So Many Books!

Happy Anniversary to Musa Publishing! After my summer of serial killers, true crime, and memoirs, I returned to the cozier world of fiction, just in time to celebrate the publisher’s first anniversary. Musa has nine imprints–one for each of the nine muses, the Greek Goddesses who ruled over the arts and sciences.

My fiction experience is mostly with contemporary fiction, so I’ve started with the Terpsichore imprint, but I’ve asked for, and been given, the opportunity to try out some other lines, like Calliope (romance) and Melpomene (mystery). Look for my fall releases!

 

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A Reason to Run by K. Daniels

The lives of three women converge after a plane crashes in West Texas. Robin’s husband should have been on that plane, but missed his flight. Marissa’s husband should have been camping near the area, but lied about his plans. And Autumn’s teenage daughter witnessed the crash landing, but has run away to find her father. Three women from different states with nothing in common except their life-changing problems, cross paths after each makes the decision to run. What they are running from, and to, takes them in directions they never imagined.

 

Baiting the Hook by Mary S. Palmer and David Wilton

When Pokey Merrill is visiting her fiance Davey Simpson in Mobile, AL, her law partners try to steal her clients. She returns to San Francisco to save her firm. While there, she begins to question whether she, a polio victim who wears braces, would be a good wife for Davey.
Davey, a fisherman, who has recently been acquitted of murder due to the efforts of his childhood friend–a lawyer and the first black Lieutenant Governor of Alabama–is waiting for his house to be rebuilt after having been burned down, possibly by Ben’s opponent for Governor of Alabama, Roger Hoffman. Since Davey’s boat was also sabotaged and is under repair, he can’t fish, so he is helping with Ben Johnson’s campaign.
As Davey risks his life in a daring encounter with the Ku Klux Klan, he learns that some politicians will resort to murder to reach their goals. He also discovers his own weaknesses regarding revenge and insecurity, including his feeling that he isn’t worthy of Pokey.

 

Shaw’s Consequence by Ralph Hartmann

Marcel Shaw is an exacting man; a man of high standard and high promise. He is a man of business, a husband and a father. He will stop at nothing. He is an obsessive bastard. He will do what must be done to further his course, no matter how distasteful the task, he will never lose. This is his secret.
Sidney is the eldest of three sisters born into the world their father has created. She longs to escape from beneath the shadow he casts, to find her own way. Instead, after Erika vanishes, and her mother slips deep into a bottle; after Sara is assaulted, and her father abandons them, Sidney endures and holds together the fragments of her family. Her life is a tenuous balance between hope and despair. One more trial may break her. This is her secret.
Randy Thomas loves Sidney. A fatherless young man pulled into the world of wealth and privilege. He is Marcel’s man, trapped in a misguided loyalty. He is a free man caught in a life of subservience. There is a power in his past and a purpose to his future. He knows nothing of this. Randy is a fraud, he is a killer. This is his secret.
Vincent Slowly Bear is a guide; he will show Sidney the things she needs to see. He will tear Randy apart and make him over again. He was dead long before he was murdered. He runs with the One Wind; Slowly Bear is not a man. This is his secret.
And secrets, no matter how closely held, always convey consequence.

Venetian Masquerade by Suzanne Stokes

When Amy comes unexpectedly face-to-face with Alessandro di Benedetto, six years after he broke her heart – she has a very special reason to be scared. Because unbeknown to Alessandro, Amy had his child, and she fears that if this powerful Italian finds out about little James he will move heaven and earth to take his son away. But has she misjudged him?
Amy flees to Venice to be with her dying Godmother, and the chance of a new life. She makes new friends, has the chance of new love…but always in the background, there is Alessandro.

And to give you all the chance to try something new, I’m giving away a five dollar gift certificate for you to choose a Musa book. Just leave a comment here to be entered into the drawing.

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But wait…there’s MORE!

You’ll also be entered into a drawing with all commenters in the Musa Anniversary Blog Hop to win fabulous prizes, including…A NEW FIRE! (a Kindle Fire, that is!)

How to Enter… For every hop spot you leave a comment on between October 1 and the 7th @10 pm EST, you will be entered to win the prizes above. That means if you comment on 10 blogs you will be entered 10 times, plus will be entered in the blogs’ you commented on contests as well.

Rules to the HOP

1) HAVE FUN!!!
2) INVITE ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS!!! SPREAD THE WORD!!!
3) THIS TOUR STARTS: October 1, at Midnight (est)
    THIS TOUR ENDS: , October 7, at Midnight (pst)
    Winners will be drawn and posted October 9th! ***
Come Join the Party on October 7th at The Romance Review Forum to enter to win more prizes. http://www.theromancereviews.com/forum/
4) PARTICIPATION AT ALL BLOGS IS RECOMMENDED, BUT NOT REQUIRED. REMEMBER, THE MORE BLOGS YOU HOP and COMMENT ON, THE BETTER YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING PRIZES.
5) Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire is for US and Canada mailing addresses only. International winners will receive a $50.00 Musa Gift Card. Winner will be announced on October 7th  2012 at 11 est at The Romance Review forum.
6) DID I MENTION TO HAVE FUN?
 ***Authors & Book Pages have full discretion to choose an alternate winner in the event any winner fails to claim their prize(s) within 72 hours of their name being posted or after notification of win, whichever comes first. Anyone who participates in this blog hop tour is subject to these rules**
And Hannah O, you’ve won the $5 gift card! I’ll be emailing you!

The Marriage Plot

I hadn’t considered myself a big Eugenides fan, but I now realize that I have read every one (all three) of his novels and enjoyed them all.  In fact, I think this is my favorite so far, even though Middlesex was more complex and critically acclaimed (with the Pulitzer and Oprah and all.) I don’t remember much about The Virgin Suicides since I read it almost twenty years ago, but I do remember it was interesting and that I wasn’t as shocked by it as I thought I would be.

The Marriage Plot involves an English major (do stick with it through those first 50 pages of lots of literary criticism language) who falls in love with a manic depressive and the theology major who falls in love with her.  I was intrigued with the theology guy’s character. He was a big fan of Thomas Merton, and my husband reads Merton. And current events (the Kony guy’s unfortunate breakdown) reminded me of Leonard’s struggles with mania and depression.

I recommend it.

Blueprint for Building Better Girls

I should learn not to check out books on a whim, but I did last week. Interestingly, the book mentioned The Bell Jar, the last book I read in a funny line about college girls just needing to shed a few tears and flash a copy of The Bell Jar at the student health center in order to get some Valium. I didn’t need to even try that — I had dear Grandma Joyce for that. (Really, she only gave me Valium once. Honest.)

Blueprint for Building Better Girls seemed like a book I’d love — a character-based compilation of eight female archetypes whose lives and stories intersect. I usually totally dig these kinds of books. This one, though, just didn’t click. I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I wasn’t even interested enough in some of them to notice their connection to others in the book.

I rated it “meh.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Perhaps it is because of the hype and the closure since this is the last in the series, but I must admit that I LOVED IT! I’ve enjoyed all of the books in the Harry Potter series, but I wasn’t moved by them necessarily. This one really got to me. I won’t give any “spoilers” but will just say that, if I were still teaching, I would love to create a unit (well, with seven books, I guess it’d be a whole course) exploring the motifs, the symbols, the themes. What a way to draw kids into the world of literary analysis and appreciation.

MY DRY, SPOILERLESS COMMENTARY: I enjoyed the JC connection, really appreciated the resolution with Neville’s character, didn’t like the epilogue, was broken-hearted for Teddy. Loved Luna’s dad, Xenophilius Lovegood (love of strangeness) — my kind of guy!

TTE: Books for Toddlers

Looking for ideas of books to read to your toddler? You can get ideas from award lists, like Caldecott Winners, from The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, from your librarian, from other families (like my list below — a work in progress), or from just stumbling upon them. Make library visits part of your routine and check out a few books each week. I always have my list of to-reads in mind, but I like to get a book or two not on my list — books that catch my eye or that Caroline pulls of the shelf and hands to me. I’ve stumbled upon some great ones this way. I’ve created an amazon list of our favorites.

Normalizing the Natural

After Caroline was born, when nursing consumed much of my time and thoughts, (as if it doesn’t now!) I was surprised at how often nursing was mentioned in the fiction I was reading and on television. Was it always there and I just didn’t notice? A discussion came up recently on a listserv for breastfeeding counselors to which I subscribe, lamenting the lack of breastfeeding in fiction. The other list readers and I compiled this list of books that do have breastfeeding characters. When you put together a care package for a new mom, be sure to include oatmeal cookies and one of these novels. 🙂

Books I’ve read:
So, What do you do all day? by Amy Scheibe
Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
Life Studies by Susan Vreeland
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maquire
The Lucky Ones: A Novel by Rachel Cusk
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

Books others mentioned:
Ten Big Ones, Janet Evanovich
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The Wandering Hill, Larry McMurty
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
Into the Forest, Jean Hegland
The Summer of my Amazing Luck, Miriam Toews
The Singer from the Sea, Sherri Tepper
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Lives touched by Breastfeeding ed by Boas, Hazell, and Casey
Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

Series that include breastfeeding as a given for their characters:
Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Skye O’Malley by Beatrice Small
Royal Diaries (young adult)
American Girl (young adult)

Authors who often included breastfeeding as the norm:
Nora Roberts
Danielle Steele
Catherine Asaro
Julian May
Teri Levitson
Susan Elizabeth Phillips

**I have not read all of these books myself. This list is a collaborative effort. If you have books to add, please email me or leave a comment. I’ll edit to add them!

Running with Scissors

My book club’s choice for this month is Augusten Burroughs’s memoir, Running with Scissors. I’m not a huge memoir fan, so I didn’t vote for it the numerous times it came up in our polls, but after I saw a preview for the movie, I decided I might enjoy the book. It won our latest poll without my vote, regardless. I was even more intrigued to read it when I got this message from the paperbackswapper sending me the book:
“Hi Amanda,
I mailed your book this morning.
Normally I end my messages with ‘enjoy’or ‘happy reading’ but this book is so sick, twisted and disturbing that neither of those seem appropriate. So instead I’ll close with this…
Don’t read this book while eating,
L”

Contrary to her message, I did “enjoy” the book. She is right, it is sick and twisted and disturbing. This guy had some really messed up adults influencing his life, but he survived with his sense of humor intact and has gone on to be successful. The concept of resilience is an idea that really stuck out in my mind during graduate school. We talked often about resilience being so important in social and emotional development, especially in gifted individuals — it being a key in moving a gifted person to the talented level. I’d say Augusten Burroughs would made an excellent case study.

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Often, how quickly I finish a book is an indicator of how much I liked it. This was not the case with Wicked: The True Story of the Wicked Witch of the West. While I usually devour books on roadtrips and over holidays, life with a toddler doesn’t allow the same level of voracious reading. This book took me a good three weeks to read, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

I have a love / hate relationship with The Wizard of Oz. I really enjoy the movie and the songs, but I have strong memories of it because it prompted my first nightmare. Eerily, I had a dream while reading Wicked that was partly inspired by this book, too.

The story is just what the title says. Every person has a story, circumstances that shape who they are and how they feel and act. In our lives, we are usually just concerned with our story and maybe those of the ones we love and are close to. In fiction, it is the same. We all love Dorothy and know her story. In this book, Gregory Maguire gives us Elphaba’s story. Yup, the Wicked Witch of the West has a name! (L F B, L. Frank Baum’s initials, get it?) In fact, she’s not even really a witch, she was just born green to the consternation of her parents.

I like seeing things from a different perspective, and here we get to see the story leading up to the infamous tornado, the tornado, and what follows.

I recommend the book and look forward to seeing the Broadway production someday.