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


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!

Sunday Salon

Ahhhhh it’s Sunday, and today in Southern California we are expecting record breaking high temperatures for the 2nd day in a row (93 degrees).  It feels like summer.  The kids are in their bathing suits and I’m trying to talk them into washing my car after breakfast.  Later they have a cosmic bowling party with their school, and after that I’m off to my book club meeting to discuss Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ll be leading the discussion tonight, and I know we’ve got people on both sides of the love/hate fence, so I’m a little anxious about it.  It’s funny.. I’ve done a couple blog posts about E,P,L but I have no desire to review it, I guess because I have such mixed emotions about it.  

Last night my neighbor Kierstin set up an outdoor movie theater in her backyard and invited us for a viewing of Star Wars with her kids.  My kids had never seen it so they were really excited.  My husband took them in their pjs, loaded down with chairs, popcorn, blankets, and drinks.  This gave me 2 solid hours by myself to read!! What a gift! (Thanks, Kierstin!)  Having just finished Loose Girl, I was between books, so I spent about half an hour paging through last month’s Oprah magazine, because I just had to know if “my medicine was making me fat” (it’s not-whew!) and what “Oprah’s New Passion” was (a new tv show-whoopee).  I used to subscribe to several mags, but found I wasn’t reading them anymore, so I let the subscriptions lapse.  I must have a lifetime subscription to “O” because it just keeps coming.  

Finally I hesitantly picked up a book I started a couple weeks ago, The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood.  I’d put it aside the first time because it made me cry really early on (page 19!)  It’s about how a woman manages her grief the year after her only daughter dies from meningitis at age 5.  I’d been thinking about the story ever since I put it down, and felt compelled to go back to it.  I’m really glad I did.  It’s not the kind of book that’s sappy and manipulative, trying to get the big emotional reaction.  It’s quiet and gentle and moving.  The mom is going through the motions, just existing, putting one foot in front of the other (barely).  Her mother encourages her to knit as a way to take her mind off her grief.  She meets some people through a knitting store who have their own troubles they are working through.  She joins a knitting circle and starts to care about these people.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it seems to be a tale of how friendship helps her get her life back after her devastating loss.  I flew through the first 100 pages last night and am looking forward to sitting down with this book again later today.

What are you reading this weekend?  Is it something you’d recommend to others? Please leave a note and let me know!


One Divisive Book!

My book club is reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert this month.  I started it but decided to stop about 75 pages in and pick it up again right before the book club meets in order to have it fresh in my mind when it’s time to discuss it.

As I’m sure you know, Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir of a 30-something woman who, after a messy divorce, takes off in search of answers in three countries:  Italy (eat), India (pray), and Indonesia (love).  This book has been a bestseller for months, staring at us from the shelves in Target, Costco, Borders and the grocery store.   It was touted by Oprah on at least 2 different shows, which is a lot of media hype in and of itself.   I resisted this book for a long time, but when the book club picked it, I had no choice but to give in.

So far I like her style; I like her sense of humor and turn of phrase.  She does not annoy me in the least.  Her descriptions of Italy, from the food to the men, are so vivid it makes me want to pack my bags.  Oh, wait, unlike Gilbert I have a family and responsibilities, and no one is going to pay me to go find myself.  Shoot.  Ok, I’m a little jealous, but I still like her.

So I was surprised, then, to get an email from a friend in my book club saying she thought Gilbert was a whiny bitch.  Such strong emotions!  It occurred to me that maybe this friend could also be a tad envious of Gilbert’s freedom to travel and not answer to anybody.  She happens to have two children with special needs and has a hard time getting out in the evening just to see a movie.

I was further surprised to read my blog friend Beastmomma’s  recent post about the book, in which she said,  “Eat, Pray, Love would have been a much better book if the author did not seem like she was patronizing and condescending to the countries she visited.”  I took that with a grain of salt, because Beastmomma is of Indian descent, so quite possibly she has a different viewpoint than many other readers.  Well it wasn’t long before a verbal fist fight ensued in her comments section.  People seem to either love or hate this book.  It has resonated with so many and pissed off so many others.

Have you read Eat, Pray, Love?  What do you think:  

Eat, Pray, LOATHE or Eat, Pray, LOVE?



To-Be-Read Mountain

Here is my To-Be-Read Stack, so high it’s ready to fall over. I add to it faster than I take away from it. If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you think (no spoilers, please!)

Be Trendy- Start a Book Club!

It’s been a long time since I cared about being cool or following trends, but after starting a book club, I find that I am trendy again (by accident).

Thanks to Oprah and her cult like following, book clubs and reading groups are all the rage. And why not? For those who love to read, what could be more fun than discovering a great new book, or an author you’ve never read, and coming together with friends each month to talk about your reading experience. Throw in some good food, good wine, and a cozy setting, and let the conversation flow!

But is it really that easy? I’ve talked to several people who’ve tried to make a book club work, without much success. People lose interest, or there are personality conflicts, or they aren’t committed to reading the book that has been selected. Groups can get too big, or not big enough. What, then, are the ingredients of a successful book club?

Size Matters: You don’t want your club to be too small. If you have fewer than about 6 people in your group, you can run into problems if people are sick, or on vacation, or too busy to read on a given month. You also wouldn’t want more than about 12, because it would be difficult to accommodate a group of that size in someone’s house. It would also be hard for everyone to make their points and participate. For good conversation, 8-12 members is ideal.

Like Minds: You may want to invite your best friend, but if she doesn’t LOVE books, should you really include her? Seek out READERS. You want people who are excited to see what the next selection is, and can’t wait to tear into it. Reluctant readers will be unlikely to finish the book, and won’t contribute much to your book club meetings.

I Don’t Have Enough Friends To Start A Club: You don’t necessarily want everyone in your club to be friends, or even to know each other at first. A group of close friends will have a history and possibly personal issues that could affect the dynamics of the book club in a negative way. Seek out people from a variety of places: parents of your kids’ friends, neighbors, work, church, etc. Once you have a core group, ask those people to invite others. You want a good mix of people with different backgrounds and life experiences, but you might not want them to be so diverse that they don’t have much in common.

Make Decisions in Advance: It’s good to have some guidelines or “loose rules”. Our group decided to limit our selections to paperbacks, to keep costs down, and to keep our selections right around 400 pages (although we broke that rule this month!). We read mostly fiction, but are open to other things. We rotate meetings in each other’s homes, and we do potluck. In some clubs, the hostess does all the food for that month. These things can be decided on at your first meeting.

Decide on a Method for Selecting Books: Some clubs take turns. Others have members bring suggestions and then vote. Some groups have the hostess for that month choose the book. Some go off book club lists or stick with Oprah. There are a variety of ways to go about it. It’s good to decide on a system early on.

Pick Great Books! When it’s your turn to decide on a book, take the time to look at reviews and read up on it. Do a little research so that you can “sell” it to the group. Chances are you’ll pick a great book if you’ve done your homework. Here are some ideas to get you started: Book Club Picks 2007

Designate a Group Leader: Generally, this is the person who started the group. You would be the one to keep in touch with everyone between meetings, send out invitations for the next meeting (we do ours through evite.com), update everyone with any news or changes, and keep people motivated to read the book!

Designate a Discussion Leader: It can be the same person each time, or it can be the person who selected the book, but there should be someone to facilitate conversation. It’s important to have someone to do a bit of background research on the author and on the book that has been selected. Discussion questions (whether from readinggroupguides.com, bookmovement.com, or other online sources, or questions the leader has come up with) are a natural jumping-off point for book discussions. Your group may want to have each member bring a discussion question for the group, or a favorite quote or scene from the book. Involve everyone as much as possible. The discussion leader should move the conversation along, giving each person a chance to have their say but also knowing when to step in if someone is going on too long, or going off on a personal tangent. Book clubs are definitely social, but primarily we are there to discuss the book.

Eat! Drink! Have fun! Our book club meetings would not be half as fun without lots of great food and wine. Sometimes the book we’re reading lends itself to a theme, so we will bring food that goes along with that (i.e. Chinese food for Snow Flower and the Secret Fan). In our group, everyone brings a dish to share, and we eat first. This is a great time to get to know each other better and talk about our lives before jumping into the book discussion. And there is always chocolate for after.

****If a real life book club is not your thing, you might want to try an online book club. K. at Planet Books has one that’s just getting off the ground. Check it out!

Booking Through Thursday

Read with Abandon? October 25, 2007

I hope I did this right. It’s my first time doing a meme. Here goes:

btt button

Today’s suggestion is from Cereal Box Reader

I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

I’ve abandoned a few books this year.  Here is my list:

1. Bel Canto by Anne Patchett

I can’t for the life of me figure out what anyone sees in this book. I was bored to tears. Every other line is devoted to a flowery description of the central character’s fabulous voice. I get it! She’s amazing! No need to pound me over the head with that fact! I gave it 200 pages to do something for me, and it didn’t.

2. Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult

Now this is an author I like. My Sister’s Keeper was terrific. But there were just too many coincidental things happening here to make it even remotely believable. I didn’t care about the characters. I lost interest and never went back to it.

3. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

This is a classic, written in 1940, and chosen by Oprah for her Book Club. Lots of prose, not plot driven at all. I tried to like it. I may go back to it. Probably not.

4. When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin

Very sappy and predictable. Too manipulative. Would probably do well on the Lifetime channel.

5. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn-

I know, I know. I will give it another try.