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Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn

Welcome to a Hachette Group Early Birds Blog Tour for Sarah Dunn’s Secrets to Happiness.

“A lot of life, it seemed to Holly, was turning out to be just like that. You keep walking, and you keep breathing, and then one day you notice, again, the feel of the wind on your cheek.” (Page 275)

Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn focuses on the life of Holly Frick and each of the people she effects with her decisions and how their decisions impact her life in a gigantic web. From Holly’s ex-boyfriend Spence Samuelson to Betsy Silverstein and her friends Amanda and Mark to her screenwriter/partner Leonard. Each of these characters is dissatisfied with their current lives and is seeking happiness and contentment in their lives.

“It was probably, primarily, mostly, the chemical hair straightening. Leonard had spent four hundred dollars to get his hair straightened with the new Brazilian hair-straightening chemical, and now it clung to his head like a wet washcloth and then spiked out at the ends down at the top of his neck, which was huge, due to the steroids he got from a pharmacist who ran an underground steroid ring out of his fourth-floor walk-up on Christopher Street.” (Page 25)

Dunn has a great talent for description and character development. Secrets to Happiness delves into the various situations, emotions, friends, careers, and other elements in people’s lives that they believe make them happy. Each of these characters experiences turns their preconceived notions upside down, leaving Holly, Spence, Betsy, and Amanda to make pivotal decisions.

“‘I don’t tell Betsy about my personal life.’

‘Good. You know what? Don’t tell anybody. Let’s just keep this our little secret,’ said Holly. ‘And now I even sound like a child molester.’

‘That’s straight out of the handbook.’

‘Page eleven,’ said Holly. ‘Right after the part where I lure you back into the back of my van with a box of kittens.'” (Page 21)

Overall, Secrets to Happiness reads well with a modicum of interruption from narratives that scope farther back into the lives of the characters. While some of these narratives, which mirror background checks for the characters, are well written, readers could find them distracting and unnecessary. Dunn is a talented women’s fiction writer with a flare for dramatic and unconventional characters, and her ability to dig beneath the surface of these professional New Yorkers is uncanny.

Also Reviewed by:
Everyday I Write the Book Blog

Hachette Group was kind enough to offer 3 copies of Secrets to Happiness by Sarah Dunn to 3 of Savvy Verse & Wit’s U.S. and/or Canadian readers; no P.O. Boxes.

1. Leave a comment on this post about what makes you happiest about your life.

2. Become a follower of the blog or if you follow, let me know.

3. Blog, tweet, or spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link here.

Deadline is June 18, 2009, at 11:59 PM EST

Don’t forget my 2-Year Blogiversary Giveaway, go here for details.

Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell

“‘You can be a bridesmaid if you want.’ Tom’s relief was audible. ‘Dear Florence. So you don’t think I’m making the biggest mistake of my life?’

‘If you’re having fun, how can it be a mistake? The last thing I ordered from a mail-order catalogue was a non-stick saucepan,’ Florence told him, ‘and after a week the bloody handle dropped off.'” (Page 71)

Jill Mansell’s Miranda’s Big Mistake is a rip-roaring good time that will have you guffawing so loudly your friends, your neighbors, and people on the Metro will want to read what your reading.

“Sleety rain dripped down Miranda’s neck as she tipped her head back to drink the lager straight from the bottle. Her short black hair, urchin-cut and currently streaked with dark blue and green low-lights, gleamed like a magpie’s wing.” (Page 13)

Miranda is a junior at Fenn Lomax’s trendy hair salon in London, and her love life is a disaster, but she just doesn’t know it yet. Her landlady, Florence, gets around in a wheelchair and is full of piss and vinegar. Her boss can be demanding, but he’s really a big softie. Miranda’s men–Greg, Miles, and Danny–have her twisting and turning, while love is simmering beneath the surface for Fenn, her flatmate Chloe, and her best friend Bev.

“‘It isn’t a smirk. I never smirk. I’m not dopey either. I just wondered, do you have a girlfriend?’

‘Why, are you offering? All applications for the post in writing, please. Just send a copy of your CV and a brief letter outlining why you feel you’d be the best woman for the job. If you make the short list, you’ll be invited to attend for an interview–‘” (Page 167)

Mansell is adept at crafting in-depth characters with unique personalities and their actions make them even funnier. The sexual tension between Miranda and Miles and Miranda and Danny is electric, leaping off the page to zap readers through the tips of their fingers. Miranda’s Big Mistake not only oozes modern romance, but also sarcasm and wit. The dialogue is sharp and the plot will keep readers moving quickly, keeping them on their toes and cheering Miranda on. Grab a copy of Miranda’s Big Mistake and hit the beach.

About the Author:

Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write.

Also Reviewed By:

A Bookworm’s World
S. Krishna’s Books
Bookopolis
Wendy’s Minding Spot
Cheryl’s Book Nook
Booking Mama
Diary of an Eccentric
Cindy’s Love of Books
Bermudaonion
Reading Adventures

Check out this giveaway:

1 copy of Holly’s Inbox by Holly Denham, here; Deadline is June 10, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

Reunion by Therese Fowler

Therese Fowler’s Reunion examines the secrets many of us carry and how they can direct our lives and decisions. While some could consider this a light read, it deals with a number of deep issues, including teen pregnancy.

Harmony Blue Kucharski/Reynolds is a young girl with a deep crush on a junior professor and son to her boss, Mitch Forrester. After a whirlwind romance, Mitch breaks her young heart, and she embarks on a destructive path that ultimately leads her to a decision that must be kept secret after her career begins to take off. Two decades later, fate brings them back together in Key West, Florida, and Blue helps Mitch with his pet video project about writer’s like Hemingway.

“In Chicago, the snow was falling so hard that, although quite a few pedestrians saw the woman standing on the fire escape nine stories up, none were sure they recognized her. At first the woman leaned against the railing and looked down, as if calculating the odds of death from such a height. After a minute or two, though, when she hadn’t climbed the rail but had instead stepped back from it, most people who’d noticed her continued on their ways. She didn’t look ready to jump, so why keep watching? And how about this snow, they said. What the hell? It wasn’t supposed to snow like this in spring!” (Page 13)

Blue is a complex character floundering in her decisions and striving to find true happiness, and Mitch has tried all kinds of happiness, but has been unable to patch things up with his only son. Blue’s mother, Nancy, is an aging hippie still looking for love, and her sister has found a family life she can be proud of, though she still seems to have a hard time dealing with her sister’s success as TV personality–much like Oprah in Chicago.

“Without the interruption of commercials or the finite images of someone else’s interpretation of a story, she could more easily fit herself into the romance or drama unfolding inside a book’s cover.” (Page 54)

Fowler’s writing is down-to-Earth and captivating. The characters pop from the page. While there are multiple story lines in this novel, Fowler weaves them well and transitions seamlessly between them. Although this book could be considered chicklit or women’s fiction, there is much more beneath the surface; all readers have to do is scratch the surface.

Thanks to Pump up Your Book Promotion for providing Savvy Verse & Wit with an opportunity to review this book and be part of the virtual blog tour. Check below to find out about the International giveaway.

About the Author:

Therese Fowler has believed in the magic of a good story since she learned to read at the age of four. At age thirty, as a newly single parent, she put herself into college, earning a degree in sociology (and finding her real Mr. Right) before deciding to scratch her longtime fiction-writing itch. That led to an MFA in creative writing, and the composition of stories that explore the nature of our families, our culture, our mistakes, and our desires.

The author of two novels, with a third scheduled for 2010, Therese lives in Wake Forest, NC, with her supportive husband and sons, and two largely indifferent cats. You can visit her website or her blog.

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post about why you’d like to read this book.
2. Leave a comment on the guest post, here, for a second entry.
3. Follow this blog, and let me know; if you follow, let me know that too.
4. Tweet, Facebook, or blog about the giveaway and leave a comment here.

Deadline is June 4, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

Don’t Forget About These Great Giveaways!

1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

3 copies of Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton, here; Deadline is June 3, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton

Welcome to another Hachette Group Early Birds Tour for Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton.

What happens when a cautious, anxious New Yorker, Peggy Adams, spends time in Las Vegas for a friend’s last hoorah and sends caution to the wind, gets drunk, and meets a stranger? A quickie wedding and a huge hangover, followed by a deal of a lifetime for herself and her new husband, Luke Sedgwick.

“It took multiple tries to work through this last piece of information. Man. A man. A man in bed. In her bed. No, on her bed. He lay on his back on top of the coverlet, in a rumpled shirt and a diagonally striped tie, in slacks, socks, and burnished dress shoes that looked as if they’d been polished and repolished for the past twenty years.” (Page 5)

Luke is a WASP and the last of the old world Sedgwicks of Connecticut, and the last hope for an heir to the not-so-large family fortune. Luke is a writer. . . a struggling poet, with an on-again, off-again girlfriend, Nicole, that his great-aunt, Abigail, despises. Peggy is mistaken by Abigail for the relative of an old Connecticut family, though hers is from out west, and she scrambles to please her new family, while keeping her live-in boyfriend, Brock, who is afraid to commit, in the dark about her marriage.

“‘A promise ring?’ Bex yelled. The string of bells on the shop door jingled as it shut behind her. ‘Brock gave you a promise ring? What is this, seventh grade?'” (Page 17)

Lipton has a gift for chicklit/women’s fiction that is witty, fun, and vivacious. Both of these characters are anxious to break free from their current lives, but unable to make the move. Mating Rituals of the North American WASP will keep readers turning pages and will make the summer fly by. Lipton’s prose paints a clear picture of small-town Connecticut and its unique characters and sets the stage for a comedic plot steeped in romance, drama, and much more.

Also Reviewed by:
Luxury Reading

Here’s my interview with Lauren Lipton:

1. How hard was it to transition from writing journalistic stories to writing novels? What has journalism taught you about writing novels?

Writing a news feature has more in common with writing a novel than I’d expected. For both, you need an arresting first sentence (or first paragraph, or first chapter). You need a structure that leads readers through the story, and you need strong characters (or sources in journalism). The plus of writing a novel is that you can invent all the facts!

Working as a journalist gave me research skills for which I’m deeply grateful, and got me used to writing every day, whether I feel like it or not, in any environment. I could write sitting on the floor of the Port Authority Bus Terminal if I had to. (Though, yuck.)

2. Some writers extensively research their charcters or settings, do you spend a lot of time researching or so you simply let your imagination flow?

I let my imagination flow. Unfortunately, it always flows into areas I know nothing about. I’ll think, “I simply must set a scene at the annual Yale-Harvard football game!” -despite never having been to a Yale-Harvard game. This happened over and over while I was writing Mating Rituals of the North American WASP. I researched everything from how to apply roofing tar to the medical treatment of a stroke to the way to decant old port. And I found a Yale alum friend who took me to The Game.

3. Do you have any obsessions you would like to share?

My only current obsession is with getting some sleep. The time just before a book’s publication is nerve-wracking. I keep waking up worrying, “What if it’s a flop?”

4. In terms of marketing, what have been the most successful modes of marketing for you and your books? How would you describe your relationship with the blogging community?

When my first novel, It’s About Your Husband, came out in 2006, I had no idea how important the Internet was in getting the word out. I quickly learned how influential sites such as Goodreads, in which readers recommend books by word-of-mouth, are. And even in the two years since then, the influence of book bloggers like you has grown geometrically. As far as my relationship with the blogging community:
I don’t know how you all feel about me, but I would like to give you ladies a big hug.

5. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and how did it help you?

An editor at the Wall Street Journal once told me I overwrote–that is, I used 10 words when one would do and tried too hard to be clever. He was right. After that, I toned myself down.

6. Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what were your top 5 songs while writing Mating Rituals?

Oddly enough, I might be able to write in the middle of the Port Authority, but music and TV distract me.

7. Are you working anything currently and could you share some tidbits about your latest project?

I’m just starting a third novel that’s more ambitious (and hopefully more serious) than the first two. It’s a retelling of a century-old novel-of-manners set in modern-day New York. It’s daunting, but I’m looking forward to diving in.

I want to thank Lauren for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions, check out the giveaway below.

About the Author:
Lauren Lipton is the author of two novels, It’s About Your Husband (2006) and Mating Rituals of the North American WASP (2009). She is also a freelance journalist who specializes in style, business and trend stories.

She is currently fashion, beauty and lifestyle editor at ForbesWoman magazine. She has also contributed features on society and media to the New York Times Sunday Styles section. A former Wall Street Journal staff writer, she reported on copycat brides who steal their friends’ wedding ideas, pajama parties for grown women, and luxury homes with his-and-hers garages.

Born in Providence, R.I., Lauren grew up in the North County of San Diego and in Los Gatos, Calif., before moving to Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and anthropology from Occidental College and a master’s degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California. Check out her Website, her blog and her Facebook Fan Page.

Giveaway Information:

Hachette Group is offering 3 copies of Mating Rituals of the North American WASP by Lauren Lipton for U.S. and Canadian readers of Savvy Verse & Wit.

1. To enter leave a comment on this post about the review or the interview.
2. For a second entry, let me know if you follow the blog in Google Reader, Bloglines, Rss, etc.
3. For a third entry, blog or Twitter about this giveaway and leave me a link here.

Deadline is June 3, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST

Don’t Forget About These Great Giveaways!
1 Signed Copy of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo, here. Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59PM EST.

2 copies of The Wonder Singer by George Rabasa, here; Deadline is May 30, 2009, 11:59 PM EST

GIVEAWAYS ARE NOW CLOSED!

Also Reviewed By:  
You’ve Gotta Read This! 

 

An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Jill Mansell

I received my ARC of Jill Mansell’s An Offer You Can’t Refuse from Sourcebooks for review.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse is witty, charming, engaging, and Chicklit to the max.

“‘I didn’t know reading could be like that, I had no idea. I’ve just never been a booky person. All these years I’ve been missing out.’

‘Ah, but now you’ve seen the light.’ . . . ‘You’ve become one of us. Welcome to our world; you’re going to love it here.'” (Page 100)

For a reviewer this was a treat to find in a book, this is definitely how many of us feel about books and reading, and reading these lines instantly cemented my attention to this book.

Lola is a young girl in love with a boy, Dougie, whose family is wealthy and whose mother hates her guts. His mother makes her an offer that she can’t refuse, so she takes it and says goodbye to the love of her life in a “Dear John” letter. Fast-forward to the present day and we find Lola has grown up physically, but still wears the same teenage, low-cut clothes and finds herself being mistaken for a prostitute when she walks into London bookstore after living in Majorca for about a decade. Eventually, Lola becomes more grounded and is the bookshop manager, but just as she thinks her life is stabilizing and in a good place, things get all topsy-turvy again.

This novel starts off in Lola’s past, but readers may find that more background is necessary, particularly where her relationship with Dougie is concerned. The only drawback of this novel, which really isn’t one, is that Lola’s story is pushed to the sidelines quite a bit as the Sally’s story takes center stage. However, Mansell carefully weaves the narration back to Lola and the resolution of her story. Readers may want to see more of Dougie, since he is one of the main characters but does not share equal narrative footing with the other narrators: Lola, Sally, and Lola’s friend Gabe.

“Aloud she said, ‘I’m guessing you don’t go into many bookshops.’

‘Me? No way.’ Proudly the boy said, ‘Can’t stand reading, waste of time. Hey, fancy a drink?’

‘No thanks. Can’t stand drinking, waste of time.’

He looked shocked. ‘Really?’

‘Not really. But drinking with you would be a huge waste of time.’ Lola excused herself and made her way over to the bar where Gabe, whose leaving party it was, was chatting to a group of friends from work.” (Page 37, 38)

Mansell’s writing is engaging, and though some of her characters, like Lola and Dougie’s sister Sally, are shallow at first, the complications in their lives force them to look beyond their own lives and come to terms with themselves, their families, and their love lives. Mansell’s An Offer Your Can’t Refuse is recommended for readers who love British humor, chicklit, and are in need of summer reading.

About the Author:

Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write.

***Giveaway***

Sourcebooks has offered 1 copy of Jill Mansell’s An Offer You Can’t Refuse to one lucky U.S. or Canadian reader.

All you have to do is comment on this post with something other than “pick me” or “enter me.”

Deadline is April 11, Midnight EST.

Come back tomorrow for my interview with Jill Mansell and another opportunity to enter the giveaway!

Also Reviewed By:
A Bookworm’s World
Diary of an Eccentric
Booking Mama
Book Escape
Reading Adventures

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

I received my copy of Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews from Book Club Girl for her BlogTalk Radio Show on March 25 at 7PM. Check at the end of this post for my thoughts on the show.

About the book (from the author’s Web site):

Chef extraordinaire Gina Foxton doesn’t expect anything to be handed to her on a platter. After years of hard work, the former runner-up Miss Teen Vidalia Onion is now the host of her own local Georgia public television show called “Fresh Start,” and she’s dating the show’s producer.

But when her show gets canceled, and she catches her boyfriend in flagrante delicto with the boss’s wife, Gina realizes that she’s meant for bigger and better things. The Cooking Channel is looking for its next star, and Gina is certain that she fits the bill. Trouble is, the execs also have their eye on Mr. “Kill It and Grill It” Tate Moody, the star of a hunting, fishing, and cooking show called “Vittles.” Tate is the ultimate man’s man, with a dog named Moonpie and a penchant for flannel shirts. Little does Gina know, though, that she and Tate are soon to embark on the cook-off of their lives.

Mary Kay Andrews’ Deep Dish stars Gina Foxton an older sister who is eager to please, cautious, and naive when it comes to men. Tate Moody is the man’s man, grills, hunts, and loves the outdoors. Throw these two in a pot and stir. The results are hilarious, spicy, and steamy. In addition to these polar opposites, you have Gina’s ex, Scott, who is out for himself and every woman he can get his hands on; Gina’s sister, Lisa, who operates without a compass, is passionate, and unable to commit; Val, Tate’s chain smoking, pressure cooker; Moonpie, Tate’s adorable pooch; and let’s not forget D’John, the gay, hair stylist and makeup artist with a heart of gold.

As an aside, one of my favorite character was Moonpie; he seemed to soften the edges the characters create for themselves in an attempt to defend themselves against pain. D’John, the makeup and hair stylist for Gina and Tate, is outrageous, and he provides each of the characters an anchor and support column. Mary Kay Andrews does a great job creating well rounded main and supporting characters.

“‘Oh, my God,’ Lisa said. ‘D’John is so awesome. I love his place. And he always gives me samples of the coolest makeup and stuff. Lemme go too, okay?’

‘Deal,’ Gina said. ‘Just one thing.’

‘What now?’

‘While I’m in the shower, you change your clothes. We are not leaving these premises with you dressed like some hoochie-mama.’

‘D’John’s gay, Geen,’ Lisa said. ‘He so is not looking at me that way.'” (Page 75)

The impending cancellation of Gina’s regional cooking show, pushes her into a reality show cook-off with Tate Moody, who has a successful outdoor hunting and cooking show. Food Fight is where the fun really picks up and Gina is forced to go out and forage Eutaw Island for ingredients before she can whip up a meal and dessert to impress three famous cooks, one of whom hates her guts. Tate Moody is in for the fight of his life even in spite of his hunting prowess as he is forced to make amazing meals out of regular household ingredients, including Frosted Flakes, to impress three judges, even one who hates his guts.

Deep Dish is a look at how one woman can dig deep within herself to find the courage to take ahold of her life and her destiny as well as a book that examines how each of us holds something back from the world and will only reveal our own personality gems to those we love.

Some of the best parts of this book occur when the reality show begins, and though some of the plot is predictable, it is done in a refreshing and new way. Southern cooking is the crux, and readers will be exposed to cuisine they may not see otherwise. Gina’s flashbacks to her family life and her mother’s cooking are vivid and enjoyable. These sections will likely remind readers of times when they smelled certain foods that evoke memories from their childhoods. If you need a light read, this is the book for you.

Book Club Girl’s Show:

I really love how much food plays a role in Mary Kay Andrews’ life and her relationship with her husband. Though she hasn’t thought about writing a cookbook, she would be open to the idea. My favorite little tidbit was about her writing space and how she hangs up all her book jackets on the walls of her writing space to keep herself motivated and writing. And Moonpie is based upon her setter Wyatt–too adorable for words.

About the Author:

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling SAVANNAH BREEZE and BLUE CHRISTMAS, (HarperCollins) as well as HISSY FIT, LITTLE BITTY LIES and SAVANNAH BLUES, all HarperPerennial.

A former reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she wrote ten critically acclaimed mysteries, including the Callahan Garrity mystery series, under her “real” name, which is Kathy Hogan Trocheck.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops including Emory University, The University of Georgia’s Harriet Austin Writer’s Workshop, the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Workshop and the Antioch Writer’s Workshop. Her mysteries have been nominated for the Edgar, Anthony, Agatha and Macavity Awards.

Married for more than 31 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of 24-year-old Katie Abel and 20-year-old Andrew. After a three-year hiatus in Raleigh, NC, she and her husband recently moved back to their old neighborhood in Atlanta, where they live in a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow.

Check out her blog here.

Also Reviewed By:
Redlady’s Reading Room
Diary of an Eccentric

The Sinner’s Guide to Confession by Phyllis Schieber

Nikki Leigh contacted me about hosting Phyllis Schieber and her novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, and I was pleased to do so. Stay tuned for information about how you can win your own copy of The Sinner’s Guide to Confession.

The novel is follows longtime friends Kaye and Barbara, who are now in their fifties. Kaye and Barbara soon make friends with Ellen, who is several years younger, but their friendship solidifies and becomes close-knit. The three women are inseparable, but each nurtures a secret.

The alternating narrators for the chapters keeps the reader guessing as to when the friends will break down all of the walls between them and share their deepest secrets. From a romance novelist hiding her alternate career as an erotica writer to a married woman having a long-term, passionate affair. Readers will appreciate the perspective Justine, Barbara’s daughter, provides to Kaye and Barbara’s relationship. The friendship between these women is long standing and much of the story focuses on their relationships with one another as well as their relationships with the men in their lives. The novel may be considered an older woman’s chicklit book, but it has more substance.

Of the three women, Ellen’s story was the most heart-wrenching and deeply moving. Readers learn early on about Ellen’s secret, but as her chapters unfold, the devastation of one decision she makes early on in her life has significant impact on how her life unfolds. Ellen’s decision establishes her reactions and interactions with others, her husband, and her friends. It’s amazing how a decision not completely in her control molded her into the woman readers see in the beginning pages of this novel. Ellen is afraid of making decisions, hides behind the confidence brought by her false eyelashes, and holds deep grudges against her parents.

The intricate relationships between these characters are intense, and the relationships with each family member provides a realistic glimpse into the dynamics of family. Each member plays a specific role in how the family operates, and these women are central to those families.

About the Author Phyllis Schieber:

The first great irony of my life was that I was born in a Catholic hospital. My parents, survivors of the Holocaust, had settled in the South Bronx among other new immigrants. In the mid-fifties, my family moved to Washington Heights. The area offered scenic views of the Hudson River and the Palisades, as well as access to Fort Tryon Park and the mysteries of the Cloisters. I graduated from George Washington High School. I graduated from high school at sixteen, went on to Bronx Community College, transferred to and graduated from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in English and a New York State license to teach English. I earned my M.A. in Literature from New York University and later my M.S. as a developmental specialist from Yeshiva University. I have worked as a high school English teacher and as a learning disabilities specialist. My first novel , Strictly Personal, for young adults, was published by Fawcett-Juniper. Willing Spirits was published by William Morrow. My most recent novel, The Sinner’s Guide to Confession, was released by Berkley Putnam. In March 2009, Berkley Putnam will issue the first paperback publication of Willing Spirits.

Giveaway Details:

Win A Free Book from Phyllis Schieber – Its very easy to be entered in a drawing for a FREE book by Phyllis Schieber.

Post comments on any blogs during the virtual tour and you will have a chance to win a book from Phyllis.

One random person will win – but we are also asking visitors to share a secret and one secret will also win a free book. As a bonus the blog owner that hosted the winning comments will also win a book.

Share some interesting stories and questions with Phyllis Schieber during her tour – and have a chance to win a book.

Schieber’s Virtual Tour Stops

Reading Guide for Sinner’s Guide to Confession

***Also stop by Tomorrow, Jan. 21, for my interview with Phyllis Schieber***

Off The Menu TLC Book Tour & Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to host Off the Menu by Christine Son on Savvy Verse & Wit. You’re in for a treat today because not only will I share my review of the book with you, but Christine Son will also be offering her advice about writing and publishing. In addition, one of my lucky readers will have a chance to win a copy of Off the Menu, stay tuned for details. . .

In Houston, Texas, three friends with very different lives, backgrounds, and careers graduate high school as co-valedictorians; their friendship lasts beyond high school and through college, but how well do they really know one another after all of these years? Does Hercules Huang know Whitney Lee’s secret desire? Does Audrey Henley know the familial struggles Whitney and Hercules deal with daily from their immigrant parents who are steeped in tradition and their homeland culture? Likewise, do Hercules and Whitney understand what it is like to be adopted by a family of a different race like Audrey does?

These three characters, despite their differences, are more similar than they realize, and as the story unfolds, these characters evolve in the ways they could never have anticipated, but only once they have realized their best assets are held in their long-lasting friendship. Hercules is a master chef who owns her own restaurants, but her relationship with her father is strained at best, while Whitney is a third year attorney at a major law firm that only has one minority on staff–her. Audrey is an adopted Asian child from a wealthy family who teaches first-grade students at a local academy for intelligent students, but she doesn’t consider herself as a minority.

All three of these characters are under pressure from themselves, their families, and society to exceed everyone’s expectations. But in the midst of trying to achieve these goals and objectives, Hercules, Whitney, and Audrey discover they want something more, something different, something that is their own. Hercules’ restaurant chain is on the cusp of expansion, she’s writing articles for the National Spectator, and she’s finalizing a deal with a cookware manufacturer, but there is something missing in her life. Whitney is a top attorney in her third year with a firm that can only be described as an old boys’ network, but she longs for something off the beaten path. Audrey is a school teacher, but her dream lies in the Ivory Tower of academia.

Despite the longevity of their friendship, these characters never really open up to one another until they take their first girls only trip to Austin, Texas. The ability of these characters to keep their frustrations and dreams trapped inside is something readers can relate to, particularly if the readers perceive themselves as overachievers like Whitney, Audrey, and Hercules.

This novel touches upon the struggles many immigrants must feel when adjusting to a new home, but it also examines the transitions felt by all humanity when we move from our small high school community to college and to the workforce. Hercules is a strong and brash entrepreneur, but at the same time she is vulnerable. Whitney is strong, but flexible when the need arises, and Audrey is a bit naive, but strong in her convictions. When Jimmy Fujimoto blazes onto the scene in this novel, he nearly steals the show. His presence stands this friendship on its head and has all of these women calling into question some of their deepest convictions and beliefs.

Without further babbling about how great this book is (now my favorite friendship book), here’s Christine Son and her guest post for today.

*****

“Yes, It Can Happen by Christine Son

My debut novel, OFF THE MENU, hits bookshelves on August 5th, and recently, a lot of people have been asking me how I went about getting published. The short answer? By keeping my chin — and optimism — up even though I was receiving stacks of rejections every day. The long answer takes me back to a Facebook question I answered for my profile, which called for my most embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, my life is riddled with heinously embarrassing moments, and one of them occurred at a writers conference I attended in the mountains of California, where I met my agent. I’d been invited to an industry cocktail party out of the graciousness of one of the conference’s board members, and being an unpublished writer who was desperate to make a good impression, I researched the guest list, which included dozens of publishers and agents. This was my chance to wow them, I thought. And maybe snag an agent. So, I perfected my pitch. Practiced my smile. Wore a cute outfit. As ready as I’d ever be, I showed up at the party, determined and excited. And it would have been a great party had I managed to stay upright for more than thirty minutes. I can’t say what exactly caused what happened next — the high altitude, perhaps, or maybe low blood sugar, or the single sip of wine in my system — but in front of God and everyone who mattered in publishing, I fainted. As in, hit the floor face first. With my wine glass still in hand. I don’t recall the fall, but a number of revelers told me afterwards that I then did a pushup before a couple of concerned hosts helped me to a chair, brought me water, and then guided me back to my room, where I spent the rest of the night horrified and cringing. I’d never fainted before, and of all the times in the world to pass out, I couldn’t believe that my body had chosen that moment to try it out. I wrung my hands (literally), sure that I’d forever blown my chances to find an agent. I worried that publishers would think that I was a jackass at best, and a liability at worst. I fretted all night, wishing that I could turn back time and praying that there might be at least a few attendees who hadn’t witnessed my complete lack of grace. Alas, everyone heard about the fainting girl in the darling ruffled shirt.

The next morning, I spent some time apologizing to people I recognized from the night before, and my pitiful conversation with a striking woman turned into a long one about the troubles with thin mountain air, me and my book. She asked me to send her the first chapter of it, which I did as soon as I returned to Dallas, and three days later, she called to request the rest of it. The next week, she signed me on, made me change a few things in the manuscript, and then sent it out to a bunch of publishers. It went nowhere. But I began writing what would become OFF THE MENU, and after a number of rewrites, it sold to Penguin.

So, there you have it in a nutshell as to how I went about getting published. I worked really, really hard, wrote during every free second I had, learned the industry, went to several writers conferences, attended a cocktail party and then passed out. I guess the road to publishing is a bit like that — a mix of preparation and luck. It’s incredibly labor intensive, and sometimes, what seems like the worst thing in the world ends up becoming the best. Because the kicker of it all is that my agent would never have noticed me had I not caused a ruckus at the cocktail party.

You can read more about me at www.christineson.com.

Please also check out her blog. Here’s an interview with her as well, in case you want to get to know her better.

I want to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of Christine’s tour and to thank Christine for not only being a wonderful author, but also a dream to work with. I had a great time, and I hope you did as well.

Without further ado, here’s the contest:

(Remember I must have a way to contact you, so leave an email address or a blog location; if your Blogger profile is not working, I will not be able to contact you without an email)

1. What is your biggest fear (whether it is finding your place in the world or a fear of water or dying)? Leave the answer in the comments for one entry.

2. For a second entry, visit Christine’s blog and leave a comment here with something that interested you on her blog or a link to an interesting post you found.

3. For a third entry, visit the interview or FAQ on Christine’s Web site and come back here and leave me a comment about what you learned.

4. Spread the word on your blog about the contest in a sidebar or a post, and receive a fourth entry.

Deadline is November 18 at Midnight EST.

Other stops on the TLC Tour:

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 26th: Diary of an Eccentric

Baby Proof. Not Bulletproof

Emily Giffin’s Baby Proof chronicles the struggles of one woman, Claudia Parr, who decides that she never wants to have children and how it impacts her relationships with her family, her friends, and her love life. I picked up this book as part of the Irresistible Review Challenge, and it is my last book to complete the challenge. I chose this book because it has gotten mixed reviews from some fellow book bloggers. I first saw this at the Written Word and her review was unfavorable, and a review from This Redhead Reads was equally unfavorable. I have not seen any positive reviews of the book, but that rarely turns me off from reading books that I believe to have an interesting premise.

Claudia Parr does not want children, and this decision impacts her relationships. She has taken the view on life that marriage and children are interlinked because when she meets a man, they automatically write her off because she does not want children. Then she meets Ben, her soul mate, and they both want the same childless life…or so she thinks. I’m not telling you anything you won’t find out from the book jacket.

***Spoiler Alert***

Ben and Claudia get married and travel spontaneously until their good friends get pregnant, and Ben changes his mind, decides he wants kids, and that Claudia should want them too. She does not feel the same way and is angry with him for breaking their deal, and she leaves their shared apartment to move back in with her friend. Soon she and her husband are engaged in divorce proceedings, and there is little discussion between the two about children, their marriage, or wanting to salvage their relationship, despite the fact that they believe they are soul mates.

Meanwhile, you learn that her mother left her and her sisters with their father…and that she is not very maternal. Claudia is more like her mother than she wishes to admit. Unfortunately, the problems grow worse as Daphne, her sister who is unable to become pregnant, asks Claudia to donate her eggs, and her other sister Maura continues to struggle with her unfaithful husband and being the perfect suburban mom.

***End Spoiler***

This book could have lost some weight, maybe about 100 pages or so. I wanted to skip through some large sections of the book, but held back from doing so.

The resolution of this book is unsatisfying. Claudia has done little to change her behavior and how she reacts to obstacles. While her conclusion about her relationships with her sisters and her ex-husband may be satisfactory under traditional societal norms, many of those women that determine they do not want children may be angered by the ending. I, on the other hand, am not angered by the ending so much as the lack of consistency in the character and Claudia’s inability to understand herself and really examine her identity in depth before making life altering decisions. Her indecision and in ability to engage in introspection, especially when it comes to her marriage, is mind boggling to me. I have not read any other Emily Giffin books, and this is probably not the one I should have started with. Other bloggers and friends have said that they love Giffin’s books.

Also Reviewed Here:
Book Escape

Who Would You Trust All Your Secrets To?

Sophie Kinsella’s “Can You Keep a Secret?” blew me away with its wit and humor. There were times when I roared out loud with laughter and there was a time near the end of the book where I wanted to weep. This book surpassed my expectations. After reading the Undomestic Goddess, I was expecting a book that was similarly amusing, but Emma is a much funnier character.

***Spoiler Alert***

When we meet Emma Corrigan she totally messes up a “slam-dunk” business meeting and is headed back to London from Scotland on a flight that gets rather turbulent in more ways than one. In some ways, the turbulent plane ride becomes a metaphor for her life throughout much of the book after meeting a fellow business executive, who turns out to be her firm’s founding owner–Jack Harper.

Emma spills all of her secrets to this stranger on the flight while others on the flight are praying that they will land safely in London. These secrets range from her hatred of crochet to her attempts to kill a co-worker’s plant with orange juice. She thinks nothing much of it at the time because he is a mere stranger on the plane. However, she soon gets back to the office to discover that the man on the plane is none other than Jack Harper, the partial owner of Panther Corporation.

The banter between Emma and Jack sets the stage for the ultimate betrayal. Emma runs the gamut of emotions in this book from pleased with herself that she and the CEO have a secret understanding to head-over-heels in love to disappointment, embarrassment, and betrayal.

***End Spoiler Alert***

This books examines relationships in their many forms: love, romance, friendship, family. Emma learns a lot about her familial relationships and that even the best of friends have secrets from one another. She learns that honesty may be the hardest option in some cases, but it generally is the best road to undertake. Her evolution throughout the novel is fantastic and well-paced. I enjoyed Emma’s struggles, which often reflect many of the struggles other women have in balancing the many relationships we have.

It begs the question, who do you trust you secrets to? I for one spread them around to various people. I have to keep everyone guessing at some point, don’t I? It also makes me wonder, how many of my secrets have been passed along to others in the heat of the moment.

That’s a question for readers…Have you told a secret to one person and not another, and why? And have you ever blurted out someone’s secret accidentally without meaning to harm the person entrusting you with that secret?

Jane’s Book Club

Karen Joy Fowler’s The Jane Austen Book Club is an interesting amalgamation of characters, but the book for me was not as satisfying as I had hoped. Many of the characters reminded me of Jane Austen’s characters, though a bit more modern. Jocelyn reminds me of a modern day Elizabeth Bennett, while Prudie reminds me of Elizabeth’s mother, especially because she prattles on and on.

For this book, I really won’t be doing any spoilers. This is one book you would have to read on your own. The characters I found most interesting, however, were the ones not delved into as much as I would have liked. I really enjoyed Sylvia’s daughter, Allegra, but unfortunately, you don’t see much of her. The narrator, who I’m not really clear on, seems to assume we know quite a bit about Allegra’s character, when we really don’t. I wonder if the narrator is an omniscient outsider or an actual book club member–this was not clear to me.

The resolution to the book club seems about rushed, and I wonder if the book club continues with another author’s works or whether it simply disbands after all of Austen’s works are discussed by the members. Fowler may have something here; perhaps she should consider writing additional book club books with character parallels from different authors.

Also Reviewed by:
The Written Word
5-Squared

Dirty Domesticity

Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess is a quick read for commuting and equally as amusing as her other books. I enjoyed Samantha Sweeting’s character much more than I did Lexi Smart. I also didn’t see as much of Becky Bloomwood in this character as I did in Lexi Smart. Kinsella has a fine talent for getting to the heart of high-powered career women who forget about the finer things in life while they are competing (and winning) in a male dominated profession.

****Spoiler Alert***
Samantha Sweeting is a powerful attorney in London, who much like her mother strives to be the best at her job. To accomplish her goal of becoming a partner at Carter Spink, Samantha works more hours than the other attorneys and barely has a social life. When she finally manages to get time off to have dinner with her mom and brother, she ends up having dinner with two cell phones, an assistant, and singing group of waiters. Suffice to say, her personal life can’t get much worse. That’s what you would think, but then the senior partner from the firm, the one she does not have a cordial relationship with, moves into her building, two floors up.

Early on, something goes terribly wrong at the firm and she panics. Heads out of town to the countryside where she is mistakenly hired as a housekeeper. At first she takes the job because she is still in a state of shock, but as she learns of the fallout from her “mistake,” she decides that being a housekeeper could be a fine change of pace. After many dirty domestic mishaps, Samantha realizes she needs some cooking and cleaning lessons. Nathaniel, the gardener, offers his mother’s services after laughing at her expense when she fails to start the washing machine and can barely make toast and coffee. Iris, his mother, sets about helping Samantha become domestic. She teaches her how to make food, bread, pastry, and other items, but most importantly, Iris helps her slowdown and relax…take in the little things about life and cooking. The scenes with Iris and Nathaniel on the weekends are fantastic.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I won’t go into all the details of the book, but there is a great scene in the garden between Samantha and Nathaniel that just made me swoon. Yes, I said swoon. I wish that romance of that caliber were real. Don’t get me wrong, love is still here in my life, it’s just different. The puppy love of this scene made me reminisce. The resolution of the book is exactly what you would expect; well, maybe not exactly as you picture it. But you get your just desserts.

Also reviewed at:
A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Book Escape