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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.

Presenting Debutante Sarah Jio and
The Violets of March

April 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Lovely, dreamy, calming, and hopeful are all words that best describe Debutante Sarah Jio’s first novel, The Violets of March, being released tomorrow, April 26, 2011.

Although a love story, the romance of the book is first found in a diary revealing a mystery of star-crossed lovers from 1943. Rather than time travel, the novel follows a time-bending exploration until the past and present convene to answer where the characters came from, who they are now, and what they will be. In fact those are similar questions that gave the author her idea for the book. Writing in the February 10, 2011 Debutante Ball post, Deb Sarah on the 1940’s Print That (Partially) Inspired Her Novel, she explained:

“I’d been mulling novel ideas for a while, but nothing had jumped out at me. My eyes darted around the room until they stopped at an iconic photograph my sister had hanging on her wall—the one of a sailor and his lady locked in a kiss after the second world war. Everyone’s seen this image, of course, and it certainly wasn’t anything new to me, and yet on that pre-Christmas afternoon, I let my mind consider what the real story might be behind the photo. Who was the sailor? The young woman? What was their story? And while my novel didn’t end up having anything to do with a sailor and his lover or their fated kiss, it did set my brain on an interesting trajectory of thinking about the 1940s, the war, interrupted love, second chances and more.”

One major part of the “more” was including the mystery/diary. It was simply where Sarah’s mind went with this story, though she admits: “I love books with a mysterious element, and I knew that to grab readers (and me, as I wrote) the book needed mystery to solve.”

And then the author added the final element of Bainbridge Island. It’s a special place for Sarah who grew up just a few miles away, over the bridge, in Poulsbo, Washington, and spent happy times on the shores of Bainbridge. Believing the island has a mystical, alluring quality, she knew it was the perfect setting for the novel.

And after watching this video you’ll likely agree.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Is the island beckoning, along with the praise?

Here’s a synopsis for The Violets of March:

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

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

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

A mesmerizing debut with an idyllic setting and intriguing dual story line, The Violets of March announces Sarah Jio as a writer to watch.

Now for an Excerpt? Actually there is only a brief tease that can be found in The Debutante Ball’s February 17, 2011 post, Deb Sarah Shares a Love Letter from The Violets of March.

Sarah Jio’s natural talent is being able to infuse chemistry into her writing and her main character, Emily, is the most notable example. Although newly divorced, Emily is more shell-shocked than whiny and possesses enough common sense to realize that something has been missing in her life. In other words, though emotionally devastated, she comes across as an adult who knows healing must take place before moving forward. Also there’s not a “blame game” to wade through as Emily’s unfortunate circumstances rally her to leave the past behind by growing and challenging herself in new ways.

However the irony is that to leave her past behind Emily feels compelled to delve into the lives of those found within the diary’s pages. Were they real or fiction? If real, what happened to them? And are they connected to Emily and her family?

Readers are once again reminded of how much of the present is shaped by the past and how resolving such issues comes through reconciliation. Sarah further explains:

“Without giving away too much of the story, I, myself, am really fascinated with the concept of reconciliation. So many of us have people—friends, family, co-workers from the past—who we need to reconcile with to move forward and to bring peace to our lives. And I used the humble wood violets in the story as a symbol of reconciliation and redemption.”

Indeed, when the Bainbridge Island violets bloom out of season, their mystical presence is meant to heal. That is their power and that is the beauty this debut author captures in her tale. With only words, Sarah transports readers to this island of the past and the present that offers compelling hope for the future. Why? Because of the book’s message: Love is timeless.

Redbook magazine declares Violets “engrossing” and chooses as a must-read in their May issue!

This literary Fairy Godmother declares: I am not a true love story fan/reader, nor do I often cry. But Sarah Jio casts a spell in her novel (the only explanation) and The Violets of March not only captured my heart, I cried….for joy.

Now listen to the island calling you.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of The Violets of March by Sarah Jio 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, April 27, 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.

Jael McHenry and The Kitchen Daughter

April 11, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Jael McHenry’s passion for cooking and writing combine together in the most unique blend of sweet and bittersweet for her debut novel, The Kitchen Daughter in bookstores tomorrow, April 12, 2011. And, let it be noted, the clever, quirky cover art is the perfect appetizer for the feast spread within the pages.

The idea for the book began with the author creating a character who loves food, loves cooking, but is closed off from the rest of the world. Even though food is such a natural way to connect with people, it’s a conundrum that the young woman has never used her cooking to connect. But why? Jael realized that there had to be a reason/obstacle that prevented her protagonist from being able to reach out and that’s when she added Asperger’s syndrome to the mix. Ironically Ginny — the main character — had already been formed with many traits of an individual on the autism spectrum and, after more extensive research on Asperger’s, it became part of her identity as well as her story.

In fact, according to its synopsis, The Kitchen Daughter

is about a woman who discovers she can invoke ghosts by cooking from dead people’s recipes.
 


Julie & Julia meets Jodi Picoult in this poignant and delectable novel with recipes, chronicling one woman’s journey of self-discovery at the stove.



After the unexpected death of her parents, shy and sheltered Ginny Selvaggio, a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome, seeks comfort in family recipes. But the rich, peppery scent of her Nonna’s soup draws an unexpected visitor into the kitchen: the ghost of Nonna herself, dead for twenty years, who appears with a cryptic warning—before vanishing like steam from a cooling dish.



A haunted kitchen isn’t Ginny’s only challenge. Her domineering sister Amanda insists on selling their parents’ house in Philadelphia, the only home Ginny has ever known. As she packs up her parents’ belongings, Ginny finds evidence of family secrets she isn’t sure how to unravel. She knows how to turn milk into cheese and cream into butter, but she doesn’t know why her mother hid a letter in the bedroom chimney, or the identity of the woman in her father’s photographs. The more she learns, the more she realizes the keys to these riddles lie with the dead, and there’s only one way to get answers: cook from her parents’ recipes, raise their ghosts, and ask them.



Offering a fascinating glimpse into the unique mind of a woman struggling with Asperger’s and featuring evocative and mouth-watering descriptions of food, this lyrical novel is as delicious and joyful as a warm brownie.


Of course there are recipes, including the brownie recipe that goes so well with the HOT Chocolate Jael serves up in this video:

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

Now also read the early Praise for the book and the Excerpt of Chapter One Bread Soup.

Creating the kitchen daughter character to be likable to readers, even with her seemingly anti-social behavior, might have been the author’s greatest challenge. But, by introducing Ginny at her parents’ funeral where she is surrounded by grief and struggling to control her emotions, well what could be more universal and relatable? As might be expected, Ginny is at her worst there. She’s scared, feeling abandoned, and her thinking fragmented. Her speech and actions reflect those feelings but isn’t that normal?

Ah, yet what is normal? That question is not only the message of the novel, it’s also Ginny’s personal need to be. Over the years this young woman has compiled The Normal Book filled with advice columns on what is normal. It’s a secret “security blanket,” a touchstone, to reassure her — despite what others might think — that she is normal. After all normal has a wide-range definition. Jael concedes that she’s always been interested in how people describe their own situations and how often they want an outside opinion on what they should do. And this becomes Ginny’s logic, as the author further explains:

“If people write in saying “‘Here’s what’s going on in my life, is this normal?”” a lot of times the columnists will say “‘You’re asking the wrong question.'” And I agree. Whether it’s “‘normal'” or not doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You have to figure things out for yourself, not by some made-up standard.”

What’s right and works for Ginny is cooking. By following a recipe, step-by-step, she’s soothed and feels in control. Even during anxious moments — when not in the kitchen — she can think about food as a distracting comfort. The fact is food not only is Ginny’s world, it becomes the way she views the real world. For example, because the character isn’t comfortable around people, she tends to describe most of them in food-related terms. Her intrusive, over-bearing/over-protective sister, Amanda, has “an orange juice voice,” while her father’s was “tomato juice.” And, through that type of thinking, Ginny is better able to relate.

There’s no question that the kitchen daughter has experienced a sudden, devastating trauma for which she is unprepared. Yet what’s important to remember is that this twentysomething young woman, who happens to have the added challenge of Asperger’s, is not inclined to give up. Instead Ginny seeks to take control for who she is and where she belongs. Simply put, it’s a variation on a young woman searching for happiness and “Mr. Right.” But Jael McHenry has upped the stakes with an insightfully original, poignant, and triumphant tale.

The Kitchen Daughter — given a glorious review in the May edition of O, The Oprah Magazine — is a delicious literary treat. It’s rich in lush description and delicious thought-provoking dilemmas stirred up by a truly heartwarming heroine. Please savor and enjoy!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter 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, April 13, 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.

Lori Roy and Bent Road

March 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Lori Roy’s spellbinding voice tells the suspenseful tale of her debut novel, Bent Road, coming to online retailers and your local bookstore on Thursday, March 31, 2011. And, although Bent Road runs through a small town in Kansas, this is far from the Kansas which Dorothy and Toto wished to return to.

Ironically, though, location has everything to do with the story. In fact the idea for the novel came to the author as a setting, explained and illustrated in the January 24, 2011 blog post, Never a Good Answer. Please take a look because Lori writes:

“One of the questions I am often asked, for which I really have no good answer is…Where did you get the idea for BENT ROAD? It would be simple if I could point to a single newspaper article or recount an old family story passed through the generations. But I can’t. The truth is, I don’t know where the idea came from, but I do know where it began. It began with setting. So today, I thought I’d share a few pictures taken from the setting that inspired BENT ROAD.”

Next came the cast of characters — the Scott family, their extended family, and neighbors. The young children, Eve-ie and Daniel, appeared to the author first with Arthur, their father, the slowest to develop. Eventually all the characters became clearly defined as their personal story unfolded with the plot. And that storyline evolved into the book’s synopsis:

For twenty years, Celia Scott has watched her husband, Arthur, hide from the secrets surrounding his sister Eve’s death. As a young man, Arthur fled his small Kansas hometown, moved to Detroit, married Celia, and never looked back. But when the 1967 riots frighten him even more than his past, he convinces Celia to pack up their family and return to the road he grew up on, Bent Road, and that same small town where Eve mysteriously died.

While Arthur and their oldest daughter slip easily into rural life, Celia and the two younger children struggle to fit in. Daniel, the only son, is counting on Kansas to make a man of him since Detroit damn sure didn’t. Eve-ee, the youngest and small for her age, hopes that in Kansas she will finally grow. Celia grapples with loneliness and the brutality of life and death on a farm.

And then a local girl disappears, catapulting the family headlong into a dead man’s curve. . . .

On Bent Road, a battered red truck cruises ominously along the prairie; a lonely little girl dresses in her dead aunt’s clothes; a boy hefts his father’s rifle in search of a target; a mother realizes she no longer knows how to protect her children. It is a place where people learn: Sometimes killing is the kindest way.

This Book Trailer is worth well more than a thousand words:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here).

The outstanding Praise and Reviews are worthy of attention. And there is also a brief Excerpt of Chapter 1 to begin your travels on Bent Road.

Have any goosebumps or is your heartbeat a bit faster? Indeed this remarkable novel causes those side effects without any trickery. For Lori Roy, with taut and exact prose, tells of normal and mundane life on a farm. There is baking and cooking, snow being cleared, and children forgetting to lock the cow within a gated enclosure. It’s real and believable, including Arthur’s reluctance to share what he knows of his sister’s death. But there are many other secrets being kept by those on Bent Road and — whether true or merely rumors — they lurk in the shadows and seep into the reader’s imagination. With each page turned, one anticipates the horror that is certain to appear.

However, when the frightening moments come, they are more stunning revelations than actual terror. With brilliant pacing — including the ebb and flow of tension –, The Divining Wand wondered how much the author actually knew what was going to happen. To avoid any *spoilers” no character names will be mentioned here but Lori admitted that even she had a “surprise” and a “shock” about a why as well as a who did what! And she further explains:

“Yet the bottom line was that everything made sense given the circumstances. I did not plot out the entire novel, but worked to integrate the plot and the arch of each character as events unfolded. The backstory and what happened twenty-five years earlier developed along with the front story, and after many rewrites, I wove the two together.”

Of course the title, Bent Road, is purposeful too since it suggests both of the book’s themes. The first is a reminder that one never knows what life holds around the corner, while the second substantiates how all individuals are shaped/influenced — positively and negatively — by past experiences. Embedded in those experiences are the secrets and rumors, both harmful and capable of impacting lives forever.

A literary suspense novel, a psychological thriller, a mystery, whatever Bent Road is categorized as it’s achingly beautiful and breathlessly solid. Lori Roy has taken an ordinary family to tell an extraordinary tale prepared to consume them all. Simply put, Bent Road (available next Thursday, March 31, 2011) is an excellent “must read!”

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Lori Roy’s Bent Road 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, March 23, 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 Eleanor Brown and
The Weird Sisters

January 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


When Debutante Eleanor Brown began visiting The Debutante Ball during its first Season of 2007, it’s doubtful that she ever imagined being one of the most honored Debs well before her book launched. But this Thursday, January 20, 2011, the author will hopefully stop pinching herself and simply revel in the debut of her novel, The Weird Sisters.

Described by as a major new talent, Deb Eleanor has written a literary/commercial book focusing on the complicated relationship of sisters, the powerful influence of books in our lives, and what we finally come to accept as home. For this, Publishers Weekly has given it a starred review “…bright, literate debut, a punchy delight”. Barnes & Noble has chosen the novel to be part of its Discover Great New Writers program beginning February – May. Amazon.com has selected it as one of the Best Books of the Month, January 2011, and it’s also been mentioned in USA Today. Of course that’s in addition to the other sparkling Praise and Press.

Duly impressed yet still wondering why The Weird Sisters is considered that special? To better understand, please know that there’s nothing weird about the sisters. In fact they even proclaim from the book’s front cover: See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.Now how normal does that sound for three female siblings?

The choice of the title is a logical one since it comes from Macbeth’s three witches, also known as the “weird sisters,” who represent both fate and destiny. And, since the novel focuses on the sisters’ questioning what they thought they were destined to be and struggling against what reality has dealt them, the title is a perfect description.

In writing her October 5, 2010 post, Deb Eleanor on Change and Saturn’s Return, the author explains how important she believes change is for characters:

“I believe good fiction is all about change. If there’s no difference between the characters at the beginning and the end of a novel, a memoir, even a non-fiction screed, I’m likely to end up dissatisfied. I want the characters to go through discomfort and maybe even a little pain, and to come out the other end reborn through the experience.

“Though it’s never mentioned in the book, when I wrote The Weird Sisters, I did a lot of research on Saturn’s Return.

“I call The Weird Sisters a belated coming-of-age novel. There is a reason my characters are 27, 30, and 33- I wanted them to be on the cusp of great change, to be pushed into places where they confront the lives they have created and acknowledge – and change – the pieces that aren’t working.”

Still it’s not only how the three sisters change but where they change as the author writes in her October 19, 2010 post, Deb Eleanor’s Favorite (Fictional) Place:

“….one of the things that I love most about books is their ability to transport you somewhere. In The Weird Sisters, one of my goals was to create a living, breathing town, a place that you felt you had seen before, or might be able to stumble upon, and I hope I’ve done that in the town of Barnwell, Ohio.”

Indeed Deb Eleanor has succeeded in giving the small college town of Barnwell a hometown feeling – a place where readers want to linger, while the sisters want to flee. And the combination of characters and location provides for the novel’s synopsis:

There is no problem that a library card can’t solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there. See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much. But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from – one another, their small hometown, and themselves – might offer more than they ever expected.

This debut novelist, as the youngest of three sisters, has been frequently asked which of the weird sisters — Rose (Rosalind – As You Like It), Bean (Bianca – The Taming of the Shrew), and Cordy (Cordelia – King Lear) — is she? Her response is that “there’s a little bit of me in each of the characters” and The Divining Wand has exclusive proof of that from three Q&A’s in The Revealing of Eleanor Brown:

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Complacency.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Enthusiasm.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Hurting other people.

No *spoilers* here, but every one of these three answers describes one of the three sisters. It’s true, the author is delighted to admit. And, oh yes, the major theme of the book is revealed in:

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having the courage to build a life I want to live.

However what may be the most vital and magical element of The Weird Sisters is the narrator’s omniscient first person plural voice. Using “we” rather than “I,” the voice is privy to all the sisters’ thoughts, feelings, and secrets. It will pull readers into this triangular sisterhood, allowing one to feel as if they too belong…and never want to leave. In other words, it’s highly effective as well as pitch perfect.

As an Amy Einhorn book, the Uncorrected Proof of The Weird Sisters I received had an introductory letter from Ms. Einhorn in which she confesses:

The Weird Sisters is a novel I would shout about from the rooftops and urge everyone to read if I could.”

And, if that were possible, I would be among the first to join Ms. Einhorn. Yet what is possible for me to tell here is that this will be the book you reluctantly bookmark after each reading, muse about the characters as your mind wanders during the day, and rush back to its pages with anticipation only when you have a good chuck of time to spend in Barnwell, Ohio with the charming, weird sisters.

Since The Weird Sisters does not debut until Thursday, Amazon.com is featuring the novel at a Pre-order price — that costs little more than a Trade paperback — for a few more days. If you can, please take advantage of this opportunity. . . .and enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters 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, January 19, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Richard Hine and
Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch

October 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although Richard Hine presented a 25-step advice list on How to Write a Novel in 30 Years or Less, he might have left out one “crucial-for success” point: Write a timely story. For when his book, Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch, debuts tomorrow — October 12, 2010 –, the author’s perfect timing will become obvious.

However it wasn’t always that way. During his years of working in publishing companies that included Adweek in 1988, Time in 1992, and The Wall Street Journal in 2002, Richard accepted each job by being told he “had just missed a great party.” And, in the celebratory aftermath, everyone was stressed as the print media tried to be creative in the digital age.

Nevertheless it proved inspiring for the author who took a creative look at what was and what was not happening. As he says of writing his book:

“I’ve tried to peel away the outer cloak of seriousness that people bring to their workaday lives and reveal some truths about the specific challenges and pressures facing today’s media business.

I do hope that my novel will appeal to a broad audience of readers—especially those who like the humor and humanity of “The Office” or movies like “American Beauty.” But I also hope I’ve created a document that records what it was like to work specifically in the newspaper business in the first decade of the 21st Century.”

With both his professional and personal plates heaped with problems, Russell Wiley is out to lunch, literally and figuratively. Here’s the Synopsis:

Russell Wiley is in deep trouble. A media executive for the failing Daily Business Chronicle, his career is teetering on the brink of collapse, and his sexless marriage is fast approaching its expiration date. With his professional and personal lives floundering, it’s no wonder Russell is distracted, unhappy, and losing faith in himself. Making matters worse are his scheming boss, a hot-shot new consultant determined to see Russell ousted, and the beguiling colleague whose mere presence has a disconcerting effect on Russell’s starved libido. Disaster seems imminent…and that’s before he makes a careless mistake that could cost the paper millions. Russell realizes he must take drastic action if he is going to salvage his career, his love life, and what little remains of his self-respect. Sardonic, edgy, and true to life, this gripping novel offers an insider’s view into a newspaper’s inner sanctum and the people who oil the wheels of the “old media” machine.

Now please watch a Video Interview with Richard Hine.

Applying the adage of “Write what you know,” the author has taken on the corporate failure of the media to adapt to the times and then mixed in an Everyman to give the book heart, soul, and humor. In truth the complicated issues are reflected in the humanity of Russell (and some of his colleagues) as they throw ideas/darts at the wall, hoping a few will stick to become their salvation and allow them to maintain their power.

Of course power tends to equate with sex and sexiness — according to the author — is “at the core of the novel.” In general terms this makes perfect sense since the media is driven by sex. And Russell is in the throes of realizing he isn’t as sexy as he once was, whether at home with his wife, or at work with his corporate bosses and the advertisers whose cash keeps the company going. It’s all very real and understandable when one considers that the print media has not adapted their content to connect with Internet users. In other words, to succeed in the future, newspapers simply need to sell enough ads to bankroll their high-priced content.

It’s simple in business terms but what about in human terms? Ah, therein lies the humor. Although Richard admits that he doesn’t know what the future holds for newspapers and magazines, he does know and care for the personalities who work in the industry:

“I do know that the media business I worked in is filled with some of the most intelligent, passionate, committed people you’ll ever meet. Scratch the surface and you’ll find they’re wacky, too. Some even have quite a repertoire of silly walks.”

Based on that intimate knowledge, the writer has given us Russell Wiley along with a newspaper staff trying to survive. Um, well, since it is a corporate business some are trying more than others. TRUST: Corporate work experience is not required to identify, appreciate, and understand these characters. Richard Hines’ flawless writing “shows and tells” what is needed to know, including how Russell Wiley could use something close to a miracle to salvage his life.

*SPOILERS* are not allowed on The Divining Wand but creative endeavors found on the Internet are. Take, for example, the Daily Edge (definitely a part of the novel) which appears in its secret design on the home page of Richard Hine’s website.

The author worked with top website designer Jefferson Rabb to create/build what you see as an internal document that allows for the addition of marginalia — the poking fun notations at today’s newspaper business. It’s brilliantly clever but that’s not the best part. Richard explains taking this a step further:

“When we added a Twitter feed, the first thought was to just leave it, let it sit there inactive. But then I started tweeting fake news stories, and we decided the inactive part of the site should actually be the Blog, which is promised on the home page, but is still undelivered. It’s worked out quite well so far, @TheDailyEdge actually had the Top Tweet on the Twitter #news hashtag a few days ago — take that CNN and New York Times!”

What fun and what more proof is necessary to claim that Richard Hine is the wily one? Beginning tomorrow Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch at your local bookstore and online retailer. Please stop by, pick him up, and take him home. His tale makes a wonderfully juicy, after dinner treat!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch 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, October 13, 2010 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 Alicia Bessette
and Simply from Scratch

August 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Throughout the year she’s watched, applauded, supported her fellow 2010 Class Members dance across the ballroom floor to launch their books and celebrate with tours/signings. However this Thursday, August 5, 2010 it’s Debutante Alicia Bessette’s turn to take a bow when her first novel, Simply from Scratch, appears in local bookstores and ships from online retailers.

Of course, truth be told, this book is not Alicia’s first published “composition.” As a self-trained musician, she’s been playing the piano since childhood and her original solo piano pieces can be heard on radio stations around the world. Reservoir, the first CD, was released in 2002 and the most recent, Orchard, received a nomination for the 2009 “grassroots grammies.” For more about Alicia’s music please visit, Alicia Bessette pianist/composer.

Yet in her Wednesday posts at The Debutante Ball, Alicia rarely mentioned music except for a brief nod, such as this, in the September 2, 2009 post, In which Ms. Wednesday introduces herself, and her book!. Here’s what she shared in that first post:

1. I’m married to my college sweetheart, novelist Matthew Quick. In 2004, with the shared goal of becoming full-time novelists, we quit our jobs, sold our house, and moved in with my parents. Five years later, Matt and I are on our own, back in the Philly area, publishing novels and doing everything we can to continue living the dream.

2. I can’t wait to be reunited with my piano, which is very quietly waiting in what was my parents’ dining room in Massachusetts. What caused the separation? More on that in future posts.

3. Does it have something (anything) to do with France? Or dogs? Movies? Music, of any kind? Yoga? Travel? If so, I’m probably very interested!

In that same post the new Debutante also offered a brief synopsis of her novel:

I once heard an inspiring piece of writing advice: “Write the book only you can write.”

That was my aim with my debut novel, Simply from Scratch—to create a story that’s bighearted, accessible, and totally, authentically me.

A week after Hurricane Katrina, I was hired at a regional newspaper, The Landmark, in my hometown of Holden, Massachusetts. For months my colleagues and I wrote about volunteers from our area helping the people of New Orleans. That spirit of community outreach inspired Simply from Scratch. I asked myself, What would happen if one of those Massachusetts volunteers didn’t return? And the book grew from that question.

Simply from Scratch is peopled with lively small-town heroes. You’ll meet a chainsaw artist in her seventies. (Because really, isn’t it time American literature boasted a strong, chainsaw-wielding older woman?) And you’ll meet Ingrid, a young girl scheming to get to know world-famous TV chef Polly Pinch, coquettish star of a hit cooking show. You’ll meet other characters too.

Marisa de los Santos, bestselling author of Love Walked In offered early praise:

“This story of a young widow edging warily back into the world is full of vivid characters and grace. Imbued with hope but blessedly lacking in sentimentality, it is a fresh, stirring take on the devastation of grief and the holiness of friendship.”

And the buzz of anticipation for the book began.

While more Praise is offered, the REAL treat is an Excerpt of Simply from Scratch Chapter 1 in its entirety!

That first chapter introduces many of the storyline’s characters, while leaving the reader with a variety of unanswered questions. It’s not meant to confuse but to pique interest as the author deftly withholds telling backstory details all at once. Instead she scatters bits of information like breadcrumbs to keep the reader following and engaged.

On the other hand, there may be one character who “knows” almost everything from the start. In response to an interview question (posed by a chain bookstore in Germany) — What is the role of the non-human character, the greyhound, Captain Ahab? –, Alicia answered in the July 21, 2010 post, Knowing things:

Greyhounds are a little bit odd. They’re different than other dogs. Their affection is subtle; their presence is calm and cool; and they have many quirks (they rarely sit, for example).

Like her dog, the grieving narrator of Simply from Scratch is a little … different! An artist, Zell “feels” the world more intensely than most people. She’s got her fair share of quirks too: talking to Ahab in pirate-speak; composing emails to Nick, her deceased husband. Captain Ahab’s reserved yet quirky personality underscores that of Zell.

Many people who feel a bond with animals will tell you that animals know things. They know when their people are hurting. They know when there’s celebration in the air.

Captain Ahab joins literature’s many animal characters that serve to remind us of intuition, of inner-knowing, of keen perception. In the very first scene of Simply from Scratch, Ahab looks on as Zell discovers a present hidden in her oven, a gift Nick intended to give to her. Not emotionally ready to open it, Zell hides the present away, until the end of the book.

But I think part of her knows all along what’s in that box. Some readers might know it, too.”

Knowing what’s in the box (I didn’t) or any other of these characters’ unspoken truths doesn’t matter. In fact it’s part of the enjoyment of getting to know the town that Alicia has created. A cross between two brilliantly written TV shows, “Northern Exposure” and “Men in Trees,” Simply from Scratch offers a comfort zone despite having grief, guilt, and a general feeling of indecision exist within its pages. Yet even as Zell mourns — as does everyone else –, there is hope. Why? Well they all must deal with the loss of a husband or friend and start over, simply from scratch.

Charming, thoughtful, and heartfelt, this debut novel gathers seemingly unrelated, significant details together to create a tale that’s both tender and true. But how did the author transform fictional quirky characters and events into what could pass for a realistic human interest story? Alicia explains:

I’m not sure how they all came together. When you’re working on a book, you devote so many hours and an unthinkable amount of thought (!) to it. After a while, all the random little pieces of your story — events, details, characters and what they want — all these things start to synthesize, start to make even more sense than you realized. I hesitate to use the word “magic” in conjunction with the writing process, and I don’t want to sound flaky … and yet, I do believe that when you’re writing, you’re in a very receptive state, and at some point, subconscious takes over, or some kind of inner awareness — perhaps the magic of creation? — and it guides you in drawing connections.

Simply from Scratch connects on all levels, including the double entendre of its title. Alicia Bessette’s “magic of creation” is present on every page and in every character, none of whom you will soon forget. Treat yourself to this warm-hearted novel and enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Robin Antalek

June 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Soon after Robin Antalek debuted with her first novel, The Summer We Fell Apart, on January 5, 2010, it was selected as a TARGET Breakout Book. Perhaps you’ve already read it and understand the reason for these insightful words:

“A preoccupied playwright father and a cult-actress mother are the stars of the Haas family in Antalek’s well-crafted and cunning debut novel…. a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and to the importance of family ties regardless of family history, making this an endearing and easy-to-relate-to dysfunctional family drama.” – Publishers Weekly

However, if you’ve yet to discover Robin’s first novel, what a more appropriate time than now….during the summer? The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of The Summer We Fell Apart for Monday, June 28, 2010 but today is the opportunity to meet the author through her “official” bio:

Robin Antalek’s work has been published in numerous literary journals. She lives in Saratoga Springs, New York, with her husband and two daughters. The Summer We Fell Apart is her first novel.

And to get to know Robin, in her own words, simply read what she’s revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Full house: children, dogs, food and my guy.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Kindness first.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Serendipity – the unplanned moments.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That I won’t know when I’m at the end – whether metaphorically or on the manuscript page.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: The pristine beaches of South West Florida circa 1975 or the rush of Manhattan.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Charlotte de Berry

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: It would have to be plural: my daughters’.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Give me a minute. Not now. Yes.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Eating good food without gaining weight.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Where I am right now in this very moment.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Impatience!

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: The ability to see past impossible.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Losing touch with people who mattered along the way….

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I really don’t think like that – I love the life I have.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Laughter – I laugh all the time – sometimes inappropriately.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. She always had a patient with amnesia – fascinating.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Okay – this stumped me!

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not a sports person – however, I would like to meet someone who has sailed solo around the world.

The idea of one person against the power of the sea is pretty awesome.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Mean people.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: As far as I’m concerned these three are interlocked as one: Reading, cooking, and eating.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’m living the dream.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Humor, honesty and the ability to dream.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Pasta

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones
God Bless The Child – Billie Holiday
The Very Thought of You – Ray Noble
Halleluiah – Jeff Buckley
People Get Ready – Jeff Beck /Rod Stewart version

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: This is a TOTALLY unfair question! Just five??
Mary and O’Neil by Justin Cronin
The Annunciation by Ellen Gilchrist
In The Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist
Chilly Scenes of Winter by Ann Beattie
The Good Mother by Sue Miller tied w/ The Wonders Boys by Michael Chabon

Gracious, with an optimistic, thoughtful perspective, discover even more about Robin Antalek by becoming her friend on Facebook and read her Blog: Robin Antalek.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of the triple memoir Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand with Three Wishes. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, June 16, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

Guest Allie Larkin’s Messy Friends & Messy Characters

June 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Today’s guest post features Allie Larkin debut author of Stay coming out next Thursday, June 10, 2010.

The book has earned both literary praise:

“A charming debut…. Smart and with emotional depth, this is a cut above.” Kirkus Reviews

“Larkin debuts with a funny and touching story about love, loss, and dog ownership.” Publishers Weekly

And commercial recognition:

“Feel-good debut novel…” People Magazine

For Stay, as Allie explains, is about unconditional love at its messiest best.]

My friend Lady is my messy friend. She is the person I can call when I’m laughing or crying so hard that no one on the planet would ever be able to understand a single word coming out of my mouth. She’s the friend I can have over without vacuuming and shoving dirty laundry into closets first. She’s seen me when I’m crabby, she’s seen me when I’m sick, she’s talked me through broken hearts, failure, and self-doubt, and she’s celebrated with me through new love, great successes, and total joy. I’ve done the same for her.

Everyone is messy. The type of mess can vary greatly from person to person, but somewhere in every person lurks a big old tangled mess of something. Some people’s internal mess keeps them obsessed about external perfection. If you compulsively need to vacuum your house three times a day, your house might be spotless, but your need to vacuum is your mess. Some people hide it better than others, but hiding the mess comes at the cost of intimacy and connection.

I love Lady even more because of the messy times. I love her because I’ve seen her at her best and at her not so best. I know the nuances of her little quirks and flaws, the same way she knows mine. There’s an intimacy to that kind of honesty in friendship.

I love that kind of honesty in characters, too. Pippi Longstocking is headstrong and sloppy, and has little regard for social convention. Anne from Green Gables was stubborn and had a habit of saying things she should have confined to her thoughts. Bridget Jones won our sympathies over diet failures and costume mishaps. I think these characters stay in our hearts because they are flawed like real people, and they’d make excellent messy friends. Pippi would not be concerned about the dog hair on your couch. Anne would get worked up with you about your latest injustice. And Bridget would cry along, if your heart were breaking. We wouldn’t feel the same way about them if they were perfect girls with perfect houses and perfect clothes and hair that didn’t even frizz in the middle of a monsoon. If Pippi were a well-behaved child who always followed rules and remembered to say please and thank you, there wouldn’t even be a story, and there certainly wouldn’t be a horse on the front porch.

When I wrote STAY, I knew I didn’t want Van to be a perfect girl. I wanted readers to see her disorganized home, her less than stellar eating habits, and the way she runs her mouth a little too much. I didn’t want her to be someone you wished you were. I wanted her to be someone you felt like you were friends with. She’ll let you put your feet on the furniture. She won’t think any less of you for eating an entire carton of ice cream by yourself. She doesn’t have the energy to notice if your shirt has clues as to what you had for lunch down the front of it, because she’s too busy worrying if you’ll notice the coffee stains on her jeans. And she won’t judge you for your drunken indiscretion with that guy you met at that bar, as long as you don’t judge her for accidentally buying a 100 pound German Shepherd from Slovakia off the Internet.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, June 2, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

The Revealing of Allie Larkin

May 26, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

There’s great buzz about Allie Larkin and her debut novel, STAY, releasing June 10, 2010. And why not with this appealing description (from the Advance Uncorrected Proofs back cover):

Something Borrowed meets Must Love Dogs in a big-hearted, unforgettable debut about friendship, love, and a German Shepherd named Joe.

Literary critics agree:

“A charming debut…. Smart and with emotional depth, this is a cut above.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Larkin debuts with a funny and touching story about love, loss, and dog ownership.”– Publishers Weekly

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Stay on Tuesday, June 9, 2010 but — as is tradition — let’s meet Allie through her “official” bio:

Allie Larkin lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat. She is the cofounder of The Greenists.com, a website dedicated to helping readers take simple steps toward going green. Stay is her first novel.

Hmm, interesting…but it’s time to discover what else Allie might reveal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Full of friends, dogs, books, blogs and love.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Be kind.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: I find a lot of happiness in the imperfect.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Jello. No, not really, but the way it moves weirds me out.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: I would love to get to hang out with all my far away friends, but the where doesn’t matter all that much.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I think any writer feels some connection to the writers who came before them.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My husband.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Oh! I have the “like” and “um” disease. Trying so hard to break it.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I am quite possibly the world’s worst dancer. It might be nice to be less embarrassing in that capacity.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Having a marriage that nurtures personal growth and creativity. STAY is very much a product of my husband’s belief in me and his endless support.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I wear my heart on my sleeve.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I care.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I regret little things – drinking one too many cups of coffee, not going for a run last night – the big stuff is just a chance to learn and do better next time. I’ve learned too much from my mistakes to regret them.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My hair has a life of it’s own.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Pippi Longstocking

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I really like grey characters – the ones who aren’t quite good and aren’t quite bad.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I don’t really follow sports, but maybe a question about what it felt like to not get picked last for kickball in grade school?

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Burp talking. Go ahead and burp, but keep the alphabet to yourself, please.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Spending time with my husband. The world is a better place when he’s around.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: This one. 🙂

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Compassion, humor, patience

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Haddock. And no, I’m not joking.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Yellow Brick Road – Kris Delmhorst, On the Way Up – Peter Mulvey, One Wind Blows – Toad the Wet Sprocket, Peace of Mind – Boston, Hannah & Gabi – The Lemonheads

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Song of the Lark, The Bean Trees, Of Mice and Men, Little Women, The Ordinary Princess

With a delightfully fresh voice filled with wit and charm, Allie Larkin is a new author to follow on Twitter and become friends with on Facebook. By doing so, you can say: “I knew her when…”

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Emily Winslow’s
The Whole World in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Emily Winslow and The Whole World. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Barrie Summy’s
I So Don’t Do Makeup in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is tonight, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.