Holy Sh*t! 100,000 Hits! And a Hachette Favorites Giveaway!

images-11It appears that I will hit a big milestone today or tomorrow. Never in a zillion years did I think this little blog of mine would reach 100,00 hits, but here it is! Unbelievable. Woo Hoo, Partay!

51ipo1fobxl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_The wildly generous Miriam at Hachette Book Group is sponsoring a Hachette Favorites Giveaway to help me celebrate! Leave a comment on this post by Monday, February 16th for a chance to win a big box of new fiction from Hachette, including The Little Giant of Aberdeen County 31bhf6sljl_sl160_aa115_(reviewed HERE), One Perfect Day (reviewed HERE), The Bishop’s Daughter (reviewed HERE), Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly, The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent, Run for Your Life by James Patterson and The Makedown by Gitty Daneshvari!

So, a little background on this blog. I started Books on the Brain at the end of September 2007 with virtually no idea about blogging, the book blogging community, html code, Google Reader, ARCs, memes, book tours, etc. No clue. None.

Laura Fitzgerald, author of Veil of Roses (who, incidentally, has a new book out and will be guest posting later this month!), had just talked to my real life book club by speaker phone. She was terrific, and when I emailed to thank her, she wrote back that I should check out her guest post at Stephanie’s blog, The Written Word. I loved the post, but was entranced by the blog. I’d never seen anything like it! I emailed Stephanie to compliment her on it and ask questions (many, many questions). She was so patient with me and so friendly. A day or two later I started Books on the Brain with this silly post, not realizing at the time how much it would change my life.

So let me throw out some stats: in about 16 months I’ve had 99,866 total views (as of this minute), 337 posts, 4,126 comments, 33 categories, and 927 tags. I don’t want to even think about the number of hours I’ve spent blogging. Or reading the blogs of others. Let’s just say it’s been substantial!

But the MOST wonderful thing about blogging, the thing that I just can’t get over, is this wonderful community. The people are so nice, so helpful, so intelligent, caring and kind. I’ve made amazing friends here and I’m so glad I found you. You’ve greatly enriched my life. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, emails, Christmas cards, and surprises (Care, you’re so cool!). Book bloggers are the greatest! Your comments and posts have made me laugh, informed me, enlightened me, given me much to think about, and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!

Help me celebrate by leaving a comment to enter the contest.  The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only (no PO Boxes).  I’ll be celebrating all week with special guests and giveaways, so stay tuned!

In Praise of Book Clubs, Volume 23

The very patient and wonderful Michele from the fabulous blog Michele – One L talks about her book group, the LOLAs, in this 23rd volume of In Praise of Book Clubs.   I apologize to Michele and all the LOLAs for the long delay in posting this terrific entry!

I have loved to read since I was little and was excited to be invited to join a group of women reading and talking about books!  This was seven years ago and at that time I hadn’t really heard of book clubs other than what Oprah was doing. What fun to think about reading the same book and talking about it with other women! 

Ladies on Literary Adventures, otherwise known as LOLAs, is our book club.  It started in April, 2001 and I joined in December, 2001.  We started out as an off-shoot moms group and have had up to 25 folks on the list. While we don’t limit our membership to moms, it seems that the majority of folks we know that love to read are also moms.  We currently have 11 active members and all are quite faithful about reading and coming to the meetings. 

The Literary: As you can imagine, we’ve read a lot of books over the years. We’ve read fiction, memoirs, and self-help (not my favorite – I usually can’t even finish them). Books range from fluffy chick lit to serious subjects. Some of the books that stand out to me: Protecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker – I never would have read this book on my own but it has shaped my ideas and actions regarding my children and their safety;

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier  – another one I would not have picked out myself, I’m not much of a classics reader, but thoroughly enjoyed;

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner – one of my favorite books of all time; and

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik – another of my all-time favorites.

You can see all the books we’ve read at Library Thing HERE.

There are a lot of books that I’ve read because of LOLAs that I may not have searched out on my own. I was a tried and true mystery/thriller fan and would never consider anything else. But I’ve grown to love many other genres because of just one book suggested by the ladies. It’s wonderful. 

The Adventures: We’ve talked to a lot of authors!  We’ve talked with Caroline Leavitt twice! She was our first – her book Coming Back to Me was awesome and based partly on her own life! Caroline was great fun to talk to and is a wonderful author. The second time we chatted was about Girls in Trouble.   We talked with Adriana Trigiani about Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler.  Jennifer Haigh, author of Baker Towers, was also fun to talk with. And it was interesting to talk to Lisa Tucker – I just love all her books, with The Song Reader being the best. We talked to Victoria Zackheim, author of The Bone Weaver.  Two more are Lorna Landvik for Oh My Stars and Sarah Bird, author of The Mommy Club

It always feels so surreal to talk with the authors of books we’ve just read, to hear what they think of the books, their characters. It puts such a different spin on the book, making it come alive in my imagination even more. I was amazed to learn from each one of them that their characters are very real to them. Not in a ‘crazy I hear voices way’, but, in my engineering mind, as close to that as you can get without being crazy. LOL  I am fascinated to learn of the writing process and how different it is from what I would have imagined.  

Our other adventures would be our meals – we either eat out or bring appetizers to a home. We’ve discussed the theme idea where we eat foods relating to the book, but the closest we’ve gotten to that is eating at a Chinese restaurant when we were discussing Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The best part of LOLAs is, of course, the Ladies!  I’ve made great friends that enjoy reading as much as I do! During our meetings, the book discussion sometimes is a large part of the night. I usually learn quite a bit about myself and other points of view/thought from these discussions. Other times the book discussion is a very small part of the evening. But either way we make sure we laugh and talk with each other, finding out about their families, children, jobs, life.  

We are truly Ladies on Literary Adventures and it’s tons of fun!

***Would you like to share about your book club here at Books on the Brain? If so, leave a comment and I will get in touch with you about a guest post!

For previous volumes of In Praise of Book Clubs, click HERE

For more info on starting your own book club, click HERE

For fun ways to make your book club better, click HERE

To check out my current giveaway, click HERE

Guest Review: The Best Place to Be by Lesley Dormen

Ellen, a very cool New Yorker from the very cool blog Wormbook (please stop by!), wrote an excellent review of Lesley Dormen’s The Best Place to Be, currently on a virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours, which I am publishing here with Ellen’s permission.  Enjoy!

If you somehow haven’t read it yet, Melissa Bank’s instantly successful novel THE GIRLS’ GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING presents a chronicle of a woman growing up through various episodes, mostly involving some man, which don’t so much build as layer over each other to deliver a portrait. Often imitated but never duplicated, Bank’s work is also probably the most popular contemporary novel in stories, but retains the chronological orientation of a more classic novel. Much more interesting — and more difficult to pull off — is the out-of-order sequence of Lesley Dormen’s book THE BEST PLACE TO BE, in which each story acts simultaneously as a self-contained story and another shade to the portrait of New Yorker Grace Hanford.

The first inkling I got that this book wouldn’t be just another Bank pretender was the mention, in the opening story “The Old Economy Husband,” of… well, a husband. Dormen doesn’t try to build suspense over whether her character, who in later chapters is single, attached and having affairs, will ever reach that conventional chick-lit milestone of getting hitched. And honestly, Grace’s relationships with men in THE BEST PLACE TO BE often take a back seat to other relationships in her life, from the disappearance of a close friend in college to the strain she feels trying to communicate openly with her mother. Each story is built up over a string of sensually evoked moments, from an early dinner of lobster tails to the sight of her husband reading late at night in a hotel tub.

Grace’s career is secondary to the novel, true, but her life is not without event, albeit the kind of small turns of which most lives have been built. But as we travel back in time, a portrait develops without the self-consciousness of “explaining” how Grace ended up the way she is in “The Old Economy Husband.” Her rocky rapport (often lack thereof) with her father and stepfather are turns in themselves, not (or not merely) insights into her future relationships with men. These causal relationships are so often forced in the service of epiphany or drama, it’s a relief that Grace herself isn’t able to reconcile all these stories of her past into her current self. That might not be the best place to be, but it’s a place we can all get to.

Wormbook was the first stop on Lesley Dormen’s blog book tour for the paperback release of THE BEST PLACE TO BE. You can download a PDF excerpt from the book at Dormen’s Website, LesleyDormen.com

What a difference a year makes

Sometimes I wish I had not shared this blog with my mother, brother, sister, husband, neighbor, book club, friends, and half the city I live in. Sometimes it would be nice to speak the truth, even if it’s ugly, to rant about my mom being a bitch (not YOU, Mom-it’s just an example), or my husband being an asshat (I borrowed that term from Chartroose), or my annoying neighbor who continuously shows up at my doorstep unannounced (I’m not talking about you, I mean the other neighbor, I swear) without fear that said mom or husband or neighbor would read my words.

Sometimes I’d like to show the unvarnished me, not the G rated version.

So I was wondering if those of you with blogs are public- does your real life and your blog world mesh or collide? Are you free to say whatever is on your mind, or are you constantly self-editing? Are you an open book? Does your mommy read your blog? Is your sister looking over your shoulder?

I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot, as I just had my one year Blogiversary on Saturday (with no mention and no fanfare). I’m thinking about what direction I want to take it in – do I want to just keep doing what I’m doing or turn it into something else? I’m not sure. I find it interesting that on the rare occasions when I get a little personal, I get a huge response (views and comments). Anything slightly controversial gets attention.

So here are my one year stats. I never dreamed a year ago that anybody would click over to read my little book reviews and commentary. Seriously, it blows me away. Thanks to all of you who read, lurk, and comment.

Total Views: 62,233

Busiest Day: 783 Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Posts: 263

Comments: 2,967

Book Review with the most hits: The Other Boleyn Girl

Non Book Post with the most hits and comments: I Hate You, Mom

2nd Highest Non-Book Post (hits and comments): The Last Girl on Earth Without a Cell Phone

Post where I offended someone I like and got a bunch of comments: One Divisive Book (and then the debate continued HERE, and HERE, where Elizabeth Gilbert claims to be God).

Weekend Update post (in my pre-Sunday Salon days) with the highest hits: Weekend Update: From a Hormonal Preteen to Pinewood Derby Cars

Bloghopping Challenge

As I was trying to catch up on some favorite blogs, I ran into this post at Presenting Lenore, about a Bloghopping Challenge.  The idea is to visit 10 blogs you’ve never visited before and leave comments on posts that interest you.  This is a carryover from BBAW (one of the many things I never had time for, because there are only so many hours in a day, and I have kids and a house and work and responsibilities- oh, and books to read- lots ‘o books).  Click here for the full list of instructions. 

I don’t have time to do 10 today, so this will be a “Part 1” post.  I have been visiting tons of blogs lately that are new to me for my recruiting efforts to find tour hosts for TLC.  I’m coordinating a tour for Abigail Carter, author of The Alchemy of Loss, and checking out all different types of blogs. 

First, I’d like to talk about Abby’s blog, The Alchemy of Loss.  Abby lost her husband Arron in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.  Abby writes in such a clear, straightforward manner.  I really enjoy her posts, because they give me a lot to think about, and I love the fact that she’s discovered all of us “blog people”.  Her latest post, titled The Quick Rip, has her wondering about death, and which type is worse: “The quick “no goodbye” death, or the slow decline of one’s body? Is it like Band Aids? The quick rip, preferable to the slow pull?”  Read more here.  

Have you seen People Reading?  The author posts pictures of people reading all around San Francisco and then asks them a question about what they’re reading.  Garbage men, business women, soccer moms, college students, homeless people; everyone in the whole city seems to be reading!  It gives a unique portrait of the city and gives me hope that there really are tons of readers out there.  This blog really appeals to the voyeur in me, and since I’ve just purchased a brand new camera, it’s given me some ideas! 

Another really cool blog is Sassymonkey Reads (where she claims reading is better in bed- I’d agree).  She recently moved her blog and this is the new location.  She’s got tons of great reviews, and she’s also a contributing editor at BlogHer.  

Ok, blogging time has run out for me, and I only got through 3 blogs!  I’m coordinating the Scholastic Book Fair next month for my daughters’ school and I’ve got about a zillion copies to make and details to take care of.  Ah, the life of a chronic volunteer.  The important thing is for me to get it all done today so that tonight I can do something I’ve been waiting to do for 4 months- veg out in front of the tv and find out what’s going on with my friends at Dunder Mifflin on the 1 hour season premiere of my favorite show, The Office!  I heart Jim and Pam.  (“Kiss her, kiss her good.”)

To be continued…  

Sunday Salon

It’s finally SUNDAY!  I think a lot of us bloggers have a BBAW hangover this weekend.  So many posts to read, so many giveaways, so many awards and so much excitement!  It was a great week, put on by the tireless My Friend Amy, who did a phenomenal job putting it all together and keeping track of everything.  A round of applause for AMY!  (clap, clap, clap)

My BBAW giveaways will be ending this week too;  this one on Monday, and this one on Tuesday.  Hurry and enter if you haven’t already!

Fall has arrived here in Southern California. I used to love this time of year growing up in Michigan- back to school, sweater weather, fall colors, apple picking.  The change of seasons is more subtle in So. Cal. but when you’ve lived her awhile you start to notice small things.  We go from hot to warm, green to brown, and dry to not quite as dry, over the course of several months.  It’s still blazing hot right now, but it cools off in the evenings, and it’s chilly in the early morning.  The kids are back in school (and already have tons of homework), and by next weekend we’ll start to see pumpkins and scarecrows on porches to remind us that it’s fall, since the weather doesn’t offer much of a clue.

I’ve got so much reading lined up but it’s a challenge to find time.  My husband is in China on business, so I’ve been a “single mom” for the past week.  Things I’ve had to do without him include:

* going to Back to School night alone

* taking the girls on an overnight campout at their school (I  made the kids put the tent up, so it wasn’t that bad- it was just the carting things back and forth and the sleeping on the ground that sucked!)

* dealing with the emotions (“I miss daddy” sniff sniff)

* hauling the garbage cans to the curb and back (his job)

* feeding the dog and picking up poop (also his job)

* taking my youngest to her golf lesson (always a daddy/daughter thing)  

On the plus side, I’ve only cooked dinner once all week.  A couple nights we had leftovers, a couple nights we went out, and one night we had “breakfast for dinner”.  Oh, and I haven’t shaved my legs.  Ha!

Right now I’m reading Peony in Love by Lisa See.  I’ve wanted to read this since it came out, but was waiting for my book club to vote it in.  So far I LOVE it.  I was already a big fan after reading Snow Flower, now I’m a bigger fan.  Her writing is so lush and evocative- you get such a sense of the surroundings, you can almost smell the jasmine on the breeze.  Lisa is going to join our book club meeting in October by speaker phone and we could not be more excited!  

Next on the TBR pile is Immortal by Traci Slatton for Jennifer’s online book club at Literate Housewives (not to be confused with her regular blog, Literate Housewife). This one is somehow a cross between historical fiction and time travel.  It’s set in Florence in the 14th century, and the back cover says something about a golden boy having to make a choice between immortality and his only chance to find his true love (I’m paraphrasing wildly).  

After that, it’s on to The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for a TLC Book Tour stop here on October 30th.  It’s about Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  There’s also a parallel story about a present day murder in a polygamist family.  I can’t wait to start it.  

And last, but hopefully not least, I’ll be reading Run by Ann Patchett.  The only Patchett I’ve read is Bel Canto, which I intensely disliked, but because my friend Jill at Fizzy Thoughts liked Run so much, and then offered to send me her copy, I’m going to give it a try.  I’m also interested in Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face), so I’m going to give her a second chance, and then possibly a third.  

I’m curious- If you’ve read a book that you didn’t like at all, do you give an author another chance and read more of their work?  Or do you “fire them” forever?  

Happy Sunday!

Review? Haiku! Giftcard Giveaway at Fyrefly’s Book Blog

In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, Fyrefly’s Book Blog is hosting a giveaway! She says:

We all love reading and writing book reviews, but let’s face it, even the most straight-forward of us gets a little wordy at times. After reading Adventures in Reading’s post on book reviews vs. blurbs, I decided to see if I could hone my conciseness to a point by fitting my reviews into haiku form. This isn’t an idea that’s unique to me; my friend A was reviewing books on LibraryThing in this format for a while, and I know others have done it before her. Still, once I got started, I found it hard to stop! 

Well, a poet I’m not!  But I had to try my hand at this, so I used 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers for inspiration, and quickly came up with three haikus.  I’m not pretending they’re good or anything!!  But Fyrefly is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card, so what the heck.

 

He builds schools for girls

Pakistan, Afghanistan’s

American friend.

 

He saw their hopes, dreams

to educate their daughters

and live better lives. 

 

 

 

 

Late night drunken calls

Mockingbirds want privacy

Ghosts demand answers

 

What about you?  Can you review in haiku?

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards: Time to VOTE!

My Friend Amy (she isn’t really my friend, although I do like her- that’s just the name of her blog) has posted the list of awards finalists for her Book Blogger Appreciaton Week.  Get ready to cast your votes over at Amy’s blog!

Thanks to all my fans!

Thanks to all my fans!

The list of nominees and categories is really long, so I won’t copy it here, but go visit Amy and check it out. I was quite shocked and thrilled to see my blog’s name on the list, in 2 different categories- Best Book Club Blog and Best Design (brag, brag, boast, boast!)  Sorry, I know that’s obnoxious, I’m just so excited!  I’m sure the other nominees will blow me right out of the water, but it’s an honor just to be nominated, right?  RIGHT?  Geez, I have to decide what to wear on the red carpet.  And get my roots done.  And go to the gym!  And my toenails need some work!  Maybe I can borrow some sexy shoes and some bling bling to go with my dress.  I wonder if there will be champagne and paparazzi..  yeah, a girl can dream, right?

Along with my own blog, Books on the Brain (Braggy McBragger), I’m also pleased to see several blogs that I’ve never had the pleasure to visit, along with so many of my bloggy friends and favorites.  I’ll be adding a few more blogs to my Google Reader, I’m sure.

Go see My Friend Amy and vote for your favorites [[subliminal message—>Books on the Brain is my favorite book blog]]!  The winners will be announced on September 18th.

Introducing…

Sheri from A Novel Menagerie!

Sheri’s a single mom of twin girls (they have some furry friends too in their menagerie), a brand new book blogger just starting out, and she’s also a real life friend who got inspired to blog by my enthusiasm for it, so I wanted to send her some love from Books on the Brain..

Her latest review is for Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert. Sheri pulled the discussion questions from Mostert’s website and answered them herself, which I thought was a great idea. Check it out HERE

Hi, Sheri (waving like a lunatic and blowing kisses)! The blog looks great! Keep up the good work!

UPDATE: Sheri has a contest going on for a $25. gift card to Barnes and Noble! Go see!

The Sunday Salon

Sunday has arrived in all it’s glory! My house is super QUIET with my husband and kids away at a friend’s horse jumping competition, so you’d think I’d be reading, but you’d be wrong. I am busy busy busy alternately procrastinating and working on a zillion things that have been left undone all week as I have been cavorting with the kiddos- laundry and dishes and bathrooms, oh my!

The only reading I’ve been able to get in this week has been during the 45 minutes my kids were in their swim class each day. My younger one gets mad if I’m not watching her dives or her butterfly stroke, so I have to continuously be looking up in case she happens to glance my way. I’ve only finished one book this week, and it happens to be the one I’m giving away tomorrow- Queen of the Road by Doreen Orion! It’s a good one, so if you haven’t entered my giveaway and would like a chance to win, click HERE to find out how. You have until Monday 7/28 at midnight PST.

As much as I liked Queen of the Road- and I really did! It was very funny and great for the summer travel season- I am really anxious to find a book and be utterly BLOWN AWAY by it. I mean BUH-LOOOOOOWN AWAY. It’s been awhile since something has completely knocked me out. Suggestions, anyone? I don’t want to hear about anything that’s pretty good, pleasant, ok, not bad, nice– give me something freakin’ fantastic, if you can!!

I’ve been checking out lots of blogs recently, again in an effort to be WOWed by something. I’ve been reading the same blogs for months, almost always book blogs, and not venturing too far out beyond my blog roll (not that they aren’t all wonderful and consistently good!!) but recently I started to branch out a bit and have found some really awesome, new (to me) blogs. One that is just amazing for it’s photography is appropriately called BLISS. She shoots in and around her home in beautiful Portland and her kids are a favorite subject. Another cool blog I’ve been stopping by recently is Hooked on Houses. Julia from HOH is a self described real estate junkie and lover of homes, big and small. If you love houses, check her out! One other one that I want to share (even though she’s been in my blog roll a long while- but it’s definitely not a book blog) is The Queen Mum. If you have delicate sensibilities, don’t- I repeat- don’t visit. She drops the f-bomb quite liberally. But if that’s not a problem for you, get ready to laugh. I have had to wipe tears from my eyes on more than one occasion from her screamingly funny posts, like this one. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What books and blogs have blown you away recently?? I would love to know!