Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vickie L. King: Interview with BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books' Debra...

Vickie L. King: Interview with BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books' Debra...: Interview with BelleBooks/ Bell Bridge Books ' Debra Dixon, President/CEO and Deborah Smith, Vice President and Editorial Director.   
As a writer new to Bell Bridge Books and these amazing women, I feel lucky to not only know them, but to also be part of a writing community that continues to grow and nurture me as well! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Book Review by Julie Patterson

Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Review: The Sinner's Guide to Confession
Summary: Kaye and Barbara are longtime friends, now in their fifties. Ellen, who is several years younger, develops a friendship with the other two women years later, solidifying this close-knit group. The three women are inseparable, yet each nurtures a secret that she keeps from the others.

Barbara, a widowed mother of three grown children, is an accomplished romance writer, who also has a secret persona as a celebrated erotica writer—an existence she feels compelled to keep from everyone. Kaye, a practicing psychotherapist and the mother of two, finds her marriage stable, but joyless. When she becomes involved with another man, she keeps her affair secret from her friends, too conflicted about her duplicity to expose herself. Ellen, a successful interior designer, childless and the seemingly perfect modern woman, harbors the most profound secret of all.

After her beloved husband betrays her, leaving her for a woman half her age who is also pregnant with his child, Ellen must face all her losses anew. First, there is the pain of the children she could never conceive with her husband. More importantly, however, there is the haunting memory of the child she had at sixteen and was forced to relinquish at birth. Estranged from her family, Ellen is reluctantly thrust back into contact after the death of her father, and learns that if she is ever to find her lost daughter—now a grown woman herself—she will have to confront her shame--and share her secret with her two closest friends.. -- Berkley Putnam

THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION by Phyllis Schieber is a very good book about women and their friendships -- notice the emphasis on the term "women." I have mentioned a few times that I enjoy the occasional "chick lit" book, but I'm finding that I don't have a lot in common with the characters anymore. As I approach 40, I'm realizing that I have more in common with their mothers -- UGH -- than I do the main characters! Recently I've noticed that things are changing. I guess authors have realized that those of us who loved chick lit 10-15 years ago are now "mature" women who are married and have children. I'm so happy to see that there are now fun books out there with "middle-aged" women as the lead characters.

The three main characters in THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION are actually a little older than I am -- probably closer to my mother's age; however, I still found myself enjoying their story and even relating a bit to them. I am certain that many women out there will have a lot in common with these characters and even see themselves and their friends in this book. There are lots of interesting themes in this book, especially those relating to secrets; but for me, this book is really about the strength and resilience of women and their friendships.

One thing that many women will appreciate is the author's ability to portray these women as real people. I found each of these characters to have serious personality flaws. In fact, many of their relationships were deeply affected by their issues and secrets. These women not only had relationship problems with their significant others, but they also bickered amongst themselves. While I definitely don't have this type of relationship with any of my close friends, I don't doubt that frienships like this do exist. Most importantly, the women in this book cared deeply about each other and were always there for one another.

Ms. Schieber did a wonderful job of developing these characters -- they were all extremely complex (and even rather sexual.) They weren't afraid to think about, dream about and talk about sex. At first I was a little put off by all this frank talk (I mean who wants to think of their mothers and grandmothers like this) but eventually I learned to appreciate that women are still women no matter how old they are. Another part of this novel that I found to be interesting was that all three of these characters were living with major secrets. While most of us aren't keeping this level of secrets from our family and friends, I do think the author makes an important point that we are all hiding things from those we love. This novel points out very clearly how secrets can affect not only your life, but also the lives of your family and friends.

Book Review-Gita Tewari
Thursday, January 8, 2009
The Sinner’s Guide to Confession
By Phyllis Schieber
Berkley Books

Female friendships go through different seasons, just as our lives have different seasons. Whether your husband leaves you for a twenty-something law clerk at his firm, you’re grieving the death of a spouse who kept secrets from you, or you’re in the midst of a marriage that is foundering, the common thread is that your friends are always there to help you pick up the pieces. That is the theme of The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, a new book by Phyllis Schieber. Not being familiar with Schieber’s work, I was somewhat bemused by the title of the book when I signed on to participate in the virtual book tour for this novel, but I decided to keep an open mind.

The women in this novel are all of a certain age and heading toward that treacherous territory when one starts to feel “invisible” in a society that worships youth and beauty. They are also on the cusp of an exciting period of self-discovery, finally gaining the courage to show oneself to the world—warts and all.

The main characters, Barbara, Kaye and Ellen, are longtime friends, but each has secrets she has not shared with her friends or family. An established writer of romance novels, Barbara has a talent for writing erotic novels—though she writes them under a pseudonym. Kaye is conflicted about her affair with a younger man who elicits emotions in her that she hasn’t experienced with her husband in years. Ellen is haunted by the memories of her teenage pregnancy and the baby daughter she was forced to give up for adoption.

An anchor throughout the novel is Kaye’s mother, a strong and forceful woman who is struggling with her own issues of independence and aging, but somehow manages to face these new challenges with grace and dignity. I immediately felt pulled into this novel and the finely drawn characters. The writing is fresh and engaging and the main players are real, strong, flawed, and eminently likeable. While I found The Sinner’s Guide to Confession predictable at times, it was still a worthwhile read.

Review by Gita Tewari

Cheryl Tasses Book Review

January 13, 2009
Book Commentary: The Sinner's Guide To Confession by Phyllis Schieber

The Sinner's Guide to Confession would make a good Oprah pick, women’s book clubs would probably drool over it and those wandering the chick lit aisles should probably seek it out, but I forgive it all that. I am a chick lit snob. If Oprah plants her magic seal on a book, I avert my eyes. So it was with some reluctance that I agreed to read The Sinner's Guide to Confession about three female friends who’re each concealing a secret. And though the novel has garnered praise from the reigning queen of chick lit, Jodi Picoult, I have to honestly say that this was a decent read.

The Sinner's Guide to Confession is well written with strong characterization. Moments of intensity are tempered with wit and a supporting cast complementary to the three protagonists. I do wish further exploration had been afforded the reasons we hide our secrets from even those closest to us; and in this way, I felt the word guide in the title was ambiguous. The final scene makes an attempt at exploring redemption and secrets left untold, and made me happy that I’d completed the tale. And while an editor’s pen might have been a tad needed, the story moved at a fair pace with relatable scenes of everyday life.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Reading Guide Questions for THE SINNER'S GUIDE TO CONFESSION

Reading Group Guide—bound in
The Sinner’s Guide to Confession
Phyllis Schieber

Discussion Questions:
1. Why do you think this book is titled The Sinner’s Guide to Confession? Who are the sinners in this story? Do they find redemption through confession?

2. Why does Ellen keep her past from her friends? Do you think she is right to hide her past?

3. How does writing as Delilah help Barbara to live a more fulfilling life? What does she gain from her secret writing? Do you think she is ashamed to write so unabashedly about sex? Why or why not?

4. Discuss Kaye’s affair with Frank. What attracts her to Frank to begin with? Do you empathize with her situation or do you think she should have divorced her husband?

5. Why does Ellen take such joy in tutoring Marisol? What does Marisol represent to Ellen? When Marisol leaves, what does Ellen lose?

6. Ellen has always kept her past and her family hidden from Barbara and Kaye. So why does she ask them to come to her father’s funeral with her? What does she gain by telling them the truth?

7. What is the role of marriage in this novel? Did any of the women in the novel have happy marriages? Do you think they love their husbands?

8. Why do you think Bill turns up at Ellen’s father’s funeral? Do you think they have any chance of reconciliation? In Ellen’s place, do you think you would be able to forgive Bill?

9. How is Gertie a pivotal figure throughout the novel? How does she care for her family? What does she represent for Kaye? How do Kaye, Barbara, and Ellen compare as mothers to their children?

10. Why do you think Justine ends her affair? Why does Kaye? What toll does Kaye’s affair take on her family?

11. When Kaye goes to Frank to end the affair, she lies and tells him that she was going to accept his proposal. Why does she tell this lie? What purpose does it serve? In what other ways do characters in this novel lie to save face?

12. Discuss the adoption of Ellen’s daughter. Do you think Ellen was too passive when her daughter was being taken away? Was there really anything she could have done? Why do you think she waits so long to begin searching for her daughter?

13. Do you think Ellen, Barbara, and Kaye are strong women? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


My mother died on Wednesday, December 10th after a long illness. I had anticipated her death since May, yet it came as a surprise. I find that extraordinary. I know a little boy, Luca, who will be 3 in July. On the first night of Hanukkah, one of his presents was a little refrigerator with a cake cake inside. The cake was a source of great delight to him. He kept opening the door to the fridge and announcing, "There's a cake inside." He was so thrilled that I was finally forced to ask, "Why is it so funny?" He laughed and said, "Because it's a surprise." I thought a lot about surprises after that. Each time Luca saw the cake, he laughed. and each time I think about my mother's absence, that surprise makes me sad. Even after so many months of knowing her death was imminent, of not hearing her voice and of suspecting that she likely did not even know I was there, I am surprised that she is gone. I am thinking about posting my mother's eulogy on my blog, but it feels so personal. Is that the point of a blog? To expose oneself so fully? I guess. . . it's still a bit of a surprise to me to think about doing something so revealing, so publc.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Secret Sex Lives

The other day I checked in at Good Reads to see if there were any new reviews of The Sinner's Guide to Confession. I would like to create the illusion that I am indifferent to reviews, but even though writers must develop a thick skin or perish, I do care what my readers think. More importantly, I care why they think what they do. One recent review stood out for me. The reader (evidently not in her fifties) had some kind words for my work but then noted that she might have enjoyed the book more if she was older. In fact, she said the book could have been called The Secret Sex Lives of the Golden Girls. At first, I laughed, but then I stopped. I recalled the characters on that wonderful show and wondered about their age. Surely, those women were older than I am, or were they? Of course, they were. But even if they weren't, how much does it really matter? When is a woman too old to stop feeling passion? Is there a cut-off age for love and desire? Moreover, why do young women believe that good sex is their exclusive domain? It seems to me that the older women get, the more they understand about their needs and the better they accept their shortcomings. I don't believe we are ever to old to want passion, so in response to my young critic, no one is ever too old to have a secret sex life and certainly no one is ever too old to dream about one.