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Picture the Book:
The Song Remains the Same

March 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Book Trailers, Books

“What if” Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found) — whose writing is naturally inspired by music — crafted a novel that revolves around how deeply music affects/recalls memory? Fortunately the NYT bestselling author has done just that and her fourth novel, The Song Remains the Same will be released next month on Thursday, April 12, 2012.

Part-thriller/mystery, the book questions and answers:

Who are we without our memories? And how much of our future is defined by our past?



A brief synopsis:

One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes in the hospital with no memory of the crash – or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind — with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. She filters through photos, art, music and stories, hoping something will jog her memory, and soon – in tiny bits and pieces –Nell starts remembering…
It isn’t long before she learns to question the stories presented by her mother, her sister and business partner, and her husband. In the end she will learn that forgiving betrayals small and large will be the only true path to healing herself — and to finding happiness.

And, of course, the wonderful reviews:

“Bestseller Winn Scotch sparkles in her captivating fourth novel. Readers will love Nell and won’t be able to put the book down until they know how much of her past she wants to bring into her future.”– Publishers Weekly

“Readers who appreciate women’s fiction that investigates serious themes will enjoy Scotch’s fine novel. Reading groups will find much to discuss as well.” – Library Journal

“A devastating portrait of one woman’s struggle to regain her memory. Allison Winn Scotch’s novel The Song Remains the Same takes on fascinating emotional terrain — the decision between dredging up the past, or wiping the slate clean and starting over. I can’t remember becoming so engrossed in a novel so quickly or feeling so satisfied at the end.”
– Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of SILVER GIRL and THE ISLAND

“Who would we be without our memories, good and bad? This funny, poignant, and absorbing page-turner raises that question and many others, about the nature of love, trust, family and friendship. I’m still thinking about the main character and her surprising journey long after I turned the final page.”
–J. Courtney Sullivan, author of COMMENCEMENT and MAINE

“From the first pages of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, I was hooked. Nell is a heroine you will cheer for; and long remember after finishing the book!”
– Lauren Weisberger, bestselling author of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

As for my truth: In THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, Allison has written the ultimate “what if?” by wiping her heroine’s mind clean. Nell can start over and become a “fabulous me.” Yet memories cannot be erased from one’s heart, especially when music triggers emotional recall and pulls Nell back to the past in order to understand her present. Writing stronger than ever — with brilliant insight –, the author risks telling a darker story of survival filled with courage and hope in discovering one’s truth.

To further pique your interest while not divulging any *spoilers* of Nell Slattery’s story, this Fairy Godmother decided to Picture the Book through three musical videos of songs chosen by the author. The very first page of the book contains the protagonist’s playlist and can be enjoyed here. However why not be entertained by the following selections and explanations?

AWS: Joe Cocker: Have a Little Faith in Me.
This is really one that embodies the spirit of the book as a whole. There’s a reason that it’s the first song and the first musical reference that Nell hears. (And yes, I know that there’s a John Haitt version, but I didn’t think many people would know it if I opted for that version!)

(If the video is not visible on your monitor, please view it here.)

AWS: Carly Simon:Let the River Run
This song, for me, is about embracing freedom and well, letting your own river run. Again, this is a pivotal song for Nell, and I must have filtered through a hundred different options before settling on this one. It needs to be really representative of her emotional state when she first hears it, and then again, when it comes back into her life.

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

AWS: Van Morrison: Into the Mystic
This song is so deeply representative of childhood and innocence that I absolutely felt compelled to include it in the book. I know that the lyrics themselves aren’t overtly about anything related to childhood, but for me and for Nell, the song really encapsulates those long summer days when you didn’t have a care in the world.

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

CHAPTER ONE of The Song Remains the Same can be read now and then the book can be Pre-ordered. Enjoy….you will!

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Announcement: The winner of Sarah Pinneo’s Julia’s Child is: Keetha. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.

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, 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!”

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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!

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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.

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.

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.

Katie Alender and From Bad to Cursed

June 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

When Katie Alender wrote her debut YA novel Bad Girls Don’t Die as a stand alone book, she tied it up with a relatively happy ending. In fact two years ago, this presentation/review — Presenting Debutante Katie Alender and Bad Girls Don’t Die — noted:

It’s a book about strong teenage females who have their own problems and find their own solutions, doing so without being dependent and reliant on males. The author’s heroine, Alexis, figures out that she has the strength and intelligence to not only fight her own battles but to be victorious…not that it’s easy, of course.

And concludes with:

Yet as innocent as it is scary, the author’s empathetic writing comes down to trusting and protecting the people we care about most.

Since those words hold true and always will, how does the author manage to untie the bow of a happy ending and create even greater problems in the second book of the series, Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed releasing next Tuesday, June 14, 2011?

Actually there was a realistic and simple solution as Katie explains:

“This series is all about Alexis’s arc—who she is at the beginning of the first book, how she transforms, and who she is at the end of the third book. The first book, to me, was about trust and openness.

“This book is about compassion—or the consequences of a lack of compassion. Alexis came out of the first book assuming Kasey [her younger sister] was just kind of weak and maybe a little foolish. In this book, she realizes that everyone can stumble and make mistakes. And she also realizes that people can be stronger than you give them credit for.”

Those thoughts then evolved into this From Bad to Cursed synopsis:

Alexis Warren is totally the last girl you’d expect to sell her soul.

She already has everything she needs—an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a little sister who’s finally recovering after being possessed by an evil spirit. She’s is thrilled and relieved when her sister joins a club; new friends are just what Kasey needs.

So, yeah, it’s a little strange how fast the girls in the Sunshine Club go from dorky and antisocial to gorgeous and popular… but playing with the paranormal is what got Kasey locked up last year—she must know better than to mess with the dark side again… right?

Um, not so much. Soon Alexis learns that the girls have pledged an oath to a seemingly benevolent spirit named Aralt. Not trusting Kasey to fix the situation herself, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the club. Alexis trades in her pink hair and punky clothes for a mainstream look, and quickly finds herself reveling in her newfound elegance and success.

Faster than you can say “J. Crew,” Alexis has forgotten why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn’t to destroy Aralt… why would she hurt someone who gives her so much—and asks for so little in return?

Although this novel can be gory and “gooey,” its true horror comes from Aralt’s supernatural curse/blessing. Given the opportunity to be perfect, to be successful, to be golden might tempt anyone at any age, but how acquiescent would a teenage girl be? And, while Alexis still maintains most of the mental strength she possessed in the first book, her emotional convictions falter now.

Even more diabolically delicious is the adult character — also “charmed” by Aralt’s oath. She may, in fact, remind readers of any number of real life people seemingly leading a golden life. Have those “fortunate” ones — who have it all — made a pact? Perhaps. Yet they too do crumble and fall….even harder than most.

Katie understands how self-destructive this can be, saying:

“I think a lot of people sell their souls for success—look at men like Bernie Madoff, whose own son committed suicide out of shame and despair. In every industry you’ll find people willing to trade tiny pieces of their humanity for success and recognition. The sad thing is, they do it of their own accord.”

Which is why she shares her feelings through writings and speech:

“One thing I try to emphasize if I’m talking to teens or aspiring writers is that you can’t go by the world’s definition of success. Look at all of the wealthy, beautiful, famous people whose lives end up in ruins. It’s so easy to be tempted by what someone else has—but often those people are trapped in miserable existences. Money, fame, Oscars, Pulitzers—none of it means anything if you can’t look yourself in the eye every morning.”

Without giving away any *spoilers*, Alexis does find it difficult to look herself in the eye every morning. For, in this book, the character’s healthy self-confidence has been replaced by over-confidence based on building herself up by belittling others. Yes she’s earned success, but she’s a teenager who is still growing and in need of understanding her own weaknesses. Despite Aralt’s “gifts,” Alexis is far from perfect. However, once she recognizes her mistakes, can she be strong enough to correct them to save herself, her sister, and others?

Hmm, that answer may be obvious by knowing there’s a book three. Still that doesn’t diminish the thrill and fun of the heart-pounding From Bad to Cursed and its message of compassion. Alexis must learn to understand what her sister really needs, rather then judging and deciding for her. Next Tuesday, June 14th in bookstores/online retailers, her lonely, frightening, and chillingly profound journey begins. It’s a great, entertaining read. Enjoy….with compassion!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender 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 8, 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.

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.

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.