MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS by Ann Hood & GIVEAWAY

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Best-selling author, Ann Hood wrote one of my favorite novels last year, THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST (WWNorton).  We were delighted to meet her in New York City in May at BookExpo and get a signed copy of her new memoir, MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS (WWNorton) that we’re giving away to one lucky Thoughts on This ‘n That blog follower. It speaks to the intimate relationship Ann has with reading and books.

Ann grew up in Rhode Island inside a home that didn’t share her love of literature. Nonetheless, she devoured books such as THE BELL JAR, MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR, THE HARRAD EXPERIMENT and many others. She was able to learn about “taboo” subjects not discussed in her home, such as sexuality and madness. One of Ann’s fondest memories is when the Warwick Mall opened, including a bookstore and she could walk to it.

MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS is broken up into ten chapters called lessons, partnered with a novel she uses to teach a particular lesson. Ann’s prose are so conversational and comfortable, I felt as if I was in a book club of two – me and her. Ann’s choice of authors and novels include Erich Segal’s, LOVE STORY which she employs to share how books touch her soul. She reveals how reading, “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” as one of the most profound lines she’d read up until that time.

She explores how books touch her heart, enlighten the world around her and the many valuable lessons she has learned. Ann eloquently writes what many of us who love books feel. For those of us who love the written word, MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS is a delightful book you’ll not only want to read, but share with fellow “bibliophiles.”

FYI. Costco has chosen Ann’s novel, The Book That Matters Most for their August book of the month. Congratulations.

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Ann Hood is the author of the best-selling novels, THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST, THE KNITTING CIRCLE, THE RED THREAD, THE OBITUARY WRITER, AN ITALIAN WIFE and SOMEWHERE OFF THE COAST OF MAINE. She recently remarried and lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband.

We’re lucky to have one signed copy of MORNINGSTAR: GROWING UP WITH BOOKS to giveaway. Just tell us what you love about reading. We’ll announce a winner next week.

 

* MRS. FLETCHER by Tom Perrotta & GIVEAWAYS

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Tom Perrotta has the reputation of zeroing in on the zeitgeist of modern times and revealing what’s going on in his novels. He’s also known for creating characters that take readers some time to warm up to. Not quite as long as Herman Koch’s, but they’re in the same playground. Perrotta’s new novel, MRS. FLETCHER (Scribner) once again mirrors our landscape, all the good, bad, ugly and stuff you just can’t turn away from.

“Her evening home passed pleasantly enough, rolling along the usual track. First stop, dinner (Greek salad, hummus, pita) followed by way too much Facebook (a problem she was going to have to deal with), a couple of glasses of wine, and three episodes of FRIENDS on NETFLIX (another problem, though she figured it would eventually fix itself, once she made it through all ten season).”

46-year-old, Eve Fletcher is settling into her new life as an a divorced, empty nester, now that her pampered son, Brendan has left for college. One night, she pops open her laptop and is greeted with an anonymous email – “U r my MILF! Send me a naked pic!!” Is she shocked? It actually turns her on enough that she’s soon obsessed with watching porn on-line. It sparks a match, lighting up a new awareness in Eve’s sexual life. She finds herself wanting to kiss her assistant, Amanda at the Haddington Senior Center where they work. Then at her evening “Gender and Society” class, at the local college, she realizes she’s kind of attracted to instructor, Margo Fairchild, a transgender, former basketball player. Fellow student, Julian who is young enough to be her son, tells her he wants to kiss her and more, and she’s feeling it, too. Eventually a quiet after-class party at Eve’s home, turns into a three-way.

Meanwhile, Brendan who would be more than happy to continue being the sexist-jock he was in high-school is now getting wasted and hopes to party away the next four years at Berkshire State University. It’s not too long before his self-satisfied ego is taken down a few notches. Brendan pushes his white-dude-privileged attitude on a girl, named Amber but ends up imploding that relationship before it begins. His testosterone-driven roommate, Zach suddenly tells him he doesn’t feel right objectifying women any longer. Brendan packs up and goes home to mommy. Once home, he’s shocked to learn his former doormat of a girlfriend, is no longer on call for whenever he starts tingling, down there.

The axis of normality is turned on it head in MRS. FLETCHER. While reading. I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable and really embarrassed for some of the characters. But at the same time, I appreciated Perrotta’s smart, razor sharp observations on life in the ‘burbs, if you take his word for it.

I can’t say I liked MRS. FLETCHER, nor did I dislike it. I finished the book thinking, “Okay. What am I going to read next?”

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Tom Perrotta is the bestselling author of nine works of fiction, including Election and Little Children, both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and The Leftovers, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His other books include Bad Haircut, The Wishbones, Joe College, The Abstinence Teacher, Nine Inches, and  Mrs. Fletcher. His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.

We have two copies of MRS. FLETCHER to giveaway. Just tell us what you think about pornography. It seems the taboo about talking about porn is lessening in today’s society. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself, because they’re heavily influenced by a conference on Human Trafficking that I’m attending this week. THOUGHTS ON THIS ‘N THAT is primarily a “light” blog, but this supposed to be one of the biggest novels of the fall, and this subject is part of what it’s about.

We’ll announce a winner next week..

THE ADDRESS by Fiona Davis & GIVEAWAY

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I loved Fiona Davis’ debut novel, THE DOLLHOUSE about New York City’s famous hotel, Barbizon. So imagine how thrilled I was to hear about her new novel, THE ADDRESS (Dutton), which goes inside the walls of THE DAKOTA, one of New York City’s infamous buildings on the Upper Westside. Once again, Davis returns with a compelling novel about love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of  The Dakota, home to rich and famous, since it’s opening in the late 18-hundreds.

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We got to catch up with Fiona in May at BookExpo where she was autographing her new novel, THE ADDRESS and we have one signed copy to giveaway to one lucky THOUGHTS ON THIS ‘N THAT follower.

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It’s 1884, and Sara Smythe has worked her way up to a job, beyond her dreams. She’s head housekeeper of a posh London hotel. In a chance encounter, she meets one of the architects of The Dakota, Theodore Camden. He offers her the position of female manager of The Dakota. It’s a job that will take her across the pond, to America, where she pictures her life soaring even higher. In addition to her new position of overseeing nearly forty servants, she’ll be able to see more of Theo, who lives at The Dakota with his three children.

One hundred years later, Bailey Camden, former party girl about town and interior designer is fresh out of rehab and finds herself penniless. She catches up with her “cousin,” Melinda Camden who offers her a position to oversee the renovations of The Dakota. Bailey’s great-grandfather was a ward of the famed Theodore Camden, but with no proof, she won’t see a dime of the family’s estate. Bailey doesn’t agree with Melinda’s vision for The Dakota, thinking it will rob the building of much of its character, but she immediately takes the position.

Sara and Bailey’s stories are one hundred years apart, but both engage in the magic and opulence of The Dakota. For Sara, it was a world ruled by New York’s High society, including the Astor’s and Vanderbilt’s. For Bailey, it’s the heyday of the 80’s, drugs, sex and rock and roll. The Dakota’s walls hold secrets, but they can’t be kept quiet forever. Bailey makes a discovery about Theodore and Sara in the basement that could change everything she thought she knew about her family, and ultimately the course of her future.

It’s obvious Davis has done her research and delivered an accurate fact-filled novel. The characters are compelling, with precious shadings of detail. Her prose are lyrical and read like a beautiful summer day. Whether you’re a New Yorker or not, after you read, THE ADDRESS, you will feel as if you’ve been introduced to another dimension of one of the world’s greatest cities and its history.

*****

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F  I  O  N  A   was born in Canada and raised in New Jersey, Utah, and Texas. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After ten years, Fiona changed careers, working as an editor and writer, and her historical fiction debut, THE DOLLHOUSE was published in 2016. She’s a graduate of the College of William & Mary and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and lives in New York City.

We have one signed copy of THE ADDRESS to giveaway to one lucky winner. Just tell us what you love best about New York City. We’ll announce a winner next week.

On a personal note, I was living in New York City when John Lennon was shot and killed outside his home in THE DAKOTA. I remember thousands of us standing across the street in Central Park’s, where the memorial, Strawberry Fields would eventually be dedicated to Lennon’s memory. We were in shock that someone so peaceful could die in such a brutal manner. The heavy security into the building was always heavy because so many wealthy and famous people lived there, but THE DAKOTA has became an armed fortress.

 

THE SHARK CLUB by Ann Kidd Taylor & GIVEAWAY

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BookSparks Summer Reading Challenge 2017 continues on with Ann Kidd Taylor’s, THE SHARK CLUB. If you had the opportunity last week to check out Discovery’s, SHARK WEEK, you’ll find THE SHARK CLUB the anti-JAWS book. It’s about love, loss and sharks, but not the kind that’ll keep you out of the water!

On a hot summer day in 1988 on the Gulf of Mexico, two extraordinary things happen to twelve-year-old Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by the boy of her dreams. Then, she’s attacked by a blacktip shark.

Maeve  grows up to be a world-traveling marine biologist studying and swimming with the very animals that once threatened her life. Known among her peers as the “shark whisperer,” Maeve is fearless in the water. On land, it’s a different story. Maeve is obsessed by unresolved wounds and indecisive about the path her life will take. After a particularly successful assignment abroad, Maeve returns to her childhood home, on a the small island off Florida’s coast – the legendarily charming and eccentric Hotel of the Muses, where she was raised by her grandmother.

She’s greeted with disturbing news. An illegal shark-finning plant has moved into town, and hundreds of sharks are dying. But that’s only the tip of her issues! As Maeve fights to protect the fate of the animals so dear to her heart, she learns that her twin brother has betrayed her, turning her dysfunctional childhood relationship with former sweetheart, Daniel into what’s expected to become a bestselling novel. Will she confront her brother and makeup with Daniel? Or will she dive headlong back into her work and open her heart to her colleague, Nicholas who is equally passionate for the ocean?

I just fell in love with the cover of THE SHARK CLUB. The color is identical to so many different beaches you find in Florida. You’ll find yourself longing for a vacation to the Sunshine State or some other sun-kissed Caribbean island, while reading THE SHARK CLUB. Between the descriptions of the beautiful blue waters, swaying palm trees, delightful purple and pink sunsets, and the delish key lime pie, while reading THE SHARK CLUB you’ll find yourself yearning for some cold fruity drink. I suggest a frothy chilled pina colada.

*****

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Ann Kidd Taylor is the coauthor of Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir written with her mother, Sue Monk Kidd. Published by Viking in 2009, it appeared on numerous bestseller lists, including the New York Times list, and has been published in several languages.  Sue Monk Kidd, is the award-winning and bestselling author of the novels The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, and The Invention of Wings.

The Shark Club is Ann’s first novel. She lives in southwest Florida with her husband, son, and two dogs.

For more information about Ann’s relationship with sharks and south Florida, check out the following article by Nancy Stetson in FLORIDA WEEKLY.

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Thanks to BookSparks and Viking, we have one copy of THE SHARK CLUB to giveaway. Just tell us what comes to your mind, when you think of the word shark! I immediately think of staying out of the water, which is a shame, since the likely hood of getting bit by a shark is miniscule. We’ll announce a winner next week!

Have a great week!

@BooksSparks #SRC2017 @AnnKiddTaylor  #SharkWeek  #TheSharkClub

** WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS WINNERS **

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We hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Can you believe we’re halfway through summer already? Here are this week’s winners.

Barbara K. wins LIFE A FLY ON THE WALL by Simone Kelly.

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Debra H. wins BEAUTIFUL BODIES by Kimberly Rae Miller.

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Caitlin F. wins THE LIFE SHE WAS GIVEN by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

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Sharon O. and John S. each win a copy of CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman

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Jennifer S. wins SONS AND SOLDIERS by Bruce Henderson.

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Be sure to check out this week’s reviews on THOUGHTS ON THIS ‘n THAT sign up for your chance to win newly published books.

Thanks and have a great week.

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CLASS MOM by Laurie Gelman & GIVEAWAYS

classmomIn the spirit of full disclosure, Laurie Hibberd, now Gelman, debut author of CLASS MOM(Henry Holt) and I worked together as television journalists in Miami. I was even at the table when she first met you-know-who-will-not-be-mentioned-here. But who knew it would lead to “happily ever after, and two darling daughters.” Bottom line, this is Laurie’s rodeo. The point of me writing this is to “say,” I didn’t know Laurie was so funny and clever. Of course, I knew she was talented, but writing a novel, and a laugh-out-loud one at that, is something else! I congratulate you my fellow reformed journalist, turned AUTHOR!

CLASS MOM (HenryHolt) by Laurie Gelman has arrived just in time for a new school year. I’m sure moms and some dads, are signing up to be the liaison between teacher and parents. But who ever thought the relationship between a kindergarten teacher and parents could be so cut-throat? CLASS MOM is a smart delightful read for anyone, especially if you’re considering the position. Beware.

Jen Dixon is not your average Kansas City, Kansas mom. She’s toured with rock bands as a groupie and thinks at least one of her two grown-up college-aged daughters, Viv and Laura, may be the product of a hook-up. Much to the relief of her wholesome God-fearing parents, she’s ready to play house. Jen has married Ron, who owns a sporting goods store and she’s ready to be mother to their five year-old son, Max.

But deep in her heart, Jen will always be that acerbic, somewhat cynical, often offending woman, who is definitely an acquired taste. Her best friend, Nina who heads the PTA sees Jen’s personality traits as exactly what is needed in a class mom and talks her into it. Her first email to the parent’s of Miss Ward’s kindergarten class nearly sets off an up-rise.

Miss Ward has also requested that you drop off a photo of your child before the first day of class. … I’m not sure, but I think she plans to use them in some sort of Wiccan Ritual to “cleanse” the classroom.

Her sense of humor is not received well, but she finds camaraderie in an old boyfriend, who also has a child in class. After the first parent-teacher meetings, Jen sends off another email letting the parents know she’s on to them.

Now that the awkwardness of last week’s attempted coup on my class mom fiefdom is behind us (no hard feelings, Asami: I understand your people’s need for “power”, let’s get on to some serious business, like who is bringing the wine.

Asami doesn’t find Jen’s racial slight funny, Shirleen Cobb feels Jen isn’t taking her son Grayton’s food allergies seriously, it’s one problem after another, but readers can tell she loves mixing it up.

Laurie has created some incredibly well-developed characters with distinct personalites. You won’t get anyone mixed up. Her plot is totally relatable, whether in the class or not, CLASS MOM is neverending fun.

Jen barely survive’s being class mom of Max’s kindergarten class, when Nina asks her to stay on and become class mom of his first grade class. What do you think she decides?

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Laurie Gelman is a Canadian television personality and entertainment news reporter. She is married to Michael Gelman; they have two children. In 2007 she worked on two Canadian-based talk shows, The Mom Show and Doctor in the House.

Thanks to Laurie, we have two copies of CLASS MOM to giveaway to two lucky winners. Just tell us your most memorable class experience. We’ll announce a winner next week. Good luck.

CLASS MOM will be published August 1st. Be sure to pre-order your copy at your favorite independent bookstore, or on-line.

SONS AND SOLDIERS by Bruce Henderson & GIVEAWAY

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I was immediately attracted to the topic of bestselling author, Bruce Henderson’s new novel, SONS AND SOLDIERS (WilliamMorrow). I thought I’d read so many WWII books, that nothing could truly surprise me, but Henderson’s book did. By utlizing his long-established ability to perform scholarly research, we are brought face to face with one the most evil segments of world history. SONS AND SOLDIERS tells the true and compelling story of 2,000 German Jews, nicknamed The Ritchie Boys. These soldiers miraculously escaped certain death by the Nazis, only to go the United States, train side by side with the Americans, and return to Germany fighting to defeat Hitler.

Henderson, vividly recalls another thrilling tale highlighting the heroism of WWII. SONS and SOLDIERS highlights how only the German-born Jews who escaped Germany with their intimate knowledge of German culture, geography and their native language made them uniquely skilled at gathering enemy intelligence. While risking their lives fighting the Nazis they faced ruthless treatment if they were captured. This is a little told story on selfless men who risked everything to defeat unspeakable evil.

For some reading history can be difficult, but Henderson’s narrative brings this little known slice of history to life so you can’t help flipping to the next page. Reading SONS AND SOLDIERS, reminded me of attending a history class with the “cool teacher.” His prose are so smooth that while reading SONS and SOLDIERS you don’t realize you’re learning and basically attending a college level course on WWII, until you’re finished.

I highly recommend this novel for any WWII history buffs. It’s amazing how much of the past that hasn’t been brought to the forefront. We can only be grateful for authors such as Henderson, who continually research, bringing to light important historical information.

*****

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Bruce Henderson is the author of more than twenty nonfiction books, including a #1 New York Times bestseller that was made into a network miniseries. His books have been published in more than a dozen countries.

A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, private investigator and field producer for television news, Bruce has taught reporting and writing courses at Stanford University and USC School of Journalism. A member of The Authors Guild, he lives outside San Francisco, California.

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Thanks to William Morrow and TLC Book Tours, we have one copy of Henderson’s, SONS AND SOLDIERS. Just tell us which book focusing on WWII, you’ve enjoyed most, thus far. We’ll announce a winner next week.

Have a lovely weekend.