"No one can be lonely who has a book for company." ~ Nelle Reagan

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Are You Registered to Participate in Live at Book Expo?

Book Expo 2013

Live at Book Expo, Author chats powered by Shindig

The events will take place on Thursday May 30th, Friday May 31st and Saturday June 1st

To view the author schedule and to attend please visit:

You're going to Live From Book Expo powered by Shindig!

 (Yes, I am!!!  Woot!)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: A Dual Inheritance by Joanna Hershon

A Dual Inheritance
Author:  Joanna Hershon
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre:  General Fiction
Pages: 496

Source:  a complimentary copy was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours which in no way influenced this review.  The opinions stated here are my own.

Autumn 1962: Ed Cantowitz and Hugh Shipley meet in their final year at Harvard. Ed is far removed from Hugh’s privileged upbringing as a Boston Brahmin, yet his drive and ambition outpace Hugh’s ambivalence about his own life. These two young men form an unlikely friendship, bolstered by a fierce shared desire to transcend their circumstances. But in just a few short years, not only do their paths diverge—one rising on Wall Street, the other becoming a kind of global humanitarian—but their friendship ends abruptly, with only one of them understanding why.
Can a friendship define your view of the world? Spanning from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the present-day stock market collapse, with locations as diverse as Dar es Salaam, Boston, Shenzhen, and Fishers Island, A Dual Inheritance asks this question, as it follows not only these two men, but the complicated women in their vastly different lives. And as Ed and Hugh grow farther and farther apart, they remain uniquely—even surprisingly—connected.
My thoughts:

I am really enjoying reading A Dual Inheritance and though I am not quite finished yet, it is one book that I would recommend.  For readers who enjoyed The Bellwether Revivals, this  novel will remind you of it very much.  The writing style is somewhat similar, but it is the character development that often makes me think of The Bellwether Revivals.  

The characters are complicated.  Ed is from a less prominent home and is attending Harvard on scholarship, while Hugh comes from money and didn't have to worry about tuition nor getting a scholarship.  Ed seeks money and status and Hugh would rather be invisible.  He could care less about financial status and I believe that is what took him across the world to Africa to run a medical facility, where finances could help others but it didn't have a role in one's status.

The two of them are incredibly opposite in most ways but they seem to balance each other.  Their dialogue plays out the differences as the two banter, question each other; seeing another world through a friend's eyes.  When Hugh reconnects with Helen, she and Ed don't seem to hit if off very well.  In fact, she reassured Hugh that she would find something to like about Ed whom she is uncertain about.  That she always does. Well, she did.  Was this why Ed ended his friendship with Hugh?

Later, Ed marries and has a daughter whom he dotes upon but he is not altogether happy.  My question is, is Hugh?  Is Helen happy? Certainly Jill, Ed's wife doesn't really seem to be.  So, I am wondering, what is the connection that will forever tie these men to one another?  Will it be a big "aha" moment?  I am really looking forward to finding out.

In the meantime, if you are looking for a character driven novel with a few secrets, tension, and a glimpse from the sixties forward;  A Dual Inheritance certainly delivers.  

Joanna Hershon is the author of The German Bride, The Outside of August, and Swimming. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Edward Albee Foundation. An adjunct assistant professor in the creative writing department at Columbia University, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the painter Derek Buckner, and their twin sons.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown & Giveaway of Audio CD (International)

Peeking Between the Pages is offering a chance to win an Audio CD of The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown!  If you love historical fiction and/or family sagas, this will be one of your favourites!  Just click on the link below to enter.  Open internationally.

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown & Giveaway of Audio CD (International)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Review: However Long the Night by Aimee Molloy

However Long the Night
Author:  Aimee Molloy
Published: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Harper One, A Division of Harper Collins Publishing
Pages:  272
ISBN:  9780062132765
Source:  Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for a complimentary copy of However Long the Night.  Receipt thereof bears no influence over my opinion nor this review.

The story of how one of the “most powerful women in women’s rights” (Forbes) is paving the way to a world with human dignity for all.
However Long the Night is the extraordinary story of one woman’s determination to create a movement toward change, and a better future, for millions of girls and women across Africa. Molly Melching grew up in the Midwest but was called to explore the world outside her hometown when she arrived in Senegal in 1974. There, she quickly grew invested in the fate of the Senegalese women she met. Based on her experiences living in a remote African village, she founded Tostan, an organization dedicated to empowering African communities by using democracy and human-rights-based education to promote relationships built upon dignity, equality, and respect. She forever changed her life and the lives of those touched by Tostan.
Unlike many Western organizations that have tried to transform various African cultures from the outside, Melching, who was named as one of the “150 women who shake the world” by Newsweek and Daily Beast, understands that true change comes only from within. Tostan’s groundbreaking strategies have led to better education for the women of rural Africa, improved health care, a decrease in child/forced marriage, and declarations by thousands of African communities to abandon the centuries-old practice of female genital cutting.
However Long the Night brings together Melching’s riveting personal journey with the stories of the Senegalese women and men who found the courage to lead this movement. This book is a testament to the fact that the connections between women can lead to a better world.

My Thoughts:

"Molly Melching saw a deeply disturbing but deeply entrenched practice and refused to accept that it couldn't be stopped.  Her relentless efforts are proof that commitment and partnership can drive transformational change." Hillary Rodham Clinton

Such a statement from Hillary Clinton, while it hints at the monumental task that one woman set out to accomplish, it also conveys the worldwide acknowledgement that Molly Melching has achieved for the accomplishments she was instrumental in bringing forth in Africa.

Always intrigued by other cultures, Molly Melching loved to travel.  In October of 1974 she made the journey that would change her life and the lives of many many more.  Travelling to Senegal Africa as an exchange student with the intention of attending the University of Dakar for a six month program, she became friends with Ndey, who was from a small village in Africa.  It was while she was visiting with Ndey and her family there that she learned of female genital cutting (FGC).  This was the beginning of her real journey.

Molly soon learned that the best way to affect positive change in a land that was deeply set in tradition and customs was through an education program.  "I have learned many lessons during the decades I've been doing this work," Molly says, "but none as important as this:  if you want to help empower people to positively transform their communities and their lives, human rights education is key.  For many years, our education program did not include discussions on human rights.  We were successful, but it was only after introducing human rights learning that an amazing thing happened.  I can't explain it.  It felt like magic."

Molly does not readily accept credit for the positive changes in the villages of Africa.  She prefers to allow the women of the villages to tell their story.  Upon telling the author, Aimee Molloy this, she invited the author to go to Senegal to see for herself and that is just what the author did.  

Seeing the isolated villages in a land so incredibly dissimilar to her own, Aimee found it incredible that a woman of thirty-two (Molly's age at the time of the author's visit), would leave everything she knew to live there.  The joy Molly experiences amongst the villagers and the mutual love they have for one another is evident.  It is because Molly truly cares for each individual and respects them and their customs, that she approached cautiously in terms of educating the villagers.  Upon education, she was able to open communication amongst them with her, each other, their husbands and their spiritual leaders.  Once they learned of vaccinations, diseases, how to properly care for injuries and more and of their rights as human beings; they became aware of the dangers of FGC, understanding that the hemorrhaging, the infections, years of problems and sometimes death were not attributed to bad spirits but rather to the procedure of FGC.  Understanding brought about communication and then change.  Seeing support from local spiritual leaders and the World Health Organization, the organization of Tostan (headed by Molly) was able to affect positive changes for the women and for generations to come.

The work is still ongoing but it is a labour of love for Molly.  It took a great deal of personal education and patience, not to mention courage, but this one woman has been instrumental in changing a nation.  Isn't that incredible?

One person can make a difference.

Meet the Author:

Aimee Molloy has collaborated on seven books, including with Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari on Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival and with Pam Cope on Jantsen’s Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from New York University. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Perhaps Dislike is Too Strong of a Word

Look what Hubby got me!! He was determined to get me a gnome someday because he knows I strongly dislike them.  This one is reading, though, so he figures that is its saving grace.  What do you think?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You Have to Meet This Author!!! An Interview With Tanya J. Peterson, Author of "Leave of Absence"

I really loved this book!!  Yesterday I posted my review of Leave of Absence; a rare novel that addresses the stigma of mental illness while creating an empathic environment with the reader.  You will not view mental illness the same after reading this touching tale.

Tanya J. Peterson posted a guest post on this blog May 6 and today she is participating in an author  interview with me on My Bookshelf.  I am thrilled  and honoured to share with you today this interview:

1.  What drew you to the field of mental health as a career choice?

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to help others.  This sounds incredibly silly, but even when I was very young, I’d notice when people were hurting, and I always wanted to do something about it.  (I still remember a Sesame Street episode during which a human character was upset, and I pretended for the longest time after that that I lived there and we were friends and I was helping him.  Well okay then -- now that I think about it, I suppose that explains a bit about why I went into both mental health and writing/story creation, doesn’t it?)  Anyway, I initially went into teaching, but well before I was even a month into my career, I knew I wanted to become a counselor because what I liked best about teaching was discussing various things with the students and helping them help themselves deal with difficulties.  

2.  You have created a compelling and touching story with the three main characters in Leave of Absence.  Would you say they are classic examples of the illnesses they are depicted with?  (symptoms, onset, diagnosis and treatment)

One of my goals for writing Leave of Absence was to combat stereotypes and to help create true understanding. Accordingly, I put a great deal of research into the mental illnesses I depicted in the book:  schizophrenia (Penelope), depression (Penelope and Oliver), post-traumatic stress disorder (Oliver), and complicated mourning (well, that’s a difficulty that many people experience after a loss, but it’s technically not a mental illness).  So what they experience is indeed very realistic.  The symptoms each of them experiences are absolutely part of their illnesses.  The onset is typical, too.  Oliver experienced the very traumatic loss of this wife and son, so of course his difficulties began at that moment in his life.  I won’t elaborate about Penelope here because you gave me the opportunity to discuss the onset of her schizophrenia in the next question.  One thing that is very important to keep in mind is that the experience of a given mental illness is very individualized.  There are definitely criteria that define schizophrenia, PTSD, etc., but each individual experiences the various symptoms in a way that is unique to him/her.  Because there are so many individual differences, diagnosis a mental illness can be tricky.  This leads nicely into the next point.

Diagnosis of mental illness is often difficult because doing so is not yet an exact science.  Diagnosis in the “real world” is typically based on the observation of doctors and therapists, reports from the person him/herself, reports from family members, and often even paper-and-pencil tests (these are specific psychiatric and behavioral assessments).  This was much too tedious to include in a novel!  Kind of like how books don’t show step by step what a character is doing every minute of every day, I didn’t want to show every single detail of the diagnostic process.  When readers first meet Penelope, she has already been diagnosed.  Oliver’s diagnosis of PTSD and major depressive disorder come from information that was gathered when he was admitted after his suicide attempt failed as well as from his demeanor and behavior at Airhaven Behavioral Health Center.  

The treatment Oliver and Penelope receive is quite typical of what one receives in a behavioral health center.  They each receive medication because medication is used frequently with schizophrenia, depression (and other illnesses), as there are things going on in the brain that medication can help.  In behavioral health centers like Airhaven in Leave of Absence, there is often a strong emphasis on group treatment supplemented by daily sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist.  I was able to make Airhaven quite realistic because I have spent time in such a place myself as a patient.  It was nice to have something tangible to draw on for this aspect of the novel.  (I will say, though, that Airhaven itself is fictitious.)

You mentioned that I have three main characters.  I’ve mentioned Oliver and Penelope but not William.  Just like Oliver’s and Penelope’s experiences, William’s experience is also very accurate.  As Penelope’s fiancé, he’s an integral part of her life.  And he loves her.  He is experiencing his own turmoil from multiple sides.  He is struggling to convince Penelope that he loves her and that she should stay with him.  And he’s struggling against the stigma and negative stereotypes of outsiders.  With William, I wanted to show that stigma hurts everyone, and I also wanted to show the dedication of someone motivated by love.  

3.  Upon reading Penelope's history, I was surprised that the onset of schizophrenia was so sudden.  I'd heard that it could have hereditary factors and/or environmental factors.  Is this true? Can it come "out of the blue" without external contributing factors?

That’s a terrific question, and one I’m very happy to have the opportunity to explain a bit.  Schizophrenia doesn’t just come out of the blue.  It didn’t for Penelope, either.  I didn’t want to bog the story down with too much back story, so I chose not to elaborate on the history of the development of Penelope’s schizophrenia.  Instead, I allude to it only briefly on a couple of occasions.  When William (Penelope’s fiancé) first meets Oliver, he gives a brief background and explains that this is actually the second time Penelope has been in the behavioral health center.  Later, when William is wistfully looking at a photo of Penelope and him, he muses a bit about the gradual onset of her symptoms two years prior.  Usually, people experience a gradual onset of symptoms during what is known as the prodromal phase of schizophrenia.  Penelope was in her late 20s when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and this is pretty typical.  There’s a wide range of age of onset, though, and most people are diagnosed somewhere between their late teens and mid-thirties.  It is possible, though, for someone to begin to experience symptoms earlier or later than this average range.  To date, researchers haven’t pinpointed what causes schizophrenia, although they do think that there can be hereditary factors (but this isn’t always the case).  

4.  You did an incredible job of illustrating the stigma attached with mental illness.  What do you hope this novel will do to address this?

Thank you, Shirley!  That statement means a great deal to me because this is one of the things I was hoping to accomplish with Leave of Absence.  I really hope that this novel will stimulate a lot of discussion and give people something to use in their discussions.  I recently was told that Leave of Absence helped someone better understand a friend who is struggling with mental illness.  Again, this is part of what I’m hoping for!  If people can come to understand each other in new ways, to appreciate the struggles someone with mental illness can face, then I think this increased understanding will help reduce stigma.  

5.  Going back to question 3, I'd like to know what lays in store for Penelope.  Do you foresee a sequel?

I’ve given that a great deal of thought.  I’m really attached to Oliver, Penelope, and William, and it’s really tempting to continue their story.  However, I think it will be more powerful if I end it right where I did.  I don’t want to inadvertently diminish their impact.  Therefore, I think Leave of Absence will stand alone.  (That said, I just read recently that John Grisham is planning a sequel to his first novel.  Who knows?  Maybe years and years down the road I’ll revisit these characters!)

6.  Are you writing another book at the moment?

I am indeed in the early stages of a new novel!  I’ve begun brainstorming and researching, and I have created the backstory of the major characters in order to learn more about them.  I haven’t begun the actual writing yet, though, for a couple of reasons.  One, as I mentioned above, I’m still attached to Oliver, Penelope, and William.  I want to transition into a bond with my new characters before I start writing so I can fully do them justice.  Also, I want to make sure I devote my attention to Leave of Absence to give it a chance.  I won’t be able to share the characters’ stories and spread a message if I let it flop!  It’s a really difficult task, so that’s why I’m sincere when I tell you how much I appreciate you, Shirley!  It’s been great having a guest post on your site and doing this interview with you!  And I’m also grateful that you reviewed Leave of Absence!  I need readers like you in order to get off the ground.  So thank you.  

7.  I like that this novel wasn't all tied up in a neat little bow with a tidy ending, leaving it open ended as far as the future of the characters is concerned.  Why did you choose to write it this way?

I definitely did this for a reason!  I absolutely didn’t want a “ride off into the sunset” ending for this book.  That would destroy everything I had set up in the entire book.  I wanted a realistic ending.  In real life, the things these characters deal with (schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, deep grief) don’t just magically disappear, so I didn’t want a miraculous recovery in Leave of Absence.  However, in reality, people are strong and they can improve and thrive again despite continued difficulties.  This, too, is very realistic.  I wanted to leave people with a sense of hope without the canned ending that would have been unsatisfactory.  Life is uncertain.  We know we’ll have trials and difficulties, and we know we’ll have triumphs; however, we never know exactly where life is going to take us.  The same holds true for Oliver, Penelope, and William.  

8.  What is your favourite genre to read?

I don’t have a favorite genre, per se, but I do have a type of story I prefer.  I love character driven stories!  If I can emotionally connect with a character/characters, I don’t care so much about the plot, storyline, or setting.  

9. Who is your favourite author and why?

That’s a tough question!  There are numerous authors I like.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some of my favorites (in random order):  Maya Angelou, Saul Bellow, Toni Morrison, Juliann Garey, Pricille Sibley, and Karin Slaughter.  These are all drastically different writers, but in my humble opinion they all share the ability to write meaningful, character-driven stories that inspire me to be a better person.  

10. Your previous novel is "Losing Elizabeth," a young adult novel about an abusive relationship. Can you share more about this novel and where the reader might be able to purchase a copy?

Sure!  Like I did with Leave of Absence, I wrote Losing Elizabeth to tell an important message.  When I worked with high school students, I was shocked and saddened by the number of adolescents who became caught in controlling, emotionally abusive relationships.  I worked with both males and females who became stuck in such relationships, but I happened to make the main character of Losing Elizabeth female.  I wrote it as a way to show adolescents what abuse looks like, that it doesn’t always have to be physical.  It’s never too early for young adolescents to learn about the dangers of abusive relationships, so I made the story very straight-forward and appropriate even for middle grade students despite the fact that the main characters are in high school.  I will admit that while I love the message of Losing Elizabeth and I’m glad I wrote it, I don’t consider my writing strengths to be YA fiction.  I think that Leave of Absence is much better than Losing Elizabeth.  If anyone is ever interested in checking into it, it’s available online at amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), barnesandnoble.com (paperback), and powells.com (paperback).

11.  Do you have a message you wish to share for the reader who might identify with the characters and/or situations in Leave of Absence and may be seeking more information and/or wish to know how to offer support to those who affected either as a patient or as a loved one/friend?

Learn, listen, and look!!  

Learn all you can about what you are experiencing or what someone in your life is experiencing.  I do hate sounding cliché, but knowledge really is power.  The more you know, the more control you have.  There are many great, reputable online resources available.  A few of them are the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org), PsychCentral (psychcentral.com), HealthyPlace (healthyplace.com), the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.com), BringChange2Mind (bringchange2mind.org), and TimeToChange (time-to-change.org/uk).

Listen (and talk).  Share with others what you are experiencing.  If someone you know is experiencing mental illness, ask them how they are.  Listen to what people are telling you.  By talking and listening, we come to understand each other.  And when we understand, the grip of stigma is loosened.

Look at the whole person.  People are more than their illness (this goes for both physical and mental illnesses)!  See the whole person, not the label and the stereotype.

12.  What is your favourite saying/quote and why?

I love Mahatma Gandhi’s directive to “be the change you want to see in the world.”  I’ve always loved that saying because it resonates with me.  When I see something troubling, I want to do my part, even if it’s small, to change it.  I love the idea of being one of the many, many people who take action to make the world a better place for everyone.  

13.  What is your favourite pastime?

I love spending time outdoors!  I enjoy kayaking, hiking, biking, tent camping, and snowshoeing.  (Okay, that’s more than one, but they all fall into the same category.)  I enjoy doing these things with my family as well as on my own.  

14.  On a fun note, what is your favourite snack food?

Just one?  I would think that by now you would have learned that I can never pick just one thing or provide a simple answer to anything!    How about a short list:  popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, miscellaneous chocolate items.  

I know I said this above, but I really meant it so I want to say it again briefly.  Shirley, thank you so much for inviting me to your blog this week.  I’ve really enjoyed interacting with you and also with your readers!


Thank you Tanya!  Reading your moving novel and getting to share your perspectives has been fun!  I love working with such an enthusiastic author!!

Written with extraordinary perception into the thought processes of those grappling with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking an empathic depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing. (from the publisher)
photo from Shelfari

Tanya J Peterson uses her life experience as a teacher, Nationally Certified Counselor, and client to write novels about mental health, mental illness, human suffering and triumph.  Her latest novel, Leave of Absence, delves deeply into the world of schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, grief, and loss.  She also blogs about mental health on her website. www.tanyajpeterson.com


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Countdown to Inferno (Dan Brown)

Review: Leave of Absence by Tanya J. Peterson

Leave of Absence 
Author: Tanya J. Peterson 
Publisher: Inkwater Press
Published:  2013
Pages: 327
ISBN: 978-1-59299-883-8
Source:  an advanced reader's copy was provided by Ink Water Press in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
Availability: Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Inkwaterbooks.com, Powells.com, iTunes, Kobo.com 

An empathic and honest portrayal of human beings stripped to their core and made to redefine reality and themselves, Leave of Absence reveals the emotional latticework of those suffering from mental illness, as well as the lives they touch. In this insightful and meaningful novel, Tanya J. Peterson delves deeply into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and schizophrenia, and proves that fiction can act as a powerful vessel for conveying basic human truths.

When Oliver Graham’s suicide attempt fails, he is admitted to Airhaven Behavioral Health Center. Unable to cope with the traumatic loss of his beloved wife and son, he finds a single thread of attachment to life in Penelope, a fellow patient wrestling with schizophrenia and its devastating impact on her once happy and successful life. They both struggle to discover a reason to live while Penelope’s fiancé William strives to convince her that she is worth loving. As Oliver and Penelope try to achieve emotional stability, face others who have been part of their lives, and function in the “real world,” they discover that human connection may be reason enough to go on.

Written with extraordinary perception into the thought processes of those grappling with mental illness, Leave of Absence is perfect for readers seeking a stirring depiction of grief, loss, and schizophrenia, as well as anyone who has ever experienced human suffering and healing.  (from the press release)

My Thoughts

May 4/13 - At about the half-way mark of Leave of Absence I set aside the novel to take a few moments here to write about my experience reading this touching story.  With red-rimmed puffy eyes, my emotions are definitely heightened, learning of Oliver's story and what brought him to this point of his life.  When a story is so well told that the reader, from chapter one, experiences such an emotional connection with the characters therein, I have to say the author has achieved what some cannot....that sought after but not easily accomplished connection that draws the reader in to the lives of the characters, making them come alive and their emotions mirrored within the reader.  That, thus far, is what Tanya J. Peterson has done in Leave of Absence.  I am empathizing with Oliver and Penelope and William;  I have cried, I have smiled,  I feel of them.  Leave of Absence is powerfully written.

"Oliver knew deep in his heart that he would never, ever be better."

Oliver's depression and post-traumatic stress disorder stem from the devastating deaths of his wife and three year old son.  A depression so deep that it has taken away all desire to live and replaced it with a yearning to end his life so he might be with them again has overwhelmed Oliver.   Faced with survivor's guilt as well....if only he'd gone to the park with them, then he could have saved them....was a common thread of thought Oliver experienced.  His entire world had capsized and he could find no reason to carry on.

Enter Airhaven Behavioral Health Center, the facility to which Oliver is taken after surviving his suicide attempt.  Here he meets Penelope, a fellow patient who was  diagnosed with schizophrenia two years previous, and her fiancé William (the most supportive fiancé one could possibly imagine).  Seeing Penny ostracized even among fellow mental health patients is unthinkable to Oliver and he quickly befriends her.  The friendship between the two creates a healthy support network for each, a highly desirable and necessary "tool" in coping and healing.  

Truly it is rare when a book comes along with a story that addresses issues of mental health and does so in such a manner that the reader is immediately drawn in, involving them through their emotional responses to the situations and especially to the characters themselves.  Leave of Absence is that rare book.  As noted from my entry above, I totally empathized with each individual within. Tanya J. Peterson narrates in the third person but it is as if Oliver, William and Penelope tell their own story.  Their perspectives are unique and compelling.

The issues of mental health, just like any other illness of the body, represent a daily challenge but there are treatments to help the individuals live their lives.  It is the author's hope, and mine, that books like Leave of Absence will help to remove the stigma attached to mental illness.  This novel serves to broaden the mind, so to speak, to erase previous notions of "crazy" and "dangerous" as associated with the varying illnesses associated with the mind.  It is Tanya's expertise in the field of mental health counselling that gives Leave of Absence validity.  Her talent as a writer, and her obvious compassion, breathes life into her characters and creates a kinship between them and the reader.  

Oliver's and Penelope's stories touched my very core.  I could not put Leave of Absence down.  Leave of Absence is one book that I would highly recommend as a means of understanding and building compassion and empathy for those stricken with mental illness, and for those who love and/or treat them.

About the Author

Tanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities. Her previous titles include Losing Elizabeth, a young adult novel about an abusive relationship. To learn more, visit www.tanyajpeterson.com

Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post: Author Tanya J. Peterson Shares Why "Leave of Absence" Needed a Voice

One of the characters in Leave of Absence is Penelope, a woman who experiences Schizophrenia. In this scene, she is lamenting one of the ways it has impacted her life: “I used to be proud of myself. I graduated from the University of Chicago and worked as an advertising executive at Anderson Fletcher.” She paused and hugged the beach ball against her chest. When she resumed, she spoke quietly. “But then I changed, and I’m not the same anymore. I had to take quit the job I loved. At first, I thought I could take a leave of absence, just a little break to get well and then go back. But I never got better enough to go back. I had to quit completely, and now I’m just a loser.” Tears rolled down her cheeks and splashed onto the ball.

I wrote Leave of Absence because no one experiencing mental illness should ever have to feel like a loser. I’d like to be one of those who is working to correct the existing negative stereotypes and increase understanding and compassion.

I possess a unique combination of experiences that I carried with me into my writing of Leave of Absence. I carry it into all of my writing, actually—the articles that appear on my blog as well as the new novels I will write. That I write about mental health is no coincidence, for I have experienced mental health and mental illness from both sides of the proverbial couch. Having been both a counselor and a patient, I have a deep understanding of how people can suffer emotionally in so many ways, how people can triumph emotionally in so many ways, and of how every human being deserves empathy and understanding. I use my many experiences to create stories that, while themselves fictional, are a very real manifestation of mental health and mental illness. It is my hope that Leave of Absence will help people understand each other more deeply.

I have a rather intimate relationship with mental illness. I understand it intellectually thanks to an intense graduate program, and that lends a solid factual background to my stories. I understand it professionally thanks to all the people I have counseled with in various capacities; in working with people, I have developed a real-world understanding of what people need in order for them to help them help themselves heal, and I weave this into my stories. And I understand mental illness personally thanks to my own experiences with it. I try to draw on all of these aspects to infuse my novels with not only facts but feeling. (As I reader, I love character-driven stories, so I set out to make Leave of Absence character-driven. I hope readers connect with Oliver, Penelope, and William!)

My own roller coaster ride with mental illness officially began in 2004 when I sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. Because I could walk, talk, and physically care for myself, I didn’t qualify for brain injury rehabilitation programs. That didn’t mean that I was functioning well in other areas of my life, though! Over the course of several years, I saw a psychologist for counseling, and when that wasn’t enough, I was admitted into a behavioral health hospital. The Airhaven Behavioral Health Center that is the setting for much of Leave of Absence is actually based on the hospital in which I stayed. The characters are completely made up, of course, but the physical description and other little details (such as Oliver’s hatred of the ticking clock in his room) are based on my own personal experience in the hospital. I was in and out of that hospital five times over the course of several years, and it was there that I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder. Understanding Bipolar I disorder and looking back over my life, I firmly believe that I experienced it long before that car accident; however, I was able to manage it until the brain injury threw everything into chaos.

So it’s on multiple levels that I understand what it means to suffer mentally and emotionally, how mental illness impacts every single facet of one’s life, what it’s like to live with the stigma and have people shun you both personally and professionally.

I believe passionately in the importance of bringing these issues it to light. When we learn about each other as human beings, when we take time to really listen and look, we begin to understand. Through understanding come empathy and compassion.

Coming tomorrow, my review of Leave of Absence.
Coming May 8, a Q&A with the author you don't want to miss!

Friday, May 3, 2013

John Grisham Has Written a Sequel to His First Published Novel

A sequel to A Time to Kill, Sycamore Row is due to be released October 22/13.  This the first time John Grisham has written a sequel to any of his legal thrillers.  

"For almost a quarter of a century, John Grisham’s A Time To Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution, and justice. Now, its hero, Jake Brigance, returns to the courtroom in a dramatic showdown as Ford County again confronts its tortured history. Filled with the intrigue, suspense and plot twists that are the hallmarks of America’s favorite storyteller, Sycamore Row is the thrilling story of the elusive search for justice in a small Southern town." ~John Grisham

Waiting for the cover reveal......

Have you placed your pre-order yet?


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