Monthly Archives: May 2012

From My Bookshelves: A Favorite

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I started a semi-regular series here featuring favorite authors.  I decided to expand that category and include favorite books, not necessarily new ones I recently read, but old favorites. The kind that I reread or would never ever remove permanently from my bookcase.

The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy (Viking/2007)

Joan is unhappy when she must move with her family from Connecticut to California.  She’s angry with her mother, and her father is perpetually angry at everyone and everything, so Joan is both surprised and happy to meet The Queen of the Foxes (aka Fox, aka Sarah) who lives not too far away from Joan’s new home in the middle of the woods.  The two girls share adventures and make up stories all summer, until school starts and Joan discovers that Sarah is not only not one of the cool girls, but ostracized.  Still, they remain friends.  They win a writing contest and take a special summer program at UC Berkeley on creative writing. Joan takes great joy in learning how to write stories – even as her world/family seems to be crumbling apart – along with Fox’s.  As she asks more questions and observes more, she sees things she hadn’t noticed before – her mother’s strength and her father’s unhappiness.  And sometimes, even though you want to fly away, it’s better to stay.  The story itself centers around families and change, and how Joan and Fox interpret these things and survive. The story and the characters tugged on my emotions, and I fell in love with Joan and Fox. Such a great story, so well-written!

I read and loved this book when I first read it  years ago, and I recommended to friends near and far who also loved it. I re-read it last year and still love it. I hope the author writes something new soon!

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Really Great Reads

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I read two books recently that I just have to share with you!

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman (Knopf/2012)

“I should probably start with the blood.” This is the book’s opening line. With this mesmerizing opening, the reader is drawn into Nora’s world. As a high school senior, she is working at the local college as an intern, persuaded by her best friend Chris who attends the college. Together, along with another college intern, Max, they translate a mysterious text, trying to break a centuries old code. When Nora stumbles onto something important, everything changes. There’s a murder, Max disappears, Nora’s other best friend and Chris’s girlfriend goes catatonic. Nora is drawn into the mystery and then there seems to be no way out. From the quiet town where she lives to Paris and then Prague, Nora is desperate to discover the truth behind the mystery and possibly save her and her friends’ lives.

I am afraid to go more into detail because this is one of those stories that could be spoiled by too much detail. The characters are amazing, the story unforgettable. I could not put this book down!  If you like intrigue and are not put off by blood, I highly recommend this book!

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster/2012)

When 17yo Taylor learns devastating news about her father, the family decides to return to their summer lake house to spend summer together. Taylor is filled with dread at returning there. When things get tough, she usually runs away, and when she ran away from the lake house five years ago, she didn’t think she’d have to return to face her first boyfriend, Henry, and her then best friend Lucy. When she does come face-to-face with them, she has to face her past. As she comes to terms with her past, she also needs to confront the present and deal with her family’s issues. But, maybe, just maybe, Taylor will get a second chance, with her family, her best friend, and love.

A totally different type of story than the first book I mention, but just as worthy a read. I was swept away by Taylor and her predicament and how she deals with things that scare her. I cried at the end. And I’d read it again! Morgan Matson is quickly becoming a favorite author. I’ve missed reading contemporary stories just like this one! (Thanks to Lucy of The Reading Date for introducing me to this author’s books!)

This summer I will have plenty of reading time. I’m excited to share more great books with you! Please share your favorites with me! Thanks!

And The Winner Is…

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Thank you to everyone who stopped by to read The Spotlight on Jo Knowles for See You At Harry’s! With 36 entrants for the drawing, I decided to go with the random number generator rather than have Trixie pick a winner, this time.

I assigned a number to each comment starting with number 1 for the very first comment. I skipped second comments or replies to comments (usually me, anyway). So who is the lucky winner of a signed copy of See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles?

The lucky number is 24!!! And who is number 24? Lynn B!!! Come on down! Please email me your mailing address so I can forward it on to Jo who will send you a signed copy of her outstanding book!

Thanks again to everyone for entering – be sure to come back again for a future drawing and buzz for really good books!

Recipe For A Perfect Reading Retreat

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Ingredients:

1 gorgeous drive without any traffic

2 good friends

a mix of delicious food items for lunch and snacks

4+ books to read all afternoon

1 fabulous get-away with killer views Mix all ingredients well, allow to simmer for 4 – 6 hours in silence for a perfect blend of relaxation and bliss!

This is the house where Lynn and I hold our reading retreats. We talk the entire two hour drive, and when we arrive we have our picnic lunch (thanks to my husband Bob for the delicious smoked salmon and to Lynn’s husband Ken for the bagels), but after that, it’s silence and time for reading and writing in our journals. Although silence probably isn’t the best word to describe our recent afternoon since there was much weed-whacking and mowing going on around us. No matter, we were so relaxed, so into our reading that we (hardly) noticed it. We did notice our visitors – a hummingbird, scrub jay, butterflies, and a circling red-tail hawk or two.

This was our view for most of the afternoon – we sat on the porch on the Adirondack chairs, our tea mugs on the table by our stack of books. I mostly read Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson (really loving it so far) and a little from A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield (also loving this book)! The day went by too quickly, and yet, it was the perfect amount of time. Lynn and I stopped by Diavola’s for dinner and then drove home, feeling relaxed and peaceful.

If you hold a reading retreat, I’d love to hear about it.

PS – There’s still time to enter for a chance to win a signed copy of See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles! Click here!

Welcome Back To The Spotlight – Jo Knowles!

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Welcome back to Jo Knowles, this time to celebrate the release of her newest novel, See You At Harry’s! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a free signed copy of this fabulous book! Jo is the author of Lessons From A Dead Girl (Candlewick  Press), Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick Press), and Pearl (Henry Holt).  See You At Harry’s (Candlewick Press/2012): Twelve-year-old Fern often feels invisible in her family, everyone seems to be busy with their own issues – Dad with running the restaurant, Mom and her meditation, eldest sibling Sarah who is spending a gap year helping out (but not really) at the restaurant, and 14-year-old brother Holden who seems to be struggling with his identity. The only family member who seems to pay her any attention (excessive in Fern’s mind) is 3-year-old Charlie, constantly happy and the center of everyone’s world. When tragedy strikes, and guilty feelings abound, the family must come together, or be lost. Fern and her family feel so incredibly real, full of all the uncomfortable and feel-good moments families share. There is pain and there is love. A must read to be cherished for favorite characters you won’t want to let go of.

Spotlight on Jo Knowles:

What was the initial spark for See You At Harry’s?

Many years ago when I put up my first Web site, I described growing up in the restaurant business on my bio page. My agent, Barry Goldblatt, read and loved the description of the trouble my brother, sister and I used to get into and said, “You need to write a book about this!” I agreed! But there wasn’t really a story there, just a setting. In addition to that, I knew writing any story that involved memories of my brother would be painful (he died 8 years ago). But, Barry’s suggestion stayed with me. One day, I decided the only way to write the book was to sit down, open a new file, and see what happened. So I did.

I adore Fern, the main character in See You At Harry’s – she is vulnerable, kind, and feels a little invisible. What were the challenges in getting to know her and the other family members in the story?

Oh, thank you! I love Fern too. She’s the me I wish I was. We have a lot in common, but Fern has way more spunk and snark than I do. For me, the big challenge was making this family different from my own. When I first started writing, I found myself rewriting real scenes from my own childhood, and that was keeping me from finding my way into the fictional world of this other family. But as I worked my way deeper into the plot, the “truth” of each of us slipped away, and I was able to discover who each of these characters were and what made them unique and special.

I love the diner – you grew up in a restaurant family. What are some of your favorite memories?

I loved the ice-cream. What can I say? J My dad’s first restaurant was also an ice-cream factory. In the back of the restaurant, there was this huge room where the mixing tanks were. When the batches were ready, my dad would fill big containers with the fresh ice-cream. He always let us have some right out of the tank. When it first comes out of the machine, it’s still soft, like “soft serve” I guess you’d say, but it was sooooo much better than soft serve because it was far more rich and creamy. I also loved it when my parents let us make our own sundaes, and we could pile on as much chocolate and caramel sauce and whipped cream as we wanted. But mostly, my favorite memories are simply of all of us being together in what was basically our second home.

Little Jo loves her ice cream! 🙂

For more about Jo and her books, visit her site, read her blog, visit her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Win a signed copy of See You At Harry’s!

Jo has generously offered to send a signed copy of her book to a winner of this drawing! Make sure you follow the rules! This is a book you don’t want to miss reading! If you are reading this via a feed, click here to comment/enter the drawing.

1. Comment on this post – and for fun, tell me the name of your favorite ice cream flavor! If you’re like me and can’t eat ice cream, tell me the name of your favorite substitute! Mine is dark chocolate sorbet.

2. Please include your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Leave your comment by midnight EST, Friday, May 18th. Winner will be announced on this blog on Tuesday, May 22, and will be contacted by email.

4. Winner must have a US or Canada mailing address.

Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

My Towering Pile of Books

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Now that I’m finished with a major revision of my work-in-progress and now that it’s off to my writing partners for comment and critique, I have much more time left over for reading! Hooray! Here are the books I hope to dive into this month:

Bitterblue by Kirstin Cashore

I loved Graceling!

Until I Die by Amy Plum

I loved Die For Me (which I read on my flight to Paris last year and ended up, by accident, eating lunch at a restaurant mentioned in the book- La Palette!)

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

I loved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour (see a theme here?). I’m a huge fan of contemporary YA, especially those with romance storylines.

bird by bird by Anne Lamott

I reread this book at least once a year, if not more often. Lamott offers great inspiration and motivation for my writing life in this fantastic book! A must-read for all writers!

The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson

Between every project and almost every draft of a WIP, I either reread a writing craft book or read a new one. This time, I’m reading a new one. Many friends have recommended Alderson’s Plot Whisperer blog and videos. I tried watching the videos, which are quite good, but I like to read information versus watch/listen – I absorb it better.

Paris My Sweet by Amy Thomas

An adult memoir touted as “part love letter to Paris, part love letter to New York, and total devotion to all things sweet…” – Two cities I adore and yes, I love sweets! Sounds like a perfect read for me!

See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Happy PUB day to Jo Knowles for See You At Harry’s! I’ve already read this amazing book, but I plan to read it yet again and again. I am a huge fan of all of Jo’s books. Yes, she’s a good friend and one of my writing partners, but even so, I’d be a big fan! Love her writing! Come back next week to see my Spotlight on this book and on Jo! (and a chance to win a signed copy!)

I have no doubt I’ll be adding other books to my list in the coming weeks. I’d better get to the books! 🙂 Happy reading!

What’s on your pile?

Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner

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I received my very own autographed copy of Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner (illustrated by Brian Floca) after winning a drawing for spreading the good word about Kate’s first Marty book. This book is just as much fun with a great story about saving the earth.

In this second book about the spunky third grader Marty McGuire, Marty is determined to win a prize in the school’s Save The Earth project. With the help of her grandmother, she and her best friend Annie set up a compost bin at school. Marty is excited for the worms to do their job, but is then disappointed that they are so slow about turning food scraps into fertilizer. In the meantime, it looks like all her other classmates are making great and visible progress on their projects. Will she even have a chance at winning?

I love how full of confidence Marty is, and I love that she cares about saving the earth. It’s no surprise that Marty loves worms (she wasn’t afraid of a frog in book 1). There’s good humor throughout (worm escapees!) and readers will learn about composting and other “save the earth” hints.  Young readers will enjoy this story and Marty will capture their hearts!