Monday, December 31, 2012

Nobody Has To Know - Book Summary and Interview

 I haven't read Mr. Nappi's book, but you will find a summary and interview below.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my blog today.
 Book Summary:

Nobody Has To Know, Frank Nappi's dark and daring new thriller, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages, Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces that threaten to expose him.

Nobody Has To Know is a sobering look into a world of secrets, lies, and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you love.

Frank Nappi's Bio:
Frank Nappi has taught high school English and Creative Writing for over twenty years. His debut novel, Echoes From The Infantry, received national attention, including MWSA's silver medal for outstanding fiction. His follow-up novel, The Legend of Mickey Tussler, garnered rave reviews as well, including a movie adaptation of the touching story "A Mile in His Shoes" starring Dean Cain and Luke Schroder. Frank continues to produce quality work, including Sophomore Campaign, the intriguing sequel to the much heralded original story, and is presently at work on a third installment of the unique series. Frank lives on Long Island with his wife Julia and their two sons, Nicholas and Anthony.

1. What inspired you to start writing?

I feel as though I have always had the desire to put words on paper. It goes way
back for me. I have a vague recollection of when I first began writing.  I can
remember writing a story when I was very young - maybe five or six years old. It
was about a king who rescues a girl and makes her his queen. Not really sure
where the idea came from, or even how good it was. I just remember my mom typing
it for me when I was finished and that image always makes me smile.  As time
went on, this very powerful, ineffable need to write led me to the publication
of several short essay pieces in Newsday’s “500 Words or Less” column. This was
very gratifying for me but only fueled this desire to produce more substantial
work -- something like a novel. However, as the cliche goes, I lacked the proper
muse or inspiration. I just did not know what it was I was going to write about. 
And I did not want my first effort to be gratuitous in any way; it needed to be
something poignant, something close to my heart. Then I met two very special
WWII veterans - Mr. Bill McGinn and Mr. Eddie Hynes -- during a Veterans Speaker
Program that I initiated at Oceanside High School for my classes, I was moved
like never before. The stories they told me, and our subsequent friendship,
became the basis for my award winning Echoes From The Infantry. I have been
writing ever since. Thank you Bill and Eddie.

2. Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is probably the favorite author of every writer - or at least
he should be. F.Scott Fitzgerald was a linguistic genius. He understood the
rhythm of the written word the way a composer understands musical notes.  There
is such an ease and natural flow to his work - tantamount to the way the birds
sing. It’s seamless, beautiful and moving. The Great Gatsby, his signature work,
embodies all of these qualities like no other work of American fiction. Many of
Fitzgerald’s shorter works possess this same artfulness.

3. Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Well, as you know, Nobody Has to Know is a  dark and somewhat  daring
psychological thriller that, tells the story of Cameron Baldridge, a popular
high school teacher whose relationship with one of his students leads him down
an unfortunate and self-destructive path. Stalked through text-messages,
Baldridge fights for his life against a terrifying extortion plot and the forces
that threaten to expose him. Nobody Has to Know is a sobering look into a world
of secrets, lies, and shocking revelations, and will leave the reader wondering
many things, including whether or not you can ever really know the person you
love. On a more profound level, Nobody Has To Know illustrates how the landscape
of our past influences our present and how, sadly, some of these more indelible
moments hold us prisoner for the duration of our lives. However, what few people
realize is that the ending of the original story was very different. I will not
go into too much detail for obvious reasons, but I will say that initially, much
of the “action” in the story was revealed to the reader at the end as “just a
dream sequence.” It wasn’t until I realized that readers might feel cheated
and/or duped that I decided to alter it.

4. Describe your writing space.

I suppose my writing space is not that unlike those of other authors.
Well...maybe that’s not entirely true. I do most of my writing in my office at
home, a modest room with walls adorned with my most treasured baseball
memorabilia, highlighted by a beautiful 16X20 black and white Cooperstown signed
photo of Ted Williams which hangs right over my desk.  I have other wonderful
items in the room as well, including game used spikes signed by Tony Gwynn, an
autographed Sports Illustrated cover celebrating Hank Aaron’s 715th home run and
two Shea Stadium seats that I acquired after the Mets shut down the old place.
There’s lots more as well. My actual desk is littered with items you would
expect any author to have handy -- some practical and germane to the writing
process and some which hover I suppose in the realm of the idiosyncratic I
suppose. I have plenty of pens and pencils, a clock, an old fashioned
dictionary, and other office supply stuff like paper clips, tape, staples, etc. 
The more colorful items cluttering my desktop include a tiny wooden Hemingway
House replica I bought while in Key West, a 12 inch Batman figure, New York Met
Bobblehead, San Diego Sno Globe, lots of loose family photos and  an F.Scott
Fitzgerald magnetic finger puppet I received as a gift. It is quite an odd
amalgamation of things but it works for me!

5. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Well writing is a broad term; it includes everything that is written.  If you
are asking about what makes a novel a good novel, that is a little more
manageable.  In any great work, one that resonates with the reader, there needs
to be authenticity with regard to the characters. If a reader does not invest in
the characters, the author’s message is lost. It is my experience that “real
characters” think and act just as real folks would. There is nothing contrived
about their existence – their words and emotional responses to situations are
emblematic of those of real people. This can be accomplished in part through the
use of flashbacks, which become windows into the psyches of these individuals.
If a reader knows where a character has been, where he is presently becomes far
more plausible. I also feel that attention to craft in language is essential to
capturing an audience. The way someone tells a story is at times as important as
the story itself.

6. Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

Yes, all the time. And it is always such a pleasure to read what they have to
say. I have had the good fortune of receiving some very heartfelt emails and
letters from readers who have used my work as either inspiration in their own
lives or as a reconciling power when things are amiss. There is nothing more
poignant than reading the words of someone you have touched on either an
intellectual or emotional level. The messages that express admiration for what
you have done from a purely artistic standpoint are also very rewarding.

7. What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

Insanity would be an understatement. The actual writing is so enjoyable for me.
It is a wonderful escape into my own world. But finding the time to do it is
arduous. Balancing a full time teaching schedule and a family is hard enough,
but “moonlighting” as an author makes any semblance of normalcy near impossible.
But that’s okay -- normal is way overrated.

8. What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?

I would offer the same advice that Scott Turow gave to me. Just keep writing.
This is a very difficult business. It is easy to be come cynical and jaded in
the wake of all the rejection and disappointment you face.  But if you have
talent and really want to write, you must persevere. Refuse to take no for an
answer. I believe that many a brilliant writing career has ended way too early
because the author just gave up. Writing professionally is not for the feint of
heart. It is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls and obstacles. But the challenge
is what makes it so exhilarating. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

9. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to tell us about?

I am always working on something. There are many ideas that I am playing with,
many of which have yet to come to fruition. However, I am deep into the final
installment of my Mickey Tussler series.

10. What comes first, the plot or characters?

That is an excellent question, one that so many of the students in my Creative
Writing classes ask all the time. The truth is, it happens both ways. My first
novel, Echoes From The Infantry, began with a very complex character who suffers
from the insidious residue of WWII. He was fully developed in my mind before I
ever wrote one word. The fictional framework came later on. In the first Mickey
Tussler novel, it was just the opposite. I had already written a first chapter
before I ever really knew exactly who my protagonist was going to be. The same
is true for my latest novel, Nobody Has To Know. This is the beauty of the
writing process. Stories come from so many different places and are executed in
so many different ways.

11. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Nobody Has To Know is the fourth novel I have had published. A favorite? Hmmm.
Each one is special in its own way. Sounds like a cop out, right? But it is hard
to answer a question like that, especially since my work is so diverse. Echoes
From The Infantry is my first novel, so that is special for obvious reasons. I
love many of the characters and scenes in the Mickey Tussler series and the risk
factor inherently present in Nobody Has To Know makes that one notable. It is a
tough call for sure. I suppose I will let readers decide that one.

12. Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is probably the favorite author of every writer - or at least
he should be. F.Scott Fitzgerald was a linguistic genius. He understood the
rhythm of the written word the way a composer understands musical notes.  There
is such an ease and natural flow to his work - tantamount to the way the birds
sing. It’s seamless, beautiful and moving. The Great Gatsby, his signature work,
embodies all of these qualities like no other work of American fiction. His
shorter fiction is just as engaging.

13. What is a talent you wish you had, but don't?

The ability to play the piano. I love piano music.

14. Weather: Hot or cold?

Definitely hot. If I never saw another snowflake again I would be just fine.

15. Do you have a favorite quote or saying?

I have many favorites, but of late, the Japanese proverb “Fall down seven times,
get up eight” has become somewhat of a mantra of mine. Dealing with the
vicissitudes of life can be challenging at times and all we really have as our
defense is an undaunted spirit.

16. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

I am milk phobic. It’s a long story, but it involves a rather tepid container of
expired milk and a tyrannical first grade teacher. Enough said.

17. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love the beach, especially in the off season. I spend a lot of time there. I
am also a rabid baseball fan, so many hours are spent watching my two sons play
the greatest game there is or lamenting the fate of my New York Mets. Country
music aint so bad either!

18. Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.

About a year after Echoes From The Infantry was published by St. Martin’s Press,
I received an email from a man in Tennessee. His letter was not so much one of
admiration for my writing as it was a confession of sorts. It seems that this
gentleman grew up with a WWII veteran for a father -- a man who resembled very
much my James McCleary. His relationship with his father was fractious and
strained in ways  similar to what I described in the book.  However, his father
passed away before he ever had the chance to reconcile some of these feelings
that existed between the two of them. Even though this gentleman from Tennessee
knew my story was fiction, he was able to gain insight into his father's mien
and temperament and used the book’s ending as a vehicle through which he could
finally obtain closure and move on. He told me that my novel saved his life. I’m
not sure that I will ever receive another letter that will mean more to me than
this one.

19. If you were on the staff to have a book adapted to movie, what would you

Nobody Has To Know of course. I think it would be a huge success given peoples’
penchant for stories with a lot of twists and unexpected outcomes.

20. Have you ever eaten a crayon?

Not to my knowledge, but I think I swallowed a fairly large piece of a cherry
Chapstick once and I am not ashamed to say it tasted pretty good.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seven Locks by Christine Wade

The disappearance/leaving of a husband was the ultimate betrayal and shame at this time in history.  Watching your husband turn around as he always did and walk away from you and expecting him to return at the end of the day but not returning is what the "wife" has to endure in SEVEN LOCKS.

SEVEN LOCKS is a heart wrenching story of a wife and her two children trying to survive the hardships of living on a farm in the Catskill Mountains in the 1700's with the Revolutionary War on the horizon and with no help and no support of the townspeople.  The townspeople wanted nothing to do with the wife, whom I never heard a name mentioned, because they believe she killed her husband. Having no name is in itself a sad story.

The descriptions are detailed and will feel the terror and the pain of the characters and the emotional struggle of the children and their mother. You will be able to see through the author's vivid descriptions their mud-drenched yard, their mud-drenched clothes, their crowded barn with animals in it, the fields and valleys, and the frightened, lost children as they live out their meager days and years.

The characters are very well developed along with the story.  You will hate some of the characters, be curious about them, and wonder about their lives and motives.  You will mostly feel their despair in their difficult lives but the willingness to move on. 

The book shares the amazing courage of a woman left to do her work as well as a man's work.  It sends a message about struggle and survival at the basest level and a struggle fought alone.  It isn't a light book, but your interest will not wane because of the subject matter and because of the author's storytelling skills and elegant, effective prose.  

You will want to find the mystery of the title of the book and interpret a sentence from page 60:  "But the future is a book with seven locks."

SEVEN LOCKS is a book you will have to dissect and read slowly because it will make you ponder.   5/5

This book was given to me by the publisher with no compensation in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday Snapshot - 12/29/12

I normally don't post a photo because I never have any good ones, but I thought this would be a fun photo to share.

We woke up to six inches of snow and more on the way.  At least the snow plows came early.  We had around five inches of snow last Wednesday and the street wasn't done until around 3 p.m.

It is beautiful, but not fun for driving.

Taken in the snowy hills of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Pondering with a Purpose is hosted by Brenda 

This week's question is:

Do you make new year's resolutions? And if so, do you keep them?

My Answer is:

I normally do not make new year's resolutions not because I can't keep them, but I just never thought of making them.  :)

I should make one this year, though, and stick to it.  Try to not accept so many books for review when I already have a ton of them waiting for me.  :)  Not sure I will stick with it, but at least I wrote it down and made it public.  :)

That is a VERY difficult resolution as any reader knows.  
We can't say "no"  - well at least I can't.  :)  

I do have to say, though, I got tough on myself the past few months and did turn down about ten books.  

Yikes........I know...that is a lot of books to turn down, but I have so many books and only so many hours in the day.  :)

What is your resolution if you have one or make them? 

Book Tour - Black and White and Dead All Over

Jealousy, love triangles, high-profile politicians, reporters, and murder.  All of this put together made for a short, but excellent murder mystery.

You will be kept guessing
up until the very last pages who murdered Mary Fleming twenty-two years ago when her body ended up in the basement of a house being moved off of its foundation. Brian, a reporter for the Newark Observer had covered stories in wars and political conventions, and was known for his thoroughness.  And...boy was he thorough...he was the one who solved the murder of Mary Fleming that the police hadn't been able to solve.

I read this book in one afternoon.  It was fast-paced, interesting, creative, and intriguing.  Great characters, great storyline, outstanding descriptions of scenes, feelings, and characters.  You could feel the drama as you turned each page.  This is a mystery writer I will keep an eye on.  ENJOY!!  5/5

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Neurotically Yours by Bonnie Trachtenberg

Losing a job never worked out so well.  Dana Harrison lost her job as a columnist for the love lorn and decided she would use her advising talents to open a unique dating service along with her friend Reggie. 

She and Reggie were having such fun, and you will have fun as well.  This book was light, hilarious, and will definitely brighten up your day. 

The characters are loveable, funny, talented, and perky....the kind of friends we would all love to have and the kind of person we would love to be. You will love Dara and will relate to her predicaments.  Mallory the cat is loveable as well.  

This is the second of Bonnie Trachtenberg's books that I have read.  She is a wonderful author with great storylines.

If you need a lift, pick up this book, and you will laugh along with the characters and share in their fun and success.  Somewhat predictable, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and after reading it, you may fall in love all over again.  :)  ENJOY!!!  4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

What a delightful book even though the subject of being a kitchen maid in a wealthy household was far from delightful.  The author had a sense of humor that made the book fast paced, funny, and interesting.

This book was the memoir of a "real" kitchen maid.  It definitely was not a pleasant life, but the author kept the book light and factual. The household staff would work from sunup to sunset with no conveniences that we have today in the kitchen or for cleaning to a shine.  
The staff would have to fire up the coal stove early in the morning, cook and clean up nonstop all day and with no appreciation from their employer.  All food had to be made from scratch, but the food definitely was not healthy, though.   Households used a lot of butter, eggs, and cream and other fat-filled ingredients.

The author explained the drudgery and hardships of the maids and household staff in a wealthy household and how the majority of the staff were from poor families that couldn't  keep their own young children in their household because they had no money and not enough food to feed them.

It definitely was not a glamorous job, and there was even a class structure within the staff.  I wonder if it is still like that today among household staff.  I would guess yes.  The author also talked about how she never had a good self esteem because of how early she had to begin work and how she was treated for the majority of her life.

Despite the difficulty of this job and what it does to people's lives emotionally this is most definitely a book to read if you enjoy the lives of the English and any household that has a staff for their everyday living. 

I give this book a cleanly scrubbed and well cooked 5/5.  ENJOY!!

My son bought this book for me because he knows I enjoy learning about the lives of English household staff members.  This is ONE of my Christmas presents for him.....he wanted me to read this by the end of the year.  :)  I am glad I did.

Merry Christmas, Mark.  :) 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Time is a River by Mary Alice Monroe

Time for everyone is measured in different ways....a river was the way to measure time for Mia and the Watkins family who made the town famous.

Mia had just survived a breast cancer ordeal without the support of her husband and was on a retreat for survivors.  She had a wonderful time and wanted to hurry home early to share the news with her husband, but she came home to a very unpleasant sight.  Her husband was in bed with another woman.  Mia tearfully rushed back to the retreat and was offered the use of a cabin
by the retreat's leader, Belle, in the town of Watkins Mills.  This cabin was the best thing that happened to her...well one of a few best things.  The cabin and the town helped her find confidence again as well as love.

The cabin wasn't exactly luxury, though, but Mia worked with it and made it her piece of saving grace.  In the cabin Mia found diaries and paintings belonging to Kate Watkins, the original owner who was believed to have murdered her lover.  Mia began a new investigation of the 80-year-old murder, and the investigation became Mia's quest to find the truth for herself, the town, and for Belle, even though Belle didn't want her to investigate.  Mia also found peace, love, new friends, and tranquility as her stay at the cabin continued longer than she had expected.  She loved this small town and loved how it helped her get back to her old self.

I enjoyed this book because of the mystery as well as the description of living in a cabin in woods, the wonderful descriptions of the landscape, and feeling the presence of a person who lived there before. This book had intrigue and made me think about my ancestors.  The only thing that was tedious was when the author talked about fly fishing in detail...not too interesting.....well not to me.  :)

If you like a mystery, finding hidden treasures, reading old diaries, solving old murder cases, gossip, and a sweet love story, you will like TIME IS A RIVER.  4/5

This was a book chosen by one of my book clubs.

My Favorite Books of 2012

Listed Below are my "Favorite" Books so far for 2012.  

I still have a few days to read others that I "know" I am going to love as well.  

Can't get to them all, right?  So many good books so little time.  :)

 Each title should link to my blog review.  

What were your favorite books of 2012? 
The Island House by Posie Graeme-Evans

The House of Serenades by Lina Simoni

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

The Twelfth Child by Bette Lee Crosby

Owning Treasure by Joe and Laura Wilbur

Ropewalk by John Knauf

Firefly Beach by Meira Pentermann

 Literally Dead by James Conroy

Dead is the New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice 
City of Women by David R. Gillham  

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton 

The Girl on The Cliff by Lucinda Riley 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Walnut Tree - A Christmas Tale - by Charles Todd

Alain told Lady Elspeth Douglas not to worry as he went off to fight and she stayed home with his ring on her finger because the war would be over by Christmas.  Little did they know that the war would NOT be over by Christmas. 

Lady Douglas decided that she didn't want to just sit around and wait so she joined the Nursing Sisters...she meets Todd's famous Bess Crawford during this time.  Since Lady Douglas was born and raised in a privileged household, it was unheard of for a woman of her class to join the nursing profession and treat wounded men.  It was stated that anyone of her class wouldn't be acceptable as a wife to a gentleman if she was part of the nursing sisters.  She thought otherwise.  To avoid being turned down, she kept her title a secret when she applied to become a nurse.

The book follows Elspeth through her duties as a nurse in France and England during WWII.  Of course, she met someone else even though she was engaged to Alain....this theme was the main part of the book.  You will find out how she handles this situation and each situation that occurs whether the situation is traveling alone on trains and boats filled with soldiers, visiting relatives, or nursing.

The book is mixed with this love story and war.  Mr. Todd takes the reader into the hospitals and gives details about the surgical and nursing units and the unpleasant tasks carried out by the nurses and doctors.  He also brings the reader into the thick of the heartbreak, disasters, and ugliness of war.  Elspeth's love story has a culminating scene under a walnut tree that binds her and her true love.

I enjoyed the book, but it was a bit of a tedious read.  You will want to keep reading, though, because you will want to find out how the love part of the story turns out.  WWII history buffs will love all the details that Mr. Todd so exquisitely and brilliantly knows how to portray.  My rating is 4/5.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.