One Last 100K Celebration Giveaway: Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

9780061122194Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you are canoodling with your honey and staying warm!

For this final 100K Celebration Giveaway, Danny from HarperCollins looked over my blog and thought my readers would be interested in the book Things I Want My Daughters To Know by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble!  It seems appropriate since I talk about my preteen girls so much.  

There will be a Book Club Girl On Air show occurring online on Tuesday, February 17th, at 7 pm with Elizabeth Noble on www.authorsonair.com.  It’s an interview with the author where book club members can call in or write in with questions about the book.  Pretty cool!

6a00d8341c9ac653ef010536f1eeee970b-120wiHere’s a little information about the book:

How do you cope in a world without your mother?

When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they’ll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?

Take Lisa, in her midthirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twentysomething Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family; and then there’s Hannah, a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood about to be parted from the mother she adores. 

But by drawing on the wisdom in Barbara’s letters, the girls might just find a way to cope with their loss. And in coming to terms with their bereavement, can they also set themselves free to enjoy their lives with all the passion and love each deserves?

This heartfelt novel by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble celebrates family, friends . . . and the glorious, endless possibilities of life.

My Daughters, My Loves

My Daughters, My Loves

Sound good?  For a chance to win a copy of Things I Want My Daughters to Know, leave a comment by Saturday, February 21st, telling me something that YOU’D like your daughter (or future daughter, or niece, or random young girl) to know.

As for me, there are a million things I want my girls to know, not the least of which is how to behave themselves!  But also how much I love them and how much being their mom has changed me forever.  Happy Valentines Day to you and yours!

Book Giveaway from Penguin: The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon

roseofsebastopol_finalMatt from Penguin Group USA is graciously offering this beautiful book, The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon, to be given away in my big fat 100K Celebration!  Isn’t that a romantical cover?  I don’t know about you but I am not above choosing a book based on the cover alone.  Come on, you know you do it too.  Leave a comment by Saturday, February 21st,  for a chance to win this lovely book (US and Canada residents only).  It’s coming out in hardcover March 5th but is available for pre-orders now.

Here is the product description from amazon.com.  The first person who can correctly guess why I got a big chuckle out of it gets 5 EXTRA CHANCES TO WIN.

The #1 UK bestseller comes to America— a sweeping historical novel about love, war, betrayal, and discovery.

In 1854, beautiful, adventurous Rosa Barr travels to the Crimean battlefield with Florence Nightingale’s nursing corps. A headstrong idealist, longing to break out of the rigid confines of life as a young lady, Rosa is determined to make a difference in the world.

For Mariella Lingwood, Rosa’s cousin, the war is contained within the pages of her scrapbook, in her London sewing circle, and in the letters she receives from her fiancé, Henry—a celebrated surgeon who has also volunteered to work within the shadow of the guns. When Henry falls ill and is sent to recuperate in Italy, Mariella impulsively decides she must go to him. But upon her arrival at his lodgings, she makes a heartbreaking discovery: Rosa has disappeared without a trace. Following the trail of her elusive cousin, Mariella’s epic journey takes her from the domestic restraint of Victorian London to the ravaged landscape of the Crimea and the tragic city of Sebastopol, where she encounters Rosa’s dashing stepbrother, a reckless cavalry officer whose complex past —and future—is inextricably bound up with her own. As Mariella’s quest leads her deeper into the dark heart of the conflict, her ordered world begins to crumble and she finds she has much to learn about secrecy, faithfulness, and love. 

WHAT MADE ME LAUGH?  IS IT TOO OBVIOUS?  DON’T FORGET:  THE FIRST PERSON TO GUESS CORRECTLY GETS 5 EXTRA CHANCES TO WIN!

Guest Post and Giveaway: Sheri from A Novel Menagerie says, “Yeah, I’d Praise Book Clubs!”

My book club met on Sunday and we had the great pleasure to welcome a new member, Sheri from A Novel Menagerie!  She and I met through our children last summer, who by sheer coincidence were not only in the same unit at Girl Scout camp, but in the same cabin 2 years in a row.  The chances of that are so slim- one year they went in August, the next year June, one year they were in a sampler unit, the next year a horse unit- all with hundreds of other kids.  It almost seemed that fate was pushing us together.

At first Sheri was kind of stunned that we hit it off, because she says she “never gets along with other women”.   We bonded over our children (we each have two wild preteen girls- hers are twins, mine are “Irish twins”), we both have one brother named Bill (who, by yet another coincidence, attends our church), complicated relationships with our sisters, experience with insomnia (hers, and my husbands), our OCD tendencies, and of course, BOOKS!   I showed her my blog and told her about the book blogging community.  Sheri asked a million questions.  I sent her on her way with a few extra books I had hanging around.  She went home and started her amazing new blog, A Novel Menagerie, that very day.  If you haven’t seen it, you must go check it out.  She hosts memes, challenges, contests, and reads about 5 books a week (and I’m not even exaggerating!)  She also started an online business called BookCharming.com and makes these adorable floss book marks.  She has so much drive and energy and honestly, I don’t know how she does it all!

So when she asked me about my book club, I sadly told her that it was “full”.  We had what seemed the right amount of people (12) and the club had agreed that we wouldn’t be inviting any more.  But then, in January, someone dropped out.  I mentioned it to Sheri and before the words were out of my mouth, she was saying YES!  So here she is, with impressions of her first book club meeting.  Welcome, Sheri!

Yeah, I’d Praise Book Clubs!

My constant whining about not being in a book club was more than Lisa could bear.  Month after month, the nagging became like nails scratching on a chalkboard.  She had no choice.  Find a spot for me or listen to 11 more months of “poor me.”  I think she chose wisely…yes, she is indeed a smart girl!

So, after finagling me into the book club, I immediately purchased every book on our reading list.  I was bound and determined to know each book inside and out, be ready for any question, and be worthy of the book club.  The books arrived:

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Sarah’s Key

The Invisible Wall

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Our first meeting:  Oscar Wao.  Now, this book is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  Of course, then it must be good.  And, it was.  But, the book was somewhat of a grueling read.  It was not an easy book to get through.  As I spewed out of my mouth in the book club meeting:  

It’s like childbirth; you are not really enjoying it when you’re going through it.  But, once it’s over with you’re glad you did it.  

That’s it.  They’re giving me das boot.  No.  Wait.  Ellen agreed.  Whew!  Let me go back in time to explain.  

So, like a little Nervous Nelly, I walked down the street with Lisa to the book club meeting.  They aren’t going to like me.  I won’t fit in.  I didn’t read the Reader’s Guide questions thoroughly enough.  I wasn’t even sure how I completely felt about the book.  I walk into Ellen’s home.  Immaculate.  Oh, I am such a sub-standard mother.  Ellen would never even sit on my couches.  I’m going to have to host my meeting at Lisa’s house.  There were a few people to meet and… (can you hear the angels singing?) WINE!  I thank God Jesus was into wine!  It’s a goodie that God makes sure is around for me!  Everything looked great.  There was food, wine, the immaculate house.  I was making conversation with whoever would talk with me.  Let’s see if I can remember all of their names (whoever I forget, please forgive me):

bc-bluebirdEllen

Diane

Elaine

Sara

Lisa

Sheri (that’s me)

Orchid

Maggie

Valerie

Tammy

So, Lisa thankfully sat by me during dinner and helped me to remember who’s who, names, etc.  The meeting soon started and Orchid (and her amazingly cool hair) led the meeting.  She read aloud.  But, she read a passage that was written in partial Spanish.  When she said the passage aloud, she said it entirely in English.  <Enter my big mouth> 

bc-sunset“Do you speak Spanish?  I mean, I can read it, but not speak it.  And, well…” (God, Sheri shut up!)

Yes, she did.  And, my inappropriate outburst led into a discussion about the foreign language in the book.  (Thank God!)  The conversation continued and it seemed like we all had something to say. 

My SELF observations:

1. I am the only dumbass who didn’t know that the splotch on the cover was the face of Oscar with a wing coming out of the back of his head.

2. I am the only idiot who thought that Oscar shouldn’t have quit on Yunior when Yunior was trying to help him lose weight.  

3. I’m the only deranged person who didn’t feel sorry for Oscar.  

4. I talk too much.

5. I don’t know enough.

6. Maybe I’m the only one who thinks my thoughts are “spot-on.”  No, that’s not a maybe.  It’s a for sure!

9780312370848My GROUP observations:

1. They were lovely women who really enjoyed this opportunity to get together and discuss their love for books. 

2. These were some INTELLIGENT chicks!

3. There is a common, invisible thread that ties them together.  They appreciate this book club and each other.

4. If I bribe them with my AWESOME Key Lime Martinis, they may let me come back again.  I hope so because I’m almost done with Sarah’s Key.

5. Lisa is my friend!

If I could only talk to intelligent women about the books I read ALL DAY LONG.  It would be like Heaven.  I wonder if I should try to find a job in the book industry.  I’m turning into a one-dimensional person… BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS.  Maybe I need to be in 4 book clubs… one for every Sunday.  Yes, that might cure my itch!

Thank you to Lisa for letting me smuggle my way into the group and share my neurosis with her readers.  

Sheri is donating 2 beautiful BookCharming.com Book Marks to my 100K celebration.  The first one is the Bluebird design, and the 2nd one is Sunset.  Gorgeous, right?  She’s so flippin’ talented!  This chick has skills!!  I’m going to throw in our book club’s next selection, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay to go along with the beautiful book marks.  Leave a comment by Friday, February 20th for a chance to win.

To read Sheri’s review of Sarah’s Key, click HERE.  I had to skim it because I haven’t read the book yet.  Hope I finish it before next month’s meeting!!

100K Celebration Giveaway from Random House!

Not wanting to miss out on the party, Rochelle at Random House has jumped in and offered some fabulous titles to my readers! I’m so excited!

Ok, Ok.. lemme see… yep, Rochelle said 5 (five) FIVE!! copies of each title- WOW! Ok, ok. Let’s do this- we will pick Two Grand Prize winners who will receive all 3 titles! And then a whole bunch of other winners (9? Is that right??!!) who will get one title each!  ARE WE HAVING FUN YET??????

51luakxjkrl_sl500_aa240_ Welcome to the Departure Lounge: Adventures in Mothering Mother by Meg Federico (Just released in hardcover this week!)

About the book:
The adventure begins when Meg’s mother, Addie, vacationing in Florida, takes a spill. At the hospital, Addie bolts upright on her gurney and yells “I demand an autopsy!” before passing out cold.

“One minute, she is unconscious, the next, she’s nuts,” observes Meg Federico in this hilarious and poignant memoir of taking care of eighty-year-old Addie and her relatively new (and equally old) husband, Walter, in their not-so-golden years.

With a fresh voice and a keen eye for the absurd, Meg Federico writes a story that will resonate with the generation now caring for their parents. Welcome to the Departure Lounge is a moving and madcap chronicle of a family–their moments of joy, the memories they’d rather forget, and the just plain loopiness of their situation. “How’s life at the Departure Lounge?” Meg’s brother asks. Meg doesn’t know where to start. “Let’s just say the drinks are outrageous, and they never run out of nuts.”

41mgmxucf6l_sl500_aa240_ American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (Just released in paperback this week!)

About the book:
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.

The author’s website is HERE.

3 Gardens of Water by Alan Drew (Just released in paperback this week!)

About the book:
Gardens of Water is an enthralling story of two families, and two faiths, in Turkey at the time of the cataclysm of 1999. It tells of Sinan, whose daughter, Irem, dreams of escaping the confines of her family and the duties of a devout Muslim woman. She sees in Dylan, an American boy and her upstairs neighbor, the enticing promise of another life. But then a massive earthquake forces Sinan and his family to live as refugees in their own country and leads to a dangerous intimacy with their American neighbors, as Irem and Dylan fall in love. When Sinan finds himself entangled in a series of increasingly dangerous decisions, he will be pushed toward a final betrayal that will change everyone’s lives forever. Powerful and beautifully written, Alan Drew’s Gardens of Water marks the debut of a brilliant new American writer.

Check out the author’s website HERE

This 100K Party is in full swing now!!  Leave a comment by Thursday, February 19th, for a chance to win one, or possibly all three, of these great Random House titles!  Blog about it and come back with the link, and you’ll get 3 extra chances!  (So sorry, international peeps, this is only open to residents of the US and Canada).

<———————-More stuff to win over there.. go see..

Matrimony Giveaway

cover150x229Matrimony by Josh Henkin is a much read, reviewed, and revered book around the blogosphere. Josh is a great guy and an author that really understands and appreciates the time and effort we book bloggers put into our blogs and our reviews. He is so supportive of bloggers and has done a great job of marketing his book online. He is generous with his time, offering author chats (by phone and in person) to book clubs all over the country. He loooooves getting feedback on his book and sitting in on discussions!

Josh wrote a wonderful guest post for me last year about book clubs that really struck a nerve, judging from the dozens of comments and incoming links to that post. Josh encourages reading groups to think outside the box and choose titles that are a little different. He noticed that book clubs were making selections from the same 10 or 12 titles and missing out on some really interesting stuff by sticking to the tried and true. Josh, I want to thank you for that guest post, and for always providing a link to this blog whenever you refer to it.. whether that is with Shelf Awareness, Book Club Girl, Reading Group Guides, or various other interviews you’ve done. I really appreciate that! For more on Josh’s thoughts on book clubs, check out this article titled Author, Your Group is Calling, from The Philadelphia Enquirer.

So.. Matrimony. Have you read it? It’s about 2 couples: Julian and Mia, and Carter and Pilar. It’s about love and life and birth and death and everything in between. It was a 2007 New York Times Notable Book. A Book Sense Highlight Pick of the Year. A Borders Original Voices Selection. It’s quite the celebrated book!

Josh is offering an inscribed, paperback copy of his book to one lucky commenter! Just leave a comment by Thursday, February 19th. And since we’re just a couple days away from Valentine’s Day, I’d like you to finish this sentence: “Love is … “

Guest Post: Author Erica Bauermeister offers a Recipe and a Giveaway!

51be1lrnnnl_sl500_aa240_Erica Bauermeister is the author of The School of Essential Ingredients, one of my favorite books so far this year! In my review I stated that my only complaint about this delectable book was the lack of recipes. Erica, taking me seriously, wrote a guest post for me and included a recipe for Tom’s Pasta Sauce. Thank you, Erica, for the guest post and the wonderful recipe.. I can’t wait to try it!! Maybe I’ll make it for the hub on Valentine’s Day.. hmmmm.

The idea for The School of Essential Ingredients came from a cooking class I took in Seattle, but the approach that Lillian, the chef/teacher in the novel, has toward food came from my experience of living in Italy for two years. While I was there I learned to see food as a conversation between ingredients rather than a lock-step set of rules I needed to follow. At first, that dialogue between ingredients felt as if it, too, was in a foreign language along with the Italian, but over time I learned to relax, to immerse myself in the flavors and textures of the ingredients, to worry less about using recipes. In short, I learned to play with my food.

droppedimageAnd what I learned is that cooking is a very forgiving activity. Switching out one ingredient for another is a creative act, not a destructive one. Coming out from behind the protective wall of a recipe allows us to come into closer contact with the food itself. Thinking of a recipe as an ice-breaker, a conversation starter, opens up endless possibilities.

So here’s a recipe to get you started, because in her review Lisa asked for one so very nicely. A bit of background: Tom is a bit of a mystery to the other characters in The School of Essential Ingredients, who know only that he carries with him a deep and personal sorrow. It is Lillian, the cooking teacher, who instinctively knows that participating in the creation of a pasta sauce from scratch will be one way to help him heal.

I offer this recipe with the hope that you will feel invited/directed/inspired to experiment. What would happen, for example, if you grated some orange peel into your sauce? Or used chicken sausage, or ground lamb with a bit of fresh rosemary? How might those bursts of creativity affect the life of someone you love?

Tom’s Pasta Sauce

Note: For best results, use Knorr’s extra-large soft chicken bouillon cubes.
Crush the whole tomatoes in a food processor, or chop them finely by hand.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 extra-large soft chicken bouillon cube (see note)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground Italian sausage
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup red wine
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and crushed (see note)
1 cup tomato sauce (more if you want)
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne pasta
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

1. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-low heat until bubbles form. Crush the half bouillon cube into the oil and mix thoroughly. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until translucent.

2. Add ground sausage, increase heat to medium, and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add milk and simmer until absorbed. (Don’t worry if it looks strange at first; the milk will mellow the wine and make for a wonderful, lush sauce.) Add wine, reduce heat to low, and simmer until wine is absorbed. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-3 hours, covered if you want a rich, but slightly thinner sauce, uncovered if you want a thicker sauce and the smell to roam through your house.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook penne pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a large serving bowl. Ladle sauce over pasta; top with grated parmesan cheese if desired, and serve immediately.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Do you play with your food? Erica would like to hear about it! She has generously offered three copies of The School of Essential Ingredients to help me celebrate my big 100K hit milestone! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this wonderful book, all you need to do is send an email by Wednesday, Feb. 18th, to Erica at bookgiveaway@ericabauermeister.com telling her about your favorite dish. She will choose 3 winners from those entries. Please be sure to state in your email that you came from Books on the Brain. Good Luck!

<—–Oh! And please check out my left sidebar for other great 100K Celebration Giveaways!

Review and Giveaway: Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

51p771be0cl_sl500_aa240_ Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway is the story of the author’s 2 year stint as a young Peace Corp volunteer in the remote African country of Mali. Kris spends that time as an assistant to 24 year old Monique, a remarkable midwife in the town of Nampossela, where women give birth on a concrete slab then go back to their work in the fields a few hours later, where the maternal and infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world (1 in 12 mothers die in childbirth, 1 in 5 babies don’t live to see their 5th birthday). There is no running water, no trained doctors, medical equipment or emergency procedures. Food and water are scarce, flies are a constant problem, and malaria, intestinal parasites and AIDS are all too common ailments.

kris_and_moniqueMonique, armed with a few months training, the ability to read, and a happy, willing spirit, fights to keep women alive. She passionately and desperately tries to care for women and children and better their lives under deplorable conditions. There is much information here about the birthing center and midwifery, however it is Kris’s decade-long friendship with Monique that is the heart and soul of this book. They grow close and discuss their lives and emotions on an intimate level reserved for only the very best of friends. Kris writes openly and plainly about her time in Mali, creating an intimate and unsentimental portrait of the people and this beautiful friendship.

Kris meets John, her future husband and another Peace Corps volunteer, in Mali. Their relationship blossoms under the watchful eye of Monique as together they work to renovate the birthing center, cover wells, dig holes for medical waste, and negotiate with community leaders to improve the local healthcare situation.

Monique and the Mango Rains offers so much for a book club to discuss. Themes in the book include family relationships, poverty, religious differences, the place of women in African society, hunger, malnutrition, power struggles, parenting, birth control, marriage, childbirth, volunteerism, and community. Holloway is respectful of the people and their culture and never has that too-frequent American way of being condescending.

I loved this book! It was so inspiring and such a powerful testament to the human spirit and to women’s friendship. Proceeds from sales of this book will help expand the capabilities of a clinic that has since been built in Monique’s name (Clinique Monique), as well as provide school tuition assistance and healthcare for Monique’s children. So I’m going to dig into my wallet and buy one copy of Monique and the Mango Rains to give away to one lucky reader, and I will also donate $1 for every comment left on this post (up to $50) to the cause. $50 won’t change the world, but it is enough to pay for a set of medical instruments!

Please watch this moving short film about Monique, narrated by Kris Holloway.

You can learn more about Monique and the Mango Rains at the book’s beautiful website. Leave a comment here by Tuesday, February 17th, if you’d like to win a copy!

100K Celebration Madness Continues with Another Giveaway!

Today is Day 2 of my giant 100K Celebration, which will be going on for a week here at Books on the Brain! I am having so much fun celebrating and am so glad to share my excitement with you. It’s like I’m throwing a party (everyone’s invited), but instead of receiving gifts, I’m giving them – which to me is always way more fun!

Today Kim Weiss and the wonderful people at HCI Books – “The Life Issues Publisher” – have generously offered 7 amazing books to my readers. HCI is a great publisher of non-fiction whose motto is “Changing Lives One Book at a Time”. There’s a little something for everybody! Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which book you’d be interested in winning. Here are the titles up for grabs:

3821The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances

With her friendly, thorough, and helpful advice; fabulous beauty recipes; product recommendations and ratings; Toxic Ingredients List; and a complete appendix of online resources, Julie Gabriel gives you all the information you need to go green without going broke and become a more natural, healthy, and beautiful you.

3667Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins

A Complete Beauty Revival for Women Over 45

Known as The Makeover Guy ® from his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other national television programs, Christopher Hopkins believes that as they age, women become more beautiful but often feel less attractive. He’s out to change that. For more than twenty years he’s encouraged women who often feel like they’ have taken a backseat to everything and everyone else to come out of the shadows and take center stage.

3827Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-Formation by Richard Bandler

More than thirty years ago, Richard Bandler set out to discover how some therapists effected startling change with their clients, while others argued about theories while their patients waited in vain for help. Now widely regarded as the world’s greatest hypnotist and one of the most brilliant minds in the field of personal change, Richard Bandler created patterns that became the bedrock of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), arguably one of the most profoundly effective approaches for self-improvement. In Richard Bandler’s Guide to Trance-formation, he returns to his roots: hypnotic phenomena, trancework, and altered states to provide a highly compelling and effective prescription for quick and lasting personal change.

3811 The Vigorous Mind by Ingrid E. Cummings

Cross-train Your Brain to Break Through Mental, Emotional, and Professional Boundaries

In The Vigorous Mind, professional ‘Renaissance woman’ Ingrid Cummings offers a social criticism and inspiring self-improvement program that details the antidote to mental undernourishment, unfulfilling careers, untapped talents, and unexplained boredom. Through the techniques and insights in The Vigorous Mind, you will build a more complex, interconnected brain and replace indifference with cognitive reengagement, a sense of optimistic gratification, and a full-to-the-brim life lived without regret.

3812You Lost Him at Hello by Jess McCann

A Saleswoman’s Secrets to Closing the Deal with Any Guy You Want

**JESS WILL BE ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA THIS FRIDAY, FEB. 13th!

Whether you’ve found yourself waiting for him to call or given up everything for a relationship that went nowhere, getting a guy to commit can be like getting him to walk over a bed of hot coals. Jess McCann’s tactics work because they make you strong, confident, and irresistible to every man you meet. Whether you’re looking for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now, You Lost Him at Hello will help you find him and keep him–while having more fun and fulfilled relationships than ever before.

3848 Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson

Loving Madly, Losing Badly – How Ziggy Saved My Life

Ziggy cartoonist Tom Wilson didn’t see it coming: after losing his beloved young wife to breast cancer, it’s up to him to raise two children alone and keep the laughs coming in his cartoons worldwide—even as his own personal orbit is falling apart. In this mesmerizing and nostalgic account of a beloved artist’s life, Tom Wilson details his compelling journey from growing up in the shadow of his father’s genius to inheriting an iconic cartoon when his father falls ill, all while struggling to overcome a crippling depression.

Leave a comment on this post by Tuesday, February 17th, and let me know which HCI book you’d be interested in winning. This contest is open to residents of US and Canada only (my apologies to my overseas readers!)

Come back each day this week for more great giveaways!

We’re partying all week long!

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!

Guest Post and Giveaway: Are You Sometimes (*gasp*) a Reading Lemming?

Kelly Simmons, author of the new novel Standing Still, is sitting in for me today!  Read the giveaway details at the end of this post:

us_coverAre you sometimes (*gasp*) a Reading Lemming? 

In a great article recently in the New York Times fiction reading has finally been declared as being on the rise.  The folks in charge of the National Endowment for the Arts credit community-based reading efforts, book clubs, and popular franchises like Harry Potter and Twilight for this turnaround. 

We should all rejoice at this news, indeed.  But . . .  popular franchises driving reading?  Ouch.   That’s like fast-food driving eating.    That’s like sequels driving movie-going.  That’s like . . . oh crap, that’s America, isn’t it?! 

ksimmons_4866One of the biggest challenges I face with my daughters is convincing them to read books that aren’t series.   (That, and convincing them that normal high school freshmen don’t wear designer dresses and drink Bellinis like they do on Gossip Girl.) But they’re young, and young readers have loved lining up numbered books on their bookshelves since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.   But what about adults?   Grown men and women so hungry for sameness, for a “sure thing”, that they read the same franchises and authors over and over and over again with a blind eye to their flaws.  (Confession:  in my youth I was a Kurt Vonnegut junkie. And you?) 

But book clubs don’t do this – they support diversity, they embrace new authors, they mix it up.    Don’t they?   Well . . .  I visited 86 clubs in 2008, promoting my debut novel Standing Still, and while I loved every minute of it (except for getting hopelessly lost in Maryland, where you apparently sometimes need to take the Beltway East when you’re heading West –who knew?)  I was truly shocked by  how many well-known titles were being chosen month after month.   It seemed only books that were heavily promoted by the publisher, heavily reviewed by lots of media , and heavily blurbed with quotes from other authors were being picked.   Worthy books, sometimes.   But very, very, popular worthy books.  And, yes, the same books did seem to be selected by every club I visited. (If I heard the words “Three Cups of Tea”  one more time I thought I was going to choke on a cinnamon stick.)  The bottom line:  in that kind of environment, I had to consider myself extremely fortunate to have been chosen by any book group at all.   Even though Standing Still, with its cynical view of marriage, its romantic view of activism and kidnapping,  its flawed, panic attack-laden main character and its ambiguous plotting and ending, is a book guaranteed to spark discussion and debate.  Even though I’d gotten some truly glowing reviews.   Even though the book clubs raved and said it was like a “simpler starker Bel Canto.”  I was flat-out lucky to be getting considered, and I was humbled down to my bones once again. 

What happened to me is by now a familiar lament.   My book didn’t have an advertising budget.  My handful of glowing reviews all arrived too late to be placed on the jacket cover (they had to be saved for the paperback.)   And no famous writer wrote me a fawning quote for my cover because I’ve never canoodled with any famous writers, other than sitting next to Tom Wolfe at an Amtrak station.    (And yes that’s how it’s done – through favors, just like Illinois politicians.  Oh, don’t act so shocked!) 

Yes, even book group members, as intelligent and independent-thinking a group as you could hope to find, are looking for guidance.   For the comfort of someone else’s belief to inform their decisions.   That’s not bad, that’s just human.   And we all do it, even those of us who know better. 

What I hope you realize, though, is the power you have as an influencer yourself.   Surely your friends ask for your opinion on what to read all the time.  And is there any point in recommending something everyone else is reading?   Don’t people depend on you to go a little deeper?   After all, when you ask a stylish friend where to get a great fitting pair of jeans for Saturday night, do you really want her to whisper “Gap” in your ear? 


Kelly Simmons, a former journalist and advertising creative director, is the author of Standing Still, in paperback February 10, and coming soon, The Bird House.   She visits as many book clubs as she can (here’s a great article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about her visiting clubs).  And she’s now offering an exclusive Book Group DVD to those she can’t.   For more information, see her website or email her at kellysimmonswrites@yahoo.com.

Now for the giveaway!  Win an autographed paperback copy of Kelly’s new book, Standing Still!  From the product description on amazon.com:  “A riveting debut novel that will appeal to fans of Sue Miller and Janet Fitch, Standing Still is a powerful exploration of the darker side of mother-hood and marriage.”

Leave a comment here by Monday, Feb. 9th, for a single entry, or mention the giveaway on your blog (send me the link) and be entered twice.  Good Luck!