Tag Archives: Author Interviews

Review and Author Interview: Crazy Is Normal by Lloyd Lofthouse

I am very excited today to welcome Virtual Author Book Tours to the blog today with a non-fiction memoir entitled Crazy Is Normal.  I invite you to read my review, learn a little about the author, Lloyd Lofthouse, look at my interview with the author and visit the other stops on the tour.

My Review:

Crazy is Normal a classroom exposeIn his book Crazy is Normal, Lloyd Lofthouse gives the reader a nitty gritty, down and dirty, not so pretty glimpse into the daily life of a high school English teacher.  Lloyd kept a daily journal that recorded his year of teaching 9th grade English and journalism at Nogales High School in La Puente, California. He begins the book on a very personal level by describing his struggles in the classroom during his own childhood and takes us through the process in which he decides to step into a classroom.

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Filed under Author Interviews, Nonfiction

Review and Author Q&A: Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof

I am very excited about the book I am reviewing today, Small Blessings.  It really is a fantastic novel and I highly recommend you pick up a copy when it comes out on 8/12.  Read my full review and scroll down for a Q&A with the talented and gracious author, Martha Woodroof.

My Review:

Small BlessingsIf I were to make a list of my favorite books this year SMALL BLESSINGS by Martha Woodroof would be at the top.  This is saying a lot for me because, according to Goodreads, I have read more than 90 books so far this year.

Tom has been muddling his way through life, without thinking and without feeling, just trying to get through one day at a time.  He, along with his mother-in-law Agnes, is trying to take care of his mentally unstable wife.  Marjory, who is paranoid and incapable of going outside of the house on her own, has been Tom’s responsibility for the past twenty years.

One day an encounter with a cheerful and optimistic new employee at the local college bookstore changes all of their lives.  During the same week, Tom receives a letter from a past lover saying that he is the father of a 10 year-old boy named Henry who is being sent to live with him.  How can this much change possibly happen to a person who was leading such a quiet and unassuming life?

This book is rich with well-rounded characters with whom you cannot help but admire.  Although Tom is clearly caught in a loveless marriage, he has made the ultimate sacrifice by never abandoning his wife.  Marjory’s mother Ages, who became a widow and a single mother at a very young age, has a resilience that many of us would envy.  Henry is a 10 year-old boy that is sweet and kind and flourishes in a home where he is loved and wanted.  Even the lesser characters, such as Russell and Iris who are also on the university faculty, have their own problems and struggles that enrich the storyline.

Sometimes a book begins slowly but has a strong ending.  Sometimes a book beings strongly but the ending is weak.  Sometimes a book has both a strong beginning and ending but the middle lags.  That is absolutely not the case with SMALL BLESSINGS.  There are twists and turns and unexpected surprises that one encounters throughout all of the wonderfully written prose.   I loved every single page of this book, which is a very rare thing to say.  Martha Woodroof has written a book that everyone needs to include SMALL BLESSINGS on their must read list.

*Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an advanced copy of this book.



Author Q&A:

1. I really enjoy books with university/academic settings.  Did you have a particular experience at a university that made you use this setting?

My mother taught English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and used to regale me  with stories of departmental meetings. As an adult, I’ve managed to live mostly in college towns, and I enjoy hanging out on campus  and people-watching. To me, the campus of a small college functions as a societal bell jar in that it’s a closed community where people can’t escape each other’s company. Setting a novel on such a campus was the ideal way for me to examine all sorts of human relationships, from the petty and adversarial, to the loyal and loving.

About the bookstore in Small Blessings: My own  life is pretty much divided into the years before and after I got sober. My first real job in sobriety was at the Sweet Briar College Book Shop, working for the wondrous Roscoe (Skipper) Fitts, who was, to quote a late member of the English Department, “a real book man.” My job was Rose’s job; I ran the Espresso machine and did event programming.  It was while working there that I developed a  wish to write about a college whose heart beat in its bookstore.

2. Tom’s wife seems to have symptoms that would suggest she is on the autism spectrum.  Did you have a particular diagnosis in mind for her?

I did not, other than that she is irreparably damaged.  And I wanted explore what happens in a relationship between two loyal, well-meaning people that can  never, ever be a happy one.

3. Your first attempt, in my opinion, at novel writing is nothing short of amazing. What was the most exciting part in the entire process of having your first novel published?

Why thank-you so much, Melissa. Really, really, really!

The most exciting part is really that it’s happening.  Period. I’m old enough and have done enough National Public Radio stories on publishing to be terribly, terribly grateful to my agent Kate Garrick and my editor at St. Martins, Hilary Teeman, for taking me on. And I’m completely  tickled that they did. My only plan right now is to enjoy the adventure. I feel as though I’m up on a surfboard, riding a gigantic and exhilarating wave.

4. What is the best book, fiction or non-fiction that you have read so far this year?

I think in terms of can’t-put-it-down, cracking good story, probably The Son by Philipp Meyer. The characters in it are still with me, and I finished it a month ago.
5. Since Small Blessings has been such a success, do you have any plans for writing another novel? 

First draft is done. Second draft is being cranky, but I’ll get there.


About The Author:

Martha WoodroofMARTHA WOODROOF was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR, npr.org, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley. Their closest neighbors are cows.


Special thanks to Martha for being so kind and answering my questions.


Filed under Author Interviews, Literature/Fiction, Summer Reading

Review of The Seeds of Sorrow and Q&A with Author Lisa Brown

My Review:

The Seeds of SorrowAlthough The Seeds of Sorrow is the sequel to Lisa Brown’s first book entitled The Porter’s Wife, it is a stand alone book and you do not have to read the first book in the series to understand this novel.

We are introduced to Agnes Berry on her wedding day in 1919.  She is surrounded by her friends and family and could not be happier to be marrying the love of her life, Art Craig.  As a gift from Agnes’ parents, Agnes and Art have a dream honeymoon in Winnepeg’s finest hotel.  But on the first night of their life together, Art has a terrible nightmare, and in a fit of thrashing around, he accidentally gives his new bride a black eye.

We come to understand that Art is a veteran of World War I and sleep eludes him as he cannot shake the horrible memories of the trenches and the deaths of his friends.  Agnes is an inspirational heroine as she tries to be as supportive as possible without embarrassing him or pushing Art too hard to talk about his experiences.

The first half of the novel deals with the everyday lives of Agnes and Art as they try to figure out the ins and outs of marriage and attempt to build a life together.  There are no great tragedies or revelations or surprise moments in this part.  Lisa Brown takes her time to portray realistic characters to whom the reader can relate on both an emotional and spiritual level.  Art and Agnes are surrounded by their loving family and close friends and together they also encounter some of the issues of the times such as prohibition and later the Great Depression.  Lisa builds characters with whom you will become emotionally invested and hope the best for.

When Agnes’ two older sisters, with whom she is very close, move across Canada to Vancouver, Agnes and Art decide that they also want to relocate and start a new life.  Lisa takes her time to describe beautifully the Canadian landscape as the family travels west by train.  This book makes me want to plan a vacation to western Canada, a part of the world I would never have considered traveling.

But will everything really work out for Agnes and Art?  What trials and tribulations will the family face in a new city?  Should they have ever left Winnepeg in the first place?

The title itself is definitely a hint that you should be ready with some tissues at the end of this book.  The reason we like tragedy and suffering in art is due to the fact that it helps us deal with and find a catharsis for our own grief in real life.  THE SEEDS OF SORROW is a must read for anyone who wants a profound emotional experience and enjoys historical fiction set in the early 20th Century.

Q&A with the Author Lisa Brown:

1. How did you decide to make Agnes the focus of this book as opposed to some of the other characters?

It was always going to be about Agnes (my great grandmother).  I had always planned on The Seeds of Sorrow being “the story” I had to tell.  My first novel, The Porter’s Wife, was more of a prequel or a foundational piece of work to build the characters.  I was fascinated by the strength of a woman (Sarah) who could survive as beautifully as she did under the conditions she faced, but it was the defining event of The Seeds of Sorrow that I believe had the most significant impact on my family; it was one that altered my family’s foundation and one whose effects are with me today, more than eighty years and a couple of generations later. 
I am fascinated by human nature, including my own strengths and quirks, and I grew up trying to understand the women in my family and what made them who they were so I could better understand myself.  My family did not share a lot in terms of feelings, and in fact many subjects were taboo, and I really needed to understand why … to help explain personalities and see if I could draw parallels.  I did my own research and uncovered the content for The Seeds of Sorrow.  It explained so much to me and I felt compelled to write about the events and relationships of my direct line.

2. What type of research did you do for Art’s character as far as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? 

I actually didn’t do any research.  It was never about PTSD for me.  My reader’s labelled it that way.  It was a eureka moment for me when I read the first review.  It was by someone that was a student of PTSD, and I thought “Wow”!  For me, it was about my great grandfather’s painful journey.  For me, it was purely emotional, not clinical.  But it goes to show you that we are all emotional beings and our experiences, as well as our actions and reactions, are rarely unique.

3. How did you come up with the title “The Seeds of Sorrow”?  It is much more subtle than the title for your first book.  Did you have other working titles that you were considering?

The Seeds of Sorrow, as a title, perfectly captured what I have experienced in my own family over time.  It speaks to the lasting effects of trauma and sadness that can trickle down through the generations.  It can be much more lasting and impactful on who we are as people than happiness can.  Some of us can manage through the difficulties, and even come through them stronger, and some are not as successful.  It is the nurture part of nature versus nurture, the emotional impact of our family relationships, that I believe has the greater impact on who we are.

 I did contemplate The Broken Window as an alternate title, but it only captured “the moment” and not the effects of “the moment,” which was more important to me.

4. Are you planning on writing a third book?  It seems that you could continue writing the story of this family through any of the daughters’ children.

I hadn’t planned on writing a third, but I am rethinking that.  The reaction to The Seeds of Sorrow has been surprising to me in terms of the strength of the opinions.  I really worried about the ending because so many of the comments that I received from The Porter’s Wife included “heartwarming, happy ending, etc.” and this book is completely different. I worried about disappointing people.  My proofreader reassured me and said, “It doesn’t have to have a happy ending; it just has to have a powerful ending.  It has to be either really happy or really sad, but it has to make people feel strongly.  Then you know you have done your job as a writer.”  I like to make people happy, so it has been a challenge!
Agnes died before I was born and her sister Mary took her place.  My grandmother (Dorothy) was very close to her cousins (Margaret and Norma) and she called her Aunty Mary “Mum” after her own mother died.  As a child I have very fond memories of my Aunty Mary, who was an absolute sweetheart.  There is a third book in there, but it probably won’t come for a while.  The closer the story gets to me, the harder it is to tell…the seeds of sorrow flourished!
About the Author:  
Lisa BrownLisa Brown is an avid genealogist and enjoys writing about the fascinating lives of generations past.  She is the author of The Porter’s Wife and its sequel, The Seeds of Sorrow, both of which loosely follow three generations of women in her family history.  Lisa currently resides in Ontario, Canada with her husband and three sons.
Thanks so much to Lisa for providing the book to me and doing the Q&A.  If you would like to add THE SEEDS OF SORROW to your Goodreads list you can do so here as well as enter a GIVEAWAY on Goodreads to win a free copy:










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Filed under Author Interviews, Historical Fiction, World War I