Monday, October 29, 2007


By Renee Rosen

It's not every day that a debut novel is welcomed with the kind of praise Renee Rosen's EVERY CROOKED POT received. So I'm thrilled to be blogging about this very special book, and even more thrilled that Renee agreed to participate in my GCC Does Hollywood program.

Before I get into it, though, here's a small sample of the extraordinary buzz ...

“… a beautifully nuanced tale about an extraordinary family and an even more extraordinary young woman. Not since Myla Goldberg's Bee Season has a first novel so deftly captured the complexities, joys, and frustrations of daughters and their families. It's hard to believe this is a debut – Rosen's voice is already as good as it gets. Keep an eye out for this rising star." -- Sara Gruen, New York Times #1 bestselling author of Water for Elephants

“In a debut novel that could easily have been published as a…memoir, Rosen looks back at the life of Nina Goldman, whose growing up is tied to two pillars: a port-wine stain around her eye and her inimitable father, Artie. The birthmark, she hates; her father, she loves. Both shape her in ways that merit Rosen's minute investigation....” -- Booklist (starred review)

“Quirky and heartfelt, Renee Rosen's Every Crooked Pot tells a familiar story of self-acceptance and familial love.” -- Chicago Tribune

“Every Crooked Pot by Renee Rosen is one of the top books I've read this year … A perfect balance of scenes that make you laugh and ones that make you cry.” -- The Chicago Contingent

“Told with wit, wisdom, and characters so realistically drawn that they breathe, this poignant story of angst and redemption will touch the heart of anyone who ever longed to be “normal” enough to be loved.” -- Sandra Kring, author of Carry Me Home and The Book of Bright Ideas

"Realistic, sharp and funny, Renee Rosen perfectly captures what it's like to be stuck on the outside longing to get in. A beautiful, poignant, and impressive debut -- I didn't want it to end." -- Alyson Noel, author of Fly Me to the Moon and Kiss & Blog

See what I mean? Everyone who reads this book wants to shout about it.

So okay. Here now is how Renee would pitch the story to our fictional Hollywood producer:

A lovable misfit born with a disfiguring birthmark covering in her eye struggles to come to terms with her own flaws and those of her quirky family while discovering in the end that perfection is not a prerequisite for love.

And here's how she would cast it:

If it were up to me, I'd just cast Patrick Dempsey in all roles.

But seriously, I think Sandra could be Reese Witherspoon or maybe Hilary Swank ...

Adrien Brody would make a fine Artie.

Nina, the narrator, is really tricky. What I really need is a young Natalie Portman ala Beautiful Girls.

I hope you'll be interested in checking out this book the next time you visit your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To order online, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Renee's website at

Sunday, October 21, 2007

They hate me, they hate me not ...

When a reviewer expects to hate your book and then has to admit to admit that maybe it wasn't that bad, it's particularly gratifying. And it's even better when the plot summary makes it clear that the reviewer has given the book a very careful read. Here's one such critique I just found. It's from the Midwest Book Review, where it was listed under "Reviewer's Choice":

Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA
Ellen Meister
Avon c/o HarperCollins
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 100229780060824815 $13.95 800-242-7737

Through a quirky series of circumstances, Applewood, Long Island, appears to be in contention as the site of an upcoming movie currently in the planning stages, to star George Clooney, the secret [or not-so-secret] fantasy of many a female PTA member. Most of the action centers around three good friends, Maddie Shein, Ruth Moss, and Lisa Slotnick, who, along with another woman who joins the buddy circle, Beryl Berman, find themselves plotting against the head of the PTA, a bitchy type who wants to achieve her own coup by taking credit for getting the event for their town. [As an added bonus, doing the film at the local high school would also bring a much-needed stadium to the school grounds.] Each woman has her back story, of course, and the reader is given the details on each one.

I had frankly expected this book to be a bubble-headed exercise, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the women [and the men in their lives] were quite recognizable, and the story engrossing. The milieu in which they live their lives were very realistically portrayed, given that this is fiction after all and one doesn't really expect George Clooney to appear in a real-life finale [no spoiler here, the tantalizing and broad hint is given in a brief prologue -- although it's not technically designated as such]. I found the novel thoroughly enjoyable.

Another review like this recently appeared in TQR, a literary ezine:

by Steve Hansen

The first hundred pages of Ellen Meister’s “Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA” were hard to get through. But, it’s chick lit, so seeing that this reviewer is somewhat un-chick, you may chalk that up to reason. There’s a lot of inner dialogue about so-and-so’s choice of shoes and descriptions of clothing. The fawning over the insufferable Hollywood blowhard George Clooney was also something of a snooze.

But ... the sex was good.

And if the sex is good, as anybody with a libido can tell you, a lot can be forgiven. The only thing is, there isn’t enough of it. Oh sure, maybe if you’re past the age of 65 and can’t afford Viagra, but otherwise it’s like, excuse me, but give me more, baby! Give me more!

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to the threesome, which is the novel meandered its way into a soul.

The failed attempt between Maddie and Frank to have an affair becomes particularly poignant when you get deeper into the novel and discover some of Applewood’s secrets (which aren’t really anything to do with the PTA, but the tie-in with the title is close enough). This plotline is the strongest of the book, followed closely by the Mommy Dearest-type relationship between Lisa and her mother Nancy, which, of course, by the end of the novel has come to an equitably satisfying resolution.

Secret Confessions sneaks up on you. Amid all the girl-talk and fashion mongering and sex, Meister manages to create characters to whose problems you can relate. And it happens almost imperceptibly. As I rushed through the final one hundred pages of the novel tears came to my eyes three times and streamed down my face one time, at least that is all I am willing to admit to.

Friday, October 12, 2007


By Judy Merrill Larsen

“Judy Merrill Larsen’s All the Numbers is sure to join Judy Guest’s novel Ordinary People, and Jacqueline Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean as one of the most talked-about books of its time. This powerful story of tragedy, grief, and redemptive love haunted me long after I read the final uplifting yet heartbreaking words.”
—Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife

Oh. My. God. When was the last time you saw a blurb like that?

Friends, today I'm thrilled to be blogging today about ALL THE NUMBERS, a brilliant debut book by GCC author Judy Merrill Larsen

I cannot wait to get my hands on this novel, because I just know I'm going to do backflips over it. Check out the description blurb from the publisher:

Judy Merrill Larson, a Midwest mother of five and a high school English teacher makes her publishing debut with All the Numbers (A Readers Circle Trade Paperback; $13.95; July 25, 2006), an emotional novel that explores how one mother recovers after the sudden loss of her son.

Recently divorced and navigating the uncharted territory of single parenthood, Ellen Banks is a tough but loving teacher and a devoted mother to her two sons, Daniel and James. When they take their summer trip from their home in Madison, Wisconsin to their best friends’ lake house for weekend, she has no idea that her life is about to irrevocably change. While Ellen sits on a nearby dock, a teen on a jet ski shatters their perfect day when he hits James. Suddenly Ellen is faced with decisions that are every parent’s worst nightmare. Life support, organ donation. And then, a funeral. A grieving sibling who blames himself for the death of his brother. A distant ex-husband, friends and family who don’t know what to say or how to help, lawyers, judges and policemen—none who can make the hurt go away. Healing the empty space in Ellen’s heart and soul is almost too much to bear. But she is determined to see justice done for her son, and to heal the deep wounds in her family. All the Numbers culminates in a highly charged trial which, in an unexpected turn, leads Ellen and Daniel to a new beginning.

Here's a bit about Judy herself:

Judy Merrill Larsen teaches high school English in St. Louis, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and their five children. She says that the novel came about because of her fascination with how ordinary people recover from extraordinary events and how love makes us vulnerable, and how very isolating yet very human, the desire for revenge can be. Whether she has seen something in the news or in fiction, she has always wondered about the lives of people in the aftermath. The choices they make. The holes they fall into and then how—or if—they claw themselves out. From the medical details to the intricacies of Wisconsin law, and courtroom procedures, Larson says the research was as challenging as the writing. As she says of her main character, “none of us is a super hero, but we can all choose to be heroes in our own lives. Ellen Banks, in All the Numbers, ultimately makes just that choice, by choosing to live on.” Larsen holds a Master’s Degree from Washington University. She is currently working on her second novel.

I'm happy that Judy agreed to participate in my weird little GCC Does Hollywood blog. So here now is her pitch to our fictional movie producer:

ALL THE NUMBERS traces a year in the life of a family that begins with the death of a child--it's raw and painful, but ultimately redemptive. It's about learning how to forgive and live a life you never thought you'd have to.

And here's who Judy would cast:

I think Reese Witherspoon would make a good Ellen.

And for Bob, the attorney, I'd have to go with Dennis Quaid because if I've got so much pull with the director I'd be able to cast myself as the kiss (stunt) double.

ALL THE NUMBERS is in bookstores now. To find it at an independent store, visit To buy online, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target or any cyber bookseller. For more information, hop over to Judy's website,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who is the #1 HarperCollins author?

Me! Today, anyway. My HarperCollins website got so many clicks yesterday I landed in the number 1 slot on the their homepage ... above Jenna Bush and Joyce Carol Oates!

I'm stoked about this, because HarperCollins just launched this brand new website program for authors, and I was lucky enough to be one of the beta testers. It's an amazing tool and I applaud all the folks who worked so hard on it. To see my page, go to

To see proof that I'm really in the #1 slot, go to

To see the great-looking pages of other authors who are part of the new website launch, click below:
Victoria Alexander
Jo Barrett
Toni Blake
Elizabeth Boyle
Gayle Callen
Anna Campbell
Dixie Cash
Kathryn Caskie
Mary Castillo
Jacquie D'Alessandro’Alessandro
Delilah Devlin
Suzanne Enoch
Elaine Fox
Jeaniene Frost
Terri Garey
Laura Lee Guhrke
Kim Harrison
Lorraine Heath
Myla Jackson
Eloisa James
Beverly Jenkins
Sophie Jordan
Cindy Kirk
Lynn LaFleur
Stephanie Laurens
Julie Anne Long
Margo Maguire
Anne Mallory
Cathy Maxwell
Teresa Medeiros
Ellen Meister
Janet Mullany
Sophia Nash
Hailey North
Kayla Perrin
Jenna Petersen
Julia Quinn
Lynsay Sands
Kathryn Smith
Kerrelyn Sparks
Melody Thomas