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Author On the Bookcase: Carrie Adams, author of The Stepmother

Marriage and the new British political alliance? What?

Carrie Adams, author of The Stepmother and The Godmother, writes about the institution of marriages, as emphasized in both of her books, and how it relates to the new political marriage between the new Prime Minister & Deputy Prime Minister of England. Carrie lives in London and her novel, The Godmother, is being adapted for film.

Welcome, Carrie, to On the Bookcase and thanks for chatting!

Carrie AdamsWe have just come to the end of a fascinating few weeks in the world of politics in the United Kingdom and now have a new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister from two different political parties who only a few days ago were at loggerheads with one another. The turnaround has been inspiring to watch. 

During the election campaign, much onus was put on the context of family, supporting families, and helping families stay together. It is proof of how difficult it is to maintain a happy union that it is as high on the political agenda as Defence. Little did they know, they would be forming a ‘marriage’ of their own. 

United Kingdom and now have a new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister As anyone in a long-term relationship knows, marriage is tough and it affects us all, whether we’re single and dream of it, single and rebel it, in it, escaping it, or products of some variation of it. All these aspects The Stepmotherfascinate me and what I write about in The Godmother and The Stepmother, particularly the expectations surrounding it.

I believe marriage is an art form which, when mastered, can teach us a great deal about our species. Cynical people often say marriage, like the printed word, is unsustainable, finished business.This new political union is already being condemned by some, but I choose to think another way. Human beings are selfish, it’s how we survived long enough to evolve into the miraculous creatures we are, but it is hard to be married to a selfish person, it is hard to be the child of a selfish parent, and actually, it’s hard being selfish. It’s lonely and isolating and doesn’t make for a very happy soul. Unhappy people fill up with resentment, blame and anger, so it is no surprise then that so many families fall apart. 

However, I believe the arc of evolution continues. Now, what we need to do to survive is actually stop surviving and start living. In other words, stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about others. Every single other because either everyone matters, or no one does. It’s a big statement but it starts small, really small - in a ‘marriage’ of two. If we can learn to live with mutual respect, kindness and compassion for our own partners, then we can create respectful, kind, compassionate offspring. All we have to do after that is extrapolate. A street, a town, a government, a country, a world. No wonder marriage is so political, if we can master that art, then maybe the politicians wouldn’t have to worry so much about Defence any more. So basically, if I am nice to my husband, I can save the world. That is the sort of incentive I can aspire to and what makes the infuriating habit of leaving his sock drawer open blessedly irrelevant. 

What inspiring thoughts, Carrie! "Marriage is an 'art form.' " Sometimes, I think, marriage feels like a finger painting -- all the ideas, moods, and feelings spread around with no lines drawn. Nebulous, but still one painting.

What do you think! Please comment.

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Claire Cook: What's Your Seven Year Switch?

Claire Cook: What's Your Seven Year SwitchClaire Cook, author of The Wildwater Walking Club and Must Love Dogs speaks with us about reinventing ourselves -- a consistent theme throughout her books. Seven Year Switch, her seventh novel, is released today. Here are Claire's tips to reinventing your self.

What's Your Seven Year Switch?

Seven Year Switch is the story of a single mom whose husband ran off to join the Peace Corps. Seven years later, he’s ba-ack – proving he can’t even run away reliably! They say that every seven years you become a completely new person, and if there’s an overarching theme in my seven novels, it’s that each of my main characters is trying to reinvent herself. I think that’s something most of us face at one point or another in our lives. I wrote my first novel in my minivan when I was 45, and at 50 I walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the movie of my second novel, Must Love Dogs, so I know it can be done! Here are some tips to help you find what’s next for you.

Seven Simple Steps for Finding YOUR Next Chapter

  1. Self. You can’t have self-awareness, self-confidence, or any of those other good self words until you decide to like yourSELF, and who you really are.
  2. Soul Searching. Sometimes it’s just getting quiet enough to figure out what you really want; often it’s digging up that buried dream you had before life got in the way.
  3. Serendipity. When you stay open to surprises, they often turn out to be even better than the things you planned.  Throw your routine out the window and let spontaneity change your life.
  4. Synchronicity. It’s like that saying about luck being the place where preparation meets opportunity. Open your eyes and ears – then catch the next wave that’s meant for you!
  5. Strength. Life is tough. Decide to be tougher. If Plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters (204 if you’re in Japan!)
  6. Sisterhood. Connect, network, smile. Build a structure of support, step by step. Do something nice for someone – remember, karma is a boomerang!
  7. Satisfaction. Of course you can get some (no matter what the Rolling Stones said.) Call it satisfaction, fulfillment, gratification, but there’s nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and achieving it. So make yours a good one!

Thanks for tips, support and the wise advice, Claire. Always helps to have a cheerleader!

Read what Claire says about reading groups!


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Author On The Bookcase: Claire Cook, author of Seven Year Switch

Claire CookI'm so thrilled to welcome Claire Cook to On the Bookcase. Claire is the author of seven novels, including The Wildwater Walking Club and Must Love Dogs. Her seventh novel, Seven Year Switch, has been released today!! Claire chats about reading groups, crafts, and a trip to Costa Rica?


I love speaking with reading groups! After months spent glued to my computer, it's just so much fun to connect with nonfictional people again! Also, I think reader response is key: I never fully know what my books are about until I hear what resonates for readers. I've learned so much about my own writing from talking to book clubs. And hearing things like "I can't remember when I laughed out loud like that!" or "OMG, you're writing my life!" always gets me psyched up to write my next novel.

I've had so many great book club moments via phone, Skype, and when book clubs take field trips to my book tour events. Book clubs tend to pick my novels after they've read something dark and depressing, and they're ready to have some fun. Me, too!

Seven Year SwitchI just love hearing about the book-related food and drinks, the decorations, even the crafts. I’m already getting reports that book clubs are planning to serve Huli Huli chicken and fill piñatas for my new novel, Seven Year Switch, and I’m hoping at least one of them will take a girlfriend getaway to Costa Rica (and invite me!)

The Wildwater Walking Club has just gone into paperback, so I’m hearing from lots of book clubs who are reading it this summer. The Kansas book club in the photo started their Wildwater meeting with a walk, played “Walk on By,” and served lavender bundt cake. The clothesline in the background is fabulous – especially that animal print bra! After the meeting, they posted the photo on my Facebook author page, and I’m so glad they did!


Other groups have painted shoelaces for The Wildwater Walking Club and made sea glass jewelry for Life's a Beach. They've done group makeovers for Summer Blowout. This doesn't mean they don't have serious discussions about my novels, and when I write my book club conversation starters (which I always do myself) I make sure to provide a mix. But I think we all need more play in our lives, so I always love hearing that my books have inspired some!

Thanks so much, Claire, for your thoughts on one of the key elements in writing -- the reader!

Find more about Seven Year Switch and Claire's tips on your Seven Year Switch. And, more about Claire Cook and her books.  

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Author On The Bookcase: Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers

I'm so please to welcome Hyatt Bass, author of The Embers, to On the Bookcase. Hyatt talks with us about the writer and the reader and the lovely balance between the two.

Hyatt BassSoon after I sold The Embers to my publisher, I went into a complete panic because I realized I would be going on a book tour, which meant reading my book out loud and talking about it with perfect strangers.

Reading and writing are both such private and intimate activities wrapped up in the imaginary world of a book, I often respond with more emotional intensity than I do in my daily life. With the distractions shut out and the pace dictated by the words on the page rather than by external forces, I am pulled along by characters who take me to places I know places I may be happy or not happy at all to revisit or places I’ve never been, that may delight, pain or terrify me. While I loved the idea of taking my readers on a journey, I did not like the idea of coming face to face with them and talking about the intimate experiences that either they or I had had with The Embers.

Once I was on book tour, however, my feelings about this changed. What I’d somehow forgotten in my panic and was reminded of again and again as I had the incredible opportunity to meet people all over the country who had read The Embers is that reading is a participatory activity. By writing the book, I had only created one part of the readers’ experience. The other part was up to them. Every person brings his or her own unique combination of history, personality, and imagination to a book.

The Embers is about family, and regardless of what Tolstoy says, happy or unhappy, no two families are alike. Many people have had experiences in their lives that I’ve written about in the book but have never known first hand. Sometimes, it’s the other way around, or it turns out a reader and I share something in common with one another as well as with the characters, but we approach the situation from completely different points of view.

I would be lying if I said every encounter with readers was a sheer pleasure.  Before The Embers came out, my publisher set me up with a book club who had gotten advance copies of the book, and I sat there and listened to them tear it to pieces for well over an hour, then ask if there was anything else they could do to “help.” But the man in the group who criticized my work most harshly also knew exactly where in The Embers different scenes occurred, and discussed my characters and my story with impressive attention to detail. He also said, “in fairness to the author, the last book we read was The Brothers Karamozov,” revealing a reverence for Dostoevsky that I have to admit I found completely charming. No matter what, the relationship between reader and writer is a wonderful partnership of sorts.  And I’ve found it provides a lovely balance to the solitude of writing and reading.

Thanks so much, Hyatt, in revealing your ideas of the writer/reader "participatory" relationship of a book.

The EmbersThe paperback of The Embers was released in May 2010. A once-charmed family is forced to confront the devastating tragedy that struck it years ago in this fiercely tender tale of betrayal and reconciliation. Learn more about The Embers.

Here is a trailer for The Embers.


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Teaser Tuesday 5/25 The False Friend by Myla Goldberg

Teaser TuesdayTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  4. Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Yesterday, I spent the day in publishers' offices discussing upcoming reading group picks. There are so many great ones. 

But, I have to tell you about one coming out in October. Remember Bee Season by Myla Goldberg -- excellent book club pick. Most recently, Goldberg wrote Time's Magpie, a book of essays about Prague. Well, she has written her third novel and I'm dying to read it. And, I snagged a galley of it (my friend at Doubleday very kindly gifted it to me!) It is small and will be easy to carry home.

So, my Teaser Tuesday is from the beginning of The False Friend, (October 2010). And, I so love the cover.

"The False FriendThe sight of a vintage VW bug dredged Djuna Pearson from memory. "Ladybug," Djuna said into Celia's ear as casually as ever, as if this were not the first time that voice had been heard in twenty-one years."



Here is the publisher's summary.

The False Friend is an astonishingly complex psychological drama with a simple setup: two  eleven-year-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out . . .

Leaders of a mercurial clique of girls, Celia and Djuna reigned mercilessly over their three followers. One after­noon, they decided to walk home along a forbidden road. Djuna disappeared, and for twenty years Celia blocked out how it happened.

The lie Celia told to conceal her misdeed became the accepted truth: everyone assumed Djuna had been abducted, though neither she nor her abductor was ever found. Celia’s unconscious avoidance of this has meant that while she and her longtime boyfriend, Huck, are professionally successful, they’ve been unable to move forward, their relationship falling into a rut that threatens to bury them both.

Celia returns to her hometown to confess the truth, but her family and childhood friends don’t believe her. Huck wants to be supportive, but his love can’t blind him to all that contra­dicts Celia’s version of the past.

Celia’s desperate search to understand what happened to Djuna has powerful consequences. A deeply resonant and emotionally charged story, The False Friend explores the adults that children become—leading us to question the truths that we accept or reject, as well as the lies to which we succumb.

Have you found a good teaser, today?

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Books Taken to BEA

Off to BEA (NYC) via Acela Express train from Baltimore Washington Airport Station to Penn Station. On the train up, I am finishing up My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Olivera. Great reading group pick -- American Civil War, the horrors of war, medical history, nursing, women's lives, a little romance.

Then, onto Damaged: A Maggie O'Dell Mystery by Alex Kava (July, 2010)  Here a summary supplied by the publisher.

DamagedOn Pensacola Beach, the Coast Guard prepares for a Category 5 hurricane that has entered the Gulf of Mexico. When the air crew patrols the waterways, they spot a huge fishing cooler about a mile offshore. Drug traffickers have been known to dump coolers with smuggled product to avoid detection and pay fishermen to retrieve them. But when the crew open this cooler, they’re shocked by what they find: body parts tightly wrapped in plastic.

Though she is putting herself in the projected path of the hurricane, Special Agent Maggie O’Dell is sent to investigate. Eventually, she’s able to trace the torso in the cooler back to a man who mysteriously disappeared weeks earlier after a hurricane hit Port St. Lucie, Florida. Only Port St. Lucie is on the Atlantic side. How did his body end up six hundred miles away in the Gulf of Mexico?

Cliffhanger chapters, behind-the-scenes forensic details, colorful characters, and satisfying twists have become the trademarks of Kava’s psychological thrillers. In Damaged, she ratchets up the suspense a notch by sending Maggie into the eye of an impending monster hurricane to track down a killer.

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater is the bed-time read in NYC, if I'm not too tired from the BEA activities.  

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.Publisher summary: For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

TinkersOn my trip back on Saturday, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Tinkers by Paul Harding.




Quite an eclectic assortment!

Or any one of great titles publishers have given me to read to share with you to pick as your selections for next year book discussion. Yey.


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Book Expo America and Book Blogger Convention

I'm packing to go to New York City for my annual trip to Book Expo America (BEA) -- leaving tomorrow. I discuss with publishers and authors their reading group picks for the new year. It is plenty of work but great fun -- seeing old friends and meeting new. Throughout the summer, I will let you know some of the interesting gems I picked up.

This year, there is something new and I'm really thrilled about it. Some of the many great book bloggers have organized a Book Blogger Convention the day after BEA. These bloggers are the best around and come from all over the nation expressing their joy of reading. I'm excited to meet them and learn from them.

So, next week will be a week of literature and litizens! Lots of bossip going on. (book gossip). What fun.


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Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; Excellent Book Group Pick

I always like Penelope Lively's work. The PhotographMaking It Up, Family Album, Consequences, and her over 20 other fiction and nonfiction titles. She is a great children's books writer, as well, -- over 25 titles. But my favorite is Moon Tiger, winner of the Booker Prize, first released in 1987. Great characters and many lively topics to discuss in a reading group.

Brief publisher summary.
Claudia Hampton, a beautiful, famous writer, lies dying in hospital. But, as the nurses tend to her with quiet condescension, she is plotting her greatest work: ‘a history of the world … and in the process, my own’.
Gradually she re-creates the rich mosaic of her life and times, conjuring up those she has known. There is Gordon, her adored brother; Jasper, the charming, untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool, conventional daughter; and Tom, her one great love, both found and lost in wartime Egypt.
Penelope Lively’s Booker Prize-winning novel weaves an exquisite mesh of memories, flashbacks and shifting voices, in a haunting story of loss and desire.

Moon Tiger was selected as The Guardian May Book Club. Interesting 4-part series includedes John Mullan discussion of book and reader's comments Great series! 

Moon TigerThere are plenty of editions of Moon Tiger with, of course, plenty of varied covers. My favorite is the edition Grove Press released in 1997 --  seen left.


Try Moon Tiger as one of your reading group selections -- you won't be sorry!

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Around the Bend: Such A Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb

Around the Bend is an On the Bookcase Feature bringing attention to upcoming reading group-appropriate titles.

Such a Pretty Face by Cathy Lamb. (Kensington Books, August 2010)

Such a Pretty FaceIn this warm, funny, thoroughly candid novel, acclaimed author Cathy Lamb introduces an unforgettable heroine who’s half the woman she used to be, and about to find herself for the first time. 

Two years and 170 pounds ago, Stevie Barrett was wheeled into an operating room for surgery that most likely saved her life. Since that day, a new Stevie has emerged, one who walks without wheezing, plants a garden for self-therapy, and builds and paints fantastical wooden chairs. At thirty-five, Stevie is the one thing she never thought she’d be: thin.

But for everything that’s changed, some things remain the same. Stevie’s shyness refuses to melt away. She still can’t look her neighbors’ gorgeous great-nephew in the eye. The Portland law office where she works remains utterly dysfunctional, as does her family—the aunt, uncle, and cousins who took her in when she was a child. To top it off, her once supportive best friend clearly resents her weight loss.

By far the biggest challenge in Stevie’s new life lies in figuring out how to define her new self. Collaborating with her cousins to plan her aunt and uncle’s problematic fortieth anniversary party, Stevie starts to find some surprising answers—about who she is, who she wants to be, and how the old Stevie evolved in the first place. And with each revelation, she realizes the most important part of her transformation may not be what she’s lost, but the courage and confidence she’s gathering, day by day.

As achingly honest as it is witty, Such A Pretty Face is a richly insightful novel of one woman’s search for love, family, and acceptance, of the pain we all carry—and the wonders that can happen when we let it go at last.

First paragraph


Ashville, Oregon -- 1980

I know when it started.
It was June 14th, two days after my tenth birthday. An eerie red-gold haze enshrouded the moon. Frothing gray and black clouds drifted across it, as if they were trying to hide its evilness, but couldn't quite overpower that glowing white light.

Cathy Lamb, the author of Julia’s Chocolates, The Last Time I Was Me, and Henry’s Sisters, lives in Oregon. She is married with three children. She writes late at night when it's just her and the moon and a few shooting stars.

Look for this in August!



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Booking Through Thursday 5/20 Useful Books

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading. 

Today's  Questions: What’s the most useful book you’ve ever read? And, why?

I have two books that constantly "work" for me.

http://btt2.wordpress.comThe Chicago Manual of Style is always open on my desk. The book (or tome!) is filled with useful little rules and regulations of grammer, spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, editing tools, and just good and correct ways of writing. I used it more when I was an editor. My style of writing today is much more relaxed and casual but I still like the book by my side.

For a more personal reason, The Physicians' Desk Reference has been a great tool. My body is a walking science project. Lots of strange and rare things going on -- my doctors love me! So, I like to know what I'm taking as medications. Lately, Google has been my friend to research medicines, medical research, and breakthroughs.

I do think cook books would be useful but I don't cook -- my husband does!



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