Search This Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011


by Meg Mitchell Moore - to be released May 2011

THE ARRIVALS seems to be based on that old adage, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."  Ginny and William Owens live a quiet and peaceful life in Vermont.  Their three children are grown and off on their own.  Or so it would seem. 

One by one, each of their offspring return home one summer, each for different reasons but none are eager to leave.  Lillian arrives first with her two small children, running away from her marriage.  Stephen show up unexpectedly with his very pregnant, workaholic wife.  Rachel, their youngest, is having financial and relationship problems and escapes her NYC apartment. 

As everyone squeezes into the Owens' house, tempers flare and before long everyone is irritable. Compounding the problem, Stephen's wife is put on bed rest and it's like a Chinese fire drill the way the author moves the characters to different sleeping quarters.

THE ARRIVALS was not a soothing escape.  None of the protagonists is even remotely happy, no one seems to communicate with their significant others, the three siblings are self-centered and childish and the constant upheaval and bickering is just too annoying.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

STRATEGIC MOVES - Stone Barrington Series No. 19

by Stuart Woods - available in bookstores or as an eBook

Stuart Woods is back with a new Stone Barrington mystery.  As usual, money just seems to fall into attorney Barrington's lap.  He now has an offer for a partnership plus a million dollar bonus from the law firm he's of counsel to for bringing in a major new client, Strategic Services. He's just inherited a small jet from the deceased former CEO of Strategic Services, and all of this on top of the apartment and house he's inherited in past Stuart Woods' novels.  Barrington is joined by his former NYPD partner Dino Bachetti, and Lance Cabot of the CIA for his almost nightly dinner at the very upscale Elaine's Restaurant in NYC.  There's never any mention of a check, so one can only assume that Stone pays for everyone every night.  Has Woods stretched the credibility factor far enough for you yet?   No, you say?  Then just wait until you get to the plot of STRATEGIC MOVES.

Stone finds himself in the middle of what appears to be a Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme as well as flying with members of Strategic and the CIA on a whirlwind trip to Iraq and Europe to covertly extract an arms merchant, which trip ends in the extractee escaping from the CIA by parachuting from the jet at 18,000 feet while sitting inside of a Mercedes sedan!  To top it off, the Mercedes conveniently smashes down into someone's pool, damaging some landscaping.  I would have thought that an object weighing just shy of 5,000 pounds would do a lot more damage than a little displaced water.  Almost forgot, through all of these escapades, the CIA learns the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.  All along the way, Barrington picks up stray clients and stray lovers.

Despite the incredible fantasy life Mr. Woods has invented for Stone Barrington, I thoroughly enjoyed STRATEGIC MOVES.  It was easy-peasy reading and a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Monday, February 21, 2011


As most of you know, I've been blogging and reviewing books for a little more than a year now. Someone asked me recently what my criteria is for choosing a new book to read. Many things are factored into my choices; sometimes it's because I've read and enjoyed books by the author in the past, sometimes it's because the cover art is intriguing, many times it's because a book has been referred to me by a friend and sometimes it's because I'm just plain desperate and have nothing new to read so I pick up the one paperback at the supermarket that I haven't seen before.

I always read the first one or two pages of a book before I purchase it to see if the author will "hook" me in quickly.  This is the method that works best for me when reading advance copies of books by new authors and I've read and reviewed some pretty wonderful books this past year.

I've also chosen books based on reviews by other sources such as book reviews in People Magazine (which always seem to be pretty accurate), on-line reviews and, yes, I have to admit, I've often purchased and enjoyed a book recommended by Oprah.

The one publication I can rarely depend on to find something new to read is The New York Times Book Review Magazine in the Sunday NY Times. Now I have to explain why. Oh, I can find new books based on the advertisements but the actual reviews most often leave me puzzled and confused. I consider myself to be fairly literate but I think it's a case of TMI....too much information. Unlike People Magazine reviews which are short and snappy, the ones in the Sunday NY Times are pages long, overly intellectualized and most often by the end of the review, I can't even decipher whether or not the reviewer actually even liked the book they reviewed. What is up with that?!?

However, I haven't given up completely on the Times and I was just leafing through the one from January 30, 2011 before putting it into the recycle bin. When I read Neil Genzlinger's review of four new memoirs I was glad I kept that week's magazine. Two memoirs that he panned were books I was planning to purchase and now I'm glad I didn't; one I wouldn't have been interested in at all and the fourth, AN EXCLUSIVE LOVE by Johanna Adorjan and translated by Anthea Bell, went to the top of my reading list.

Mr. Genzlinger's pithy and humorous article was a pleasure to read. He ended his review with these thoughts: "If you don't feel you were discovering something as you wrote your memoir, don't publish it. Instead, hit the delete key, and then go congratulate yourself for having lived a perfectly good, undistinguished life. There's no shame in that."

Kudos to Mr. Genzlinger!  He has singlehandedly renewed my faith in the New York Times Book Review Magazine!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


What do you do when someone gives you a TRIPLE dog dare?

Alice Askew, my daughter-in-law's mother, did just that at Christmas.  She sent me a check, an application form and a triple dog dare for me to join MYSTERY WRITERS OF AMERICA.

I don't believe there's a mystery story or novel anywhere inside of me, but as most of you know, you can't do anything with a triple dog dare except take the dare.  Which I did. 

I am now a proud card carrying associate member of MWA - NYC Chapter as a reviewer.  Incidentally, new members are appropriately referred to as "fresh blood".  

I have to admit it's been fun reading 3rd DEGREE, the MWA newsletter, and seeing photos of some of my favorite authors like Lisa Scottoline and  Bryan Gruley. 

Now I just have to be careful that Alice doesn't triple dog dare me to write a mystery!  Although I might just have to return the dare sometime.  Alice, Askew would be a great title for a book, don't you think?

Thank you, Alice, what a clever and thoughtful gift!

HOUSE DIVIDED, A Joe DeMarco Thriller

by Mike Lawson - to be released July 2011

Although the National Security Agency was caught wiretapping U.S. citizens without warrants and the government called a halt to this practice, it doesn't mean it's not still happening.  If anything, it's now handled more clandestinely.

NSA, still operating illegally, records what seems to be a rogue military group murdering two Americans.  Since they're not supposed to be working without warrants, they can't do anything with the information they've uncovered without  finding another way to disclose what happened. 

Enter Joe DiMarco, a fixer for the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  When Paul Russo is the victim of what appears to be a random murder, the FBI quickly takes the case away from the police.  Joe DiMarco is pulled into Russo's murder because he's a distant cousin. 

The more DiMarco delves into Russo's life and tries to settle Russo's affairs, the more convinced he is that everything is wrong with the picture the FBI is painting of Russo.  When he learns that Russo stumbled upon some very damaging information about high level military personnel and with the Speaker out of commission, DiMarco follows the trail all the way to the top as the bodies pile up.  As DiMarco tracks the people involved, members of the NSA are tracking him, leading to an explosive ending.

HOUSE DIVIDED is a good political thriller.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I was stuck on hold on the phone yesterday and decided to waste time Googling my name. Wow, what an eye opener! You should try it!

Along with all of the references to book reviews and the Black House, I found that my butterfly photo really gets around!  As well as being referenced on numerous blogs, someone is using my butterfly photo for an eBay auction to sell buddleia seeds.  All gave me credit for use of the photo which is obviously why they showed up in my search.

Becoming more intrigued, I kept searching and even when you think you've passed all of the references to yourself, more links pop up in later pages. After Googling my name I found one on the 14th Google page.  The Phuket Gazette (pronounced fouquet like bouquet) for March 27-April 2, 2010 featured a large copy of my Monarch butterfly photo on page 24 in an article about attracting butterflies to your garden.  I had heard of Phuket, which is in Thailand, just last week when my friend Sue was looking at something on eBay and wasn't sure she wanted to bid since the seller was located in Phuket.  By the way, my thanks to the Gazette for giving me credit for the photo.

So next time you find yourself on indefinite hold with your utility company, cable company or phone company, instead of becoming frustrated and impatient, use the time to Google yourself.  Hopefully you'll be pleasantly surprised!


by Kaira Rouda - to be released in May 2011

Thirty-nine year old Kelly Mills Johnson is restless and bored with her wealthy suburban existence.  With her sons away at summer camp and her husband busy with his career, stay-at-home mom Kelly is experiencing a mid-life crisis.  The stability of the lives of her friends and neighbors has begun to falter and Kelly finds herself in the middle of everyone's angst as their marriages and finances crumble. 

Amidst all of this, Kelly decides she needs goals in her own life to find just what will make her happy.  Suddenly, numbered post-it notes pop up on every surface of her home recording T2C (things to change).  On the path to changing herself, Kelly is able to help the anorexic teenage daughter of her close friend.

While it was refreshing to read a woman's novel whose main protagonist didn't need to dump the hubby in order to blossom, the designer duds, upscale spas, expensive shopping trips and characters that just grazed the surface kept HERE, HOME, HOPE firmly in my chick-lit category instead of the more elevated women's fiction.  A fun read that's quickly forgotten.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

MURDER IN THE MARAIS - Aimee Leduc Series No. 1

by Cara Black - available in bookstores and on eBook

Aimee Leduc is a private detective in Paris known for her computer investigations. 

She is approached by Soli Hecht to decipher a fifty year old encrypted photograph and Leduc is quickly immersed in a seach for the killer of older Jewish people in The Marais. The Marais translates to "the swamp", a section of Paris mainly inhabited by Jews during the Nazi occupation.

Her search for the killer takes place on the eve not only of the signing of a European trade agreement that will also make sweeping changes regarding immigration reminiscent of the Nazi regime, but also the election of a new French prime minister.  Aided by her partner Rene, a dwarf, Leduc uncovers a twisting tale of treachery and murder spanning the last 50 years and leading up to the highest levels of government.  Unable to trust the police, they must find the evidence they need to expose the killer before the election and before anyone else is killed. 

Ms. Black has created a lively duo in this, her debut novel first published in 2003.  Highlighting the relationship between the Germans and French and the treatment of French Jews during that era are vivid and difficult reminders of the horrors of the Occupation as well as the war. 
Although late in discovering Cara Black's novel (thank you Stacey and Robert for the Valentine's Day gift), I look forward to reading others written by this author.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


If you're over 50 you're already receiving magazine and membership offers from AARP.  When mine first showed up a few years ago, I thought it was a joke sent by one of my friends.  I didn't feel old enough to receive anything from AARP (and actually still don't).  But now my mailbox is chock full of senior offers and publications.

The latest is RENAISSANCE MAGAZINE published by the New Jersey Foundation for Aging.  Featured on the cover is an active, happy senior couple riding a bike together.  Looks good, except it doesn't look like a bicycle built for two and one of them is going to wind up with a broken hip if they hit one of the potholes created by the tough winter we've experienced in NJ.  They won't be smiling then for sure.

The cover of RENAISSANCE must have been designed by someone barely out of their twenties.  The little highlighted headlines include Medicare Update, Fitness and Mental Sharpness and Clever Cooking.  Clever cooking?  If you're really clever, you gave up cooking the same year that your last child left the nest. 

But the BIG cover headline was my favorite!

On Your Fitness . On Your Nutrition
On Your Creativity . On Your Technology
On Your Taxes . On Your Volunteerism

I pictured a happy smiling senior woman, munching on a Power Bar, while jogging to her pottery class, stopping by her accountant's on the way.  Oh, and she was twittering all of her friends about her great new volunteer position setting up hiking trips through the Mojave for other active seniors at the same time.  Talk about multi-tasking!  The headline alone left me exhausted!

Let's take them one by one, shall we?

On Your Fitness - Well, I just had a perfect physical, but smashing my leg when I missed three steps and fell in NYC at Christmastime has made me a lot more cautious about every step I take, so I'll skip that one for the moment.

On Your Nutrition - Hmmmm, guess Mallomars for breakfast doesn't work for older folks?  I'll just have to wash mine down with that oh-so-trendy pomegranate juice.

On Your Creativity - Hope my blog covers this one, although I did make some really cool gifts for family and friends this Christmas.  And I am hoping to be more creative with my wardrobe.  But I am finding that I sometimes start a project like cleaning out my closet and CREATE quite a mess and run out of steam before the job is complete.  I guess that falls under the heading of creative.

On Your Technology - I do know how to use a computer, an eReader, an answering machine and a cell phone.  Even a scanner and a fax, and I'm such a dinosaur that I actually had a job that required me to send messages by Telex.  I'm going to have to focus on this area a little since I still can't get the 12:00 to stop flashing on my DVD player.  But since my cable box and cell phone always have accurate time, I don't really need another place to know if it's morning or night.  I have to admit that some of the new technology just gives me a damn headache.  I'm waiting for some young genius to finally invent a true universal remote that will turn on the TV, the cable, the DVD player and Wii for streaming movies from Netflix.  Now that is the technology that someone should be working on, because hunting through seven remotes to watch a movie is just too tiring when you're old. 

On Your Taxes - Wow, that one is a downer and could rob anyone of the strength to focus on fitness, creativity or nutrition.  We'll skip taxes for now since we have until April 15th to get really stressed about them.

On Your Volunteerism - This is a good one.  I've done a lot of volunteering in the past.  I was on a local Board of Education for three years.  I was a board member for Literacy Volunteers of America, the library in the town we lived in before moving to Mendham, and also the Interfaith Food Pantry.  Many many moons ago, I was a very pregnant Pink Lady at Morristown Memorial Hospital while awaiting the arrival of my first son.  With the arrival of children I volunteered to be class mother, cub scout treasurer, and something with the Kick-a-poos.  I've done some other volunteering as well, but with the arrival of AARP magazine and all of the other senior mailings maybe I should volunteer at the local recycling center since seniors are besieged with unsolicited offers and someone has to sort all of those printed publications.

Leafing through RENAISSANCE, you'll find ads for reverse mortgages.  We all know what they are.  They're those lending vehicles that let you spend your children's inheritance BEFORE it's too late!  There are ads for mausoleums; don't think I'm ready for that yet.

There are some informative and some very dull articles, but my favorite was WHAT'S THE WORD.  This article deals with "new" words used by our children or grandchildren.  Words like tweet, chillax, emotional dump (sounds ugly) and unfriend.  They even offer definitions of email shorthand like ROFL which I hope you all know is rolling on the floor laughing.  I personally prefer LMFAO, but then I've always enjoyed a good expletive or two. 

But honestly, folks, we're getting older but hopefully we're not getting STUPIDER.  We know the things we need to focus on and the things that we need to do to protect our futures.  But these magazines just seem to take the fun out of life and the wind out of my sails.  My suggestion to the NJ Foundation for Aging is that they hire some actual SENIOR CITIZENS (I'm using caps so you know I'm yelling) to write some fun articles about things older people love to do, hobbies they looked forward to pursuing when their children were older, friends they wanted to reconnect with and yes, even blogging.

Monday, February 14, 2011


by Michael Kortya - available in bookstores or as an eBook

Returning from WWI, Arlen Wagner is travelling by train with Paul Brickhill to the Florida Keys in search of work.  But Arlen has a strange gift; when someone is close to death he sees smoke in their eyes and sometimes even their fleshless skeletons.  Arlen sees just that in his fellow passenger on a train to Florida and, despite the jeers of his fellow passengers, Arlen and Paul get off at the next station.  The train continues on to to the Keys and is destroyed by a violent hurricane. 

But the worst is still ahead for Arlen and Paul as they find themselves stranded at Cypress House, a rundown tavern in a small corrupt town in Florida.  Arlen and Paul are beseiged by the local judge and police and soon find themselves penniless when Arlen's savings are stolen.  Rebecca Cady, the owner of Cypress House, allows them to begin working to rebuild the hurricane damaged tavern to earn enough to get back on the road to look for work.   But mystery, intrigue and corruption surround both Rebecca and Cypress House and both men become embroiled in the impending disaster of this corrupt small town, even as they are both falling in love with Rebecca.

This bleak novel with its backdrop of the Great Depression, Arlen's supernatural ability to foresee death and characters that have no respite from their merciless lives combine to make THE CYPRESS HOUSE an unrelentingly grim and difficult book to read.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

BOX 21

by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom - available in paperback

BOX 21 is another gritty Swedish thriller from the authors of THREE SECONDS (which I reviewed in December).  

Written before THREE SECONDS, this novel is the story of Lydia and Alena, two beautiful young girls from Lithuania, who were enticed to Sweden with the promise of good jobs and a better life.  Instead, they were two more victims of human trafficking and were quickly locked away, beaten and sexually abused repeatedly and used as prostitutes. 

When Lydia is beaten injured, the police intervene and we're reintroduced to Det. Inspector Ewert Grens, the sad and lonely protagonist from THREE SECONDS.  Hospitalized for her injuries, Lydia is aided by Alena in obtaining a weapon and explosives and, after taking hostages in the hospital, she demands to talk to Bengt Nordwall, Grens' longtime friend and colleague. The hostage situation is quickly out of control, and coincides with Grens' hope of finally arresting the man who destroyed his life when he permanently injured Anni, Grens' love and fellow officer many years before.

All of the evidence Lydia has amassed about the horrors she and Alena endured are on a videotape in Box 21 at the Central Rail Station.  But Grens has to make a tortured decision about who is best served by revealing the evidence, risking his career in the process.

Once again Roslund and Hellstrom have lifted the veil on a small part of the bleak underbelly in Sweden as well as the hopelessness of actually stopping the flow of human trafficking.  Missing was a more in-depth view of Grens' character, but BOX 21, though not as intricate as THREE SECONDS, was still a compelling mystery.

Friday, February 11, 2011


by Stephen King - available in bookstores and eBook

I've been a Stephen King fan since he wrote his first book many, many years ago.  He lost me for a while when he wrote THE DARK TOWER series, but I couldn't leave him for long and returned when that series was over. 

FULL DARK, NO STARS is a wonderful quartet of stories with just a tiny touch of the supernatural as only King can do.

First up is 1922, the story of a farmer who enlists his son's help to murder his wife to keep her land.  This was my least favorite of the four stories, but was still excellent.

My favorite, BIG DRIVER is the story of Tess, a middle aged novelist, who is raped and left for dead on her way home from a book signing.  Her quest for revenge is pure Stephen King!

In A GOOD MARRIAGE, King explores the reactions of an ordinary woman who discovers that her husband of many years is a monster who has committed unspeakable crimes. What should she do, and while reading this chilling story, the better question is, what would you do if you made this discovery?

FAIR EXTENSION is a frightening tale of a desperately ill and unhappy man who makes a deal with the devil to have the life and success he wants, but only if he is willing to inflict pain and suffering on someone he hates.

King finds the darkest place in all of us and magnifies our worst fantasies; spinning them into chilling and unforgettable tales.

FULL DARK, NO STARS is Stephen King at his absolute best!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Win a copy of WHY I LEFT THE AMISH

I told you I had a surprise for you!

To kick off the one year anniversary of Monarch Book Reviews, Saloma Furlong has been gracious enough to provide a copy of her just published memoir, WHY I LEFT THE AMISH, for one lucky reader.  Click this link for a chance to win Ms. Furlong's book

If you have any difficulty using this link, just email your name to

The winning entry will be chosen by the author when she visits Mendham Books in Mendham, New Jersey for a discussion and book signing on Sunday, March 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm. 

I reviewed an advance copy of Saloma's memoir this past October and after exchanging emails, she agreed to do an Author Interview for my blog (see the previous blog post).  The following is a reprint of my original review of Ms. Furlong's book:

Ms. Furlong's memoir takes us inside the rural life of the Amish in Ohio; a life ruled by the men of the community. Growing up in an abusive and dysfunctional family, the author suffered many indignities before summoning the courage to embark on a new life in Vermont, a place she had only visited in magazines and in her own imagination.

As an outsider, or someone considered "English", I didn't know much about the Amish culture before reading this book. I always considered them to be peaceful religious people who worked the land and didn't participate in wars or use modern technology. Their sense of community seemed to be the cornerstone of their peaceful existence. And let's not forget those beautiful quilts we all covet.

It never occurred to me that even within this group there could exist a caste system and tolerance for abuse -- emotional, physical and sexual -- with little or no protection for the young women of the community. Every facet of the author's life as a young Amish woman was training for subservient community life with no concern for individual pursuits. As her anger at her situation grew, so did her desire to create a life of her own.

How wonderful for Ms. Furlong that she was able to meet so many people that would assist her in finding her way in the world. As she became more mature and confident, she was able to return to the Amish community for her father's funeral with far less trepidation than one would expect.

If you'd like to learn more about the Amish life, Ms. Furlong's book raises the curtain for a peek inside this culture and religion in her fascinating and heartfelt memoir. The author's courage is uplifting and I look forward to reading the next installment of her journey.

Author Interviews - SALOMA FURLONG

Saloma Furlong, the author of WHY I LEFT THE AMISH, was kind enough to grant me an interview.  I reviewed Ms. Furlong's poignant memoir on October 28, 2010.  Ms. Furlong has also provided a "fresh off the presses" copy of her book for one lucky reader.  Please see the post above to enter for a chance to win her memoir.  You can read more about Saloma Furlong on her own blog, AboutAmish.  Saloma, thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Lynn:  When did you decide to write about your experience?

Saloma:  I cannot remember exactly when my writing went from journal writing to setting out to write a book, but I think it was about 16 years ago. Since then, the story has evolved many times, as have I. I tried selling the book about twelve years ago, but it was a completely different book back then. I'm glad it's had a chance to develop -- it is now a much better book.

Lynn:  I couldn't help but wonder how you got the courage to strike off on your own when you did after growing up in such a closed environment. Could you tell me what you thought your future would hold at that time? Did you have people you knew who could help you when you left the Amish community?

Saloma:  I had no idea what my future would hold, quite honestly. I only knew that something out there had to be better than the unbearable life that was mine. With my father's untreated mental illness, and the denial around all that, both on the part of my mother and the Amish community in general, I could tell there was no help in sight. Some may call it courage, but I call it desperation. When I got to the point to which I kept asking myself how my life outside the Amish could be any worse than the one I was living, it took some of the fear out of the unknown. In other words, my fear of the known was greater than it was of the unknown. I believe all of us can call on our inner strength when a situation gets bad enough -- and mine was. I took a risk when I was ready to leave and asked someone for help. Thankfully, that person did help me. She and her husband became angels along my journey, of which there were many. My journey would most likely have been very different without their help. I am currently writing a series on my blog called "Angels along My Way." The couple who helped me is part of that series.

Lynn:  Delving into a difficult past can be very painful. Did you find that writing your book was more difficult than you thought it would be when facing the reasons you left the Amish community?

Saloma:  There are several ways of delving into the past. Before I could even begin to write this book, I had to embark on a healing journey, which involved intense therapy for nearly five years with a grief counselor. I had so much grief to work through after leaving the Amish. I am talking about all the stages of grief -- the scariest one was the sadness. I sometimes felt there was no bottom to the pit of sadness. My counselor kept assuring me that there was a bottom, and that I would find it. She also kept telling me that sometimes the only way out is through. She was right about both. To avoid going to the hard places would only have buried the grief, which meant that I had to go "through," not "around." And I discovered that tears are a healing balm. Over those five years I probably cried a river of tears. But I did not get buried in sorrow, rather my tears allowed me to see the beautiful rainbow and I began to feel a whole range of emotions, not only those mired in sorrow. It was after going through this difficult time that I was able to look at my Amish life in a whole new way. I no longer felt that it was all bad, but rather I could see that the Amish life helped shape me into who I am today. It was only after going through this process that I was able to write about my experiences at all. The writing part was easy once I'd gone through the most intense part of my healing. I will be healing my whole life, but the hardest part was done when our two sons were little. I find writing such a wonderful way of expressing my full range of emotions. Once we've faced our demons, we have nothing more to fear.

Lynn:  Have any of your siblings or friends from that period in your life chosen to leave the community as you did?

Saloma:  All four of my sisters have left since I did, though my two brothers stayed. I understand that several of my friends have also left. I am hearing from some of them, who have heard of my book and have contacted me. So, the answer is that I don't know how many of my friends from that time have left, because I lost touch with them.

Lynn:  In your book you talk about the contact you've had with your Amish family in recent years. How were you able to reconcile with them and quite honestly, forgive them?

Saloma:  There are as many answers to that question as there are members of my family. Interesting that it was my father's violence that was the catalyst for me to leave the first time, yet I feel I've forgiven him more fully than I have my mother or my brother. The reason is Dad had a mental illness that was untreated at the time, and when help was offered from the county social workers, it was my mother who turned them down. After I left, the family did get help, and Dad's illness was treated. When he took his medication, he was no longer violent. For me, forgiveness comes easier when I can understand why the person did what he did, and even more so when that behavior changes. Both of these factors were true for my father. In the end I feel that I had as good a relationship with him as was possible. I am finding my relationship with my mother was much more complicated. I still do not understand why she did many of the things she did. Even though she is no longer alive, I still have a hard time understanding and fully forgiving her for everything. And in terms of forgiveness, my biggest challenge is my older brother. I just do not understand why or how he could do so many things that hurt so many people. I hope someday I will be able to fully forgive him for all the pain he caused me and others. As far as reconciliation... that is easy once the forgiveness has taken place... it is much like the process of writing, once the deep healing has taken place.

Lynn:  You were raised in a very religious community and I'm not sure if you can still practice the same version of your faith if you leave the community. Did you join a church and what religious training did you provide to your children?

Saloma:  The Amish teach that you are either Amish or you are not -- there just is no in between. In terms of their way of life, I disagree with that. There are so many Amish ways I have integrated into my life -- the homespun arts; the solid work ethic; the closeness to the earth; and their refusal to fall hook, line, and sinker for the newest fashions and technologies -- which means I am both Amish and not Amish. However, I was very willing to change my spiritual beliefs, from what I consider to be punitive beliefs that are rooted in medieval times, to something more inviting and joyful. My husband and I were part of a Presbyterian church group when our sons were little. We loved that church group, but then the pastor, who had been the leader of that church, left his wife of many years, who had mothered their five children, and left the church, too. That shook our confidence. I have been searching for a church group that I feel comfortable in for quite a few years. This is complicated by the fact that we have moved so many times. I like conventional churches for their joyful rituals, such as singing, but I like the Quakers for the quiet meditative quality of their services and for the equality of it all -- the whole congregation does not depend on one person to interpret spiritual beliefs. I am looking for something that integrates these various qualities in one community. I've not found that yet.

Lynn:  In WHY I LEFT THE AMISH you share some very intimate things that happened to you. How did your husband and children react to reading your book?

Saloma:  My husband helped me shape my book into what it is today, so I had no trouble sharing these things with him -- that is the nature of our relationship. I don't know if my sons, who are 27 and 24, have read the whole book. I think it is much harder for them to deal with some of these things, especially the sexual abuse. I don't push them on these issues... but I hope they know that I am open to discussing them, should they care to. I will also say, that I am very surprised that several of my older son's friends have read the book and are asking him questions about it, which has made him more interested in the story.

Lynn:  Have any members of your Amish family read your book? If yes, what was their reaction?

Saloma:  My parents are no longer alive, which leaves my two brothers as the only remaining Amish members of my family. (Of course there are also their children). I honestly don't know if they have read it and therefore I don't know what their reaction is or will be to the book.

On a lighter note....

Lynn:  What is your writing ritual? (On a regular schedule, at the kitchen counter, at the local library, with a bag of M&Ms?)

Saloma:  It's been a while since I've actually written something long. My normal way to write is to get so engrossed in what I'm doing that I forget to eat, go to the bathroom, or anything else. My longest days of writing the book were 15 hours with only short breaks. I tend to be that way with any creative endeavor, whether it's painting a room in my house, quilting, baking, braiding a rug, or writing.

Lynn:  How did you feel when you realized someone was actually going to publish your book?

Saloma:  Absolutely elated! During my break at work, I read the email from MSU Press. I called up David immediately and tried to contain my excitement. I remember saying to him, keeping my voice as quiet as I could, "The worst part of this is that I cannot scream here in my office!" Containing that kind of elation takes more composure than I normally have. And David was just as excited -- he was as invested in this book as I was. Then, that same day, another publisher asked to see the whole manuscript. That's when I knew that the time for publishing my story had finally come -- after all these years!

Lynn:  I understand you have two more books in the works that will follow the journey of your life. Do you have a release date for the next book?

Saloma:  The second book is about my stay in Vermont before the Amish came and fetched me back. David and I had a budding romance at the time, and he had to stand by and watch me go back, knowing this was not my choice. He tried to maintain our relationship during the separation, but I kept insisting we could only be friends. His persistence won out -- nearly three years after my return to the community, he and I had begun to correspond again. When I decided to leave, he went to Ohio with his little yellow Datsun pickup truck and delivered me back to Vermont -- the land of my dreams, and the home of my heart.

So far I have written three chapters for this second book, and David has been working on his first. The cool part is that David is a better writer and storyteller than I am, and he is bringing a different perspective to the book. Though we don't have a release date yet, we do have a working title for this book -- "When We were Young, and She was Amish; A Shared Memoir of a Forbidden Love."