Open Book with Tara Laskowski

Take Big Little Lies, add a heaping spoonful of Desperate Housewives with a sprinkle of Dead to Me and you have The Mother Next Door, Tara Laskowski’s latest novel. I read this in less than three days and I have to say it is the most perfect read for spooky season, centering around a posh group of women and their annual Halloween party. I absolutely LOVED this book and appreciate the twists and turns Laskowski takes you on. I am so thrilled, no pun intended, to have Tara as my latest Open Book. Read below to see what she’s currently reading and the Hitchcock binge watch she is on!

via Amazon ~

“If the women of Big Little Lies were the moms of East Coast high schoolers, they’d be right at home in The Mother Next Door—a witty, wicked thriller packed with hidden agendas, juicy secrets, and pitch-perfect satire of the suburban dream.”
Andrea Bartz, New York Times bestselling author of We Were Never Here

GOOD MOTHERS…
Never show their feelings.
Never spill their secrets.
Never admit to murder.

The annual Halloween block party is the pinnacle of the year on idyllic suburban cul-de-sac Ivy Woods Drive. An influential group of neighborhood moms—known as the Ivy Five—plans the event for months.

Except the Ivy Five has been four for a long time.

When a new mother moves to town, eager to fit in, the moms see it as an opportunity to make the group whole again. This year’s block party should be the best yet… until the women start receiving anonymous messages threatening to expose the quiet neighborhood’s dark past—and the lengths they’ve gone to hide it.

As secrets seep out and the threats intensify, the Ivy Five must sort the loyal from the disloyal, the good from the bad. They’ll do anything to protect their families. But when a twisted plot is revealed, with dangerous consequences, their steady foundation begins to crumble, leaving only one certainty: after this year’s block party, Ivy Woods Drive will never be the same.

From award-winning author Tara Laskowski, The Mother Next Door is an atmospheric novel of domestic suspense in which the strive for perfection ends in murder…

“Trust no one, absolutely no one while reading The Mother Next Door because everyone has secrets, all of them are liars, and everybody has at least one thing to lose. Tara Laskowski’s brilliantly paced tale of perfect-suburbia-until-you-scratch-the-surface is as compelling as it is twisted.”
—Hannah Mary McKinnon, bestselling author of You Will Remember Me

Tara Laskowski

1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with?

Gosh, this is a hard question! I’m going with characters here. Ok, my bookclub would be:

Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, who would actually read the books and have something delightful to say and probably cook us some great muffins or something. Except one of us would probably end up dead by the end of the night. 

Wednesday Addams, who most likely wouldn’t read the books but would bring some medeval torture device or an authentic spell book to the meeting for us all to look over.

And Hermoine Granger, who will have taken extensive notes on the book and come prepared with research and questions to spark the conversation.

2. Current binge series?

Well, this might not count, but my husband and I have this project right now where we’re watching all of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in order of release. We are up to Notorious right now!

3. Last favorite book?

I feel like every book I read is my last favorite! So, in this case, it’s Tana French’s The Searcher. I adore everything she does, and this book is no exception. I loved the characters so much that I was incredibly sad when the book was over because I couldn’t hang out with them anymore.

4. What 3 things do you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

I really want to go to Australia. I don’t think I’d pack anything special, though, except a good camera. I’d just buy a lot of stuff while I’m there!

5. Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

Sunday NYT all the way! (I’m also obsessed with the NY Times Spelling Bee game.)

6. Last person you sent a text message to?

My son’s tennis instructor. 🙂

7. Book you read that you wished you wrote?

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

8. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

I do! Mr. Jones, my high school English teacher. I actually wrote about him in a column once. We recently got in touch again (he’s now retired), and it was great to get to tell him he’s one of the reasons I do what I do now.

9. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

Oh, no. I need quiet. I can’t even write in a coffee shop.

10. Describe your writing space?

I mostly work in my home office, surrounded by bookshelves. I’ve got a great big window I can open on nice days and a whole lotta trees to stare at.

11. Coffee or tea?

Usually tea in the mornings, and cold brew in the afternoon.

12. Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

 The book I think I’ve gifted the most is The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. It’s a fantastic book about intuition and trusting your gut. I give it to my women friends. My friend and I used to have a joke in college that whenever we were in a situation that felt weird, we’d turn to each other and say, “What Would Gavin DeBecker Do?” I think it’s a really smart book that has great pointers for navigating a world filled with creeps.

13. Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

I mean, mine? Hahaha. 

I wish there were movies of The Three Investigators series. It’s an old YA crime fiction series that I’m obsessed with. My husband and I are reading them to our son now, and they are so great. There are two movies based on the books that were made in Germany, but they are hard to find, and I’d love to see them made here in the U.S. Great fun.

14. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

“Season of the Witch” by Lana Del Rey. I was born on Halloween, and I adore anything spooky. 

15. What/Who inspires you?

My son inspires me. He’s got so much energy and enthusiasm and hope. I am amazed at what he creates, and what he says that makes me laugh, and the way his brain works.

16. Bravo reality TV- yes or no?

Nope. I don’t watch much TV at all, actually, but when I do, it’s usually a British crime show or some horror movie.

17. Favorite Instagram account?

Ok, I love my friend Steph Post’s IG because she’s got all these beautiful animals and wildlife that she photographs. Otherwise, I just adore scrolling through all the Reels about hilarious cats and dogs and nostalgic ‘80s things. 

18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

The Shining, and it would be a shimmery black, kind of like an oil slick.

19. Current #TBR pile?

Um, it’s going to crush me. And these aren’t even the ones on my Kindle!

20. Best advice you’ve ever received?

For god’s sake, turn on the light. You’re going to go blind.

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Double feature with Georgia Clark

I discovered Georgia Clark early on in my book blogging career with her first novel, The Regulars. The cover hooked me with its pretty pink background and fun lipstick covered lips, total bliss, beauty and books vibe plus I adored the book. I immediately sent her a bookish pouch and was lucky enough to meet her at Bookexpo- she was a delight! Fast forward to her latest novel, It Had to be You, a fun romcom romp reminiscent of Love Actually. This book is what summer reading dreams are made of. I am so thrilled to have her on the blog with Open Book and What’s in Your Bookish Beauty Bag. Her response to my Royals question is amazing and she even reviews one of her latest reads!

via Amazon ~

“The book-equivalent of a perfect first date… Highly highly recommend.” —Elin Hilderbrand, #1 New York Times bestselling author 

“Clark has concocted a heady kaleidoscope of romance, heartbreak, and healing that’s both rich in insight and enchantingly funny. A magical set of intertwined stories that speaks to our times.” —Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author 

The author of the “emotional, hilarious, and thought-provoking” (People) novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.

Open Book ~

What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a book club with?

Nora Ephron, Truman Capote, Zadie Smith.

Current binge series?

Great British Bakeoff. I only got into it this year and I’m a full-blown fan, I think I’ve
done ten seasons in three months. I feel truly connected to every season’s group of bakers. Bakeoff is about so
much more than good bakes without soggy bottoms: it’s about ordinary people being extraordinary and just
doing their damn best. I’m a bit addicted to that emotional, feel-good feeling at the heart of it. It’s why I write
rom-coms: that feeling works so powerfully on me, and I love making other humans feel that way, too.

Last favorite book?

I just finished Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam.

Mini review: New Yorkers Amanda and Clay head to the Hamptons with their teenage kids for a quiet and
indulgent weekend away. The AirBnB is lux—“The house had that hush expensive houses do . . . A house that
barely needed people”—but the temporary illusion of its ownership is shattered when Ruth and H.G., the older
Black couple who own the home, show up after a mysterious black-out renders New York unsafe. With the
internet down, it’s impossible to parse what’s going on in the city. If they’re safe. What to do.
Leave the World Behind works on so many levels. It’s eerily prescient of 2020’s societal unraveling and the
need to collectively patch together What The Fuck Is Happening with little information and a good dose of
paranoia as to if we can trust our neighbors. It’s a devastating skewering of race and our assumptions as to who
deserves what. It’s suspenseful (I suppose you might call it a literary thriller?) and it’s engaged with the very
real environmental danger we’re all currently in. On a line level, it’s masterful. There’s “a whiskey old enough
to vote”; children are “beautiful narcissists”; “Snow, a bit of poetry for what you saw when the signal was
broken.” Rumaan especially excels when writing about parenthood and privilege. This is a novel deeply
concerned with individual responsibility and the fate of the planet. Tightly plotted and paced, Leave the World
Behind deserves all the praise it’s gotten and more.

What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation? Where is it?

I’d really love to explore Japan, and would be packing my sleep mask (I can’t sleep without it), a pair of All-birds sneakers, and, if it wouldn’t get me in trouble, a cheeky weed pen.

Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

I’m a New Yorker, so the Times, of course.

Last movie you saw?

I watched I Care A Lot, because I’m queer and contractually obligated to watch anything with a lesbian relationship. The film was okay. Not sure if I totally bought the relationship between Marla and Fran – Fran’s character was a bit undercooked.

Book you read that you wished you wrote?

Anything written by Karen Russell. I’m obsessed. I recommend Vampires in the Lemon Grove, one of her best short story collections.

Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

I had a great Year 12 English teacher, Mrs Allen. She was small like a wren, deeply passionate (also like a wren? Do we know wrens aren’t deeply passionate?), excited about words and ideas. I had her for 4 Unit English, the Aussie version advanced English/AP classes. We studied Jane Eyre, The Awakening, and Wide Sargasso Sea. Reading rich literary novels like these made me an even more adventurous reader, and writer. Mrs Allen was a wonderful woman. I wonder what happened to her.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

I used to listen to Air’s Moon Safari on repeat, super soothing and it was just white noise, but now I listen to actual white noises. My new book is set on an island, so I listen to waves, the relentless pulse of the ocean. If I’m not drafting, or doing anything too high-level, I listen to Taylor Swift: I’m a Swiftie, for sure.

Describe your writing space?

My wife and I share an office which is also our guest bedroom/TV room. There’s a messy desk piled with books and gear and empty coffee cups and notebooks. It’s actually a bit of a disaster.

Tell me your coffee/tea order?

Coffee, with half and half, every morning, first thing.

Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

Big Magic is a great gift for creatives. Liz Gilbert has so many precious wise words for anyone making art. My favorite insight is about money. She says (I am paraphrasing): don’t expect your talent to make you money. It’s your job to make money to protect your talent. Your talent is never going show up for you if you’re screaming at it about the fact it hasn’t made you rich. I found this helpful: even though it is hard making a living selling your art, it’s better than not doing that. Big Magic isn’t just a beautiful gift. It’s a generous and insightful guide.

Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Why isn’t that a movie yet? Everyone loved that book! It is a literal romp around the world. I think romp around the world is one of the best genres ever, and I’m half convinced I’m going to do it after I finish my island book, which I am honestly sad about because I am loving writing this book so much, it’s beautiful and sexy and fun. Anyway, Less: can someone look into this for me? Can we get this thing going? Can someone make a call?

If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

“Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Hold onto that feeling! Such a great 80s classic: I dare you not to singalong.

Must-have beauty product?

I have been wearing so little make-up over lockdown, but if I’m putting on a game face, I’ll wear Becca Skin Love foundation with a Beauty Blender, Glossier or Nyx lipstick, Benefit brow products (also their Pore Primer is good), Tarte blush or Olio e Osso Balm No. 3 (also doubles as a lip balm).

Royals- yes or no?

If so, who is your favorite? I actually just had a long conversation with my dad about the Royals (his take was “well, they cost a lot of money but they make a lot of money”). The Royals are the world’s greatest soap opera and everybody knows it. Diana, a tragic, complicated, extraordinary-but-ordinary young woman. Meghan as the new Diana: it’s too much. I have so much empathy for the boys (Will and Harry); I feel like I grew up with them and they’re my weird rich English cousins. I love Kate. Team Sussex forever. (And look, if you’re into the royals keep reading, if you’re not please stop reading as what I’m about to tell you is kind of embarrassing, but both the Lifetime movies about Will and Kate, and Harry and Meghan, are so so good. Yes, yes, they’re SO trashy and cheesy but I have ugly cried in both because my boys got their happy endings! I’m only human, I love Lifetime royal biopics, don’t tell anyone.)

Favorite Instagram account?

I just started following @adrirachelle, this woman who founded a farm for rescued farm animals called Wild Things Sanctuary. One day I’ll give up the hustle and go live on her farm and tend cows, I think.

If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be?

Red, White & Royal Blue, after the excellent rom-com of the same name, and it would be red, white and royal
blue, aka purple.

Current #TBR pile?

Too too many. Daddy by my friend Emma Cline, Luster by future friend Raven Leilani… I just started Geek Love by Katherine Dunn: a birthday gift from my wife; Katherine’s a fave of my fave Karen Russel. I can see the influence in Karen’s work: so interesting. I’m also reading The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman (and have dipped into her previous The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent for research for the book I’m currently writing. Ask me about birds, I know a ton! Did you know they are descendants of dinosaurs? And we are descendants of mammals – evolutionarily speaking, birds have been around for 100 million years. They are older than us, they have survived for much longer (think about that next time you call someone bird-brained, hm?). But half the species of bird in North America are predicted to go extinct in the next half century because they can’t evolve quick enough to deal with the pace of human change. We, dumb humans, are so destructive we’re killing off something that evolved to fly. I’m fun at parties, I promise.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

“Just keep doing it.” It’s the secret to every artist’s success.

What’s In My {Bookish} Beauty Bag?

What is your bag of choice?- purse/tote/backpack and brand that you have? I’ve been heading out without a bag recently (the freedom! Is! Real!), but if I have to, I take my cute Aussie-themed tote. 

What are your top favorite beauty picks? I try to buy cruelty-free, ethical everything. Tarte for foundation and blush. Tata Harper’s products are lush but exxy. Acure skincare. The Strategist said Revision Skincare D.E.J. has the best eye cream so I just spent $75 on that and I actually think it’s working. (I didn’t check if this was cruelty-free because I am a flawed weak human. Literally can’t bring myself to confirm I traded beauty for values. Being a woman is hard!)

What do you always carry in your bag/purse/carry-on for beauty products? There’s usually a lipstick or lip balm rolling around in there somewhere. 

What are you currently reading (can be books/magazines)

Geek Love and The New Yorker. I just started doing the crosswords. I want to be someone who does crosswords. To me that person is smart and cool. My dad does crosswords. I guess he’s pretty smart and cool. 

And any other fun item/must-have that you always have with you 🙂 

Well, right now it’s an ARC of my new book, IT HAD TO BE YOU. My dream is to write smart, funny, sexy romantic comedies that are diverse and have girls kissing in them. My new book has five interwoven love stories (Love Actually but make it 2021) is a reminder that life-changing love is out there for all of us, at any age, no matter who you are. Babes, if that sounds up your alley this charming buzzy new novel is only a few clicks away. Support your local independent bookstores by buying from Bookshop.org!

Georgia’s Bag

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GEORGIA CLARK is the author of The Regulars, The Bucket List, It Had to Be You, and others. She is the host and founder of the popular storytelling night, Generation Women. A native Australian, she lives in Brooklyn with her hot wife and a fridge full of cheese. More at GeorgiaClark.com and on Instagram and Twitter @georgialouclark.

Open Book with Gabrielle Korn

I was thrilled Gabrielle Korn participated in my Open Book feature. Her collection of essays, Everybody (Else) is Perfect is an addictive collection of wirings and musings from Korn who is the former editor-in-chief of Nylon Magazine. This read is funny, dark, eye-opening and a voice that needs to be heard today. I am thrilled to have her and highly recommend this book as the perfect cocktail accompaniment with the spring weather in the air! She also has the perfect novel to lipstick pick 🙂

via Amazon ~

From the former editor-in-chief of Nylon comes a provocative and intimate collection of personal and cultural essays featuring eye-opening explorations of hot button topics for modern women, including internet feminism, impossible beauty standards in social media, shifting ideals about sexuality, and much more. 

Gabrielle Korn starts her professional life with all the right credentials. Prestigious college degree? Check. A loving, accepting family? Check. Instagram-worthy offices and a tight-knit group of friends? Check, check. Gabrielle’s life seems to reach the crescendo of perfect when she gets named the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of one of fashion’s most influential publication. Suddenly she’s invited to the world’s most epic parties, comped beautiful clothes and shoes from trendy designers, and asked to weigh in on everything from gay rights to lip gloss on one of the most influential digital platforms.

But behind the scenes, things are far from perfect. In fact, just a few months before landing her dream job, Gabrielle’s health and wellbeing are on the line, and her promotion to editor-in-chief becomes the ultimate test of strength. In this collection of inspirational and searing essays, Gabrielle reveals exactly what it’s truly like in the fashion world, trying to find love as a young lesbian in New York City, battling with anorexia, and trying not to lose herself in a mirage of women’s empowerment and Instagram perfection.

Through deeply personal essays, Gabrielle recounts her struggles to reconcile her long-held insecurities about her body while coming out in the era of The L Word, where swoon-worthy lesbians are portrayed as skinny, fashion-perfect, and power-hungry. She takes us with her everywhere from New York Fashion Week to the doctor’s office, revealing that the forces that try to keep women small are more pervasive than anyone wants to admit, especially in a world that’s been newly branded as woke.

From #MeToo to commercialized body positivity, Korn’s biting, darkly funny analysis turns feminist commentary on its head. Both an in-your-face take on impossible beauty standards and entrenched media ideals and an inspiring call for personal authenticity, this powerful collection is ideal for fans of Roxane Gay and Rebecca Solnit.

Open Book Q&A:

1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a book club with?

Michelle Obama, Octavia Butler, and Sarah Paulson.  

2. Current binge series?

I have binged all of television. There is nothing left for me to watch. 

3. Last favorite book?

I recently loved Anxious People by Fredrik Backman.  

4. What 3 things do you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

Sunscreen, a bathing suit, and a very large hat. I’m going to a remote tropical beach. 

5. Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

I’m in a relationship with Sunday NYT, but definitely checking out US Weekly. 

6. Last movie you saw?

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Netflix. HIGHLY recommend. 

7. Book you read that you wished you wrote?

So Sad Today by Melisa Broder.

8. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

In college I had a professor named Kathy Engel who I ended up doing an independent study with about feminist poetry. She really championed my writing and encouraged me to pursue it. 

9. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

I actually need to complete silence to write. I get too focused on music if it’s playing. 

10. Describe your writing space?

I don’t really have one. Since I’ve always had busy day jobs I write where I can squeeze in a few minutes. Usually that means the subway, or these days, on the couch. 

11. Tell me your coffee/tea order?

Oat milk latte, please! 

12. Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

Currently gifting What Kind Of Woman? by Kate Baer.

13. Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

Fledgling by Octavia Butler.  

14. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

“Everybody Wants To Love You” by Japanese Breakfast. I kind of already feel like it’s my theme song. It’s just so silly and sweet and catchy. 

15. Must-have beauty product?

Augustinus Bader moisturizer, which is also my most expensive product. But it’s so good that I don’t really buy anything else for my face!  

16. Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite?

No. But Megan is my favorite. 

17. Favorite Instagram account?

Round.boys. You’re welcome. 

18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

It would be a deep, dark red called Furies, inspired by Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff. 

19. Current #TBR pile?

Rape Is Not A Crime by Michelle Bowdler

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth

Black Futures by Jenna Wortham and Kimberly Drew 

20. Best advice you’ve ever received?

You’re never as stuck as you think you are.

Follow Gabrielle:

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Open Book with Briana Cole

As we approach a year of this pandemic, I have never been more thankful for books in my life. Stories have kept me moving and escaping from the daily pandemic life, that we have all settled into. Briana Cole’s latest, The Marriage Pass, falls in line with these reads, providing a perfect escape. Her latest is the perfect blend of romance, suspense and drama. I was thrilled she took the time to be my latest Open Book. She is my kind of gal from her coffee order to her music choices. Read below to get to know this fabulous author ❤

via Amazon ~

In a smart, sexy spin-off from her Unconditional Series, Briana Cole continues to explore unconventional relationships and question all assumptions about love, lust, and monogamy in this tantalizing drama that takes the “what if” of a free pass to a whole new level…

Can you really have the best of both worlds?

He’s rich, successful–and has been faithfully married to his longtime girlfriend for nearly one grueling year. Because for Dr. Dorian Graham, too many women is never too much–no matter how loyal his wife, Shantae, has been since their college days. So when she proposes they both celebrate their first anniversary by spending a no-questions-asked, no-consequences night with their greatest temptation, Dorian is shocked, but can’t resist. Especially since Shantae’s wild-card younger sister, Reagan, is gorgeous, uninhibited–and the one who got away…

It turns out one sizzling night with Reagan isn’t enough. Yet the more Dorian takes, the more she demands–and the more he suddenly has to lose. Soon, with his mind games being used against him and his every move checkmated, Dorian will be forced to go all-in on one last desperate play to win. But winning might just be another way to crash and burn…

Open Book feature interview questions with Briana Cole

1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with? Just three? This is tough. Of course, Dr. Maya Angelou. She has been a tremendous inspiration to me. I would also pick Terry McMillian and Kimberla Lawson Roby. I believe we would have some fun, engaging conversations. In addition to this, I would want to be in the room with all three of these idols to pick their brains and soak up their wisdom. Also, could Stephen King and Oprah drop by once in a while?


2. Current binge series? I am currently binging Lovecraft Country. It’s different but I am hooked. Since Netflix has put all my favorite shows on, I’m also re-watching some of the TV shows I enjoyed growing up; like One on One, Girlfriends, and Moesha.

3. Last favorite book? Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. I enjoyed that book so much I cracked it open and read it again immediately after I finished it.


4. What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it? Phone (not so much to communicate with people but to write and take plenty of pictures), maxi dresses, and my kids (does that count?). I love to cruise and I am a Disney fanatic so my dream vacation would be a Disney Cruise, sailing to each one of the Disney theme parks around the world and ending in Aulani, the Hawaiian Disney resort.



5. Sunday NYT or US Weekly? US Weekly, for sure. I am all about the entertainment industry!

 

6. Last movie you saw? Black Box on Prime Video. Definitely five stars!

 

7. Book you read that you wished you wrote? I wish I had written My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. That book was so authentic, so well-written with such a great narrative that I would have loved to have been attached to that story. Really, I can say that about ALL of Jodi’s books.



8. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer? At Georgia Southern University, my mentor and Creative Writing professor was Peter Christopher. He was very instrumental in steering me towards a career as an author. I valued his constructive criticism and he gave advice on overcoming my personal challenges, such as procrastination, writer’s block, and stepping outside of my comfort zone to try other genres. Mr. Christopher has since passed away, however I will always remember how much of an impression he left on my life and my writing journey.

9. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who? It depends. Sometimes, I prefer complete silence because I am hyper-focused and I don’t want noise to distract me. Other times, I may listen to music while writing because it can help put me in the right headspace and get the creative juices flowing. I usually oscillate between R&B, Neosoul, and slow jams because the music is smooth and mellow. Who I listen to depends on the mood of what I’m writing, but I’ve put on Heather Headley, Boys to Men, New Edition, Meshell Ndegeocello, BabyFace… really any artist with a song I know that matches the vibe of my scene. For example, if my characters are going through something traumatic or heartbreaking, I will play Whitney Houston’s Where Do Broken Hearts Go or Patti Labelle’s Hurts Like Hell. Those two work for me every time.

 

10. Describe your writing space? I don’t have a designated writing space because I write EVERYWHERE. When I say everywhere, that is exactly what I mean. I have a desktop computer in my office so sometimes, I write there. I also have a laptop so I may feel like writing on the sofa by the window, in bed, or outside on the back porch. I also write on my phone so people may catch me writing on my cell in restaurants, on planes, in cars, or sitting on a park bench while my children play. I once flew to LA on a personal writing retreat and wrote about a third of my book on the beach on my cell phone. Even when I’m driving on road trips and I am unable to physically type, I have recorded myself or used my phone’s ‘talk-to-text’ feature to have the words annotated and I can clean it up later. So, my writing space is anywhere I can get the words out of my head.

 

11. Tell me your coffee/tea order? I am not a huge coffee drinker, but the occasions when I am craving something, I will order a Tall Caramel Macchiatto from Starbucks. Tea is another story. I drink Sweet Tea nearly every day, preferably the home-brewed kind.

 

12. Do you have a favorite book that you gift? My books, of course! If you mean something other than mine, I usually like to gift non-fiction books or memoirs with powerful messages, depending on the receiver. For example, I used to gift the Chicken Soup books. The last few books I gifted were First Lady Michelle Obama’s memoir and journal Becoming, because she speaks such a strong truth about finding your own voice; a message I relay in my own motivational speeches.



13. Book that you wished they would make a movie out of? The Chain by Adrian McKinty. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would love to see that one on the big screen.

 

14. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why? Hall of Fame by The Script. That is my empowerment song and I feel those lyrics represent my mindset. In the chorus, the song says, “Standing in the hall of fame/And the world’s gonna know your name/Cause you burn with the brightest flame.” This speaks to me and motivates me to push through the discouragement, the rejection, the ‘not-so-glamorous’ side of the writing industry. I feel this song captures Briana Cole and why I strive as hard as I do.

 

15. Must have beauty product? There was a time I had to have eyeliner. I couldn’t leave home without it. I have since “upgraded” and now my must have beauty product are lashes. Love, love, love lashes. I just wish I could figure out how to put them on myself.

 

16. Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite? I don’t really follow the royal families but if I had to pick a favorite, I would say probably Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. She’s outspoken and not afraid to stand up for what she wants, even if that means going against the grain.

 

17. Favorite Instagram account? I don’t have one favorite IG account. I usually just scroll on my feed until something catches my interest. I do have a number of hashtags I follow, including #bookishlife, #bookstagram, and #acting just to name a few.



18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? Probably my current read Perfect Peace since that sounds like a makeup product. And because I love nude lipsticks, it would be a shade between pale pink and beige with a gloss finish; something I could wear every day.



19. Current #TBR pile? This could go on for pages because, like most avid readers, for every book I finish, I add three more to read. I better keep this to the top five on my list for now.  

  1. When No One is Watching – Alyssa Cole
  2. Behind Closed Doors – B.A. Paris
  3. Don’t Look for Me – Wendy Walker
  4. The Silent Patient – Alex Michaleides
  5. Verity – Colleen Hoover

 

20. Best advice you’ve ever received? I am the kind of person that will do everything for everyone else and make myself a last priority. I once mentioned to my Soror how exhausted I was and I’ll never forget her response to me: You can’t pour from an empty cup. That has resonated with me ever since. Now, I make more of a conscientious effort to take some time for self-care.

Follow Briana:

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Open Book with Tori Whitaker

This holiday season I have been giving thanks for so many things as we continue this difficult time in all our lives. One thing that I have been so grateful for, more than ever, is the power of storytelling and books. I sound like a broken record but the best place for me to escape these days is within the pages of a book. I am so thrilled to have Tori Whitaker as my latest Open Book as her debut novel, Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish, is a literary delight with dual timelines and complex female relationships. I also love that Tori made her book dreams come true as she always wanted to write a novel and made that goal happen. Books and authors like Tori are what make me so grateful to be a reader and author champion ❤

via Amazon ~

Three generations of women—and the love, loss, sacrifice, and secrets that can bind them forever or tear them apart.

Millicent Glenn is self-sufficient and contentedly alone in the Cincinnati suburbs. As she nears her ninety-first birthday, her daughter Jane, with whom she’s weathered a shaky relationship, suddenly moves back home. Then Millie’s granddaughter shares the thrilling surprise that she’s pregnant. But for Millie, the news stirs heartbreaking memories of a past she’s kept hidden for too long. Maybe it’s time she shared something, too. Millie’s last wish? For Jane to forgive her.

Sixty years ago Millie was living a dream. She had a husband she adored, a job of her own, a precious baby girl, and another child on the way. They were the perfect family. All it took was one irreversible moment to shatter everything, reshaping Millie’s life and the lives of generations to come.

As Millie’s old wounds are exposed, so are the secrets she’s kept for so long. Finally revealing them to her daughter might be the greatest risk a mother could take in the name of love.

1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with?

Sarah Jessica Parker – Like me and my book’s protagonist, she was born in Ohio. Sarah attended a school for performing arts in Cincinnati, in fact, in the historic OTR neighborhood where my Millicent grew up. Maybe author Chris Bohjalian, too, for interesting discussions about books and the world—and singing legend, Tina Turner.

2. Current binge series?

We just finished MadMen and still have a MadMen hangover. Can’t seem to settle on a new binge yet!

3. Last favorite book?

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue

4. What 3 things do you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

Hubs and I live outside of Atlanta and we missed our spring get-away because of the pandemic. I’m still waiting for that trip in our older Corvette convertible, top down, driving through the verdant Kentucky Bluegrass region, and touring distilleries of the Bourbon Trail the way one visits vineyards in Napa. I’d pack my “Life Is Good” ball cap, a ponytail scrunchie, and my Ray-Ban sunglasses.

5. Sunday NYT or US Weekly? NYT

6. Last movie you saw?  Rebecca on Netflix

7. Book you read that you wished you wrote?

The Guest Book by Sarah Blake. It’s got it all–unforgettable characters, fascinating historical settings, multiple generations and timelines, secrets and regrets, important themes from class to race, and gorgeous prose.

8. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

There was Mrs. Bradbury in ninth-grade English who encouraged me, though she wasn’t a full-blown mentor.

9. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

Absolutely not. I need silence.

10. Describe your writing space?

I write in my home office upstairs—never on a laptop in a cabin or coffee shop. I have a computer desk near a bright window, tables for spreading out research materials and outlines and such, and built-in shelves stuffed with books that inspire me.

11. Tell me your coffee/tea order?

Well … I don’t drink either. My daily caffeine fix is chocolate!

12. Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

Hmm, not really.

13. Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

Ariel Lawhon’s Code Name Helene. It’s the fictionalized story of a true-life bad ass woman.

14. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

I married at age 18, and we celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary this year. That’s a pretty big part of my life and family! So the song would probably be: Led Zeppelin’s, Thank You. Here’s a sense of the lyrics.

If the sun refused to shine
I would still be loving you
When mountains crumble to the sea
There will still be you and me

15. Must have beauty product?

OMG, Clinique’s lipstick in A Different Grape. My friend and I met at work 15 years ago and bonded when discovering we both wore the same color. It was a minor life crisis for us when they changed the formula a year or so ago! They still call it A Different Grape, but it feels, well, different.

16. Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite?

Yes, and young Princess Charlotte is my fav. When she stuck out her tongue at reporters, I knew she might grow up to make Princess Margaret, the queen’s sister, look boring.

17. Favorite Instagram account?

Yikes, there are too many to name.

18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

Perhaps the book, Girl with a Pearl Earring? The lipstick would be: Barely Pearl-ly Pink

19. Current #TBR pile?

I’m still waiting to read Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson.

20. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t pray for things you want. Rather, pray for direction in life.

Follow Tori:

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Open Book with Deborah Robinson

SO thrilled to have Deborah Robinson on the blog as my newest Open Book! Her latest novel, Lily Rose is out now and a must read filled with memorable characters and a deep plot with many layers of family, love and the truth.

via Amazon ~

Is blood truly thicker than water? After a desperate search for her birth mother, fashionista Lily Rose is forced to confront her turbulent past.

Love has set the tone for most of Lily Rose’s young life in Cumberland Falls, high in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. But her perfect world falls apart when her beloved adopted parents are tragically killed and she is sent to live at Red Rose Farm, in the Bluegrass. Lily starts high school and meets her first love, who introduces the idea of a much bigger world to Lily. This relationship spurs her to pursue the grit and glamour of the New York fashion world and a marriage that will nearly cause her demise.

Lily Rose follows Lily as she grows into a New York fashion icon and battles abuse, power struggles, and infertility. In the shadows, we learn about the young woman who gave Lily up and how they will collide. Lily Rose is about love and marriage, infidelity, infertility, and identity. It also calls into questions the old adages blood is thicker than water and nothing is more important than family. Will Lily Rose ever find what she has been searching for? And most importantly, will she be able to stay true to herself in the process?

1.  1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with?

Ernest Hemmingway, Jodi Picoult, and Pat Conroy

2.  Current binge series?

Bloodline, Outlanders, and Outerbanks

3. Last favorite book?

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

4.   What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

My professional, long lens camera, big cotton, camo hat, and sunscreen.  The Amazon

5.  Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

Sunday New York Times

6.  Last movie you saw?

Bombshell

7.  Book you read that you wished you wrote?

The Kite Runner

8.  Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

No

9.  Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

No.

10.  Describe your writing space?

I think it is lovely in Palm Beach. My office looks out over lots of lush palm trees and has a very jungle like atmosphere.  When I write at my summer house it is in a small reading room with an old fireplace all built in the early 1900’s and surrounded by my glorious maples and  oak trees.

11. Tell me your coffee/tea order?

Iced decaf grande nonfat no whip 5 pump mocha with extra ice and a dome lid from Starbucks.

12. Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

Not really, it depends on the person that I am giving it to, as every person is very different and special.

13.  Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

Mine,  Lily Rose.

14.  If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

Live Like You Were Dying lyrics by Tim Mcgraw. It isn’t  because I am a country fan, it is the words that draw me deep into the song.  I want to live each day as if it were my last, so (as the song says) I would love deeper, speak sweeter, give forgiveness where I’ve been denying.  I want to live each day the best I can.

15. Must have beauty product?

My favorite perfume.  White Flowers by Creed   

16. Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite?

Yes,  Queen Elizabeth.

17.  Favorite Instagram account?

citychic4ever

18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

Who Killed Ruby Rush?  Red

19. Current #TBR pile?

A Memory of Violets. 28 Summers, City of Girls, and The Paper Wasp

Follow Deborah:

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Double Feature with Liza Nash Taylor

There is nothing I love more than a fabulous bag and a fabulous book! Liza Nash Taylor has both. A fabulous new novel, Etiquette for Runaways, which is a historical fiction delight and a Zadig and Voltaire bag chicer than most. She is my latest double feature and I am so grateful to be able to celebrate her new book! Books, like Liza’s, make a great escape! ❤

via Amazon~

A sweeping Jazz Age tale of regret, ambition, and redemption inspired by true events, including the Great Moonshine Conspiracy Trial of 1935 and Josephine Baker’s 1925 Paris debut in Le Revue Nègre

1924. May Marshall is determined to spend the dog days of summer in self-imposed exile at her father’s farm in Keswick, Virginia. Following a naive dalliance that led to heartbreak and her expulsion from Mary Baldwin College, May returns home with a shameful secret only to find her father’s orchard is now the site of a lucrative moonshining enterprise. Despite warnings from the one man she trusts—her childhood friend Byrd—she joins her father’s illegal business. When authorities close in and her father, Henry, is arrested, May goes on the run.

May arrives in New York City, determined to reinvent herself as May Valentine and succeed on her own terms, following her mother’s footsteps as a costume designer. The Jazz Age city glitters with both opportunity and the darker temptations of cocaine and nightlife. From a start mending sheets at the famed Biltmore Hotel, May falls into a position designing costumes for a newly formed troupe of African American entertainers bound for Paris. Reveling in her good fortune, May will do anything for the chance to go abroad, and the lines between right and wrong begin to blur. When Byrd shows up in New York, intent upon taking May back home, she pushes him, and her past, away.

In Paris, May’s run of luck comes to a screeching halt, spiraling her into darkness as she unravels a painful secret about her past. May must make a choice: surrender to failure and addiction, or face the truth and make amends to those she has wronged. But first, she must find self-forgiveness before she can try to reclaim what her heart craves most.

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OPEN BOOK ~

  1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a book
    club with? Josephine Baker, Truman Capote, Tina Fey.
  2. Current binge series? Schitt’s Creek.
  3. Last favorite book? The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi.
  4. What 3 things do you pack in your bag for your dream vacation? Super comfy jammies from Johnny Was, Caddis reading/anti-blue light glasses, my travel Veuve
    Clicquot champagne stopper.
  5. Where is it? Paris.
  6. Sunday NYT or US Weekly? NYT, and do not touch that crossword puzzle.
  7. Last person you sent a text message to? My daughter.
  8. Book you read that you wished you wrote? Where the Crawdads Sing.(Hello! 100 weeks on the bestseller list!)
  9. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer? Connie May Fowler.
  10. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who? Depends on what I’m writing, usually something of the era, or something moody to set a scene.
  11. Describe your writing space? I’m nomadic and seasonal. In warm weather I’m usually on my porch with my dogs at my feet. Otherwise, I’m in a 1928 bunkhouse with no plumbing. There’s a window heater/AC that blows either tepid, mildew-smelling air or warm mildew-smelling air. I have made peace with the mice, except when they get into my knitting yarn. Then, it’s war.
  12. Coffee or tea? Nespresso purple capsules with steamed skim milk, or I get testy.
  13. Do you have a favorite book that you gift? Um, lately? My own.
  14. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and
    why? I can’t pick just one, but for right now, “Get Ready for This”, by 2 Unlimited.
  15. What/Who inspires you? Right this minute? Kamala Harris!
  16. Bravo reality TV- yes or no? No.
  17. Favorite Instagram account? @botanicaetcetera
  18. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? Great Sexpectations. A dusty, frosted, iridescent ecru with hints of
    mauve.
  19. Current #TBR pile? HAMNET, by Maggie O’Farrell, THE WRONG KIND OF
    WOMAN by Sarah McCraw Crow (ARC), SISTER DEAR by Hannah Mary McKinnon, THE FIRST TO LIE by Hank Phillippi Ryan, DEATH ON TUCKERNUCK by Francine Mathews.
  20. Best advice you’ve ever received? My mother told me, “They’re not looking at YOU! “Which she meant in a kind way, to say that people are more self-involved than we think, so we shouldn’t worry about projecting what they’re thinking about us.
     

WHAT’S IN MY BOOKISH BEAUTY BAG~

  • • What is your bag of choice?- purse/tote/backpack and brand that you have?
    Well, I’m going to give answers that are pre-COVID, so as not to not have to confess that I never switched my winter bag to spring OR summer this year, because now I only carry my wallet, but I love bags with very subtle branding. My go-to city bag is a black leather purse with lots of zippers and hardware by Zadig & Voltaire.
     
    • What are your top favorite beauty picks?  
     Chanel and Bobbi Brown for makeup, except that they discontinued two of my faves.
    Yes, there IS still a customer for gray eyebrow pencil! Mario Badescu toner, SKII
    (though it smells like gym socks), Claus Porto bath soap.
    Clairol Shimmer Lights purple shampoo, to brighten my silver hair.
    • What do you always carry in your bag/purse/carry-on for beauty products?  
     Biafine lip balm, Chanel presses powder compact. For flying, Caudalie grape water
    spray, with a sleep mask and Marvis cinnamon toothpaste.
     
    • What are you currently reading (can be books/magazines)?
    GREEN DOLPHIN STREET by Elizabeth Goudge. I got a 1944 copy on eBay. I love old
    books. I’m listening to THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston,
    for the umpteenth time. The late Ruby Dee narrates, and it is my #1 audiobook of all
    time. I named a character Janie, after Janie Starks.

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COVER REVEAL ~ The Social Graces by Renee Rosen

So thrilled to be able to share Renee Rosen’s upcoming novel and stunning cover, The Social Graces.  Renee has a way with words to transport readers to magical moments in history.  If you have yet to read Park Avenue Summer you are missing out, one of my favorite reads!  See below for summary of the book, coming out April 2021 and a pre-order link!

SocialGraces_FCO.indd

About The Social Graces:

Renee Rosen, bestselling author of Park Avenue Summer, delivers readers a peek behind the curtain at one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Mrs. Vanderbilt and Mrs. Astor’s notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

 

In the glittering world of Manhattan’s upper crust, where wives turn a blind eye to husbands’ infidelities, and women have few rights and even less independence, society is everything. The more celebrated the hostess, the more powerful the woman. And none is more powerful than Caroline Astor–the Mrs. Astor.

But times are changing.

Alva Vanderbilt has recently married into one of America’s richest families. But what good is money when society refuses to acknowledge you? When it carries on just as it has done for generations? Alva, who knows what it is to have nothing, will do whatever it takes to have everything.

Sweeping three decades and based on true events, this gripping novel follows these two women as they try to outdo and outsmart each other at every turn. As Caroline comes closer to defeat and Alva closer to victory, both will make surprising discoveries about themselves and what’s truly at stake.

 

PRE-ORDER here: https://bit.ly/2YBkCE2

A Q&A with Renee:

What inspired you to write THE SOCIAL GRACES?

 

THE SOCIAL GRACES is the story of Alva Vanderbilt and Caroline Astor vying for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.  That’s my elevator pitch, but it’s also the story of mothers and daughters, of sisters, of husbands and wives, of class and examining one’s shifting values.

 

In terms of inspiration, it was more of a “who” rather than a “what”. I was brainstorming on new book concepts and my agent mentioned Consuelo Vanderbilt. Right after that, my editor suggested doing something in the Gilded Age. So really it was the two of them who inspired me, and after some preliminary research on New York in that time period, it was obvious that the rivalry between Mrs. Astor and Alva Vanderbilt had the makings of a really interesting novel.

 

Tell us about what it was like to write the feuding Mrs. Astor and Mrs. Vanderbilt, two of America’s wealthiest and most powerful women. Did you relate more to Mrs. Astor, or Mrs. Vanderbilt?

 

Bringing Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt to life on the page was far more challenging than I had anticipated.  When I first started working on the novel, I looked at my cast of characters and realized I had a group of rather unlikable people. On the surface, they came across as spoiled, entitled, greedy and superficial. I knew that if I wanted to engage the reader, I was going to have to really drill down to find the humanity in these people and find a reason for us to root for them. Once I started to see Alva and Caroline as wives, mothers and daughters themselves, they started to come alive for me. I found myself able to relate to both of them in different ways and for different reasons. I related to Caroline reaching the prime of her life and worried that her youth and significance were slipping away. With Alva I related to her passion, her drive, her unconventional spirit.  In the end, I’m happy to say that I found them both women to be fascinating and bewildering characters to work with.

 

Did you discover anything in your research that surprised you?

 

I was really surprised by how understated the knickerbockers (the old money) were early on, before the nouveau riche began exerting their influence. For example, Caroline Astor and other society matrons of her ilk found those wonderful Worth gowns to be very gauche and pretentious. They never wore them and instead favored more plain gowns. The knickerbockers lived in very refined, nearly identical townhouses. It wasn’t until Alva Vanderbilt embarked on her architectural masterpieces (such as Petit Chateau and Marble House) that the rest of society began trying to out-build one another with their palatial mansions. The same goes for their extravagant entertaining. It wasn’t until the new money began throwing such elaborate and outlandish balls that the knickerbockers felt they needed to compete and became a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.

 

If THE SOCIAL GRACES was made into a movie, who would you choose to cast as your two leading ladies?

 

Such a fun question! I think Kathy Bates would be a fabulous Mrs. Astor and I could see Julia Garner bringing Alva to life. After seeing her portrayal of Ruth Langmore in Ozark as well as a few other performances, I’m convinced she’d be brilliant in any part she plays.

Open Book with Laura Jamison

I am continuing to spread the joy of books during this uncertain time.  What I know, is that the comfort of a book never lets you down.  I hope you all are hanging in there and staying well and safe.  I am thrilled to celebrate Laura Jamison’s debut, All the Right Mistakes and that she is my latest Open Book!  Read below as Laura’s daughters and myself share a love for Nancy Meyer’s movies ❤

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via Amazon ~

Five college friends have arrived at forty in very different circumstances, but with at least one thing in common: they are among the more privileged in society. Elizabeth and Sara are lawyers, Martha is a doctor, Carmen is a wealthy and well-educated homemaker, and Heather, the most successful, is a famous tech executive―and after more than two decades of friendship, they know one another better than anyone.

Then Heather writes a women’s advice book detailing the key life “mistakes” of her four friends―opting out, ramping off, giving half effort, and forgetting your fertility―that becomes wildly popular, and Elizabeth, Sara, Martha, and Carmen all feel the sting of Heather’s cruel words. Despite their status, these women face everyday obstacles, including work problems, parenting challenges, secondary infertility, racism, sexism, financial stress, and marital woes―and as they weather their fortieth year, each one can’t help but wonder if their life might have been different if they had followed Heather’s advice.
But as these friends are continually reminded, life is complex, messy, disappointing, and joyful, often all at once―and no one can plan her way out of that reality. In the end, all five women must embrace the idea that their lives are shaped not just by their choices but also by how they handle the obstacles life inevitably throws at us all.

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  1. What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with?

The first three people that popped into my mind were Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, but I’m confident that if I thought more about I would struggle for hours with this one.

 

  1. Current binge series?

 I’ve been going through a phase where I am watching a lot on the PBS App, like Frontline and American Experience. I think we are all struggling to process what is happening with the pandemic and there is something about these shows that fills that need for me.

 

  1. Last favorite book?

I just finished Daniel Silva’s newest, The Order. I love reading series that span the decades. A new one is like a visit from an old friend.

 

  1. What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

Tevas, my favorite tunic top and cargo pants. Anywhere there is good food, good art and beautiful scenery.

 

  1. Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times every day without fail. 

 

  1. Last movie you saw?

My twin girls and I are working our way through every movie Nancy Meyers ever directed. They especially liked The Intern and Father of the Bride.

 

  1. Book you read that you wished you wrote?

I think anyone who doesn’t say Harry Potter is lying! I’ve also always felt this way about Liane Moriarty’s books.

 

  1. Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

Yes! My seventh grade teacher, Ms. Cotterill. 

 

  1. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

No

 

  1. Describe your writing space?

I wrote a lot of my debut novel in my minivan while waiting for my kids to finish practice.  

 

  1. Tell me your coffee/tea order?

8-ounce cappuccino, three shots. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to cut back. 

 

  1. Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

No, but I should put some thought into this! 

 

  1. Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

I think we need more movies from Jennifer Weiner, Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult’s books.

 

  1. If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys. I’ve always been one of the busy, driven people and this song speaks to me.

 

  1. Must have beauty product?

Alta MD sunscreen. Trust me, it’s amazing.

 

  1. Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite?

One hundred percent, yes. See my next answer.

 

  1. Favorite Instagram account?

Well, this one might make me some enemies, but it’s @kensingtonroyal.

 

  1. If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

My friend Amy Schmidt just published a book called Cannonball: Fearlessly Facing Fifty and Beyond and Cannonball should definitely be its own lipstick. I feel like it should be one of those nudes that looks good on everyone. But part of me is also thinking red. 

 

  1. Current #TBR pile?

The Booksparks Summer Reading Camp 2020 list!

 

  1. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Why not you? This was advice from my Dad and every time I think that maybe I’m setting my sights too high, I hear this in my head and it gives me to courage to try.

 

Follow Laura:

Instagram

 

Open Book with Deborah Royce

Another perfect escape read with Deborah Royce’s Finding Mrs. Ford.  A suspenseful and delectable read, set in two different summers.  I am so thrilled that Deborah participated in my “Open Book” feature.  She is a local author, based out of RI. ❤
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via Amazon~
On a sunny summer morning by the sea in New England, Susan Ford’s cocoon of privilege is threatened when an Iraqi man from her distant past boards a plane in Baghdad to come find her.

Mrs. Ford leads a privileged life. From her Blenheim spaniels to her cottage on the coast of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, she carefully curates her world. Hair in place, house in place, life in place, Susan Ford keeps it under control.

Early one morning in the summer of 2014, the past pays a call to collect. The FBI arrives to question her about a man from Iraq—a Chaldean Christian from Mosul—where ISIS has just seized control. Sammy Fakhouri, they say, is his name and they have taken him into custody, picked up on his way to her house.

Back in the summer of 1979, on the outskirts of a declining Detroit, college coed Susan meets charismatic and reckless Annie. They are an unlikely pair of friends but they each see something in the other—something they’d like to possess. Studious Susan is a moth to the flame that is Annie. Yet, it is dazzling Annie who senses that Susan will be the one who makes it out of Detroit.

Together, the girls navigate the minefields of a down-market disco where they work their summer jobs. It’s a world filled with pretty girls and powerful men, some of whom—like Sammy Fakhouri—happen to be Iraqi Chaldeans.

What happened in that summer of 1979 when Susan and Annie met? Why is Sammy looking for Susan all these years later? And why is Mrs. Ford lying?

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What three celebrities/authors/figures- living or dead, would you want to have a bookclub with?

Oh this is hard! Okay, I’m going to pick some living and some dead.

  1. My first book club celebrity choice would be Stephen King. Who better to talk about books with than someone with his understanding of writing, overall, and of suspense, in particular! I’d love to hear him talk about whatever book we were reading that month.
  2. My second choice would be Nancy Mitford. Her book, Pursuit of Love, is my all-time-go-to comfort book. She manages to be both hilarious and poignant. Her understanding of French and English history is unique and I just love the way she says anything at all.
  3. My third book club selection would be Toni Morrison. Her writing is absolutely exquisite, her insights are keen, and her perspective is different from my own—which makes for a perfect book club partner!

Current binge series?

During this pandemic, I went down the English royal rabbit hole! I re-watched all of The Crown, all of Victoria, and all of The Tudors! I took comfort in spending time with these people with very BIG lives dealing with very real problems like epidemics and the economy and infidelity. Not to mention the uncommon problems of beheading annoying spouses!

Last favorite book?

Writers and Lovers by Lily King. I finished it last night and the beauty of the writing is still floating in my head.

What 3 things to you pack in your bag for your dream vacation?  Where is it?

My dream vacation is always a city. I am not a beach person or a camping person. I have never been to Barecelona and I adore The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn (who sadly just died), so that is my pick! The three things (they’re really more composite categories…is that cheating?) I would pack are:

 

  1. A few of those stretchy dresses that you can wash out in your hotel bathtub and still look good in it the next day.
  2. A bookbag with a few “real” books and a kindle for back-up. I love the tactile feeling of paper and I have a visceral knowledge of exactly where in a book I saw something I want to see again. But a kindle is a great way to read more while traveling.
  3. A huge shawl…it works for warmth, as an airplane pillow or blanket, and as a shield from the world!

Sunday NYT or US Weekly?

Sunday NYT. Although I have now completely switched to doing the crossword on my phone, I still love going through each section of the Sunday New York Times. Arts and Leisure is always my favorite.

Last movie you saw?

The Truth with Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke. It came out this year and is a domestic drama about a famous mother and her very complicated relationship with her adult daughter. Funny and sad. French.

Book you read that you wished you wrote?

I am going to say The Great Gatsby. It so perfectly evokes that sense of loss and longing. It is a book that makes me ache.

Do you have a teacher who encouraged you to become a writer?

The actor and writer, Gene Wilder encouraged me to become a writer. I had already been  writing for YEARS without getting serious about it. I developed a close relationship with Gene and his wife, Karen, through our mutual involvement with the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT. We had a frequent email correspondence. One day, he asked me, “Are you a writer? I think you’re a writer.” And he offered to read something I had written. I sent a screenplay to him and he was very encouraging. From that point on, every time I saw him, he would ask, “I hope you’re writing. You should be writing.” Eventually I listened to him!

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?

Absolutely not! I love music and I am one of those people who cannot NOT listen to it when it is playing. That said, the composer who sends me into a state of peaced-out bliss is Bach. I do tend to write snippets of songs into my books…which is always extra work in securing rights! I have included a little bit of Donna Summer’s disco classic, Last Dance, in Finding Mrs. Ford. And I have two songs my lawyer is working on getting permission to use in my next book, Ruby Falls…one by Dion and one by the Eurythmics.

Describe your writing space?

I write in a conservatory! It is a glass room that faces west towards a river and the setting sun. Fortunately, there are shades on the ceiling because it can get very hot out there in the middle of the day. Because I don’t have real walls for cork boards, only glass, I use a rolling shelf/trolley to fan out all my various pages of research, books, notes, etc.

Tell me your coffee/tea order?

I have a DeLonghi espresso/cappuccino machine at home and I call him my personal butler. He is male in my mind. He makes me the best coffee and I am very nice to him and compliment him all the time. Cappuccino is my order and Mr. DeLonghi makes it very well.

Do you have a favorite book that you gift?

I love to give books that I love! Because of that, I often give Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. She is a very particular voice and she doesn’t appeal to everyone. It is a litmus test.

Book that you wished they would make a movie out of?

The Shadow of the Wind! And I would like to see Guillermo del Toro direct it. And my own first book, Finding Mrs. Ford, directed by a resurrected Alfred Hitchcock!

 

If you could have one song as the theme song of your life what would it be and why?

I just love your questions! The theme song from A Man and a Woman. That one that goes, ba da da da da da da dum, da da dum, da da dum…you know it, right???  Why would it be my theme song? Because it stops me in my tracks and makes me cry whenever I hear it, wherever I am. It makes me feel like my hair is blowing as I drive with my lover in a convertible through the French countryside under the dappled light from those trees that line both sides of the road. Which they are taking down now, by the way, because they are a huge cause of head-on collisions. But that is a real spoilsport bit of information!

Must have beauty product?

Lipstick. My lips would fall off my face if I had nothing to put on them because they get so dry. How did people live without it? What would I do on a desert island???

Royals- yes or no?  If so, who is your favorite?

Are you kidding? YES to Royals! See my binge watching above. Favorite? Well…of the dead ones, I have a soft spot for Queen Victoria and Catherine the Great. And Princess Diana just pierced my heart. She is my generation and I remember being in my little studio in New York City when I watched her wedding. Of the living ones, I have become a big admirer of Queen Elizabeth. All that binge watching helped there!

Favorite Instagram account?

I have become a recent fan of Sarah Cooper…aka Sarahcpr…she lip syncs the president and other famous people and she is a riot! I also like Overheard in LA for a good laugh. It picks up snippets of overheard conversations, which is always fun.

 If you could name just one lipstick after a book, what would you call it and what shade would it be? 

Shall I say Pursuit of Love again? It is a pretty fantastic name for lipstick!

 

Current #TBR pile?

I have some books by Tana French, Kimberly Belle, Wendy Walker, Sandra Brown, and Emily Liebert. I want to immerse myself in the works of contemporary female thriller writers. Oh, and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. But that has been in my pile for a long, long time and other books keep landing on top of it!

Best advice you’ve ever received?

If you can’t do it good, do it fast…that was said every day before camera rolled by one of the directors when I was an actress on the soap opera, All My Children. There is a wisdom in reminding us not to belabor things!

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