Q & A with Peter from Flashlight Worthy

Today I welcome Peter Steinberg, creator of Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, a site dedicated to giving out great recommendations for book clubs.

BOTB:  Hi Peter!  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Peter:  I’m 39, and live with my wife and our dog Henry in Brooklyn, NY. We actually live in a neighborhood called Brooklyn Heights which has quite a literary past. W. H. Auden lived here. Hart Crane lived here. Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood here. Norman Mailer spent the last 30 or 40 years of his life here. Carson McCullers, Arthur Miller, Walt Whitman… the list goes on and on.

BOTB:  What types of books do you enjoy most?

Peter:  Good ones? 😉 Seriously, I’m a little bit all over the place. Good novels. Memoirs and biography. American history. Books about specific times or places or objects (think “Devil in the White City” or Salt“). If I had to pick a single genre that makes me different, it’s probably food/restaurant/cooking memoirs. I’ve read about 25 of those in the last 5 years and have a stack to dive into.

BOTB:   Have you ever been in a book club?  If so, can you tell us about it?

Peter:  I spent a year+ in a “Brooklyn” book club — Not only located in Brooklyn, but we only read books set in Brooklyn. It was fun while it lasted, but like so many book clubs it seemed destined for a short life.

BOTB:  If you came to my book club, what kind of food/beverage would you bring?

Peter:  I’d bring dessert. Most likely my famous butterscotch pudding. Or maybe just some vanilla ice cream… but with my homemade caramel sauce that’s been known to start wars between small nations.

BOTB:  Ok, you can come!  What made you decide to start Flashlight Worthy?

Peter:  I started Flashlight Worthy because I wanted to combine my professional skills (running websites) and my personal passion (books). While there are a tremendous number of good sources for book recommendations out there, I think Flashlight Worthy’s take on things — only really great books. very short write-ups, gathering the books into themed lists — is a fun and different approach. And it’s been a great experience — people seem to love the content and the book blogging community has been incredibly supportive!

BOTB:  Book bloggers are awesome 🙂   Peter, I think Flashlight Worthy is a great resource for book clubs and I hope you have much success with it.  I understand you have a request for book club recommendations, so I’ll post that here.  Thanks so much for your time.. it was great getting to know you better!

Here is Peter’s Open Call for Lists of Book Club Recommendations!

Hello and Happy New Year from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations — where you can find books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. 😉

It seems the book club community has recently discovered my book club recommendations.  From the feedback, not only are the lists very much enjoyed, but people are clamoring for more.

That’s where you come in.  While I’ve read plenty of books, I’m looking to book club members to contribute new lists —  annotated lists of highly discussable books.

Can you name and describe 5+ flashlight worthy, discussable books that follow a theme?  Maybe ‘7 Great Books that Revolve Around Food’?  Or ‘6 Women’s Memoirs That Will Start an Argument’.  How about ‘5 Discussable Novels Set in Africa’?

Take a look at the lists I have and give it some thought  If you’re interested, email me at Info AT flashlightworthy DOT com.  Thanks so much and have a great new year!

Peter

(The guy who runs Flashlight Worthy)


Guest Post: Allyson Roy, author(s) of Babydoll!

babydoll-192x300Please welcome Allyson Roy, author(s) of the new book, Babydoll, to Books on the Brain!  Allyson Roy is actually Alice & Roy, husband and wife collaborating authors. 

Did you know laughter makes you healthy? Literally. Studies have shown it enhances the cellular immune system and produces disease-fighting anti-bodies.

“Wait a sec,” you say, “isn’t this supposed to be a book blog?”

That’s right. And today we’re here to talk about a book that will make you laugh so hard you’ll forget about all the latest doom and gloom. And improve your health.

Not that there aren’t tense, poignant or meaningful elements in our Saylor Oz series. Book #1 (which won a Daphne du Maurier Award) addressed an issue that lurks in most of us, thanks to our celebrity obsessed culture — a deep, down secret wish to maybe just once experience what it’s like to be irresistibly beautiful. 

And BABYDOLL, which just came out on August 4th, taps into ideas about people striving to make a name for themselves. And forgotten people who might as well be nameless. It looks at how far many will go to get their wishes. And how some react when it all goes up in smoke. 

But we weave these themes into novels that are part suspense, part comedy and part women’s fiction.

Alice and Roy, a.k.a. Allyson Roy

Alice and Roy, a.k.a. Allyson Roy

The friendship of our two main characters is a major factor in BABYDOLL. Saylor Oz and Benita Morales are women who have worked to achieve their professional goals, yet carry with them all the vulnerabilities of their past. Like most women, they can be strong and confident one minute, but insecure and needy the next. They’re smart, but they get upset and make impulsive, foolish decisions that get them into trouble. Their relationship with each other has lasted longer than those they’ve had with men — Benita is divorced, Saylor never married. Being roommates, they fall into bickering and blaming. But when it comes down to the real stuff, they are deeply loyal and willing to put their lives on the line for each other.

And, oh yeah, they’ll make you laugh out loud. To quote a Pop Syndicate reviewer, “If Saylor and Benita were real, I’d have to friend them on every social network, and go out for beers with them just to experience their humor firsthand.”

Thanks, Lisa, for having us as your guests today!

Blogger Bio:  With backgrounds in the arts – Alice in dance and choreography, Roy in fine art, theater and standup comedy – Alice and Roy spent many gypsy years living and working in the different neighborhoods of New York City and Philadelphia. Their Saylor Oz crime adventure series, set in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood of DUMBO, combines suspense, comedy and a bit of girl stuff. 

Visit the Allyson Roy website HERE and check out the TLC Book Tour schedule for Babydoll HERE.

From Books to Babies: How I Stumbled Upon the Biggest Decision of my Life

local-newsPlease welcome Miriam Gershow, author of The Local News, who has written this guest post as part of a TLC Book Tour!  Check back tomorrow for my review of this excellent debut novel!

For years, whenever anyone asked my mother when I planned to have children, she quoted a line I once told her: “Miriam needs to give birth to a book before she’ll give birth to a child.”  It was one of those lines I had said so off-handedly and so long ago, I barely even remembered it.  But my mother held onto it.  I think it reassured her as she waited through my twenties and then my early thirties, as she watched me get married at 35, as my husband and I bought a house and got a cat, and did all the things newly married couples were supposed to do.   

Well, almost all the things. 

My mother, like any good Jewish mother, awaited word of a coming grandchild, or, short of that, at least some a hint of interest from our end.  But at a time when the ticking of my biological clock should have been a base drum booming in my ears, it was barely even a tick. 

Because that line I had so casually tossed to my mother years before was true.  All my life, I have wanted to be a writer.  I dabbled in it through my twenties–writing bad stories and worse novels, joining writing groups, sharing my work with anyone willing to look at it.  At thirty, I returned to school for an MFA in fiction.  After graduating, I committed to writing as my honest-to-goodness job.  During the day, I took an adjunct instructor position at a university.  Whenever I wasn’t teaching, I wrote.  And wrote and wrote.  I began the arduous, one-step-forward-two-steps-back process of forging a fiction career.  I won a prestigious writing fellowship.  I was paralyzed by writer’s block for most of that fellowship.  I got a handful of stories published in literary journals.  I got dozens and dozens more stories rejected. I finished a short story collection.  I found an enthusiastic agent, who tried to sell that collection.  The collection never sold. 

miriam_gershow_portraitThrough this all, I could not conceive of conceiving a child.  Trying to get my writing published was already a full time job on top of a full time job.  I couldn’t fathom a third job–and one as life-altering and paradigm-changing as becoming a parent.  

And then a funny thing happened:  I wrote a novel and I sold that novel.  After fifteen years of trying, I had done it.  I had finally birthed a book. 

So now what?  

At first, nothing changed.  If anything, I was more consumed in my writing then ever. I was working with an editor and on-deadline for the first time.  My life was all about the panic, pressure and excitement of revisions.  There was no aching in my loins.  There was no longing for a child in my arms.  

But then an even funnier thing happened.  I finished the revisions, took a few months off, and began work on my next novel.  As I sat in front of my computer, I found I was a little bored.  A little restless.  This never happened with my writing.  My writing was always what centered me, what kept me sane and balanced and happy.  For the first time ever, I had the feeling of having already done this, of retracing my own steps.  I was not excited.  And it hit me, distinctly and undeniably: 

I’m ready to try something different.  I’m ready for whatever comes next. 

Without particular fanfare or panic or even those aching loins I’d been waiting for, I realized I was ready to have a baby.  I was ready to alter my life and change my paradigm.  The idea actually excited me.  Suddenly, I just knew.  If my writing career had been a long, slow process, with me concertedly hammering out each step of the path before me, then the decision to have a child was far more instinctual, percolating quietly beneath the surface until bursting through one day, clear and resolute. 

I am now two months away from my due date.  My novel came out four months ago. I’m still at work on the next novel and no longer bored by it.  Pregnancy has proven to be a creative wellspring; I’m bursting with ideas.  I know my life as a writer is about to change in ways I cannot even fathom.  I know everything is about to change radically and irrevocably.  For many years, the idea of such a change filled me with–at best–apathy, and–at worst–all-out dread. Now, though, I embrace it.  Surely, I’m about to stumble into the most rigorous juggling act of my life, but, to my own amazement, I’m up for it. 

My mother already has her plane ticket booked.  She arrives three weeks after the baby’s due date.  Briefly, my husband and I toyed with the idea of telling relatives to wait a few months before visiting, so we could have a long stretch of time alone with our baby.  But then we changed our minds; my mother, we figured, had waited long enough.

Blogger Bio:  Miriam Gershow is a novelist, short story writer and teacher. Her debut novel, The Local News, was published in February 2009. It has been called “deftly heartbreaking” with “urgency and heft” by The New York Times, as well as “an accomplished debut” (Publisher’s Weekly) with a “disarmingly unsentimental narrative voice,” (Kirkus Reviews).

A QUESTION for all you moms out there:  Did you have an ‘aha’ moment when you knew you were ready for parenthood?

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!

Guest Post: Author Robin Maxwell Talks About Book Clubs

It is my pleasure to welcome Robin Maxwell, author of the new historical novel Signora da Vinci, as a guest blogger today!  Robin, a veteran of many book club meetings, shares here how book groups keep her on her toes.

robinmaxwellscan9smThe world of book readership has changed dramatically since I started back in 1997 with Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn.  That was the period of ascendancy of the chains, Borders and Barnes and Noble, and for Diary I went on an old-fashioned national author tour, speaking at more than 100 venues from coast-to-coast.   Now with  my seventh historical novel, Signora da Vinci, I’m on my first “virtual book tour,” reaching out online, with an emphasis on book clubs.  Not only did I sign up for two book clubbing promotions, but my publisher (who had me include a “Readers Guide” in the back of the book) did a third, and very large promotion geared to their list of book clubs.


coversignorafrontEveryone in publishing is well aware of the strength and importance of readings groups.  They are, along with literary blogs, the most vibrant aspect of the book world today. It means so much to me, as an author, that book groups are reading and discussing my novels.  I see the groups as modern-day “salons” that perpetuate culture and ensure that literature continues to survive and thrive in such uncertain times. I’ve done a number of in-person book club events, and a few remote ones — on a speakerphone from the comfort of my own home.  It’s amazing to be able to feel the warmth and excitement of the women exuding through the wires and the cold machinery.

I never feel nervous or intimidated in these situations because, first, I know my subject so well.  By the time I’m sitting down for a chat about a book, I’ve been living with it for at least two years (between research, writing, editing, publishing and promotion).  I know the characters, the period, the politics and the aesthetics like the back of my hand.   And since I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that,” it’s rare to be caught with my pants down.  Of course, if I’ve been invited to speak, I can pretty much assume the group liked my book enough to have me there in person.  I can’t imagine getting an invitation from a club that couldn’t stand what they’d read.  I just expect that I’m walking into a sympathetic situation — six to twelve intelligent women who love to read and discuss literature, at ease in a comfortable living room.  And usually there’s a wonderful meal afterwards!

At one event —  it was a mixed group, men and women — a man, in a rather confrontational tone, challenged me to defend the actions of my protagonist, Grace O’Mally, of The Wild Irish.  She was a 16th century Irish pirate, rival to  Elizabeth I, and “Mother of the Irish rebellion” against England.  He demanded to know why, as a writer, I was sympathetic to Grace, even though after her historic meeting with Elizabeth, she had gone back on her word to the queen to fight on England’s behalf against all the world.  Grace had, indeed, agree to help Elizabeth in exchange for the release of her son from an English prison.   

This was a legitimate question, and not a simple one to answer.  I really had to think on my feet, because not only did I not want to look foolish in front of these readers, but I didn’t want to let down one of my favorite heroines of all times.  I offered the thrust of my defense — that Elizabeth was the first to go back on her word — on another crucial promise she had made to Grace.  But the man parried, refusing to back down, calling Grace a liar, and not worthy of the readers’ respect.  I thought to myself “This man may be a raging Anglophile who simply has no sympathy for the Irish, a people who had been invaded, colonized, enslaved and murdered by the English,”  but that was no defense for the question at hand.  So I went for the emotional argument.  I asked him if he was parent.  He said he was.  I asked “If it was your child locked unlawfully in a tyrant’s prison, wouldn’t you say or do anything to secure his release?  Would you make promises to that tyrant?  Would you go so far as to lie?  Grace O’Malley was one of the great patriots of Ireland, but at that moment she was a mother first.”  Maybe it wasn’t a perfect argument, but the man thought about it and backed down.  Thankfully, somebody asked another question and we moved on.

In the last book group I attended face-to-face, while we were having our lunch afterwards, and everyone was at ease, I learned something interesting about how some readers feel about the questions put forward in the “Readers Guides.”  There was quite a bit of complaint that some of the questions were either irrelevant or obtuse, or that they were only answerable by the author.  These women took pride in devising their own questions for discussion if they didn’t like the ones offered in the guide.  I think that’s wise, and if you do find yourself with an author in your living room or on the other end of a phone line, it’s all right to put forth challenging questions.  It keeps us on our toes.  That man’s question challenging Grace O’Malley — it may have been the most difficult one I’ve ever had to face, but it certainly was the most memorable.

To learn more about Signora da Vinci, which is about the mother of Leonardo da Vinci, check out Amy’s review at My Friend Amy, or this terrific review at Passages to the Past.

Robin Maxwell is the author of 7 historical novels, with an 8th on the way!  Her website can be found HERE.

Discussion questions for Signora da Vinci can be found HERE.

Guest Review: Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

home_daughter

Following is a review of Somebody Else’s Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage, reviewed by Florinda of the fabulous blog, 3R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness. Thanks, Florinda, for sharing your thoughts on this book with our readers!

 TLC Book Tour Book Talk: “Somebody Else’s Daughter,” by Elizabeth Brundage

 Somebody Else’s Daughter

Elizabeth Brundage

Viking, 2008 (Hardcover) (ISBN 0670019003 / 9780670019007)

Fiction, 352 pages

 

First Sentence: We left San Francisco that morning even though your mother was sick. (Read an excerpt from the book’s prologue.) 

Book Description (summary): In the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts a group of families is connected through the prestigious Pioneer prep school. Into this community enters Nate Gallagher, a teacher and struggling writer haunted by the daughter he gave up for adoption years ago. The girl, Willa—now a teenager and one of Nate’s students—lives with her adoptive parents, Joe and Candace, who have nurtured her with their affection and prosperity. When Willa wins a community service internship and begins working at a local women’s shelter, her friendship with Petra, a troubled young prostitute, raises questions about her own biological past. Despite her parents’ love and care, Willa can’t shake her feelings of confusion and abandonment, and Joe and Candace are too preoccupied with their crumbling marriage to realize her unhappiness. 

Somebody Else’s Daughter is filled with doppelgangers. Pairs of characters mirror each other forcing each one to confront the darker side of his or her psyche and question their own identity. Nate and Joe (Willa’s biological and adoptive fathers) both fall in love with Claire, a feminist artist who recently returned to the area. Pioneer’s headmaster Jack Heath and Joe are both fathers of teenage girls, each with his own secrets to keep. Willa and Petra (Pearl) are both orphaned girls, yet one has been given a caring home and the other turns to prostitution. 

The characters become more entwined as first scandal and then tragedy strikes. As the story draws to its gripping conclusion, each character must make a decision that defines who they are. Somebody Else’s Daughter is a suspenseful tale and a tightly woven psychological drama that examines, as Joe Golding observes, how “in a matter of seconds, based on the fickle inclinations of fate, your life could change forever.” 

Comments:  I wish I hadn’t been reading this book in the midst of my recent packing-and-moving adventure; I would have liked to be able to read it in a few sessions rather than in small chunks over several weeks. Somebody Else’s Daughter is an engrossing book, but there are quite a few characters and subplots, and having to take so many breaks while reading it threw off my momentum and sometimes made it difficult to re-orient myself to the story. I think if you have the time, this would be a pretty fast read. 

Elizabeth Brundage’s second novel covers a relatively short chronology – less than a year – but a lot of psychological and relationship territory in this story of the community around a small prep school in the Berkshires. She introduces a lot of characters, and it takes a while to see how their stories will intersect, but have faith that eventually they will. 

At first glance, the “somebody else’s daughter” of the title seems to be Willa Golding, who came to her parents, Joe and Candace, via a private adoption as a baby. Her birth parents were drug addicts, and her natural mother died of AIDS on the day of the adoption. Willa’s biological father, Nate Gallagher, has cleaned up and become a writer and teacher; when a position at the Pioneer School, which she attends, opens up, he takes it as an opportunity to get to know the girl without revealing their relationship. 

However, “somebody else’s daughter” could be Candace, Willa’s adoptive mother, who was raised in foster homes herself. It could be Maggie Heath, who has always felt out of place with her husband Jack’s family, and who seems to share an eating disorder with her own daughter Ada. It could be Claire Squire, feminist artist and single mom, recently returned from Los Angeles and living in her father’s old house after his death. It could be Petra – also called Pearl (although I think I missed the point in the book where her name changed) – a young, drug-addicted prostitute who centralizes several of the novel’s story arcs. I like the fact that the title could refer to any or all of the characters. 

I think Brundage balances character and plot development pretty well overall in this novel, and nearly every element she introduces does end up connecting to the larger story at some point. As a reader, I usually do have confidence that authors will tie things together eventually, and I appreciate having that rewarded. I thought that nearly all of the major characters had complexity and depth, and given the number of characters and storylines that Brundage is juggling here, that appeals to me. 

There were some elements of the writing that distracted me from the story at times – minor things that seem like they could have been fixed with more (careful? thoughtful? anal-retentive?) editing – but they weren’t a serious impediment to my reading, since there was plenty of story to keep me interested. Brundage does use the “f-word” quite a bit, but in a character-appropriate manner. In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that she has included some disturbing scenes that may seem gratuitous at first, but really are relevant to the story, including several graphic descriptions of pornography and a scene at a dogfight (which I found more unsettling than the porn). 

Book Club Discussion Guide questions for Somebody Else’s Daughter 

This was my first time reading any of Elizabeth Brundage’s fiction, but I think I will be checking out her first novel, The Doctor’s Wife. She has a way with character and story, and I thank TLC Book Tours for introducing me to her! 

Rating: 3.75/5

 

** Buy Somebody Else’s Daughter online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org, or BooksAMillion.com 

 

** Other stops on the TLC Book Tour for Somebody Else’s Daugher:

 

Monday, November 3rd: It’s All Fun & Games

Wednesday, November 5th: S. Krishna’s Books

Friday, November 7th: Mabel’s House

Wednesday, November 12th: Devourer of Books

Thursday, November 13th: All Thumbs Reviews

Friday, November 14th: Welcome to My Brain

Monday, November 17th: 1 More Chapter

Wednesday, November 19th: My New Reality

Friday, November 21st: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Tuesday, November 25th: The Friendly Book Nook

Tuesday, December 2nd: Bookroom Reviews

Thursday, December 4th: Pieces of Me

Guest Post: An Open Letter to Book Bloggers, Readers, and Book Clubbers from author Jennie Shortridge

jennie2Dear book bloggers, book readers, and book club members,

In case you don’t already realize it, you are the future of the book publishing business. Where once it was seen as an exclusive club of intellectuals in New York, the reading public now rules, and that was never more evident to me than at Book Group Expo in San Jose in late October.

I think it all started with Amazon customer reviews, which at first the publishing world pooh-poohed as inconsequential. Now, everyone understands that they are one of the main ways people choose books to read. Publishers are embracing readers in ways they never have, now that they have a “voice” and can communicate with other readers. Book bloggers are the natural extention of that, and are welcomed with open arms into the book publishing community, as Jill and Trish and others noticed at Book Group Expo. I would say they were actually courted by authors and publicists alike. I attended a cocktail party thrown by Carol Fitzgerald of Book Report Network, a powerful force in the publishing biz, 9780451223883l1and loved  how diverse the group there was, including publishing people, authors, and yes, bloggers! My author friends all want my contacts in the blogging world, and my publisher is delighted that I’m on blog tour with TLC.

So readers, bloggers, book club members, thank you. Thank you for reading the books that don’t get all the marketing dollars, and for telling others when you like them. Thank you for taking the time to organize, to blog, to reach out to authors. We appreciate you all so much, and with your help, we can continue to do what we feel we must: write the stories that help us come together and talk about important issues, discover who we really are, or just spin a good yarn and forget about the economy and issues of the day.

You rock my world . . .
Jennie

Jennie Shortridge and her book Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe, her 3rd published novel, is currently on a virtual book tour with TLC Book Tours (view the schedule HERE).

Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Volume 20

WOW!  This is the 20th installment of In Praise of Book Clubs!  I can hardly believe it!  Today we hear from Laverne at the very fun Redhead Fangirl blog, which you must check out if you like comics or graphic novels.  Here she talks about her Adult Book Discussion group at the Ewing Branch Library, where she is the reference librarian.  

While I was attending library school and working full time, I was drafted to be the book club coordinator in 2005.  We host a once a month adult book discussion, and this group has been one of the most rewarding parts of my very busy reference librarian schedule.   

Our book club reads fiction, nonfiction, memoirs, poetry and short stories.   I love the diversity of the styles we read, and the group is extremely democratic on bringing suggestions to the table.  We only ask that the title be available through our library system, so it promotes our collections and there is no expense for any patron.

We have a group of regular patrons, but always have an influx of new participants.   The group is led by a now retired Corrections Officer, who told me he only knew of one other guard who was a reader in all his years working in corrections.    There are several current and retired teachers who bring witty classroom stories to the table. 

One of our favorite yearly discussions is the “Short Stories for a Short Month”, where every February we read 4 or 5 short stories.   I make copies for the entire group, and then we share our thoughts and feelings.    It has turned us on to T.C. Boyle, Jeffrey Archer,  and more– many times we like a short story enough to want to read more by that author.

The biggest hits of this year are the nonfiction The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, the memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassan.   This fall I’m looking forward to our discussions of the Benjamin Black (John Banville) mystery Christine Falls and the historical fiction novel People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.   I saw her speak at ALA, and thought she was so wise and funny that it even propelled me to read historical fiction- usually my least favorite genre. 

Mostly it has allowed a deeper connection with patrons through years of telling our stories and tidbits in the book group.  Some patrons have gotten ill, or moved, and we miss them.  But I’m always recruiting new readers to tell their stories by reading the stories of others.   

Redhead Fangirl 

(A librarian, redhead  and fangirl’s commentary on comics, graphic novels, and libraries)

Blogger Bio:  Laverne loves graphic novels and writes at the popular Redhead Fangirl blog.  She is a reference librarian in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, cat, and turtle.  You might find her there playing guitar or WiiFit or drinking Irish beers. 

***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

Guest Post: In Praise of Book Clubs, Vol. 17

 

In this 17th volume of In Praise of Book Clubs, Tracy from Book Room Reviews tells us about the wonders of a library book club!

I wanted to tell you about the virtues of joining your local library book club. I started less than a year ago and am truly enjoying my experience. I have tried to start book clubs in the past with different friends but we have always found a reason not to. We moved to a new town in Iowa a year ago and one of the first places I always go is the library of course! Needless to say they have a wonderful library here and after a while I started to notice the signs for the book club. The first meeting I went to was for the book The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer and I enjoyed it so much I keep going back. There are lot of wonderful reasons to go to a library book club so I made a list:

1. The book is free! I get to check it out for at least six weeks before the actual meeting too.

2. There is a core group that is always the same but I always get to meet several different people, even a few men come!

3. I never have to clean my house, provide treats and find somewhere for the rest of my family to go! The Library always provides a comfortable meeting room and refreshments.

4. The discussions are always led by our librarian who takes suggestions and the books she picks are always well researched and she provides lots of additional information.

5. We have met several authors in person and over the phone.

The other cool thing about the library book club is we participate in the All Iowa Reads program.

The All Iowa Reads program is a book selected every year to encourage Iowans statewide to read and talk about a single title in the same year. The books are selected by members of the Iowa Center for the Book advisory council. The criteria used to select a book are

1. Be available in paperback, large print and unabridged audio

2 Lend itself to in-depth discussion and raise universal social issues relevant to Iowans

3. Be accessible to adults and high school age youth

4. It is desirable, but not required, that the book:

Have an Iowa or Midwest connection

Is a recent publication that has not been widely read

This year the selected book is Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Past selections are:

2007. Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio by Jeffrey Kluge

2006. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

2005. The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich

www.iowacenterforthebook.org

Our library book club summer list is Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Looking For Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Five Quarters of an Orange by Joanne Harris

Blogger Bio:  I am a wife and mom of two lovely boys. I also tutor Special Ed students at the college level. I just started a book review website www.bookroomreviews.com with a companion blog www.bookroomreviews.wordpress.com My passion is reading and sharing books so I invite authors and publishers to contact me since I would love to help you get the word out about your book!

***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

For a chance to win JANEOLOGY by Karen Harrington, click HERE

 

Guest Post and Giveaway: Overheard at a Booksigning with Karen Harrington

I frequently get asked what prompted me to write a story that starts with a mother who kills. It’s a fair question. If you told me five years ago that I’d be writing about this subject, I might have looked at you like you had banana peel shoes. (And if you do own a pair of banana peel shoes, I mean no disrespect, but I hope you have good insurance.)

Ultimately, I did write about the subject of maternal filicide, but not without a good bit of trepidation. Though JANEOLOGY is set in motion by this troubling crime, I decided that looking at the crime would be most compelling through the eyes of her spouse, Tom – who lived with her, loved her, and ultimately, heart-breakingly, was somehow unable to see the mental breakdown occurring right before his eyes.

As you might imagine, describing this story is even tougher for a debut author under the bright lights of a Barnes & Noble. It has been a steep learning curve for sure. Naturally shy, I bought every short sleeved turtle-neck I could find to hide the red nervous neck I knew would come when I asked someone to part with their hard earned money and take a chance on an unknown author. Like most things in life, with each description, with the meeting of each new book-buyer, I got better. (And even learned how to pitch differently to men and women, to relax and have fun.)

So thought I’d share some of the more interesting exchanges I’ve had in recent months.

Of my books on the signing table.

“Are these complimentary?”

Of the topic of filicide.

“I can’t read this. I read The Lovely Bones and I hated it.”

Of my pitch that my novel is about a man trying to understand his wife by way of understanding the family secrets and ancestors in her family.

“Oh, we all have black sheep in our family. My brother’s wife just left him and he’s now realizing it had something to do with her mother.”

Of my description of the book to a kind old man.

“Sounds good. Let me go ask my wife.”

Of the title.

“Oh, is this another book about Jane Austen?”

Of my offer to sign a book for a woman.

“Oh, are you the author?”

Of my newly confident introduction to the next person who approached my table, “Hi, I’m the author Karen Harrington.”

“Hello the author Karen Harrington.”

Of the chocolate mints on my signing table.

“What are these for?”

Me: Well, you know, fiction tastes better with chocolate.

Of the puzzle on my signing table.

“Why did you cut up your cover like that?”

Of the woman who ran over to my table with her hubby and told me her name was Jane.

Hubby: “If I read this, will I understand my wife better?”

Me: Uh, maybe. (nervous laughter) Here’s a bookmark.” (She leaves. Returns 10 minutes later.)

“OMG! OMG! My husband’s name is Tom!” (See, the couple in my book is Jane and Tom.)

Of my accidental penning “Very best pictures” (Doh! Should have written WISHES)

Me: “Oh, I’m so sorry. We were talking about pictures, and, well, ha ha…well, if I become famous, one day this will be very valuable.”

She: (eyes rolling)

Of me just standing there alone for a looooooong time feeling like a dork.

“So, I saw you standing here by yourself for a looooooong time. I’m a salesman. Make your best pitch in 60 seconds. Go.” (Yup. I sold him a copy.)

INTERESTING FACTS

Number of signings so far: 5

Number of books sold: 71

Number of miles traveled: 156

Poorest results: 3 hours/3 books

Best results: Sold out – 25 books in 2 hours

Most useful signing tools: A smile, bookmarks and photo album including pics of my ancestors that served as genealogical inspiration for JANEOLOGY. (I would add chocolate mints, but I ate many of these myself, so…)

Times asked where person could find another book: 4

Funniest Ooops: When a bookstore manager introduced me over the store PA as Jane!

Biggest thrill: When a young girl told me she wanted to be a writer, asked my advice and would I please sign her bookmark.

Biggest book promotion lesson: Finally understanding my mentor’s statement, “There are many writers with talent, but few have the temperament to make a career of it.”

Ranking on the worth-it meter: Off the charts!!!!

Blogger Bio: Karen Harrington lives in Texas with her husband and children. She received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas. She is the author of the legal thriller Janeology, and a children’s book, There’s a Dog in the Doorway, created expressly for the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Foundation’s “My Stuff Bags”.

Read an interview with Karen on J. Kaye’s Book Blog HERE

You can read a synopsis of Janeology from the publisher’s website HERE

I will be giving away my copy of Janeology to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment here by July 15th for a chance to win!