Sunday, April 13, 2014

Almost Perfect


Is it ever too late to dream? Author Diane Daniels Manning explores the implications in Almost Perfect, a touching novel about an older woman who feels her time has passed and a 14 year-old boy, with mild autism, whose dogged determination demonstrates how one is never too old—or limited—to continue to have goals and aspirations. 

The story begins as Elizabeth "Bess" Rutledge has all but given up her livelihood, serving as one of America's top breeders of Standard Poodles, and her dreams of someday winning Westminster, the premiere dog show in all the world. Bess closes up her once-famous kennel, "Umpawaug," located in rural Connecticut and keeps only two dogs: McCreery, one of her aging champions, and his rambunctious, handsome son, Breaker.

At the same time, Benny, a lonely boy who lives nearby—unhappily, with his neglectful father and stepmother and a distant mother whose affection Benny fervently craves—longs to have a dog to keep him company. When the boy with "curly, reddish hair and baby smooth cheeks" accidentally discovers Umpawaug Kennel and meets and falls in love with McCreery and Breaker, his desire to have a dog grows even stronger. His father remains adamant against the prospect. But when Benny learns of Bess's history with dog shows, he decides that if he can learn to become a dog handler and ultimately show Bess's champions at Westminster, he might finally win the attention of his self-centered mother.

Set-in-her-ways, headstrong Bess initially resists Benny's proposition. But with Benny's relentless prodding and determination—along with the encouraging support of Bess's sister, son and a counselor from the special school Benny attends—Bess softens and an unlikely partnership-mentorship forms. 

Can these two, vastly different people help each other fulfill their respective dreams? Can Bess really put her faith in Benny? Is he capable of becoming a dog handler and facing the stresses of learning how to show Bess's beloved poodles?   

Diane Daniels Manning has crafted a sensitive, hope-filled story about a friendship that slowly blooms in and out of dog show arenas, while also offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse inside the suspenseful world of show-dog competition. McCreery and Breaker may be at the heart of this moving novel, but they also serve the larger theme of how dogs and canine companions often bring unlikely people together, forming life-changing bonds that can resurrect and heal the human spirit.
Beltor,  $9.99 paperback, 9780578136394 , 342 pp
Publication Date: January 29, 2014
To order this book via AMAZON link HERE


Note: Up to 100% of the author's profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children. Visit the author's website (www.diandanielsmanning.com) to learn more

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cristina Mittermeier: Images That Matter


The Artist's and Writer's Life

Cristina Mittermeier believes that the range of her experiences--growing up in Mexico, working as a marine biologist and biochemical engineer, raising children, writing, traveling the world, a career in conservation--all serve to enrich her photography. She says her path to the craft was "a happy accident" that has allowed her better to communicate all her "concerns, passions and hope for a better planet."
In Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe and Inspire (see the review below), Mittermeier has collected photographs from around the world, images captured by a diverse selection of renowned nature and wildlife photographers. As founder and former president of the International League of Conservation Photographers and one of Sony's Artisans of Imagery (2008), she believes that photography can cross barriers, cultures and languages. She ardently advocates for its use as a means to encourage others to protect and preserve the beauty and natural resources of our planet.
You've spent the past 20 years focused on earthly conservation. Where does that passion come from?
I suppose it is self-preservation. Our planet's natural resources are the foundation of our livelihoods and conserving them is the only way to ensure a continued quality of life for all. Setting aside areas for protection and building boundaries that protect species and landscapes are the best tools we have. Photography informs and encourages both.
What inspired the four themes/sections of Sublime NatureAwe, Grace, Joy, Peace?
For me, there is nothing more sublime than nature. The themes of the book evolved as I read the writings of the great philosopher Immanuel Kant, who, in 1764, made an attempt to record his thoughts on the mental state of an observer of nature in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime. He held that the sublime was of three kinds: the noble, the splendid and the terrifying. These aspects gave base to the themes as the National Geographic team and I collaborated. We selected four great emotions of the human spirit as elicited by nature: hope, awe, joy and peace. We assigned a color to each emotion and then we set out to find images that fell into our themes and our color scheme in order to create a visual journey.
How did you choose which photographs to showcase in the book? What do you feel constitutes a truly great photograph?
When I look at an image, I always pose a question to myself: What happens to the character in the picture, be it a person or a bear, when nature and humanity collide? I want images to leave a door open for the viewer to articulate an answer. In the search for images for Sublime Nature, I further wondered: If I could visit that world (the image in a photograph) and be held there in its arms, could this image help me invite others inside, so that maybe they, too, could be held there? I wanted the photographs included in this book to beckon and inspire others the same way they have affected me.
In conservation photography, a great image is one that can tell a story. I am interested in images that better capture the full, complex reality of human beings and our surrounding universe.
In the end, the best images are a marriage of beautiful art, conservation substance and science. They often become iconic, and they always become a part of our collective psyche informing society about our natural world. The best images are a two-way street between me, the viewer and the rest of the world.
A late afternoon bath turns into a joyful water fight in the waters of the Iriri River, Brazil. (photo: Cristina Mittermeier)
Have innovations in photography changed your craft?
Innovations (like better sensors, faster frame rates, smarter cameras) can only help photographers become more effective. But the hard work of understanding our universe and aiming our cameras at subjects that really matter will not change with technology.
Which is your photographic medium of choice--digital or film?
I love digital. I did my time on film, and I cannot think of a single reason to ever shoot it again. It is the photographer, not the camera, not the film, that makes the picture.
How do you think images such as those in Sublime Nature can save the environment, animals and landscapes?
I hope that, at the end of my career, people know I made and presented images that mattered. Photographs, especially when they are iconic, make us pause, reflect and internalize information in a way like no other medium. Images require no translation, and photography has the power to inform, encourage and inspire the protection of our planet's natural and cultural treasures. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Note: This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/28/14), click HERE


Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe & Inspire


Sublime Nature is the first volume in a new series from the National Geographic Society seeking to publish books that confirm a commitment to "the conservation of our extraordinary planet's natural resources." In this first installment, Cristina Mittermeier, a marine biologist turned photographer, has assembled a breathtaking collection of stunning images from an array of wildlife and environmental photographers who capture the beauty of nature in a way she hopes will "awaken broad-based social consciousness."

The book is divided into four parts: Awe, Grace, Joy and Peace. Each section begins with a brief poetic, personal introduction by Mittermeier. Along the way, inspirational quotes from renowned writers, naturalists, scientists and artists serve the four themes. The accompanying 100-plus scenic images from various locales range from landscapes, wildlife, flowers, waterways, local natives and natural wonders of the world. There are penguins atop dramatic icebergs in Antarctica, striking waves of sand on arid Moroccan dunes, a fisherman casting his line into a coral inlet in Indonesia, a graceful ballet of bottlenose dolphins in Peru and a dusky gloom trapped amid rocky chambers in Arizona.

Mittermeier is committed and passionate in her belief that photography can influence the fate of nature. The visuals she has selected are lively and thought-provoking in subject matter—brilliant compositions bursting with vivid color and light. The impact of the photographs paired with profound words is bound to encourage others to find meaning, appreciation and a greater respect for a vulnerable planet facing continued wildlife extinction, climate change and diminishing natural resources.
National Geographic Society,  $35.00 hardcover, 9781426213014 , 224 pp
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE


Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/28/14), click HERE

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I See You Made An Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50


Growing older may not be a picnic, but comedic actress Annabelle Gurwitch (You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up) packs her literary basket with riotous turns in I See You Made An Effort, her very funny, keen observations on middle age.

The book starts with the author, on the cusp of 50, receiving an unwelcome solicitation from the AARP and ends with an essay, rendered in dramatic form, offering a clever take on thoughts that infuse a myriad of menopausal minds as they toss and turn, obsessing over life at four a.m. In between,  Gurwitch offers fourteen, wickedly funny riffs on her hilarious jaunts to the Apple Store, where she lustfully fantasizes about the "Genius" techie, a boy her son's age servicing her computer; her quest for anti-aging concealer; attending a rock concert with her teenage son; the challenges of meditation, growing older in Hollywood, being a member of the "Sandwich Generation" and the perils of Google, among other topics. Unexpected poignancy underscores a piece about a dying friend and her quest for assisted suicide.

Gurwitch, a professed atheist, prefaces many essays with amusing petitions to God, making requests such as if there is a heaven, she'd like to spend her afterlife wearing a plush bathrobe, and if reincarnation exists, she'd like to be a few inches taller in her next life.
 
Humor and sarcasm may serve as the driving force behind each of these comical, laugh-out-loud essays, but profound insight into the absurdities of the feminine experience of modern middle age ultimately infuses Gurwitch's smart, searing wit.

Blue Rider Press,  $25.95 hardcover, 9780399166181, 256 pp
Publication Date: March 6, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE


Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/14/14), click HERE

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time


Disgruntled commuters everywhere will rejoice over Martin Harbottle's Appreciation of Time by British journalist Dominic Utton. The novel is based on the author's true story and centers upon "Dan the man," a husband and new father who moves to the English countryside and commutes, via train, to his job at The Globe newspaper. Fed up with 14 months of chronic delays, Dan, a writer, tracks down the e-mail address of the railroad director, Martin Harbottle, of Premier-Westward rail lines and fires off an e-mail expressing his frustration: "My boss was annoyed with me when I arrived in London; my wife will be annoyed with me when I arrive home again in Oxford. And none of it's my fault. It's your fault." 

The goal of each subsequent correspondence—99 e-mails in all—reflects, in tone and length, the duration of Dan's daily inconveniences due to chronic railroad service delays. Dan believes that if his time has to be wasted, so, too, should the director's, who sporadically writes back to Dan with cautious reserve. What begins as an electronic gripe session spirals into a largely one-sided memoir, where Dan opens up about his life sharing his tastes in music; his impressions of fellow commuters; scandalous current events and politics at his newspaper; the challenges of his home life, especially a wife suffering post-natal depression; and Dan's temptations with alcohol indulgence and a potential extra-marital entanglement. All of this adds up to form a wholly original—and very entertaining—modern epistolary novel.
Oneworld Publications,  $15.99 paperback, 9781780743721, 256 pp
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (3/7/14), click HERE

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Romance is My Day Job: A Memoir of Finding Love at Last


Patience Bloom, a successful editor for Harlequin Books, chronicles her search for love in Romance Is My Day Job. The memoir commences in 1984 at a high school dance, when bookish wallflower, Patience, a sophomore, is ditched by Ken, her good-looking, 'Harlequin-hero'-like date. Sam, a popular, fun-loving senior rescued Patience, the two of them taking to the dance floor and even posing as a couple for the event photographer. 

The picture is all that remained from the thrill of that night. For the next 25 years, Patience endured a series of bad relationships as she moved around the U.S., lived in Paris and finally landed in New York at Harlequin. By the time she turned 40, Patience—professionally successful, but still single—concluded, "My life is nothing like these books, not even a little bit."

References to popular romance books and movies infuse Bloom's honest, witty narrative as she offers a clever, humorous take on hero archetypes and compares lessons learned, often the hard way, from her own romantic entanglements. When Sam contacts Patience via Facebook shortly after her 41st birthday, the two, living on different continents, court each other via Skype for four months. They share an intimacy that affirms Patience's faith in love, encouraging her to reflect upon her life and open her heart. But is Sam too good to be true? Once they finally meet again, face to face, will they be compatible? Suspense deepens as Bloom's beautifully rendered love story illustrates how real life can often be as engrossing as romance novels.
Dutton Adult,  $26.95 hardcover, 9780525954385, 320 pp
Publication Date: February 6, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (2/14/14), click HERE

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Before We Met


Middle-aged Brits, Hannah and Mark Reilly have enjoyed an idyllic marriage for eight months when Hannah eagerly drives to Heathrow Airport to pick up her husband, who was away on a business trip in New York City. But when Mark doesn't return on his scheduled flight, and Hannah cannot track him down by phone, she begins to worry. Days later Mark re-surfaces, claiming plausible, yet rather questionable excuses, which plant a seed of suspicion in Hannah, who grew up with a cheating father and a chronically skeptical mother. Hannah tries to convince herself that she has no real reason not to trust Mark, but her doubts cannot be diverted when she learns that Mark's whereabouts in New York City cannot be confirmed and coworkers in Mark's office—a lucrative software company, which he founded—cannot corroborate his story, either. Hannah stitches together other unexpected revelations including Mark's contact with a mysterious woman doctor, funds withdrawn from Hannah's bank account and the return of Mark's long lost brother. At every turn, Mark seems to have answers to explain everything, but can Hannah believe them?

Doubts, secrets and lies drive the engrossing suspense of the narrative. Author Lucie Whitehouse (The Bed I Made) effectively employs flashbacks in examining the before and after of Hannah and Mark—their single lives, their working lives, the influences of their dysfunctional families and the life they created together. This well-written and well-plotted psychological thriller peels back layers of information, deepening implications that will keep readers guessing through chilling twists and turns.

Bloombury USA,  $25.00 hardcover, 9781620402757, 288 pp
Publication Date: January 21, 2014
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (1/28/14), click HERE

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dog Songs


Dog Songs is a collection of new and favorite poems by esteemed, popular poet Mary Oliver. The 35 poems plus one longer prose-poem-essay that cap off this slender volume, revolve around dogs and all they mean personally to Oliver, while elevating to more universal themes of the human-canine bond and how the companionship of dogs anchors people to the natural, "heaven of earth" world.

Pen and ink drawings by illustrator John Burgoyne mirror the unadorned language that makes Oliver's poetry both intriguing and accessible. Each poem evokes poignant, thoughtful observations about the dogs that have enriched Oliver's life and work. Often in just a few, carefully chosen phrases, simple dog pleasures such as daily walks, frolicking in the grass, smelling flowers, chasing mice, darting ahead and going off leash depict a dog's ability to live joyfully in the moment without the anxieties of the past or the future. These vivid metaphors inspire human counterparts to also seek a more vibrant richness of life.

Oliver's poems about her beloved dog Percy—named after Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English Romantic poet—are succinct and clever. Percy's evolution is creatively explored with insight, compassion and humor as he mischievously eats books, has a rendezvous before he's neutered and even keeps the author company while she does her income taxes. "I am trying to live...the examined life. But there are days I wish there was less in my head to examine," writes the poet. Dogs, in their carefree, unconditional friendship and adoration, offer Oliver—and readers—a hopeful respite.



Penguin Press HC, $26.95 hardcover, 97801594204784 , 144 pp
Publication Date: October 8, 2013
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (10/22/13), click HERE




Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saltscapes: The Kite Aerial Photography of Cris Benton


In Saltscapes, Cris Benton, retired professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, has focused his camera upon the southern end of San Francisco's historic South Bay—the site of salt evaporation ponds that are being restored to tidal wetlands and marshes after a century of industrial salt production. For ten years, Benton researched and was intrigued by the history of these landscapes right in his own backyard. He hiked the salt-pond levees and took photographs of the region. Sky reflections from the earthbound perspective, however, did not do justice to his attempts to capture the confluence of snowy-looking white salt, marsh grass and mudflats. Therefore, Benton began to experiment and decided to attach his camera to a kite.

The book details, in fascinating depth, how he developed his gear and the various prototypes that led him to successfully master Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). Mounting his camera to a radio-controlled kite, Benton has photographed the region from heights up to three hundred feet. This unique, bird's eye vantage point produces distinctive images that peer straight down into the water and the land to reveal unexpected, breathtaking color saturations, textures, shapes, details and form that go beyond what the eye can discern from the ground.

In the foreword of the book, image comparisons are made to the abstract expressionist paintings of Mark Rothko and Benton, himself, pays homage to the artist. This collection of stark, striking photographs visually engage spatial sensibilities and illustrate exciting, fresh perspectives of a largely unexplored American territory in restorative transformation.

Heyday, $50.00, Hardcover, 9781597142472 , 176 pp
Publication Date: December 1, 2013
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE

Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (12/17/13), click HERE


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Reads of 2013


As a book reviewer for Shelf Awareness, I read and review at least three titles per month. Those titles are culled from an often eclectic list of nonfiction and fiction (mysteries and romances) - books I might not normally choose for myself, per se, but titles I have enjoyed reading that broaden my range. This blog tends to highlight a majority of those titles. However, I read a lot more than what I post on this blog.

Below is a list of my favorite reads from 2013. Please note: there is no special ranking. Each book is vastly different in content, form, tone and subject matter, and I feel it is unfair to qualify them in that manner. The numbers are simply there to keep the list orderly. 

To learn more about any of the selections, click on the highlighted titles for additional information:

Fiction:

1)      The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
2)      The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
3)      The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
4)      Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
5)      The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
6)      Tapestry of Fortunes by Elizabeth Berg
7)      Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason
8)      Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
9)      The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
10)    The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow

Nonfiction:

11)    This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
13)    Killing Jesus: A History by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
          by Charles Krauthammer
15)    The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee      

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The First Phone Call From Heaven


Mitch Albom, the author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, delivers a novel which questions the idea of life after life. 

In The First Phone Call from Heaven, select inhabitants of Coldwater, Michigan start receiving brief, often cryptic, calls from loved ones who have died. Some in the sleepy little town look forward to the calls, taking solace; others find them much too emotional and avoid them. Some choose to keep their conversations secret, but folks like Katherine Yellin—a 46 year-old divorced mother—believe the calls received from her beloved, deceased sister must be shared. When Yellin goes public, others, too, come forward until the mysterious communications from the afterlife grab worldwide media attention, turning Coldwater into a circus-like, pilgrimage destination.

Religious and anti-religious wrestle with the implications, along with skeptics like local resident Sully Harding, a former pilot whose wife died while he was serving prison time. The single father's heartbreaking back-story figures prominently into the suspense of the plot. When Sully's seven-year-old son expresses a longing to receive a call from his own deceased mother, Sully sets out on a quest to prove the phone calls asserting that heaven exists are all a hoax.

Albom's ensemble cast of characters reflects varying attitudes, fears and hopes of people coping with guilt, grief and loss. Interjected throughout the briskly paced narrative are details of Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone, what it meant for his own life and its context in the modern world. Albom's dialogue-driven story culminates near Christmas. The story ultimately becomes a social commentary about human connection, encouraging readers to question the meaning of their own lives, faith and beliefs.


The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom
Harper, $24.99, Hardcover, 9780062294371 , 326 pp
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
To order this book via INDIEBOUND link HERE



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mary Kay Andrews: Creating Her Own World Order


The Writer's Life

photo: Bill Miles
Mary Kay Andrews started her career as a journalist, covering what would later become known as the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil murder trial. After leaving the newspaper business, she turned to writing cozy mystery novels, including the Callahan Garrity series about a former cop–turned–struggling private eye–turned cleaning lady. After 10 mysteries, Andrews began writing women's fiction.
Christmas Bliss (St. Martin's Press, $16.99) is her latest--her 21st book, and the fourth in the Savannah series--more adventures featuring Eloise "Weezie" Foley and her Southern belle best friend, BeBe Loudermilk. Weezie is an antique dealer who has a cheating ex, an alcoholic mother, a forgetful father and a gay uncle who was a Catholic priest. BeBe is a thrice-married restaurant owner who is now expecting a baby. In Christmas Bliss, Weezie is pulled in many directions as she prepares for the holidays and her impending Christmas Eve nuptials to her long-time love, a chef suddenly being wooed by the New York restaurant scene.
Andrews's novels offer an absurdist, comic slant on serious issues, where quirky characters merge with plots that are always full of surprises, laughs and heartwarming endings.
How did the Savannah books come about? Did you know from the start this was going to be a series?
Savannah, Ga., was where my husband and I started life as newlyweds--way back when. It's truly a place of my heart. Evocative, parochial and dripping with Spanish moss and Southern charm. I had no intention of writing a series because I'd just ended the Callahan Garrity mystery series, with eight installments.
How do you come up with the clever names of your heroines, especially those in the Savannah novels?
Weezie is named after the heroine of the Kay Thompson's Eloise children's books, which I've always loved. I heard an Atlanta socialite referring to her youngest child as "bay-bay," which she informed me was French for baby--and I knew I would steal that for a character.
And speaking of names, your Callahan Garrity mysteries (published under the name Kathy Hogan Trocheck) have been re-issued under your name. Will you ever return to writing about Callahan?
I loved writing about Callahan and Edna and the House Mouse "girls," and I do sometimes miss them, so who knows? Maybe someday they'll reappear. After 21 books, I've learned never to say never.
You've delivered, on average, a book a year. How do you remain so prolific?
Fear is a great motivator. If I'm not working on a new novel, I start to worry that my readers will forget me and move on to the next hot thing. This past year was a two-book year, with the release of Ladies' Night and Christmas Bliss within five months of each other. Not a feat I want to repeat. Maybe it's the good Catholic girl syndrome that Nora Roberts talks about. You sign a contract, you deliver the goods. I always tell my agent I'll sleep when I'm dead.
Does your Catholic upbringing and faith inform your work?
I'm sure my faith informs my work--hopefully in subtle ways. I believe in family, in faith, in faithfulness. I want the world to be fair, and I dislike bigotry, gratuitous violence and cruelty. I suppose writing fiction is my way of creating my own world order.
If a character from any one of your books could live off the page, which one would you most like to spend time with and why? Is there any character you would try to avoid?
Mary Bliss McGowan, the protagonist of Little Bitty Lies who faked her husband's death in a boating accident, is somebody I'd like to share a drink with. I admire her gutsiness. Scheming, conniving females like Celia Wakefield, the romantic rival in Spring Fever, give me a rash. I'm always wary of women who distrust other women.
How has your journalism background influenced your career as a novelist?
Being a reporter teaches you to ask the hard questions and pay attention to the answers--not just listening, but watching. It teaches you the importance of story structure--beginning, middle and end. It teaches you there's no such thing as writer's block. And you learn the incredibly important skill of working with a good editor, allowing the give-and-take that can lift a so-so piece of prose into something special--or at least something that doesn't suck.
You're passionate about "extreme junking," the search for antiques at flea markets and estate sales--in real life and in your novels. Do you tend to keep things you find and restore, or has eBay become your best friend?
My mother was a junker, and as an impoverished child bride of 22, I learned that I could make a home with somebody else's cast-offs. I've been junking ever since, keeping what I love or passing it along to my grown children or even selling it in my booth in a gift shop on Tybee Island, outside of Savannah. I'm too impatient to wait on the outcome of an eBay auction.
Why do reinvention and the idea of "home" (literally and figuratively) figure so prominently as themes in most of your books?
Most of my readers are women, but I think all of us, deep down, long for home--for that sense of belonging, of being rooted in something, whether it's a physical place, or just an emotional attachment to someone or something. And reinvention is universal, too. Who doesn't dream of having a do-over in life?
You've had a long, varied and prosperous career. Is there anything else you'd still like to explore in your writing?
I joke about my evil plot for global domination, but sure, I'd like to try my hand at writing a screenplay and seeing my story on a big screen--or even a small screen. I've got a cookbook simmering at the back of my mind, and it would be really cool to write a children's book, too. So many ideas, so few hours....
What can readers expect from you next?
I'm working on next summer's book, set in Savannah, with a protagonist who is a wedding florist. Look for Save the Date in early June! 

Note: This interview is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this Q&A on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (12/17/13), click HERE