Monthly Archives: August 2010

Sharpay Fabray, or “Why are the mean girls always blonde?”

My ten-year-old (blonde) daughter asked me this question yesterday, and I had to think about what she meant for a minute.  When I was a kid, the blonde girl was always the heroine, the Girl You Wanted to Be — this covers everyone from Marcia Brady to the pre-multicultural Disney princesses — and the brown-haired one was, at best, the nice girl someone could ultimately settle for being (or dating).  As her exemplar of the Modern Blonde Mean Girl, my daughter held up Sharpay Evans, uberdiva from Disney’s High School Musical franchise, played by Ashley Tisdale, above.  I never really saw her as a purely mean girl and always felt Sharpay got a raw deal in those narratives.  In twenty-first century kid movies and TV, one of the main themes is belonging, which has always been a major concern for most  t(w)eens, though now the lines seem to be more clearly drawn than I remember them being in the battle of Us Versus Them.  HSM and other  t(w)een narratives featuring MBMGs are always, utlimately, about insiders versus outsiders, and despite what the master narrative tells us in HSM, Sharpay will always be an outsider despite her wealth and beauty and talent because she’s openly narcissistic (while the others hide it better) and consequently does not pay appropriate homage to the real insiders at East High School, the athletes, and by, extension, their girlfriends.

In a few weeks Glee will return for its second fall season, and Glee owes a small debt to HSM in its presentation of a high school plagued by social hierarchies that can be bridged — and maybe abandoned — through a near universal love of song and dance.  (And that’s certainly not a bad fantasy, especially in an era when most high schools are lucky to have a music program at all).  What fascinates me about both HSM and Glee is their canny reinforcement of standard high school stereotypes while appearing to dismantle them, the way in which they foreclose the possibility of true social integration while appearing to open it.  Glee has its progressive moments, as I’ll discuss, in its presentation of some social issues (teen pregnancy, lack of job opportunities for adolescents, the oppression of dorks)  when it breaks, often uneasily, from its fantasy format and delves into realistic drama.  But for the most part, both Glee and HSM present their narratives in a manner that is deliberately not realistic.  Few students, for example, burst into song and dance in the cafeteria (except maybe at that high school from Fame) and no guy announces to a father that he got the man’s daughter pregnant by singing “Having My Baby” at the dinner table.  And it is precisely this fantasy that draws us in, the promise of a world in which there is joy and talent and showmanship, what the Glee Club’s advisor Mr. Schuester calls a “perfect storm of emotion”, lurking inside all of us, waiting to burst free — and in key.  Perhaps the most cherished element of that fantasy, as I alluded to earlier, is the promise of unconditional acceptance.

From its inception as a Disney Channel tv movie, the HSM story appeared to represent exactly that utopian appeal of universal acceptance and a breaking down of the lines between Us and Them.  One of its best scenes is set in the East High cafeteria where Wildcats basketball star  Troy Bolton (played by Zac Efron) is warned (in song, of course) of the dangers of breaking the “status quo” by attempting to be a star on both the basketball court and in the musical theater.  Soon other kids reveal their secret talents and passions — a chunky brainy girl wants to “pop and lock it”, Zeke the athlete likes to bake, a skater dude plays the cello — but they are all dissuaded as the queenly Sharpay (played by Ashley Tisdale) watches in horror, recognizing the threat this represents to the social order.  But she need not worry, really.  While Troy and his athlete pals do manage to combine singing and dancing with athletic showboating, the remain the undisputed rulers of the school. and continue to do so until they graduate at the end of HSM3.  In fact, their reign as the ultimate insiders, as the only students in the school worth knowing or thinking about, gets underscored in this final chapter when that year’s musical production is based on the lives of Troy, his girlfriend Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens), and their athlete/scholar friends.  So not only do they get to star in the year’s big show and dazzle everyone in audience, they get to do so while playing themselves.  Thus the movies reaffirm this group’s natural superiority over others.  While HSM appears to present a world in which all are valued — white, black, Hispanic, the bespectacled, and even the slightly overweight — ultimately, at East High it is still the pretty people who matter, to the movie viewing audience and to the characters they are watching.

While similarly steeped in fantasy, Glee presents a more complicated version of the Us versus Them theme because the conflict is never resolved.  Those who sing and dance in the glee club do not (at least not in Season 1) become heroes, even when football stars and cheerleaders join their ranks.  In fact, the football stars and cheerleaders find themselves on the receiving end of the “slushie facials” the once dispensed to glee clubbers and other losers, but they stick with glee club because they find real acceptance there.  One of the more fantastic elements of the first season has BMG Cheerio Quinn  Fabray (played by Diana Agron) go from hater to booster because the Glee Club sings “I’ll Stand By You” to her when her former friends, teachers, and family have ostracized her for her pregnancy (an especially ironic one as she is president of the Celibacy Club). 

Other subplots demonstrate that acceptance is more hard-won and often fleeting.  For example, when now openly gay Kurt joins the football team as a star kicker, the whole team grudgingly performs on the field a routine to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” at his insistence, and they finally win a game.  But a few episodes later, the football players are back to throwing Glee Clubbers in dumpsters and performing other forms of nerd torture, from which those players who stick with Glee Club are not exempt.  Within Glee Club, there are moments of real inclusion, of the gay, disabled, overweight, and ethnically “Other”, presenting at least the possibility of a space for acceptance of all types of  people.  Even so, Glee Club mentor Will Schuester  (Matthew Morrison) still persists in calling Michael Chang not by name but as “Other Asian.”

This contradiction may explain one of the appeals of the show — it presents a fantasy of inclusion as a slow process.  There is no easy acceptance in this TV high school, as none exists in the real world.  The hope for the future in Glee lies in the kids; it is the grownups in Lima who hold back geek-cool/Us-Them integration, most notably in the form of Cheerio coach, grownup MBG and semipsychotic  Sue Sylvester (a role which just earned Jane Lynch an Emmy).  Like most adults, she’s been taught to hide what is not a mark of excellence in her book, whether that’s experiencing a romantic disappointment or having a developmentally disabled (and institutionalized) sister.  At the end of the first season, Sue vowed revenge against Schuester, but it was her former protegé Quinn Fabray who successfully foiled Sue’s plot to destroy the Glee Club and the dream of inclusiveness it represents.  In the spring season she seemed to be coming around (even making her own music video, and then one with Olivia Newton John).

After we talked about the Mean Blonde Girl stereotype and real life bullying, my daughter asked me why people keep making these stories that, in her mind, teach girls to be mean, schools to be hierarchized, and to make many people miserable.  Things will never change, she argued, if we keep seeing the same expectations over and over again, especially if they are rehearsed in movies and TV shows aimed at t(w)eens.

While  Glee isn’t exactly tween-friendly, with its marital affairs and pregnant teens, it at least presents the possibility that stereotypes like the MBG be relegated to the past.  But if you still crave the sight of a mean girl in a cheerleading outfit, Ashley “Sharpay” Tisdale is in a new show on the CW, Hellcats, which, according to its website, is about a college student who loses her scholarship due to budget cuts and (for some reason I could not discern) then joins the school’s competitive cheer squad.  Tisdale plays an auburn haired mean girl.  The show’s tag line?  “Being here doesn’t mean you belong.”  Not everything has to be about social change, I guess, and this show certainly doesn’t look like it will be.


Tangled, but not messy

I’ll begin with full disclosure here, before I launch in to how much I like this book.  I have a bit of a beef (pun intended) with Carolyn Mackler’s Vegan Virgin Valentine, because I wanted the heroine to remain a vegan and not become one just because she’s a bit of a control freak and diet is one more thing she can control.  (And I admit this even as I dislike reviewers who pan books and movies just because they expected the text to go somewhere it didn’t.)  Also, as someone struggling to get just that right hook in the first ten sentences of her book to make an agent/editor gasp with joy at the originality and obvious appeal of my manuscript, I have to admit I found the first paragraph of Tangled to be a little calculated in its draw. But, forget my bitterness.  “Paradise sucked until I found the suicide note.  And then it didn’t suck at all” is a great beginning.

On the surface, the four characters here whose lives intersect seem like pretty stock characters — the beautiful teen actress, the geek with the blog, the bad boy, and the dorky girl – but that’s the point.  As each of them learns to look beyond the surface, Mackler allows us to find unexpected dimensions to the characters.

The characters are wholly believable, even the beautiful but troubled Skye, who describes her mom as someone “who tells me I can tell her everything but by that she means everything good” and her ex-boyfriend, “typical Matt, the Golden retriever of teenage guys.”  Those lines exemplify the funny,sad and very real nature of the narrative.

You’re as likely to get drawn in to Mackler’s  not-so-tangled web as I was.  It’s one of the best YA reads of the year.

Tangled, Carolyn Mackler, HarperTEEN, 2010

A retro game of Old Maid

A retro game of Old Maid

"Mis Ackerman's Tirade" from iCarlyIn the world of tween tv, most adults are complete idiots. That’s a given. And it makes sense — many adults are complete idiots, especially when viewed through the unforgiving eyes of adolescents. More importantly, like all tv shows, tween programs draw in viewers by providing vicarious fantasy lives and opportunities for identification, and for most fans of TeenNick and Disney, who are struggling to gain independence, a world without parents, teachers or other authority figures seems like a pretty good place to be. Thus in these shows, parents are generally absent, but since teens and tweens are forced to spend so much of their time in school, teachers and principals still inhabit their world and exhibit tendencies toward both tyranny and incompetence. But no figure is more vilified in teen tv than the Single Professional Woman. And that’s pretty disturbing considering that while few of the viewers will be secret rock stars, fifteen-year-old vice presidents of fashion design companies, stars of their own internet show or members of a hit tv comedy troupe, many — maybe even most — will one day be single professional women. And that can’t be something they look forward to if they watch most shows on Nick or Disney.

On Disney, there’s Miss Emma Tutweiler of The Suite Life on Deck, a teacher on a semester-at-sea type cruise ship. Like most SPWs, she takes her job way too seriously, particularly in her attachments to her students, even those who clearly see her as a joke. In one episode, A+ student Bailey breaks up with her boyfriend and is so distraught, her friend London is driven to consult the ineffectual Miss Tutweiler for advice. She eagerly invites them to her cabin way, way, way below deck, where “rats are not a problem” because it is filled to capacity with cats, one for every nasty breakup Miss T’s suffered — and there are more cats in unseen rooms. Miss Tutweiler encourages them to join in her breakup ritual of eating ice cream from the carton and dressing up her cats for a fashion show. Even the preternaturally brainless London recognizes that this is not just lame, but horrifically pathetic, and drags Bailey back to the deck filled with normal people, lest Bailey become as hopelessly lovelorn and catmired as Miss Tutweiler.

In the time-honored tradition, many of these SPWs have cats that they are devoted to. Another redheaded cat-addled teacher on Disney is Miss Joy Bitterman (get it?), played by Newsradio‘s Vicky Lewis (below — no photo was available online of Erin Cardillo as Miss Tutweiler, though apparently some nude pictures are available). The set teacher for the young comedy troupe on Sonny with a Chance, Ms. Bitterman insists on having all suitors approved by her ferocious orange tabby, Mr. Mittens. It is clear that this is her primary relationship.

If a girl thinks she can escape the fate of the dorky spinster by avoiding the teaching profession, she’s out of luck. Nick’s iCarly, which was just featured on ABC’s Nightline as “the show America’s kids are turning to” certianly has its share of twisted teachers. There’s the bagpipe- and Randy Jackson-obsessed martinet Ms. Francine Briggs, played by Mindy Sterling (from the Austin Powers movies), as well as the psychotic Miss Lauren Ackerman, who weeps over men in her classroom and assigns them too much homework when her heart is broken. And we learn her heart deserves to be broken when she dates Carly’s brother Spencer and becomes so clingy Carly and the gang have to have the FBI haul her away for illegally downloading music on the “Pear pod” she bought for Spencer after a few dates.

But on iCarly, an otherwise fine show, there are plenty of other SPWs to warn us of the psychologically perilous life of a successful woman with no man. Marissa Benson, played by MadTV‘s Mary Scheer, a part-time nurse and single mom, she has no life other than fretting over Freddie by vacuuming his ears and giving him a weekly tick bath, insisting he wear “cloud block” (pictured below!) every time he goes outside, and even had a microchip implanted in him in infancy so she would always know where he is (and this proved twice to be very useful). Younger but perhaps more obnoxious, Candace showed up in the “iWon’t Cancel the Show episode” as a rare professional adult willing to dat Carly’s brother, Spencer. (Though in his mid-twenties and Carly’s guardian, Spencer is the sort of overgrown adolescent any kid would want to have in charge of them, as he makes spaghetti tacos, tends to blow stuff up, quit law school and now works as a sculptor, all managing to somehow pay the rent on a a ginormous two-story apartment with no job.) Candace showed up to dinner dressed for work, tried to talk endlessly about mushroom tartlets, and failed to be gracious when she learned that Spencer kept abandoning her at the dinner table because he was helping Carly and Freddie with their show by dressing as “Baby Lumpley” ijn a pram while his sister, dressed in a nanny uniform, force-fed him with a large spoon. She left in a huff, having been splattered by Baby Lumpley’s “creamed fish” and all were relieved that Spencer dodged the bullet of adult responsibility by proxy. Because nothing is more boring, and more treacherous, than an educated woman with a job, apparently.

Now, I really like iCarly, though I fear it’s jumped the shark (or beave-coon) this season. It’s well written and the kids have excellent comic timing, and I think that right now Nick’s True Jackson, VP with its SPW killjoy Amanda Cantwell, might be the funniest thing on TV. But I have to wonder about the message that is being sent to young viewers. who see unmarried (though presumably heterosexual) professional women portrayed as manhungry, bitter, and unfuflilled losers. I could list so many more such characters on these networks — even the always fabulous Heather Locklear played a bitter divorced mom who had no time for Miley’s dad’s country charm (or hair) on Hannah Montana. In the nineteenth century, women considering college (or much education beyond the basics) were warned that their ovaries would shrink if their brains were too stimulated, and we’re all familiar, thanks to Betty Friedan, with the stultifying results of following Hollywood’s proscription of the ideal female role after World War II. As a kid growing up in the 70s, I was “free to be you and me” and taught that my potential was limitless. I worry that this might not be apparent to girls watching these shows today, who at the very least are getting a mixed message from their moms and the shows that depict working single women as so joyless and bitter. I hope they see their futures in a better light in the real world.

Kid Lit Con 2010 Announced

The 2010 Kid Lit Conference will be held October 23 in Minneapolis. Check out Ann Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Market Blog for details at

E. Lockhart’s Latest: The Treasure Map of Boys

The third in a series, The Treasure Map of Boys invites us into the head once again of Ruby “Roo” Oliver, who may be my favorite of Lockhart’s characters.  Unless it’s Frankie Landau Banks.  Or Sarah/Sadie from Dramarama. As with these heroines, the reader is pulling for Roo throughout the narrative, even if she’s not always completely likable — which is what makes her so real.  Like many Lockhart heroines, Roo is both maddeningly self -assured and completely neurotic.  At times, like many of us, she is a little too sure of her rightness in most matters, and wants us (and her therapist) to undersatndthe depth of  her suffering in the dire state of “No Boyfriend” for thirty-seven whole weeks.  She sees herself as friendless, a “rolypoly”, even though she still has two pretty loyal girl friends.  And then there’s Noel. And Gideon.  And even Finn, plus more ex-boyfriends who are starting to seem interesting again.  what’s a girl to do?  Roo’s also just been put in charge of the CHUBS (Tate Prep Charity Holiday Bakesale), though her drive to move the goods beyond cutesy snowman cupcakes and to get the word out that Tate Men Bake causes more friction between her and most of the school population, again.

Fans of Lockhart will want to follow Roo again as she tries to figure all of this out– and even recognize where she could have done a few things differently and saved a lot of confusion and heartache (hilarious as it is for the reader).

Released July 2010 by Delacorte

The family that rocks together . . .: Mother, daughter, and the (Jonas) Brothers

Three days ago I took two girls, ages ten and nine, to their first concert, and that trip to Hartford brought back a lot of memories of my own concert-going experiences despite the obvious differences between a pop show sponsored by Disney and, say, the Who on one of their many farewell tours.  This was definitely the first concert I’ve seen in which some of the crowd of  were carried out on people’s  shoulders because they were sleepy and cranky — the show ran way past bedtime.  And while there were more high school-aged girls and college-aged women than I would have thought, this was definitely a Disney family production.

When I was a kid and I went to Disney World for the first time, I think I might have cried a little on the way home through the Florida marshland because I recognized that at Disney, everything was really clean and everyone was really friendly and happy and while you were there  it seemed that nothing bad could ever happen to you.  (I was a child — I had no idea about the more unsavory sides of the Disney empire until later).  The Jonas Brothers 2010 Tour with Demi Lovato and Friends from Camp Rock 2 also presents a vision of a world in which the kids, and everyone else, are all right.  Everything from the pre-show music on the monitors to the dances to the changes of set and clothing (even the pats on the back between musicians?) seemed expertly choreographed and all the performers and audience members seemed really, really happy to be there ( the performers said they were “glad to meet” us and thanked us many, many times for making their dreams come true and reminding us that ours could, too.  There are worse themes for a concert tour, believe me.)  Many girls in the audience rocked Joe’s trademark banadana around the head and black hornrimmed glasses and sported homemade t-shirts, some announcing themselves as “Mrs. Joe” or “Mrs. Nick” Jonas (I guess since there already is a real Mrs. Kevin Jonas, they chose to respect that, though there was one group of three girls, each in  a white bridal veil.  More on the marginalization of the oldest JoBro in a moment).  Even before the show started, there were gleeful cheers as images of the boys appeared on the screens behind and beside the stage, especially those photos that featured them as youngsters in soccer uniforms or footie pajamas.

The show itself could be described as a three-hour advertisement for Camp Rock 2:  The Final Jam, which I found more wearisome than the younger viewers around me.  The “friends from Camp Rock” seemed likable and talented, including Allison Stoner( the voice of Isabella on Phineas and Ferb) , who introduced the show, unveiled her song soon to be released on Radio Disney, and,with the dancers and other singers from the upcoming TV movie, led a contest for four lucky audience members to come up and learn some of the  moves from one of CR2’s dances (two winners got to appear later onstage with the Jonas Brothers, which I imagine was pretty wicked’ awesome for them).  On a more potentially disturbing note, the sequel TV movie features a rival camp, Camp Star, presented as clearly the enemy of the good and talented kids at Camp Rock, and the group with whom we are not supposed to identify — and Camp Star seems to feature hiphop sounds and more performers of color, though they do not appear in this photo. 

The Camp Rock crew performed some of the numbers from both TV movies and made sure that no one forgot when  CR2 was premiering.  Then Demi Lovato, star of both the CRs and Disney Channel’s Sonny with a Chance, came out and sang her lungs out.   I liked her performance more than Ihad expected, with her girl power-themed songs and Ann Wilsonesque delivery.  (I have read elsewhere on the internet that it was the JoBros who helped her to make her own songs more pop-y and Disney-friendly, as the originals, according to Lovato, were  too “dark” and “edgy”.  Today, according to the folks at Disney and Team Jonas,  the four remain friends despite Demi’s breakup with Joe, and especially since the whole relationship may have been Disney-orchestrated anyway, there were no fraught moments on the stage that night, none of  the meaningful looks and curled lips of a late 70s Fleetwood Mac tour).  Lovato’s lyrics promised she would  to stay “just me” and not get ground up by the “LaLaLand Machine” — laudable and far more empowering to her audience than anything Miley is doing right now, even if one could say that in signing with the Mouse Corp Demi has already sold her soul.  (But that’s the view of a cynical adult who once also thought she herself would never compromise anything, ever. )  I liked Demi’s spirit that night, though  I’d always found her screen persona annoying, with her grin that could be more charitably seen as  the goofy unself-consciousness of a happy girlbut was something I usually saw as forced and frightening.

At 9:45 the Brothers finally came on with “Feelin’ Alive” — a song a friend and fellow blogger just pronounced “hideous” — and throughout the show there were even more fireworks and fog machines and explosions than in the previous segments.  If they hadn’t been orchestrated so well it all would have been a trifle too Spinal Tap.  With the first thunderous beats and the appearance of the JB logo on the screen that would open to reveal the long awaited stars, my young cohorts were off their feet, clapping and watching in awe throughout.  While I missed the spontaneity and improvisation that makes a live show so exciting, this particularly orchestrated live show did not disappoint anyone in the crowd (and I remind myself that a reviewer of  Bowie’s performance on the Let’s Dance tour complained that he was the only rock and roll performer who wears a watch onstage and sticks to the carefully rehearsed moves.  And I loved that show.) 

Highlights included a funky fun “Year 3000”, a soulful acoustic solo by Nick of “Who I Am” with a background “Subterranean Homesick Blues”-style video depicting diverse people holding up cards that said “Who I Am”, then flipping the cards to reveal, um,  who they are (for instance, a shot of dog tags on a human chest widened to reveal a woman in camo fatigues whose card flipped over to declare her a “mother”.  Nick was a “brother” and “diabetic” — both drew great cheers. )   Later, “LA Baby” wowed the crowd and a 40s-style “Lovebug” featuring dancers and the boys in white jackets closed the part of the show before the pre- planned encore, in which “SOS” and “Burning Up” rocked.  There.  I said it.  They rocked.

Since I mentioned Dylan, however obliquely, in his limited  introductions to a few songs, Nick’s voice sounded more twang-y and pseudoSouthern than usual, like Dylan’s put-on hillbilly voice.  Nick was born in Texas, I guess, but he does not sound like this on their Disney channel show. But no matter — he writes a good pop song and is obviously very talented.

While I attended the show with a confirmed   “Joenut”, I was a little disppointed in his performancem compared to the one I’d seen in a film of a previous tour (the concert film that did not match the world’s enthusiasm for Hannah Montana in 3D) in which he copped some moves from a young Mick Jagger. But to be fair, before coming to Hartford that day they had performed on Good Morning America for a screaming Central Park crowd and George Stephanopoulos, and the girls and I weren’t exactly sitting on the edge of the stage, close enough to really scrutinize the action — and given the staggering amount of security guys surrounding the stage, we would not have gotten much closerthan we were if we had tried. Besides, my cohorts were content to just soak it all in from a distance.  If either of them were actually met with a real, live  Jonas , they would instantly melt into the floor.  (Lest you think them preternaturally bashful, I hear the first time the boys played the Obama White House, the President had a $10 bet with his oldest daughter that when she actually met the JoBros, she wouldn’t speak to them either).   I remain pro-Joe, because I like any guy goofy enough to post a video of  himself, in a leotard, recreating Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” AND who dresses as the Fruit of the Loom grape on occasion. 

Kevin appears on the tour’sbig screens to the side of the stage only if he is standing next to another brother — even when he does a pretty cool spinning thing while playing.  I saw no one in a “Kevin” tshirt, though I saw one girl in the bathroom in a “Frankie” tshirt, he being the “bonus Jonas” little brother.  I wonder if this bothers Kevin, or if he is just happy to be there.  He seems like an unassuming guy and for some reason I like that he practiced the contests diligently in his basement to appear on Minute to Win It and raise money for their charity. 

Or maybe Kevin is just, as the only married Jonas, quietly enjoying the nuptial privileges the others are patiently waiting for.  (Despite the famous purity rings the unmarried brothers wear,  Team Jonas issued a warning on August 11th that they would take legal action against a blogger who alleges that Joe and Demi remain friends with benefits. )

My young guests thoroughly enjoyed their first concert experience, as I did mine, different as the two shows were. Now, my adult friends who knew this mom when she used to rock and roll can make fun of me and the Jonas boys for their pop-y hits all they want — and some of them do.  And everyone else (including the South Park guys and Russell Brand at an MTV awards show) can deride the boys for their music and their promises to God and themselves (to paraphrase Joe).  But the Hartford show on August 13 was a good one, especially when all of the “And what’s on September third?” “Camp Rock 2!”  “And when is it on?”  “September third” cheerleading was over.  And as a mom of a girl just deciding it might be nice to in some vague way be near a “cute boy” like Joe Jonas, I would rather she  latch on to Team Jonas  than crushing on the middle-aged heroin addicts with skull rings I found appealing in my teens.  Maybe I take my mothering cues from Marge Simpson, who supports Lisa’s interest in Nonthreatening Boys magazine.  Or maybe cool, as we thought of it back in our day, has left some folks a little cold.  Maybe cool just hasn’t taken us anywhere many of us would want to be.

Earlier this summer, the JoBros returned to the White House to participate in a lifetime achievement tribute to Paul McCartney. Back in the 70s, McCartney, of course, asked the world if we had had “enough of silly love songs.”  As a grownup and a mom who has long put away her copy of Lou Reed’s Berlin album, once listened to obsessively and depressively, I would have to answer Sir Paul’s question “what’s wrong with” adding more silly love songs to the world’s collective chorus with “Nothing at all, really.  Nothing at all.”

contest! win 51 great reads!

via the fabulous A. S. King through Facebook.  Go to Theresa Walsh’s Facebook page to enter as directed below:
I’m thrilled to be able to kick off this mega “My Sister and Me” contest in conjunction with the trade paperback release of The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

There are 51 authors participating, and there will be more than 51 winners. Each winner will receive TWO copies of one of the books listed below–one to keep and one to share with a sister or friend. The contest will close 8/10 at midnight EST.

The rules:

1. You must comment on THIS post to enter.

2. In your comment you must type out the titles of *at least* five of the contest books, including THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY. (I’ll be giving away multiple copies of my book.) If you win, I will do my best to ensure you receive two copies of one of the books on your list. (Listing more is best.)

3. If you spread the word–meaning, if you share the link to this page, if you Twitter this info, and/or if you put it on your blog–then you gain an advantage. You can leave another comment for each place you shout out about this contest, as long as you provide a link so that I can verify in case you’re chosen as a winner.

4. You must promise to come back 8/11 to see if you’ve won, so that prizes aren’t left unclaimed.

Here is The Mega List of Fab you’ve been waiting for:

The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh

Maeve Leahy is a busy professor of languages at a university in upstate New York. So busy that she leaves little time for memories—the memory of her lost twin, Moira, and of her many lost opportunities. Until a childhood relic and a series of anonymous notes changes everything—resurrects her long-dead dreams and most painful recollections, and prompts her journey to Rome, Italy in search of ancient history. There, Maeve will learn new truths about her past, and face the one thing she truly fears. Only then can she choose between the safe yet lonely life she’s built for herself and one of risk, with bonds she knows can be both heart-breakingly delicate and more enduring than time.

Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart

Always responsible, Sarah Price traded her poetry ambitions for a steady job, which allows her husband, Nathan, to write fiction. But Sarah is happy with their life, parenting two small children, and she believes Nathan is too, until a truth is revealed: Nathan’s upcoming novel, Infidelity, is based in fact. Reeling from his betrayal, she is plagued by dark questions. How well does she really know Nathan—and herself?

The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

Tilly Farmer has the life she always dreamed of: married to her high school sweetheart, working as a guidance counselor in her hometown, trying for a baby. Perfect. Then one sweltering afternoon at the local fair, everything changes. Tilly wanders into the fortune teller’s tent and is greeted by a psychic, who offers her more than just a reading. “I’m giving you the gift of clarity,” she says. Soon enough, Tilly starts seeing things: her alcoholic father relapsing; her husband uprooting their happy, stable life; and even more disturbing, these visions start coming true. As Tilly furiously races to keep up with—and hopefully change—her destiny, she faces the question: Which is the life she wants? The one she’s carefully nursed for decades, or the one she never considered possible?

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Zee Finch has come a long way from a motherless childhood spent stealing boats. She’s now a respected psychotherapist working with the world-famous Dr. Liz Mattei. She’s also about to marry one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors. But the suicide of Zee’s patient Lilly Braedon throws Zee into emotional chaos and takes her back to places she though she’d left behind. What starts as a brief visit home to Salem after Lilly’s funeral becomes the beginning of a larger journey for Zee. Her father, Finch, long ago diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, has been hiding how sick he really is. His longtime companion, Melville, has moved out, and it now falls to Zee to help her father through this difficult time. Like the sailors of old Salem who navigated by looking at the stars, Zee has to learn to find her way through uncharted waters to the place she will ultimately call home.

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

If you haven’t been reading M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series, then THE HYPNOTIST will blow away any excuse you may have had… A memorable, engrossing read, a story that sets a new bar for Rose. Something for everyone: murder, suspense, history, romance, the supernatural, mystery and erotica. These elements are woven together so skillfully that the whole becomes something new and different…. Rose, who never disappoints either her die-hard fans or the casual reader, has surpassed herself.”

Souvenir by Therese Fowler

Meg Powell and Carson McKay were raised side by side on their families’ farms, bonded by a love that deepened as they grew. Everyone thought they would always be together. But at twenty-one, Meg was presented with a marriage proposal she could not refuse, forever changing the course of her life. Seventeen years later, Meg’s marriage has become routine, and she spends her time juggling the demands of her medical practice, the needs of her father, and the whims of her rebellious teenage daughter, who is confronting her burgeoning sexuality in a dangerous manner. Then, after a long absence, Carson returns home to prepare for his wedding to a younger woman. As Carson struggles to determine where his heart and future lie, Meg makes a shocking discovery that will upset the balance of everyone around her.

The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

Sisters Lulu and Merry are left virtually orphaned after witnessing their father kill their mother. Following their father’s imprisonment, the girls suffer at the hands of uncaring relatives, a tough-as-nails orphanage and, finally, a foster family ill-equipped to nurture them. As they mature and cope with their traumatic past in dramatically differently ways, their imprisoned father remains a specter in their lives, affecting every decision they make.

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Holly Maguire’s grandmother 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. When Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes 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 from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories into 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.

Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin

Acclaimed novelist and nationally recognized family expert Lynne Griffin returns with SEA ESCAPE-a beautifully imagined, multi-generational story inspired by the author’s personal family letters about the ties that bind mothers and daughters.

The Wishing Box by Dashka Slater

A sometimes funny, sometimes magical first novel, The Wishing Box explores the surprising and unintended consequences of getting what you ask for. Julia, an almost-30 single mom whose life is mostly together, lives in Oakland with her seven-year-old son. She and her sister create a wishing box and half-seriously hold a ceremony for the return of the father who abandoned them as children. Astonishingly, he comes back-but Julia’s life has already moved abruptly in a new direction, and she has taken off in much the same way her father had many years before. Julia and her unusual family are at the heart of this novel about appearances and disappearances, the desire to control the future and explain the past, and the legacies passed on from one generation to another.

Thirsty by Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is an American writer who has been living in Shanghai since 2006. Her debut novel Thirsty (Swallow Press, 2009) is a family saga that tells the story of one woman’s unusual journey through an abusive marriage, set against the backdrop of a Pittsburgh steel community at the turn of the twentieth century.

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

Set in Anglo-Norman Ireland, Heart’s Blood blends history, romance and a touch of the gothic. Young scribe Caitrin, fleeing her personal demons, takes refuge on Whistling Tor. The crumbling fortress houses not only the volatile Lord Anluan, but also an intriguing group of misfits and eccentrics. As she sorts through the family documents Caitrin uncovers secrets that could make or break the future of all those on the Tor. Their revelation may also break her heart.

According to Jane by Marilyn Brant

In Marilyn Brant’s ACCORDING TO JANE, one woman in search of herself receives dating advice from the ultimate expert in matters of the heart — Jane Austen — when the author’s ghost takes up residence in her mind and seems determined to stay there.

Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice

Trish Taylor’s white ancestry never got in the way of her love for her black ex-husband, or their mixed race son, Will. But when Trish’s marriage ends, she returns to her family’s Denver, Colorado home to rediscover herself and connect to her past. What she finds there shocks her to the very core: her mother and newborn sister were not killed in a car crash as she was told. Billie Cousins, an African American woman with lupus, discovers to her happy surprise and her lover’s dismay that she is pregnant. When she meets Trish, her life is turned upside down. But then when tragedy strikes Billie and Will, Billie and Trish learn they have more in common than either imagined. Together the two women unravel age-old layers of secrets and resentments and navigate a path toward love, healing, and true reconciliation.

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal

At thirty-seven, Tessa Harlow is still working her way down her list of goals to “fall in love and have a family.” A self-described rolling stone, Tessa leads hiking tours for adventurous vacationers–before a freak injury forces her to begin her greatest adventure of all. Located high in the New Mexico mountains, Las Ladronas has become a magnet for the very wealthy and hip, but once upon a time it was the setting of a childhood trauma Tessa can only half remember. No more inclined to settle down than Tessa, Vince Grasso is the father of three, including an eight-year-old girl as lost as Tessa herself. But Tessa and Vince are both drawn to the town’s most beloved eatery–100 Breakfasts–and to each other. For Tessa, the restaurant is not only the key to the mystery that has haunted her life but a chance to find the home and the family she’s never known.

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

As the carrier of a rare gene, Sirantha Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash. Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper. Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. She may as well have some fun in the meantime…

A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances by Trish Ryan

Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) returns with another spiritual memoir, bringing back her trademark wit, humor, and honesty. – Publishers Weekly

With appealing candor, Ryan sweeps the reader into her life and ponders questions and issues that we all face, dropping nuggets of wisdom along the way that are sure to inspire, encourage and help readers from all walks of life.

Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde’s cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan’s strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading even enemy rulers that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot’s hands. Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.

The Spinster Sisters by Stacey Ballis

Jodi and Jill Spingold are the Spinster Sisters…With a two-hour radio show, speaking engagements, a series of DVDs, and two bestselling books. They’ve built a thriving cottage industry out of helping other single women find happiness and empowerment. Their future has never been brighter. And that’s when Jill shakes everything up—by announcing her engagement. How can they be the Spinster Sisters if one of them is married? Complicating things is her own love life, involving three vastly different paramours offering three different kinds of happiness—none of which Jodi is sure she wants. And her ex-husband, backed by his nightmarishly manipulative new girlfriend, may be angling for a piece of the Spinster Sisters empire. Now, Jodi must make some tough decisions, keep the business afloat, and make it to the altar to stand by her sister—even if means that from now on she’ll be single all by herself.

The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor

Abby’s memories of her sister and her wide range of emotions . . . make the story startlingly real. — Publisher’s Weekly

The September Sisters is the coming-of-age story of a teenage girl, who tries to keep herself — and her family — together after her younger sister disappears.

After You by Julie Buxbaum

When tragedy strikes across the ocean, Ellie Lerner drops everything—her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs—to travel to London and pick up the pieces of her best friend Lucy’s life. While Lucy’s husband, Greg, retreats into himself, his and Lucy’s eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, has simply stopped speaking. Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As its story of hurt, magic, and healing blooms around them, so, too, do Lucy’s secrets—some big, some small. Peeling back the layers of her friend’s life, Ellie is forced to confront her own as well: the marriage she left behind, the loss she’d hoped to escape. And suddenly Ellie’s carefully constructed existence is spinning out of control in a chain of events that will transform her life.

The Truth About Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen

Delilah Blue Lovett has always been a bit of an outsider, ever since her father moved her from Toronto to L.A. when she was eight, claiming Delilah’s mother no longer wanted to be part of their family. Twenty now and broke, but determined to be an artist like her errant mom, Delilah attends art class for free—by modeling nude at the front of the room. While she struggles to find her talent, her father, her only real companion, is beginning to exhibit telltale signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. And her mother, who Delilah always assumed had selfishly abandoned them, is about to reappear with a secret that will change everything.

Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

Seventeen-year-old Ruby Thomas, newly responsible for her two young nieces, is determined to keep her family safe in the vast, swirling world of 1920s New York City. She’s got street smarts, boundless determination, and one unusual skill: the ability to throw a ball as hard as the greatest pitchers in a baseball-mad city. From Coney Island sideshows to the brand-new Yankee Stadium, Diamond Ruby chronicles the extraordinary life of a girl who rises from utter poverty to the kind of renown only the Roaring Twenties can bestow. But her fame comes with a price, and Ruby must escape a deadly web of conspiracy and threats from Prohibition rumrunners, the Ku Klux Klan, and the gangster underworld.

Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

This is the story of Quinn—born Prudence Quinn O’Malley—a confused young Manhattan attorney who loses her father on a tragic September morning. Now, at an existential crossroads in her life, Quinn must confront impossible questions about commitment and career, love and loss. Her idealistic beau desperately wants a wedding, and whisks her away to Paris just to propose. But then Quinn has a dream featuring judges and handcuffs and Nietzsche and Britney . . . and far too many grooms. Suddenly, her future isn’t so clear. Quinn’s world has become a minefield of men—some living, some gone—and traversing it safely is going to take a lot more than numerous glasses of pinot grigio.

How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson

When fifteen-year-old Carley Wells—overweight, unpopular, and unmotivated—declares that she’s never read a book she’s liked, her wealthy parents decide to “buy” her a love of reading by commissioning an author to write a book just for her. They move the author into their mansion, dub themselves “the Medicis of Long Island,” and tell themselves that this expensive, custom-written gift will be all it takes to change their daughter’s life. Only one problem: they–and the author they hire–don’t really know anything *about* Carley’s life. Everyone is worried about what goes through her head. But no one except her best friend, Hunter, the town’s golden child and an alcohol and Vicodin addict, pays any attention to her heart.

The Local News by Miriam Gershow

Lydia Pasternak is a bookish, socially awkward fifteen year old whose life—for better or worse—is irrevocably changed when her older brother, Danny, disappears. In the year following Danny’s disappearance, Lydia finds herself thrust into unwanted celebrity and forced to negotiate her complicated—often ambivalent—grief for a brother who she never particularly liked but who is suddenly gone.

The Liar’s Diary by Patry Francis

Jeanne Cross’s contented suburban life gets a jolt of energy from the arrival of Ali Mather, the stunning new music teacher at the local high school. With a magnetic personality and looks to match, Ali draws attention from all quarters, including Jeanne’s husband and son. Nonetheless, Jeanne and Ali develop a deep friendship based on their mutual vulnerabilities and long-held secrets that Ali has been recording in her diary. The diary also holds a key to something darker: Ali’s suspicion that someone has been entering her house when she is not at home. Soon their friendship will be shattered by violence—and Jeanne will find herself facing impossible choices in order to protect the people she loves.

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

Louisa Jardine is the older one, the conscientious student, precise and careful: the one who yearns for a good marriage, an artistic career, a family. Clem, the archetypal youngest, is the rebel: committed to her work saving animals, but not to the men who fall for her. In this vivid, heartrending story of what we can and cannot do for those we love, the sisters grow closer as they move further apart. All told with sensual detail and deft characterization, I See You Everywhere is a candid story of life and death, companionship and sorrow, and the nature of sisterhood itself.

Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel

Set against a vivid and lush South Florida background during the years of Miami’s coming-of-age, STILTSVILLE offers a gripping, bittersweet portrait of a marriage—and romance—that deepens over the course of three decades. It was called “an elegantly crafted work of art and a great read” by Curtis Sittenfeld, an “exquisite debut” by Publishers Weekly, and “a perfect balance of wit, weakness and tenderness” by BookPage. Booklist called STILTSVILLE “lushly descriptive and complex, written with great delicacy and discretion.”

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, or even the police. But will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to? An edgy, gripping story, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.

The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey

It seems like mutual good luck for Abigail Taylor and Dara MacLeod when they meet at university and, despite their differences, become fast friends. Years later they remain inseparable: Abigail, the actress, allegedly immune to romance, and Dara, a therapist, throwing herself into relationships with frightening intensity. Now both believe they’ve found “true love.” But luck seems to run out when Dara moves into Abigail’s downstairs apartment. Suddenly both their friendship and their relationships are in peril, for tragedy is waiting to strike the house on Fortune Street.

Not Ready for Mom Jeans by Maureen Lipinski

Event planner and famous blogger Clare Finnegan expected to go back to work after her daughter was born. After all, she worked hard for her success…and it’s not like now that she has a child she has to buy a minivan, wear Mom Jeans, and give up her career! Right? Despite more than a few pounds of baby weight still left to lose, Clare dons her Miss Piggy Pants and returns to work. She plans a swanky Sweet Sixteen party, pulls off a million-dollar golf outing, has to come to terms with her mother’s breast cancer, and is left so exhausted that she can’t remember her ATM card’s pin number. Then, after another meeting runs late, and she misses another one of her daughter’s milestones, Clare allows herself to examine an alternate choice: staying home.

How to Sleep Alone in a King-Sized Bed: A Memoir of Starting Over by Theo Pauline Nestor

Less than an hour after confronting her husband over his massive gambling losses, Theo banishes him from their home forever. With two young daughters to support and her life as a stay-at-home mother at an abrupt end, Nestor finds herself slipping from “middle-class grace” as she attends a court-ordered custody class, stumbles through job interviews, and–much to her surprise–falls in love once again. As Theo rebuilds her life and recovers her sense of self, she’s forced to confront her own family’s legacy of divorce. Nestor’s journey takes her deep into her family’s past, to a tiny village in Mexico, where she discovers the truth about how her sister ended up living in a convent there after their parents divorced in the early sixties. What she learns ultimately brings her closer to understanding her own divorce and its impact on her two daughters.

Hollywood Girls Club by Maggie Marr

The climb to the top of the Hollywood ladder is treacherous, especially in stilettos. And as any A-lister knows, even harder than making it to the top is staying there. Hollywood Girls Club follows the well-heeled footsteps of four power players who are determined not to lose their footing: Jessica, the agency president with hot, demanding clients and an ice-cold fiancé; Celeste, the megastar whose action-flick-director husband just dumped her for a fresh-faced newcomer; Mary Anne, the writer plucked from obscurity to become one of the hottest screenwriters in the business; and Lydia, the producer with the magic touch. As the girls struggle to make a blockbuster film that will transform their careers, they discover having friends with power is crucial, but having friends you can trust is even better.

The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen

Twenty-nine-year-old Lindsey Rose has, for as long as she can remember, lived in the shadow of her ravishingly beautiful fraternal twin sister, Alex. Determined to get noticed, Lindsey is finally on the cusp of being named VP creative director of an elite New York advertising agency, after years of eighty-plus-hour weeks, migraines, and profound loneliness. But during the course of one devastating night, Lindsey’s carefully constructed life implodes. Humiliated, she flees the glitter of Manhattan and retreats to the time warp of her parents’ Maryland home. As her sister plans her lavish wedding to her Prince Charming, Lindsey struggles to maintain her identity as the smart, responsible twin while she furtively tries to piece her career back together. But things get more complicated when a long-held family secret is unleashed that forces both sisters to reconsider who they are and who they are meant to be.

Through Thick and Thin by Alison Pace

These days, the Isley sisters’ sense of camaraderie isn’t what it used to be. They’re leading their own lives, with less in common every day. Stephanie is an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom with a six-month-old baby. Meredith has a successful career as a New York restaurant critic, but her only future companion may be a yoga-loving dog. Sometimes it seems the only thing they still share is their mutual desire to lose weight. So they decide to do it together, to turn back the clock to the slim self that Stephanie wants back and Meredith always wished for, and to the easy affection that once let them share everything. Only “everything” is harder now. Because neither sister has been completely honest about things that are very close to home…

Out of the Shadows by Joanne Rendell

Clara Fitzgerald’s recent losses have set her adrift, personally and professionally. Remembering the stories her mother used to tell her, Clara decides to research her ancestry-only to uncover an extraordinary link to the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley. With her reluctant sister in tow, Clara embarks on a search for the author’s long lost journals and letters. As she discovers secrets about the spirited and imaginative Shelley, Clara also unveils secrets about her own life, including some shocking secrets about the man she loves.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation. Cornelia’s mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this elusive woman. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love, and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined, and that ultimately teaches them what it means for one human being to belong to another.

Sleep No More by Susan Crandall

As a young girl, Abby Whitman walked in her sleep, and one night, started a fire that scarred her sister for life and left Abby with unbearable guilt. Now Abby has begun blacking out again—with apparently fatal results. A car accident has killed the son of a prominent family. Even though the evidence seems to exonerate her, Abby is plagued by doubts—and soon by mysterious threats. A young psychiatrist, Dr. Jason Coble, is intrigued by Abby and offers to help her explore the dark recesses in her mind. Through this terrifying journey, Jason’s interest turns to passion, and he yearns to give her the love she craves. But first, Abby must trust him—and shed light on secrets that will rock this Southern town and reveal a danger that threatens them both.

Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyre Ward

From a cabin in Maine to a comedy club in Manhattan; from a diner in Montana to a raft rushing through the Grand Canyon, acclaimed author Amanda Eyre Ward brings us twelve stories about love in all of its complexity, absurdity, and glory with Love Stories in This Town. Whether exploring the fierceness of a mother’s love or the consolations of marriage, Ward’s stories are imbued with humor, insight, and emotional richness.

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright

A chance encounter with a stranger on an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly she is willing to risk everything – her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfectly life in an affluent suburb – in her search for a new kind of happiness.

The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michele Young-Stone

On a sunny day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, eight-year-old Becca Burke was struck by lightning. No one believed her—not her philandering father or her drunk, love-sick mother—not even when her watch kept losing time and a spooky halo of light appeared overhead in photographs. In rural Arkansas, Buckley R. Pitank’s world seemed plagued by disaster. Ashamed but protective of his obese mother, fearful of his scathing grandmother, and always running from bullies, he needed a miracle to set him free. At thirteen years old, Buckley witnessed a lightning strike that would change everything. When Buckley and Becca finally meet, neither is prepared for the charge of emotions—or for the perilous event that will bring them even closer to one another, and to the families they’ve been running from for as long as they can remember.

Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell

Alice, a former New Yorker who thought she’d never feel at home in the bizarre world of the San Fernando Valley, was adapting, raising her 5-year-old daughter while trying to keep her job and make her new house a home. When her attorney husband lands a trophy client – box-office queen Rose Maris – things begin to look up. Then Alex starts working late – a lot. He crunches his paunch into a six-pack and trades his Gap ensembles for Armani everything. Soon, Rose and Alex’s affair blazes in the tabloids and Alice is plunged into trash-gossip hell. Her life crumbles around her as she navigates her newly single self through suburban LA –a place rife with porn stars, psycho soccer moms and nutty neighbors. Is there a chance to wrest Alex from the Sexiest Woman Alive? And if so… would Alice want him back?

Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson

A dazzling debut novel made with the finest ingredients: romance, cooking, Italy, New York, and one woman’s appetite for more. As head chef at a top New York City restaurant, Georgia Gray’s worst critic is her own mother, who can’t wait for her daughter’s impending nuptials. When Georgia suddenly finds herself unemployed and unengaged, she takes her bruised ego to Italy, where she sharpens her skills at a new trattoria and turns up the heat with Gianni, the owner of the winery next door. He tempts her to stay indefinitely, but Georgia’s heart is still in New York where she dreams of salvaging her reputation and opening her own restaurant on her own terms.

Medical Error by Richard Mabry

Dr. Anna McIntyre’s life was going along just fine until someone else started living it. Her patient died because of an identity mix-up, her medical career is in jeopardy because of forged prescriptions, and her credit is in ruins. She thought things couldn’t get worse, but that was before she opened the envelope and saw a positive HIV test with her name on it. Her allies are two men who are also competing for her affection.The deeper Anna digs to discover who’s behind the identity thefts, the higher the stakes. Finally, when her life is on the line, Anna finds that her determination to clear her name might have been a prescription for trouble.

Sand in my Eyes by Christine Lemmon

Twenty years ago, Anna Hott thought she could control everything-her crumbling marriage, her demanding children, her hectic life-by quitting her high-paced job in New York City and moving her family to tranquil Sanibel Island, Florida. But she brought her untamed emotions, her rage toward her cheating husband, and her yearning to write a novel with her. When her husband and children left the house for a week, Anna thought at last she would get her household, her novel, and her mind in order. Instead, when her neighbor Fedelina’s recently divorced son arrived, Anna had a test of passion and truth. Now, at 56 with an empty nest, Anna Hott pulls out the incomplete manuscript she started that memorable week and travels to Indiana to visit Fedelina who lives in a nursing home.

Receive Me Falling by Erika Robuck

After Meg’s parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she’s inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants. Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father’s estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father. In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest.

Good-Bye to All That by Margo Candela

Raquel Azorian has worked her way from temp to executive assistant and is this close to a promotion to junior marketing exec at Belmore Corporation. She’s learned to play the Hollywood game, and maintain a sense of decorum even in the craziest of times. All she needs is for her boss to sign her promotion memo. Instead, he suffers a very public meltdown that puts not only his professional future but also Raquel’s on the line. Add to that, Raquel’s mom has decided to leave her husband, and her older brother seems to be sinking deeper into depression. She’s going to have to choose—success at work or happiness at home. But then a chance encounter at a bookstore café leads Raquel to start planning her own Hollywood ending . . . on her own terms.

The First Husband by Laura Dave

This title is so new, that we don’t yet have a cover for it, or even a published description of it. But because Laura, author of The Divorce Party, is such a wonderful author, we’re sure you’ll love it. Thanks to her for offering early releases of this book.

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette

“A love-letter of a novel. There’s enough warmth here to fill your house on the coldest night. You’ll wish you knew these people, this world.”
—Justin Cronin, bestselling author of The Passage

Simply from Scratch by Alicia Bessette is a tender-hearted debut novel about a young widow, a nine-year-old girl, and a baking contest that will change both their lives.

Remedies by Kate Ledger

Ledger’s accomplished debut offers a compelling view of married life through the prism of unacknowledged grief. An impressive portrait of a family in crisis, executed with finesse and assurance. – Publishers Weekly, starred review

Depicting modern-day marriage with a razor-sharp eye, Remedies is about what it takes, as an individual and as a couple, to recover from profound loss.