Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Strunk and White, yo!

I'm so, so excited because I'll be starting edits on my third novel this week.  Yes, you heard that correctly!  My amazing agent has sold my third novel in a two book deal to St. Martin's.  And I couldn't be happier!!  Not just because I'll be at the same fabulous publishing house who brings you the work of Emily Giffin and Kristin Hannah, but also because my new editor is fantastic!!  She just sent me this video, which had me laughing out loud.  Check it out below and enjoy!

The Elements of Style from Jake Heller on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday gifts!!

It's always so hard to know what sorts of gifts to buy for friends and family at holiday time.  Well, fret no more!  The fabulous Ellen Meister has compiled a list of various books authored by members of our group blog, Girlfriends Book Club, and not only does she tell you a little something about each book, but she also tells you who you should buy each book for!  Could that be any easier?!  So, thank Ellen for her awesomeness.  And buy books!  They really do make the best gifts.


Set to release in February of 2012 and available now for pre-order, this 1840s historical relates the story of a woman whose grandparents must consider whether to stop keeping secrets and reveal the truth they’ve known—a truth that will make the difference between a life of obligation and a life of choice.Unlocking the past could open the door to a new future, but is the present worth the cost? Introduced in the novel is the custom of pla├žage, known as "left-handed marriages" among those forbidden legally to be together.

Who would like this book? Readers of historical fiction and Southern fiction.

For more information visit

SAFE HARBOR by Judith Arnold

Childhood pals Kip and Shelley spent their summers on Block Island, swimming, biking, discovering the world together. Then real life intruded, bringing tragedy and heartache. Years later, they both wind up back on Block Island. Can the island's rugged beauty and their loving friendship heal their wounds? An award-winning novel when it was first released, SAFE HARBOR is available to as a reissued e-book to a new generation of readers.

Who would like this book? SAFE HARBOR is the perfect book for lovers of romance fiction.

For more information visit

LITTLE WOMEN AND ME by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

A contemporary teen finds herself literally sucked into the Louisa May Alcott novel Little Women and discovers she must change a major plot point in order to get back out again. "...a consistently entertaining read that delivers a genuinely original heroine and frequently hilarious satire." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Who would like this book? LITTLE WOMEN AND ME will appeal to adult fans of Little Women and girls ages 12 and up.

For more information visit

THE BLUE HOUSE DOG by Deborah Blumenthal

Love heals the heart is the message of this heartwarming picture book about a boy who saves a homeless dog and vice versa. Cody had his own dog once, but his painful loss is buried deeper than the feeding dish he hides away in his closet. All that changes when he comes upon a four-footed friend needier than he is -- a sad, lost dog from a mysterious blue house and both learn to trust and love again.

Based on a true story.

Who would like this book? Dog lovers of all ages.

For more information visit


How far will a mother go to save her child? Ten years ago, Ruby Leander was a drifting nineteen-year-old who made a split-second decision at an Oklahoma rest stop. Fast forward nine years: Ruby and her daughter Lark live in New Mexico. Lark is a precocious, animal loving imp, and Ruby has built a family for them with a wonderful community of friends and her boyfriend of three years. Life is good. Until the day Ruby reads a magazine article about parents searching for an infant kidnapped by car-jackers. Then Ruby faces a choice no mother should have to make. A choice that will change both her and Lark's lives forever.

Who would like this book? Anyone, especially book clubs who like a good moral debate, will like this smart, haunting, and gorgeously written debut novel that propels a whip-smart plot that will keep you thinking.

For more information visit

A SUMMER IN EUROPE by Marilyn Brant

It’s not where you go, it’s what you take back with you… On her 30th birthday, Gwendolyn Reese receives an unexpected present from her widowed Aunt Bea: a grand European tour in the company of Bea's Sudoku-and-Mahjongg Club. Gwen initially approaches her first trip abroad as if it's the homework she assigns her students, diligently checking monuments off her must-see list. But amid the gorgeous bougainvillea of southern Italy, something changes. She begins to live in the moment—skipping down stone staircases in Capri, racing through the Louvre and taste-testing pastries, wine and gelato. Reveling in every new experience—especially her attraction to a charismatic British physics professor—Gwen discovers the ancient wonders around her are nothing compared to the renaissance unfolding within...

Who would like this book? Romantics and lovers of travel fiction who might enjoy a grand journey of self awakening amidst the classic architecture and stunning vistas of Europe.

For more information visit


Still reeling from divorce, Trish Taylor is in the midst of salvaging the remnants of her life when she uncovers a shocking secret: her sister is alive. After years of drawing on the strength of her ancestors, Billie Cousins is shocked to discover that she was adopted. Though Trish longs to connect with her long-lost sister, Billie's feelings of betrayal are waters too deep to cross. But when both women are forced to confront their demons, they begin to realize that each may have what the other needs.

Who would like this book? This is a contemporary story between two women who discover they are sisters. Great for fans of smart, moving women's fiction. Women in interracial relationships or with mixed-race children will especially like it.

For more information visit


Aspiring food critic Hayley Snow follows the man of her dreams to Key
West, FL. Instead of landing the job of her dreams as a food critic,
she lands in the police blotter, the main suspect in her now-ex's new
girlfriend's murder.

Who would like this book? Fans of Diane Mott Davidson's cozy culinary
mysteries will enjoy this book.

For more information visit

SLIM TO NONE by Jenny Gardiner

Abbie Jennings is Manhattan's top food critic until her expanding waistline makes staying incognito at restaurants impossible. Her cover blown on Page Six of the New York Post, her editor has no choice but to bench her—and suggest she use the time off to bench-press her way back to anonymity. Abbie’s life has been built around her career, and therefore around celebrating food. Forced to drop the pounds if she wants her primo gig back, Abbie must peel back the layers of her past and confront the fears that have led to her current life.

Who would like this book? SLIM TO NONE is the perfect book for anyone who's ever gone on a diet (or believes they should).

For more information visit


A young woman who has squeezed herself into undersized relationships all her life hopes to realize her dream of living in a novel when she is invited to participate in a Jane Austen literary festival in England. She jumps at the chance to reinvent herself, imagining escape into Austen’s fictional world where bookish women are heroines. There, in the rich, promising world of Mansfield Park, Lily finds people whose longing to live in a novel equals her own. But real-life problems have a way of following you wherever you go and unless Lily can change her ways, she will share the fate of so many of Jane Austen’s characters who repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

Who would like this book? MY JANE AUSTEN SUMMER is a fast-paced, romantic, and humorous book that will appeal to book lovers, especially those who can't get enough Jane Austen.

For more information visit

ALL THE NUMBERS by Judy Merrill Larsen

An arresting, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful first novel. A recently divorced mother of two boys, Ellen Banks is just learning to make her way through the uncharted territory of single parenthood when the unthinkable happens. Determined to seek justice, and to mend the deep wounds in her family, Ellen must first heal herself, finding a way out of a grief that soon turns to defiance. This is an unforgettable journey of power and emotion, poignantly depicting a woman as she reckons with her own vulnerability and finds in the wisdom of motherhood, the redemptive grace to begin again.

Who would like this book? ALL THE NUMBERS is great for discussion so it's perfect for anyone in a book club or who just wants characters you'll argue with, worry about, and hope they make the right choices (and yes, I love connecting with book clubs!).

For more information visit


Two sisters whose lives seemed forever intertwined are torn apart when a magical little black dress gives each one a glimpse of an unavoidable future.

Antonia Ashton has worked hard to build a thriving career and a committed relationship, but she realizes her life has gone off track. Forced to return home to Blue Hills when her mother, Evie, suffers a massive stroke, Toni finds the old Victorian where she grew up as crammed full of secrets as it is with clutter. Now she must put her mother’s house in order—and uncover long-buried truths about Evie and her aunt, Anna, who vanished fifty years earlier on the eve of her wedding. By shedding light on the past, Toni illuminates her own mistakes and learns the most unexpected things about love, magic, and a little black dress with the power to break hearts . . . and mend them.

Who would like this book? The story of the Little Black Dress weaves together bits of history, mystery, magic, and family, so I hope it appeals to readers who love women's fiction in the vein of Kate Morton and Sarah Addison Allen.

For more information visit

THE OTHER LIFE by Ellen Meister

"A resonant story about the importance of mothers, both having one and being one ... making for a riveting tale of love and choices." - BookPage

Quinn Braverman has a perfect life, with a loving husband, an adorable son, and another baby on the way.

Quinn also has an ominous secret: she knows there's a portal to another life, one in which she made totally different life choices. But she's never been tempted to switch lives ... until a shocking turn of events pushes her to cross over, and she discovers the one person she thought she'd lost forever. Her mother.

But Quinn can't have both lives. Soon, she must decide which she really wants—the one she has ... or the other life.

Who would like this book? Anyone interested in the beautiful, heartbreaking and complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.

For more information visit

MOMFRIENDS by Ariella Papa

Momfriends is a story of three vastly different people who meet through motherhood and become friends through womanhood.

Ruth is almost at the end of her rope with her new baby when a knock on her door changes everything. Claudia's life is all about rules. Everything is going perfectly until a flirtation with colleague makes her throw out her rule book.

And Kirsten is an artist and a dreamer. What she discovers late one night confirms that her life is not everything she dreamed. Momfriends is about how people roll with lives they can’t control. And whether they choose to swim with the current or against it, it’s about the realization that everyone needs someone to throw out a life preserver once in a while.

Who would like this book? Momfriends makes the perfect gift for your best friend, the new mom in the neighborhood or the mom you'd like to invite over. It's an ebook so it's even easier to read and multi-task.

For more information visit

DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD by Saralee Rosenberg

In Mindy's yoga-obsessed, thirty-is-the-new-wife neighborhood, every day is a battle between Dunkin' Donuts, her jaws-of-life jeans, and Beth Diamond, the self-absorbed sancti-mommy next door who looks sixteen from the back. So much for sharing the chores, the stores, and the occasional mischief to rival Wisteria Lane.

It's another day, another dilemma until Beth's marriage becomes fodder on Facebook. Suddenly the Ivy League blonde needs to be “friended,” and Mindy is the last mom standing. Together they take on hormones and hunger, family feuds and fidelity, and a harrowing journey that spills the truth about an unplanned pregnancy and a seventy-year-old miracle that altered their fates forever.

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a hilarious, stirring romp over fences and defenses that begs the question, what did you do to deserve living next door to a crazy woman? Sometimes it's worth finding out.

Who would like this book? DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD is perfect for anyone who loves to discover friendship in surprising places ... while laughing out loud on every page.

For more information visit


Charm, Southern sass, and suspense abound in the sixth delightful cozy mystery.” –

Super-organized Ellie thinks she’s prepared for everything when she and her family set off for an extended visit with her southern in- laws in Alabama, but the one thing she hasn’t planned for is cold-blooded murder. When the patriarch of the family passes away under suspicious circumstances, the quirky Avery family closes ranks and Ellie can't help looking for motives among the mourners.

Publisher’s Weekly called it “winning” and described it this way: “A rumor of hidden money, secret letters from a famous recluse, a fire, a threatening message, and a crazed gunman add to the cozy mischief.”

Who would like this book? Fans of mysteries and southern fiction will enjoy Mimosas, Mischief, and Murder.

For more information visit


As a college student in Athens, Georgia, Mia Wells meets Flynn, an enigmatic stranger who pushes every boundary she knows. Their relationship is intense, passionate and, for Mia, life-changing, making it all the more painful when he vanishes. After finding the wherewithal to move on with her life and pursue her goals, Mia eventually marries. Twelve years later, Flynn mysteriously resurfaces, gravely injured. Mia is terrified that he will die, awestruck at the prospect of his survival. Flynn’s return ignites a powerful tale, a story that is greater than honor or friendship or the passing of time. More than a romance, this 2011 Penguin release was recently named Best First Book in the NJRWA Golden Leaf contest.

Who would like this book? BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance, making it the perfect book for readers who like relationship fiction that includes a thought provoking love story.

For more information visit

LOVE IN TRANSLATION by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

After receiving a puzzling phone call and a box full of mysteries, Celeste Duncan, 33, is off to Japan to search for a long, lost relative who could hold the key to the identity of the father she never knew. There she stumbles head first down the rabbit hole into a weird, wonderful world where nothing is quite as it seems.

Not knowing Japanese, Celeste finds a friend in her English-speaking homestay brother, Takuya, and comes to depend on him for help. As they cross the country following a trail after Celeste's family, she discovers she's developing "more-than-sisterly" feelings for him. But with a nosy homestay mother scheming to reunite Takuya with his old girlfriend, and her search growing dimmer, will Celeste find what she’s looking for in Japan?

Who would like this book? Love in Translation will appeal to armchair travelers who love a good love story!

For more information visit:

Most of the these books are available at your favorite bookstore. To buy online, visit the author's page for ordering links.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Book excerpt: The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Today, we've got a real treat.  Not only do we have frequent guest Lauren Baratz-Logsted here for a visit, but she's generously offered to give us all a peek at her latest novel, The Bro-Magnet.  It's a funny, laugh out loud book, but don't take my word for it.  Keep reading for a glimpse at Lauren's The Bro Magnet:

I Am Born
(and I begin as life intends me to go on)

     Right from the start, I’ve been a disappointment to women.
     Here’s me at my own birth:
     On January 1, 1977, after thirty-two hours, fourteen minutes and fifty-three seconds of labor, most of it during a heat wave so bad there are citywide power outages – a heat wave that would have been perfectly normal in Florida, but in New England, not so much – my mother, Francesca Smith, gives birth to me at home at exactly 2:19 p.m.
     She insisted on the home birth because she said it would be more natural.
     Alfresca Tivoli, Francesca’s sister, is present as Francesca’s birthing coach because my father, John Smith, says it’s women’s work. Plus, he’s scared shitless.
     As I emerge from between my mother’s legs – all thirteen pounds, eight ounces of me – Alfresca catches me. Then I do the usual baby stuff: I get my cord cut, I’m slapped, I cry, I get weighed and measured, someone wipes the cheesy stuff off my hairy head, and finally I get handed off to my mother.
     “Oh,” Francesca says, gently parting the swaddling to examine my body further, “it’s a boy. This wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I was so sure, all along, I was going to have a girl.”
     Then, she dies.
     “If you’d been a girl,” Alfresca says, taking me from my dead mother’s arms as the midwife tries in vain to resuscitate my disappointed mother, “this never would have happened.”
     I know all this, not because I was born with some kind of precocious baby-genius capability to instantly understand language, but rather, because Aunt Alfresca has spent the last thirty-three years reminding me, at fairly regular intervals but with surprisingly little malice, that I killed her sister. 
     As I said, right from the start, I’ve been a disappointment to women.
     Some people would tell you it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
     All of those people would be men.

Funny, right?!  I laughed out loud a few times while reading that.  Still want more?  Hop over to Amazon to get an even longer sneak peek.  And then buy the darn thing, wouldja?  It's a great price and who doesn't need some laughter this holiday season?!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Big congrats go out to Candy M., who is the winner of the Marilyn Brant A Summer in Europe giveaway!  Candy M., you are now the proud owner of a Summer in Europe t-shirt and luggage tag!!  Now all you have to do is win a trip to Europe.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated.  And if you haven't run out to buy A Summer in Europe, why not?!  It's a great read that will have you itching for your next getaway adventure.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Author interview and a giveaway: Marilyn Brant

A big wonderful welcome to the lovely and talented Marilyn Brant!  Today we're celebrating her most recent release, A Summer in Europe, with an interview.  It's the perfect book for a holiday gift, or for the cold winter months, since it will transport you to Europe for a while.

And what's more, Marilyn has generously offered to do a giveaway for one lucky commenter!  Just leave a comment on the bottom of this blog post and you're automatically entered to win a Summer in Europe t-shirt and luggage tag!  US and Canada entries only, please.

So, leave a comment and enter to win!  Winner will be announced on December 15th.

But now let's get to the good stuff.  Let's hear from Marilyn!

1. What's your new book about?

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me to visit, Brenda! My new novel is called A SUMMER IN EUROPE. It's a story about a woman named Gwendolyn Reese who's given a five-week-long European trip for her 30th birthday as a gift from her eccentric aunt (and the wild senior citizens in her aunt's Sudoku and Mahjongg club...). At first she's hesitant to leave the familiar behind for the summer, but she chooses to go. As a result, a new world of experience opens up to her, and she finds she has to really examine her life and the direction it's going based on what she learns abroad.

2. Which scene in the novel did you love writing and why?

I got to travel through Europe with Gwen for this book... So, for me, there were a great many scenes I loved writing because it was like returning to some of my favorite cities in the world every time I'd sit down at the computer. One scene I especially enjoyed, though, was when Gwen is in Paris and there's an argument between the two British brothers on the tour. They're all right below the Eiffel Tower when the disagreement breaks out, so it was fun to play with those images of sunlight and shadow just beneath this major landmark. It was exciting, too, because Gwen and one of the brothers return to that scene later in the day and their perspectives have shifted, so it was interesting to show how they had changed and how the setting had as well. (For travel lovers, I'm blogging about different European cities mentioned in the book this month, too, and the "trip itinerary" is listed on my website:, if anyone would like to journey along. :)

3. Did you know the ending of this novel before you started? Do you usually know, or is it a mystery?

Yes, I knew what the ending of this book would be from page one. There were some narrative twists that appeared as I was writing the story that I hadn’t expected at all—things that seemed right for the characters only once I’d gotten to know them a bit better. But as far as big-picture plotting, I wrote my outline for A SUMMER IN EUROPE before I began drafting, complete with all the major turning points. For me, it just works better to have a basic structure laid out, so I do that for all my novels first. I find I have to be able to visualize where the story is headed—both the highs and the lows of the characters’ emotional changes as well as the rising action of the plot development. But these types of outlines are never overly detailed. They’re usually just 15 - 20 sentences, with each one highlighting something important in the story arc. More like an x-ray than a photograph. So, believe me, there's still a LOT I get to discover about the characters and their lives along the way!
4. What do you think readers might be surprised to know about you?
This has absolutely nothing to do with writing (which is, perhaps, why it’ll be surprising), but I was a member of a touring dance group in college and spent six weeks dancing through Europe the summer I was 19. We performed at festivals in France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy, and I met some absolutely fascinating people. That experience solidified both my love of travel and my lifelong adoration of the jitterbug. It also greatly aided in my appreciation of European men...LOL. And, of course, a handful of details and short scene or two in my new book were inspired by a few random incidents from that dance tour.

4. On your website you mention that you’ve traveled to 30 countries. Do you have a favorite? Which country, and why? 

Ooooh, this is a tough question. I've always found wonderful places and met fascinating people when I've traveled. I was an exchange student in Australia when I was in high school, and there's just nothing like snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or holding a koala in your arms... And I took a class in England on the subject my literary idol, Jane Austen, so between that and the amazing theater and the unbelievably delicious Cadbury bars (I'm all about exploring the foreign chocolate), that country is really high on my list, too. But if I could only pick one, I think it would have to be Italy. For me, there is nothing like the magic I found in the city of Venice. I loved it and could barely tear myself away. But I also really enjoyed other parts of the country like Florence (seeing The David and eating gelato there!!) and Rome (getting to visit the "Mouth of Truth" oracle as well as the Colosseum and the Vatican). The "Walk of Love" in the Cinque Terre region along the Riviera coast was so memorable, the Island of Capri was breathtaking and the northern lake district, particularly Lake Como, was stunning, too. Sigh. I start daydreaming of Italy, especially on cold days in December!

What about all of you? What places do you tend to daydream about visiting someday or going back to see? I'd love to know... Wishing Brenda and all of you a very happy holiday season!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest post: Alix Strauss

I'm so, so excited today because we've got a guest post by one of my favorite writers, Alix Strauss!  Alix is smart, funny and talented, and a great writer, to boot.  She's reading at Book Revue this Wednesday night with the also fabulously talented Susan Henderson, so I hope you can all make it.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011, 7pm
Book Revue
313 New York Ave, Huntington, NY

But today, Alix is here talking about her latest novel, Based Upon Availability, and her return to fiction writing.  Take it away, Alix!

Returning to fiction is like sitting down and having stiff drinks or strong coffee with an old friend you’ve not seen in years.  You miss them deeply, and are so happy to see them, and you can’t believe it’s been so long since you’ve all gotten together.
I wrote my first novel, The Joy of Funerals, in 2003.  Last year HarperCollins published my second novel, Based Upon AvailabilityIn between that time and now, I penned two nonfiction books, and so I’ve been looking forward to getting back to a place where one doesn’t need to fact-check, and I can just create the people and situations.
I’m so fascinated by human behavior and the strange, odd and outrageous things people do.  And I wanted a place where all of my characters passed by each other, even bleed into each others lives that was very self contained. Based Upon Availability, centers on eight women who pass through the doors of Manhattan’s signature, ultra swanky Four Seasons Hotel—either for an hour, for several days, or number of weeks—offering sanctuary to some, solace to others, and even despair.  Here, they grapple with family, sex, power, love and death as they explore the basic need for human connection while seeking to understand themselves better.
Truth be told, I have a love affair with hotels, and I secretly long to live in one.  Hotels are sexy and offer a strange kind of mystery, a retreat from real life.  I love the idea that you can be anyone from anywhere and that once you’ve check out, the rooms are stripped down, wiped clean and all traces of you are erased, as if you’d never been there.  That was an intriguing concept to play with. I wanted to ask and answer the age-old question; ‘what happens behind closed doors’ while examining the walls we put up as we attempt intimacy, and inspecting the ruins when they’re knocked down.
As a travel writer, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels—some amazing, some, sadly, not so much—and so for Based Upon Availability, I really wanted to bring some of that experience to the page.  I wanted the reader to really get a feel for the inner workings of a property while showing the gritty, sometimes dirty, reality of daily life.  I spent a lot of time sitting in the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel and stayed in one of the suites.  I pretended to be one of the characters—Unlimited Lou, the aging rock star who’s in dire need of detoxing….in fact, she’s brought to the hotel by her publicist to dry out, having failed at the rehab centers.  To give it an authentic touch I dangled an unlit cigarette from my lips, slapped on some removable tattoos, brought a bottle of vodka with me—have you seen the prices for a mini bottle of booze?—and played a lot of rock songs I thought the character would like or have written herself.  Of course I remained sober for the experience—though I did walk around naked, as the character does, but of course, this may be far more info than anyone wanted to know. . . . Oh, the need to be honest.
I chose the Four Seasons because I’m a fan, mostly because it’s such a signature, classic, and high-end spot for many New Yorkers and out-of-towners, with instant name recognition.  It’s also incredibly large with over 350 rooms so there’s a feeling of vastness and anonymity.  Hopefully readers won’t have to get on a plane to feel as though they’ve traveled to New York and stayed at the hotel.  But rather Based Upon Availability will make them feel as though they have.

How great is Alix?!  Come see her read from Based Upon Availability this Wednesday night!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Book Revue
313 New York Avenue
Huntington, New York