Thank you for Visiting

This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

January 2011 selection: Helen of Pasadena

Thank you so much to everyone for sending questions ahead of time, we could have kept talking for another hour if time allowed.  If you weren't able to join us you can listen online (player located in the right column) or via iTunes by searching Manic Mommies Book Club.

Lian's Book Recommendation: Pictures of You (Caroline Leavitt)

Click here to listen to our book discussion, with author Lian Dolan.

Synopsis: Helen Fairchild leads a privileged existence. It only bothers her a tiny bit that she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby. But the rigid rules of Pasadena society appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon fiber artists, even if she'll never be an insider. A hilarious social commentary about modern upper-middle class life meets a strong story of midlife reinvention.

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself: I am a mother, sister, wife, friend and daughter. In addition, I write, talk and observe for a living. I’ve spent the last two decades working in media—from TV production to radio to magazines to digital content to novels. I created Satellite Sisters with my four real-life sisters to discuss issues of modern women on the radio and the web. And, I created The Chaos Chronicles to examine issues of modern motherhood with a humorous slant. I’m married, have two boys and a busy life in Pasadena, California.
 
When you start writing Helen of Pasadena, how much of the story did you have mapped out and how much of it emerged as you were writing? I have always been an outliner, even in high school when I was writing papers about The Catcher in the Rye, so having a detailed road map is an engrained part of my writing process. Especially because Helen of Pasadena was my first fiction, I wanted to know where I was going before I started writing. And the pacing of the book was very important to me; I wanted it to move along briskly, no dawdling! I really approached the format more like the three- act screenplay, than a traditional novel. I identified my key plot points before I every typed a word. I bet I had about 70% of the story mapped out as I started to write. I had cards for every scene, with the characters, the conflict and the resolution outlined. That being said, I was really surprised how many big, fun plot details came to me during the writing process. I think having a strong outline gave me confidence that I had enough “happening” in the book and my imagination just opened up during the day writing. I was so immersed in the story that I thought of almost nothing else. And lots of the extra details, situation and characters that made the book fun to write—and hopefully to read—came to me as I was writing. It’s definitely a writing model I will use again.

In the movie Helen of Pasadena, who would you LOVE to see play the roles of Helen, Patrick and Rochelle?  I am terrible at the casting game. Ter-ri-ble! But, as I was writing the book, I did keep picturing Kate Winslet as Helen and Hugh Jackman as Patrick. I know, neither is American, but I know both could pull off those roles. The Rochelle question is tricky, because all I can see are the faces of actual news anchors in my head, bedecked in bright red jackets and overdone make-up! Maybe Bridget Wilson Sampras could pull off Rochelle! Not that she’s anything like Rochelle, I’m sure.

In the back of the novel you mention that your next novel will be a character spin off from Helen. Have you started the writing it? The second book in this Rose City trilogy is also set in Pasadena and involves a woman from history inspiring a contemporary woman, like Helen of Pasadena. That’s all the details you are getting from me! I am both superstitious and suspicious of revealing too much about a work-in-progress. I live in Holly-wood land where, yes, people steal ideas all day long! I have started the outline, some of the research and really prepping to write. I have do a little more reading and research, but I should be ready to write in February. I am working on clearing my schedule and getting focused.

You don't talk much about what you are reading on the podcast but I know you must read all the time. What is the last book you read? What are you reading now? You’re right; I should talk more about books! But in one hour a week, there are so many things to cover, I don’t often get to books. This fall, I did a series of author interviews on Satellite Sisters, so I was tearing through The Wave by Susan Casey, The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman and My Hollywood by Mona Simpson. If left to my own devices, I read mostly fiction and funny non-fiction. I just finished Juliet by Anne Fortier, which I enjoyed. A little history and a little romance. Now, I have the new Nora Ephron book and the new Steve Martin book on my nightstand for the holidays. I LOVE reading books by comedy writers; it’s a sub-genre for me that I consider a specialty. You know why? They are very funny! And I like to laugh.

Upcoming Selections: Jan - June 2011

Can you believe that the Manic Mommies Book Club started two years ago? We have read dozens of books, and have grown from discussing books via email with authors (and online chats) to discussing books with the author on a conference call! Thanks Carol Cassella for being our guinea pig (I’m happy to say she is making another appearance in 2011).

We have read some great books and talked with wonderful authors. Most of the authors were new names to me but I’m honored to say I have discovered some new must read authors. I have read all of the published books by Jennie Shortridge, I think I had an author crush in 2009! I can’t wait for Kim Wright’s next book which is a character spin off from Love in Mid Air. This December we are talking to Kathleen Kent to discuss The Wolves of Andover (the prequel to The Heretic’s Daughter, one of my favorite books read this year) to name a few. 

For the first half of 2011 we will be reading books that explore self discovery, trust and ethics, motherhood and personal dreams, the power of friendship, mixed in with a historical fiction novel set in the seventeenth century, and a cooking novel (with recipes). Four of the books were suggested authors or genre’s from manic mommies listener’s, so I’m please to say this list is truly a collaboration!

Jan – June 2011 Book Selections:

Helen of Pasadena: Helen Fairchild leads a privileged existence. It only bothers her a tiny bit that she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby. But the rigid rules of Pasadena society appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon fiber artists, even if she'll never be an insider. A hilarious social commentary about modern upper-middle class life meets a strong story of midlife reinvention.

Healer: Claire is at the start of her medical career when she falls in love with Addison Boehning, a biochemist with blazing genius and big dreams. A complicated pregnancy deflects Claire’s professional path, and she is forced to drop out of her residency. Soon thereafter Addison invents a simple blood test for ovarian cancer, and his biotech start-up lands a fortune. Overnight the Boehnings are catapulted into a financial and social tier they had never anticipated or sought: they move into a gracious Seattle home and buy an old ranch in the high desert mountains of eastern Washington, and Claire drifts away from medicine to become a full-time wife and mother. Then Addison gambles everything on a cutting-edge cancer drug, and when the studies go awry, their comfortable life is swept away. Claire and her daughter, Jory, move to a dilapidated ranch house in rural Hallum, where Claire has to find a job until Addison can salvage his discredited lab. Her only offer for employment comes from a struggling public health clinic, but Claire gets more than a second chance at medicine when she meets Miguela, a bright Nicaraguan immigrant and orphan of the contra war who has come to the United States on a secret quest to find the family she has lost. As their friendship develops, a new mystery unfolds that threatens to destroy Claire’s family and forces her to question what it truly means to heal.

Healer exposes the vulnerabilities of the American family, provoking questions of choice versus fate, desire versus need, and the duplicitous power of money.

Sand in my Eyes: Twenty years ago, Anna Hott thought she could control everything — her crumbling marriage, her demanding children, her hectic life — by quitting her high-placed job in New York City and moving her family to tranquil Sanibel Island, Florida. But she brought her untamed emotions, her rage toward her cheating husband, and her yearning to write a novel with her. When her husband and children left the house for a week, Anna thought at last she would get her household, her novel, and her mind in order. Instead, her elderly neighbor Fedelina Aurelio knocked on her door bearing flowers and homespun wisdom, and when Fedelina's recently divorced son arrived, Anna had a test of passions and a test of truth. Now, at 56 with an empty nest, Anna Holt pulls out the incomplete manuscript she started that memorable week and — to find closure for her life and a conclusion for her novel — travels to Indiana to visit Fedelina who lives in a nursing home.

The Four Ms. Bradwell’s: Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwell’s retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Exit the Actress: While selling oranges in the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, sweet and sprightly Ellen "Nell" Gwyn impresses the theater’s proprietors with a wit and sparkle that belie her youth and poverty. She quickly earns a place in the company, narrowly avoiding the life of prostitution to which her sister has already succumbed. As her roles evolve from supporting to starring, the scope of her life broadens as well. Soon Ellen is dressed in the finest fashions, charming the theatrical, literary, and royal luminaries of Restoration England. Ellen grows up on the stage, experiencing first love and heartbreak and eventually becoming the mistress of Charles II. Despite his reputation as a libertine, Ellen wholly captures his heart—and he hers—but even the most powerful love isn’t enough to stave off the gossip and bitter court politics that accompany a royal romance. Telling the story through a collection of vibrant seventeenth-century voices ranging from Ellen’s diary to playbills, letters, gossip columns, and home remedies, Priya Parmar brings to life the story of an endearing and delightful heroine.

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School: Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

December 2010 Book Discussion: The Wolves of Andover

If you didn't get a chance to join us when we talked with author Kathleen Kent in December be sure to listen to our discussion.  You can listen online (player located in the right column) or via iTunes.

Synopsis: In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen works as a servant in her cousin's household, taking charge and locking wills with everyone. Thomas Carrier labors for the family and is known both for his immense strength and size and mysterious past. The two begin a courtship that suits their independent natures, with Thomas slowly revealing the story of his part in the English Civil War. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger is ever present, whether it be from the assassins sent from London to kill the executioner of Charles I or the wolves-in many forms-who hunt for blood. A love story and a tale of courage, The Wolves of Andover confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful stories of family from colonial history.

Book Discussion:
Kathleen's book recommendations: Cleopatra: a life (Schiff) and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (Summerscale)

In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. Kathleen explained to us that she is a descendant to Thomas Carrier, have you researched your family tree?  If yes, do you have any interesting stories to share?

3.  I know we are talking about The Wolves of Andover but we spent just as much time discussing The Heretic's Daughter on our call.  Have you read this book? Did you like it?  If not, have you been to Salem?  It's a haunting piece of American history.

And as I always end this post... what are you reading now?

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself: I grew up in Texas and attended the University of Texas in Austin. I had always loved writing, but wasn't confident I could make a living at it, so I spent twenty years living and working in New York first in commodities and then as Chief Operating Officer for a US company doing defense conversion work in Russia for the Department of Defense. I travelled extensively through the Former Soviet Union, and greatly enjoyed the career I had built. But always, in the back of my mind, was the thought that someday I would write the book that became The Heretic's Daughter. In 2000 I moved with my husband and son back to Texas and, retiring early from my job, made the conscious decision to begin writing full time. Little did I know it would take 5 years to research and write, but I was fortunate enough to have the support of my family and to find my agent who got me the publishing deal at Little Brown.


What was it like getting your first novel published? What is your writing schedule like? The success of my first novel has been beyond my wildest expectations. The book is now published in over a dozen countries, including such exotic places as Turkey and Taiwan. While writing the book my only expectation was that I get published. I had no academic standing to gain easy entree into research library records and the most ambitious writing project I had ever undertaken was to write short stories and poems for my own pleasure. The things I did have were disciplined work habits, a passion to write, and some wonderful stories that my mother and grandmother had passed down to me about my nine times great grandmother, Martha Carrier. It was a wonderful time of exploration and I travelled to Connecticut and Massachusetts several times to get the feeling of the places that were important to the story. I still do most of my best writing in the morning, and try to write some every day. Every once in a while, the muse will descend and I'll write late at night, or have to pull over while driving to jot down some notes.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I usually start with a general outline and character development. I spend a lot of time playing with the characters in my head until I feel they're ready to be committed to paper. The outline is just a loose road map, which is often changed during the writing of the first or second draft. The narrative path I've picked may turn out to be not right for the character to take, or the story line may not be interesting enough. There is certainly a lot of organic processing during the first few drafts. After the second draft, though, when I'm polishing the third or fourth draft, the story line and characters are usually set.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? If I could interview anyone who is a writer, it would have to be Annie Dillard. To me she is the most wondrous word crafter in contemporary writing. But, I think she is a very shy, private person and sometimes the alchemy of the writing process is difficult to articulate. If I could interview a non-writer, it would have to be Helen Mirren. She seems to me to be such a fascinating woman (with emphasis on "woman", not "girl"); talented, humourous, well spoken, and at sixty-something totally fearless about wearing a bathing suit in person. Now that is a modern goddess!!

The prequel to The Heretic's Daughter is titled The Wolves of Andover, and will be released on November 8th. It chronicles the life of Martha's husband, Thomas Carrier; his involvement in the English Civil War and the event leading to the execution of King Charles I of England. I hope that you will enjoy reading this next book as well.

Nov 2010 Discussion Recap: The Good Sister

Several of us were anxiously waiting for this months book club discussion of The Good Sister.  If you weren't able to join us this month, we had a wonderful conversation with Drusilla Campbell - discussing the book and we had a hard time not spending too much time talking about her next book which sounds so interesting.  If you enjoyed The Good Sister you will want to read Little Girl Gone (to be published Jan 2012).

If you weren't able to join us, you will find this month's discussion on the playlist located in the right column. 

Synopsis: Roxanne Callahan has always been her younger sister's caretaker. Now married, her happiness is threatened when beautiful and emotionally unstable Simone, suffering from crippling postpartum depression, commits an unforgivable crime for which Roxanne comes to believe she is partially responsible. In the glare of national media attention brought on her sister, Roxanne fights to hold her marriage together as she is drawn back into the pain of her troubled past and relives the fraught relationship she and Simone shared with their narcissistic mother. At the same time, only she can help Simone's nine year old daughter, Merell, make sense of the family's tragedy. Cathartic, lyrical, and unflinchingly honest, THE GOOD SISTER is a novel of four generations of women struggling to overcome a legacy of violence, lies and secrecy, ultimately finding strength and courage in their love for each other.

Discussion Recap:

Drusilla's book recommendations include: The Cookbook Collector (Goodman), and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Mitchell)

In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1.  What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?
2.  What was your opinion of Johnny?
3.  Do you think Roxanne handled the situation well?  Did she frustrate you with some of her choices throughout the story?
4.  Do you know anyone or have a personal experience with PPD?  If yes, would you like to share your story with us?  It's so important to realize that women do struggle and it's not a choice.
5.  The author mentioned that Andrea Yates was the inspiration for this book, after reading this and thinking about Johnny.... has your view changed towards husbands when their wife has PPD?  Do you see them as victim/survivors?

And as I always end this post... what are you reading now?
 
Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself: I was born in Melbourne, Australia and came to this country when I was a baby. My mom is one of five sisters and I'm the eldest of more than ten cousins and despite rarely seeing each other, I'm still tight with many of them. What amazes me is how much alike we all are. My Dad was an American and took us to live in a beautiful small town (big now) in Northern California. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood. I've always been a reader, a daydreamer, but most of all a storyteller, going back to sixth grade when I wrote a novel called "A Designing Young Teacher." My husband, Art, is a law professor and poet and we've been married a long time and still really like each other. We have two sons and three grandchildren, two large dogs and four horses.

What was it like getting your first novel published? What is your writing schedule like? Second question first. I don't have a set schedule which probably goes back to the years when Rocky and Matt were boys and I fit writing in when I could. However, I do tend to go flat out for several days or even weeks and then crash, rest, start again. The first question requires a longer answer than I think you want but I'll try to hit the high points. I've actually had two separate and very different writing careers. During the first one I wrote ten historical novels in four years and in order to do that I became addicted to a number of illegal substances. I went into treatment for addictions and came out of that a different woman. My style and subject matter changed radically and it took me almost twenty years to sell another book. During that time I continued to write but my style and subject matter had changed so much that one editor complained to my (then) agent: "Why doesn't she write like she used to?" For years I studied the craft, read constantly across all genres including the dictionary, kept a deeply boring and introspective journal, and wrote novels that no one wanted. When "Wildwood" sold to Kensington in 2001, I was overcome with relief and gratitude.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I like to work from a narrative summary that keeps me aiming in the right direction but allows me to develop characters and situations freely. Sometimes I go off the map and find hidden treasures. 

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? Marilyn Monroe. I've always been drawn to real and fictional characters like Norma Ray whose lives go off the rails. In the real world these individuals come in for a lot of criticism and derision and judgmental moralizing, but I'm convinced that if we could see to their cores we'd be in sympathy with them. And what would I ask her? All the questions anyone would, plus those no one but me would think of.

October 2010 Book Discussion: If you lived here, you'd be home by now

We had a wonderful conversation with Claire LaZebnik last night. If you were unable to join us, you can listen to our discussion from the playlist in the right column or by downloading the podcast on iTunes.

Synopsis: From the well-loved author of Knitting Under the Influence and The Smart One and the Pretty One comes a new novel about a young single mother trying to move out of her family's shadow.

Rickie left home a long time ago-so how is it that at the age of twenty-five, she's living with her parents again, and sleeping in the bedroom of her childhood home?

At least one thing has changed since high school: She now has a very sweet but frequently challenging son named Noah, who attends the same tony private LA school she herself attended. Rickie fit in fine when she was a student, but now her age and tattoos make her stand out from all the blond Stepford moms, who are desperate to know why someone so young-and so unmarried-has a kid in first grade.

Already on the defensive, Rickie goes into full mother-tigress mode when her small and unathletic son tells her that the gym teacher is out to get him. She storms the principal's office, only to discover that Andrew Fulton, the coach, is no dumb jock. As her friendship with Andrew develops, Rickie finds herself questioning her assumptions-about motherhood, being a grown-up, and falling in love.

Book Club Discussion:
Are you looking for a good book recommendation? Claire just finished Freedom and says it's worth reading.

In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. In the beginning of the novel Rickie doesn't want to volunteer at her son's school and is intimidated by the women 'running the show'.  Do you volunteer at your child's school (or activities)? Have you had a challenging experience that you have overcome? or do you know women similar to the women Rickie has to interact with?

3. Did you read Rickie as a tough or vulnerable character? Do you like where she's headed at the end of the book?

4. What were your thoughts regarding Rickie's mom, how she handled both of her daughter's situations and her view on motherhood?

Lastly, what are you reading now?

Author Q&A

Tell us a little about yourself: I'm married to a TV writer (he works on "The Simpsons" at the moment) and we have four kids. Which means life is very busy. 

What is your writing schedule like? I'm a mother first and foremost, so writing has to be fit in around all the rest. It's not too bad during the school year--I usually have time to write while the kids are in school. But summers are hard! I have someone home on pretty much any given day and it gets tough to find a block of time to work. Out of necessity, I've become a master at racing over to the computer and writing a paragraph or two when everyone's distracted. I keep my laptop in the dining room most of the time--near the first floor action but just slightly apart from it, so I can dash in and write whenever I find the time.

I'm NOT complaining: I am so lucky to be able to be a full-time mom and stay home with a sick kid and go to any school performances or games and STILL have the career of my dreams. I actually think having both was the key to my success. I had a nanny for a awhile and it wasn't until I found her another job and started taking care of the kids completely by myself that I felt emotionally freed up to write--it was like I had given myself permission to do something just for me because I had no guilt about not being with the kids enough.

What was it like getting your first novel published? Selling my first novel was literally a dream come true. I was a huge reader as a kid and all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. Seriously: I had no other ambitions (or abilities). But it wasn't easy. I had two novels with two agents that never sold and it wasn't until this third agent and third novel that I actually sold one.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I write a very loose outline that's probably about two pages. Very loose. Did I mention it's very loose? I have characters, a situation, a sense of where it's going . . . but scene by scene is pure invention. There's an amazing "ah-ha!" feeling when you're struggling with what should happen next and suddenly you have an epiphany and it feels almost obvious. But (probably because my process is so unstructured) I rewrite a LOT. There's often very little left of the original draft in the final version. Things clarify with time (and with my husband's and editors' notes).

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? I just read for the second time this unbelievable graphic novel called ASTERIOS POLYP which is one of the greatest things I've ever read. The author is a guy named David Mazzucchelli and I'd love to sit him down and ask him all my questions about the book--because there are so many layers in both the writing and drawing that I could spend hours studying each page and still want to know MORE. So it would be fun to talk to him.

Of course, I just reread it, so it's on my mind. Ask me on another day, and I'll probably have another answer!

September 2010 Book Discussion: Room

We had a wonderful conversation last week, discussing Room for 40 minutes.  Emma Donoghue wasn't able to join the discussion but she did answer our questions. With the author not available, we opted to not record the call (let's face it... we love the interviews!). 

Synopsis: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. 

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. 

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Book Club Discussion:

In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. What did you think of Ma's experience, being held captive for seven years?  Think about her time before and after giving birth to Jack.

3. Did you find the escape believable and did you think Jack was older in Ma's eyes at times (to think he could play such an important role in the escape)?

4.  Talk about Ma and Jack's time after the escape.  What did you think about Ma's breakdown and Jack's reaction to the outside world?

5.  Lastly, what are you reading now?

Thank you Emma for taking time to answer our questions!

I’m curious to find out why the author had a television in the room. Was this an addition during the seven years (maybe a sundaytreat) or was the TV as part of the Room from the beginning? Good question. I agonised over whether they should have a TV or not; I really didn't want them to watch it all day, but I thought that with no TV they might be living a rather 19th-century life, a premodern one rather than the modern-but-sealed-off-from-the-broader-world one I wanted for them. So I decided to make Ma strongminded enough to severely limit their watching, and that way Jack could have visual recognition of many things in Outside without truly understanding them.
 
This is a common question for writer’s but we are curious… have you thought about Ma and Jack and what their live might be like in ten years time? I've thought a little bit... what I hope for them is that they gradually become more and more like everybody else! They'll always be marked by their experience but they shouldn't have to always feel so strange and special.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you stayed in a five year olds mindset for the entire novel? Was this as challenging as it seemed to us? No, this novel was easy: the story, perspective and tone came to me all in one go, and having a five-year-old son at the time made it pretty effortless to 'channel' Jack. What I struggled with was the balance between grim and upbeat, naive and satirical, slow and fast... lots of tinkering, basically.

Jack seems to have a bond with objects in the room, calling objects Plant, Wardrobe (capitalized). We would love to explore this with you, can you share a little more behind the purpose of this to a five year old? I saw him and Ma as a tribe of two, and I thought their religion would have a large element of animism: seeing a spirit in everything. My kids do that too, they automatically personalise, play and talk to every object they encounter. I figure Jack needs friends and Ma will encourage any way of getting them.

Breast Feeding: One of our readers emailed me to add one more question to the list. She’s wondering if you had gotten a lot of attention or criticism regarding the presence of breastfeeding an older child in this novel. Breastfeeding felt like a logical ‘must’ for Ma. Yes, lots of rather uneasy attention, almost all of it in the US. To me the breastfeeding made absolute sense on every level, because Jack and Ma are still living very much as mother and baby when the novel starts; they're never more than a few feet apart. She would hold onto any habit that comforts him. But in the US especially, many people are viscerally horrified at the idea of nursing a five-year-old...

Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Booker! As a writer, mother, and partner we are wondering how you do it all. Are you working on your next novel? I do it all with the aid of my partner (she got six months paid leave when each of the kids was born, which really helped) and then daycare; I manage to do things like email when the kids are in the house, but never actual writing. Yes, I'm working on the next novel now, an unsolved crime from 1870s San Francisco.

I appreciated Ma’s breakdown once the escaped and she knew Jack was safe. This made the story feel like it could have been a real experience for someone (albeit a horrific one). I'm glad this rang true for you! I (rather coldbloodedly) wanted Jack to be parted from Ma for a while so that he'd start growing up fast, but I also thought it was very plausible that someone would fall apart AFTER their escape; prisoners released from solitary confinement very often only develop psychological problems afterwards...

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself: I'm an Irish writer, settled in Canada where I live with my partner and two small kids. I write all sorts of things but am best known for my fiction, both historical (for instance, SLAMMERKIN) and contemporary (most recently ROOM)

What was it like getting your first novel published? I was a graduate student whose first novel a host of publishers had rejected, the day my agent rang to say she'd managed to sell both my first and (unfinished) second novels to Penguin. I ran around the house whooping in glee.

What is your writing schedule like? It's determined by school and daycare: the minute the kids are out of the house I rush to my computer like a lover!

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I'm entirely inorganic: I plan everything, pretty much. If there's a good strong structure there's room for changes at a later stage, but the structure (and usually the first and last scenes) remain the same.

What are you reading now? I'm rereading Joe O'Connors STAR OF THE SEA (he's one of my very favourite Irish novelists).

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? Emily Dickinson - but I doubt she'd agree to be interviewed!

The Escape 2010 selection: An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination

I'm pleased to announce our Escape selection: An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination.  Author Elizabeth McCracken will join us on Saturday morning to share her journey to becoming a parent. 

This book is a wonderful story about one woman's quest to become a parent. Each attendee to The Escape will receive a copy of the book and I'm happy to say we will be discussing this book with the author on Saturday morning (Nov 6).

I will post a recap of our discussion early November. 

Synopsis: This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died. How do you deal with and recover from this kind of loss? Of course you don't-but you go on. And if you have ever experienced loss or love someone who has, you will hope to go on with the help and company of this remarkable audiobook.

With humor and heart and unfailing generosity, McCracken considers the nature of love, and grief. She opens her heart and leaves all of ours the richer for it.

August 2010 Book Discussion: The Island

We had a wonderful conversation with Elin Hilderbrand last night. If you were unable to join us, you can listen to our discussion from the playlist located in the right column or by downloading the podcast on iTunes.

Are you looking for a good book recommendation? Elin shared some books recently read that she loved: Every Last One, A Visit from the Goon Squad , and A Friend of the Family.

In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2.  We discussed sisters and relationships on the call, if you have a sister... did birth order play an important role in your reading experience?

3.  Did you connect with one character more than the others?  If yes, why do you think this was so.

4.  Did the book bring back memories of summer?  Anything you would like to share with us? I know some of us have had poison ivy (I can't say I have though).

Lastly, what are you reading now?

Backseat Saints: Discussion Recap

Let me start this post with a story - after reading a few chapters of Backseat Saints.  I decided to download the audio book so I could listen while working in the yard. While enjoying the book I didn't realize I had disturbed a hornet's nest - I haven't been stuck since I was a young girl - ouch!

I have read all of Jackson's books, with exception of her first novel. Rose Mae is the main character in Backseat Saints and pulled forward from her Gods in Alabama. I have put this book on my hold list at the library.

We had a wonderful conversation with Joshilyn Jackson last night. If you were unable to join us, you can listen by clicking on the arrow below (you can also download to your computer/itunes by clicking on the link to the right).

This months call is edited down to just over 40 minutes:



In addition to the call, we are bringing back the online discussion for those unable to join us - or for anyone who has read the book and would like to participate.

Here are some questions to get the discussion started (answer any/all of them or simply leave a comment about your reading experience):

1. What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?

2. Discuss Rose Mae's journey and your view of her story. Did you read Gods in Alabama and remember her character?

3. Discuss the Gypsy and her role throughout the novel. Maybe Parker too, did you think he was Rose's brother?

4. What surprised you the most while reading this book?

5. It would be a disservice to not talk about the abuse (we see/read about it often on the news, in books, newspapers etc). Rose Mae's journey brings much change to her life. Do you know anyone who has escaped abuse? If yes, is there anything you can share with us?

6. Looking to the future: if Rose Mae were to appear in another novel by the author… where would you see her life (ie: in 5 years time)?

Lastly, what are you reading now?

August 2010 Selection: The Island: a novel

We will be discussing The Island: a novel with the author on August 19 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

Synopsis: From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket. Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Instead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.
 
Author Q&A:
 
Tell us a little about yourself: I am Type A and completely overscheduled. I am married and have three children -- Maxx is 10, Dawson is 8 and Shelby is 4. I am a Little League mother; I spent all spring at games 4 nights a week and Saturdays, and my son Maxx made the All-Stars, meaning even more games and weekends away! My favorite things about summer are: the beach, my Jeep with the top off, cold champagne, corn on the cob, blueberry pie and flip-flops. (Note: baseball does not appear on this list.) I grew up in Philadelphia and I'm a huge Eagles fan. I jog 6-7 miles every morning. In the winters, because my husband manages a beach club that is closed, we pull our children out of school and take an exotic vacation. This past winter, we spent 6 weeks traveling through Vietnam. Next winter, we will go to Perth, Australia, which is my favorite place on earth. The two things I would really like to learn to do are: speak French and play the guitar. But who has the time???
 
What was it like getting your first novel published? It was a mixed bag. I was relieved to have sold it (to St. Martin's Press) but my advance was only $5000, so I could hardly quit my part time paralegal job. When the book came out, it was immediately chosen by People Magazine as Beach Book of the Week. And then St. Martin's immediately ran out of books. I actually didn't know anything about book sales at that point -- but oh, have I learned.

What is your writing schedule like? I write from 11-4 about 4 days a week in the summer. I have a live-in nanny who covers the children, God LOVE her! In the winter, I write at a remote location ( a friend's empty rental house in town) from 10-6. And when we are on our exotic vacations, I write six days a week while my husband covers the kids. I take one day off to snorkel or see the temples.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I have certain things mapped out, but more than anyone might imagine is organic... as I'm writing, the process of discovery occurs...my characters tell me what's going to happen next. It's mystical, but I try not to talk about it too much or even think about it, because I don't want it to go away.

What are you reading now? I just finished The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. It was utterly fabulous. It all came together at the end in a way that made the whole more than the sum of its parts. It felt like witchcraft.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? The only person I would really like to interview is my father, Robert Hilderbrand, who died in a plane crash when I was sixteen. And my question would be: Are you proud of me? (Tissue, please!)

How Clarissa Burden learned to Fly: Discussion Recap

I read How Clarissa Burden learned to Fly in about two days, while on vacation earlier this spring and it sounds like so many others have read this one quickly too.  It's a fun book with a message - you will be appauled by Clarissa's husband and find yourself laughing at the same time. 

This book is about one woman's journey, we all agreed that we think Clarissa is in a better place at the end of the story. 

We had a wonderful conversation with Connie May Fowler, discussing the book, writing process and much more.

If you were not able to join us and have a question for the author, leave a comment to this post or email me and I will reach out to her.

This months call is edited down to just over 30 minutes:



Click above to listen (there is an option to download). The audio clip is also available to the right of this post.

July 2010 selection: Backseat Saints

We will be discussing Backyard Saints with the author on July 21 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

Synopsis:  Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton, AL, and then on to California, unearthing a host of family secrets as she goes. Running for her life, she realizes that she must face her past in order to overcome her fate---death by marriage---and become a girl who is strong enough to save herself from the one who loves her best.


Author Q&A:
1. Tell us a little about yourself: My favorite color is orange. I have a hound dog, two cats, a beta fish, and an egg case that is getting ready to hatch up to 100 baby praying mantises, but I sneak off to look longingly at cats on PET FINDER most every day anyway. I love Kashi Vive cereal so much that when they pulled it from the grocery store, I wept hopelessly, and my husband drove to every Big Lots in a 50 mile radius and bought up the overstock; he gave me 50+ boxes of it for Valentine’s Day. I am an insomniac. My son is named after Samuel Beckett and my daughter, Maisy Jane, is named after a character in a Henry James novel. I hate to drive if I don’t have an audiobook. My husband and I met as teenagers and were best friends for seven years before we even kissed. (It was a doozy, though.)

2. Do you write daily? Between blogging and essays and interviews and novel writing, I probably do. Not at any set time, though. I know some writers swear by “writing hours,” but I elected to have children and pets instead of a schedule. Also, I lack an organizational skill. Yes, even one. I try to get up at four or five in the morning a couple-three times a week to work on the current book.

3. What was it like getting your first novel published? Surreal. The best part was seeing the physical actual book in bookstores. I would pick it up and touch all over it, marveling that an intangible thing, a story in my head, morphed first into a real novel with a word count and paper pages. I made it in my house out of words and my brain. Then I got an editor, and as a team we polished and honed it until it felt edgy and knife-sharp. Then our team got bigger as a herd of amazing people took our stack of pages and did a bunch of voodoo and fixed all the typos and came up with jacket copy and a cover that said something thematically true about the story, and sent it to another team who made thousands of thousands of copies exist. Meanwhile, still more people worked on marketing it and letting people know it existed while others distributed this gorgeous, amazing object that all of us had made together out of nothing, out of words----No! Less than that. Out of a thought. We all made it together out of a story I thought of in my head years before. Miraculous.

There were pitfalls I was too na├»ve to see, as well. Like most novelists, the first book I wrote was certainly not the first one that sold. gods in Alabama came out before I understood that everyone thinks your first novel is autobiographical, and that book has a wildly promiscuous, pathologically dishonest murderess for a narrator. She’s also charming and funny and has a huge heart, but she comes with some serious baggage. A lot of people made assumptions about me based on Arlene, and it was weird and dizzying and made me feel oddly defensive. Arlene is mine, yes, but Lord she isn’t me. I guess if I had looked ahead and seen Thalia in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming or, God help me, known Backseat Saints would be about Rose Mae Lolley, I would have realized there are worse fates than having people think I am secretly Arlene.

Now it has become funny instead of frightening whenever I run up against things people assume based on how they interpret my stories. For example, I have a couple-three bat-crap-crazy mothers in my books, and I remember one bookstore owner was absolutely floored to meet my real, actual, gracious, delightful mother. He was expecting something more complicated and mentally ill---perhaps with fangs.

What do you think of the electronic book? I worry about how Independent and physical chain bookstores will survive, and I really want them to survive. Handsellers are how new voices get noticed. I sincerely hope a business model will emerge that will allow the Indies to continue to make book buying personal. That said, I have to admit I enjoy the convenience of the technology. I probably read paper books 90% of the time, but I love my Sony Reader when I am traveling.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Put your heart into the writing, not being published or the idea of being published. The writing is the part you control. The business part, there is luck involved there, and the market, and what editor reads you on what day....The writing is just yours, and it always will be. The writing is what feeds you. Of course you push forward, you look for opportunities, you query and network. But you don’t live there. Live in the book.

It’s interesting – the more you focus on the writing part, the better you will get, and the publishing part is more likely to happen then anyway. When I teach at writing conferences, it’s very easy to see who is focused on their work. I always watch for those writers who ask craft questions and get that crazy, fervent eye-gleam when the conversation turns to how we get these stories and characters and worlds that are so perfectly realized in our heads to travel to the paper intact. That’s a long fraught trip, from head to paper. Those are the writers who interest me, and most of the time, you can see their passion reflected in the work.

What are you reading now? THE INVISIBLE BOY by Cornelia Reed. It’s dynamite---so racy and raw and compassionate and blackly funny. It’s the third book in her Madeline Dare series, and she just gets better and better.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Fall – the first time my husband and I kissed, the air had that crisp, apple smell to it, and every year now when that smell comes back it’s like I am re-breathing that happiness. (Told you it was a doozy.)
Morning or night: I love night but work better in the morning.
Favorite ice cream flavor: Edie’s French Silk
If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: The Outback. I want to see marsupials up close and personal.

Love in Mid Air: Discussion Recap

Every once in a while I read a book that really makes me think, evaluate friendships, love and life - Love in Mid Air is one of these books.

We had a wonderful conversation with author Kim Wright, discussing the book, writing process and much more. 

Love in Mid Air explores the friendships, marriage and happiness - or should I say, the quest for happiness and love.

If you were not able to join us and have a question for the author, leave a comment to this post or email me and I will reach out to Kim. 

This months call is edited down to just under an hour:



Click above to listen (there is an option to download). The audio clip is also available to the right of this post.

We have a few book bloggers in the MMBC, click on the links below to see what they are talking about and their thoughts on Love in Mid Air:
Every Day I Write the Book
PeetSwea

June 2010 selection: How Clarissa Burden learned to Fly

We will be discussing How Clarissa Burden learned to Fly with the author on June 16 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

Synopsis: How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is the transcendent story of a young woman who, in a twenty-four hour period, journeys through startling moments of self-discovery that lead her to a courageous and life-altering decision.

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself:  I live on a sandbar in the middle of nowhere with my husband (I’m a newly wed with a marriage not yet two years old) and four dogs. We have no full-time neighbors save for a few folks down the road. A mama bear and her cub live in the back yard next to the bay. I keep the dogs in at night because of coyotes. I love it here. It gives me all kinds of time to think. I love to cook and fish. I love bad TV and good books. I garden; trying to coax life out of the sand is a mad act committed by a happy woman. I bird watch. I teach folks who love words and who have stories they must tell. I work on environmental and family violence issues. And I’ve taken up genealogy; what I’ve discovered never ceases to amaze, clarify, and confuse.

Do you write daily?  I surely try.

What was it like getting your first novel published?  My experience was totally a-typical and was one of the few times in my life when all the stars fell into harmonious alignment. I was in grad school and my professor, Carolyn Doty, said I needed to send my thesis (my first novel Sugar Cage) to an agent. She provided me a list of five names. She said, “When the first person on the list rejects the book, send the manuscript immediately out to the second person.” That process seemed way too logical for my artist’s brain, so I gazed at the piece of paper and tried to divine which name proffered good luck. The third one down was Joy. Easy wheezie. I sent the manuscript to her and, low and behold, she loved it. Within about a month, she’d sold it to an editor at Putnam whose name was Faith. Both Carolyn and Faith have passed away, but I still have Joy in my life and my editor ever since Remembering Blue is named Deb. She has brought me great luck too. Perhaps it’s the three-letter thing that’s working for me.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)?  I think they’re very, very cool. I don’t own one but I sat beside a woman on a plane last weekend who had a Kindle. I asked her to show me how it worked. Pretty impressive, I must say. And I’m totally excited about the Ipad—I’m a big Apple fan. I don’t think books you hold in your hands will ever go away, but these new devices aren’t going anywhere either. They’ll become more sophisticated even as they’re used by future generations of readers who are totally accustomed to the virtual world. I also think that there’s every possibility that people will read more because where they go, so too does their library.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Feed your mind: read, read, read.

What are you reading now? I reread the Great Gatsby once a year. And it’s that time of year again. Also, I’m looking very forward to reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna.

Just for fun:
- Favorite Season: Spring. We’re on the migratory path for monarch butterflies so it’s pretty awesome. Also, an astonishing variety of birds migrate through here. For the same reasons, I love fall.
- Morning or night: Morning, definitely.
- Favorite ice cream flavor: Rum raison
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: Africa

The Yellow House: discussion recap

If you haven't had a chance to read The Yellow House, everyone who read the book would say they highly recommend it.

One of the gals reading with us read it in one sitting, she couldn't put it down.  I received an email thanking me for a sleepness night from someone else (jokingly of course) and Jen read the book twice!

We had about a dozen women on the call and just as we were starting to discuss the book we encountered some technical difficulities forcing us to reschedule.  The MMBC readers stayed on the call to discuss the book and we came up with several questions.

Take Two: Patricia and I met to discuss the book and had a wonderful discussion.  I hope I asked all of your quesitons but if I forgot something, feel free to email me or leave a comment and I will reach out to her.

The call is about 45 minutes - spoiler alert... we did talk about the book, in detail. 



Click above to listen (there is an option to download). The audio clip is also available to the right of this post (or click below).

Note: There is a little organic noise througout the call - I was using a new mic that is SUPER sensitive :).  I had the window open, it was a beautiful spring day in Omaha, and if you listen hard you will hear some activity outside.  It doesn't disrupt the call, promise.   ~ next month I will attempt to record the call in a closet, with a glass of wine and good conversation with friends... that might be worth a picture ~

Our May selection is Love in Mid Air, we will be discussing the book with Kim Wright on May 19th.

May 2010 selection: Love in Mid Air

Manic Mommies Book Club Selection: May 2010

We will be discussing Love in Mid Air with the author on May 19 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

Synopsis: A chance encounter with a stranger in an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly, Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the church. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. In the end it will take an extraordinary leap of faith for Elyse to find--and follow--her own path to happiness.



Author Q&A

Tell us a little about yourself: I’m 54 with two grown children, a total southerner, and obsessed with my new hobby of ballroom dancing. Seriously. I tango in my dreams. Love in Mid Air is my first novel but for 30 years before that I supported myself as a food and travel writer. That’s a great gig because it took me all over the world.

Do you write daily? Almost daily, but I’m not one of those writers who does the same amount of work each morning, like 2000 words or four hours or something. When I’m in the grip of a project I tend to go on writing binges and then afterwards I’ll back off for a while.

What was it like getting your first novel published? When you’re writing a novel there’s always the feeling that it’s never going to be finished and that, even if you do somehow manage to complete the thing, you’ll never find an agent and sell it. I was lucky in that many of my friends are writers and when I got “Love” ready to go, my friend Alison introduced me to her agent. Even though it felt like the ultimate blind date, David and I connected over dinner in a little Italian restaurant in Brooklyn and he’s been a fantastic advocate for the book. I signed with him in November 2007 and he sold the book the next month. I’d worked on it for years so it was a bit of a shock how fast things actually came together. One of my friends says that being a writer is like being a cop – long stretches of boredom occasionally punctuated with moments of sheer terror. She has a point!

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? God bless anything that makes it easier for people to read, but, that said, I’m of the old school. I like to hold a book in my hand. I like the way they look on a bedside table and even the way they smell. A woman once told me she was a Kindle-ophile because she’s bought so many books through the years that her house is full of them and buying ebooks cuts down on clutter. I know what she means – every time I move I think “I have way too many books” – but for some reasons I still like the presence of books in my home. I would never define them as “clutter.:”

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Get to know other writers – either online, or by joining writing groups and attending conferences. Not only can we all help each other – like Alison did when she introduced me to David - but I think the isolation that most writers feel is simply unnecessary.

What are you reading now? Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom

Just for fun:
- Favorite Season: Fall
- Morning or night: Morning
- Favorite ice cream flavor: Butter Pecan
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: I’ve never been there, but Australia has always been my dream destination, ever since I wrote a report on it in fourth grade. I think I was enchanted by a picture of children surfing on Christmas Day!

Why is my mother getting a tattoo?: Discussion recap

What an evening! This month we discussed Why is my mother getting a tattoo? With author Jancee Dunn.

If you weren’t able to join us I’m sorry to say you missed quite a night! The call was scheduled for 45 minutes but ended up lasting well over an hour. We talked and talked, about parenting, sharing stories about the newspaper clipping we receive in the mail (we shouldn’t joke too much though since we will be sending these to our kids someday) and so much more. It was quite a task editing this months audio discussion from 87 to 30 minutes! I can’t tell you how many times someone shared something private… only to say “you will edit this out, right?”.

If you weren’t able to join the call, click here to listen (there is an option to download). The audio clip is also available to the right of this post (or click below).

Note: I have a new mic for recording and it is VERY sensitive... the background noise happens to be my dogs chewing on bones, next time I will lock them out of the room! I kept the phone on mute so the participants couldn't hear them but you will hear faint noises. Enjoy!



Click here to read Jill's review (Seaside Book Nook's review)

Here are some questions for you, the reader:
- What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?
- Did you have a favorite story in the book?
- Lastly, do you have any questions for the author?

Here are some of the emails I received after the call:
- I am loving Why Is My Mother Getting a tattoo? so far! I started reading it while waiting for my daughter at karate the other day and was cracking up so much I had to move outside to read it. The other parents were looking at me a little strange. I am now at the part where both parents have to be on the phone and stories repeated. So true, my parents do this to me all the time and it drives me nuts!

- I am so very sorry I was late to the call. Jancee was hilarious. I didn't get a chance to share my "clipping" story.

I used to work for Waste Management. My family would send me photos of funny looking dumpsters or Port-a-Potties or ones in funny places. Truly odd. I'd get an envelope with a photo or two and a post-it telling where the shot was taken. Nothing else.

- The call on Wednesday was phenomenal! It felt like such good girlfriend time and was the high point mid week that has allowed me to get through the rest of this week. I have to share with you that yesterday morning I was going through the mail and there was an envelope in there from my own mother with nothing other than newspaper clippings. The highlight for me had to be a story of a dead beaver that some spring breakers decided would be cute dressed as a mechanic while holding a energy drink. It made me laugh, thinking of our call, and kept me smiling all day as I went about my normal routine.

Do you receive Newspaper Clippings in the mail? 

Thank you Hachette: upcoming selections

A special thank you to Hachette Book Group, our exclusive partner for the Manic Mommies Book Club! Click here to read the details on the Manic Mommies homepage.

We have locked down our book selections for the rest of 2010!

Love in mid Air (May): A chance encounter with a stranger on an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the community. She finds herself cutting through all the instincts that say "no" and instead lets "yes" happen. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom.

How Clarissa Burden learned to Fly (Jun): How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is the transcendent story of a young woman who, in a twenty-four hour period, journeys through startling moments of self-discovery that lead her to a courageous and life-altering decision.

Backseat Saints (Jul): Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy---one who shares her past and knows her future.

The Island (Aug): A captivating novel of summer and surprises from New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.

Selections for the rest of 2010 include (the books are so new that we do not have book jackets to post yet):

Room (Sept): An astonishing novel narrated by a five-year-old boy who lives, with his mother, held captive in a single small room. Written by Emma Donoghue

If you lived here you'd be home by now (Oct): From the well-loved author of Knitting Under the Influence and The Smart One and the Pretty One comes a new novel about a young single mother trying to move out of her family's shadow. Written by Claire LaZebnik

November Escape selection TBD: We are excited to announce that we will have two book selections in November, one for the escape and a second for scheduled as usual.

The Good Sister (Nov): An astonishing novel narrated by a five-year-old boy who lives, with his mother, held captive in a single small room. Written by Drusilla Campbell

The Wolves of Andover (Dec): A love story from the heart of America's history by the author of the national bestseller The Heretic's Daughter (Kathleen Kent).

April 2010 Selection: The Yellow House

Manic Mommies Book Club Selection: April 2010

We will be discussing The Yellow House with the author on April 21 (8PM EST). Watch for details as we get closer to the date.

A 24 book giveaway will be posted to the Manic Mommies website within the next week.

You will find an author interview/discussion posted in the right column. Don’t worry about spoilers, the conversation focuses on the authors background and writing experience more than the plot and ending to the story. The MMBC is even mentioned on the call!

Synopsis: THE YELLOW HOUSE delves into the passion and politics of Northern Ireland at the beginning of the 20th Century. Eileen O'Neill's family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, Eileen cannot separate the politics from the very personal impact the conflict has had on her own life. She is soon torn between two men, each drawing her to one extreme. One is a charismatic and passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence from Great Britain at any cost, who appeals to her warrior's soul. The other is the wealthy and handsome black sheep of the pacifist family who owns the mill where she works, and whose persistent attention becomes impossible for her to ignore.

BN.COM reader review: (5 stars) The Yellow House is a captivating debut, bountiful and beautifully written. The beginning trudges along, but Eileen will capture you quickly after. Her story will make you smile, make your heart pump, make your breath quicken, make you cry. You will hope for the best, and fear for the worst. You will laugh at Eileen and her anger and feistiness, she has a sailor's mouth and the temper to go with it. You will feel her heartbreak and her desire, you will know her anguish and rapturous delight, you will relate to her because she is the warrior in all of us. You will love Eileen, and you will love The Yellow House.

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself: I was born in Northern Ireland and lived in England before emigrating to the U.S. at age 20. I pursued a career in the finance area for many years, but finally was able to make the leap to my first love - writing. Becoming a writer is the realization of a dream.

Do you write daily? When I was writing The Yellow House I was also working full time and travelling a great deal for business. So I was not able to write every day but took chunks of time when I could on weekends and holidays. Now that I'm working on a deadline for a second book I find more and more that a daily writing routine is the only way to finish a novel within a set timeframe.

What was it like getting your first novel published? I met my agent through pure serendipity. I was on a business trip to New York and a friend cancelled a dinner engagement. Alone in the hotel restaurant I met a woman who runs a fitness studio in NYC and she invited me to join her and some of her clients on a wellness week in Jamaica. Something told me to grab the thread and so I took a chance and went. Lo and behold, two of the women there were literary agents, and I told one of them about a book I was planning. The rest is history. Although, I have to say that when I got the phone call that we had a two book contract I couldn’t think of anything to say for about a day.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? At first I didn't like the idea of them. But since then I have spoken to a lot of people - mostly on airplanes - and they all say if the story is good you get caught up just as if you are reading a book. And I think people buy more books because its so easy to download them. In the end if it means more people read my book then I'm happy.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? First of all write about something that is really important to you – that fires your passion. Writing a novel is a major undertaking of time and emotional energy - so it should be about something you care deeply about. Second of all - it's true what they say about revising - a book is not so much written, as re-written, so be prepared.

What are you reading now? Colm McCann's Let The Great World Spin; Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout; and two memoirs: Nothing was the Same by Kay Jamison, and Just Kids by Patty Smith.

Just for fun:
Favorite Season: Definitely Fall - which is what I miss most since I'm living in Dallas

Morning or night: I think mornings are fantastic - full of promise - but unfortunately I miss most early mornings because I'm a "night person".

Favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chocolate chip.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: Australia and Japan. But I would be delighted to travel almost anywhere in the world.

The Wife's Tale: Discussion Recap

What a night! We were thrilled to discuss The Wife’s Tale with Lori Lansens with about a dozen other women.

At the end of my work day I was able to fit in a quick workout before getting on the call. I know a few mom’s listened with their kids in the background, Heather joined from work, and I believe Kim took the call while on the bus (traveling from NYC to her home). We started our discussion talking about a mom who listened to our January book club while waiting for her children at Karate. We are truly on the move, trying to find time for us!

If you were not able to join us last night you will find a 30 minute clip posted for your listening pleasure (see link on the right column). More importantly, if you haven’t had the chance to read this book yet I encourage you to read it. This is the story of a woman who is lost, paralyzed by life. She has stopped living and when her husband goes missing Mary Gooch is forced to take make some decisions. Along the way she begins to find herself, meeting some wonderful people, discovering that she is a priority and can survive!

I need to give a special thank you to Lori, I was having some computer issues for the first few minutes of the call and had to reboot my laptop (ugh) – while I did this Lori shared a bit about her life. She’s married, with two children and lives in California. Her first three books take place in Canada, where she is from and she is working on an idea for her fourth novel. You can hear all about it when you listen to the audio clip.

We have a few bloggers that are also MMBC readers. Gayle with Everyday I write the Book has posted her review.  Leave a comment with the link to your review, if you are reading/writing with us. I"m aware of two or three others (they haven't posted yet though).

Here are some questions for you, the reader:
- What was your overall view of the book? Did you enjoy it?
- Did you have a favorite part in the book?
- How did your opinion of Mary Gooch change from the beginning of the book to the end?
- Lastly, do you have any questions for the author? If yes, leave them here and I will send a list to Lori.

The following recap is in my own words:

Overcoming fears: We discussed that Mary is fearful to the point of not being able to live her life. Fear is a state of mind, when Mary boards the plane for the first time she overcomes a fear and begins to realize flying isn't so scary.  As the book continues we watch Mary overcome many fears.

Women going through a divorce seem to relate to Mary, they have a great opportunity to recreate themselves

Mary’s voice: This book has little dialog since we are listening to Mary work through her issues. Why? Mary is looking into a mirror in the first paragraph and shes sharing her 'internal landscape'. The story is told with only Mary’s voice so we can understand that she feels cloistered.

Mary’s high school weight loss: Lori shares the dirt story that we were all talking about! It’s an unbelievable story – listen to the clip to hear the complete story. It’s based on tur events.

Author’s weight struggle: Yes, Lori has struggled with her weight over the years; she wants everyone to remember you do not need to be over weight to have issues with food. Mary Gooch is just one woman and this is one woman’s weight loss story.

The Ending: One reader commented on the ending and mentioned it was satisfying. As mentioned before, this is Mary’s story and the truth of Gooch remains a mystery (we never hear from him).

Where to you see Mary today? This is a tough question! Many readers have asked for a sequel and some would like to read Jimmy Gooch's story. Lori has thoughts about Mary but she doesn’t want to spoil her version because it changes as time goes on and she wants the reader to hold onto their vision for Mary.

Writing habits: Lori writes daily and has been known to set her alarm (she doesn’t want to write through the end of the school day - in true manic mommy fashion!).  She treats writing like a job and starts each day editing the previous days work.

What’s next for Lori: She’s thinking about writing setting her next book in Golden Hills (the California location in The Wife’s Tale)

Current reads and favorite authors: Lori is reading The Self Esteem Trap (a parenting book).  She enjoys Phillip Roth, John Irving, Margaret Atwood and many more.

Audio Link: If you were unable to join us, you can listen by clicking on the arrow below (you can also download to your computer/itunes by clicking on the link to the right).




Next month we will be discussing Why is my Mother getting a Tattoo with Jancee Dunn