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Archive for June, 2011

The Divining Wand’s Summer TBR List

June 28, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: News

Dear Authors/Readers/Friends —

What a spectacular year it’s been here at The Divining Wand. From authors revealed, guests posts, responses to writing/literary questions, and the presentations/reviews, this Fairy Godmother — with great pride and joy — believes she has introduced the very best of the best for everyone’s enjoyment.

But what about this summer? After asking the authors for their summer TBR lists, I decided it might be worthwhile to share my personal list too.

Catching Up On:

~The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer

~Twenty-Somewhere [Kindle Edition] by Kristan Hoffman (Yes our most loyal commenter Kristan!)

~Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda

Looking Forward To:

~Centuries of June by Keith Donohue

~Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

~Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

~Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp

~The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin

~Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto

~Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close

~The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker (e-galley)

First To-Be-Read:

The entire Harry Potter series. It’s time for this Fairy Godmother to meet the Boy Wizard!

Since the list grows daily, you might be wondering where I’ll ever find the time? Well, after almost five years of blogging, I’m granting myself a summer vacation. Imagining two months free of posts and deadlines is impossible, I don’t remember what that feels like but will savor every bit of reclaiming the experience.

If you follow me on Twitter and/or are a friend on Facebook, I plan on being there as well as making personal blog tours.. So, if you see me, please at least wave.

Happy summer to you and thank you all!

As ever —
Larramie

Kristina Riggle and Things We Didn’t Say

June 27, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the front cover:

“Impossible to put down,
even harder to let go of.”
__Julie Buxbaum, author of
The Opposite of Love,
After You

In her first two books — Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined –, Kristina Riggle wrote about ordinary individuals caught up in the dilemma of how to resolve complicated problems in their lives. However the author twists the scenario a bit in Things We Didn’t Say available for purchase tomorrow at your local bookstore and online retailer.

Kristina’s third novel is breathlessly insightful and emotionally charged — a book one lives, rather than reads. Its intimacy and immediacy pulls the reader into a family crisis that escalates to a shattering breaking point all within the time frame of forty-eight hours. Believable? It could not be more honest.

First, however, is the twist that the main female character has already decided what to do about a problem. She’s packed and ready to run away from the family she hoped to belong to when a sudden, frightening event causes her to stay….a while longer. Ah, but what then?

Here is the synopsis for Things We Didn’t Say:

What goes unsaid can sometimes speak the loudest . . .

What makes up a family? For Casey it’s sharing a house with her fiancÉ, Michael, and his three children, whom she intends to nurture more than she ever took care of herself. But Casey’s plans have come undone. Michael’s silences have grown unfathomable and deep. His daughter Angel seethes as only a teenage girl can, while the wide-eyed youngest, Jewel, quietly takes it all in.

Then Michael’s son, Dylan, runs off, and the kids’ mother, a woman never afraid to say what she thinks, noisily barges into the home. That’s when Casey decides that the silences can no longer continue. She must begin speaking the words no one else can say. She’ll have to dig up secrets—including her own—uncovering the hurts, and begin the healing that is long overdue. And it all starts with just a few tentative words. . . .

While that is the storyline, Kristina describes the novel as “…a messy, grown-up love story because real love must be able to endure through the worst, most confusing and difficult times. Sometimes love alone isn’t enough to sustain a couple, when the storm comes, as it always will.”

It will, it does and, without being able to speak up in common agreement, divorce usually follows. When children are involved, post-divorce couples/parents remain bound together creating (hopefully) a polite, healthy relationship. However when Michael and Mallory — the novel’s other two adult characters — are that divorced couple/parents, one can only expect the unexpected.

This also makes the book a contemporary story of a blended family in which a young woman falls in love with a man and his three children. Bearing her own unspoken, emotional scars, she is seeking to love and belong. And he is willing to try to recapture the fun and sense of true love. It’s not surprising that Kristina says:

“I’m in awe of the optimism and determination of those who create blended families. By their very nature, these couples walk into a their new relationship bearing scars of the past, moreso than those who have never been married before, and I find their willingness to give it another try inspiring. I also wanted to write about a competent single dad who has primary custody of his kids, because it goes against the grain of the pop-culture stereotype of the distant or bumbling divorced dad.”

With such good intentions, how could Casey and Michael’s relationship not at least lead to a wedding, instead of an about-to-be runaway bride? Well there are three children — two of whom are teenagers — and ex-wife Mallory to add to the mix.

TRUTH: This author raises the dramatic tension almost as high as possible with the introduction of Mallory, yet there is not one false step in her portrayal of who she calls “the first true antagonist I’ve tackled.”

She is real and, more likely than not, everyone will recognize a Mallory in their life. Nevertheless Kristina admits:

“I did my utmost not to turn her into a caricature of pure villainy. She is damaged, but I would not say she’s evil. It’s an interesting question that Michael wrestles with throughout their marriage, how much control she has over her own actions, and thus how much personal responsibility she bears. I also found the failed marriage between Mallory and Michael to have a life of its own as well, and it was a challenge to portray that relationship in a way that was understandable and relatable. Sometimes the story of a marriage isn’t easily understood, especially by those from the outside looking in, and I hoped to give the readers some insight into that story.”

Such is a prime example of Kristina Writing in Shades of Gray with complex characters behaving badly. Because, as a writer, she could not feel protective of Michael, Casey, Mallory, and the children. If she did, nothing bad would ever happen to them and a very boring story would be told. Instead the author took on the difficult task in making sure each character developed with his/her own story in order to become necessary and not just a stereotype in the general plot.

TRUST: Julie Buxbaum’s quote on the book’s front cover tells all you need to know about Things We Didn’t Say. And then there are my words for the author: Brava, Kristina, Brava!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle 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 29, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be notified by email as well as announced Thursday on my Facebook page.

Summer’s TBR Lists, V

June 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Thank goodness for summer and its lazy, hazy days of being carried away by a book. Reaching out to discover what our authors/friends would be reading, The Divining Wand asked them:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

And, in this final wrap-up post, the following writers replied:

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

“The next book I can’t wait to get my hands on is Allen Zadoff’s My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies. I recently finished his Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, and I adored it. He also has a memoir coming out called “Hungry” that I’m… well… hungry to read.

“Big picture though, I have to admit that the book looming over my future doesn’t come out until October: Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune. My daughter and I devoured every book in the Percy Jackson series so far (and let’s be honest, the “new” series is not a new series — it’s a wonderful continuation of the same series), and we’ve been counting down the months until the next installment. Four more months to go!!!!”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2, 2011):

“My reading tastes vary widely, but there’s something about summertime that makes me want to read something fun, frothy, and sexy. The book club I’ve belonged to for 10+ years even makes a special effort to read at least one “summer smut” offering during the warm months. I adore author Victoria Dahl’s sexy, funny contemporary romances and look forward to her string of new releases starting in September. I’m also looking forward to attending Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals in June/July so I can scope out all the upcoming releases!”

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

“The moment I can I plan to read Meg Wolitzer’s new book: THE UNCOUPLING. Also, on my catch-up list is CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION by Manning Marable, FAITH: A NOVEL, by Jennifer Haighand SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver. Hmm…I better get some beach books in here.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hmmm….so very much.

Barry Hannah’s “Long, Last, Happy”
TC Boyle’s “When the Killing’s Done”
I also want to read “The Pale King” this summer by David Foster Wallace

And I’m also planning to reread the four Sherlock Holmes novellas.”

~Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found):

“I have so many books that I’m looking forward to – Elin Hilderbrand’s Silver Girl, Laura Dave’s The First Husband, Courtney Sullivan’s Maine, Gwendolen Gross’s The Orphan Sister, Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals…it feels like there’s an amazing wealth of smart writing for women these days, and it’s all culminating this summer. There’s also Diana Spechler’s Skinny, which I read an advance copy of, and truly adored.”

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

“SO many. My little “‘check out this book'” notebook is full of great sounding books that I can’t wait to laze around with this summer. One in particular: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

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

“I’m looking forward to reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey who I think is one of the sharpest writers around these days. Also “French Lessons” a new novel from Ellen Sussman that I think comes out this July.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske are Julie Mann, Charlene Ross, and Monica B.W.. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

AND

Announcement: The winners of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace are Sunny and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

Summer’s TBR Lists, IV and
Alison Pace’s A Pug’s Tale

June 22, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Book Presentations, Books, Q&A

It’s officially summer — time for relaxing and getting lost in those TBR books. While other summer book lists were being compiled and published, The Divining Wand decided to offer its own lists by asking our authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

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

“Unfortunately, a lot of what was on my spring ‘”must read”‘ list has made it through the spring unread (d’oh) and therefore will be joining me this summer. I’m looking forward to Myra McEntire’s “Hourglass,” which came out in May, and Carrie Ryan’s “The Dark and Hollow Places” which was released in March. Also Megan McCafferty’s “Bumped”, released at the end of April. Plus, of course, all the great books I bought recently but haven’t gotten to yet–“Cryer’s Cross,” by Lisa McMann, “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan, “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” by A.S. King, and “Recovery Road” by Blake Nelson.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“I’m not a big re-reader, but summer means re-reading to me, so I’ll be diving into some of my old favorites: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, The Stand by Stephen King, Evening Class by Maeve Binchy, and The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. I always find comfort and inspiration in those books!”

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

“I’m about to delve into an advanced copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. And have been wanting to read Laura Munson’s, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter):

“Oh, so many books! For starters, Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March, Camille Noe Pagan’s The Art of Forgetting, and Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals. And there’s a new book out in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, so I definitely want to pick that up. I have a tradition of buying those for my mom’s birthday, and sneakily reading them before I give them to her.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting):

“My TBR pile includes Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad and Sarah Henry’s Learning To Swim. I’m also eagerly awaiting some of this spring and summer’s new releases–Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter, Rebecca Rasmussen’s The Bird Sisters and Claire Cook’s latest, Best Staged Plans. (I could go on and on!)”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“Right now I get to read the new Sophie Hannah psychological suspense novel in draft form, which won’t be coming out to the general public for another year. Lucky me!”

* * * * *

And now a BONUS book for your summer reading pleasure!

Essayist/novelist Alison Pace has followed her highly successful novel, Pug Hill, with the June 7th release of A Pug’s Tale.

This critical Praise describes another wonderful, dog lover’s adventure:

“A charming mystery-lite with abundant personality.”Publishers Weekly

“Pace is the alpha writer of feel-good, girl-in-the-city-with-dog novels….a winningly affectionate tribute to art, love, New York City, and pugs.” Booklist

Here is the synopsis:

There are pugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Hope McNeill has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for years, but this is the first time she’s been able to bring along her pug, Max. (Officially at least. Previously she’s had to smuggle him in inside her tote bag.)

The occasion: a special “Pug Night” party in honor of a deep-pocketed donor. Max and his friends are having a ball stalking the hors d’oeuvres and getting rambunctious, and making Hope wonder if this is also the last time she gets to bring Max to the museum.

But when a prized painting goes missing, the Met needs Hope’s–and Max’s–help. In her quest for the culprit, Hope searches for answers with an enigmatic detective, a larger-than-life society heiress, a lady with a shih tzu in a stroller, and her arguably intuitive canine. With luck, she’ll find some inspiration on her trips to Pug Hill before the investigation starts going downhill…

Now read an Excerpt: Chapter One.

And a vlog of Alison talking about A Pug’s Tale:

(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view it here.

To contact Alison online, follow her on Twitter and friend her on Facebook.

Despite this abbreviated book presentation, please know that A Pug’s Tale is smart, wry, and delightfully fun. Best of all, though, it’s a story on intrigue and unconditional friendship….a perfect addition for your summer TBR list!

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: To celebrate summer The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace in a random drawing of comments left only on this post and ONLY until tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT. If you enter, please return tomorrow when the winners will be announced.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 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.

Guest Kristina Riggle on
Writing in Shades of Gray

June 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[]In real life there are at least two sides to every story and nothing is either black or white. In today’s guest post, Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars, The Life You’ve Imagined, and Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011) explains how this same fact applies to people — whether real or fictional.]

Writing in Shades of Gray

Early in my career as a novelist, I sighed with relief that my writing no longer had to hurt anyone’s feelings.

In my newspaper days, I had to print nasty things that Politician A said about Politician B, because both were prominent and that made such mud-slinging “news.” I remember interviewing a trembling mother about her murdered daughter, and the poor choices the young woman made which the police thought contributed to her slaying. More than once I remember interviewing someone and the person would raise their eyes to meet mine and ask, “Do we have to put in the part about (embarrassing yet newsworthy background) ?” And I’d have to say yes, we do.

Oh sure, like all journalists I reminded myself that the truth hurts but is necessary. That I was just doing my job. And I still believe this to be true. Obviously, journalists can’t sanitize their stories for the sake of protecting feelings.

But when I quit that day job and began the transition to fiction writing, I thought with great relief that those days of hurting with my words were behind me.

Or, are they?

When people ask what I write, my glib answer is, “I write novels about screwed-up people.” My characters behave badly, early and often. They fumble their way toward something better by the end (most of them, usually) but to say they are “flawed” is the least of it.

I write about screwed-up people because they are interesting, even if they are not always endearing. Some of the interesting-not-always-endearing characters in THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY include a divorced father named Michael, so wrapped up in his fading career and his ex-wife’s drama he barely notices his fiancée struggling to stay above water in his stormy household.

The young fiancée, Casey, has kept huge chunks of her life hidden from the man she claims to love, not comprehending how damaging her secrets would be when spilled into the light of day.

The ex-wife, Mallory, manipulates the other characters and ratchets up the drama the minute she arrives on the scene.

To me these people are just made up and the story is made up. What could be the harm?

My mother, reading an advance copy, told me she assumed that my kid sister’s childhood tummy aches must have inspired the stomachaches suffered by the youngest child in the story, Jewel.

Oh. I hadn’t even realized I’d done that. (Sorry, Kim).

I’ve learned by now, on book three, that people will read themselves into fiction (even if they didn’t grow up in the same household as the author). And if they see themselves in my characters behaving badly, my words might sting.

The only remedy I can imagine is for me to treat all my characters with respect and sincerity, even the ones that will make readers want to throw the book across the room. Sure, my characters behave badly, but they are complex and real and rounded. In other words, even the worst ones aren’t completely bad.

Just like my journalism subjects. In newspapers and novels both, I work in shades of gray.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 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.

Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske
and Making Waves

June 20, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


By her own admission it took Debutante Tawna Fenske a while to find her literary voice (see Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks) but — once she discovered that her humor and love of romance combined perfectly together — it was full sail ahead for her debut novel, Making Waves, available August 1, 2011.

The result is a delightful, warm-hearted, endearingly twisted tale of romance and adventure, complete with hijinks….though the goal was a hijack. Yes it’s sexy but in a classy, sophisticated way. In fact Tawna’s first book is reminiscent of the classic romantic comedy movies — with an added dash of spice and lust — to satisfy true blue romance readers.

Although the idea of writing a quirky, updated version of the traditional pirate-themed romances was inspired by a sailing trip off the Queensland coast of Australia, the author says:

“It wasn’t until the economy hit the skids and a lot of people started losing jobs that the pieces of the story started to come together in my mind. I started mulling the crazy extremes someone might go to after being kicked to the curb by an unscrupulous boss. Under what circumstances might it be OK – even funny – to set out on a pirate mission to reclaim your pension, your life, and your dignity?”

Staying on course, the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

A high-seas heist wasn’t part on their unemployment plan

There are normal ways to cope with job loss, and most don’t involve plotting a revenge-fueled diamond heist in the Caribbean with a crew more suited to the boardroom than the poop deck.

But Alex Bradshaw isn’t feeling very normal when his unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company. Alex wants payback, and maybe a chance to reclaim his dignity and his pension while he’s at it. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept the boss’s illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on a quirky blonde stowaway with a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex.

And while Juli Flynn certainly didn’t plan to be a part of the most dysfunctional high seas caper in history, it’s a rare chance for her to feel like she belongs. She’s spent a lifetime being “different” from everyone else, though the reasons for that are something she’d prefer not to share with her newfound shipmates. Juli just wants to be normal for a change, but as she finds her place with the misfit crew – and in Alex’s heart – she discovers normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And sometimes, being weird can be wonderful.

Now meet both Juli as well as Alex and his “pirates” in this Excerpt: Chapter One.

Juli’s “weirdness” is brilliant and certain to keep readers guessing, while Alex’s human imperfections make him genuine and lovable. Both have their secrets and issues with trust but Cody, Jake, and Phyllis — former fellow co-workers turned pirate crew members — don’t bother to conceal their obvious quirks. Stereotypical characters? Not even close. And perhaps the most refreshing factor is the maturity of each individual. Ranging in age from thirty-seven to fifty-four, they all have lived just as they are….honestly (though not meant to be) funny.

The ability to write humor is Tawna’s natural gift. She credits that talent to having been born into a family where everyone has a ridiculously good sense of humor, much better than hers. In fact it took her agent to adamantly urge the author to stick with humor by saying: “You make it look easy, but it’s something very few people can do well.”

Although the book is enormously entertaining, it conveys a strong message — accepting and following one’s heart — and The Divining Wand asked Tawna how she was able to balance the two elements?

“My number one objective is to entertain, but if I didn’t have some sort of message, the book would just be one long string of cheap jokes. I won’t claim I started out with some big moral message to convey, but you’re right that Making Waves centers around the importance of marching to the beat of your own drummer (something my mother has accused me of doing my whole life). When my agent and editor and I sat down to brainstorm marketing “‘hooks'” that would sum up the type of books I write, we settled on the line, “‘normal may be nice, but weird is wonderful.'” That line appears on the cover of Making Waves, and it’s at the center of all three of my contracted romantic comedies.

In other words this novel has heart, offering romance on a realistic level. The plot twists with some steamy scenes that put things into place, then veers off in an unexpected turn that changes everything. It’s situational comedy at its best because the author has a sense of direction for the storyline but doesn’t outline, explaining:

“I don’t tend to write in a very linear fashion, which means I’m constantly going back to earlier chapters to weave in details I’ve figured out along the way. There’s a fairly big plot twist near the end of the book. I honestly had no idea the twist was coming until I started writing the scene and thought, “‘oooh, that would be good!'” Then I had to go back through all the earlier chapters and work that thread into the rest of the story.”

And that is only one example of how Making Waves stays real, romantic, and seriously funny. Having already confessed (in a previous book presentation/review) to not being a love story fan, this Fairy Godmother adored the novel and, again, claims that it has to be the classiest romantic read around.

Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves debuts on August 1st so, if you want the ultimate beach read, please consider Pre-ordering now. Then you’ll be among the first to cast off on a high seas adventure where romance and fun become wonderfully weird…enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske 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 22, 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.

Summer’s TBR Lists, III

June 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

With so many terrific books vying for attention, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a new release or old favorite. And, since summer book lists are currently being published, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

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

“PYM by Mat Johnson
SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones
THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown
THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton
THE RINGER by Jenny Shank
THE FULL MATILDA by David Haynes

And if I could recommend a book I’ve already read that’s coming out this month: IF SONS THEN HEIRS by Lorene Cary. LOVED it!”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 -11, Wishes for Beginners ages 9 – 11 coming June 14, 2011, and Gnome Invasion ages 9 – 11 coming August 16, 2011):

“My to- be read list is always long. A few I’m looking forward to include, Sister by Rosamund Lupton, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen and The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Populazzi by Elise Allen. I had a chance to read an advance copy of this and LOVED it!”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

‘“A Visit From the Good Squad,” the new translation of “Madame Bovary” by Lydia Davis, “To the End of the Land” by David Grossman, “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

“The Pull of Gravity,” by Gae Polisner. (It’s a YA book.)”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Oh, my goodness. There are too too many. EXPOSURE by Therese Fowler. THE FOUR MRS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton. MRS. TOM THUMB by Melanie Benjamin. Not to mention the tottering TBR pile I already have next to my bed. And, anything about Italy I can get my hands on in preparation for my first visit there in September.”

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

“I’m urging everyone to read Dawn Tripp’s Game of Secrets”.

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. Ever since I discovered her Nantucket-based novels last year they’ve defined summer for me.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“So many books, but here are a few on my must-read list. Many aren’t out until the summer.
In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Happy reading!”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Populazzi by Elise Allen are Dee and Sarrah. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

The Further Revealing of Kristina Riggle

June 15, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

On June 15, 2009 the presentation/review of Kristina Riggle‘s debut novel Real Life & Liars launched The Divining Wand and last summer she graced this site again with The Life You’ve Imagined. Now, with a critically acclaimed reputation and an ever-growing fanbase, this author/friend returns with her third book, Things We Didn’t Say available June 28, 2011.

Described in one sentence, Things We Didn’t Say is: A story of a frayed blended family about to come undone completely when a teen-age son goes missing.

And the early Praise follows:

“The historic home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where most of the book is set, takes on the presence of another character, while the constrained time period adds to the intimate feel of this absorbing novel about a blended family.”

-Booklist



“An involving portrayal of the obstacles confronting today’s families.”

- Publishers Weekly



“Riggle paints with exquisite care a not-so-pretty picture of modern life, when running away can seem like the only option if it promises just a little bit of freedom.”

Library Journal



“Don’t open the first page of this novel unless you’re prepared to sacrifice all other commitments for the next 48 hours or so! This is Riggle’s best yet. Compelling, believable, and full of delicious twists, this story will forever change how you relate to strangers, friends, and even family—reminding you that everyone you meet might be carrying her own secret struggles.”

– Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals and The Kindness of Strangers



“In this moving and captivating novel, Kristina Riggle explores with depth and honesty the question of how we define a family, and the myriad ways we all seek to shed our difficult pasts. Things We Didn’t Say is impossible to put down, and even harder to let go of.”

– Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Things We Didn’t Say for Monday, June 27, 2011 but, until then, let’s read an updated version of the author’s “official” bio:

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was praised by Publishers Weekly for its “humorous and humane storytelling” and by Booklist as “a moving and accomplished first novel.” The book was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You’ve Imagined was honored as an “IndieNext Notable” book by independent booksellers.

Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere. She is also a freelance journalist writing primarily for The Grand Rapids Press, and co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter for seven years before turning her attention to creative writing and freelancing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.

And, now, here’s another opportunity to get to know the real Kristina:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from Sound of Music because I’m stubborn with a Pollyanna streak believing in dreams that come true, etc. And I have a weakness for showtunes.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A; My name IS a pseudonym. Riggle is my maiden name. I used to not like it — it sounds so funny — but now I’m attached to it. Plus it has given rise to a series of hilarious nicknames: The Riggler, Riglette, Wiggle, Wriggle, and this last one I shall choose if I ever do roller derby: Big Rig.

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: Fan mail, meeting readers, and seeing my books on bookstore and library shelves.

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: Summer, because mine always come out in the summer… Really, “season” is something I don’t think much about. I’ll buy books any day, any weather.

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A:Project Runway so I could meet Tim Gunn. Too bad I can’t sew for beans.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: I don’t remember being much interested in fairy tales as a kid, but I do remember my little sister nagging me to drive her to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” when it was out in theaters. I grudgingly agreed, and loved the movie! I left humming the songs and loving the bookworm Belle heroine, and my sister was like, “Eh, it was okay.” Still love that movie.

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A:Tie between San Francisco and New Orleans.

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: Another day of writing! I do like shiraz and dark chocolate if I want to reward myself after a very productive (and/or stressful) week.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Vanity, avarice, laziness.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: I have such a quote in a typewriter-shaped picture frame next to my computer. The frame was a gift for my thirtieth birthday with the suggestion I put an inspirational quote in it. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach.) At the time I was an amateur. Now I’m not.

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: I mostly read in bed before turning out the light but if I could have my preference, I’d read in the sunshine in a lawn chair. I don’t get much “laze in the sun” time, though.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A: Real book. I’m not an e-reader hater, but I have yet to see one which can “turn pages” well enough to keep up with my fast reading, and also be read in bright sunlight. Plus, I can drop my book in the bath or get sand all over it and it’s no big deal.

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol? You mean, who did I crush on?
A: Jon Bon Jovi. And he still looks good!

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I wish I could be more like Mira, the heroine of my first novel, and not give a damn what people think. I even edited that sentence just now to make it less profane, for fear of offending. I’m so hopelessly nice sometimes I even annoy myself.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: This is how my husband knows I love him. I gave up cats forever to marry him, and now we own a dog.

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: My literary idols are Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: Never! Faking that you know something when you don’t is the quickest route to sitcom-level hijinks as you try to bluff your way through conversation. I am sheepish about never having read certain books, though. Like The Old Man and the Sea.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Campfire smoke. To me it means peace, quiet and calm.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: Tie between Sideways and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Q: Name two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: I’ve loaned out both Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler and have had to replace them because they never came home!

Q: What are (a few) five of your favorite things?
A: 1) My kids’ laughter.
2) Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries.
3) Adele’s latest album.
4) Showtunes.
5) Books.

Genuine, insightful, and always entertaining, Kristina Riggle is an author to enjoy following on Twitter and becoming a friend/fan on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. 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 Tawna Fenske on
Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks

June 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Good writing requires more than the ability to write a good story. In fact more often than not it’s the author’s voice and/or personal choice of genre that attracts and sustains a reader’s attention. As a writer-by-trade, Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011) knew this and — in today’s guest post — she shares the journey of discovering her author’s niche.]

Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks

I’ve been blogging at The Debutante Ball since last August, so I guess you could say I’ve become a familiar voice there.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my early forays into fiction writing and how it took me awhile to figure out romantic comedy was where I fit best.

Based on commenters’ reactions, I might as well have confessed it took me 36 years to discover I had toes. How could I not know I should be writing humor?

Hey, I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Yes, I’ve been the class clown since I was old enough to string sentences together. Sure, I’m always the one to break up boring meetings by making sex jokes. OK, I’ll admit I could probably find the humor in a funeral if I tried hard enough.

But it really didn’t dawn on me in the early days that I could use that to build a writing career.

I’ve always written for my supper, but in a much different capacity than what I’m doing now with novels. I caught the journalism bug in high school, and used my experience as editor of the school newspaper to land college scholarships, work my way up to editor of the college paper, and to eventually find post-college work as a newspaper reporter.

Once the appeal of long hours and lousy pay wore off, I moved on to tech writing before transitioning to a career in marketing and public relations.

All of those jobs involved writing. A lot of it, in fact. But none involved making stuff up.

That’s probably why it was such a funny feeling the first time I sat down to take a stab at fiction writing in 2002. I kept checking over my shoulder, certain the word police were going to come and arrest me for lying.

In a way, I was disappointed that never happened. I really looked forward to those handcuffs.

Though the first novel I wrote was a romance, it was barely recognizable as such. Because I’d grown so accustomed to doing vast amounts of research in the writing I did for my day job, that’s what I did for the novel, too. Looking back, that book probably could have had footnotes.

Nothing says “sexy romance” like a bibliography.

Fortunately, my first couple stabs at writing fiction weren’t read by many people who weren’t either family members or drinking buddies (or both – hi, Dad!)

But my third book did sell.

I know we’re classifying Making Waves is my debut novel, and it’s true it will be my first published book. However, it’s technically not the first book I ever sold for publication. That honor goes to a book called Avalanche. I wrote it for a line of women’s action/adventure/romance novels published by Harlequin/Silhouette several years ago under the Bombshell label.

I sold the book, spent the advance check, and had already written two follow-up novels that hadn’t yet made it to contract when my editor called on my 32nd birthday to tell me the line was being cancelled one month before my scheduled debut.

This was also the same day my cat died. Oh, and the same day my employer said they’d fire me within a week if I continued to disobey the company’s hosiery policy (I did. They didn’t).

At some point near the end of that day when I walked out onto my back deck with a glass of wine in my hand, I thought, “this is really pretty damn funny if you think about it. What are the odds of all of this happening on the same day?”

I won’t say that was an epiphany, per se, but I will tell you that within a few days I sat down and began writing something new. Something different. Something funny. Something that screamed, “if I can laugh on a day like that, I can find the humor in damn near anything!”

And though that book didn’t actually sell, it did land me an amazing agent, who eventually landed me a three-book deal for my romantic comedies.

So that’s the roundabout route I took to find my voice. Do I wish it had been quicker? Absolutely! Was it worth it for the experience I gained? I think so. Does the slowness of my journey to finding my voice indicate I need professional help and perhaps a tutor?

Don’t answer that.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15, 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.

Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi

June 13, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


To date, Elise Allen has earned and enjoyed a successfully diverse writing career in both Hollywood and New York, however it’s the upcoming publication of her solo YA novel Populazzi — debuting August 1, 2011 — that has her heart right now.

Introducing herself at The Debutante Ball in the August 30, 2010 post, If It’s Monday, It Must Be Deb Elise, she wrote:

“I live in L.A., and came out here immediately after college to follow my big dreams of becoming a wildly successful… actress.

Just one problem with that. I freak out on camera. Seriously.”

Seriously that’s how and why her writing career began. After all, if Deb Elise couldn’t appear on the big/small screen, she could certainly have her ideas and words in the spotlight.

It should not be unexpected then to learn that the author’s idea for this novel took root with a movie, Ten Things I Hate About You, back in 1999. Elise, working as a TV writer, landed a meeting with a film executive looking for projects similar to Ten Things — in other words, new versions of classics. She had recently read Edith Wharton’s Custom of the Country, about a character who moves to turn-of-the-last-century New York – a very stratified social culture – and is fiercely determined to climb her way to the top no matter what. And as Deb Elise explains:

“I kept marveling at the parallels between its version of New York society… and the equally stratified world of high school. An idea started percolating about a girl who is thrown into that world and tries to climb her way up… but I wasn’t interested in a calculated, popularity-at-all-costs girl. I knew there was a way for a girl to make that choice and take that journey, but do it for reasons and in a way that kept her likable and relatable.”

No she didn’t figure it out in time for the pitch meeting with the movie producer, but did write 8 chapters of the book only to put it away until 2008 when a former TV executive — turned book packager — encouraged her to sell the book. Which is how, in the tradition of Hollywood “happy endings,” Populazzi and its synopsis came to be:

WHAT WOULD YOU DO if you had the chance to erase your past and reinvent yourself as the person you’ve always wanted to be? Would you grab it? Would you stick with it, no matter what the consequences?

Cara Leonard always wished she could be one of those girls: confident,
self-possessed, and never at a loss for the perfect thing to say. One of the Populazzi.

It always seemed impossible… but now could be her chance.

When Cara moves to a new school just before junior year, her best friend urges her to seize the opportunity and change her life… with the help of The Ladder. Its rungs are relationships, and if Cara transforms herself into the perfect girlfriend for guys higher and higher on the Popularity Tower, she can reach the ultimate goal: Supreme Populazzi, the most popular girl in school.

The Ladder seems like a lighthearted social experiment — a straight climb up — but it quickly becomes gnarled and twisted. And when everything goes wrong, only the most audacious act Cara can think of has a chance of setting things even a little bit right.

The Populazzi Trailer

(If the video does not appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Although there is noteworthy Praise, the ultimate, “must read” accolade can be found in the April 17, 2011 post, Deb Elise’s Grandmother Gets Naughty With Populazzi.

Elise’s grandmother worries about Cara Leonard — the likable, if not misguided main character of this substantive novel — and these concerns are well-grounded. For Cara doesn’t need to climb a Ladder of popularity, she’s perfect as she is BUT — being a teenager, alone at at a new school — she doesn’t understand that yet. Or, more importantly, she doesn’t understand who she is yet!

At first glance Populazzi may appear to be a light-hearted tale of silly mistakes or poor teenage judgment. While definitely a fun read that brought a smile to this reader with the situational and character’s sense of humor, the book also is:

Smart — The lessons taught and the insights portrayed are spot-on. Cara, herself, is smart and a good student (in a home where grades are everything). However there’s no competition between good grades and being acknowledged as popular.

Thoughtful — Like almost every individual, who has survived their teenage years, Cara and the entire high school student body are in search of their identities. During her climb up the Ladder, Cara tries many on for size before finding her true self fit.

Bold — The cast of characters are not supportive extras to the storyline, but rather a remarkably diverse group of individuals (albeit some unfortunate) who allow for a good look at high school students, warts and all.

Poignant — Truth be told, Cara and many of her classmates’ problems begin at home. Without giving away *spoilers*, popularity to the main character could be equated with seeking/receiving unconditional love that she’s not used to feeling.

Triumphant — This describes more than just the book’s ending, instead it includes all that Cara learns about herself and others on every rung of the Ladder.

TRUTH: Elise Allen’s Populazzi is solid, meaningful, and classic. In fact her first solo novel is a deliciously satisfying feast for both heart and soul.

Populazzi comes out August 1st, please feel free to Pre-order now….no matter what your age!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen 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 15, 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.