Tuesday, July 29, 2008
(FYI, if you haven't pre-ordered THE SMART ONE, you might want to do so soon, as the first edition is sure to become a collector's item, with not one but two errors on the back cover. Call your local bookstore today to make sure they have it on order, or go right to your favorite cyber bookstore, such as Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Borders.com to pre-order.)
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
I still don't have any time but I'm going to tell you anyway.
Several months ago, my publicist at Avon/HarperCollins told me she planned to schedule some joint events with me and Saralee Rosenberg, another author with a new book coming out from Avon this summer. It was a new name to me, and so I did a bit of Internet sleuthing. I almost couldn't believe what I found out. She was a mom, lived on Long Island and wrote novels about suburbia that critics found hilarious and heartwarming.
I was stunned. How was it I hadn't heard of this author? It seemed nearly impossible.
But okay, it was some sort of freak happenstance, like those scenes in the movies that drive you crazy, where the two protags keep missing each other by seconds.
Anyway, I dropped Saralee an email introducing myself and couldn't wait to hear back. I really wanted to meet this woman!
And then ... nothing. She didn't respond to my email!
I always like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and so a few weeks later I wrote to her again. This time I heard back within minutes. The email was filled apologies and phone numbers. She hadn't snubbed me after all--my first message had gotten snagged by her spam filter.
Saralee and I quickly discovered we had even more in common than I first thought. We each have three kids, our husbands are in finance, and we have incredibly similar career histories. To say we hit it off is putting it mildly.
So when Saralee called and told me someone blurbing her new book, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD, had a scheduling conflict, I was happy to step in. Of course, I was also a little nervous. I liked her so much, but hadn't read any of her books. What if I didn't like it? What if I thought she was a terrible writer?
I needn't have worried. One page in and I knew. This book was solid gold. It's not only howlingly funny, but the plot moves along like an express train, and the characters are treated with humanity and tenderness. Saralee is such a gifted writer she even creates an antagonist that has so many layers of complexity you end up understanding the pain behind her bitchiness.
Even Publishers Weekly had to admit they liked the book! Check out his review:
There's enough suburban-mom anxiety in Rosenberg's crackling fourth novel to fuel several ulcers: worrisome in-laws, spoiled-brat kids, a husband with a shrinking income, a newfound stepson and a gorgeous neighbor whose nastiness knows no bounds. The nonstop crises in Mindy's diary of domestic disaster would easily torpedo both credibility and patience if it weren't for this harangued housewife's edgy wit and chicken-soup-for-the-soul warmth. (“Buggin' out?” Mindy fumes at her stepson. “Oh, right. Because with three other kids, a job I hate, and a failing business, I was short of things that pissed me off.”) Though hostile next-door-neighbor Beth Diamond is the presumed Darth Vader in Mindy's life, it's clear the pair have more in common than they'd like to admit, and they eventually bond and help each other through domestic troubles. If you enjoy giddy diversions, this chronicle of a long and bumpy suburban ride can be surprisingly sweet and is well worth the trip. -- Publishers Weekly
And this is no aberration. Every review has been glowing. Here's one from Booklist:
Mindy Sherman either has the neighbor from hell, or is the neighbor from hell, depending which side of the Lexus-lined driveway you’re on. While her image-conscious, nutrition-obsessed, high-maintenance neighbor Beth fails to appreciate the intricacies of carpooling, purse parties, and other niceties of life in suburban Long Island, fashion-challenged, grooming-beleaguered Mindy scarfs fast food, juggles credit cards, and lives in stained sweatshirts. Their polar-opposite approaches to life keep Mindy and Beth from being neighborly, much less friendly, until evidence of Beth’s marital difficulties are broadcast on the Internet, and her high-powered executive husband abandons her. Desperate times make for strange bedfellows, forcing a reluctant Beth to rely on Mindy’s down-to-earth practicality and supermom efficiency. As each woman faces an escalating series of family crises, a white-knuckle, life-or-death emergency brings the true meaning of friendship home in unexpected ways. Through a winning blend of hip and humble humor, Rosenberg simultaneously skewers and celebrates the institution of suburban sisterhood.— Carol Haggas
I know I make a lot of book recommendations in this blog, but DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD is really something special, and I hope you'll check it out. Because it's so funny, people will often call it a "beach read," and that's fine. But because it deals with friendship and family and has so many layers, I think it also makes a great book club read. Trust me, you'll have lots to talk about.
And of course, if you're in the Long Island area in August, I hope you'll come to one of the events Saralee and I are doing together. Here's what on the schedule so far:
- Thursday, August 14, 7pm
- Tuesday, August 19, 7pm
Barnes & Noble - Country Glen Center
Carle Place, NY
- Saturday, August 23, 2pm
Barnes & Noble - Smith Haven Mall
Lake Grove, NY
You can buy DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD at your favorite chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com or any cyber retailer. For more information, visit Saralee's website at saraleerosenberg.com.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Smart One by Ellen Meister – a book review by Marge H.
The Smart One by Ellen Meister - A 10 Mile Book by j - Frugal Mom - r.
Book Review: The Smart One by Ellen Meister by Laura Cushing
The Smart One - A Review by Ashley B.
The Smart One - By Ellen Meister - A Book Review by ~Connie ~ MLC
The Smart One~ A book review by Patty Mayonaise
The trade reviews (with one ubiquitous and snarky exception) have also been positive. Here are a couple:
In this character-driven novel, the relationship of a trio of sisters is pushed to the brink by long-simmering jealousies and grievances brought to the surface by old flames and new loves. Bev is the middle sister, the smart one, divorced and between jobs, always conscious of meeting her family’s expectations. Eldest sister Clare feels pressure to live up to her reputation as the pretty one, with her storybook marriage, beautiful family, and affluent suburban home. Youngest sister Joey is the talented one, the former rock star–turned–recovering drug addict who resists every encouragement to return to the stage. When the sisters discover a body concealed in a drum found in the crawl space beneath a neighbor’s home, their sleuthing plays out against family drama and romantic tugs-of-war. Despite being punctuated by a couple of wrenching plot points and the somewhat ambiguous resolution, the novel is fast-paced and features great dialog. Meister’s second novel (after Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA) is a fresh take on the familiar “she’s the smart/funny/talented one” refrain. Recommended for all public libraries.—Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY, LIBRARY JOURNAL
Bev Bloomrosen, the middle of three sisters, has always been envious of her siblings. While her older sister, Clare, has gotten by on her looks and her younger sister, Joey, has everyone on edge with her wild past, everyone has always had high expectations for Bev. At 35 Bev has turned to teaching and is considering leaving New York for a job in Las Vegas. She agrees to spend the summer at her parents’ house while they frolic in Florida with their next-door neighbors and to help facilitate the sale of the neighbors’ house. Things get complicated when Kenny, the next-door neighbors’ handsome son who Bev has always carried a torch for, shows up, considering a move home. Bev is just as smitten as before, but despite the fact that Kenny seems interested, she can’t get over the fact that he slept with Joey when they were teens. Add a murder mystery to this tale of sibling rivalry for a perfect beach read. — Kristine Huntley, BOOKLIST
And here's a review from an online publication called Romance Reader at Heart, which designated THE SMART ONE a "top pick":
Ellen Meister's THE SMART ONE is a charming story about familial roles that shows life in suburbia in all its guises.
Three sisters, each with her own expectations and position in a family, are thrown together just when they most need each other. One is pretty, one is a druggie/performer, and one, the primary focus of this story, is the smart one. Unfortunately, at this point the smart sister is feeling anything but brilliant. Her life is in shambles, she's contemplating a career move and her marriage has just broken up. She's back in the neighborhood where she grew up and dealing with the same people she thought she'd left behind. One of those people is Kenny, the heartthrob of her teenage years who cheated on her with her own sister. So many issues need to be resolved, so many heartbreaks to be mended, and that is before Bev and her sisters, along with Kenny, find a body in an industrial drum.
I liked everything about this story. That's not to say there weren't difficult points for these characters—there were, plenty of them. It doesn't mean that the whole plot was a peaches-and-cream romance—it wasn't. And saying that I liked everything about this doesn't mean there weren't parts where I wished I could have made things easier for Bev and the girls, and even Kenny. There were. Lots of them. But the fact that this author had those points in this book, and somehow managed to resolve all of them so successfully with an ending that is wonderfully appropriate, is the reason I liked it all. This story is realistic, peopled with characters who have ordinary lives, with their share of hardships and troubles. Still, there's a reasonable ending for all of them, one that shows that even in good families there's room for growth and, sometimes, an adjustment of family roles and expectations.
If you're looking for a smart, humorous story about families, look no further. THE SMART ONE by Ellen Meister is a down-to-earth story that made me wish I had a sister of my own! --
Once THE SMART ONE launches in August I'll start my massive coast-to-coast tour. The coasts I'm talking about, of course, are the North and South Shores of Long Island. If you're around I hope you can join me. Here's what's on the itinerary so far:
- Friday, August 8, 7pm
- THE SMART ONE Book Launch
- Borders Syosset
- 425 Jericho Turnpike
- Sunday, August 10, 11:30am - 1:00pm
- Writers on the Vine
- Palmer Vineyards
- Aquebogue, NY
- Thursday, August 14, 7pm
- Summer Suburbanistas:
- Book talk by Ellen Meister & Saralee Rosenberg
- Book Revue
- Huntington, NY
- Tuesday, August 19, 7pm
- Book chat by Saralee Rosenberg & Ellen Meister
- Barnes & Noble - Country Glen Center
- Carle Place, NY
- Saturday, August 23, 2pm
- Book chat by Ellen Meister & Saralee Rosenberg
- Barnes & Noble - Smith Haven Mall
- Lake Grove, NY
- Tuesday, September 16, 10:30am
- Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library
- 1125 Broadway, Hewlett, NY
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Driving Sideways tells the story of Leigh Fielding, a twenty-eight year-old kidney transplant recipient who—six years, hundreds of dialysis sessions, and a million bad poems after being diagnosed with Polycystic Kidney Disease—finally feels strong enough to pursue a few lofty goals she’s been mulling for years: find herself, her kidney donor’s family, and the mother that abandoned her over twenty years ago. And what better way to do just that than a solitary road trip across the country? Well, maybe not entirely solitary, because Leigh suspects she may have inherited more than just an organ from her deceased donor. It’s this sneaking suspicion that takes her trip down some unexpected detours—and the juvenile delinquent who blackmails Leigh into giving her a ride is only the beginning.
I got to get my hands on this one! It sounds extraordinary. Here's what critics and other authors are saying:
“…embracing both highs and lows, alternately hilarious, humiliating, and heartbreaking, often within the same sentence. Smart and funny without being forced, sentimental without being maudlin, Riley’s funny, picaresque vision of America will make readers wish they could go along with Leigh on her next trip.”--Booklist
Driving Sideways is a gorgeous novel -- I LOVED it!! It's enjoyable, uplifting, and so so so funny and sparky. I found it hugely entertaining and very touching. Jess Riley's voice is irreverent and wonderful, and her writing is genius."--Marian Keyes, internationally bestselling author of Anybody Out There?
“A hopeful and hilarious debut…Jess Riley may well be my new favorite author.”--Jen Lancaster, bestselling author of Bitter is the New Black
“Brilliant…Jess Riley proves herself a huge new talent.”--Kristy Kiernan, author of Catching Genius
“I loved it--LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED it kind of loved it. I adore Leigh and want to bring her home with me. All the characters were unique, the relationships worked, and Riley avoided the easy ending. I could read her writing for days.”--Eileen Cook, author of Unpredictable
I hope you'll check out Jess Riley's DRIVING SIDEWAYS the next time you visit your local chain or independent bookstore. To buy online, visit amazon.com, borders.com, barnesandnoble.com or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Jess's website at jessriley.com.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
On Thursday, I went into Manhattan and shot an author video with the talented and hilarious Saralee Rosenberg, who I'll be doing several appearances with this summer. Saralee's a homey, i.e., a Long Island mom and author, and my new BFF. I can't wait for you to meet her and read her wickedly funny new book, DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD.
The video hasn't been produced yet, but I promise to post a link if I sound halfway intelligent and don't look like Quasimodo.
After the videotaping, I went to a Thrillerfest cocktail party given by St. Martin's Press. I'm neither a thriller writer nor a St. Martin's author, but was lucky enough to snag an invitation from blockbuster bestselling author Michael Palmer, whose books you should be reading right this second. (Or after you finish this blog entry, anyway.) Michael's latest novel, THE FIRST PATIENT, got a blurb from somebody just a tiny bit famous.
Then, on Saturday, author Amy Wallen invited me to speak at a Dime Stories event at the KGB Bar in Manhattan. What an honor. The writers there were funny and touching and downright brilliant. Much to my surprise the crowd seemed to like my weird little story, which was quite gratifying. They posted MP3s of all the stories, and while my own voice makes me cringe, it's a blessedly short piece. Click to take a listen:
To hear the other writers from the event, including my pals Susan Henderson, Robin Slick, Pasha Malla and Amy herself, click here and then click on Dime Stories: NYC on the left. All stories are less than three minutes and they're really worth a listen ...
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
I met Amy Wallen through Susan Henderson's LitPark blog, and was immediately impressed with her charming wit. She's the kind of person you want to friends with from the get go.
And then I read her debut novel, MoonPies & Movie Stars, and was even more impressed. This is a rare kind of book, with hilarious and very human characters, dialogue that sings and delights, and a touching story about family that keeps you going and guessing. What a treat! I love this book, and hope you'll trust me on this recommendation.
But if not, check out what these fine folks had to say about it:
“With a pitch perfect ear for comic dialogue and fine sense of the absurd, Amy Wallen writes herself a place on the porch swing of great Southern writing, as she follows the misadventures of three determined Texas ladies sworn to find a runaway daughter...”
–Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander
“[S]pirited and honest… Wallen capably illustrates that it is not only possible but also compelling to be funny, captivating, and compassionate, all in the same book.”
-Los Angeles Times
“A delightful and exhilarating journey, kind of like being on a tour bus
guided by Eudora Welty on speed.” –Mary Gordon, author of Pearl
“Wallen launches a funny, touching, and bittersweet ride in search of family, but what her characters find is bigger than Texas and better than MoonPies.” –Booklist
Not suprisingly, Amy was a good enough sport to play along with my GCC-Does-Hollywood blog idea, and here's how she'd pitch the book to our fictional producer:
Ruby Kincaid is the owner of a six-lane bowling alley in Devine, Texas. When she spots her runaway daughter on a ButterMaid commercial she takes off for Hollywood to find her and make her own up to her responsibilities.
Though Amy sees this story as more of a Broadway musical than a movie, she gave me her thoughts on creating a Hollywood dream cast:
This is a super hard question for me because, although I live in Southern California, I know nothing about who anyone is. Someone said last weekend that they saw Kathy Bates as Ruby Kincaid. She was in Misery, right? (Lol. Yes, Amy! And Kathy Bates would be perfect.)
And I see Olympia Dukakis as the mother-in-law, Imogene Davidson.
I would love to see Sissy Spacek play a leading role.
And if Jessica Lange can be Loralva Jefferson who wears fringed mini-skirts and rattlesnake rattler earrings, then I’d be happier than all get out.
MoonPies & Movie Stars just came out in paperback, and I hope you'll rush out and get it. It's at bookstores everywhere. If you prefer to shop online, you can visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble or any cyber bookseller. For more information, stop by Amy's website, amywallen.com.
Also, if you happen to be in NYC on Saturday, July 12, would like to meet Amy and me, come to the KGB Bar at 85 East 4th Street in Manhattan at 7 pm. It's the East Coast installment of Amy's Dimestories readings, and there will be lots of talented writers (including the brilliant and lovely Susan Henderson) reading their shortest stories.