Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Historical Fiction Giveaway: The Arrangement

She’d made it sound as though her husband would be joining them for dinner. She’d made it sound that way on purpose, and then she arrived alone.

Los Angeles, 1934. Mary Frances is young, restlessly married, and returning from her first sojourn in France. She is hungry, and not just for food: she wants Tim, her husband Al’s charming friend, who encourages her writing and seems to understand her better than anyone. After a night’s transgression, it’s only a matter of time before Mary Frances claims what she truly desires, plunging all three of them into a tangled triangle of affection that will have far-reaching effects on their families, their careers, and their lives.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

30 Characters from Literature We’d Want as Valentines

I’ll admit it—some of my first crushes were on characters from books. Passionate and patriotic Johnny Tremain, forever-seventeen-year-old Jesse Tuck from Tuck Everlasting and animal lover Travis Coates from Old Yeller all made my young heart skip a beat.

And apparently, I’m not alone. Read It Forward asked book lovers what fictional character from literature they would most want as their valentine and the response was overwhelming. Read on for some thoughts on literature’s most crush-worthy characters then join the conversation on Facebook or in the comments below and tell us who makes you swoon!

“Jamie Fraser from Outlander. A dreamy Scottish warrior with a heart of gold…I’d be his Sassenach any day.”

(Read on…)

Excerpt Good for Book Clubs

Read the First Chapter of Arcadia by Iain Pears

Three interlocking worlds. Four people looking for answers. But who controls the future—or the past?

In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor Rosie. One day, while chasing Lytten’s cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where Storytellers are revered above all others. There she meets a young man who is about to embark on a quest of his own—and may be the one chance Rosie has of returning home. These breathtaking adventures ultimately intertwine with the story of an eccentric psychomathematician whose breakthrough discovery will affect all of these different lives and worlds.

Dazzlingly inventive and deeply satisfying, Arcadia tests the boundaries of storytelling and asks: If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly alter the past?

Imagine a landscape. Bathed in sunshine, sweet-smelling from the gentle shower that fell overnight then stopped as dawn broke. A dense grove of holm oak stands at the foot of a hill, damp with the drops of soft-sounding water which leave the ground moist but firm underfoot. In the distance a sliver of water, bright and glittering, reflects the brightness of the sky. The wide river is of a blue so translucent that it is almost indistinguishable from the heavens above. Only the vegetation marks the division between the fields and the range of low-lying hills beyond. It is warm now, but will be hot later on; there is not a cloud to be seen. Down by the river, there are the harvesters with their pitchforks, fanning out across the fields, some already at work.

A young boy looks down on them. They are far away, and he sees that they are talking quietly and seriously, eager to get on with a day’s work. Over his shoulder is an empty leather bag; he is going for the water which the men will soon need when the sun rises higher. The stream is cool from the hills beyond, which mark the end of their world. He does not know what lies outside it. His entire universe is here, the few villages with their rivalries, the seasonal round of crops, animals and festivities.

He is about to leave it for ever.

Your Reading Life Good for Book Clubs

7 Variations on the Epistolary Novel

The epistolary novel, even the very term, smacks of anachronistic formality—one might expect characters to “call upon” one another in such stories. But the letter form offers fiction writers all kinds of fascinating angles through which to not only observe characters but to present them. If I begin reading a novel and the first thing I come across is a salutation, I immediately have to figure out: who wrote the letter? To whom are they writing? What is their relationship? And why is the person writing? These are dramatic questions for a reader to be asking, and all this just from the sight of “Dear…”

Moreover, the epistolary novel is commonly defined as a novel made of letters, but it can include any kind of documented communication pertaining to the characters. And so with each variation of the “letter” comes a new set of implicit usage guidelines (e.g., we write very differently in an email to a friend than in, say, a formal resignation letter or a note-to-self reminder), which we the readers, as cultural participants ourselves, understand and completely relate to and which knowledge the author exploits for the sake of intricately and practically revealing character through a notion called “discrepant awareness,” which really just means dramatic irony, which really just means that some characters are aware of things while others aren’t, but the reader knows everything except for how the story unfolds and thus creates the tension of which great stories are made.

To show you what I mean, here are seven variations on the “novel in letters,” from diaries to Instant Messenger, from yearnings to God to notes in the margins of a library book. (Technically, there are only three types of epistolary novels—mono-, dia-, and polylogic, i.e., one character’s documents, two characters’, or several, respectively—but those are narrative POV distinctions and I’m interested in the forms these works use, which is totally different and so screw the academics—here’s my list.)

Excerpt Good for Book Clubs

Read a Hilarious Excerpt from American Housewife

A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven. These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Vicious, fresh, and nutty as a poisoned Goo Goo Cluster, American Housewife is an uproarious, pointed commentary on womanhood.

Hello! Welcome to Book Club

Hello! Welcome to Book Club. I’m your hostess. My Book Club name is Mary Beth. We all have Book Club names at Book Club.

Why, dear? Well, really, why not?

The girl who brought you here goes by Delores. The ladies on the red sofa named themselves after TV judges. The ladies on the gray sofa named themselves after the Supremes. The ladies at the buffet table chose Bethany, Marjorie, and Aretha. The elderly lady dozing off in the egg chair calls herself Jane.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Literary Fiction Giveaway: Wreck and Order

A boldly candid, raw portrait of a young woman’s search for meaning and purpose in an indifferent world.

Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that’s constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution.

Giveaways Good for Book Clubs

Mystery Giveaway: All Things Cease to Appear

A dark, riveting, beautifully written book—by “a brilliant novelist,” according to Richard Bausch—that combines noir and the gothic in a story about two families entwined in their own unhappiness, with, at its heart, a gruesome and unsolved murder.

Late one winter afternoon in upstate New York, George Clare comes home to find his wife killed and their three-year-old daughter alone—for how many hours?—in her room across the hall. He had recently, begrudgingly, taken a position at a nearby private college (far too expensive for local kids to attend) teaching art history, and moved his family into a tight-knit, impoverished town that has lately been discovered by wealthy outsiders in search of a rural idyll.

Author Essay Good for Book Clubs

The Art of the Cliffhanger

Peter Clines, author of the science fiction graphic novel series Ex-Heroes, reveals his secrets for writing the perfect cliffhanger.

I love a good cliffhanger. One of those moments when you leave the audience dangling with nothing but their own guesses to explain what happens next. I like writing them, reading them, and watching them. A well-done one is wonderful on a bunch of levels.

As my own writing style’s developed, I’ve kind of become a fan of what you could call the “sliding-up-to-the-cliff” cliffhanger, where the reader’s given all the clues and facts and left on their own to make that last, inevitable step.

All that being said, when someone recently asked me about cliffhangers, my mind immediately went to the obvious place. And that place was Doctor Who.

This isn’t much of a shock, in retrospect. While lots of you know the newer show, the original had a very different format. Back in the olden times—when I counted my age in single digits and British sci-fi only came to us through the Boston PBS station—Doctor Who tended to be two hour stories broken up into four half hour episodes. And each of these episodes would end on a big cliffhanger with a shrieking musical stinger.

It didn’t take me long (well, okay, maybe a year or two—again, barely stretching into double digits) to recognize a certain pattern. You could call it a good ground rule for a cliffhanger—our first point. Pretty much every episode would end with things suddenly getting somehow worse. The disintegrator ray makes the robot grow for some reason. The Doctor attempts to distract Sutekh and finds himself severely outmatched. One of my favorites had the Doctor delivering the ominous closing line “I thought I’d locked the enemy out. Instead I’ve locked it in… with us.”