Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guest Review: The Fairy Chronicles

I am so glad to introduce a new guest reviewer to Booking Mama -- my nine year old daughter Booking Daughter! She has done a few reviews in the past, but this is the first set of reviews that she wrote entirely on her own. The only assistance I gave to her was fixing the spelling errors and doing a little formatting.

I'm taking her word on these three books in THE FAIRY CHRONICLES series because I haven't even had the chance to read them yet! As you can see, she absolutely loved these books and is begging for more. I was happy to see that there are a total of ten books in the series so far, so that should keep her busy for awhile.

A huge thanks goes out to Danielle from Sourcebooks for sending us these beautiful books. If you'd like to learn a little more about THE FAIRY CHRONICLES series by J.H. Sweet, take a look around this very cool website. You can meet the fairies, create e-cards, and play tons of other fun activities.


Summary: Inside you is the power to do anything.

Meet Beth, who’s just discovered something incredible… she is a fairy, a marigold fairy, to be exact.

But Beth must learn to be a fairy during an emergency! The Feather of Hope has been lost and Beth must enlist the aid of her dog, Peanut, in a daring mission to rescue it from a house occupied by dangerous gremlins. And if Beth, her new fairy friends and Peanut can’t get the Feather back, all hope will be lost…forever.

What if you discovered you had magical fairy powers? Meet the girls of The Fairy Chronicles, otherwise normal girls like you who are blessed by Mother Nature with special gifts. Their extraordinary adventures will change the world! -- Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Beth Parish has to visit her aunt but she doesn't know that her aunt is a fairy...nevertheless does she know that she is one too. This book was probably the first in the series because it shows the steps of how to be a fairy. Madam Toad, the lead fairy, calls a meeting. The fairies find out that the Feather of Hope has been stolen. Will Marigold and her friends find the feather of hope? When everyone gets together, good things can happen.


Summary: Inside you is the power to do anything.

The Web of Dreams has been destroyed and every night more and more nightmares are slipping into people’s dreams! Jennifer, or Dragonfly to her fairy friends, is chosen to lead a fairy team to discover what happened to the Web and rebuild it immediately. To do so, they must make a dangerous journey, hunt down the Dream Spider and convince him to weave away the bad dreams.

But the Dream Spider is far away, and danger might be much closer than they think ...

What if you discovered you had magical fairy powers? Meet the girls of The Fairy Chronicles, otherwise normal girls like you who are blessed by Mother Nature with special gifts. Their extraordinary adventures will change the world! -- Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Jennifer Sommerset is a Dragonfly Fairy on a mission. The Web of Dreams is ruined. Soon Dragonfly needs help from her friends but they are scared. I loved reading about what the other fairies did and about the Web of Dreams. The message is that you have special gifts and when you work together, you can accomplish things.


Summary: Inside you is the power to do anything.

Giggles, guffaws, chortles and chuckles are created within the Shell of Laughter. And now it has been stolen!

But who would dare to take the world’s laughter? Only the Spirit of Sorrow would be so bold. So, Madam Toad decides to send Thistle, the fairy most full of laughter to find it. Luckily Thistle has her mentor, her friends and her courage. But is even that enough to stop an enemy this sad and evil?

What if you discovered you had magical fairy powers? Meet the girls of The Fairy Chronicles, otherwise normal girls like you who are blessed by Mother Nature with special gifts. Their extraordinary adventures will change the world! -- Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Everything is perfect for Grace Matthews. The holidays are coming up and everything is great until someone steals the Shell of Laughter. Thistle laughs the most so she got chosen along with Dragonfly and Marigold to help find it. They promised to help and keep it a secret from Mother Earth. Through the journey in the woods to the searching for the stone, Thistle keeps the crowd laughing. Soon Thistle stops laughing. Will they find the stone? The main idea is that we all have talents and we should use them together to make things better.

Conclusion: In some way all of these books come together with their similar messages about working together. They all have beautiful drawings and great messages at the end. These wonderful stories have adventures that are happy and sad. One thing is that all of the books are great, and I can't wait to read the next adventure about Firefly!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Review: Shelter Me

Summary: In the tradition of Marisa de los Santos and Anne Tyler comes a moving debut about a young mother's year of heartbreak, loss, and forgiveness...and help that arrives from unexpected sources.

Four months after her husband's death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.

As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can't release. Yet Janie's self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love. -- Avon

When I was selected to read an ARC of SHELTER ME by Juliette Fay as part of the Harper Collins First Look Program, I was extremely excited. Based on the novel's description, I just knew it would be a book that I would eventually have to read. Fortunately for me, I got a head-start on the book a few months before it will be released. When I opened up the package and took a look at this book, I noticed how beautiful the cover was (especially the patchwork quilt covering the mother and child.) I can definitely say that after reading the novel, I appreciated the cover art even more -- it was just perfect for this story!

I absolutely adored this novel -- from the characters, to the story, to the author's writing style! This is just one of those novels that I got caught up in and couldn't put down. SHELTER ME definitely made me think, and it really stirred up a lot of emotions in me. I am about the same age of Janie and I'm also the mother of a son and daughter. I don't like to think about what would happen to my family if I suddenly lost my husband, but I have to admit that it sometimes enters my mind. Reading about Janie and her children really hit close to home for me. I could definitely understand Janie's grieving for the loss of her husband; however, I could also really relate to outward emotions of anger, frustration and resentment.

There were parts of this novel that were so touching and beautifully written that I found myself getting choked up. Like Janie, I have a four year old son who is very insightful. I felt like some of the things Dylan said about his father were "spot on," albeit very emotional. The scene at Dylan's party just broke my heart especially when they were taking family pictures without the father. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to have holidays and other special family events with such an important person missing.

This is Juliette Fay's first novel, and I'm just blown away by her talent. I love how she told this story in third person narrative because I thought it gave insight into all the characters, but I also appreciated how she used Janie's journal writings to give the reader a closer look at her feelings. I am just so impressed how Ms. Fay managed to capture the essence of Janie's grief -- it was incredibly real to me. In addition, I love how she showed Janie's difficulties with guilt as she tried to "move on" with her life. I hope Ms. Fay is busy working on her next novel because I can't wait to read it.

As I mentioned earlier, I thought the cover of this novel was just wonderful; however, I think the title SHELTER ME is even more perfect. Ms. Fay incorporated the theme of "shelter" so well throughout this novel. I could go on forever about how she showed the importance of shelter in our lives through family, parents, spouses, church, homeless shelters, etc. She even chose to have Janie's husband die because he wasn't wearing his bike helmet (another form of shelter.) In addition, she used this recurring theme by having Tug "shelter" Janie by both physically -- by building a porch on her house, as well as figuratively -- by being there to protect and love her. I just love how Ms. Fay wove the theme of shelter and protection throughout the pages of this beautiful novel.

SHELTER ME is published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins; and the paperback book has the A+ Author Insights, Extras and More Section in the back. Many of you know from my other reviews that I love these extras, and I think they add so much to my reading experience. There is an interesting interview with Ms. Fay which gives the reader a great deal of insight into the novel and the characters. In addition to the discussion questions, there are also a few recipes of some foods mentioned in the story and a cute little story titled "SHELTER ME Goes Out the Window."

SHELTER ME will be available on December 30th, and I think it is the perfect book club discussion book. It is a little longer than what my book club usually reads (over 400 pages), but it is so worth it. This book will resonate with many women, and I have no doubt that my friends will relate to Janie's grief and her feelings. Ever since I finished this book, I have been dying to talk about it. There are so many wonderful issues to discuss such as single parenting, grieving, starting over, mother-daughter relationships, spirituality, and hope (to name a few.) The discussion questions are terrific and sure to give you lots to think about.

Also reviewed at:
Sincerely Stacie

Hello...You Won The Reincarnationist & The Memorist

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest to win copies of M.J. Rose's THE REINCARNATIONIST AND THE MEMORIST! I found your answers about the possibility of reincarnation very interesting to read.

Without further ado, the winners are:



Make sure to check your e-mail and send me your names and mailing addresses!

If you didn't win this contest, I still have quite a few more going on!

Novel Adventures -- 9 books
Katie Brown Celebrates -- up to 5 books
Confetti Cakes for Kids -- up to 5 books
Being Written -- signed copy
Silver Bells

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giveaway: Silver Bells

Summary: -- In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas…so settle into your coziest armchair and enjoy four captivating tales that will make your holidays merry and bright…

“Silver Bells” by Fern Michaels
For years, movie star Amy Lee wondered what it would be like to leave her shallow Hollywood life and go back home to Apple Valley, Pennsylvania. This Christmas, she plans to find out. And Hank Anders, her high-school boyfriend, is now ready to give her a welcome she’ll never forget…

“Dear Santa…” by JoAnn Ross
Mystery author Holly Berry’s SUV has broken down in the little hamlet of Santa’s Village, Washington. Holly hates the holidays—that is until lodge owner Gabriel O’Halloran and his five-year-old daughter rekindle her belief in passion, magic, and Christmas wishes…

“Christmas Past” by Mary Burton
Photographer Nicole Piper just received a very unwelcome Christmas gift—a letter that holds clues to an elusive killer’s identity. Uncovering the truth means enlisting homicide detective David Ayden’s help, and embarking on a road trip that will take them both into the heart of danger and desire…

“A Mulberry Park Christmas” by Judy Duarte
Every Christmas, the folks living on Sugar Plum Lane pull out all the stops when decorating. After a bitter breakup, Alyssa Ridgeway’s heart just isn’t in it this year. But running into her first love, James “Mac” MacGregor, fills her with memories of the tender Christmas kiss they once shared… Kensington Books

I have to admit that I haven't had a chance to read SILVER BELLS yet, but it does look like a wonderful book to read around the holidays! I'm not really sure why, but I received two copies of his book and I'd like to share one with you. Please leave a comment with your e-mail address if you'd like to be entered. Want to double your chances? Then, blog about this contest with a link back to this post! The contest will be open until Saturday, December 13th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canadian addresses only. Good Luck!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Author Interview: William Conescu & Giveaway

Yesterday, I posted a review of a terrific new book called BEING WRITTEN. It truly is a very special book, and I can honestly say that I've never read anything like it! I am so thrilled that the author William Conescu took the time out of his very busy schedule to answer a few questions for me!

Booking Mama: BEING WRITTEN is such a unique idea for a novel -- I've actually never read anything quite like it. How did the idea for this novel come to you?

William Conescu: I was interested in writing about artistically-minded people in their twenties and thirties struggling to figure out how best to live their lives, and then I had this idea for a dark comedy about a minor character who can hear the author’s pencil scratching when other characters are “being written” nearby. There are parallels in these struggles. Daniel is also figuring out what to do with his unique ability and what role he might play in his universe. So I combined the two ideas: Daniel hears a story being written about these artsy twenty/thirty-something-year-olds, and he works his way into their lives and their story and ultimately hijacks their book.

Booking Mama: When you set out to write BEING WRITTEN, did you know the entire story including the ending? Or, did you just have some ideas and start writing? What was your writing process like for this novel?

William Conescu: After writing a few chapters, I realized that BEING WRITTEN wanted to be a suspenseful novel. So I outlined the whole story, and while plenty of things changed along the way, the ending emerged early in the writing process.

Booking Mama: I thought Daniel was pretty crazy, but for some reason I really liked him. Did you know what direction you were going to take with his character from the start?

William Conescu: I knew I wanted Daniel to be the one character who knew he was a character, and I wanted to explore what that knowledge might make a person do and how it might make him feel. There’d be a loneliness to it. It’s not the kind of knowledge you’re going to share with lots of people because, well, it does sound odd.

Booking Mama: I thought it was very different that Daniel's chapters were written in second person. I understand that originally you didn't write his perspective this way. Why did you choose to write Daniel's chapters in second person? Did you ever consider writing them in first person?

William Conescu: Originally, I wrote the entire novel in the third person, but Daniel’s sections didn’t stand out. I hadn’t captured his unique perspective on how the universe works. I did try the first person but almost immediately moved to the second person. The second person can give a sense of a character talking to himself. It works well for a character who has an unusual mindset or who can’t believe he’s in a particular situation.

So the novel alternates between third person chapters that show the perspectives of characters who don’t know they’re in a book and second person chapters that show Daniel’s perception of being written into their story.

Booking Mama: BEING WRITTEN is your first novel but you have written and published some short stories. Which do you prefer writing -- novels or short stories?

William Conescu: I had a great time writing BEING WRITTEN, and at the moment I’m focused on my second novel. But I certainly enjoy writing and reading short stories and will continue to write them, too.

Booking Mama: What are you working on now?

William Conescu: I recently completed a first draft of my next novel. It’s not a work of metafiction, but it has its own flavor of strangeness to it.

Booking Mama: How has your life changed now that you've published a novel?

William Conescu: It’s very exciting to see the novel in bookstores everywhere and to hear from book groups and readers.

The book tour has been great, too. I’ve been to some really cool bookstores and met terrific people. BEING WRITTEN is a fun book to read aloud.
Here’s a YouTube clip from a reading:

Booking Mama: I always ask this question because I think it tells a lot about a person. Who are some of your favorite writers and what are some of your favorite books? What are you reading right now?

William Conescu: My longtime favorite authors are Edith Wharton and Vladimir Nabokov. Some more recent favorites: Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl, Diana Spechler’s Who By Fire, Andrew Sean Greer’s The Confessions of Max Tivoli. And I just finished Daniel Wallace’s Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, which was excellent.

A huge thanks goes out to William Conescu for taking the time to answer some of my questions!He has also graciously offered a signed copy of BEING WRITTEN to one lucky reader. To enter the contest, please leave a comment with your e-mail address. If you'd like to double your chances, blog about this contest with a link back here. The contest will be open until Friday, December 12th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winner the next day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canadian mailing addresses only. Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Review: Being Written

Summary: Daniel Fischer has a secret. He knows he's a character in a book that's being written. He's the only one who knows, the only one who's aware of the author's presence—but what good does it do Daniel? He's just a minor character. The author seems much more interested in other people's lives. Now Daniel is determined to win a bigger part, and he'll do whatever it takes to get the author's attention and make this story his own.

Suspenseful, subversive, and hilarious, Being Written is an audaciously inventive literary turn that gleefully calls into question who we trust, what we believe, and how the stories of our lives are created. -- Harper Perennial

When William Conescu, author of the new novel BEING WRITTEN, contacted me about reading his book, I jumped at the chance. I read the summary and a few bits of praise surrounding the book, and I knew I just had to read it. I thought the premise behind this novel -- that a guy can hear "scribbling sounds" and know that someone is writing a book with him as a character -- sounded so unique. While I was interested in the storyline, I have to admit that part of the reason I wanted to read this book was because I wasn't sure how the author was going to pull off this concept.

Well, guess what? Mr. Conescu did pull off this very unique idea for a story, and I thought BEING WRITTEN was absolutely brilliant!!! It was one of those rare books that had me saying "WOW" when I finished it. I couldn't put the book down and read it in (almost) one sitting. The book is not very long (a little under 200 pages), but it does pack a very powerful punch.

This novel is most definitely a dark comedy; but I think even if you're not a big fan of those types of stories, you will still appreciate BEING WRITTEN. In addition to the story of Daniel and his desire to become a main character in a novel, this book is also about a group of 20+ somethings who are trying to find themselves. In a way, it's kind of a self-discovery, coming-of-age type of novel. However, the real beauty for me was the story of Daniel.

Daniel was one of the most original, unique characters that I've ever "met" through a novel. I'm not sure what to make of him because I do think he was crazy (or at least unstable), but I have to say that I still liked him. He lies and manipulates his way through life to become a character in someone's novel; and he eventually becomes so caught up in his quest to be a major role that he loses grip on his own reality. This novel gives the reader a fascinating look into the Daniel's mind, and you just feel so lucky to be along for the ride!

BEING WRITTEN is Mr. Conescu's first novel (he has written many short stories), and it's a very impressive debut. I was blown away by not only the plot but his ability to tell the story too. I absolutely love that each chapter is written from a different characters' point of view -- it allowed me to really get to know each one of them. What makes this book special is that all of the characters, except Daniel, are written in third person. Daniel's chapters are written in second person, and I thought this technique is what make this book so incredibly well written. By having Daniel referring to himself as you, the author allows the reader to feel as if they are part of the action. It also gave Daniel's chapters a level of intensity that set them apart from the rest of the book.

BEING WRITTEN is an excellent book to discuss. In fact after I finished, I immediately wanted to talk about it with someone. I couldn't get over the Daniel character, and I was just dying to talk about the novel's ending! It has been days since I've finished BEING WRITTEN, and I still can't stop thinking about it -- to me, that's a sign of a really good book. What's even better is that the more I think about this novel, the deeper I realize it is. This book is just so good on so many different levels. There is a reading guide available which should definitely encourage conversation and help to keep your discussion on track.

Make sure you come back tomorrow because Mr. Conescu will be answering a few of my questions. In addition, he might have a little surprise for you!

Also reviewed at:
Age 30+...A Lifetime in Books

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Review: Knit Two

Summary: Knit Two returns to the Manhattan knitting store Walker & Daughter five years after the death of the store's owner, Georgia Walker. Georgia's daughter Dakota is now an 18 year old freshman at NYU, running the knitting store part-time with the help of the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club. Drawn together by their love for Dakota and the sense of family the club provides, each knitter is struggling with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce, for Darwin, newborn twins, for Lucie, being both a single mom and caregiver for her elderly mother, and for seventysomething Anita, marriage to her sweetheart Marty over the objections of her grown children.

As Kate Jacobs returns to the world of Walker & Daughter, she's once again keyed into many of the stresses and joys of being a mother, wife, daughter and friend. Every woman who picks up this book will see themselves in its characters—the very thing that made The Friday Night Knitting Club such a huge word-of-mouth success. A true love letter to the power of women's friendships, and, of course, knitting, Knit Two is entertainment with a heart. -- Putnam

I know I'm not alone in saying that I really enjoyed THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB by Kate Jacobs, and I have been anxiously awaiting a sequel. Fortunately, I received an ARC of KNIT TWO a few weeks ago, and I absolutely devoured it. Not that I like to judge a book by its cover, but the cover artwork is just beautiful (especially if you love touching, feeling and buying yarn like I do.) I had pretty high hopes for this book so it's a good thing that it lived up to my expectations.

If you enjoyed THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB and the characters in that book, then you will certainly want to read KNIT TWO. Ms. Jacobs' newest novel has the same cast of characters as her first one; however, this book picks takes place five years later. It will only take a few pages until you are once again caught up in the characters' lives (as well as their troubles.) Even though the book takes place five years after Georgia's death, each of the women is facing different challenges in her life. While the characters for the most part are more mature, many are still struggling with issues that women everywhere face like motherhood, family problems, career choices, marriage, etc. They all seem a little lost without the guidance of Georgia, but they eventually find their way with each other's support.

While all of the characters in THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB were brought together by their friendship with Georgia, in KNIT TWO many of them have remained friends because of their relationship with Georgia's daughter Dakota. Each of the women had a very special role in Dakota's life, and they all tried to fill the void left after Georgia died. I think it's so special that Ms. Jacobs has created characters who are so diverse and different from each other whether it be age, race, social standing, marital status, career choice, etc. She highlights that ultimately these differences don't matter -- what's important is being there for a friend.

One thing I especially enjoyed about KNIT TWO was that some of the characters travelled to Italy. I love all things Italian (especially the food) and am dying to visit there some day. I thought Ms. Jacobs' descriptions were very vivid and captured the essence of Italy. For many of the characters, the trip to Italy helped them put their lives into perspective and eventually gave them the insight they needed to resolve their issues.

While I didn't find myself crying at the end KNIT TWO like I did during THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, I was still deeply touched by the ending. There is a surprise near the end of the book (which is definitely not as sad as when Georgia died from ovarian cancer in the first novel) that affected me a great deal. My heart went out to all of the characters, yet I loved how the tragedy in this story eventually pulled them together. Similar to THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, KNIT TWO showed how incredibly strong and resilient women are; and it demonstrated the powerful bond between all types and all ages of women. I liked that the characters discovered important things about themselves, and I thought the book ended on a very hopeful note.

I absolutely adore Kate Jacobs and all three of her books. Not only have I loved both THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB AND KNIT TWO, but I also enjoyed her other novel COMFORT FOOD (you can read my review here.) Last April, I was fortunate enough to interview Ms. Jacobs when COMFORT FOOD was released. She is extremely gracious and also a big supporter of book clubs. She makes herself readily available for telephone chats, and she's even running a contest right now where Ms. Jacobs will visit to your book club in person. If you are interested in learning more about Ms. Jacobs, check out this new interview with her. In addition, she is doing a pretty big book tour; and she might be coming to a city near you.

KNIT TWO would make a wonderful book club selection, especially if your group has already read THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB. Ms. Jacobs manages to capture the essence of women so beautifully, and I think we all can relate a little to the characters in her books. There is a wonderful reading guide available if you're like my club and kind of "need" questions to keep your discussion on track.

KNIT TWO is available today so make sure you keep this book in mind for the holiday season. It will make a great gift for any special woman in your life, especially if she loves books or knitting. In fact, the book includes a simple knitting pattern for the Georgia Afghan that I am just dying to make! Take a look at the first chapter and I know you'll be immediately drawn in just like I was.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Review: Confetti Cakes for Kids & Giveaway

Summary: Elisa Strauss of Confetti Cakes has created confections as elaborate as a platter of sushi, a wine bottle in a crate, and a designer handbag. Now she focuses her talents on her younger fans with this enchanting collection of cakes, cookies, and cupcakes for kids. Strauss starts readers off with 20 delicious recipes and all the basic techniques needed to complete any project in the book. Then she offers step-by-step instructions for 24 jaw-dropping designs that can become the centerpiece of any celebration. Projects span the imagination--from a charming sock monkey, to an MP3 player, to playful hula gingerbread girls and boys--and will appeal to anyone looking for the perfect way to thrill a child with a delectable, spectacular creation. -- Little, Brown and Company

CONFETTI CAKES FOR KIDS by Elisa Strauss is one of the most incredible cookbooks that I've ever seen. I'm not sure if it's more like a cookbook or a work of art! My friend and I like to decorate cookies and cakes so I thought this cookbook might give us a few ideas. Well, I did get a lot of ideas from this book. I'm not sure that I could actually make anything in here except for a few lollipop cookies, but this book is gorgeous (and so fun to look at!)

It's hard to pick which cake, cupcake or cookie is my favorite because they are so many adorable ones. While most of the cakes are geared towards kids, a few of the patterns would work for anyone like the Christmas ornament cupcakes or Quinceanera Cake which could definitely double as a wedding cake. I love all of the animal and pajama party cut-out cookies (which I could probably make), but I think my very favorite work-of-art is the sock monkey cake -- it is just precious!

All of the cakes/cookies creations include step-by-step recipes as well as very detailed instructions on how to assemble and decorate them. I could probably bake them and mix the icing, but trust me when I say that these cakes are not for beginners. I am just blown away by Elisa Strauss, the cake designer and author of this book. I absolutely love her website (and her blog) and could spend hours on both of them. Make sure you take a look to get an idea of her amazing cake designs.

I think CONFETTI CAKES FOR KIDS would make a wonderful gift for anyone in your life who enjoys decorating cakes and cookies (or really even anyone with kids.) And guess what? I am going to giveaway up to five copies of CONFETTI CAKES FOR KIDS courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA. For one entry, all you have to do is leave a comment with your e-mail address. For two entries, just blog about this contest with a link back to this post. I will give away one book for every 10 entries that I receive, so it definitely benefits you to tell everyone about this contest. The contest will be open until Tuesday, December 9th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only (no P.O. boxes.) Good Luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guest Blogger: Diana Spechler

Yesterday, I posted a review about a wonderful new novel WHO BY FIRE by Diana Spechler. I adored this book, so you can imagine how excited I am that Ms. Spechler agreed to write a guest post for me about her favorite book!

Since my first novel hit the shelves in September, a lot of people have asked me, reasonably enough, “What’s your favorite book?” Unfortunately, whenever anyone asks, particularly if it’s during a Q&A and I’m in front of an audience, sweaty microphone in sweaty palm, I draw a blank.

What is my favorite book? Have I ever read a book? I can envision my book shelves, but I can’t see what’s on them. I can envision myself curled up on countless couches, stretched out on countless lounge chairs, sitting in countless trains, holding countless paperbacks, but when I squint to see the titles, they are invisible. So then a battle rages in my head:

“I should just say Middlesex.”

“No, don’t say that. It’s an Oprah book.”

“So? People love Oprah.”

“Say Ulysses.”

“I’ll sound pretentious.”

“On The Road?”

“You never finished On The Road. And isn’t On The Road what people who don’t read say when they want to sound like they read? Then they always go, ‘I’m really into the Beats,’ but they don’t know who the Beats are and neither do you.”

“Yes, I do.”



“As if you’ve read Ginsberg.”

“Fine…The Poisonwood Bible.”

“Oprah book.”

“Shut up. It was not.”

“It totally was.”

“I am freaking out. No, I am seriously freaking out. Can I say The Other Boleyn Girl?”

“Are you joking? Tell me you’re joking.”


“Sure. If you want everyone to wonder if you’re a pervert. Then you should say that thing you always say when you start talking about Lolita. About how you found yourself cheering for a child molester, and that’s how you knew Nabokov was a master. That’ll win your crowd over. That will be totally awesome.”

“The Unbearable Lightness of Being?”

“You couldn’t even get through it.”

“Everyone likes The Unbearable Lightness of Being.”

“Except you. Stop it.”

“Catcher In The Rye?”

“Are you fourteen?”

“The Great Gatsby?”

“Are you fifteen?”

“Wuthering Heights?”

“Are you a hundred? And when the hell did you read Wuthering Heights?”

“Should I just plug one of my friends’ novels?...Oh, god, this is awful. What about Prep? Can I say Prep?”

“If you want to sound frivolous.”

“Prep’s not frivolous.”

“But some people just know the cover. That J. Crew belt. Can’t you come up with anything that wasn’t a best-seller?”

“Um…was Night a best-seller?”

“You are kidding. You are not serious. Who picks a Holocaust memoir as her favorite book? Are you insane? Besides. Oprah book.”

At this point, after the long, uncomfortable pause for which I am one hundred percent to blame, I usually wind up saying, “What is my favorite book? Have I ever read a book?”

Then everyone laughs to be nice, but they’re obviously a little disappointed, especially the person who asked the question and wanted a straight answer, and then I go home and think,
“I’m going to come up with a stock response to this question. I have to come up with a stock response to this question.”

But so far, I haven’t.

I absolutely laughed out loud when I read this because it's so true! I'm one of those people who are always asking this question (to authors, bloggers, friends, etc.). Even though I always want to know everyone's favorite book, I'm always struggling to come up with one of my own. I usually say TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; and while it's a terrific book, I'm afraid that I don't sound very original!

A big thanks goes out to Diana Spechler for taking time from her very busy schedule to stop by Booking Mama!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Review: Who By Fire

Summary: Bits and Ash were children when the kidnapping of their younger sister, Alena—an incident for which Ash blames himself—caused an irreparable family rift. Thirteen years later, Ash is living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel, cutting himself off from his mother, Ellie, and his wild-child sister, Bits. But soon he may have to face them again; Alena's remains have finally been uncovered. Now Bits is traveling across the world in a bold and desperate attempt to bring her brother home and salvage what's left of their family.

Sharp and captivating, Who by Fire deftly explores what happens when people try to rescue one another. -- Harper Perennial

When Book Club Girl announced that her Blog Talk Radio show guest for November would be Diana Spechler, author of WHO BY FIRE, I was so excited. Based on the description of this novel, I thought it sounded exactly like something I would like. I am always drawn to stories about families and how they cope with loss. It's probably because the feeling of loss is something that I haven't experienced very often or in a major way -- I guess I'm lucky in that aspect. All I know is that I love reading these types of books and seeing how different families cope.

I found WHO BY FIRE to be a wonderful novel. I love how the author chose to write this story -- each chapter was told in first person narrative by three different family members. I thought Ms. Spechler did a great job making each voice distinct, and I felt as if I got to know (and understand) each character. She also did an amazing job of showing how a family tragedy affects each and every family member not only in the short term, but the effect it has on them for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, the way she wrote about each person's grief and guilt just seemed so realistic.

I was just completely absorbed in this novel from the time I picked it up. Ms. Spechler's prose is very smooth and easy-to-read, yet very powerful. The characters were so interesting to me as were their interactions (or lack thereof.) I think another reason I enjoyed this book so much was because it was about a new subject matter for me -- the Orthodox Jewish religion. I found Ash's chapters to be fascinating, especially when he described his prayer rituals and his beliefs. It's apparent that Ms. Spechler did a huge amount of research to get these chapters "just right."

I thought WHO BY FIRE had a terrific premise for a book, and I was very drawn into the characters' feelings and their stories. Based on those things, I would have thought that WHO BY FIRE was a wonderful book; however, this novel had a few twists and turns that made me really appreciate it. I take pride in being a pretty perceptive reader, but I have to admit that I was totally caught off guard by a couple of things. That the author was able to write a book with such a great storyline and rich characters, and then on top of that have a surprise ending, made this book a very entertaining and thought-provoking read.

Thursday night's radio show was so much fun. Once again, Book Club Girl did an amazing job of moderating the interview. If you aren't familiar with her radio shows, you really need to tune in. I have found that they really enhance my reading experience; and the discussion with Ms. Spechler was no exception -- Ms. Spechler was so interesting and open about her novel. As part of her research for writing this book, she traveled to Israel and even visited some yeshivas. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy listening to her talk about the Jewish faith, but I also found it interesting to hear her discuss her writing process and her characters. Make sure you take a listen, but I have to warn you that you might want to read the book first (there is a little spoiler.)

You should definitely consider WHO BY FIRE for a future book club discussion. I think any talk around this novel would be fascinating. There are so many wonderful themes to talk about such as dysfunctional families, the effects a tragedy has on individual family members, religious preferences, and especially guilt and redemption. There is a reading guide available which offers some great talking points.

Come back tomorrow because Ms. Spechler will be stopping by with a great guest post!

Hello...You Won Gods Behaving Badly

Thanks to everyone for entering. Because of the number of entries I received, I can giveaway three copies of GOD BEHAVING BADLY.

And the winners are:




I can't wait to read this book -- it looks terrific! Please mark your calendars for a live chat with the author of GODS BEHAVING BADLY, Marie Phillips on Blog Talk Radio on December 1st at 1:00. You can call (646) 378-0040 to ask your questions, or you can listen to the show here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guest Blogger: Christine Son

I hope that many of you read my review of OFF THE MENU yesterday. It is a wonderful book about female relationships and discovering one's passions. I am so excited that Christine Son agreed to stop by today and tell us a little more about herself. I think you'll agree that her essay shows not only her wonderful sense of humor but also a glimpse of her terrific writing.

How Hard Can It Be?

Some years ago, my husband and I were lounging around in the family room of our first home, which was wood-paneled in a hideous shade of Eighties dirty dirt brown. We’d been living there for over three years and had complained every day about how dated the house was, and that Saturday morning, I suggested that we strip the walls and restain them with a more genteel mahogany (because nothing says warm and inviting like dark, cave-like walls). “How hard can it be?” I asked. “I bet we can knock this baby out in a weekend.” Cheered by my optimism, my husband and I ran to Home Depot, were advised that varnish was the best solution to remove wood stain, bought two gallons of the poison and then went home, excited to renovate the three hundred square foot room. Two hours later, we both had massive headaches and were completely disoriented from the fumes, and this was after we’d opened every window in the house. The varnish didn’t work, and to our dismay, we now had a gaping section of lighter dirty dirt brown wall. We couldn’t restain the wall to the original color because we had no idea what it was, and we couldn’t add another stain over the original hue. So, we decided to paint the entire room a Pottery Barn pale yellow, which was perfect, considering that our family room was page 59 of the catalog (interior design is neither of our fortes). We returned to Home Depot, selected the color, bought five gallons of paint, and then went for Round Two, to which I said, “How hard can this be? I bet we can knock this baby out by the end of the weekend.”

Three weeks later, we were almost finished.

Six weeks later, the room was beautiful.

It took forever to paint because the room was twelve feet high with an obscene amount of wainscoting, picture framing and crown molding. It also took forever because both of us were working thirteen hours a day and were painting whenever we weren’t at the office. One would think that I’d learned my lesson. But several months later, a friend of ours asked us to help him move. And as I am now notoriously known to do, I asked, “How hard can it be? I bet we can knock this out in three hours.” Of course, we didn’t.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a cheerfully confident—and borderline delusional—outlook on projects and goals. And I’d always harbored a desire to write, even when I majored in Biology and French, when I pursued a medical career, when I went to law school, and then when I worked at a law firm. The one passion that nagged at me constantly, I put aside in favor of “real life.” Then one morning, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Barnes & Noble, reading a book, and I thought, “I’ve wanted to do this for so long. What am I waiting for? I mean, how hard can it be?”

So I did it. Got a laptop and started writing. And discovered that it was damned hard to write a novel. And that it was even harder to become published. I had done my research. I knew how slim my chances of publication were. But I kept at it until I finished my first book. And I kept at it when it didn’t sell. I kept at it when my days had become so long that I couldn’t tell when one ended and the next started. But like the family room, I couldn’t stop writing. For every “I don’t think I can do this anymore” thought I had, I had two of, “but I still love it.” I took a step back and listened to my environment, to the complaints my friends had about their own career trajectories. I discovered that we were all in the same boat, wondering how our lives had turned out the way they had when our passions were elsewhere. We talked about it so much that it became the backbone of OFF THE MENU, that conflict of living up to everyone’s expectations while hiding the love of our existences. And because it was so close to my heart, the subject grew organically into an entire novel.

After several iterations, the book sold to NAL/Penguin. I was nearly manic with joy. I don’t have children, but I imagine that the exuberance I felt is not unlike childbirth, when one forgets the pain and hardship and difficulties and long nights and debilitating self-doubt the very instant her agent says those magic words—“they love it. They want to buy it.”

So that’s the lesson we can all take away from my experience. It wasn’t because I was so awesome that I was able to make it in an insanely difficult industry. It was that I continued writing, even when it seemed like everyone in the world was saying “no.” And now, I feel like I’m living my dream. I’m working on my second novel on nights and weekends and holidays (I still have a day job that takes up a good bit of my time). And as I muddle my way through the manuscript, often wondering if it’s any good, if it even makes any sense, I find myself saying what I’ve always said: “Come on Christine, you can do it. I mean, how hard can it be?”

A big thanks goes out to Christine Son for taking time out of her very busy schedule to stop by!

Christine Son graduated from the University of Texas and Duke University School of Law. She works as corporate counsel for a Fortune 500 company in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband. OFF THE MENU is her first novel.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Off the Menu

Summary: An extraordinary debut about second-generation Asian-American women trying to live up to society’s high standards, as well as their own.

Even though it’s been ten years since their Houston high school days, co-valedictorians and best friends Whitney Lee, Hercules Huang, and Audrey Henley still delight in their once-a-month get-togethers where they talk, laugh, and confide in each other— although not about everything. Because each young woman has a deep, dark secret they think they could never share. Not even with their best friends. Then, during a girls’ weekend getaway, these three friends wind up revealing their most intimate truths—and realize that to get straight As in the real world, all you have to do is let go of the need to be perfect… -- New American Library

I know this definitely isn't the best way to pick a book to read, but I have to admit that I absolutely adored the cover of OFF THE MENU by Christine Son. I love the flowers and the heart-shaped chocolate candy -- it just made me want to read the book. Fortunately for me not only was the cover gorgeous, but the book was very good too!

While at first glance I thought I didn't have much in common with the characters in OFF THE MENU, I definitely felt that this story resonated with me. Maybe not with my current 39 year old self who is a stay-at-home mom, but somehow I found myself relating to each of these three women. No, I'm not Asian-American or in my late 20s/early 30s or even totally career oriented anymore, but I could understand the feelings of these three characters -- I always want to be perfect and never disappoint anyone. While I don't think I ever quite experienced the pressure that they felt (especially from their parents -- mine was more self-imposed), I still think Whitney's, Hercules' and Audrey's feelings are universal among today's society of women. And, I think that's exactly why so many women are going to love this book!

I was a little disheartened at the beginning of the novel that these three long-time best friends still managed to keep so many big secrets from each other. But when I thought about it, I thought it was very realistic portrayal of some friends; and I could actually relate to this part of the story too. I am not always entirely open with all of my friends. (I'm not saying that I lie because I definitely don't. It's just that I don't always share a lot of my feelings.) I'm sure a therapist would have a field day with this, but I'm guessing that it probably has something to do with my insecurities. I seriously doubt that I'm alone with these feelings. -- we women do have an image to uphold.

One thing I loved about this book was the character of Jimmy. I thought it was terrific how Ms. Son introduced him (in all his splendor) to make the women realize how special they were. While I was enjoying the book and the characters, I really began to "get into" the story when the women were taking a road trip to Austin and Jimmy came along for the ride. Jimmy could sense things about each woman -- he actually saw their auras. I think it was very important to these women, especially Whitney, that someone saw through the image that they worked so hard to present. This definitely was the turning point of the novel for me. One part that I really loved was when Jimmy said that colors of each of the women made up a part of a rainbow. I just thought that was such a beautiful idea -- that friends all bring something to the relationship to make it complete. After talking with Jimmy, all of the girls started to admit to themselves (and each other) what they wanted out of life; and they gathered the courage to start working towards their goals.

I also enjoyed how the author portrayed the complexities of being an Asian American women in today's society. Personally, I don't have any experience with this (either myself or any of my friends), but I thought the characters' feelings and behavior seemed very realistic. Ms. Son did an excellent job of showing how they struggled to be part of their parents' culture and, at the same time, be part of the American culture. It seems like an extremely difficult balancing act, and I can imagine that it's very hard for them to feel like they fit comfortably into either culture.

OFF THE MENU is Ms. Son's first novel. I think her background is fascinating, and there's no doubt that much of this novel was written using her personal experiences and feelings. This book was extremely easy to read and flowed very well. I thought she did an excellent job with developing the characters and allowing the reader to really "know"them. I think Ms. Son definitely has a bright future as a writer, and Ilook forward to her next book.

I think OFF THE MENU would make a wonderful book club selection. While I think my book club is a little older and at a different point in our lives than the three main characters, I still think we'd have a lot to talk about. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one who would feel an affinity with these women. There are many themes to discuss such as parent/child relationships, friendships, dating and romance, career choices, and finding one's self. There is a terrific interview with the author in the back of the novel as well as wonderful discussion questions.

A big thanks goes out to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this book tour! Make sure you come back tomorrow because Ms. Son will be stopping by!

Christine Son’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Saturday, November 1st: Estella’s Revenge e-zine (author interview)
Monday, November 3rd: Literarily (author guest post and giveaway!)
Wednesday, November 5th: Beastmomma (author interview)
Thursday, November 6th: Book Nut
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf
Friday, November 7th: Ramya’s Bookshelf (author interview)
Monday, November 10th: Pop Culture Junkie
Tuesday, November 11th: 8Asians
Wednesday, November 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Thursday, November 13th: In The Pages
Friday, November 14th: She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, November 17th: Planet Books
Tuesday, November 18th: B & B ex Libris
Wednesday, November 19th: DISGRASIAN
Thursday, November 20th: Booking Mama
Monday, November 24th: The Literate Housewife Review
Tuesday, November 25th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Katie Brown Celebrates & Giveaway

Summary: In KATIE BROWN CELEBRATES, Katie gives readers a reason to host a party every month of the year. From a festive New Year's Eve dinner to a lavish Christmas brunch, from the perfect child's birthday party to a down-home family reunion, readers will delight in Katie's signature approach to making any celebration simply wonderful. With delicious recipes, straightforward craft projects, and tips for casual entertaining, Katie shows how any host can make a delicious meal and create gorgeous ambiance without the hassle. KATIE BROWN CELEBRATES is a must-have for anyone who ever gives--or has ever thought of giving--a party. -- Little, Brown and Company

Hello, my name is Julie and I'm a cookbook addict. I absolutely adore cookbooks; and you might even say that I collect them. It's not that I'm a big-time cook or anything, but I love looking at recipes and pictures of food. I think it's genetic because my 86 year old grandmother still enjoys looking through cookbooks too! We will even sit together and go through separate cookbooks talking about what looks good (and easy!)

Needless to say, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to look through KATIE BROWN CELEBRATES: SIMPLE AND SPECTACULAR PARTIES ALL YEAR ROUND. I will admit that I haven't tried any of the recipes (yet), but this cookbook is beautiful. I just keep looking through it, and I notice something new every single time. Trust me when I say that this book will make a wonderful gift for your favorite entertainer this holiday season.

I'm not sure where to start in describing this cookbook! The photography and colors are just beautiful. It really looks like a book you could display on your coffee table. The cookbook is divided into sections for each month with instructions and recipes for a specific party theme. For example, January is "A New Year's Evening," April is a "Kids' Day," and December is a "Holiday Brunch." There a a type of party for every occasion you can think of!

Not only are there yummy recipes for you to make for each festivity, but there are also loads of decoration ideas. What I love most about this book is that everything seems pretty simple, yet it will look like you spent a ton of time (and a ton of money) on your event. We've all thrown parties where we are so tired and busy that we can't even enjoy the party -- I think KATIE BROWN CELEBRATES will help eliminate that problem. The decorations are so unique and do-able and the recipes are super easy and made with normal (translatation: easy-to-find) ingredients.

Now for the fun part: I am going to be giving away up to five copies of KATIE BROWN CELEBRATES courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA! For every ten entries I receive, I will give away one cookbook. For example, 10 entries = 1 cookbook, 20 entries = 2 cookbooks, etc. up to 5 cookbooks. All you have to do is leave a comment (with your e-mail) telling me why you want this cookbook -- it shouldn't be very hard! To double your chances, blog about this contest with a link back to this post. The contest will be open until Friday, December 5th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winners on the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only (and no P.O. boxes.) Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Awesome Giveaway from Novel Adventures

I am just thrilled to announce my latest giveaway -- it's my biggest one ever! Many of you are probably familiar with's new webcast entitled Novel Adventures. If not, you should definitely check out the latest episode.

Here's a little more about the show:
Lizzie, Laura, Joanna, and Amy are decidedly uninterested in the pretentious book club they belong to, but they enjoy the time away from their families. Determined to take their 'us'-time and enjoy it, they decide to use the books as inspiration. It's great to read about amazing lives, but these girls are ready to live them.

And so, the four women start a new kind of book club, picking a "novel adventure" for each book. Each meeting is an opportunity for discovery, freedom, and fun. The adventure is just the beginning.

The novels explored in the web series include the following:

The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)

Girls Like Us (Sheila Weller)

The Bourne Trilogy (Robert Ludlum)

Monster of Florence (Douglas Preston)

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry (Kathleen Flinn)

Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

Life So Far (Betty Friedan)

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows)

Knit Two (Kate Jacobs)

One very lucky person will win all nine books! What a great holiday gift for someone or even a wonderful treat for you!

A huge thanks goes out to CBS and Novel Adventures for providing the books for this contest. If you'd like to win all nine of these books, please leave a comment saying which episode is your favorite so far. To double your chances, blog about this contest with a link back to this post. I will be taking entries until Tuesday, December 2nd at 11:59 p.m. EST. The winner will be announced the following day. This contest is limited to domestic shipping only. Good Luck!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Review: The Memorist & Giveaway

Summary: The dreads are back. As a child, Meers Logan was haunted by memories of another time and place, always accompanied by the faint strains of elusive music. Now the hand of the past has reached out again. An envelope addressed to her and delivered to the Phoenix Foundation—an institute dedicated to the recovery of past life memories—contains a childhood drawing of an elaborate box that Meers recognizes…and a sheet from an auction catalog identifying the object—which she spent years imagining— as an eighteenth-century gaming box.

Determined to unlock the mystery of who she once was, she travels to Vienna to find the box. With each step, she comes closer to remembering the connections between a clandestine reincarnationist society, the lost Memory Flute linked to Ludwig van Beethoven and rumored to open the door to the past, and to David Yalom, a journalist who knows all too well how the past affects the future. -- Mira Books

Over the summer, I read THE REINCARNATIONIST by M.J. Rose for my book club. I thoroughly enjoyed the book (see my review) as did my entire book club. We were also extremely fortunate that Ms. Rose agreed to join us via speakerphone for our discussion -- you can read a summary of our meeting here. When we were talking to here, she told us about her next novel in THE REINCARNATIONIST series entitled THE MEMORIST. My entire book club was excited to hear that she was writing more books about reincarnation, and we have been anxiously awaiting the publication of this novel ever since. You can imagine how excited I was when I was selected to be a part of the TLC Book Tour for THE MEMORIST.

While I really enjoyed THE REINCARNATIONIST, I liked THE MEMORIST even more. It was an exciting, suspense-filled novel that was also filled with lots of terrific historical information. As I read through the reviews for this book, I see that I'm not alone with my praise. People Magazine selected THE MEMORIST as its Pick of the Week; and the book also received Starred Reviews in both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.

This book and its characters captured me from the very beginning. I liked how Ms. Rose had Meer actually question and even doubt the reasons behind her memories, and I enjoyed being "along" with her as she discovered things about her past. It was nice to see the return of a few characters from the first novel, Malachai (the head of the Phoenix Foundation) and Lucien (the cop who is trying to prove his involvement in a crime.) While the books were very different and had different main characters, I liked how there was some continuity between them. I can't wait to read the next novels in this series as new characters try to find various memory tools -- I think it's a great concept.

One thing I really enjoyed about this novel (and THE REINCARNATIONIST) is that Ms. Rose isn't afraid to "kill off" major characters for the purpose of moving the plot. I have to admit that I did get upset over the loss of a character or two in the novels, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. In addition, I loved how the chapters were all very short, but very intense. I think the style of the brief chapters made it difficult for me to put the book down because I kept telling myself that I would read just a few more pages. Ms. Rose knows how to tell a story and take the reader along on a wonderful ride!

Another thing I really appreciated in THE MEMORIST was the historical facts that Ms. Rose wove into the story. I could totally visualize Vienna and felt like I was almost there with her vivid and detailed descriptions. I thought her choice of quotations by famous people like Tolstoy, Balzac, and Julius Caesar on the possibility of reincarnation were very interesting and added a great deal to the story. I also loved how she wove Beethoven and his beliefs about reincarnation into the story. I found the idea of binaural beats just fascinating -- that notes played a certain way could stimulate past memories. It is so clear that Ms. Rose did an incredible amount of research while writing this novel; and I think many readers will begin to examine his or her own beliefs about reincarnation.

Not only do I think Ms. Rose is a very gifted writer, but I am also amazed with her ability to "multi-task." She is just a fascinating (and very sharp) woman; and I was fortunate enough to ask her a few questions back in June -- you can read my interview here. In addition to her writing, she also continues to use her skills as a marketing professional. She realized how difficult it is for authors to "market" their own books and has created the following to assist them:

+ (Including AuthorBuzz & BookClubbing)
Reaches 330,000 readers, 10,000 librarians, 7000 bookclubs & 2500 booksellers.

+ Great American Book Giveaway
Pre-publication buzz to readers

+ Buzz, Balls & Hype
A blog about marketing and the business of publishing.

+ Backstory
A blog for authors to post what inspired their current novel.

+Buzz Your Book – The Class
Where authors learn the basics of buzz. 6 weeks online.

+Buzz Your Book – The book - co-authored with Douglas Clegg
A work book for authors to learn the basics of buzz.

I do think THE MEMORIST would make a wonderful book for your next book club. There are so many themes to discuss, especially everyone's thoughts about the possibility of reincarnation. If the members of your book club are big readers, it would be really fun to read both THE REINCARNATIONIST AND THE MEMORIST and talk about both books. Check out the discussion guide for THE MEMORIST to get an idea of the types of things you could discuss.

A big thanks goes out to TLC Book Tours for providing me with the opportunity to read and review THE MEMORIST. You can catch the other stops of the THE MEMORIST Blog Tour:

Monday, October 27th: Fantasy Book Critic
Tuesday, October 28th: The Compulsive Reader
Wednesday, October 29th: The Book Bitch
Tuesday, November 4th: Bloody Hell!
Friday, November 7th: Fizzy Thoughts
Monday, November 10th: Devourer of Books
Wednesday, November 12th: Bookstack
Thursday, November 13th: The Inside Cover
Monday, November 17th: Booking Mama
Tuesday, November 18th: Books I Done Read
Wednesday, November 19th: Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, November 20th: MommyPie
Monday, November 24th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Friday, November 31st: Frequency of Silence

I just happen to have two sets of M.J. Rose's THE REINCARNATIONIST (paperback) and THE MEMORIST (hardcover) to share with two lucky readers! To enter the contest, please leave a comment, with your e-mail address, telling me whether you believe in reincarnation or not. If you'd like to double your chances, please blog about this contest with a link back to this post. The contest will be open until Friday, November 28th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I will announce the winners the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. or Canada mailing addresses only. Good luck!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jayne Pupek

Yesterday, I reviewed a touching new novel called TOMATO GIRL by Jayne Pupek. I asked Ms. Pupek to stop by today and share something special with us. I was positively delighted that she wrote about some of her favorite fall recipes. I love discovering new recipes, and these ones look terrific (and they're just in time for Thanksgiving.)

Folks who know me would characterize me as a CNN junkie, but I also tune into the Food Network when I have the chance. The following recipes are among my fall favorites. The first is a Rachel Ray recipe, "Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage." This dish is so easy to make and tastes amazing. Since I don't eat pork or beef, I use a soy-based "fake" sausage and substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock. The "Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion" is the perfect accompaniment. I like to serve red wine with this meal.

And for dessert, what could beat Paula Deen's "Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting?" As a girl, I looked forward to Christmas dinner at my Grandma Arbutus' house where the red velvet cake was my favorite. Cupcakes make a nice alternative and are easier to make, I think. Paula Deen is the queen of Southern Cuisine. I gave my mother one of her cookbooks last year for Christmas.

I hope you enjoy these!

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating
Pumpernickel or whole grain bread, as an accompaniment

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion, as an accompaniment, recipe follows

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Serve pumpkin sausage pasta with pumpernickel or whole grain bread and Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion.

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion

1 pound triple-washed spinach, de-stemmed
1 small Golden Delicious apple, quartered, cored, and sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons (a couple of splashes) apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grain mustard
1 tablespoon (a good drizzle) honey
Coarse salt and black pepper

Place spinach, apple, and onion in a salad bowl. Place oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a small plastic container and fit lid on container. Shake dressing to combine, 1 minute. Pour dressing over salad, toss, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Yield: 4 servings

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature

2 tablespoons red food coloring

1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.

Jayne Pupek is the author of the novel, Tomato Girl (Algonquin Books), and a book of poems titled Forms of Intercession (Mayapple Press). She resides near Richmond, Virginia.
Jayne's web site:
Book Trailer for Tomato Girl: