A Verra Good Series!

Twenty-three years ago, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was released for public consumption. This past July, I decided to read it. Twenty-three years after publication. On a whim.

Actually, this series was strongly recommended by one of my readers, who is now a friend. So, when I say I read it ‘on a whim’, I really mean I finally decided to listen to her.

I read the 642-page book in four days. I gobbled it down, swallowed it and relished the entire story – every word, every page. It was awesome! If you would have told me I’d love a story that involves time-travel back to the Scottish Highlands of the 18th century, witch-hunts, hangings, and war, I would have said you were crazy.

This was all of that and more – a love story that encapsulated everything I want: a strong heroine, a good looking hero (with an accent), nail-biting scenes and the most romantic dialogue I’ve ever read. Dare I say, it’s as good as The Bronze Horseman. Gasp!

So, I read the next book in the eight-book series, Dragonfly in Amber. Already completely hooked onto Jamie and Claire’s story, I enjoyed it immensely.

Outlander 2014

Here’s where it gets a little spooky (to me). Twenty-three years after this story was published, producers from Starz! decided to make the first book into a TV series. The same summer I just so happened to read it. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Or do I have that power?

If you’ll recall in a previous post, I read The Bronze Horseman late last year (also a recommendation I finally listened to), a decade after publication, and guess who stopped into the Book Revue in Huntington for the first time this Spring? That’s right. Paullina Simons. See?

I’m thinking it’s me.

Anyway, I couldn’t believe my good fortune at being able to see the characters I fell in love with come to life every Saturday night at nine pm. I can’t remember the last time I’ve looked forward to a television program. And I have DVR, so I never actually see a show at the time it airs. Except for this one. To hear Jamie call Claire “Sassenach” and “mo nighean donn” outside of my head puts me in my happy place.


My husband watches the series with me. He’s seen my head buried in these books for weeks so his curiosity is peaked. And, he knows it will be a long, cold winter if he doesn’t.

Each week as we watch, I fill him in on snippets of information I’m privy to, having an intimate knowledge of the story. I truly believe I love the Starz! series even more having read the book – something I rarely say.

“What are they calling Claire?” He asked.

“Sassenach. It’s Scottish for ‘outsider’ or ‘outlander’” I explain.

Though husband was satisfied with my answer, I took it a step further.

“When Jamie calls her ‘Sassenach’ though, it’s with affection. And very romantic.”

I have the third installment, Voyager, waiting on my Kindle. I have forced myself to take a break from this series to read other books – but always, it is in the back of my mind, waiting, taunting, beckoning me.

Husband called me the other day from the car. “Hello, Susquehanna.” He said.

“Are you trying to say Sassenach?”

The next day, he walked in from work. “How was your day, my Sasperillo?”

“Um, it’s Sassenach.”

Tomorrow night is the final mid-season episode, which bothers me. It’s like Starz! gave me a gift and now they want to take it back before I fully enjoyed it. I’m sure the reason will be explained at some point. I hope.

In bed, husband whispered in my ear, “G’night my little Seskatchewan.”


If you haven’t jumped on the Outlander bandwagon yet, I say go ahead. You won’t be disappointed. I promise you, it’s verra good!


Both Sides Of Love

Hello Friends,

I know. I’ve been MIA these past weeks (okay, month). I’ve been spending the bulk of my time getting ready for the release of my debut novel, Both Sides Of Love, and I wanted to take a break and say hi.


I decided to self-publish, so after doing my homework, after many re-writes, feedback from beta readers, and edits, I hired a professional editor. Now, my graphic designer and I finally decided on a cover.

In the meantime, my To-Be-Read list is growing because I haven’t been reading – something I do so much, it’s a part of who I am. And I miss it!

This is what’s on my TBR list:

Covet by Tracey Garvis-Graves, who wrote the amazing On The Island (also a self-pubbed book!)

Bellagrand by Paullina Simons – I have to read the love story of Alexander’s parents. And…I’m just a tad fanatical.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker. I’ve heard so many great things about this book.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes. Because it’s by JoJo Moyes. I don’t need another reason.

There are more, but those are my top titles. And I look forward to taking a break and diving into one. Reading is a great source of inspiration and a necessary hobby for a writer. Maybe next week I’ll offer my opinion on the books I’ve read since I last posted my reviews. There have been a few. But for now…

I’m really excited about the upcoming release of Both Sides Of Love – a story about friendship and lost love.

Here is the cover:


cover_400Isn’t it beautiful? I  have my graphic designer, Suzanne Fyrhie Parrott, to thank!   I wish you all a wonderful week. I hope the weather is beautiful where you are. Here in NY, Spring has finally arrived.

Speak to you soon!

Meeting Paullina Simons

Thanks to personal hygiene and a little luck, I met my favorite author, Paullina Simons, last Friday.

I just happened to pass the Book Revue – a wonderful gem of a place in Huntington, NY, where every major author stops on their book tour – on my way home from my waxing appointment (see ‘The In-Between’ for details). Stuck at a traffic light, I happened to glance over to see a huge sign in the window, PAULLINA SIMONS, APRIL 11th. The light turned green and I accelerated  thinking, HOLY S—! My favorite author is going to be right here in Huntington, ten minutes from my house, on April 11th! When is April 11?

Oh God. It’s today. Without thought, I dialed my childhood bestie, who also loves Paullina.

We were the first ones to arrive at the bookstore that evening and decided to sit strategically at the back, right near the desk where Paullina would be signing her latest release, Bellagrand. We bought the book and sat, chatting, excited, catching up. Gradually the seats filled, but to my surprise, there wasn’t a large crowd – no one had to stand around the room. There were just the fifty or so of us. I couldn’t understand it. How was this store not packed wall to wall with her readers? How could I be so lucky to be here, one of only a few, privileged to meet this woman?

Paullina walked in and started to speak. She was gracious, humble, funny and endearing. I enjoyed her stories about her father, how he learned to speak English in the Gulag, so he could get his family out of Russia and to America. She spoke of Bellagrand, why she wrote the story about Alexander’s parents, Gina and Harry, how she related to Gina, an immigrant from Italy, and how Bellagrand is really, at it’s heart, a love story.

I regret now that I didn’t record her speaking so I can listen to her again and explain in more detail her entertaining, enlightening anecdotes. But at the time, I didn’t want to. I wanted to enjoy the experience first hand, fully present.

Paullina had the room under her spell until she stopped and opened her forum up to questions. Most of the people there wanted to know more about The Bronze Horseman, about Tatiana and Alexander, was there a movie in the works (Answer: trying, but need money). Not me. I wanted to know about her writing and asked her if she always knew she wanted to write.

To paraphrase her answer: Yes. After the company she worked for went under, “through no fault of her own,” she found herself unemployed and since she always thought she would write, decided to do it. Tully was her first book. She was 23.

I was the first one on line- my friend, Monica, behind me- clutching my book, waiting for Paullina to make her way to the table and sit. With a warm, welcoming smile, she looked at me and asked my name. This is what I said:




I’m sure I didn’t scare her. Well, almost sure.

Paullina seemed genuinely flattered and appreciative. In fact, she thanked the group more than once for coming out on a Friday night to see her (as if we had a choice!) She signed my book, wished me luck with my own book and I was on my way.



This is me spewing my fanatical one-word answer.

On the ride home, my friend held her copy and said: It was fate. What were the chances that we just read her books, written 10 years ago? That you happened to get your Brazilian on the 11th, happened to pass the Book Revue instead of going your normal route home (which is to not pass the Book Revue) and that we both happened to be available?

Yes, I agreed. Fate.

Then Monica verbalized my thoughts (as she usually does) : I want to have a cup of coffee with her. Again, I agreed.  I want to talk with Paullina, hear her stories, discuss our writing, share a laugh. Because I truly believe that if we were to have met at any other time, in any other place, she would have been a friend.

To Russia, With Love




Hi there. It’s me.

Let’s talk books.

If I love a book, I shout it from the rooftop (figuratively speaking): I mention it to everyone I know, blog it’s wonderfulness, email the author, rate it on Goodreads,  tweet my rating, and (try to) get all of my friends to read it.

I’ve read a few books this year, and until now, have not had the desire to shout about any . So, I thought I’d give a quick synopsis of what I’ve read the past month, what I’m reading now, and how I feel about them.

Just in case you were wondering.

I read Labor Day by Joyce Maynard for my Wine Not Read book club. It’s about a lonely boy and his lonely mother who take an injured escaped convict home from a store and spend five days with him at their house. With the movie out, all the press, the author being interviewed by Matt Lauer, I figured it would be great. It wasn’t. It never grabbed me emotionally and I was disappointed. Perhaps if the story was told from the woman’s point of view instead of from a thirteen-year-old boy, I might have enjoyed it more. Perhaps not. This one is not worth shouting.

I also read The Girl You Left Behind, by JoJo Moyes, a dual timeframe story set in WWI and modern day. I loved the beginning of this book: the story about Sophie and Edouard during WWI, and the decision Sophie’s forced to make while waiting for her beloved Edouard to return safely from war. It was really well done and hooked me immediately. However, I didn’t connect with the modern day story of Liv and Paul and that changed my feeling for the book from “love” to “like.”

I admire this author, who blew my mind last year with Me Before You. Moyes’ The Last Letter From Your Lover was also truly enjoyable.  The Girl You Left Behind does not hold a candle to either of those. It was good. Not great. But good. No shouting. No rooftops. Okay, maybe a fourth third floor balcony.

I am in the middle of The GoldFinch, by Donna Tartt, a 771 page story about a young boy in NYC who survives an accident that kills his mother. The writing is beautiful, but the details are exhausting and I need to take  breaks, which is something I don’t ordinarily do. I never cheat on one book with another. Each story gets my full attention until completion. I just can’t do it with this one. I will finish it. Eventually. But I need a few moments to breathe.

This leads me to the other book I’m currently reading, and the reason for this message.  I’m talking about Six Days in Leningrad, written by none other than my most favorite author, Paullina Simons. In this memoir of her first visit back to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 25 years, Simons describes beautifully how she feels returning to her childhood home, in order to do research for her book The Bronze Horseman. Yep, that’s right. This is the story of how she got the information and inspiration to write THE story.


Reading Simon’s poignant account of her visit with her father, I realize just how much of herself and her own Russian life she put into her beloved trilogy. This one is a keeper.

I’m heading for the roof.


Top Ten Tuesday

The folks at The Broke and The Bookish have a weekly Tuesday Top 10 list and this week, I decided to participate. Today’s topic is Books I would recommend to…

Here is my list of top ten books I read this year that I would recommend to a girlfriend:

simons_bronze-horseman tatiana-and-alexander the-summer-garden Me-Before-You-book-cover-Jan-12-p122-1 slammed hopeless rulesofcivility wolvesimhome this_is_where_i_leave_l love-anthony-193x300














       1.  The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons (1st book in the trilogy).  Meet Tatiana and Alexander, two young, beautiful people who fall in love amid impossible circumstances in WWII Russia. 

      2. Tatiana & Alexander (2nd book).  Forget sleep.

      3. The Summer Garden (Final installment). Closure! This is the most beautiful love story I’ve read all year…in a few years, in fact, with the exception of…

      4. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. I voted for this book as best fiction of the year on Goodreads. If you haven’t read it yet, give yourself an early holiday gift: nestle on the couch for the weekend, and lose yourself in her story. You’re welcome.

      5. Slammed by Colleen Hoover. This is a new adult love story, but I couldn’t put it down.

      6. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. Yep, she did it again.

      7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. Taking place during 1930’s New York, an expertly told love triangle. This was written so beautifully, I found myself re-reading passages just to enjoy them again.

      8. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This is about a fourteen-year-old’s relationship with her late uncle’s partner. I loved this.

     9. This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper. Very funny story about love, marriage, divorce and family.

     10. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova. About an accidental friendship where a lonely woman helps a grieving mother understand her autistic son. I’d recommend anything by Ms. Genova. If you haven’t read Still Alice or Left Neglected by now, walk away from your laptop and go get them.

What books would you recommend?

My Latest Obsession

51t0jUmcasL tatiana-and-alexanderOh hello.

What day is it?

Wednesday? I must have lost track of time. I started a trilogy two weeks ago, and I’m just now coming up for air. Briefly. I need to find out how this story will end.

I am referring to Paullina Simons’ epic love story of Alexander and Tatiana, beginning with the gripping The Bronze Horseman, followed by the equally compelling second book, Tatiana and Alexander. I flew through twelve hundred pages like it was a novella…in days – forsaking sleep, and a dinner or two, and now I am knee deep in the final installment, The Summer Garden.

As you might already know, I’m not really a book reviewer, per se. There are so many awesome review bloggers out there who take care of that. Once in a while, however, there comes a story that gets so deep under my skin, and absorbed into my thoughts, I feel compelled to mention it.

My last favorite novel was Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, which I inhaled with fervor, before the birth of my blog. I talked the hell out of it to everyone I knew, and was responsible for many book clubs in my neighborhood reading, and discussing, and loving this most unusual, wonderfully told love story.

Now, I’m obsessed with the Bronze Horseman and sequels, a recommendation from a friend (this same friend who got me waxing and spray tanning- she’s a keeper). The last time I was consumed by a trilogy (also recommended by this friend), Christian Grey was teaching an impressionable Anastasia Steele the intricacies of BSDM.

Like most of the female reading community, I was intrigued by 50 Shades of Grey, and though there was controversy about the writing being less than stellar, the subject matter was enthralling, and don’t deny you felt the same way. Hell, I lost my mother for two weeks last year.

We all learned something from Ms. James, who amid the controversy, laughed her way around the globe, meeting fans and depositing truckloads of money into her English bank account. And husbands worldwide were counting their blessings.

But I digress.

Paullina Simons’ epic love story between Alexander Belov, a Red Army soldier, and seventeen-year-old Tatiana Metanova, who meet on the day Hitler invades Russia, is so beautifully developed and captivating, I could do little else until I found out if they would be together, if Tatiana would survive the devastating blockade and starvation of her city, Leningrad, where she lived in close quarters with her family, including her sister, who met and “fell in love”  with Alexander first.

Though frustrating at times, with the back-and-forth of Alexander and Tatiana’s innocent, secret meetings, and her private struggle with her loyalties to her sister, while the family  struggles against starvation, a winter with no heat, and constant bombings, the writing, the expressions of love between these two characters moved me, sometimes to tears.

My kindle comes with me everywhere. I’m that girl–nose to the screen, reading at the ice rink until my son’s game starts, or on line at the bank, or in the car at school, waiting for pick-up. My favorite time is at the end of the day, nestled in my bed, only turning the light out when  my eyes have crossed. And then, in my dreams, I imagine various scenarios of where the plot will take me, all of the different possibilities of what can happen next and in the morning, over coffee, instead of finding out who was killed or raped or got divorced, I might snag a few precious minutes for more.

This love story filled my heart to bursting, shattered it into a million pieces, and filled it again.

Others may feel differently. Others may have read love stories that moved them more. I just found out a friend wasn’t really enthralled by Alexander, or Tatiana, or their story. She’s perfectly entitled to her opinion (even though she’s wrong).

That’s the beauty of writing,  and why I do it too. I want to move a reader, to get into her head, and make her want to forego doing anything else just to find out what happens to my characters.

I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, I learn by reading.

Is there anything better than a great book?

I can’t stay…got to get back. They’re waiting for me.