The Residence Inside The Private World Of The White House by Kate Andersen Brower

 

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

This was a Book Club Selection for April at my local library. I put off reading it until the last minute mainly because I thought it would be dry. It was not.

The first thing I’d say is that it is a very readable book. Very easy to read and I love that Ms. Brower didn’t offer her own opinions or try to speak for the men and women she interviewed.

Even after having been to the White House and been on the tour, I had no idea what goes into running such a huge house, and I also had no idea exactly how big it is. Way over the three stories I had thought!

We hear what working at the house means through the memories of the maids, butlers, chefs, florists, doormen, plumbers, secretaries who have worked there through multiple administrations. They are the house. The first families are really just renters for however long they are there.

I’m not sure I could work in such a place where every four to eight years, on a day’s notice, you had a new family living with you and you had no idea what they were like and you couldn’t really grieve the loss of the outgoing family.

If you want to know what some of our first families are really like in private you must read this book. However I found the memories of all those who have served generation after generation to be much more compelling. The pride in what they do. The professionalism they maintain day after day. It is definitely a juggling act!

The poignant moments when Mrs. Kennedy returned from Dallas with her blood stained pink suit, that was a truly tender moment that spoke volumes about the characters of the staff and of Mrs. Kennedy.

It was not shocking to me that some of the First Ladies weren’t as nice as they appeared.

I think you should all read this book! I actually read it out loud to my friend as I kept saying, ” Oh, my, listen to this!” He finally said, just read it to me.

Great job Ms.Brower! And great job to those men and women who keep out White House running so flawlessly!

The Secret of Heaven (Aiden Leonardo, #1 )

The Secret of Heaven by Felix Alexander

Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago, Aiden Leonardo has arrived at the home of the man who has always treated him as a son to find disgraced, investment banker Lazzaro de Medici, dying. Before he dies, he gives Aiden an encrypted letter concerning a lost Bible.

He needs to follow the clues and find this last message that Christ left his disciples. The secret of Heaven. But he isn’t the only one looking. The Group, a shady group at best, is looking to destroy that very secret and the lost Bible.

Running from the Chicago PD and The Group, Aiden isn’t sure who to trust. With the aid of his fiancé Dr. Miriam Levin—a cultural anthropologist and a professor of historical archaeology along with their friend Nagi, a philologist, religious historian and an eccentric cryptographer, Aiden soon realizes the Lost Bible was written by the only disciple who walked with Jesus and had his gospel omitted from Scripture.
Lazzaro’s own son is working but with who? Aiden or The Group? Nothing is what it seems and no one is who they say they are. It’s a wonderful puzzle we get to unravel with Aiden and Miriam and Nagi, who was one of my favorite characters in the book!

The action starts on page one and doesn’t let up. It may be a work of Fiction, but a lot of it resonated with me, so much so that I kept saying out loud, “That’s exactly what I thought”!
The characters are all well developed and complex, as is the subject matter.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so that I read it all in one sitting and then had to call a friend to tell him about it! I’m really glad this is only Book 1 in the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I actually read this for the first time quite a while back, but waited impatiently for it to go up. I wanted to interview the author when I reviewed the book. So I hope you enjoy meeting author Felix Alexander!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a Mexican-born, American-raised novelist and poet of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. I dropped out of high school mid-senior year because I didn’t appreciate education as much as I do now. I served for 3 years in the U.S. Army, my final year in South Korea, where I made a name for myself as a the soldier’s scribe before my honorable discharge.

I currently live in a quite Chicago suburb just a few miles away from my children, and when I’m not with them I work at 9-1-1 Consolidated Dispatch Center with a great team and fantastic supervisors that reflect leadership reminiscent of the men and women with whom I served in the military.

2. What were you like in school?

I wasn’t the most studious kid in school. I seldom read the required reading, almost never studied for a test, and when I did decide to study it was always the night before, or the morning of the test. I spent the majority of my time drawing, or writing poetry in class…yet it was during those moments where I focused on my creative outlets that I recalled the lecture of any given subject, which I immediately recalled when I read specific questions on a test. Somehow I often aced the tests, and I still have a paper I wrote in my junior year American Studies class where a teacher wrote a note saying: “If you can do this, how are you not getting an A in my class?!”
Truth be told, I reached out to her about 10 years ago and apologized to her for not being a better student. It wasn’t that I didn’t like school, or learning… I merely wanted to do it on my terms. I’d read history books, but never the chapter I was instructed to read when I was instructed to read it. I’d usually read THOSE whenever the mood suited me. Yes, I was that stubborn.

3. What subjects interested you?

I’m fascinated by a myriad of subjects: philosophy, theology, mythology, ancient civilizations, physics, spirituality, and debating Creationism vs the Evolutionary motif…just to name a few. I’m particularly interested in Morgan Freeman’s new program, The Story of God. I’m really looking forward to sitting down with my children to watch it!

4.What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I want to write stories that will inspire people to think profound thoughts and believe in true love. I have so many stories to share that I hope I live long enough to complete them. And when I do, I pray they will be inspired, and hopeful, and eager to share the wonder of story with friends and family, so that we may never lose sight of the beauty and hope found in books.

5. Which writers inspire you?

George R.R. Martin inspires me to write the rich depth inherent in mythopoeia akin to the legends of fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft and Lucas with the Star Wars series. This is something I strive to accomplish with my historical fantasy, Shadows of Time. For it is in these stories of legends and myth that we capture the true essence of the human imagination.

6. What have you written so far?

First was a collection of poems and love letters titled Dear Love: Diary of a Man’s Desire. Then I wrote The Romantic: A Love Story. My latest two releases include The Secret of Heaven, and Shadows of Time: The Amulet of Alamin.

7. Where can we buy your work?

Currently my works are exclusively available on Amazon. Though The Secret of Heaven is currently only available as an eBook, we do have a scheduled paperback release for May 17th, 2016.

8. Give us an insight into your main character. 

Aiden is who I wish I had taken the time to be. I wish I had pursued academic endeavors in my youth and studied Biblical lore, mythology, theology, philosophy and linguistics at the college level, and had eventually obtained a degree in teaching to give lectures in auditoriums for the next generation of free-thinkers.

Aiden generally tends to take life in stride, but feels a strong sense of obligation when it comes to setting things right. He accepted his father’s imperfections, for what are we without them, because what matters most isn’t the time we have left with those we love, but what we do with that time and in the moment.

9. Where did the idea for The Secret of Heaven come from?

My inspiration for The Secret of Heaven came on May 6th, 2014. It was my daughter’s birthday and I had just dropped her off at her mother’s house because visitations always end when I return to work. I was sitting at my desk when I came across an article about a 1,500 year-old Bible discovered in Turkey when government officials confiscated it from a Black Market smuggling ring. Given my interests in history and theology, I immediately saw a story unfolding in my mind!

It felt like the perfect opportunity to share with the world a little of what I knew and to venture into the mystery genre. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure if I could write a mystery novel… I never thought I would, but after writing a literary romance (The Romantic) and a historical fantasy (Shadows of Time)… I felt inclined to expand my horizons and truly test myself as a writer.

10. How much research did you do?

Despite my then-knowledge base of the history of the subject matter I still needed to conduct extensive research about a myriad of things for the details. Everything from the Septuagint to the Smart Car and the private investigator firms to the defense contractors and the controversies surrounding their involvement in the Middle East. With regard to police procedure I picked the brains of police officers with whom I worked for 10 years during my time as a police dispatcher.

11. What made you actually sit down and start writing?

I was too excited about the concept that I set to work immediately! As far as I was concerned, I needed to write this novel.

12. What is the hardest and the easiest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is merely finding the time to devote to it, at least for me. Because once I’m alone without worrying about where I have to be in the next few hours (work, appointment, errands, etc) I easily fall into this realm between sleep and awake where I can formulate dreams and link them to reality.

If there are ever moments when I’m stumped, which doesn’t happen often…I simply read for a few minutes before one word just ignites the creative spark.

13. Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?

I read as often as I can. Some of my favorite authors include: Tolkien, Martin, Rowling on the fantasy side of the spectrum, but also Ken Follett, Carlos Ruiz-Zafon, Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho and the late-great “Gabo.”

14. How are you publishing this book and why?

I pursued the Self-publishing option after numerous rejections from literary agents and editors of smaller publishing houses. I was told about the Kindle Scout publishing opportunity and after a promising 30-day campaign I decided to build on the momentum of favorable public opinion about The Secret of Heaven. I had hoped to present The Secret of Heaven through traditional means, but beta-readers continuously encouraged me to “get this book out there!”

15. What are the advantages and disadvantages of  self-publishing?

The advantage is maintaining creative control. The disadvantage is shouldering every aspect of publishing that entails having that creative control. Cover design, synopsis, marketing…and then having ensure proper formatting for the various eReader file-types, paperback (based on size/measurements), and/or outsourcing some of that to someone else at your own expense.

Fiverr is a great resource for cover designers, but either you have to provide the stock image (which can cost a pretty penny), or you pay the cover designer more money to provide it for you. In addition to that expense are the expenses of marketing your book, and providing ARC’s (Advanced Review Copies) to reviewers (cost of book, shipping and handling), etc.

To that end you’re the one rowing the boat, navigating it, and holding the fishing poles…reeling, baiting, casting, etc.

“Any port in a storm.”

16. How much of your time is used marketing your books?

Honestly…more time than I should spend on marketing. I mean, I get it, it’s the business aspect of writing and it needs to be done. The conundrum is when you’re limited on time between family, 40-60 hour work week, groceries, making dinner, karate lessons, paying bills/planning the household budget that the little time you have available for writing your next novel is consumed by researching agents, writing query letters, searching for book reviewers, their policies and responding to emails, or other social media queries/comments in order to remain connected with your audience, friends and peers.

17.What do you do to get book reviews?

I network as much as possible to meet book reviewers/bloggers and/or connect with reading groups. There are sites like the Kindle Book Review and the Author Marketing Club with resources to help authors find reviewers, but there’s no guarantee the reviewer will accept, or if they do accept that they will finish your novel and post a review.
There have been a few instances where writers have contacted me to inform me they had bought a copy of my book, read it and posted a review. I’m truly grateful for those moments…especially because they are so few and far between.

18. Is it difficult to find reviewers?

Indeed it is difficult because some folks already have their reading lists full, others may not be interested in your particular genre, and then there are those who refuse to reading Self-published novels because of their previous experience with Self-published books in terms of poor editing, or unpolished quality. I understand their position. It simply makes the slope a little steeper than it already is when trying to raise awareness and generate interest in your novel.

19. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

This is a subjective business. That reality reminds me of something my Aunt Carmen once said when I was 13 years old, “Mijo, you can’t please everyone.”

As long as the reviews are honest assessments about the story and/or the quality of the writing then that’s all that matters.

20. What are your views on using Social Media for marketing?

It can be a cost-efficient method of getting the word out there about your books, but there’s a learning curve. You figure out how to teeter the fine line between marketing and coming-off like a spam bot. You find what works and you tweak what doesn’t, but be mindful of the options that are a waste of money…and believe me there’s plenty of them.

21. Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?

I believe the biggest mistake I made was when I spent $3,000 (not including the cost of of 25 ARC’s for The Romantic) for a publicist who after the 4-month agreement produced no reviewers, little-to-no press-releases, and a website that I am unable to update. He was friendly enough, and had been recommended by another publicity firm who only worked with authors PRIOR to the release of a novel (I had already released The Romantic 4 months prior), but in the end the money I had saved for a new computer was a lost investment without a return.

22. What do you think of “trailers” for books? 

I think they’re a creative way of drawing attention to a book that a reader may otherwise be unaware of if they haven’t heard about the book, or the author. The first book trailer I ever saw was for Anne Fortier’s JULIET, which I had just finished reading at the time and wanted to read other books by the author when I came across the book trailer.

23. How do you relax?

When I’m not writing, or fielding 9-1-1 calls as a police dispatcher, I spend my time with my children. We play. We talk. We read together, or I read to them, or I show them what real music is, or we find any number of activities to maximize our time together during visitations to make memories. Ultimately, my literary aspirations are with my children in mind. Ideally, I want to be able to provide for them and spend as much time with them as possible, without having to look at the clock.

Once they’re tucked into bed, I kick back with a glass of scotch and an episode of my favorite programs… once again, we have Game of Thrones!

24. Where can you see yourself in 5 years?

In 5-years I see myself sitting here in my home office, with more books on the shelves by other authors, and more published novels under my belt that people will love. My children will be in their teens and I hope to be able to continue to provide for them and make ends meet as a writer, so that I may devote more time to them without having to rush to a 9-to-5 job!

25. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

READ! Read everything and read anything you can get your hands on. And then….read more! Read books you normally wouldn’t read. Read beyond your favored genre(s). Stephen King has said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” He was correct!

Not everyone will love your story…That’s okay.

You can’t please everyone! You’re not supposed to.

Write every day! It doesn’t have to be related to a specific story or subject. Just write. Get into the habit of writing everyday… you know, “An object in motion stays in motion.”

WRITE!

In-between all that, connect with other writers. Follow blogs of literary agents who provide a wealth of information about the industry. Learn as much about the business of writing as you can because it is a business.

Take it seriously if you want to be taken seriously.

Never give up. Though if if this is what you were truly meant to do, then you won’t be able to give up.

And when you pour out your heart, make sure you empty it out to the last drop!

26. How can our readers find out more about you and your works?

On Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter @foreverpoetic, website:http://www.felixalexanderwriter.com

Felix Alexander

Thanks so much for taking time to answer my questions!

 

 

The Book or The Movie?

Making news this month are all the books being made into movies! I wonder how many people read the books first and then see the film? Or how many people knew there was book before the film? Some of these have already been released  but they are on my list still.

The Martian

 The Martian by Andy Weir. Published in 2011.  Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.  Now he’s sure he will be the first person to die there. Left for dead by is crew with no way to signal Earth, things look grim. But Mark isn’t ready to throw in the towel quite yet.

The Film version starring Matt Damon was released Sept. 2015

Which one did you prefer? Was anything lost in translation for you?

 

The Circle

THE CIRCLE By Dave Eggers was published in 2013.

The book chronicles tech worker Mae Holland as she joins a powerful internet company which starts out as an incredibly rewarding experience, but as she works there longer things start to fall apart.  The Circle, a powerful technology company run by the so-called Three Wise Men.  Mae quickly climbs the company ladder, but is the Company really what it seems?

There were definitely tones of Huxley and Orwell in this one.  The film adaptation, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks has a release date of 2016.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)

Published in 2011, this YA horror, dark fantasy book is a tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to  an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island.  The story is told through a combination of narrative and vernacular photographs from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.  It seems with this book people either love it or hate it. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about it.

As of now, the film adaptation, directed by Tim Burton, will be out in late September of 2016. Cast includes: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Alison Janney, Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson and Ella Purnell.

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife was published in 2013.

Having nothing left to lose changes everything. Todd and Jodi have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware that their little world is in crisis, though neither is willing to admit it.

Todd is living  a dual existence, while Jodi is living in denial. When it becomes clear that their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodi understands that  everything is at stake. It is only now she will discover just how much she is truly capable of, and just how much she enjoys settling scores. It is a chilling look at the lengths that people will go to protect themselves.

I haven’t been able to squeeze much information about this one. So far all I can confirm is that Adrian Lyne is directing and Nicole Kidman is set to play Jodi. Release date is 2017.

 

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Published in 2012.

Bernadette Fox is notorious. to her Microsoft guru husband she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to her fellow private school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15 year old Bee, she is a best friend and just Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears.  Bee sets out to find her using everything she can think of. Emails, correspondence, secret messages, what ever she can find out. 

There is a lot of humor along with a fascinating story of one womans retreat from the world.

Things are pretty tight lipped on this one and all I know is that Cate Blanchett is in talks to  star in the film version sometime in 2017.

Me Before You (Me Before You, #1)

Published in 2012 and promoted as a Romantic Novel.

If you’ve been anywhere on Social Media lately you can’t help but run across this one!

I thought it was going to be a soppy romance story of the genre I typically do not read! Shockingly, I was wrong! I know, I’m rarely ever wrong! Right?  I laughed, I cried, I didn’t want to  stop. Our main character, Lou, knows a lot of stuff. She knows she likes her job and she thinks she may not be in love with her boyfriend, Patrick. She lives a small life until she takes a job working for Will.

Will, knows that his motorcycle accident took a lot from him.Used to living large and taking everything to the extreme, he doesn’t think he can live the life he has been dealt. And he has a plan to take care of that. As a boss, he is moody, bossy and just a pain!

Lou is not giving in to the pity party and treats him just as she would any other guy. And somewhere along the way her feelings for him become more than just professional. Once she finds out what he has been planning she sets her own plans into motion, showing him that life can be different but still full and worth living.

The film is set for release in August of 2016. Director: Thea Sharrock The Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin as Lou and Will.

 

Forty Rooms by Olga Grushin

 

25716695

In the book Forty Rooms, by Olga Grushin, it seems to all come down to choices. We see her life through forty rooms. First the rooms in her families Moscow apartment. Each room is a choice, or a decision to be made and the next room is the outcome of that choice.

The first part of the book is her childhood in Moscow, how her parents and friends influence her and I thought it was beautifully discussed.

The second part of the book is when she ( we only know her as Ms. Caldwell ) leaves for college in the United States. Another choice, another action. Trying to be a poet, have a family. You gain one life and you give up another.

The last part of the book is The Present. Where after all the choosing and all that she has been through and done, in the end her life was that of most women.

This is a book that is complex, sad, beautiful and complicated and I am so happy that I read it!

This book was released in 2016 by Penguin Group.

 

 

 

 

 

Day Three: Three Day Quote Challenge

3-day-quote-challenge-badge

Day Three!  This has been fun! Going back to the Southern authors today with Anne Rice, author of Gothic Fiction, Erotic and Christian based literature.

Anne was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, although now she lives in California. Her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, was published in 1976 and has gone on to become one of the best-selling novels of all time. She continued her saga of the Vampire Lestat in a series of books, collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles, which have had both great mainstream and cult followings. Interview with the Vampire was made into a motion picture in 1994, directed by Neil Jordan, and starring Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas. Anne’s novel, Feast of All Saints about the free people of color of ante-bellum New Orleans became a Showtime mini series in 2001 and is available now on DVD. The script for the mini series by John Wilder was a faithful adaptation of the novel. Anne Rice is also the author of other novels, including The Witching Hour, Servant of the Bones, Merrick, Blackwood Farm, Blood Canticle, Violin, and Cry to Heaven.

Her home in the Garden District was the setting for the Mayfair Witches. I once had the pleasure of attending an event there. And I have read everything she has published.

Anne’s latest book is Prince Lestat a “true sequel” to Queen of the Damned. The book was released on October 28, 2014.

3 Day quote Challenge Rules

There you have the rules if you want to jump in and share with us! Thanks Lindsay over at homehugshuskies!

Day Two: Three Day Quote Challenge

3-day-quote-challenge-badge

Digging into my treasure chest of quotes by Southern authors again today.

Today is Eudora Alice Welty.  Eudora wrote what she knew. The American South. She was born on April 13, 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi and died in the same place on July 23, 2001.

She won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Optimist’s Daughter in 1973. I love all of her books and was thrilled to meet her once.

   

 

I hope you will give her a read. She is one of our best American authors!

3 Day quote Challenge Rules

So if you would like to do this challenge, just do the above!  Hope you are having a great Monday! P