Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I recently won a copy of this book from The Book Studio, a great site with tons of interviews and contests.  If you like books at all, make sure you check their site often.  I had sort of forgotten about it until it arrived in the mail yesterday.  Within two hours I had finished it.  Granted, the truncated language of the first-person narrator made that task a little easier.  But I couldn't put it down.  I stood over my grill, cooking dinner, with the book in my hand.  

First-time novelist Barry Smith is a finance professor at the University of Kansas.  By day.  By night, he has imagined a sadistic yet sympathetic character who wants nothing more than to be recognized as the brilliant writer that he is.  Milo crosses the line once, then finds it is easier to cross each time -- especially when literary fame lies just on the other side.  Like all struggling writers, he dreads the rejection letters that fill his mailbox.  Tired of facing the disappointment, he stacks his manuscripts in a closet and takes a job as a ghostwriter.  Then he begins to make ghosts of his own.

It is dark, funny, compelling and is a truly original voice in the noise of shoddy thrillers.  Kudos to Inkwater Press for championing this one.  Read more about Only Milo here.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Historical fiction is a tough genre to tackle.  When done well, it requires as much research as a biography and the imagination to weave a story that takes the reader into each of the settings.  It is clear that first-time author ROBIN OLIVEIRA must have uncovered dozens of unsung heroes and broken hearts while gathering details for MY NAME IS MARY SUTTER.  She pieced together a vivid novel.  
Smart and stubborn, Mary Sutter is continuing the family tradition of midwifery -- but only until she can enroll in medical school and study to become a surgeon. Her letters of inquiry are ignored, so she begins her campaign door-to-door, looking fro a doctor who will allow her to apprentice.  Her efforts seem to be in vain, until Confederate forces fire on Fort Sumter.  Suddenly, there is great need for nurses and doctors in Washington DC hospitals.  President Lincoln appoints Ms. Dorothea Dix to be in charge of the medical services for the Union, who also denies Mary entrance to the corps of caregivers.  Frustrated, she leaves her menial job at the hellish Union Hotel Hospital and follows troops into battle.  There she is faced with character-defining decisions about how best to care for dying men in a hopeless situation. 
The book also follows, in epistolary form, the difficulties of Mary mother, now a widow living in Albany, as she worries for her children who have all been affected by the war.  Sister Jenny is expecting a child, whose father is fighting in a Union regiment. Her brother, too, is serving his country.  Though she knows her mother needs the help delivering her own grandchild, Mary is hesitant to leave behind the suffering men in uniform.
Oliveira's strength lies in her descriptive language, especially of setting.  Mary Sutter travels a great deal, and the reader can easily envision these now large cities as the muddy, barely habitable towns they were in the 1860s.  Her anatomical descriptions are not for the squeamish either.  Difficult child birth and limb amputations are not glossed over.  The storyline at times can be a little uneven, and feel somewhat like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.  Still Oliveira's writing style remains strong throughout.  

Book: Hardcover | 5.98 x 9.01in | 384 pages | ISBN 9780670021673 | 13 May 2010 | Viking Adult | 18 - AND UP

Thank you to Yen for the advance copy of this book.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Letter to Dr. Watson

My Letter to Dr. Watson is now up and you can view it here:


Write your own letter to a fictional character and send it to LettersWithCharacter@gmail.com

It's fun, I promise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Letters with Character

The folks over at Harper Perennial's The Olive Reader have endorsed this fantastic and fun idea.  If you have ever yelled at, been annoyed by or been desperately in love with a character in a book, now is your chance to tell them how you feel.

Write a letter to a literary character and send it to LettersWithCharacter (at) gmail (dot) com.  They will choose the best ones and post at LettersWithCharacter.blogspot.com

And if you work in the media and want to feature Ben or the site, you can contact the Gregory Henry at gregory (dot) henry (at) harpercollins (dot) com

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some questions for Dr. Watson.