The Divining Wand

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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.

Meg Waite Clayton and The Four Ms. Bradwells

April 18, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


National bestselling author Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters) had a dream of becoming a novelist but — not knowing how to achieve that career — she went to college to become a doctor and emerged from academia seven years later as a corporate lawyer. Truth and dreams have a way of being recognized though. They did for Meg and they also did for her characters in The Four Ms. Bradwells.

Intelligent, insightful, and issue-complicated, the story is an ode to the author’s law school friends and the University of Michigan Law School itself. The combination of the two helped her discover and explore the strengths she needed to face the challenges of being a women in a restricted, male-dominated professional world thirty years ago. Have things changed? Well that’s the basis for the novel which asks the intriguing question: What would happen if four women told the truth about their lives?

These women/friends answer as the storyline evolves into the novel’s synopsis:

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant.

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever.

Once again, Meg Waite Clayton writes inspiringly about the complex circumstances facing women and the heartfelt friendships that hold them together. Insightful and affecting, The Four Ms. Bradwells is also a captivating tale of how far people will go to protect the ones they love.

There is critical and popular Praise for the Literary Guild Book Club Fiction Selection
/Mystery Guild Selection as well as an Excerpt of Part I, introducing Mia and her perspective of the present.

Alternating the narration from the first person voices of Mia, Betts, Ginger, and Laney, their personal stories are told in flashbacks colored by the individual’s truths. Some are secrets, guilty evasions, and personal jealousies harbored over the decades. In other words, exactly what one would expect from real life friendships that holds together by a silent bond of loyalty, trust, and love.

The author acknowledges that secrets are a central theme of the novel and she further explains:

“I suppose the thing about secrets is that we often keep them out of shame. And the things that shame us often shouldn’t. They’re often things that are not our fault—and yet they’re also often things that we will be judged for, consciously or not. Or failures that we and others can learn from if we’re willing to examine what happened. Is there a message in that? I suppose that if more of us shared our secrets we might see how common life’s challenges are. But it takes a brave person to come forward.”

Are all the four Ms. Bradwells brave enough to disclose their secrets from thirty years ago in order to save Betts’ Supreme Court Nomination from the skeleton of their past? They buried it back then, however — as the adage promises: The truth will out.

Although Meg Waite Clayton’s characters are strong, independent, and seemingly successful — a journalist, a lawyer turned poet, a senator, a potential Supreme Court Justice — they share the same vulnerabilities as anyone else. For example, each one has had issues with their mother and, now, with their daughters. And, while these friends have survived and succeeded, there remains a nagging doubt if they have achieved what was expected of them.

Complete with storylines of sexual harassment, unreported rape, gay ex-husbands, fellow woman-envy, and even Anita Hill versus Clarence Thomas, The Four Ms. Bradwells is a thought-provoking novel with heart. Yes there is also a mysterious death (no spoilers here) but its suspicious cause serves as a means to tighten the present friendships. The four Ms. Bradwells do tell their truth and, if you’re looking for an honest, reflective book about what it means to be a friend, Meg Waite Clayton has written a “must read.” Enjoy!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton 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 20, 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.