Thursday, May 30, 2013

What a Mother Knows by Leslie Lehr-A Q&A and a Giveaway

I have a tremendous amount of respect for authors. If there were a job more difficult than teaching 30 children all wanting your attention in different ways (at the same time), it would be writing. Authors have a very tough gig! Everyone's a critic, and it is a tough world out there. Authors put their babies out in the world, and sometimes the world can be cruel! The world can also be filled with lots of love, and I believe when you find something good, you have a duty to hare that love. I always give my author friends a lot of love, because writing is truly a labor of love. Imagine my respect growing exponentially when I find out that the author I'm featuring here has encountered a hardship while writing and publishing her book. Oh, and by hardship I mean cancer! Leslie Lehr is the type of author you are rooting for (You Go Girl!). She is open, honest, and has a book out that you must read. 

I had a Q&A with Leslie to share with my readers. I loved her answers. She was so honest, and I appreciated her taking the time out to answer some questions. (Thanks, Leslie!)

Q: What is the one book you recommend to people when they ask you what you should read next?
A:This one is really hard. So many books, so little time, right? If you haven’t read Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, then I strongly recommend reading that next. It came out two years ago, yet her fabulous story world and the love story that that tales place there is still vivid in my mind. She is a real artist, combining imagery and emotion and a mastery of words.

Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A:I’m an eclectic reader of fiction, so I enjoy reading books from mainstream to chick lit. On any given day, my favorite writers will include Leslie Schwartz, Cathi Hanauer, Ayelet Waldman, Margaret Atwood, Sophie Kinsella, Caroline Leavitt, Heather Gudenkauf….see what I mean? 

Q: What's one piece of advice you'd give to an aspiring writer?

Q: What is the hardest thing you've ever done? 
A: I’ve done a lot of hard things, like promoting this book while recovering from breast cancer, leaving an abusive marriage, taking care of a sick relative - but all those things simply had to be done. The hardest thing I’ve done is gone to sleep knowing that my daughter was unhappy, knowing that I couldn’t fix it. It feels unbearable, trying to tolerate your child’s emotional pain. The first time it happened, on a night years ago, is what inspired What A Mother Knows.

Q: In What A Mother Knows, you write about a mother's instinct. How much do you believe in intuition? 
A:I do believe in intuition, yet I think it’s an accumulation of details of behavior and a person’s history that makes us be able to ‘feel’ something is amiss. Sense memory – a person’s smell or some visual reminder heightens it as well. Unfortunately anxiety can often heighten that awareness into imagining the worst. When Michelle feels her daughter’s presence as she searches for her, she’s mixing her intimate knowledge of her daughter with her longing to see her and to hold her again.  The combination is what enables her to take this leap of faith by acting on her intuition. Wouldn’t we all do that for someone we love?

What A Mother Knows is the tale of  Michelle, the female MC who is on the heels of a coma, induced by a terrible accident. When she wakes up, she thinks her daughter is simply on a trip to Australia. There are even post cards sent to Michelle, which makes it seem as if her daughter will be waiting for her when she's released from the hospital. What Michelle does not realize is that there is so much more to the story than she could have ever imagined. There was a fatality. There are secrets. Michelle doesn't know who to trust. Is there something a mother knows? Is there that instinct that whines to be listened to when everyone else is telling you "it's fine?" I believe we do. Want more?

Here's the synopsis:
An unsettling, emotional and suspenseful novel of the unshakable bonds of motherhood, in which Michelle Mason not only loses her memory after a deadly car crash, but can't find her 16-year-old daughter, the one person who may know what happened that day. But the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of everyone, even herself. A dramatic portrayal of the fragile skin of memory, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free. 
(Publishers excerpt)

Still want more? I knew you would! I'm hosting a giveaway of 1 copy of What a Mother Knows, open to US & Canada only. Winner will be chosen Wednesday, June 5. Please leave a comment and your email address in order to be entered to win. Good luck! 

 This is a link to dear Leslie Lehr herself. :)

Happy reading!

*My review copy was received via NetGalley. I received no compensation (aside from the book being released to me) for my review.*

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer

I originally found this book via buzz from Twitter, and this feature in O (Oprah's) magazine. The cover art is gorgeous, and would be enough to make me want to read the book, but the reviews encouraged me to buy my own copy. This book is a beautifully-written tale of Lorca, a precocious but troubled teenager, and Victoria, an old woman trying to cope with the loss of her husband. These two women's lives intersect when Lorca seeks the recipe for a Middle Eastern dish called Masgouf. Lorca's mother has become exasperated with Lorca's "cutting", and decides her only option is to send her to boarding school. Lorca has been asked to leave school because she was caught "cutting" in the girls restroom by another student. In Lorca's mind, the only way to please her mother is to find, and prepare, her favorite dish: masgouf. 
Victoria has just lost her husband Joseph, but harbors a darker secret-a daughter she gave up for adoption years ago. She and Joseph owned a restaurant called The Shohet and His Wife, and this restaurant is where Lorca's mother went to eat masgouf, the dish she loves. The restaurant has had its doors closed for years, which is why Victoria is baffled when she's contacted to teach cooking classes. Thanks to a meddling neighbor, she's now going to teach Lorca how to cook masgouf. The two develop a friendship, and then the knowledge that they may be related is revealed. Lorca's mother did mention that when she was at The Shohet and His Wife, she felt like "family". Was that a sign that she knew Victoria was her mother? If Victoria is related to Lorca's mother, that would make Victoria Lorca's grandmother. 
This book reminded me of my own grandmother, and her cooking. My father is from Iran, and my grandmother, his mother, would always cook. The names of the Iraqi dishes weren't the same as the Iranian ones, but as I heard Victoria speak to Lorca, I pictured my own grandmother standing over the stove, making a stew to go with the basmati rice. I wondered why I didn't ask her more about her won life while she was alive. Now, it's too late for me to ask her questions. It made me envious of fictional characters. I wished it was us in the kitchen, and not Lorca and Victoria. 
Jessica Soffer has managed to write a book that evokes emotions of hope, happiness, and sadness as she weaves the tale of Lorca and Victoria. You will be rooting for both of them to have a happy ending. After all, don't we all deserve a happy ending? I believe we do.

Jessica's Website
HMHCo Link

Interested in what other readers had to say about the book? Read that here on GoodReads.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Wednesday Sister's Giveaway

Dear Friends,

We all know of the terrible events that have happened in Moore, Oklahoma when a tornado ravaged the town, leveling buildings and homes. Many people were killed, and those that were lucky enough to make it out alive now have nothing. Their homes were decimated, and they are looking at a lengthy time-frame to rebuild their lives. When I saw the news on television, my heart went out to the people in Oklahoma. I was especially moved and saddened by the school that was blown down, killing children as they crouched huddled in a corner trying to stay alive. As a teacher myself, it is devastating to think that you'd lay on top of children trying to save them, but all the while knowing you could not save all the precious students in your care. We all have the ability to contribute to the relief fund by donating to the Red Cross, or another agency.

I've donated myself, and would love to start a campaign to raise money for the Oklahomans. My goal is to raise $500, but even $1 would help off-set the cost of rebuilding for these people. I'm running a giveaway on my blog of 10 copies of The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. You'll want to get your hands on this book because The Wednesday Daughters is coming out July 16th!

Here's a Synopsis:
Five women, one passion, and the unbreakable bond of friendship.

When five young mothers–Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett–first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born. The five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes–ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success. With one another’s support and encouragement, the Wednesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.
(Publisher's Excerpt)

Contest Entry: To be entered to win one of 10 copies, please leave a comment that includes your e-mail address. You will receive an additional entry if you send a receipt or screen-shot of your donation to mellsimons (at) gmail (dot) com. Winners will be notified by e-mail if they've won, and have 48 hours to respond to my correspondance. Good Luck! 

Restriction: You must own an e-reader to win a copy of the book. So sorry to my book die-hards. I feel you! 

Feel free to share this post!

Have a blessed Sunday, friends!

Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Monday, What Are you Reading?

In the reading bag right now is Tomorrow There Will be Apricots by Jessica Soffer. A book about a young girl named Lorca who is trying to make her mom happy doing the only thing she knows how-cook. Lorca is a citter, and though I have never experienced this, I know people who did. It's targic in that it plagues so many of our young people. A haunting tale that keeps you wanting to read more. Alternative character POV's add to the depth of this novel. I cannot wait to read more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Good Daughter by Jane Porter & A Giveaway

There is one book I would like for you to put in your beach bag this summer (pack it early!)-The Good Daughter by Jane Porter! First, you must put The Good Woman in your beach bag. Prepare yourself for hours of sun exposure because this series by Jane Porter is too good to put down! In this latest Brennan sisters novel, younger twin Kit is fresh off the heels of her break-up with her long-time boyfriend. Kit, who is so relatable as an English teacher, really wants to have children and start a family. The problem is, she's 40, and has just broken up with her boyfriend. That has never stopped some women, but Kit strictly follows the Catholic belief that you start a family by getting married first. She teaches at a Catholic school, and they would frown upon single motherhood. Although conflicted, she pursues adoption. All runs smoothly until Kit meets Mr. Wrong, a man who challenges authority. It's so unlike Kit to go against her better judgment, but she just cannot help herself! To anyone flirting with 40, you'll fall in love with Kit, and want to go into a murderous rage against someone. No names will be mentioned-yet! Read it, people!

The Good Daughter was a delicious snack, and I cannot wait for more. September is too long to wait for the next Brennan sister's novel! Her next book, The Good Wife is out September 2013. I'll consider it the best gift if I receive it for my birthday. Hey hubby-(hint, hint)!

Ordering Information available on Jane's site-all in one stop!
Read more about Jane's books on her blog-here! She's always running giveaway because she's the bomb!

There's more! I have one copy of The Good Daughter to give away to one lucky winner. To be entered into the drawing, leave a comment and your email address in the comments section. The winner will be chosen Sunday, May 19th. Winners will be notified by email, but only have 24 hours to claim their prize. I'm so sorry, but to all of you wonderful International readers, this giveaway is available in the U.S. only.

All the best, fellow readers!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Using the INSIDE of a book!

About a month ago, I bought the book One for the Murphy's at our school book fair. I had heard a lot of buzz about the book on Twitter, and wanted to know what everyone loved so much about it. As I was reading the book, I began underlining things I loved. I underlined words or phrases that resonated with me. I added post-its with questions on them that I wanted to discuss with my class. This was my copy of the book, so I felt free to write in it, and explore my own thinking. I also did not want to forget what I had read, so I could discuss it later and remember my thought process in that moment. When I finished the book, I came to school the next day and started giving a "book talk" about how much I loved it, and I was thrusting this book into their hands encouraging my group to read it. One girl in my class wanted to read it, and I handed it over to her. As I handed it over I told her, "I've made some notes in this book. Feel free to add anything you want to the notes, or make notes yourself. You may write directly in the book." She looked at me, puzzled, but took the book. A week later she returned it to me. There were notes in it! My heart sang! It was like a  messaging system between us. I knew what she thought, and she knew what I thought. I honored her quiet, shy demeanor by allowing her to share deep thoughts without having to say them. I also knew what she found important, and how truly touching this book was for her. She also knew how deeply it had affected me.

As a teacher, I know when I read a book, the parts of a story that are important to me are not necessarily what the children find important. To share a deeper sense of understanding of a text, try using "book talks", or "book club" thoughts inside a book. Allow your students to write their thoughts and feelings in the margins of the text. Let them underline, highlight, and comment. You will love seeing their responses, and other students will be able to share that experience when they pick up that book. I only wish I'd thought of the idea sooner. Here are some photos I captured of my student's responses in the book One for the Murphy's

Oatmeal for brains is underlined. She comments, "Imagine that"    

"Wow if I were Carley no matter how humiliating it is I would tell Toni the truth cause they are best friends.

"Best book ever. I cried twice, it's such an awesome book."

Well, there you have it! Using the INSIDE of a book to engage your readers. I hope this strategy proves useful to you all, and you begin to allow your students the freedom to share their thoughts and feelings with you, and their classmates. Be inspired!

xo & Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary

If you are looking for the perfect book to help you segue into the summer reading season, look no further than The Good House by Ann Leary. I was riveted by this book. The story line captured me, and the characters were so relatable. Hildy Good is the town realtor, and is amicable  toward everyone. She's even friendly to the town garbage man! But Hildy hides behind a dark secret. Hildy Good is an alcoholic. She even spends time in rehab at the insistence of her daughters. Of course if you ask her, she doesn't think she has a problem. Hildy truly believed she was a "social" drinker. A little wine with friends never hurt anyone. Right?  The problem lies in the fact that Hildy blacks out after consuming too much alcohol. Usually good ol' Hildy just wakes up with a raging headache. No harm, no foul. Until one night, things do go wrong. People are missing, and the facade of the quiet town becomes cracked and marred.

Ann Leary has seamlessly written a tale about what happens when our lives unravel, and how easily any one of us could slip into the path of oncoming disaster. I guarantee you will be gripped by the ending! At just under 300 pages, even the most reluctant readers will not have a problem getting through this face-paced, wild ride.

The Good House on Amazon
The Good House Indie Bound Link
Ann's Website

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers is a captivating book, that if I had to describe in one word would be-loss. We all know the pain of loss. Some of us know loss much more keenly than others. When you experience the loss of child, what are the feelings that pervade your life? How does one function after the loss of a child? Every once in a while, I allow myself to go to that very dark place where I picture in my mind, my worst nightmare. My worst nightmare would be something happening to my children. I think of how I would not be able to go on if something were to happen to either one of my children.

Every day, that is a real possibility. Just look through the pictures you have. What do you see? Your children, your family, your whole world. A snapshot of what you would miss if you no longer had the privilege of being a parent. None of us has any guarantees of the next day. We have to make the moments we have with our children count. Savor every morsel as if it were your last. It very well could be.

What if you chose to give your child away? If that loss was a choice you made, for better or for worse, doe sit make it any less painful? You willingly took the step to give your child away. What guarantees do you have that you've placed that child into loving arms? The answer is-none. As it goes, there are no guarantees in life. Would you then comfort yourself with the lie that everything was alright? If I will it to be so, then it will be so. I've done that many times, I have willed something to be true because the pain of knowing that loss was too much to bear.

The web of deceit is tangled in Randy Susan Meyer's latest book, The Comfort of Lies. If you enjoy a book with multiple points-of-view, and complicated characters, then this is the book for you. Tia, Nathan, Caroline, and Juliette are all part of a tangled web of relationships. Tia and Nathan are former lovers, who became parents. When Tia discovers she's pregnant, she wants Nathan to leave Juliette. He loves her, after all. Or does he really love her? Will he leave his beautiful, successful wife to live as a family with his mistress? Will Juliette become privy to the illicit affair, and decide to stay with her husband? Can you really forgive a man who has done that to you? Caroline is on the verge of breaking through on the next best cancer treatment. She's driven, and loves her job. Will she be cut out for motherhood? It was never a thought for her, this "motherhood" thing.  How will she fare? You must read it to find out the answers to these questions and more.

*Randy is another author caught in the crosshairs of the battle between Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster. Ordering information is below.*

The Comfort of Lies on Amazon
The Comfort of Lies on Indie Bound
Randy's Website