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 2012 Selection: Little Girl Gone

Originally posted on Manic Mommies

Can you believe our book club has read 35 novels over the past three years? Discussing books with Jane Porter, Elin Hilderbrand, and Joshilyn Jackson… we’ve also talked to several debut authors over the years. Reading a range of books, from award winning titles to light summer reading, historical fiction to memoirs.

Some of you may remember the night I called in from the emergency room (an average day for a manic mom, right?) asking you to keep me company while my son was in surgery. We also have moms calling in from baseball practice, while grocery shopping, and one reader listens to our chats during chemo (sniff).

Whether you participate live while making dinner, from karate, or sneaking in a little time for yourself… I would like to thank all of you for making our book club a wonderful experience. As you can see, our book club holds a special place for many of us. Where else can you discuss a book with the author from the comfort of your home (in sweats), with a glass of wine?

To kick off our fourth year, we are reading/discussing a book BEFORE it’s published. What a treat

When: January 18th at 8PM EST
Call in details: 724-444-7444, Call id: 90383#, Pin: 1#

Synopsis: Madora was seventeen, headed for trouble with drugs and men, when Willis rescued her. Fearful of the world and alienated from family and friends, she ran away with him and for five years they have lived alone, in near isolation. But after Willis kidnaps a pregnant teenager and imprisons her in a trailer behind the house, Madora is torn between her love for him and her sense of right and wrong. When a pit bull puppy named Foo brings into Madora’s world another unexpected person—Django Jones, a brilliant but troubled twelve-year-old boy—she’s forced to face the truth of what her life has become.

An intensely emotional and provocative story, Little Girl Gone explores the secret hopes and fears that drive good people to do dangerous things . . . and the courage it takes to make things right.

November 2011 Selection: The Orphan Sister

I love it when listeners recommend books for us to read, it’s even better when the author is available to discuss the book with us!

This month we are reading an interesting novel about triplets, exploring the relationships of a set of identical twins and their triplet sister who shared a womb. I always read/hear about twins and their connections but have never thought about how might this be different for the triplet who doesn’t share the ‘identical’ label.

I’m reading this book now and am enjoying it, I don’t know any ‘multiples’ so it’s quite interesting to read about the connections and isolation that could happen to someone.

Giveaway: Watch for a 24 book giveaway to post in the next day/two, on the Manic Mommies website

When: November 16th at 8PM EST

Call in details: 724-444-7444
     Call id: 90383#
     Pin: 1#

Synopsis: Clementine Lord is not an orphan. She just feels like one sometimes. One of triplets, a quirk of nature left her the odd one out. Odette and Olivia are identical; Clementine is a singleton. Biologically speaking, she came from her own egg. Practically speaking, she never quite left it. Then Clementine’s father—a pediatric neurologist who is an expert on children’s brains, but clueless when it comes to his own daughters—disappears, and his choices, both past and present, force the family dynamics to change at last. As the three sisters struggle to make sense of it, their mother must emerge from the greenhouse and leave the flowers that have long been the focus of her warmth and nurturing.

For Clementine, the next step means retracing the winding route that led her to this very moment: to understand her father’s betrayal, the tragedy of her first lost love, her family’s divisions, and her best friend Eli’s sudden romantic interest. Most of all, she may finally have found the voice with which to share the inside story of being the odd sister out. . . .

October 2011 Selection: The Midwife's Confession

I scold myself each morning as I walk down the stairs with three things in hand, an iPhone, iPod, and iPad. How did I become this person? A better question might be, why am I okay with this?

The easy answer, I love knowing I can carry a stack of books with me. I am listening to The Paris Wife on my iPod, reading a memoir on the iPad and if I must confess…I’m listening to a business book on my iPhone during the day. My iPhone is also my listening option for podcasts (no headphones needed).

Reading from an e-reader most of the summer I had all but forgotten what it felt like to hold a book in my hands. Then my copy of The Midwife’s Confession arrived. I found myself enjoying turning the pages as I read. This story is a page turner!

I must confess… there’s nothing like holding a real book in your hands. I hope you enjoy this month’s book as much as I did.

Click here to read my review

Happy reading, Mari

Giveaway: Watch for a 24 book giveaway to post in the next day/two, on the Manic Mommies website

When: October 5th at 8PM EST

Call in details: 724-444-7444
     Call id: 90383#
     Pin: 1#

Synopsis: Dear Anna, What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I'm so sorry…

The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle's suicide. Everything they knew about Noelle—her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family—described a woman who embraced life.

Yet there was so much they didn't know. 

With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle's friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives—and the life of a desperate stranger—with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit.

September 2011 Selection: Exposure

We have been busy reading ‘fun/light novels with a message’ this summer, something we tend to do every year. We have enjoyed these books but now it’s time to turn to more serious topics.

This month we are reading a story based on true events; if you have teenagers in your home, this is an important story that you need to read. Technology can complicate parenting, in ways I hadn’t thought about until reading this book.

I hope you will read along with us.

Synopsis: Amelia Wilkes’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, Winsome High School senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony Winter. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows and keeps their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.

When: September 21st at 8PM EST
Call in details: 724-444-7444
   Call id: 90383#
   Pin: 1#

August 2011 Selection: Deep Down True

In August we met with author Juliette Fay to discuss Deep Down True.

We had a wonderful discussion, talking about motherhood, womanhood, friendship and self discovery. 

If you were not able to join us live, the podcast is available on iTunes (search Manic Mommies Book Club).  Or click below to listen:



Synopsis: Newly divorced Dana Stellgarten has always been unfailingly nice—even to telemarketers—but now her temper is wearing thin. Money is tight, her kids are reeling from their dad's departure, and her Goth teenage niece has just landed on her doorstep. As she enters the slipstream of post-divorce romance and is befriended by the town queen bee, Dana finds that the tension between being true to yourself and being liked doesn't end in middle school…and that sometimes it takes a real friend to help you embrace adulthood in all its flawed complexity.

I encourage you to visit the author's website to learn more about her and to read her blog. In June we talked with author Melissa Senate, Melissa recently interviewed Juliette Fay, click here to read the Q&A.

Upcoming Selections: September - December

We are closing out the year with some wonderful books, moving from summer reading to more meaty novels.  Two of the stories below deal with ethical issues/discovery, all the books deal with family struggles but are unique to themselves. 

I read each in just a few days (I really couldn't put them down... I just had to find out what happened).

Book giveaway's are announced the first Wednesday of each month, watch for details on the Manic Mommies website. I hope you find time to read with us, read ahead, and enjoy the rest of the year - we have some fantastic selections and author discussions coming up!

September - December selections:

Exposure: In Exposure, Therese Fowler has written her most gripping novel to date—a ripped-from-the-headlines story of ardent young love and a nightmarish legal maelstrom that threatens to destroy two families.

Amelia’s strict father does not allow her to date, but that doesn’t stop the talented, winsome high school senior from carrying on a secret romance with her classmate Anthony. Desperately in love, the two envision a life together and plan to tell Amelia’s parents only after she turns eighteen and is legally an adult. Anthony’s mother, Kim, who teaches at their school, knows—and keeps—their secret. But the couple’s passion is exposed sooner than planned: Amelia’s father, Harlan, is shocked and infuriated to find naked pictures of Anthony on his daughter’s computer. Just hours later, Anthony is arrested.

Despite Amelia’s frantic protests, Harlan uses his wealth and influence with local law enforcement and the media to label Anthony a deviant who preyed on his innocent daughter. Spearheaded by a zealous prosecutor anxious to turn the case into a public crusade against “sexting,” the investigation soon takes an even more disturbing and destructive turn.

As events spiral wildly out of control and the scandalous story makes national news, Amelia and Anthony risk everything in a bold and dangerous attempt to clear their names and end the madness once and for all.

The Midwife's Confession: Dear Anna, What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I'm so sorry…

The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle's suicide. Everything they knew about Noelle—her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family—described a woman who embraced life.

Yet there was so much they didn't know.

With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle's friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives—and the life of a desperate stranger—with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit.

November selection: We are finalizing our Escape selection.  Watch for details later this summer.

The Stormchasers: A powerful novel about twins who must confront a dark secret from their past. In this emotional and provocative new novel, Blum asks the question: How far would you go to protect a sibling-and at what cost to yourself?

As a teenager, Karena Jorge has always taken care of her twin brother, Charles. Obsessed with severe weather, Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder, begins chasing storms. Refusing to take his medication, Charles soon involves them both in a terrifying tornado chase-with deadly consequences.

Now, two decades later, Karena must find her long-estranged brother before he reveals the dark secret from their past or hurts himself-or someone else. But there is only one way to find him: the storms...

June Book Discussion - rescheduled to Jun 29th

Just a quick post to let everyone know that our June book club discussion will be delayed one week. 

If you won a copy of the book in the giveaway, you should have received it by now.  Everyone is buzzing about this one, such a fun book for summer!

Please feel free to leave a comment with questions/discussion topics (or email me).

Call now scheduled for June 29th at 8PM EST

Where:  (724) 444-7444
Call ID: 90383
Pin:1#

Original post

July 2011 Selection: Violets of March

Last summer, by pure coincidence, my family moved the same day Erin’s family moved to New York. Even though our paths don’t cross in real life I found comfort knowing someone else was going through something similar. I remember July passing by in a flash, spending every minute unpacking and get settled (thriving on order… this couldn’t happen fast enough for me).

This summer I’m determined will find time to unwind and relax, taking in all that summer has to offer on the east coast. With fairs to attend almost every weekend, fun runs, parades… summer will be a new experience (so different than in the Midwest). I hope everyone finds time to unwind this summer, taking time to read on the deck, enjoying an upcoming road trip, baseball, time at the cabin, the choices are many.

Our July book selection was just released and I’m thrilled to say it’s getting great reviews!

Click here to read an author interview with Nicole from Linus's Blanket.

Giveaway: We have 24 books to giveaway, visit the Manic Mommies website for details.  Giveaway closed

When: July 20th at 8PM EST
Where: Call-in details will be available a week before the call

Synopsis: A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

I encourage you to visit the author's website to learn more about her, read her blog, and to watch a book trailer that will leave you wanting more!

June 2011 Selection: The Love Goddess' Cooking School

Ask and your wish may come true!  We requested book ideas/suggestions earlier this year and a few Manic Mommies readers requested a book with a cooking theme.  I'm happy to say we were able to find a great book that's about so much more than cooking.

Giveaway: Watch for a 24 book giveaway to post in the next day/two, on the Manic Mommies website

When: June 22nd at 8PM EST
Where: Call-in details will be available a week before the call

We are finalizing our book selections for the rest of the year - if you have a suggestion (title, genre, theme) please send Mari an email, we will try to accommodate the request.

Synopsis: 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.

Summer Selections (June - August)

I can't believe how quickly the year is going by - we just wrapped up our May giveaway and it's time to announce our summer selections. We pass a milestone this summer, our July book is our 30th book club selection. Some of our readers have read every one, it's been a wonderful experience.

I hope you find time to read with us, read ahead, and enjoy summer - we have some fantastic selections and author discussions coming up!

Click here to read our book selections for January - May

June - August Selections:

The Love Goddess' Cooking School: Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces dailyBenvenuti! (Welcome!)

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.

The Violets of March: A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author. 

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

Deep Down True: Newly divorced Dana Stellgarten has always been unfailingly nice—even to telemarketers—but now her temper is wearing thin. Money is tight, her kids are reeling from their dad's departure, and her Goth teenage niece has just landed on her doorstep. As she enters the slipstream of post-divorce romance and is befriended by the town queen bee, Dana finds that the tension between being true to yourself and being liked doesn't end in middle school…and that sometimes it takes a real friend to help you embrace adulthood in all its flawed complexity.

May 2011 Selection: Exit the Actress

I enjoy reading historical fiction so this month I'm excited to announce that we are reading Exit the Actress.  Having finished reading the book a few weeks ago I can tell you this is a delightful novel told with letters, articles and journal entries. We will have a lively discussion with author Priya Parmar late May and I can't wait to talk to her. 

Giveaway: Watch for a 24 book giveaway to post in the next day/two, on the Manic Mommies website

When: May 18th at 8PM EST
Where: Call-in details will be available a week before the call

Synopsis: 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.

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about herself: I love: words, writing, books, water, sunshine, dear friends, a worn stone, peppermint, old maps, new cities, lost shoes, pocket watches, 1920’s dresses, handwriting, peonies, sea shells, 1930’s poetry, broken in boots and language.

My mother taught me to write. Whether it was a birthday card or a post it or a thank you letter, she encouraged me to really think about the capabilities of a line, of a rhythm. She made it exploratory and fun.

Then I worked for Eve Ensler, the playwright of the Vagina Monologues, and she wields language with such gorgeous dexterity. She can make people think and experience with words.

I loved being in academic. I loved the rigor and discipline of study. It was wonderful training to write a historical novel. I love history, story and the fictitious place where they meet. I love hearing about what readers love to read. I find it tells you so much about someone.

A favorite book?  There are several that love in a wonderful flexible way that keeps them relevant and current in my life.

The Great Gatsby, I was asked once, who my favourite fictional villain was and I chose Daisy Buchanan. Her brittle, destructive, vigilance over her own happiness always shocks me. The irony of that being the exact element that keeps her unhappy is just genius.

Room with a View, Mr. Emerson’s unabashed love and hope for his son George always makes me feel brave and alive. George takes all that faith and puts it toward loving Lucy Honeychurch is such an active verb way. I love it.

Persuasion, I love the quiet steadfast way that Anne Elliot loves.

An Equal Music, It is just a shatteringly beautiful book.

For fun, I am reading Anne Fortier’s Juliet and loving it. For research I am reading about thirty books, among them, The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicholson. It is about the summer of 1911 in the last moments before the world fell apart.

April 2011 Selection: The Four Ms. Bradwell's

I'm excited for this months selection!  Meg Waite Clayton joined us in Napa (Escape 2009) to discuss The Wednesday Sisters so talking to Meg to discuss The Four Mrs. Bradwell's will be exciting for those of who met her a few years ago.

Meg will be wearing her pearls for our call and encourages each of us to do the same.    :)

Click here to return to the Manic Mommies post for The Four Ms. Bradwells




When: April 20th at 8PM EST

Call Details: (724) 444-7444
Enter: 90383 #
Enter: 1 #

Synopsis: 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.

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself:  With the publication of The Four Ms. Bradwells, I have three novels on bookstore shelves, and am working on a fourth which Ballantine will publish probably in 2013, depending in part on how fast I can write it. But I didn't start out being a novelist, I started out as someone who wanted to be a novelist but had no idea how one went about that - much less any faith in my own talent. I went off to the University of Michigan thinking I would become a doctor, one of the few educational and career paths I understood. I emerged after seven years as a corporate lawyer in a tidy blue suit, and it was years later - and only at my husband's gentle reminder that I wasn't getting younger - that I got up the nerve to give writing a serious try. I was thirty-two by then, and pregnant with my second son, who was eleven when my first novel was published. Writing, I've discovered, is a lot harder than it looks.

Along the way, I wrote short stories and essays, and more than a few pages that are in the proverbial drawer. I had great luck on the first piece I ever published, an essay called "What the Medal Means" which sold quickly to the only publication I could imagine it in: Runner's World. The other short nonfiction I've published has also placed relatively easily, but my fiction was slower going. I sent stories out again and again before they began to sell, revising each time before I mailed them until they did finally start appearing in publications that include Shenandoah, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Literary Review.

My fiction is not closely autobiographical, but I do draw heavily from my own emotions and experiences as I write. If you're interested, you can find quite a bit about how I've drawn from life for my writing on the Book Groups pages for each book. For starters, anything clever any child has done in anything I've written was likely first done by my sons Chris and Nick. Like Nelly in The Language of Light, I moved with them to the Maryland horse country that is fictionalized in that novel, to a farm that looked much like hers. Like the Wednesday Sisters, I've been raising them all the years I've been writing, developing the ability to write anywhere and anytime. Like Frankie, I moved a few times in my writing life, from Los Angeles to Baltimore to Nashville and now to Palo Alto, California. Growing up, I lived in ten different houses in Washington D.C., Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Jersey before I went off to college. Like Betts from The Four Ms. Bradwells, I went to the University of Michigan and Michigan Law, where I lived in a house with a ratty old couch on its porch that, again, looks remarkably like the Ms. Bradwells' law school home. Sadly, unlike Betts, I have yet to be nominated for the Supreme Court - but I'm still willing! 

Friendships are definitely at the core of my writing; I'm blessed with remarkable friends who fill that particular emotional well for me, and support me as I write. Jennifer Belt DuChene, my lawschool roommate, remains among my closest friends in the world, as does my Tuesday sister and fellow novelist, Brenda Rickman Vantrease, and my Tuesday brother and husband, Mac Clayton. My writing is an homage to them, and to all my friends.

Do you have a favorite book that you find you keep recommending to people to read?  Middlemarch AND To Kill a Mockingbird. Don't make me pick!

What are you reading now?  I'm actually reading a draft of a novel called "Playdate," written by my friend, Leslie Berlin. Her The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley is a terrific story - and a book I relied on heavily as I was writing The Wednesday Sisters. "Playdate" is her first venture into fiction.

March 2011 Selection: Sanibel Scribbles

When we were putting together our book selections for the first half of the year I asked for book recommendations from our readers.  I'm please to say that this months book recommendation came from a regular participant with the MMBC and fellow book blogger. Thank you Jilleen for suggesting Sand in My EyesClick here to read Jill's interview with the author.

Update: We originally planned to read Sand in my Eyes, now we are reading Sanibel Scribbles which is the authors latest novel. 

When: March 23rd (8PM EST)

Synopsis: After the shocking death of her friend, a woman embarks on a grief journey that takes her to a remote Florida island, then to Madrid, Spain. Along the way, she turns her own fear of death into a passion for living. Strangers entangle her in their secrets while revealing truths about life, death and things worth doing. They inspire her to re-evaluate the dreams she has for her life.

Three questions with the author:

Tell us a little about yourself: I live on Sanibel Island—a sanctuary island off Florida’s Gulf Coast—with my husband, three children and our brand new puppy! We live in what looks like a bird house on stilts. My children are 10, 8 and 4 and I find myself spinning in circles half the time like a chicken with its head cut off, going into the kitchen and forgetting why I went in there in the first place. There are mounds of laundry (clean laundry) on the floor of my bedroom. I am great at washing it but never find the time to fold and put it away. There is never enough time in a day for me to get done all that I want to get done. So much a mother does goes unnoticed and unrecognized, but I remind myself all the time that what we mothers are doing when our children are small is working on the underground roots, the things not seen but vital below the earth.

In recent years I have learned to say ‘no.’ There are infinite things a woman must do in her lifetime, more things she doesn’t want to do but has to do than there are things she wants to do and can. And whether she is doing what she wants to be doing or doing what she must, there is never sufficient time in a day to get it all done. I have learned to cut out that which isn’t needed in my garden, in my life—trimming away that which serves no purpose and benefits neither me nor others. And I’ve learned to space my plants appropriately. I feel that overplanting, crowding your days with too many commitments, activities and involvements leads to disease and fungus and the things you want to do won’t stand a chance at surviving.

When I start feeling exhausted, I choose to do nothing. I can recognize when I need a break and I no longer feel guilty for going to bed one night at nine o’clock, or for letting my house become a mess for a day. I think of roses and how women, like roses, need rest in order to bloom again.

Do you have a favorite book that you find you keep recommending to people to read? Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, a non-fiction book about how to speak to the heart of your child. It describes how the things your child does and says flows from what is going on in their heart, so when we are trying to understand our children and when we are instructing and disciplining them, we need to speak to their hearts. The author not only draws on his thirty years experience as a pastor, counselor, school administrator, and father, but he also shares insights gained in ten years of teaching this material in conferences worldwide. There is a workbook that comes along with the book. Someone recommended the book to me and I have since mentioned it to several friends.

What are you reading now? I am ashamed to say … nothing! I am, however, writing my fourth novel. I know writers should always be reading and I have a strong desire to climb into bed at night and start a good novel but the truth is, I haven’t an ounce of free time. I’m truly a “Manic Mommy.” I only write while my three children sleep. My youngest goes to preschool only two mornings a week and I spend that time working out, cleaning the house, and all of a sudden it’s time to pick her up already. When my kids fall asleep at night, I hurry to my computer to write. I usually write from around 9 to 11 p.m. or midnight. My days of reading will return and I look forward to that, but for now, if I want to continue writing novels, I have to give up certain things, like watching television and sadly, pleasure reading.

February 2011 Selection: Healer

This month we are meeting with Carol Cassella to discuss her latest novel, Healer.  Carol holds high status with the MMBC - she was our first author interview!  We had a wonderful time talking with her and I'm excited for her return visit.

The book was announced on the Manic Mommies website a few weeks ago, along with a book drawing (which is closed).  The book club is open to anyone who would like to participate. 

When: rescheduled to Mar 9th at 8PM EST
Call details: Dial: (724) 444-7444
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Synopsis: 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.

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself: I am currently wearing lots of hats, so where do I start? I am first and foremost a mother. My husband and I have two sets of twins (I’ll go ahead and answer the question you’re asking—yes they are natural! Set two was quite the surprise!) That alone has made for an interesting life. I’m also a doctor. I started my medical career as an internist, but I wanted a bit more time at home with my family and changed specialties to become an anesthesiologist. I really do love my work, and I’ve never regretted making that change. Anesthesia is challenging, intense, creative, FUN (often) and still does give me lots of patient contact.

Then there is the writer. That was actually my mission in life from the time I was very young, but I kept getting involved in other things (medicine, babies) and never devoted the time and dedication that serious writing takes until I was in my forties. That’s not to say I wasn’t writing—I have drawers of partially finished manuscripts and I worked as a science writer for a few years. But it took a completely different level of commitment to finish a novel. It was much harder than I expected, but also much more rewarding. Other details? I grew up in Texas, lived in the Northeast for few years and then discovered the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Hard to think I’ll ever leave!

Do you write daily? I can’t write daily. Until my children are grown and I work less at the hospital , I’m afraid that will be impossible. But I highly advise all writers to try. Writing fiction, and probably non-fiction as well, is a bit like maintaining a dream while awake. Much as a dream can feel tangible and unforgettable right after you open your eyes, it’s often forgotten by the time you brush your teeth. I try to remember that whatever I would have written today will never make it onto the page unless I make time to put it there. What I write tomorrow may be just as good, but it won’t be the same.

What was it like getting your first novel published? Nothing short of awesome! I had no expectations of being published when I started Oxygen, though I certainly poured my soul into it. I think my path was easier than many new writers, and for that I am very grateful. I found a wonderful agent early in the game and they were able to sell my novel quickly. Still, there is as much work that lies on the other side of the ‘published’ wall as there is leading up to it. Promoting, marketing, learning a whole new industry, and still keeping your next book alive and growing. That has been a huge challenge for me.

What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? Although I would secretly love to own one, they scare me. I worry that the electronic model may drive our wonderful, critically important independent bookstores out of business, and they contribute so much to the variety and vitality of what is published and made available to the reading public. Regardless, electronic books are here to stay, so we need to hope that they will eventually open avenues for smaller presses and less commercial writers. But we really have to find a model that works economically. If digital publications drive publishers under, many brilliant voices will never make it into any kind of print. We need to pay for books if we want books to survive. I’m a huge fan of libraries, too, but I know so many starving writers who are not getting their second or third books published because their publisher lost money on their earlier work. Support the arts!

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? Don’t give up!! Reading is easy and fun, so it is natural to fall prey to the myth that writing should always be easy and fun. That makes no more sense than believing a musician can make music without long hours of practice. Also, read carefully. When you discover a great book, take a paragraph or two and crawl inside it. Figure out what makes it work. Ask not only why the author put those particular words on the page, but why did he or she NOT choose other words, or a different point of view or a different voice. The beauty of writing is that there is always more to learn, always room to improve.