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The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

I received Nicholas Sparks’ The Lucky One from Miriam at Hachette Group, and I sent it off to my mom for review. So without further ado, here’s my mom, Pat, and her review of The Lucky One.

Logan Thibault finds a picture in the dirt on his third tour of duty in Iraq. He keeps the picture hoping that he will find the owner. His best friend and buddy has an explanation for Logan’s good luck, the picture is his lucky charm.

Logan walks cross country with his dog from Colorado, stopping in towns to show the picture to people he meets. Nobody recognizes it. He ends up in Hampton, North Carolina where he meets Deputy Keith Clayton, who is divorced from Beth. Clayton and Beth have a son, Ben.

The journey Logan takes to find the picture’s rightful owner is engaging and demonstrates the hardships family and friends can undergo. Sparks creates a heart-wrenching story. This is a must read, fast-paced novel. I give this five stars.

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

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly

Welcome to the March Early Birds Tour from Hachette Group and Grand Central Publishing for Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly on this fine St. Patrick’s Day. As an added treat with my review, please check out the discussion with Mary Pat Kelly on BlogTalkRadio at 11 AM-12PM EST.

“I was used to the give-and-take of a large family, where one broke in on the other, splintering sentences, bouncing thought away from meaning. But Michael and I listened to each other, each waiting as the other found words for what we’d never said before, never even thought before, giving shape to dreams and to fears. I’d no idea I was such a worrier–the ifs and buts that flowed out of me. Michael teased them away.” (Page 105-106)

Sweeping novels that span several generations must be well-crafted to hold readers’ attention, especially if the historical novel is going to be more than 500 pages. Mary Pat Kelly’s Galway Bay will suck readers in, churn them in rip currents, and spit them out in untamed America along with the Kellys, Leahys, Keeleys, and other Irish immigrants fleeing their homeland during the repeated potato blights and following The Great Starvation.

Honora Keeley is set upon entering the convent until she meets the dashing novice adventurer Michael Kelly. She’s a fisherman’s daughter with a rich heritage steeped in lore and myth and he’s the son of a blacksmith forced out of his home when his parents die and the blacksmith shop is no longer his family’s anchor. They find each other in the good times and suffer through the potato blight, famine, the cruelty of the Sassenach (English) and landlords, and the rise of Protestantism. After a great deal of sacrifice and heartache, the Kellys have no choice but to flee their homeland to begin again in Amerikay.

Kelly’s poetic prose places the reader beside Honora as she makes her way through thick fog, a fog that has brought blight on potato farms in the past. It also will have the reader cringing as they stick their hands in the dirt, finding muck rather than hard potatoes to feed their bellies.

“The fog wrapped itself around me, heavy and moist. I’ll go along the strand–faster, and the tide’s out. I could hear the waves hitting against the fingers of rocks that stretched out into the water, but the fog hid the Bay from me.” (Page 120)

“I crawled to another patch and plunged my hand into the foul-smelling mess. I felt a hard lump–a good potato. But when I grabbed it, the potato fell apart in my hand, oozing through my fingers.” (Page 128)

Kelly creates well rounded characters from strong-willed Honora to her quirky grandmother and from gifted storyteller Michael Kelly to quick witted Maire. Frank McCourt’s quote on the cover of Galway Bay is spot on, this book will have readers laughing, crying, and cheering Honora and Maire onward. Kelly’s narrative will bring readers to tears more than once, but as they struggle alongside Honora and her family, they too will grow stronger and more aware of the blessings family can bring. Galway Bay is a mixture of narrative poetry and prose that generates its own folklore that will be told from generation to generation for years to come. It will be on my top 10 list for 2009, how about yours?

***Giveaway Details***

From Hachette Group, three copies of Galway Bay for three lucky U.S. or Canada readers; No P.O. Boxes please.

I will spring for one copy of Galway Bay for one lucky international reader outside the U.S. and Canada, so make sure you let me know who you are.

To Enter:

1. Leave a comment other than “pick me” or “enter me.”

2. Spread the word about the contest and leave a link here for a second entry.

3. Share your favorite St. Patrick’s Day tradition for a third entry.

Deadline is March 24, 5PM EST

About the Author:
As an author and filmmaker, Mary Pat Kelly has told various stories connected to Ireland. Her award-winning PBS documentaries and accompanying books include To Live for Ireland, a portrait of Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume and the political party he led; Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland, a history of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland during World War II; and Proudly We Served: The Men of the USS Mason, a portrayal of the only African-American sailors to take a World War II warship into combat, whose first foreign port was Belfast. She wrote and directed the dramatic feature film Proud, starring Ossie Davis and Stephen Rea, based on the USS Mason story.
She’s written Martin Scorsese: The First Decade and Martin Scorsese: A Journey; Good to Go: The Rescue of Scott O’Grady from Bosnia; and a novel, Special Intentions. She is a frequent contributor to Irish America Magazine.
Mary Pat Kelly worked in Hollywood as a screenwriter for Paramount and Columbia Pictures and in New York City as an associate producer with Good Morning America and Saturday Night Live, and wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Abby’s Song. She received her PhD from the City University of New York.
Born and raised in Chicago, she lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her husband, Web designer Martin Sheerin from County Tyrone.
Check out her blog for Galway Bay, here.
Check out the Book Club Discussion Guide, here.
“An Honor” by Mary Pat Kelly about her journey through Galway Bay and her heritage.
Check out this Guest Post at A Bookworm’s World from Mary Pat Kelly herself; It’s very inspiring.

Check out the other Blogs on the tour, here.

***GIVEAWAY REMINDER***

I also have two copies of Diana Raab‘s My Muse Undresses Me and one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. Deadline is March 18 at 5PM EST.

One gently used ARC of Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas; Deadline is March 20 at Midnight EST.

Also Reviewed By:
Historical Tapestry

Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas

Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas, published by Goose Lane Editions, made its way into my mailbox from Mini Book Expo. It’s a coming of age novel at a time that the world is on the brink of World War II, particularly in England.

It took me a long while to get into this book, more than 100 pages, which was disheartening. In Book One readers will wander through Lily Piper’s musings and her interactions or lack thereof with her parents. The wavering narrative and tangents of Lily drag on for long stretches, and readers may have a hard time following along. Her relationship with her mother is cantankerous at times and Lily is often portrayed as a wayward child led by the sin in her heart. There are a number of instances where Lily wanders off with boys alone, which in many ways should ruin her reputation.

“Wonderful for your maidenly inhibitions (going to hand me the flask and then reaching around me to unscrew it himself and in the process circling me with both arms). The way we tussled around and he pressed the mouth of the flask to my mouth and I resisted or pretended to resist, whiskey meanwhile sliding hotly in through my lips and dribbling down my chin and onto my bathing suit.” (Page 88)

Her relationship with her father is more of silent understanding, but again this relationship is not something a girl can cling to when she needs reassurance or strength. Lily’s interactions with her brother are few and not enlightening at all, revealing little of her character or his. Through side stories and discussions about her father’s immigration to Canada and the Barr Colony, Lily learns about her father’s journey, how it came to pass, and the secret illness that prohibits him from leading a normal life.

In Book Two, Lily is sent to England to take care of her grandmother, her father’s mother, and this is where the novel picks up in pace and Lily grows into an adolescent and falls in love with her cousin George. Thomas’ writing is detailed and poignant from this point on in the novel and had me riveted.

“But tears would begin to course down her [Lily’s grandmother’s] cheeks, which already looked like the leaves of a book damaged by rain. So I would sit with her, because I’d nothing else to do. I’d want to ask about my father, and at first I did. Oh, he was a lovely lad, she’d say vaguely and start to tell me about him crawling through a hole in the wall into the next house, and then she’d get confused as to whether that was Willie or Hugh or Roland, or even her own little brother when she was a girl.” (Page 140)

There are passages in these sections that offer suspense and insight into Lily and what she is seeking to learn from her relatives and about herself. However, death seems to follow Lily on her journey and lead her back home to Canada in Book Three.

The truest moments in the novel are when the air raid sirens sound and the women and children board themselves up in shelters or in their homes in preparation for war with Germany and when the bombs are falling outside and they huddle in the dark living room comforting one another with stories of the mundane. These scenes are well crafted and tangible for readers, transporting them to another era. Once back in Canada, Lily succumbs to her previous manner in the home of her mother, but the letters from her cousins abroad continue to bring the reality of war home.

I read this novel as part of the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge. This is my first completed book for the challenge. I’ve been a bit slow.

About the Author:

Joan Thomas has been a regular book reviewer for the Globe and Mail for more than a decade. Her essays, stories, and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines including Prairie Fire, Books in Canada, and the Winnipeg Free Press. She has won a National Magazine Award, co-edited Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium, and has served on the editorial boards of Turnstone Press and Prairie Fire Magazine. She lives in Winnipeg.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric

***Giveaway Details***

This giveaway will be international. I have one gently used ARC copy of this book available.

Leave a comment on this post and randomizer.org will select the winner.

Deadline is March 20 at Midnight EST.

***GIVEAWAY REMINDER***

I have two copies up for grabs of Sharon Lathan’s Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One; the giveaway is international and the deadline is March 14 at Midnight EST.

I also have two copies of Diana Raab‘s My Muse Undresses Me and one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. Deadline is March 18 at 5PM EST.

Dear Anais by Diana Raab

I received Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You by Diana M. Raab from the author for review, I’m thrilled to say that Raab’s use of language in a format that resembles diary entries is fantastic. The volume begins with a letter to Anaïs about how she inspired Raab through her journals, particularly Anaïs’ entries about the house Eric Lloyd Wright built for her.

Each poem provides the reader with an insider’s look at Raab’s life and her interactions with family and others. Mirroring Anaïs Nin’s style, Raab seeks to demonstrate how important love is to humanity and how important it is to maintain our connections to one another.

Here’s her poem, “Weekly Lottery“:

Giving into his obsessions
was one thing my father did
almost every day of his life
for the fifty years which
he lived after The Holocaust
which robbed him of his parents
and baby brother Josh, putting
he and his brother in Dachau’s
kitchen, slicing potatoes and
saving friends from starvation
as the Nazis dined off Rosenthal
plates confiscated from Jews
tossed into frigid barracks and
stripped of everything ever
important to them.

Dad’s first treat, after arriving
in the United States with his brother Bob,
was using his factory paycheck for
a weekly lottery ticket, awaiting
the easy windfall, a sham of
good fortune, as if winning
the lottery was a ticket for
a new freedom boat. His
bliss stretched to winning five
tickets, five more scratches of
horizontal square boxes with
the same 1945 nickel which
he always carried in his pocket
for good luck, maybe not
enough cents to keep the
inveterate smoker alive past 70.

Raab’s poetry is detailed, vivid, and critical of its own subject matter and the narrator’s voice is often ironic in the final stanza or lines, reminding readers of how haiku can shed light on the most mundane of natural circumstances. In this poem, “Weekly Lottery,” Raab uses short lines and long sentences to build momentum, which invariably builds suspense for the reader.

Poems about the holocaust and WWII and war in general often attract my attention, which is probably why this poem has stuck with me since I first read Dear Anaïs. And I’ve already read through this book several times. There are a number of poems in here about Raab’s relatives and their dealings with war and the concentration camps.

This is an enjoyable collection of contemporary poems for every reader. Readers can connect with Raab through her poetry, including the hardship of loss and the nuances of daily living. Writers will enjoy her poems that deal with the writing process such as “Sketch of a Writer’s Studio” and “Sheets.” My personal favorite in this section was “On Demand,” which is about much more than just writing poems upon request.

About the Poet:

Diana M. Raab, MFA is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She teaches memoir, journaling and poetry in the UCLA Writers Program and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She also narrates and teaches workshops around the country.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As an only child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. In university she studied journalism, health administration and nursing, all serving as platforms for her years as a medical and self-help writer.

Raab’s memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal (2007) won the National Indie Excellence Award for Memoir and was the recipient of many other honors.

Raab’s work has been published in numerous literary magazines and has been widely anthologized. She has one poetry chapbook, My Muse Undresses Me and one poetry collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You (2008).

She’s editor of a forthcoming anthology, Writers and Their Notebooks (USC Press, 2009) which is a collection of essays written by well-known writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. The foreword is written by the world-renowned personal essayist, Phillip Lopate.

Stay Tuned for my Interview with Diana, tomorrow March 12.

And now, for the giveaway information: (3 Winners)

Diana has graciously offered one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You and 2 copies of her chapbook My Muse Undresses Me.

1. Leave a comment about what inspired you to give this collection a try.
2. Tune in tomorrow and comment on my interview with Diana

Deadline is March 18, 5PM EST.

Randomizer.org will select the three winners; the first number selected will win Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You.




THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!

***Another Giveaway***

Check out this link to win a copy of Mr & Mrs Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan.

***In Other News***

Savvy Verse & Wit has a spotlight guest post up at She Is Too Fond of Books; Check out my bookstore spotlight about Politics & Prose.

City Above the Sea and Other Poems by Stephen Alan Saft

City Above the Sea and Other Poems by Stephen Alan Saft is the poet’s third book of poems, which I received through Bostick Communications. Saft’s preface will provide readers with insight into his background and possible influences. He discusses the different types of poems found in the volume. Some of the poems were previously performed with live music.

The title poem, “City Above the Sea,” paints a vivid picture of this future-like city with glass towers and green vines hanging. The A-A-B-B rhyme scheme of the poem is not as distracting as other rhyming poems are because the images are so vivid and transport the reader into this technologically efficient world. The poem touts the benefits of technology in creating electric cars and other less polluting tools and devices, but in stanza 10 the mood changes. In a way, the poem preaches to the reader about the need of society to save humanity.

“Population grows. Suburbs intrude on the land of the cow/Where once the farmer tilled with tractor and plow/How will we feed ourselves when out numbers double?/Meanwhile the sea rises putting other land in trouble//” (Page 15, Stanza 11)

Saft’s romantic nature comes to light in “The Cucumber Plant to the Sun,” as he weaves images of a growing plant reaching for the sun begging to be that same sun’s only love. This poem will make readers smile as they see the plant growing in the nurturing light and unfurling its tendrils.

Saft’s use of language in “Tomatoes” reminds me of so many of my favorite, yet poignant, poems in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind. There is a great deal of alliteration in this poem, but there is much more going on in it. It has a primal nature that readers must discover.

Whether the verse is free or rhyming, Saft skillfully paints a vivid picture or narrative through which he cracks open the underbelly of reality and the beauty inherent in that reality. Readers will enjoy his fresh images and innovative language.

Also Reviewed By:
Puss Reboots
Never Without a Book
Considering All Things Literary

About the Poet:

Stephen Alan Saft, also known as S.A. Saft, is a writer of essays, novels, plays and poetry. As a poet, Saft has written over a hundred poems, many of which he has presented in public readings. Saft’s poetry is a combination of blank verse, free verse and rhyming pieces, some of which were written to be performed with music. Saft has given poetry readings in Virginia, Maine, Vermont, California, Texas, New Jersey, New York, and Washington DC, in some cases to the accompaniment of a jazz band.

The Memorist by M.J. Rose

I received the The Memorist by M.J. Rose as part of a TLC Book Tour. Please stay tuned for my interview with M.J. Rose after my review.

The Memorist is the second in a series of books about reincarnation, lost memory tools, and the struggle of Meer Logan to find herself through her past. Her father had struggled to help Meer recall her past-life memories to the surface, but she found her life bearable only when she avoided the triggers that called those memories to the surface. Readers also will find the historical bits about the Nazis and their experiments undertaken in Vienna disturbing.

M.J. Rose’s narrative technique easily transports readers to Vienna, the home of Ludwig von Beethoven, and to Vienna in the past when Beethoven lived and taught in the city. She carefully weaves a suspenseful tale to find a lost memory tool once in the possession of Beethoven. Meer not only struggles with the surfacing memories, but with whom she should trust of her father’s friends and how deeply she should not only confide in them but lean on them when the memories flood her mind.

“Margaux’s lovely home was filled with cleaver and important people, fine food and charming music. It was all a patina. The threads that held the partygoers’ polite masks in place were fragile. Everyone in Vienna had an agenda and a plan for how the reapportionment of Europe would work best for them now that Napoleon was in exile. . . . So even here tonight, at what purported to be a totally social gathering, nothing was as it seemed.” (Page 226)

This paragraph illustrates the facades built up around her father, her long-time confidant Malachai, and her father’s sorrowful, new friend Sebastian. The face they present to one another does not represent reality; her father hides many things from her, just as she prepares speeches she believes he wants to hear. While this story is a thriller reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code, it is much more. It illuminates the relationship between Meer and her father and the secrets that lie beneath.

“‘Yes, behind the facades of these elegant buildings are ugly secrets and dirty shadows. . . .'” (Page 297)

Readers will enjoy the shifting perspectives from chapter to chapter and the subplot that lurks beneath the surface, which could change everything for the main characters and Vienna. Music, art, and mystery are the order of the day in The Memorist, and they are woven together beautifully.

“Lifting the plastic cover over the keys she put her fingers on the yellowed ivory and began. The piano had obviously been kept tuned and she was surprised at how differently this two-hundred-year-old instrument played from the ones she was used to. There was more power and feel to its sound, less control, less sustaining power and it seemed she could do more with its loudness and softness.” (Page 252)

Meer underestimates her abilities, and readers will love the evolution of her character. The only drawback in the novel for readers may be the repetition of several descriptive lines as Meer enters her past memories–“a metallic taste fills her mouth.” Aside from this minor annoyance, which quickly fades into the background after several chapters, this novel is action-packed, thrilling, and absorbing. M.J. Rose has done her research and created a believable world in which reincarnation is a viable theory that can be put into action through the recovery and use of various tools.

Check out The Memorist Reading Guide and an excerpt from the book.

Without further ado, here’s my interview with M.J. Rose:

1. When writing The Memorist did you listen to music? If you had to chose five songs that coordinated with The Memorist what would they be and why?

All of Beethoven’s symphonies because he is part of the book and the music of Doug Scofield because he wrote two songs for the book.


2.
Do you have any obsessions that you would like to share?


I love visiting museums, reading, walking our dog in any and all parks, and the ocean.


3.
Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott).


Definitely not Bird by Bird. 🙂 I might the only writer who couldn’t even finish that book. Not knocking it – just not my cup of tea. What helps me is keeping a journal of my character’s life, and reading and rereading great books that I’ve loved over the years, plus I read John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction once a year.

This is one area M.J. Rose and I disagree. Check out my review of The Art of Fiction.


4.
A great deal of writing advice suggests that amateur writers focus on what they know or read the genre you plan to write. Does this advice hold true for you? How so (i.e., what authors do you read)?

I read too many to mention – but I love Paul Auster and Steve Berry and Lisa Tucker and Alice Hoffman and Daniel Silva and Daphne Du Maurier and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Laurie King and Louis Bayard and on and on and on … and from that list you can see I don’t agree on reading in the genre you want to write exclusively at all. I don’t really believe in genres – I believe in good books – genres are what publishers do to books to figure out what to buy and where to put it in the store.

5. Do you have any favorite food or foods that you find keep you inspired? What are the ways in which you pump yourself up to keep writing and overcome writer’s block?


I think writers block comes from not knowing your character and writing too soon in the process. I don’t think you should just sit down and write every day. I think you need to get inside your story and the people who inhabit its world however you need to do that – for me it requires swimming a lot and a lot of long walks where I focus on the characters for hours a time.

Foods, no. I drink green tea while I’m working but I don’t nibble at the computer:) Just when I’m done.


6.
Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.


I have trained myself to write anywhere so my writing space is my laptop wherever it needs to be. And as long as my dog is nearby, it’s ideal.

About the Author (From her Website):

M.J. Rose, is the international bestselling author of 10 novels; Lip Service, In Fidelity, Flesh Tones, Sheet Music, Lying in Bed, The Halo Effect, The Delilah Complex, The Venus Fix, The Reincarnationist, and The Memorist.

Rose is also the co-author with Angela Adair Hoy of How to Publish and Promote Online, and with Doug Clegg of Buzz Your Book.

She is a founding member and board member of International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: AuthorBuzz.com. She runs two popular blogs; Buzz, Balls & Hype and Backstory.

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***

Breathing Out the Ghost by Kirk Curnutt

I received Kirk Curnutt‘s Breathing Out the Ghost for a TLC Book Tour. Kirk also graciously agreed to answer a few questions and giveaway 3 copies of his book to 3 lucky winners anywhere in the world! Stay tuned for the interview and giveaway details.

How would you react if you lost a child? What is the appropriate reaction for a parent who has lost a child? These are the questions tackled in Breathing Out the Ghost. Moving on after a child has disappeared or has been murdered is unimaginable, but life does move on; but how it moves on is up to the family impacted by these tragedies.

“From inside the cab of the combine, Pete watched the reels of the header bat down row after row of soybeans. As the stalks fell backwards, their stems snipped clean by a line of saw teeth on the header’s bottom cutter bar, the bean pods scratched against the metal of the machinery, making the sound of a whisking broom on carpet.” (page 244)

This passage signifies how both Sis and Pete Pruitt and Colin and Kimm St. Claire tackle their grief and pick up the remnants of their lives. The process of rebuilding is a series of fits and starts and restarts; it’s not pretty and it’s never complete. Like the stalks cut down in this passage, lives are halted and lives are skinned raw. While Sis and Pete continue with their lives as best as possible and become a source of selfless comfort for others hit by tragedy in their town, Kimm is left to her own devices when her husband Colin, who calls himself a modern Ahab of the highway, sets out on a journey to find their lost son, A.J. Both stories are separate and connected, but only begin to intersect when St. Claire finds Sis Pruitt at a local fair where she and her group, Parents of Murdered Children, share their photo quilt.

Curnutt doesn’t bob and weave around the anguish these families feel, but he does ensure that each member of these families expresses sorrow and loss in their own way. He’s masterful at creating believable characters, even complex players like Robert Heim, who chose to leave behind his family to save St. Claire from himself.

However, this novel is more than a look at loss, it gauges the inability of control over life and what we as individuals do with that realization. The inability to control life is most evident in St. Claire’s actions, but it peeks out from behind Sis’ veil of normalcy as well. When Sis works with her community members to provide food for volunteers searching for a lost boy, she loses herself in the kitchen conversation, almost fooling herself into believing she’s normal. It’s only when she expresses herself and her memories of her dead daughter, Patty, that she realizes normalcy is not hers.

Through masterful language and description, Curnutt paints a vivid Midwest landscape in which these characters languish in grief and yet flourish in it. From Michigan to Indiana, readers will picture the asphalt highway that becomes St. Claire’s home, office, and escape and the Pruitt’s farm that provides them with order in a town where they feel they have been branded by the murder of their daughter.

One of the best passages in this book is found on page 219, where St. Claire is recording his thoughts on cassette tape for his lost son:

“When I see myself I don’t see anything organic, anything original. I steal my aphorisms from outside sources. My actions pantomime the exploits of others. I’m all imitation, a gloss of a citation. Somewhere along the line I began compiling myself from the excerpts of better men.”

Many of these characters are looking for ways to fill the holes inside them left by loss. And this novel is not just about the loss of loved ones; it is a novel about losing oneself in that loss, allowing it to swallow you whole. The introduction of Sis’ grandmother, Ethel, who has dementia, is a nice addition to the cast. Not only has she experienced the loss of loved ones, but also her own memories and sense of self. However, she is less tortured by that loss, as she is not bound by time lines or turning points that she would like to have a chance to do over. Regret and a lack of control over life can sometimes be more powerful than actual loss. While there are some graphic details involving sexual predator Dickie-Bird, St. Claire’s mythical white whale, this novel is an insightful look at grief, family, and perseverance.

Here’s my short interview with Kirk regarding his writing and advice for amateur writers.
Click on his photo to check out his Website.

1. Writers tend to be drawn to a particular genre and style. What would you consider your style? What genre are you most drawn to when writing and when reading? How do the genres you are drawn to when reading and writing differ or are they the same?

I like to think of myself as a lyrical writer. I’m very much influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald in terms of colors and textures. I also like the way he described emotions. A lot of his stuff is romantic in that it stops just short of sentimentality, and I find myself drawn to that border too. So I like writing with a density to it: Toni Morrison, for example. And Moby-Dick is a biggie for me. I love to get lost in “The Whiteness of the Whale” chapter. I’m not a big fan of stripped-down prose and simple sentences, despite the fact that in my other life I’m a Hemingway scholar. Hemingway is great for aspiring writer because you can learn a lot about how to write landscape.


Because I teach, I read a wide range of books, though mostly 19th and 20th century American novels. I suppose I’m drawn to sadder books these days, but only because I find the characters a bit more complex than in comedy. A lot of humor anymore is satirical, meaning the dramatis personae tend to be stereotypes of predictable behavior. This gets particularly irksome in gender comedies. One of my favorite contemporary writers is Thomas Sanchez, who did a great book about Key West called Mile Zero about twenty years ago. His writing tends to be over the top. I also like Andre DuBois II―you can tell he cares about his characters. I try to balance out the more literary stuff with crime books, too. I’m a huge noir fan, and I read all the Hard Case Crime paperbacks when they come out, though I enjoy some more than others. Noir is tricky to do because it’s so stylized―it can come off a little too jokey if the characters aren’t compelling.

2. Most writers will read inspirational/how-to manuals, take workshops, or belong to writing groups. Did you subscribe to any of these aids and if so which did you find most helpful? Please feel free to name any “writing” books you enjoyed most (i.e. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott)


I think you can learn practical steps from manuals and workshops, but really, a lot of development depends upon being an honest observer of your own strengths and weaknesses. I took several writing workshops when I was in my twenties, but I didn’t particularly find them helpful because people were too competitive and there was a lot of posturing instead of work.


I have a small circle of fellow writers who share their work in progress, and it’s the best thing in the world because we’re mutually supportive. We can call each other on deficiencies without hurting each other’s feelings. I also tend to read a lot of literary criticism and narrative theory for ideas and techniques. I loved James Wood’s How Fiction Works, even though I disagree with a lot of his orthodoxies.


3. There is a great deal of poetic prose in your novel, Breathing Out the Ghost. Have you written poetry or have you considered it? Why or Why not?


No, I’ve never tried poetry, in part, I think, because I’m too attached to plot. I do love poetic prose, however, and I think a writer should test the limits of language. That’s part of the reason that I love folks like Melville, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and Morrison, as different as they all are. I read and teach modernist poetry regularly―I love Hilda Doolittle, for example―and it’s taught me a lot about imagery and symbolism. What a dash of poetry can bring to the prose is simply greater sensuousness. So much of the world feels flat and simplified today; we’ve gotten a bit of a tin ear when it comes to metaphor. So the poetic part is just there to challenge myself to appreciate the richness we tend to overlook.


4. A great deal of writing advice suggests that amateur writers focus on what they know or read the genre you plan to write. Does this advice hold true for you? How so (i.e. what authors do you read)?


I think the “write what you know” dictum is the worst thing that ever happened to writing. It’s been bad for two reasons: it’s encouraged people to believe that personal experience is the only font of knowledge that’s worth exploring, and, as a result, it has discouraged people from learning new things. To me a far better philosophy would be, “If you want to write about something you don’t know, go out and learn it.” And the reality is that professional writers do this on a daily basis.


In my own case, I knew zilch about farming except for some embarrassing memories about how useless I was when I was a child and I would try to help my grandparents milk and harvest. I wanted to know the language of combines and hogs, however, so I went out and educated myself, both by visiting farms and reading books. I’m fortunate that I have a very tolerant uncle who entertains a lot of my stupid questions.


The other downside of only writing what you know is that writers tend to create characters that are only variations of themselves. As much as I love Hemingway and Fitzgerald, they and their generation are to blame for this tendency. At its most reductive, the idea gets boiled down to the notion that men can’t create convincing female characters and that women have the same problem with men. I think what actually happens is that sometimes we as writers don’t extend our characters the courtesy of empathy: we create them as foils whose behavior is the axe we want to grind.


Take the two spouses in Ghost, for example. It was very important to me that readers be able to identify with the dilemmas of both Pete Pruitt and Kim St. Claire as much as the narrative sympathies encourage them to care about Sis and Colin respectively. In essence, I wanted the audience to see the lack of generosity in my main characters’ resentments toward their families, because otherwise all I would have is an unemotional husband and an unfaithful wife. Motives are more complex. I guess the key word is empathy: I think challenging yourself to write about people who aren’t you is both artistically and ethically beneficial. It teaches you a bit of humility about your own opinions, and it allows you to feel for the things other people have suffered without pity or condescension.


5. If you were to create a playlist for your novel, what are the top five songs on that list?


This is a great question! I actually had a group of songs I would play as I was writing. Music is great inspiration because it’s such a different medium and it’s a productive challenge to try to translate its effect into words. The top songs would include:


a) “Yer Blues” by the Beatles. From The White Album, of course. I actually imagined Colin St. Claire listening to this song in the opening chapter, if only because I have memories of listening to it when I was in my very early teens. The Beatles may have been my first earphone album―you know, the kind of record that you end up spending heaps of time listening to in your own little world. Years later I read a quote from Eric Clapton talking about how hard it was for him to take this song seriously because it was so intense it seemed like a parody of the blues. I mean, the lyrics are way over the top: Yes I’m lonely / Wanna die.… etc. etc. Whatever John Lennon’s feelings for it were― and I don’t think he really cared for it―”Yer Blues” has always struck me as that kind of primal scream that’s as much about showing off one’s desperation as it is actually experiencing it. In that way, it seemed to capture for me the solipsism of Colin St. Claire’s quest for his lost son. Here is a version from the Rolling Stones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAjdRHzH4M8


I just love the Beatles! I have to go out and find this song…perhaps the next time I’m at my parents. My dad has the White Album on LP!


b) “You R Loved” by Victoria Williams. This is a great bit of horn-tinged gospel that’s always embodied for me generosity and redemption. Victoria is often depicted as a sort of hippie kook, but there’s a deeply caring side to her music that makes me think of the word healing. I love the chorus: Jesus walked on the water / He turned the water into wine / He went down to the drunkards / To tell them everything is fine / You R loved, You R loved, You R loved. This is the song St. Claire’s daughter would sing to her father. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go4D_sht00Y


c) “Little Bird” by the Beach Boys. Yes, the Beach Boys. I’m the world’s biggest BB nerd. There’s a real dark side to their late-60s music that only folks who can see past “Surfin’ U.S.A.” are aware of. This song, which appears on their extremely weird 1968 LP Friends, was the first song Dennis Wilson wrote. He later went on to make one of the best albums of the seventies, Pacific Ocean Blue. It would probably upset his fans to know this was the song I had in mind for the villain of Ghost, Dickie-Bird Johnson. “Little Bird” is often described as a gentle, child-like song, but to me it was always creepy. I mean, it was written while Dennis was hanging out with Charles Manson. It doesn’t get creepier than that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BLyXRPl1aE

I have to interject here that I would think that writing a song while hanging out with Charles Manson would indeed be very creepy!


d) “Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan. Not really well-known, but a beautiful song about humility that appeared in the early eighties at the end of his Christian phrase. I snipped a couple of lines for dialogue here and there in the book. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lueCTMdAfrw


e) “If I Should Fall Behind” by Bruce Springsteen. To my thinking, a great love song for people who’ve been together long enough to be disappointed and yet forgiving. I played this over and over while I was writing the scenes between Sis and Pete. There are several versions of this song; it’s been recorded by everybody from Dion (doo-wop) to Linda Ronstadt (jazz). My favorite is the version Springsteen did with the E Street Band c. 2000. Each member of the group takes turns singing a verse, even Clarence Clemmons. It’s a really effective arrangement―way better than the 1992 original. Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true / But you and I know what this world can do―that’s my favorite line. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSAevK9__3k&feature=related


6. In terms of friendships, have your friendships changed since you began focusing on writing? Are there more writers among your friends or have your relationships remained the same?


I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing, so my friendships really haven’t changed in the years I’ve been trying to write seriously. I do have four or five really close friends who are in this game, but the majority of my friends have their own interests. Some are painters, some mechanics, some farmers, some Air Force lieutenants, some bartenders. I think it’s healthy to have a wide circle of folks who aren’t writers. You learn more by hanging out with people who aren’t like you because they know things you don’t. Friends are great sources of knowledge.

I also agree that having friends who aren’t writers is a benefit!


7. Please describe your writing space and how it would differ from your ideal writing space.


I have what’s called a “hidden room” in my house. It’s basically a half-attic that’s been converted into a spare bedroom. I use it for an office. I keep it pretty stark: a little computer table, bookshelves, and a table to hold my coffee cup. I’m usually up in it by five so I can write before work. For years I had a laptop and worked anywhere I could: sometimes at Panera’s or Barnes and Noble, sometimes in my room, sometimes in the car. What’s most important is that you keep up your schedule by being able to write wherever you’re at. Life is going to conspire to mess with your schedule, so you have to adapt.


Thanks so much for these questions! Thank you, Kirk, for graciously taking the time to answer my questions.

About the Author:

Kirk Curnutt is the author of eleven books of fiction and criticism, including the forthcoming thriller Dixie Noir (Fall 2009); Coffee with Hemingway (2007), an entry in Duncan Baird’s series of imaginary conversations with great historical figures: and the story collection, Baby, Let’s Make a Baby (2003).

Breathing Out the Ghost was named Best Fiction in the Indiana Center for the Book’s 2008 Best Books of Indiana Competition. It also won a bronze IPPY from the Independent Publishers Association and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards. Curnutt’s other awards include three consecutive Hackney Awards for short-story writing (2004-2006) and the gold medal in nonfiction in the 2008 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition sponsored by the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society.

A passionate devotee of all things F. Scott Fitzgerald, he is vice-president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and a board member of the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

Now for the giveaway information: (Don’t forget to leave me an email or working blog profile)

1. One entry for a comment left on this post regarding why you want to read Breathing out the Ghost.

2. A second entry if you blog about or mention this contest in your sidebar, don’t forget to come back here and leave me a link.

3. A third entry if you comment on a previous or subsequent tour stop and leave me a link to the post you commented on.

Deadline for entries is Jan. 17 at Midnight EST

Here are the other TLC Book Tour Stops:

Monday, January 5th: Diary of an Eccentric

Tuesday, January 6th: Ramya’s Bookshelf Review and Guest Post

Wednesday, January 7th: The Sleepy Reader and Guest Post

Thursday, January 8th: Crime Ne.ws, formerly Trenchcoat Chronicles

Monday, January 12th: Savvy Verse and Wit

Tuesday, January 13th: Educating Petunia

Wednesday, January 14th: Michele- Only One ‘L’

Thursday, January 15th: Book Nut

Friday, January 16th: Anniegirl1138

Monday, January 19th: Caribou’s Mom

Tuesday, January 20th: Lost in Lima, Ohio

Wednesday, January 21st: A Novel Menagerie

Monday, January 26th: Catootes

Wednesday, January 28th: Bloody Hell, it’s a Book Barrage!

Thursday, February 12th: She is Too Fond of Books

Cross Country by James Patterson

Miriam at Hatchette Group sent Cross Country by James Patterson for my review. However, while I’ve been an avid James Patterson reader for some time, I decided to have the biggest James Patterson fan I know review it. My mom, Pat, offered to review the book for me. I’m sure my review will follow sometime in 2009.

About the book (from Amazon.com):

In this 14th Alex Cross thriller, Cross, a Washington, D.C., police detective, takes on a very different quarry—a human monster known as the Tiger with ties to the African underworld. When the Tiger and his teenage thugs butcher writer Ellie Cox, her husband and children in their Georgetown home, Cross is devastated because Ellie had been his girlfriend in college. The Cox family massacre proves to be just the first in a series. Cross pursues the Tiger to Nigeria, where the profiler finds himself at the mercy of corrupt government officials who may be working with the Tiger.

Here’s what Pat had to say about the latest in the Alex Cross Series:

James Patterson’s Cross Country is a page turner from beginning to end.

Alex Cross and Brianna Stone are called to a horrific crime scene, one of the worst murder scenes Cross has encountered in his entire D.C. police career. Families are brutally murdered in their homes. One scene involves Cross’ ex-girlfriend Ellie Randall Cox and her family, and the death of the entire family. Ellie was a reporter who uncovered a series of brutal murders happening both in the United States and Nigeria, Africa.

Cross ends up in Africa on the trail of a notorious killer, Tiger, and his boy killers. From the moment Cross sets foot in Nigeria, he is kidnapped, beaten, and shot at. The fast-paced style that Patterson has cornered the market on continues in this latest Alex Cross story. Everyone Cross comes in contact with is dying or in danger, and eventually, Tiger follows Cross back to Washington, D.C.

This book is fantastic, and I would rate it with 5 stars. It will keep readers glued to the page until they are finished. This is one of the better books in the Cross series, and setting a portion of the tale in Africa was unique and believable.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Marie PhillipsGods Behaving Badly is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. What would the ancient gods of Greece and Rome do in today’s 21st Century world? Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, a phone sex operator; Apollo, the God of the Sun, a television psychic; Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Chastity, a dog walker.

The gods have weakened since their days on high at Mt. Olympus, and they are all crammed into a dilapidated home in London, getting on one another’s nerves. The conflict truly begins one night during a taping of Apollo’s psychic show where Eros shoots a love arrow into Apollo’s heart, leaving him powerless against his love for the next person entering his view. Unfortunately, that person happens to be a mortal named, Alice, who cleans the theater where the show is taped. Alice and her friend Neil, who both love one another but are too afraid to make a move, become the center of conflict in the gods’ world.

What has been fascinating about the Greek and Roman gods for many centuries has been their human-like qualities. While they are powerful beings ruling over the human world, they are much like the average mortal in their desires, weaknesses, and arrogance. Phillips easily highlights the human-like failings of these gods and accentuates those failings with “unlikely” professions for them in the modern world.

Watching these gods cope with the 21st Century is a hilarious delight, but even more delightful is Phillips’ use of language. From Aphrodite’s bottom “bouncing like two hard-boiled eggs dancing a tango” (page 89) to Phillips’ description of Neil as a teenager, “an ugly, spotty, skinny-arsed spoddy minger” (page 88). The dialogue is witty as well: “‘. . .you’d better come quick. I’ve got a god passed out on my kitchen floor and I think the world’s about to end.’ (page 213).”

One of the best scenes in this book comes when Apollo finds Zeus in the upper floors of the house staring at the television much like a zombie would. He’s lifeless, but still a god able to stand on his own and still strike down mortals with lightning. Reading this section brought to life the dilemma that often faces many of us, do we unwind too often in front of the television rather than through more challenging activities, like games, competition, reading, and exercise? Is this section a commentary on the lives we continue to lead now, watching television, zoning out, and withdrawing into ourselves away from society. But, I digress.

With an interesting cast of characters from a Christian Eros to a drunk, DJ in Dionysus, Phillips uses her cast of characters to dramatically set the stage for a modern day Greek comedy of errors and missed chances. Even readers who do not have a firm background in mythology will enjoy this book.

If you think this book sounds interesting, you should check out Hachette Group’s discussion with the author, Marie Phillips, on Blog Talk Radio.

***Contest***

Hatchette Group offered to give away 5 copies of the book to my readers with U.S. and Canadian addresses only.

For those international readers, I am offering my gently used copy, so please inform me that you are an international entrant.

For one entry, leave a comment here telling me who your favorite Greek/Roman god/goddess is and why.

For a second entry, blog about the contest or place it in your sidebar and leave a comment here telling me where I can find it.

Deadline is January 5, Midnight EST.

Check out these other Reviews:
Booking Mama
Books Books and more Books!
Diary of an Eccentric
Book-a-Rama
A Reader’s Respite
Booklorn
The 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Sophisticated Dorkiness
A Life in Books
Becky’s Book Reviews
Fizzy Thoughts
The Boston Bibliophile
A Novel Menagerie
As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves

You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

Jess McCann’s You Lost Him at Hello is part of a TLC Book Tour and I want to thank TLC and Jess McCann for sending along the book for my review.

Despite being married myself, this book has some great advice about how to embrace yourself and become confident–know your product and learn how to sell it. In the dating world, confidence is everything, even if you don’t feel confident all the time. McCann lays the groundwork for each single woman in this book, seeking to provide practical applications of sales techniques in the dating world.

The best part of this book is the personal stories of her own dating snafus and those of her friends. These tidbits bring the practical advice to the forefront, detailing how the techniques can be applied to improve each woman’s dating life. While a lot of self-help books talk about making drastic changes to your routines and lifestyles in many instances, McCann offers some small steps you can take to get results. Check out Adventures of Wanderlust‘s post to see how small changes worked for her and her girlfriends.

Here are some main things to keep in mind, which may seem like common sense:

1. Know yourself and love yourself
2. Remain confident and share your opinions
3. Make eye contact and express interest in discussed topics, even those outside your comfort zone
4. Don’t be a telemarketer of dating; you cannot convince a man to be interested if he isn’t
5. Make yourself available and change up your routine to meet guys in a variety of places to prime the pump–keeping your options open until commitment is broached

I wanted to share this passage with you from McCann’s book, page 37:

My friend Kayla is the worst dater. . . . Kayla’s biggest problem is that she doesn’t really know who she is. She hasn’t yet figured out the kind of person that makes her Kayla. If you asked her if she was a Democrat or Republican, she would say that she’s not into politics. . . . She thought she was being easygoing by staying neutral, but instead she came off looking like she wasn’t smart enough to form her own opinion.

This book provides personal stories, saleswoman insights, and tips on how you can change how you interact and attract men. My favorite icebreakers are on page 75:

That drink looks good, what is it? (don’t most men drink beer?)
Didn’t you go to my high school?

One of McCann’s friends likes to ask guys if they’ve ever been waxed. Now that is one I certainly never would have thought to use.

While some of the advice in this book is common sense, other advice will help those who are still single and tired of playing games, getting dumped, and living in love limbo. There is some great insight into how to gauge men’s interest from how they look at you, converse with you, and how they interact with women.

I highly recommend this book for women who want to change their dating outcomes and find a steady relationship that will fulfill them and make them happy. I also think that this book has wider applications for women, teaching them how to become confident and skilled at engaging others in conversation not only on dates, but in friendships and the business arena. McCann does an excellent job of weaving advice into personalized experiences to engage the reader and help her own the lessons inside these pages.

Check out the next stop on the tour, Life in Pink.

About the Author:

Jess McCann is unlike any dating coach out there. Instead of the usual therapy-based date coaching, Jess takes a unique approach to finding and keeping the right person for you. Through her education and experience in business, she has made the remarkable discovery that dating is really a simple series of techniques that anyone can learn and succeed with.

At thirty years old, Jess was on top of the world. After graduating college, she had started her own sales company, where she single-handedly recruited, trained and managed a thirty-person sales team. She was chosen as one of America’s top entrepreneurs by Sir Richard Branson and traveled the world on his Fox reality show, The Rebel Billionaire. Having discovered first-hand that the art of sales directly translated into her dating life, Jess began counseling women, teaching them logical and proven sales techniques that they could use on their own dates. She continues to teach the fundamentals of sales and dating to women across the country.

***Don’t forget my giveaway for an inscribed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin. Deadline is Dec. 21 and the contest is international.**

***Stay tuned for The Green Beauty Guide winner, which I’ll post tomorrow, Dec. 18.***