Adult Fiction Children

#FLTW Summer Reading Challenge @fromleft2write


Wooot! It’s the From Left to Write Summer Reading Challenge!

Here’s what I’ve finished since the challenge began:

The Maze Runner, Stand Up to Bullying, F is for Feelings, David & Goliath,

Test your Dog’s IQ, Mr Zidderdeedee, Orphan Train

Maze Runner







I KNOW alot of books. But I’m all caught up with the challenge!

How are you enjoying the challenge?



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A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker, a FLTW Book Club Pick

A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Phillip Sendker


A Well Tempered Heart

I just finished reading A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philip Sendker which is February’s pick for From Left To Write virtual book club.  I think you’ll laugh at the irony of how I came to read this book: Last year Thein-Kim (of FLTW) and I met Jan-Philip Sendker at a party at BEA, Book Expo America.  Kim was familiar with the author because the club had read his other book, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats. I somehow had missed reading that book and since I’m always keen to connect with an author at a party, I tagged along with Kim to say our hellos. We made our niceties and as Kim and Jan-Phillip chatted I found his German accent and his personality appealing.  In a party of suits and ties, his suit was pretty appealing as well; he looked like a priest.

Anyway, as I listened to the two of them reminisce about The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, I felt like perhaps A Well Tempered Heart might make a nice addition to the books we read at the book club I host at work.  Kim and I chatted about the first book and I thought that perhaps I would need to read the first book before picking up the second.  I was disheartened because I know how busy my reading schedule gets and I doubt if I would have time to read a backlisted title. Onward and upward!

Imagine my surprise the next day as I’m roaming the conference floor at BEA and I come across Jan-Philip’s book signing booth!  The night before Jan-Philip and I had spent a few moments chatting about traveling or Germany or Austria or something which left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling, although it could have been the wine.  I stood in line to secure a signed copy of the book and what do you know, he remembered me and called me by my name! I was smitten all over again.

A Well Tempered Heart

Can you read his handwriting?

It says For Pam! I hope you will like it! yours jPS

Isn’t that great?  With those memories freshly unearthed I plowed into the book; fearful that, based on my chat with Kim, that I might not be able to follow the story because it’s the second in the series.

How pleasantly surprised I was.  Reading about Julia reminded me about my own wanderlust; always seeking that next adventure, that next place to discover a bit of myself in other foods (mostly) and cultures.  Kind of like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love without Javier Bardem and all her  whining.  The first item of business was to discover where Burma was (it’s in SE Asia near Thailand and now called Myanmar).  The second was to discover what a longyi was.  It’s an item of clothing , much like a sarong, that’s worn by both sexes, although for the life of me I cannot figure how they stay on!

But back to wanderlust. Perhaps it’s a romantic ideal but the thought of living longer than 6 weeks in another country is appealing.  Especially given that we are having a very snowy winter in the Northeast, my thoughts think of nothing but warm climates. I’ve heard it said that in order to truly appreciate something, you should live in another country for longer than a week to 10 days.  I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that: I lived in the Southern Czech Republic for approximately 6 weeks.  I traveled in and around Prague and some of the smaller provinces, learning Czech (difficult), accidentally learning German (easier than Czech), and immersing myself in their culture by devouring Czech writers:

  • Milan Kundera
  • Karel  Capek
  • Josef Skovercky
  • Jaroslav Hasek

Since I’d grown up as a musician I was already familiar with Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana but developed a deep love for Smetana’s symphonic poems Ma Vlast, which means my country.  When my brain needs quieting, these musical pieces sooth my nerves and settle my need to wander.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Burma. I hear it’s not too safe to visit and I’m sure they don’t carry Zyrtec there for my allergies but you never know. Thailand is nearby; and “we are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we fail to do.”

So there’s that.

Have you ever lived in another country?


This post was inspired by the novel A Well-Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.  Feeling lost and burned out, Julia drops her well paying job at a NYC law firm. After hearing a stranger’s voice in her head, she travels to Burma to find the voice’s story and hopefully herself as well. Join From Left to Write on February 4 we discuss A Well-Tempered Heart.

Adult Fiction

Gone Girl Movie?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware that Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, has been a best seller for like two years.  In a row!  I stumbled upon the book thanks to my friends at From Left To Write book club.


Gone Girl was my first foray into modern psychological thrillers and boy was it a punch in the gut! Here’s my review. I have mixed feelings, however, about the book becoming a movie. I’m not sure it’s something I can relive again.

Fortunately, I may not have to, because thanks to many articles floating around the web, I’ve learned that the author has rewritten the ending.  Is that good or bad?

Plus, I’m not a big fan of who they cast in the movie.  Ben Affleck as the husband? Nah, too old, and too, well, unremarkable.  I just saw that Doogie aka Neil Patrick Harris will be playing Desi Collings in the movie. I’m all like, who is playing whom?  I also just discovered that Tyler Perry (we know and love him as Madea) is also in the movie.

I’ll tell you what Gillian, you were smart to hire Tyler Perry.  Whenever Amy stars acting up, Madea can come in there and set everything in order.  Or at least bring some comic relief.


madea tyler perry



What do you think? Will you see it?



Quick #BEA13 Recap: The Black Count

I realized I haven’t done my BEA recap so for the next few weeks I’ll post my pics of books and authors I met.

The Black Count

Here I am with the smart Tom Reiss.  I read The Black Count back in the fall as part of the From Left to Write online book club.  The book is about Alexandre Dumas, pere, as they say.  The father of the man who wrote The Three Musketeers.  To be sure, AD had his own very exciting life and was also a writer.  Here’s my review.

I probably frightened Mr Reiss to death because I told him that as a trained librarian, I am forced to check the references of the books I read.  I was glad to tell him that his references checked out.  He screamed and ran away from me!

Not really.  But he was a super smart guy and if his people are listening right now, I would LOVE to review The Orientalist.  (call me)

Books Diversity Non Fiction

The Black Count and Alex Haley- FLTW

When you think of France you undoubtedly think of one place: the Eiffel Tower.

But what do you think of when you think of 18th century France? Do you think of Les Miserable or The Three Musketeers?

If so, you’d be almost correct.  The story of The Black Count, by Tom Reiss, is a tale of  Alex Dumas, the man who fathers the man who writes The Three Musketeers and inspires The Count of Monte Cristo.

As a side note, I often refer to The Shawshank Redemption (or Friends) for many private chuckles.  In this case, the prisoners in Shawshank prison visit the library and one of them sees a book entitled The Count of Monte Cristo.  The prisoner mispronounces the author’s name as Alexandree Dumass.  (chuckle)  They are then informed that this book is about something they might be interested in:  a prison break.


Anyway, where were we?

oh yes, the Black Count.

Who is the Black Count? It’s no other man than Alex Dumas, the man who fathered the man who wrote The Three Musketeers, etc.  You know him, we discussed him in the previous paragraphs.  So, it’s no big deal, right? A black man fighting in the military? Maybe so today, but 3 centuries ago, this was practically unheard of.  There was, however, a brief time in France in the 18th century (1700s) when Blacks experienced moderately good civil rights.  They could be free, own property, conduct business, marry within and outside their race, etc.

I thought it might be interesting to find out what Black men looked like back then.

Notice anything familiar? Its our Alex Dumas  in the lower left corner, riding the horse; the same man as on the cover of The Black Count.  Also? The man on top of Alex Dumas? Yep, that’s his son, the author (Three Musketeers).

Now that we know what men might have looked like I thought it would be equally as interesting to see what the women looked like.  These photos, however, were more difficult to find.

I can only assume the lack of depiction of Black women had to be because of their lack of social standing regardless of the laws.  What I find interesting is what the mixed race people might have looked like.  If Dumas was of a White and Black union, the depictions I’ve seen don’t show it.  Some of the pictures show lighter skinned Blacks who, to me, look like they could be mixed.  But then, I guess this could be a cause for deeper research, sort of like an Alex Haley type of Roots exercise; remember that book? Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were more photos of the French and Haitian people of this time period so we could compare Alex Dumas’ history to Alex Haley’s?


If you like history or Black history or French history or The Three Musketeers, pick up a copy of The Black Count and research the turbulent history for yourself.  It’s amazing, really.

I give the book 4 paws for the historical retelling of life for 18th century Blacks; the book is, however, very informative and thorough, much like a textbook.



Alexandre Dumas’ works were heavily influenced by his father, also named Alexandre Dumas. In the biography The Black Count, author Tom Reiss tells how Dumas went from slavery to become the equivalent of a five star general in the French military. Join From Left to Write on October 11 as we discuss the The Black Count. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.