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

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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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!


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.



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.