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Archive for May, 2011

Guest Katie Alender on Running on Empty

May 31, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Blank pages. At one point or another, most writers fear them. However, in today’s guest post, Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011) describes two different blank pages and how one applies to us all.]

Running On Empty

A lot has been said about blank pages. As a writer, you can’t escape them. They’re in your job description. A first draft is nothing but blank pages. And even when you’re revising and feeling good—coasting along with the confidence of a puppy—BOOM! One pops up, right in your face: a blank page.

The farther I get on a project and the harder I work, the more I notice a distressing trend: blank pages start following me around. They find me at Twitter, where 140 characters suddenly seem insurmountable. They find me at Facebook, where no phrase on earth seems sufficiently pithy/hilarious/relevant. And they lurk at my blog, where the “New Post” screen stares me down like the eye of a giant killer whale.

In these helpless moments, it inevitably hits me: “I can’t do it. I’m out. I literally can’t think of a single thing to say.”

And then I think, “Aaaaaaargh, I suck!”

But then, a few seconds later, something odd happens: I start to feel okay about it. In fact, I start to feel good.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are actually two kinds of blank pages. There’s the kind everybody thinks of: the kind that means you haven’t started yet. But there’s another kind, too: the kind that you earn.

And as a writer, I’m always in pursuit of the second kind.

Over the holidays, I went skiing in Colorado. To say I’ve never been much of a skier is an insult to actual skiers everywhere. (I’m better described as a “faller/cryer.”) But this time, I really wanted to learn. So I spent five hours a day, for all four days, in ski school. I suited up and headed out while the rest of the family was still drinking their coffee. I missed the ball dropping, went to bed at nine, and skied on New Year’s Day. I skied when it was minus twenty degrees and our hair froze into icy webs around our faces. I skied when my instincts told me to toss myself into the snow and cry.

At the end of every day, I felt like I’d earned something. By the end of the week… well, you couldn’t say I was a good skier. But I’d made a lot of progress. More importantly, I knew I’d given it every ounce of energy I had. And that felt amazing.

When I’m neck-deep in a draft or a revision, feeling utterly flummoxed, my five-day-old status update or my empty “New Post” screen is actually a tiny signal that I might be doing something right. Yeah, there are little boats waiting in the harbor, but that’s because the tugboats are out there in the open water, bringing in the tanker.

It’s terrifically bracing to work to your limit. Suddenly, the mythical blank page isn’t terrifying; it’s simply impossible. It’s not scary; it’s just a mountain to be climbed another day. And because you’ve conquered so many before, you stop associating them with terror and start thinking of them as a canvas for fresh starts and new possibilities.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever it is you love, whatever you’re committed to, do it until you’ve used yourself up. Then take a break, recharge, come back with a full tank…

And say good morning to the next blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting

May 30, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Camille Noe Pagán’s debut novel The Art of Forgetting — with its stunning cover and intriguing title — bows down from bookstore shelves next Thursday, June 9, 2011.

The book, based on a seemingly simple premise of forever friends, is actually a complex, multi-layered tale that both fascinates, frustrates, and fills a reader with questions to what it means to be or who is a friend?

The idea for the storyline came first from the author’s desire to write a book about the nitty-gritty of female friendships and then combine aspects of what she had learned from writing a magazine article about brain injuries. For example, brain injuries are very common — yet very overlooked — in young women and even a relatively minor trauma can have a drastic impact on one’s personality.

Of course what makes Camille’s novel ring true are the well-defined characters that she’s created. Her two main friends, including every one of the supporting cast, are believable in their intentions and motivations….in other words, they’re humanly flawed. Here’s the synopsis for The Art of Forgetting:

Forgive and forget—but not necessarily in that order.

Marissa Rogers never wanted to be an alpha; beta suited her just fine, thank you very much. After all, taking charge without taking credit had always paid off: vaulting her to senior editor at a glossy diet magazine; allowing her to keep the peace with her critical, weight-obsessed mother; and enjoying the benefits that came with being best friends with gorgeous, charismatic Julia Ferrar.

Sure, coming up with 15 different ways to lose five pounds month after month could be mind-numbing. And yes, Julia was a walking, talking reminder that Marissa would never be the type to turn heads. So what? There was no reason to upend her perfect-on-paper life.

But when Julia is hit by a cab and suffers a personality-altering brain injury, Marissa has no choice but step into the role of alpha friend. As Julia struggles to regain her memory—dredging up things Marissa would rather forget, including the fact that Julia asked her to abandon the love of her life 10 years ago—and to return to the sharp, magnetic woman she once was, their friendship is shaken to the core.

With the help of 12 girls she reluctantly agrees to coach in an after-school running program, Marissa will uncover an inner confidence she never knew she possessed and find the courage to reexamine her past and take control of her future.

The Art of Forgetting is a story about the power of friendship, the memories and self-created myths that hold us back from our true potential, and most of all, the delicate balance between forgiving and forgetting.

The Praise is here and a highly recommended Excerpt — Chapter One. Although a brief chapter, this is the introduction and set-up to the tale.

For it’s in those first few pages that the accident occurs and the lives of both friends change forever. Also, by jumping right into the action, the author makes certain that Julia is only known and described primarily through Marissa’s perspective. Camille intentionally did this because she believed, “[it] would help readers understand both Marissa’s loyalty and frustration towards Julia as a person.”

And learning the truth about this friendship is at the heart of this story. With major kudos to the author, The Art of Forgetting is not a tear-jerker, not at all. While Marissa feels/displays genuine empathy and a sadness that Julia will never be the same again, the accident loosens their bond enough to allow Marissa to see her friend objectively. She grieves the loss, accepts what was, and hesitantly moves on. What friendships give — or what we let them take — is not always for the best. Without *spoilers*, it can be told that Marissa forgave her friend and herself, forgot what hurt had been done, and forged a new equal friendship with Julia.

Because, yes, Julia — pre/post-injury — is a controversial character, even a dangerous one at times. However, since she still needed to be somewhat likable, how did Camille handle that fine line? She says:

“A few (early) readers have said they wished Julia had been more likable, but for me, it was crucial to show just how dangerous and reckless her charisma—the very thing that made her likable to others!—could be. I do think that those closest to Marissa were most able to see Julia’s flaws, because they were looking out for Marissa’s best interests. In my mind, the outside world, including Julia’s colleagues and circle of friends, weren’t really privy to her dangerous, unlikable side until after her accident.”

The themes of forgiving, forgetting, friendship, and embracing one’s own self-worth are interwoven with each other throughout the novel. Yet what is its message? According to this debut author, “the novel’s message is that friendship is an ongoing choice with participation of both people involved. Even in an uneven friendship…. ”

The Art of Forgetting is a gorgeous novel telling a story of individuals who are who they are — real people as imperfect as we all are. And it felt appropriate for The Divining Wand to ask Camille Noe Pagán what she would like readers to know first and foremost about her debut?

“I think that readers, even those who don’t know me, will assume that I am Marissa. She and I share many things in common—our professional backgrounds, of course, and to some degree, our insecurities. Yet writing Forgetting led me to the realization that I’ve got a dose of Julia in me, too; I think most of us do. I’ve had a few friendships fall apart (who hasn’t?!) and I often blamed the other person for one reason rather than looking at my own role. Forgetting gave me a better understanding of just how complex friendships are. Just like marriage, both parties are almost always involved in damaging or disintegrating the relationship.

Writing Forgetting also made me a better friend. As a writer, I examined the motivation of every single one of my characters, which gave me a great deal of empathy for each of them–even my villains. No surprise, I began looking at the real people in my life with more empathy, too.”

The Art of Forgetting — truly beautiful inside and out — can be yours next week. Enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook are Kate Ledger, Dee, and Tiffany D.. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Eileen Cook’s Fourth Grade Fairy

May 26, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Truth be told, Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Unpredictable) is among The Divining Wand’s most popular authors with her positive, common sense, and humor-filled storytelling for all ages. Case in point is Eileen’s latest book, Fourth Grade Fairy, the first of three middle school novels. (The second in this series, Wishes for Beginners will be released on June 14, 2011 followed by the third and final novel, Gnome Invasion available on August 16, 2011.)

Since this Fairy Godmother feels connected to any age fairy — especially one in training — I asked the author what sparked this magical idea? And Eileen said:

“I wish I knew! I knew I wanted to write a book for younger readers and the character of Willow came to mind. I couldn’t imagine anything more fun that someone who could talk to animals and do magic — especially since what she wants most of all is to be “‘normal.'” Willow’s world complete with sarcastic dogs, dragon farms, and flying was so much fun to play in as a writer.”

“I would love to write more middle grade books. I’m chatting with my editor about different ideas and hope to settle on something soon. Keep a little room on your shelf — I’ll do my best to fill it!”

In the meantime, let’s enjoy this fourth grade fairy who happily agreed to introduce herself through an abbreviated Q&A. Here’s Willow:

Q: Please describe your life in 8 words?
A: Complicated, busy, sometimes unfair, friends, exciting, interesting, lucky and magical!

Q; What is your motto?
A: The best magic is a best friend.

Q: What is your perfect happiness?
A: Rubbing a dog belly.

Q: What are you afraid of?
A: Gnomes. Their tiny little hands are kinda creepy.

Q: If you could have another magical power, what would you want it to be?
A: Make my older-know-it-all sister disappear.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Saving my sister’s life even though I would have been completely justified in letting her being eaten by a lizard. Also, I have the coolest best friend ever.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I am not afraid to try and solve my own problems, it might be better for me to ask for help sometimes, but you can’t be perfect at everything.

Q: What really annoys you?
A: Unicorns. Everyone thinks they are great, but they can be snotty. They like to toss you off if you try and ride them and then they come over and poke you with their horn when you are on the ground.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Chocolate chip toffee cookies from Enchanted Sugar bakery.

Almost “normal,” isn’t she? 🙂

Here’s the Fourth Grade Fairy synopsis:


All Willow Doyle wants is to be normal, to fit in at her new school, and to have a best friend. But there’s no way Willow will ever be normal. There isn’t anything normal about her or the Doyle family.


Willow comes from a long line of fairy godmothers and she’s expected to be one too when the time comes. (At the moment she’s merely sprite status.) Maybe that would be cool if it were like the old days when the humans — known as humdrums — knew fairy godmothers existed and the fairies didn’t have to keep their fairy status secret. Now they’re stuck helping humans who don’t even believe in them. Rather than help normals, Willow would rather be human. She’s sick of being weird.

When she’s given the chance to attend a humdrum elementary school for two weeks, this is Willow’s chance to finally experience a normal life — but will she be able to fit in? And can she find her best friend there, even if her parents discourage making friends with humans?

Also, as a reluctant fairy-in-training, can she keep her newly acquired powers a secret? Or, perhaps more importantly, can she get along with her older sister?

Take a brief peek from Chapter One:

Why having an older sister is a pain:
She never lets you touch her stuff

She bosses you around all the time

She acts like they know everything

Your parents will let them do all kinds of things that you aren’t allowed to do

She get all the new outfits and you have to wear hand-me-downs (even though her favorite color is green, which you hate)

I can think of a lot more reasons, but I would need more paper. Everyone is always surprised to find out Lucinda is my sister. This is because never has stuff spilled on her shirt and her hair never sticks up. She always remembers to say thank you, please, and excuse me. My sister always has her homework done on time, she never snorts when she laughs. Oh, and she can fly.

My sister is a pain.

Willow has become popular in the past five weeks since her story’s been in bookstores as fans write snail mail to Ms. Eileen Cook c/o Simon & Schuster.

Of course that’s just the envelope. According to the author, the actual letter was covered in crayoned hearts. Her reaction? “I love it. I keep it on my desk. All writers are in love with their readers. We so appreciate that people take the time to read our books, especially given how many great books are out there. The best thing about writing for teens and young readers is that they love to reach out to their favorite writers.”

Fourth Grade Fairy is fun, charming, and gives a slight nod to the supernatural books that adolescents are reading….without the scary elements, of course. Instead it’s pure magic mixed in with human (humdrum) life.

It’s delightful and the book’s message is told in Eileen’s ultimate wish for Willow:

“What I wish for Willow (and for so many others out there) is that they learn to love who they are and what makes them special instead of focusing on how they feel they don’t fit in or match up to what is “‘normal.'” Normal is way overrated.”

Now how much would any young girl you know love to spend the summer with the Fourth Grade Fairy? Willow welcomes all human friends!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Fourth Grade Fairy by Eileen Cook in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Sunday, May 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to see if you’re a winner.

Announcement: The winner of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore is jennifer downing. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Katie Alender

May 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When YA author Katie Alender debuted in April, 2009 with Bad Girls Don’t Die, it was considered a standalone novel. But its success had her publisher, Hyperion, thinking a three book series and the second book of that series — Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed — releases on June 14, 2011, the third (yet untitled) will follow next summer.

In a very brief description: The BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE series is a chilling lineup of horror novels for teens.

Scary and excellent with the following honors bestowed on Book 1, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE:

~Selected for the Tayshas Reading List of the Texas Library Association

~Available through Scholastic Book Clubs

~Named to the New York Public Library’s 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list

Now Book 2, FROM BAD TO CURSED has already earned this Praise:

“This book made me wish I still slept with a night-light! A smart, scary ride.”
– Melissa de la Cruz, NYT bestselling author of the Blue Bloods Series

“FROM BAD TO CURSED sent a creepy, delicious chill up my spine. All I could think when I turned the last page was more, more, more!”
- Heather Brewer, NYT bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Series

“In the classic tradition of Stephen King, Alender will have you sleeping with the lights on.”
- Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, NYT Bestselling authors of the Beautiful Creatures Series

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of From Bad to Cursed on Monday, June 6, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katie Alender is the author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series from Disney-Hyperion. She is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing novels, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends’ dogs). She enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston.

Of course there’s so much more to Katie as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Always curious, always fascinated; much love; loved well.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My short one: Judge not lest ye be judged.

My long one is a Heinlein quote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Keeping one’s priorities in order and always finding something to look forward to. (I’m pretty good with part B, but still working on part A!)

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being actively disliked for being who I really am. (Indifference I can live with!) It has taken me many years to be content with myself, and part of that is based on the kitten-like trust I have that people respond to other people who are genuinely trying to be as real and kind as possible. There is a great deal of intolerance in the world, much of it based on a refusal to look past one’s own perception and judgment of others. And I feel that a lot of evil is rooted in that lack of compassion. It’s scary and sad to me.

Also, looking dumb in public.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Either in a small pub in a rainy town in Ireland or in my house. If you look up “homebody” in the dictionary, I’m there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I have a great admiration for CS Lewis and the way his mind worked, and the way he was always on the lookout for beauty, fascination, and meaning; and he stayed humble (at least in his writings, he did).

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I admire any person who has a dream or a calling and follows it whole-heartedly and fearlessly, especially if doing so doesn’t involve stomping on other people.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: seriously, honestly, holy moly (in my books it’s people looking, sighing, glancing, and turning–but to be fair, we all do quite a lot of looking, glancing, and turning in our everyday lives… I’m just keeping it real)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I wish I had some kind of musical ability. I would love to be able to sing and play the piano. If there were elective surgery that could make you a good singer, I would get it. Just for my own amusement.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Obviously there are the books. Other than that, I would say it’s my ability to truly enjoy 99% of people I come into contact with and to make them feel happy and appreciated.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I can be paranoid. Also, I’m horrible at sharing food. I’m like a cavewoman. And I think sometimes I can be a smartass.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My ability to be interested in almost anything or anyone.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I make it a point not to regret things that have had a profound impact on my life, because those events shaped me, for better or for worse. There have been times when I’ve been unkind to people, and I regret those times very much.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Hey, I gotta be me. I have to see where this train is going!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Gosh, I don’t really know. I don’t know how most people perceive me. I know some people think I’m funny, and some people tell me I’m very relaxed (which I find hilarious, because I feel pretty wound up most of the time).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I’m a big fan of Professor Snape, as he’s played by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not much of a sports fan! The opportunity would probably be wasted on me. I would be interested in sitting next to a very good figure skater at a competition and having them analyze the competitors for me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: This is going to be oddly specific. When you’re waiting for your bags at the luggage carousel, trying not to shove in too close, and clueless people come and stand directly in front of you. Like, why on earth do you think I’m standing here, for my health? Can’t we all stand five feet back and step forward when our bags are close by?

I also hate it when people abuse waiters, flight attendants–anyone you have any kind of power over. Get over yourself! Be a human being!

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Sewing

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: If I could just keep doing what I’m currently doing, I’d be pretty happy. I’m also looking forward to being a mom (at some point–that’s not an admission of anything)!

If I had to choose something else, I’d like to be a teacher and work with tweens and teens.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Competence, humor, and humility.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Oh, Lordy. Can I pick something with lots of ingredients, so I can make myself different variations? How about a stew? In terms of the least offensive food, probably english muffins the way I eat them every morning–one half with butter and cinnamon-sugar, the other half with peanut butter. Or Diet Coke. Which would probably ensure that the rest of the days would pass quickly.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Alice in Wonderland, played by Dave Brubeck
Jolene, by Dolly Parton
Work, by Jars of Clay
Let’s Live for Today, by the Grass Roots
Romeo and Juliet, (as performed by the Killers… the original was Elvis Costello)

Q; What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris
Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Smart, funny, and such an honest, standup individual, Katie Alender is one of the best role model for young adults. Follow her — or have your daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc. follow — on Twitter, become a fan of her Series on Facebook, and a fan on her 
Author Facebook page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Camille Noe Pagán on Reading Saves Lives

May 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Reading educates, enlightens, entertains and even allows us to escape from or clarify personal problems. In today’s guest post, Camille Noe Pagán (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011) chronicles how reading also can be the ultimate lifesaver.

And, on that related note, please remember that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of The Art of Forgetting to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

Reading Saves Lives

After I emailed Caroline Leavitt to tell her I loved her recent novel, Pictures of You, she mailed me a handmade bookplate. It was a photo of wings on the sidewalk in front of a brownstone. Beneath it, Caroline wrote:

“Camille, reading saves our life.”

Cute, I thought at the time.

But that saying burrowed under my skin like a tick; try as I might, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. While I was out jogging one day, I suddenly realized that Caroline was right. Reading had saved my life–more than a few times.

During my childhood, I followed in the footsteps of millions before me and escaped the misery and sadness of youth by losing myself in books. I became an Egyptologist while reading The Egypt Game; took on the White Witch alongside Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; and let the green world bring me alive like Mary and Colin in The Secret Garden.

In my twenties, after despairing of my instinct to flee a relationship that was so good for me I didn’t know how to handle it, I read Charles Baxter’s The Feast of Love twice in a row, then went around recommending it like a door-to-door evangelist offering free copies of the Bible. (Spoiler alert: I married the good-for-me guy. Thank you, Mr. Baxter, for that nudge.)

While a friend of mine was dying from terminal cancer, I dove back into my favorite novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer, a story that illustrates, among other things, the way humans are interconnected with nature and every living thing. It was a sustaining thought in a time of internal chaos.

As a journalist (my other hat, when I’m not writing fiction), I cover health and wellness. I’ve written about depression and crisis more times than I can count, and the thing I hear from physicians and therapists time and time again is this: getting out of your own head can stop your negative, depressive thoughts and help you feel better. Our self-focus can drown us if we swim in it too long. But when we participate in activities that make us look outward–whether it’s exercising, volunteering, or being with friends–it breaks through those thoughts and offers perspective. Reading does this in the most primal way: it takes you out of your head and puts you in someone else’s.

The ability to leave my life and enter a fictional one—even for a few minutes—has kept me from sinking so many times (no surprise, writing fiction has a very similar effect). To me, at its core every novel is about redemption. When the characters we are reading about triumph, or even just survive, we cheer along side them because it reinforces the idea that we, too, can survive and triumph.

A month or so ago, a woman emailed me. It turns out that she helped copyedit my novel, The Art of Forgetting, which is about how two friends’ relationship is forever changed after one of them suffers a brain injury. She told me that while she was working on Forgetting, someone close to her had suffered a serious head injury. Your novel was a great source of comfort to me during that time, she wrote. Thank you.

It was then I knew that writing the novel had been a worthwhile endeavor; I had finally paid forward what Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Baxter and countless other authors have done for me. I may not have literally saved that woman, but my book had been a lifeboat during her flood. I’ve had some lovely early reviews–and, of course, some less-than-lovely, too. None of those words, good or bad, have meant nearly as much to me as the email that said, Your book helped me.

Reading saves lives. If you don’t believe me, crack open a book the next time you feel yourself starting to sink.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Meg Mitchell Moore and The Arrivals

May 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

In her debut novel, The Arrivals available this Wednesday, May 25, 2011, Meg Mitchell Moore writes in the genre of a “quiet little novel” focused on everyday people leading everyday lives. Except if that book is based on a three generation family all living together in one household for the summer — and this book is –, then the storyline may not be that quiet.

Ironically the idea for The Arrivals came from the upheaval of the first novel Meg began to write. Halfway through that work-in-progress, realizing it wasn’t working for her at all, she salvaged some characters and their relationships to use in an entirely new book that would become the debut. However the themes of grandparents, and adult children leaning on their parents remained — albeit with a fresh tone and more relevant problems consistent with each generation.

Mother and first-born daughter, along with her own three-year old daughter and infant son, formed the initial relationships and then the rest of the family joined the fray that evolved into this synopsis for The Arrivals:

It’s early summer when Ginny and William’s peaceful life in Burlington, Vermont, comes to an abrupt halt.

First, their daughter Lillian arrives, two children in tow, to escape her crumbling marriage. Next, their son Stephen and his pregnant wife Jane show up for a weekend visit, which extends indefinitely. When their youngest daughter Rachel appears, fleeing her difficult life in New York, Ginny and William find themselves consumed again by the chaos of parenthood—only this time around, their children are facing adult problems.

By summer’s end, the family gains new ideas of loyalty and responsibility, exposing the challenges of surviving the modern family — and the old adage, once a parent, always a parent, has never rung so true.

While the adage rings true, so does the Praise.

One of the reasons for Meg Mitchell Moore’s success with this novel is in her ability to show, rather than tell. The family members — introduced with good pacing — are defined/described/identified primarily by their dialogue and behavior. Yes, for each character’s present problem, there is a backstory as explanation, yet not a detailed one. There’s just enough information given to pique readers’ curiosity to wonder what will they do next? And, because there are five adults and two small children living in the house, the struggles, reactions and dynamics are constantly changing. As a result, this is a natural page-turner exploring how individual crises affect the family as a whole.

However don’t expect The Arrivals to feature a dysfunctional family — i.e. one that implodes in ager and blame at the dinner table. For the most part, the adult children keep their problems private until they need to ask for help. Coming home is their safe haven, a place of comfort, temporary escape and where they know their parents will care for them.

As parents Ginny and William are loving and accepting, even avoiding prying into their childrens’ problems. But they do have their limits and feeling overwhelmed by the disorder that their children and grandchildren create inevitably tries their patience. So, in addition to the obvious theme of once a parent always a parent, there’s also: Coming home reverts even an adult to his/her childhood self. The author, agreeing with this observation, says:

“It’s so true! I recently wrote a guest blog post about things NOT to do when bringing your young children to your parents’ home, and most of the items on the list are things I have done. I leave things lying around at my parents’ house that I would never leave around at my own house. It’s completely obnoxious of me, and I think it’s very common too: you go home, you want to be taken care of, no matter how old you are.”

On the other hand, Meg’s description of family/home also holds the book’s message:

“Home is a rest stop on the highway of life. It shouldn’t be the final destination.”

She proves this with an insightful clarity to variations of timeless family problems, including the question of how best to raise children. Stay-at-home Mom, stay-at-home Dad, or something to accommodate both parents’ careers? Nurturing/caring with love is essential, but so is the need to foster independence and allow the children to one day be able to leave home for good.

When asked, though, what would she like readers to know most about The Arrivals, Meg Mitchell Moore said:

“I love these characters. I know they are flawed, and I know they’ve made mistakes. (They wouldn’t be very interesting if they were perfect.) The cover of the Australian edition, which is a fantastic depiction of a crowded toothbrush holder, says that the book will make you “’laugh, cry…and want to phone home.’” I think that’s very apt. I hope at least some readers feel that way when they close the book.”

And what this Fairy Godmother would like readers to know most about The Arrivals: It is a lovingly honest, and engagingly thoughtful story of how a family — of all ages — comes together with universal love.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, III

May 19, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As must be known by now, Eleanor Brown’s (The Weird Sisters) alternative answer for a fictional BFF inspired TDW to ask its other authors her question:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This final week features responses from the following writers, including Eleanor with a new answer:

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011):

“I’m too much of a pragmatist (okay, I’ll admit it… I’m a homebody/hermit) to want to stray too far from home for any extended period of time–but I wouldn’t mind spending a week with the Darcys at Pemberley! I’d also be curious to drop in on Galt’s Gulch from “Atlas Shrugged.”‘

~Elise Allen (Populazzi YA coming August 1, 2011):

“Easy — I want to live in Harry Potter’s world. I’d opt for being Hermione — the perfect mix of magic and muggle. Plus I really really want her watch that stops time and gives her extra hours in the day.”

~Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“I would love to live in the world JK Rowling created. Even with the evil Voldermort around, it’d be great fun to do magic and fly and see dragons and such. Alternatively, I’d love to create a literary world half as rich as the one she created.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Maeve Binchy’s Dublin, with all its warm, interconnected characters and cozy homes. Optimally, I’d have Maeve herself as my tour guide, too!”

~Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water):

“I’ve always wanted to live in Narnia. One of my favorite books is A HORSE AND HIS BOY. I loved the ideas of talking animals. And although there is war there (and nasty witches, etc.), the kids and animals were seen as wise and valuable members of society. Narnia is a true Utopia where all living things are respected (since the trees themselves could tell you that they didn’t want to be cut down), and any hardships are overcome with friendly help from neighbors.”

~Laura Dave (The First Husband The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America):

“I’d like to visit several fictional worlds — and live there temporarily! Top of my list: The fictional town of Meryton in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“I’d want to live in Oz, but unlike Dorothy, I would STAY there!”

~Jael McHenrty (The Kitchen Daughter):

“For some reason the first thing that popped into my head is that I’d want to live next door to Meg Murry’s family, from A Wrinkle in Time. Although I suppose that’s cheating since what I really want is to go on all Meg’s adventures, and meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, and Calvin O’Keefe… you get the idea. Basically, I want to be a Murry.”

~Randy Susan Meyers ( The Murderer’s Daughters):

“As I thought and thought on this, I realized why I was coming up blank. I am drawn to dark novels of dysfunctional families that they make me grateful to stay in my own dysfunctional world. Maybe that’s a blessing, or maybe that’s why I read them: there but for the grace of God go I, and thank God that my life isn’t that bad. Every sunny novel I read makes me incredibly jealous. I remember as a kid swooning in envy over LITTLE WOMEN and wanting to be in the bosom of that family. Another one was CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. Having a tiny family, somehow that seemed like the height of happiness–being surrounded by 11 other siblings.”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“I’d like to live with the March sisters and their wonderful Marmee. I’d help Jo with the school, and Amy would teach me to paint.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translatio , and ebook, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband [Kindle Edition]):

“When I think of a fictional world or neighborhood I go back to the books I loved as a child. And the one that comes to mind is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d love to be able to stow away into a private, secret magical garden perhaps to write or just enjoy the sunshine.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I will now confess a guilty pleasure of my youth: Sweet Valley High novels! Okay, I wouldn’t want to *live* in Sweet Valley, but it would be a hoot to visit. I think I would be friends with Winston Egbert.”

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Announcement: The winners of Julianna Baggott’s (Bridget Asher novel), The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, are Janel and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly.

The Revealing of Camille Noe Pagán

May 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and former editor Camille Noe Pagan debuts as an author when The Art of Forgetting arrives in bookstores June 9, 2011. [However please note that from May 16th to June 1st, the author is donating $1 per pre-order of her novel to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which provides resources and support to service members, including those who’ve suffered brain injuries.]

In this two sentence synopsis, the book is described as: A moving and insightful debut novel of great friendship interrupted. Can the relationship survive when the memories are gone?

And it’s been followed by impressive early Praise:

“This page-turner with original, likable, empathetic characters and an identifiable theme will attract readers who enjoy intelligent novels about women’s friendships.”—Library Journal

“Fastpaced and engaging, The Art of Forgetting is deliciously observant and refreshingly honest. Camille Noe Pagán is a welcome new voice.” –Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club and Comfort Food

“Charming and original…a delightful story of friendship, love, and forgiveness while exploring the surprising ways lives are forever reshaped in the aftermath of tragedy.” –Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“[A]n insightful exploration into the nature of friendship and self. This impressive debut is at turns funny, thought-provoking, and achingly sad. It is (dare I say it?) unforgettable.” –J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Art of Forgetting for Monday, May 30, 2011. But, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Camille Noe Pagán’s work has appeared in numerous national publications and websites including Allure, Cooking Light, Forbes.com, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, SELF and Women’s Health. A former magazine and online editor, she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband and children.

Not very personal, is it? Well that’s easily remedied as we get to know Camille, upclose and revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: An amazing journey that gets better every day.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Always be generous.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Good health for myself and everyone I love. Several personal tragedies over the past few years have taught me that health really is the most important thing.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: No surprise, something bad happening to my children. I can’t read books or watch movies about children getting hurt or dying–it’s like dumping gasoline on the lit match of my anxious mind!

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I’m tempted to say a beach in the Caribbean, but the truth is Brooklyn. My family and I recently moved to Ann Arbor, but I lived in New York for the better part of the last decade and I’d rather be there than anywhere else. Great food, interesting people, endless things to do: it’s the perfect place, if you can forget that you’re living in a shoebox in order to be there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I can’t say I really identify with one particular person. I’d love to spend a day in the life of Colette, Anais Nin or another great female writer from the last century or so.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Right now, journalist Lara Logan is high on my list. I admire her for speaking out about her assault in Egypt earlier this year; in doing so, she’s started a crucial conversation about sexual assault and violence against female journalists and women.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: I hate when people misuse “literally” … but I say “seriously” all the time and it’s almost as bad. You’d think I was stuck in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, circa 2005.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d have an amazing singing voice. As it stands, I sound like Julia Robert in Pretty Woman, yodeling in the bathtub with her headphones on.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: I’d like to say my daughter, 3, and son, 5 months, but they’re really gifts I can’t take credit for. So I’ll say that my greatest achievement has been my writing career as a whole. I was the first on both sides of my family to attend college, and there was a lot of pressure to do something “useful” with my degree–think law or engineering. I’m so glad I ignored the “shoulds” and followed my dream.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: My obsession with getting things done–I’m an achievaholic. Which means enjoying “now” is a daily struggle.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My drive, or I guess you could call it ambition (see above :). If I set my mind to do something–whether it’s running a marathon, writing a novel or just figuring out how to make some complicated pastry–I almost always do it.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret very little–I think most mistakes help guide us to where we’re supposed to be–but the few things I do regret, I could never put in print. 🙂

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I wouldn’t mind having Nora Ephron’s career, but I can’t say I’d want to trade places with another person.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’m 5’1″ (although you’ll rarely see me out of heels). When I meet people I know from the internet, they’re often surprised to discover that I’m, ahem, a little person.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Hmm. I love Holly Golightly in the book version of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She’s a high-class hooker with a heart of gold–the original flawed protagonist.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Who doesn’t love The Evil Queen in Snow White? So vicious! So vain! Without her, there’s really no story.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m so not a sports fan, but I am a long-time runner and I’m so impressed by Paula Radcliffe, a British distance runner who won the New York marathon less than a year after giving birth. I’d love to have a conversation with her about her determination.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Wishy-washiness. I love the saying “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I’d rather have an honest rejection than a halfhearted “maybe”.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Baking is a huge stress reliever for me. (Here’s my latest favorite. )

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Writing is really it for me, but if I couldn’t write a word, I’d probably be an interior designer or real estate investor. I love design, architecture and real estate. Almost all of my favorite must-read blogs that aren’t about writing are design-related.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Kindness, curiosity and work ethic. Although loyalty is a close runner up.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Technically coffee isn’t edible, but I live on espresso with steamed milk–I don’t think I’d survive a day without it.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: There’s no way I could pick five. I will say that I adore Nina Simone’s version of “I Shall Be Released” and I was crushed–crushed!–to learn that it was written by Bob Dylan. I like him just fine, but it completely changed the way I thought about the lyrics. Every once in a while, my husband will put on the Dylan version to tease me.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver. I can’t adequately quite explain why, but this book is just magical for me–even more so than The Poisonwood Bible, which is another favorite. I read it almost every year.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you can believe it, I read this for the first time during the summer after college, when I was at Radcliffe for a publishing program. I remember life being so full of possibility and yet disappointment, too, and this book always brings me right back to that time.

The Bible. Religion aside, this was one of my earliest sources of story and it’s had a huge influence on my love of the written word.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is one of the books that made me the voracious reader that I am (which, of course, turned me into a writer). I remember cracking it open and being whisked into a whole other world–and to my delight, there were six more Narnia books to lose myself in when I finished!

Like Life, by Lorrie Moore. I love all of Moore’s short story collections, but this is the one that I’ve opened countless times to turn a bad day around. I love how she combines funny and sad in the perfect way.

Smart, determined, and ever thoughtful, Camille Noe Pagán is another new author to follow on Twitter and become a friend/fan of on Facebook, allowing you to say you knew her when….

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Meg Mitchell Moore on One Shoe Missing

May 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[For many authors running and writing not only complement each other, they also share numerous similarities. In today’s guest post, journalist/debut author Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011) describes what it really takes to cross a finish line and/or type “The End.”]

One Shoe Missing

I am certainly not the first writer to address the parallels between running and writing, and undoubtedly I won’t be the last. (Debut author Rebecca Rasmussen wrote a fabulous post on the topic recently for this very site: Semper Fi.)

The reason running and writing inspire so many comparisons are because, well, they have a lot of similarities. I have been doing both for a long time. Both writing and running require enormous amounts of discipline. Both are solitary pursuits—you may run with a partner or show your writing to a critique group or a trusted agent or editor, but when you’re in the middle of a long, hard slog at the desk or on the road there’s nobody else who can do the work for you. Both often feel better when complete than during the act itself. Both are painful when done to the best of one’s abilities! (I’m not selling either pursuit very well, am I?) Both produce a sort of “high” on a good day. (Better?)

One additional reason I want to write about running in this post is to tell you about an event I witnessed earlier this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix meet at Boston’s Reggie Lewis track. The competitors in the men’s 3,000-meter race gathered at the starting line. In the controlled chaos that marks the beginning of many elite distance races, Ethiopian runner Dejen Gebremeskel lost a shoe, probably when another runner inadvertently stepped on his heel. This was an indoor track meet, which means competitors in the 3,000-meter race run 15 laps around the track. Nobody would have faulted Gebremeskel if he had stepped off the track after losing a shoe in the very first lap. (The sock, for the curious among you, remained on.) Gebremeskel’s gait was compromised, and he risked injury that could have put the rest of his indoor season in jeopardy. Not to mention that the unshod foot was particularly vulnerable to the spikes of the other runners’ shoes. Because of the rubber track, he said later, his foot was burning. He got blisters. (Ever try running with blisters? It hurts! A lot.) But. Gebremeskel didn’t step off the track. He ran the entire 15 laps with one shoe, then, with the crowd cheering him on, he won the race, overtaking Mo Farah, the anointed favorite, in the last few steps.

Let me say it one more time. The guy with only one shoe won the race!

I thought Gebremeskel’s race was an act of extreme courage, and I find myself thinking about it every so often with a mixture of awe and envy. I also find a lot of inspiration in the memory. And here we go again with the parallels between writing and running, with a different twist. The acts of courage writing requires rarely (okay, never) happen in front of hordes of foot-stomping fans in a televised event; they are, more often than not, as solitary as the pursuit of writing itself. They look something like this. Maybe you go back into a book and revise again, again, again to make it as close to the vision you began with as you can. Maybe you abandon a book you’ve spent months or years on when you know it’s not working. Maybe you query one more agent even though you think another rejection might put you over the edge or send you running for the scotch bottle. Maybe you swallow your pride and accept a painful critique that, deep down, you know is correct. Maybe you ignore the people who wonder why you’re spending so much time and energy on something that may never see the light of day.

I know not every reader of this site is a writer, but to those of you who are, these are all acts of courage, every single one of them. One foot in front of the other, one word after another (or, as Anne Lamott tells us, bird by bird), one day after the next after the next. Maybe nobody sees it, maybe nobody notices, but you writers know what you’re doing: you’re finishing the race with one shoe missing.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Julianna Baggott (aka Bridget Asher) and
The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted

May 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

“This novel is dedicated to the reader.
For this singular moment, it’s just the two of us.”

It is with the above Dedication that Julianna Baggott welcomes the readinbg audience into her latest Bridget Asher novel The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. And that singular moment will become hours as the author tells a multi-generational tale of: “Grief is a love story told backwards.” In fact that’s the first line in the book.

According to the author, that sentence captured what she wanted to write in the novel — telling a love story from a place of grief and then moving beyond it. However the physical place, from where the story is told, was an equally important element. Julianna’s love of France made it an obvious choice as well as a six week’s vacation/research destination for herself, her husband, their four children, and a niece. While they had their share of adventures — several of which appear in the book –, the entire experience felt as though they were reawakening their senses.

In a March 22, 2011 interview with Caroline Leavitt, the author explained how her grieving character also needed to to experience a reawakening:

“One of the most important things about living somewhere foreign to you is that you can’t take for granted what you’re seeing, hearing, tasting. It’s how we should always live — no matter where we are — fully awake to the world around us. But sometimes we shut down to that world. I wanted to describe a character opening up to it.”

These ideas developed into a storyline and The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted synopsis:

“Every good love story has another love hiding within it.”
 


Brokenhearted and still mourning the loss of her husband, Heidi travels with Abbott, her obsessive-compulsive seven-year-old son, and Charlotte, her jaded sixteen-year-old niece, to the small village of Puyloubier in the south of France, where a crumbling stone house may be responsible for mending hearts since before World War II.

There, Charlotte confesses a shocking secret, and Heidi learns the truth about her mother’s “lost summer” when Heidi was a child. As three generations collide with one another, with the neighbor who seems to know all of their family skeletons, and with an enigmatic Frenchman, Heidi, Charlotte, and Abbot journey through love, loss, and healing amid the vineyards, warm winds and delicious food of Provence. Can the magic of the house heal Heidi’s heart, too?

In addition to reading the lovely praise, there is also an Excerpt from the book to be read here.

Both sweet, bittersweet, and touched with the power of love, this is a fascinating novel based on the human emotions of grieving a loss while trying to believe in the hope of what lies ahead. Julianna does indeed convey all this through exquisite sensory description and what a feast she provides. In Provence, alone, there are the tiny white snails on the roadside flowers, the world of Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire, the lilac fields, vineyards and the magical house of love stories — recently damaged by fire and in need of being restored too. Also there is the food, lusciously described in its preparation, aromas, and mouth-watering tastes. The author admits to eating much of this research — so much so that recipes have been included in the back of the book.

It’s true that Heidi’s sense of taste returns first, allowing her other senses to follow, but still letting go of her grief is difficult. The reader never meets Henry — her love, her husband — alive, yet he appears almost larger than life in every Henry story the brokenhearted widow retells their son. His presence is everywhere in and around their Florida home yet in Provence there are new memories await to be created without him.

While the strong themes of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted are grief and loss and the idea of moving forward in order to heal, the author also explores the connections between mothers and daughters and sisters. For once again a storyline is affected by how past secrets haunt the present as is noted by: “Every good love story has another love hiding within it.” Or, in other words, a multi-generational plotline does promise more than one love. However the idea of being able to reopen one’s heart and find love again is what ultimately transforms this story of devastating loss into one of joy and redemption.

Since its release on March 29, 2011, The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted has had its share of favorable reviews yet, out of curiosity, The Divining Wand wondered if there was anything that a reviewer hadn’t asked or mentioned that Julianna would want readers to know about this story? And she said:

“I love the scene in the boutique. It was actually a scene that was salvaged from 165 pages of a failed novel. The novel wasn’t good but there was something elementally wonderful and vexing and true — in a deep twisted sisterly and motherly way — about that scene. I was so glad to have it. And I love the term getting Briskowitzed. It’d be funny if that one caught on.”

Now, in case all the other elements of this book have not piqued your interest, certainly those two tidbits will. Spend some time in France this May, June, July….with The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted. This Fairy Godmother guarantees you’ll feel relaxed, rested, and restored with hope.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted by Bridget Asher (aka Julianna Baggott) in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.