, it is kept in the background of the actual story.

Despite the black magic, barbarism, human sacrifice and tragedy in this book, The Girl of Fire and Thorns is a clean, relaxing read with a lot of wisdom about having faith in oneself.

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I write books about teens who must do brave things. I'm originally from California, but I moved to Ohio to marry my husband, who is the smartest and therefore sexiest man I know. We live in Columbus with my teenaged stepsons, who are awesome. My books tend to contain lots of adventure, a little magic and romance, and smart girls who make (mostly) smart choices. I especially love to write about questions I don't know the answers to.

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Monday, October 13, 2014


Title: The Gone Dead Train
Author: Lisa Turner
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


After time away to recover from the aftermath of a horrible case that left his partner dead, Billy’s back in Memphis, drawn into an ever-widening murder mystery that focuses on flawed heroes: a disgraced major league baseball player, two legendary blues musicians on the lam, a straight-arrow lady cop tortured by a guilty conscience, and two iconic civil rights warriors with secrets so dark they’ll shock the nation.

Detective Billy Able is at a crossroads. His previous case left him questioning everything he believed about his abilities as a cop and as a friend. Even though he’s considering leaving police work behind, he’s unable to turn off the instincts he’s honed after a decade on the force.

But when he stops a crime from being committed, he finds himself embroiled in a much bigger scandal. A murder that has just taken place has connections to a series of much older crimes dating back to the civil rights movement. As he investigates, Billy uncovers so many layers of secrets he can barely keep the truth from the lies. And he knows the straight-laced cop assigned to the case is hiding something big. But is it connected to the case? This time he’s determined to make sure he finds out the truth before anything else can happen. But as the search for truth with the help of a Santeria Priest leads him deeper into the underbelly of Memphis, will Billy make it out alive?


As it had been a while since I last read a murder mystery, I truly enjoyed reading The Gone Dead Train. After two blues musicians and a former baseball star who asked too many questions were murdered, Detective Billy Able, currently on leave, and Patrol Officer Frankie Malone follow their natural instincts as cops to solve the case. Too bad the cop actually assigned to these murders is a straight laced racist.

I simply couldn't put this many-layered mystery down. Apart from the beautifully written, never-a-dull-moment prose, colorful descriptions of Memphis, and the engaging cast of characters, the thrill of the hunt for the truth behind these deaths kept me turning the pages.

The characters, especially that of the main characters, Billy Able and Frankie Malone, are realistically crafted and well fleshed out. The author created believable back stories for both these characters; back stories that have a definite effect on how they relate to the case as well as to one another.

Other imaginative characters that make this book come alive include J.J. aka Jesus Junior, the Santerían priest, Sergio Ramos, and Theda Jones, an abused girl with a dream of stardom as well as a suspect who performs in drag at a club.

On the antagonist side of the character cast are two equally cleverly crafted characters. Don Dunsford, a supposed-to-be-good-guy who is, infact, woefully inept at police work and a blatant racist with a nastily malicious attitude towards Billy Able. The other, naturally, is the murderer, whose identity is skillfully kept a secret until just about the end.

With secrets dating back to, and deeply rooted in the civil rights era, The Gone Dead Train is a multifaceted, yet profoundly humane story anybody who loves a good mystery would want to read.


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Born in Memphis, Lisa Turner spent her childhood either on the back of a horse or reading Southern fiction. From the experience of managing her family’s interior design firm, she earned a PhD in the peculiarities of human nature. Currently, she lives in two worlds – the Deep South of her childhood and the wildly beautiful coast of Nova Scotia. 

A Little Death in Dixie is Lisa Turner’s debut novel.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

REVIEW: REBECCA by Adam J. Nicolai

Title: Rebecca
Author: Adam J. Nicolai
Publisher: Lone Road Publishing
Publication Date: January 7, 2013
Genres: GLBT, Suspense
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5


Sarah threw her life away for God.

When she realized she had feelings for her best friend, Sarah drove her off. To prove she wasn't gay, Sarah slept with a boy from school. When she got pregnant, 
she surrendered an acceptance to Yale in order to keep her daughter, Rebecca.

Finally, God's messenger tells her she's proven her virtue. She can have her life back the way it was. 

In return, she only needs to kill her baby.

"Rebecca" is a terrifying descent into the maze of one young woman's beliefs, a labyrinth of self-hate and religious abuse which asks the same question at every turn: 

What would you do for your God?


This is the first book by Adam Nicolai I’ve read, but it definitely won’t be the last. Lately I haven’t been reading many self-published books as the majority of the ones I’ve read have been disappointing and left me in a reading slump. I’ve downloaded this novel a long, long time ago when it was free on Amazon, and because I was undecided on what to read next, I started on this freebie with zero expectations. Now I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Despite the impression the book summary and book cover might leave with you, Rebecca isn’t really a sinister read. I would classify it under realistic fiction because it deals with serious topics such as the consequences of teen pregnancy, single parenting, emerging sexuality, and religion. Allow me to elaborate. Sarah has known from a very young age that she favors girls over boys. Because Sarah was raised by a strictly religious mother who follows the church and the Bible’s teachings to the letter, she convinced herself that she must be possessed by a demon for preferring girls over boys. Sarah then goes and does a stupid thing by getting pregnant to prove to herself and her mother that she really isn’t possessed by a demon and should be in love with a boy instead of a girl. Not taking the consequences of her actions into account, Sarah is left facing the difficulties of single parenting on her own.

Hats off to the author for making me believe, in the first third or so of the book, that Rebecca is an evil little soul-sucking demonic baby. Honestly, I was convinced! Even though I rationalized for myself that what Sarah is going through is probably post-partum depression after the traumatic events of her labor, I still couldn’t help but feel animosity towards Rebecca - exactly the way the author intended for me to feel. Well done on that, Mr Nicolai! At the same time, congratulations to you also for making me fall head over heels in love with Rebecca the same time Sarah came to realize that Rebecca is her whole life. Again, this was done convincingly! Taking into account that a man wrote this book, I was astounded at how well he makes the reader understand the emotions and exhaustion, the guilt, resentment, and regrets Sarah had to deal with. The main theme seemed to be how Sarah had to come to terms with being gay, and how it conflicts with the faith in which she was raised, and on top that having to deal with possibly being shunned by her extremely religious mother. The emerging romance between Sarah and Tiff was dealt with subtly, but expertly, and although there are a lot of negative emotions going around, I can’t describe this book as angst-ridden, because it’s not.

The one thing I wasn’t on-board with was the whole evil-messenger-sacrifice-your-baby-to-God angle. It felt separate from the main plot. Most likely it was used as a metaphor for Sarah’s struggles with her faith and her guilt for what she did to Cal, but it wasn’t convincing. I felt the story has more than enough for it to make an impact without the messenger-tormenting-Sarah parts.

But really, this book was incredible and I almost can’t believe it was written by a self-pub author. There isn’t even one mistake to be found in this book, and the prose is engaging and descriptive without being weighed down with niceties to fluff it out. I felt Sarah’s anger and frustration, and I came to accept things the same time she did. I felt resentful towards her mother, I appreciated what Tiff did for Sarah and Rebecca, I eventually came to feel protective towards Rebecca, and I was as afraid of Cal as Sarah was when he did what he did. Trust me on this: what Cal did to his baby was absolutely shocking! All I’m saying is that you can expect to feel a lot of emotions while reading this book. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, so keep an open mind when you read this. At least it’s easy to appreciate what a fantastic job the author did with the writing, especially when, for some, it comes to the sensitive matter of religion.

My overall feeling? Color me impressed!

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Adam J Nicolai lives near Minneapolis, MN with his wife, Joy, and their two children, Isaac and Rydia. He is a life-long nerd, game lover, author, Star Wars fan, Dungeon Master, and amateur game designer, as well as a former project manager and policy debate coach.

His first novel, Alex, was self-published on Amazon and was extremely well-received, hitting #13 on the Kindle Horror Bestseller list and #1 in Ghost Horror. It was also the top-rated novel by customer review for several months in Horror, Thriller, and Suspense, and peaked at #3 top-rated in overall Kindle Fiction.

His second novel, Rebecca, is now available exclusively through Amazon. The paperback will available soon.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014


Title: Totlandia (The Onesies): Fall
Series: Totlandia, #1
Author: Josie Brown
Publisher: Coliloquy, LLC
Publication Date: November 9, 2012
Genre: Chick Lit, Humor
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5


The Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club is the most exclusive children’s playgroup in all of San Francisco. For the city’s ultra-competitive elite, the club’s ten annual spots are the ultimate parenting prize.

But not everyone is PHM&TC material. The club's founder, Bettina Connaught Cross, adheres to strict membership rules: Moms only. No single parents or working mothers allowed. Membership is an arduous commitment. And there’s no room in the club for scandal, bad behavior, or imperfection...from tots or their moms.

In a world of power and prestige, no one has more than Bettina. And as every mom in Pacific Heights knows, you simply cannot cross her. But this year’s admissions process is more rigorous than ever, pitting prospective members against each other to prove their mettle.

But four of the six candidates vying for the remaining four slots have a secret that would knock them out of the running. Jade is a former stripper and porn actress, who has been absent for most of her son’s life. Jillian’s husband cleaned out their joint accounts and left her for his pregnant assistant. Ally never even had a husband—just a sperm donor—and she’s hiding a high-ranking corporate job. And Lorna fears that her son may have special needs... just the excuse her sister-in-law, Bettina, needs to deny her entry to the club.

Can these hopeful moms keep up appearances long enough to outlast the competition? Or will their chances—and their private lives—go up in flames?


I’ve had this on my Kindle for quite some time, and now, looking back, I wonder why I haven’t read it sooner! I could’ve been so much further into this delightful series, and also, it was such an amazingly quick read I finished it in one night! Maybe it just felt like a quick read because I devoured it and simply couldn’t put down my Kindle long enough to focus on anything else.

OK, well, I don’t have much to say. It’s pretty standard chick lit. “Pretty standard” for me – when it comes to chick lit - is synonymous with “enjoyable” and “charming”. It has its funny bits that make you snort with laughter, but mostly I really liked the characters. Their reality is very far from my own, so it was quite an adventure to walk in their shoes for awhile with all that money! In a very short time I got deeply invested in many of these characters and I could see relatively early on that close friendships were going to be formed between four specific characters.

The book ended on a humongous cliff-hanger ending which left me curious to know what’s going to happen next. Some mature content, but not too much. There you go. That’s the long and short of it.


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(At the time of posting, this book was still FREE on Amazon)


Like most authors I know, I'm a voracious reader. My favorite classic authors are Edith Wharton, John le Carre, Martin Cruz Smith, Jane Austen, Graham Greene, P.D. Wodehouse, Margaret Mitchell, Glen David Gold, and Raymond Chandler.

As for contemporary authors, I think that both Martin Cruz Smith and John Le Carre are two of the best writers alive, and I love the writing styles of Helen Fielding, Jackie Collins and Allison Pearson. I think John Lescroart and MJ Rose are amazing, both as authors and author advocates.

I'm a cinephile (I see everything--chick flicks, action films, art house movies, almost every kind of foreign film) and I'm a walker and hiker--anywhere from four to eleven miles a day.

Otherwise, I'M WRITING. Or researching for my next books....meeting the wonderful people who let me know that what I write resonates with them...or hanging out in my fave bookstores (which is any bookstore in any town I happen to be in, at the time).

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Friday, October 10, 2014


Title: The Bone Clocks
Author: David Mitchell
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Genres: Mystery, Sci-fi
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: a sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting from occupied Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.


Spanning a time period of about fifty-nine years, The Bone Clocks is a captivating and highly stimulating read. The story follows Holly Sykes from her teenage years, through numerous paranormal encounters, to her old age when she tries to make an existence in a disintegrating world.

Although this lengthy novel provided me with five days of intense reading, I can truly say that it was worth every minute. Apart from the beautifully written prose, I loved the well chosen bits of well-known poetry and prose from popular works quoted at appropriate places in the story.

The characters are masterfully crafted, fleshed out and absolutely lifelike. Holly Sykes, the main character, starts off as a rebellious teenager who runs away from home simply because her mother disapproves of her boyfriend. Throughout the book she shows growth until, at the end, she is a great-grandmother in charge of young children in a near-apocalyptic setting.

Other remarkable characters include the womanizing, thieving student, Hugo Lamb aka Marcus Anyder, a bestselling writer with a serious grudge, and Ed Brubeck, a father who tries to convince himself that he isn't a war-zone junkie. Then there are the mysterious body hopping Immaculée Constantin and the strangely reincarnating Marinus; both of whom are hugely paranormal. The question is: which of them is really the bad guy in this tale?

The Bone Clocks presents the most believable end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario that I've ever encountered in a book. It is so logical and realistic that the Endarkenment, as it is called, turned out to be the scariest part of the book for me.

For an engaging read with tons of action, brilliant characters, and a completely captivating storyline, I recommend The Bone Clocks as an absolute must-read!

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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. After another stint in Japan, he currently lives in Ireland with his wife Keiko and their two children. 
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Thursday, October 9, 2014


Title: Stirring the Pot
Author: Jenny McCarthy
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: Humor
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 5/5


The View host and New York Times bestselling author Jenny McCarthy is like your favorite friend: honest, open, and oh-so-funny. She also speaks her mind and says what the rest of us are thinking, a characteristic that has won her millions of fans no matter how much she “stirs the pot.” Combining the secrets of her hard-won wisdom, witty observations, revealing notes to herself (including ridiculously wishful wish lists), and tales of both her best and most embarrassing moments, Stirring the Pot is McCarthy’s recipe for getting what you want out of life. From her wacky experiences in show business to her screwball forays into healing “therapies,” from her frontline reporting of single motherhood in midlife to a goofy attempt to reclaim her last name from Joe McCarthy, here are outrageous musings from the roller coaster life of everyone’s favorite professional blonde.
With a winning mix of storytelling, sisterly advice, sex appeal, and self-deprecation, Stirring the Pot shows us how a pinch of conviction (aka hardheadedness), a dollop of flexibility (being okay with Plan B or even C), and endless faith (in yourself, in your wildest fantasies, and in the general goodness of others) can mix to create the life of your dreams.


I don’t know what made me pick up this book by Jenny McCarthy. Her name is familiar to me and I’ve seen her on a couple of episodes of Two and a Half Men, but other than that I don’t know anything else about her except what I can find on Google. So again, what made me decide to read this particular book? I think it was the humor hook in the book summary that was finally the deciding factor. As much as I’m a sucker for a good horror novel, I’m just as easily won over by anything that promises a few good laughs.

Well, I certainly had my share of hearty laughs while reading Stirring the Pot, but surprisingly I also felt very inspired after reading this. While addressing serious issues such as single parenting, intoxication meets social media (which definitely goes hand-in-hand for some), when to take the high road, trying anything once, and other such topics, there is always a lot of truth underneath her humor. I found that though I don’t know anything about her, she seems to be someone who knows and understands herself very well, and she shares her experiences without apology in an open and brutally honest way with the reader.

Some of what you can expect in this book:

 - Girls Night In
 - Five Things You Don’t Want to Hear at a Class Reunion
 - If My Bed Could Talk...
 - Ten Signs You’re Spending Too Much Time with Your Toddler
 - Ten Signs the Guy You’re Dating Might Be Gay
 - Date Night Etiquette
 - Reverse Psychology

And much, much more (including a few mouthwatering soup recipes)!

There’s even an advice piece for men going through “manopause”. That was one of my particular favorites because it made me laugh so hard!

What also made it so easy for me to connect with this book is how much it resembled my own life in certain ways. I was struck by how un-celebrity-like Jenny came across. To me she seemed liked just a mom, just a woman, and in some ways also just a girl. She does all this with an incredible sense of humor and a deep understanding of what it is like to have to deal with everyday things I myself have to deal with, such as the demands of a household and being a mother, going to the grocery store, sorting the mail and paying bills, the amount of time spent at work and in the car going to and from work, and trying to fit in a little “free” time after a day that started at 5:00 AM and ends anytime after 11:00 PM. She gives sound advice on self-improvement, relationships, dating, and friendship, and her personal experiences carry weight because they are incidents that are relatable.

Overall, I took a lot more away from this book than just a few good laughs. It was easy to read, fun, made me consider some things, and taught me one or two new ways on how to reach my goals. Stirring the Pot is positively brimming with energy and will make a great conversation piece when women get together for a girls night in!

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Jennifer McCarthy is an American model, comedian, actress and author. She first appeared in Playboy magazine in October 1993 and was named Playmate of the Year in its June 1994 issue. She later began a career in television and film and has recently started writing books dealing largely with her pregnancy and motherhood of a child with autism.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Title: The Winter People
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Reviewed by: Ellen Fritz
Ellen’s rating: 5/5


West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.


As paranormal fiction and horror are two of my favorite genres, I found The Winter People absolutely captivating. Only when her mother disappears and the old house starts giving up its secrets, does Ruthie realize that she is living on a cursed piece of land where a gruesome family saga played itself out about a century ago. Soon those who have lost loved ones, as well as those who want to become rich by selling the Harrison family secret, converge on Ruthie and her little sister.

Paranormal phenomena like vampires and werewolves don't scare me at all. Ghosts and things involving the dead rising, however, are the kind of tales that will make me hesitate to switch the light off at night. From pale things seen in the woods and the inexplicable smell of ozone, to mysterious disappearances and the feeling of being watched, this book is full of that kind of thrilling, thoroughly scary material. The frightening tales and legends woven round these incidents by the residents of the town of West Hall, just add to this incredible mystery.

As the story is written from different points of view, it is difficult to truly identify with one character in particular. Although Ruthie's part in the story starts off with her being a rather rebellious teenager who is extremely unhappy with living in a small town, she soon becomes more responsible when her mother disappears and she is left with the responsibility of her sick little sister, Fawn. That said little sister is rather secretive, and a bit weird, doesn't help either.

Other characters like the grieving Katherine who is looking for clues about her dead husband's last few hours and the mean, extremely greedy, trigger-happy Candace, are fleshed out and realistic.

The characters from the historic part of the story, however, were crafted even more believably. In the end I truly didn't know whether the mystical Auntie, Sarah Harrison Shea, her rather weak husband, or something far more evil were responsible for the death of the little girl, Gertie.

The author's brilliant use of the Vermont woods in winter, a little bone ring, a diary and a mysterious map, augment the spooky atmosphere of this book.

I highly recommend The Winter People to all who love a good, thrilling paranormal tale with more than a bit of horror.


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I was born in 1968 and grew up in my grandmother’s house in suburban Connecticut, where I was convinced a ghost named Virgil lived in the attic. I wrote my first short story in third grade. I graduated with a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and then studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. A poem turned into a story, which turned into a novel, and I decided to take some time to think about whether I wanted to write poetry or fiction. After bouncing around the country, I wound up back in Vermont, living in a cabin with no electricity, running water, or phone with my partner, Drea, while we built our own house. Over the years, I have been a house painter, farm worker, paste-up artist, Easter Bunny, pizza delivery person, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness — I quit my last real job in 2000 to work on writing full time. In 2004, I gave birth to our daughter, Zella. These days, we’re living in an old Victorian in Montpelier, Vermont. Some neighbors think it looks like the Addams family house, which brings me immense pleasure.

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