The Divining Wand

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Eileen Cook Takes Pleasure in Unraveling Isobel

January 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Recommendations

In pushing The Divining Wand’s restart button, one has to smile at how comforting it is to be greeted by Eileen Cook’s (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11) “almost” annual new release. And what a NEW release it is.

Described as: “A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor,” Unraveling Isobel has charmed the literary critics:

“Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator.” —The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” —Kirkus

Here’s what it’s all about:

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Eileen takes a walk on the dark comedic side of storytelling and emerges with a winner. Her writing has never been better, more current while also unique for this genre.

Unraveling Isobel is highly recommended for fun, lessons learned, and Eileen Cook’s snarkily lovable imagination.

Want a sneak peek? Read Chapter One.

[Please note that there is also a Kindle Edition.]

Melissa Senate and
The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

October 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the book’s front cover:
There’s no recipe to
follow when it comes
to love. . . .

Bestselling author Melissa Senate (The Secret of Joy, The Mosts YA, the rest in Bibliography) will have her latest book, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, released next Tuesday, October 26, 2010, and its title alone is certain to categorize it as a romance novel. However, in the author’s guest post — Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit” made a cook out of me –, Melissa reveals that the idea for the book came from having her 6 year old son cooking (and wishing) beside her. Romantic? Actually this novel can best be described as a multi-generational, universal love story of discovering where one belongs in the world.

Selected as an Indie Next List Notable for November, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School first and foremost explores how deeply one’s past affects their present. Often taken for granted, Melissa explains how much her heritage means to her and the novel:

“A big part of the inspiration for Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, was my own grandmother, who died several years ago. I spent many weekends of my childhood in her tiny Queens, New York, apartment, in the kitchen, where I found she did most of her talking. She didn’t love talking about herself, but I was so interested in her not-so-easy early life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and her two marriages and I got an earful at the sink while scrubbing potatoes. I have this vivid memory of her funeral, of standing at the grave and holding my then toddler son in my arms, and something about that incredible stretch of generations stuck with me. What can your grandmother’s long life teach you about yourself, teach you want to want to know? How does your grandmother’s and your mother’s life affect who you are, your path? I had a lot of questions and found myself poking at that in all the family relationships in the book.”

As those questions were answered, the tale evolved into the following synopsis:

Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces daily. Benvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Also Simon and Schuster offers a taste sampling of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by providing an Excerpt: Chapter 1.

Although the novel may initially feel reminiscent of other chick lit books about a single young woman trying to find Mr. Right, it’s not. Instead — and in addition to the already mentioned issues that comprise the storyline — the romance is adult, mature, and complicated. For example, male characters with a past of failed marriages, divorce and shared parenthood are realistically showcased, juggling what’s best for their daughters as well as for themselves. Yes, here the children come first and that’s very important as Melissa says:

“The relationship between parent and daughter is such a huge part of the book, from Liam’s and Simon’s relationship as single fathers with their young daughters, to Tamara’s relationship as single woman with an overbearing mother, to Holly’s with her mother, and her mother with her grandmother, and Juliet’s with her grief. I’ve found I like to explore the effect of loss and divorce—and I like to write about fathers, single or otherwise, who’d go to the ends of the earth for their kids.”

Yet even caring, sensitive parents cannot protect their children from “mean girls” and bullying that range as far back to affect Holly’s mother. For the author will agree that what the novel is truly about is pressure. No matter what one’s age or whether it’s peer or family pressure, the consequences of pressure need to be confronted and dealt with.

Of course The Love Goddess’ Cooking School is also a most savory read filled with romance, pasta, and chicken alla Milanese. But, while spending months perfecting the recipes for the cooking class scenes, the author thought about what would make Holly feel like she belonged in her own life. Was it her own self-identity or other people’s expectations and acceptance?

With insightful clarity, Melissa found that the answer came down to having enough inner strength to hold one’s own against outside pressure, as she says:

“The character of Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, didn’t belong, and yet she made herself belong whether anyone liked it or not. I wanted to explore that strength. And I wanted Holly to find it for herself. I wanted everyone to find it. Then you get to choose; you get to decide.”

TRUTH: Sign-up for The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by pre-ordering or purchasing the book next week Tuesday and you’ll discover the best recipe for life and love is entirely up to the real you.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School 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 20, 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.

Guest Jenny Nelson
On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

September 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Ah sweet memories — particularly those deep, heartfelt ones that inspire authors to wrap a novel around them. In today’s guest post, Jenny Nelson describes how her first trip to Italy began a love affair and ultimately a setting for her debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen.]

On Food, Florence, and Inspiration

The first time I went to Florence I was 20 years old and had just finished two semesters in Mardrid, where I majored in “mucha marcha,” the distinctly Madrileño art of partying until four in the morning, learned “un poquito” of Espanol and traveled as much as my budget and my class schedule would allow. After a month of Eurailing among Let’s Go Europe’s top college destinations, my best friend and I parted ways in Brindisi, Italy (the only reason to go there, at least then, was to catch the ferry to and from Greece), and I trained on to Florence alone. I was meeting up with my dad, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous August; it was now almost a full year later. We met in the lobby of our hotel, an elegant, turn-of-the-century mansion, where I couldn’t help but feel out of place with my giant backpack, sleeping bag bungee-corded on the side, and my proudly-purchased-in-Munich Birkenstocks, which were finally comfortable enough to wear (they’d put me through hell in Paris – no one warned me that before becoming the most comfortable, if not the most attractive, sandals, my feet would be sliced, diced and rubbed raw). If my dad was surprised by my 20-pound-heavier frame, which even my baggiest Gap t-shirt couldn’t conceal, he didn’t say anything. We were both starving, so we took a stroll to a local trattoria, a tourist restaurant, the kind whose menu offered photos of the food and a prix fixe that included insalata mista to start and a scoop of gelato to finish. I ordered a Coca Cola Light and the spaghetti pomodoro. Despite all indications to the contrary – the fluorescent lights, the preponderance of spoken English and German, the cheesy photos – the spaghetti was perfectly cooked, the sauce rich and velvety, brightened by basil and chunks of San Marzano tomatoes. I was in love.

Ten years and many trips to Italy later, I was back in Florence and back in love, this time with my fiancé, and we were there to be married. After a civil ceremony at the Palazzo Vecchio in the sala matrimoniale, a sumptuous room adorned with floor-to-ceiling tapestries, crushed red-velvet upholstery and a chandelier as big as the bathroom in our Manhattan apartment, we held our religious ceremony and reception in a villa overlooking the Duomo. We shared then, and still share today, a love of Italian food, wine, art, architecture and language (though only one of us can speak Italian, and it’s not me).

Ten years after this, my debut novel, Georgia’s Kitchen, is on sale at bookstores and online. Though I never became a chef, or a food stylist, or a recipe tester, or a farmer (unless you count the insanely delicious Mr Stripey tomatoes growing in my vegetable garden), I wrote my first book about a chef. An American chef at a trendy New York restaurant who finds herself suddenly unemployed and unengaged, packs her knives and travels to – you guessed it – Italy.

* * * * *

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Leah Stewart’s Husband and Wife in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Leah Stewart and Husband and Wife. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, September 15, 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 see if you’re a winner.