Saturday, May 29, 2010

A little down time

It's been a while since I've checked in.  This week was hectic starting with the visits to the publishing houses on Monday and Tuesday, BEA on Wednesday and Thursday, and the first Book Blogger Convention on Friday.   I was running around with irregular meals and little sleep; I somehow caught the flu.

In the meantime, here's a picture of Ramey, my uncle's chow and one of the friendliest dogs I know.  Ramey lives in Boston & in Gloucester, MA.  He was having a hard time coping with the heat, so he had his first short cut.

He's feeling much more himself now!

More news on BEA, the publishing house tours, and the Book Blogger Convention soon.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Blog Tour of Amazon Queen by Lori Devoti

Hi everyone!  Things have been hectic this week.  Yen of The Book Publicity Blog and the organizers of the Book Bloggers Convention arranged for tours at different publishing houses.  I want to write much more about the visits and will in the next few days.   I'll just say that the peek into this side of the book business was fascinating.  More on the visits later! 

Now, please join us for the Book Blog Tour of Lori Devoti's Amazon Queen.  I'm afraid that this post will be bare bones for the moment.  I'll share my thoughts on the book in a subsequent post.  

Amazon Queen (Amazons, Book 2)
ISBN-10: 1439167729 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99 
Publisher: Pocket (April 27, 2010), 375 pages.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

The blurb:
Being an Amazon ruler just became a royal pain.

Amazon queen Zery Kostovska has never questioned tribe traditions.  After all, these rules have kept the tribe strong for millennia and enabled them to live undetected, even in modern-day America.  Zery is tough, fair, commanding -- the perfect Amazon leader.

At least, she was.  A new high priestess with a penchant for secrecy and technology is threatening Zery's rule.  Plus, with the discovery of Amazon sons, males with the same skills as their female counterparts, even Zery can't deny that the tribe must change.  But how?  Some want to cooperate with the sons.  Others believe brutal new leadership is needed -- and are willing to kill to make it happen.

Once, Zery's word was law.  Now, she has no idea who to trust, especially with one powerful Amazon son making her question all her instincts.  For Zery, tribe comes first, but the battle drawing near is unlike any she's faced before. . . and losing might cost her both the tribe and her life.

My thoughts/Review Part One:
While I was absorbing BEA, the recent visits to the publishing houses, and the discussions with other bloggers, I realized that there is so much more that I can do here at Starting Fresh.  I was reading Amazon Queen during my commute and trying to put a finger on what it was that drew me to Zery Kostovska, the Amazon Queen herself.  

There's a scene in the book where Zery opposes another powerful woman in the tribe and suffers a significant loss of power because of her actions.  Zery was aware that her decision would significantly erode her power base, but she refused to sacrifice a weaker person to save herself and the "community at large."   Zery's decision to refuse when it was clear that she would be a great personal cost demonstrated her integrity.  Remember that book Integrity by Stephen Carter (1997) where he defined integrity?
He gave examples of people acting with integrity, as he does in this excerpt.   As I understand, integrity is the willingness to take action or admit something because you know this to be right, correct, honorable, even at great personal cost. 

The Amazon Queen Zery does this - she follows what she knows is right, acts true to herself even as she knows that she will be made to suffer for it.  As I read the scene and watched the events unfold, I realized that I like Zery, that I love heroes that behave like heroes, people that strive in their ordinary lives to work hard,  be true, act with integrity. 

With this book blog, I have the opportunity and the excuse to dive into these sorts of books, to enjoy the hero's struggle, realization and eventual triumph.

I'm not completely done with Amazon Queen and I promise to write a fuller review of the book soon.  I did want to say that I am enjoying the book so far and I'm rooting for Zery to win back her rightful place.

This book, talking to other bloggers, the BEA and the visits to the publishing houses have made me think of just how much I'm drawn to what I'll loosely call "heroes" or people that struggle to act with integrity and to do what they know to be right, even if doing so means significant personal risk and sacrifice.

Walking home from the subway, I was thinking of the "heroes" that have made books memorable for me.  I'd like to do something focused on these heroes -- I've got some ideas and will tell you guys more later.

I'll read more of Amazon Queen -- and will be back shortly to share my thoughts.    In the meantime, perhaps you'd like to head over to the other participating blogs to see how they found Amazon Queen.

Participating Sites:

Book Junkie:
Books and Things:
Books Gardens & Dogs:
Taking Time For Mommy:
Jeanne's Ramblings:
See Michelle Read:
My Five Monkeys:
A Journey of Books:
My Book Addiction and More:
The Wayfaring Writer:
Pick of the Literate:
Cheryl’s Book Nook:
Avid Reader:
Starting Fresh:
I Heart Book Gossip:
Knitting and Sundries:
The Bibliophilic Book Blog:
Poisoned Rationality:
A Musing Reviews:
Booksie’s Blog:
Lucky Rosie’s:

About the Author:
Lori Devoti is originally from the Missouri Ozarks, but also lived in Montana where she worked in the advertising departments of two daily newspapers. Currently she  lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two kids, and two dogs.

Thank you so much to Sarah and Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster  for this review opportunity!

Book Blog Tour of Montana Destiny by R.C. Ryan

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of R.C. Ryan's Montana Destiny, the second in the McCord Cousins series!  Before we chat with R.C. Ryan, let me share a little about her latest book and R.C. Ryan's background.

The blurb:
They're the McCords. . . three rugged, sexy cowboy cousins who'll inherit the family range -- if they seek the treasure hidden on it.   But even more precious are the women who can tame their wild hearts.

Emergency medic Marilee Trainor likes her freedom and lives for trouble.  Then she stumbles upon a clue to the legendary McCord gold and suddenly finds herself in a mysterious killer's sights -- and in the arms of irresistible playboy Wyatt McCord.  This McCord cousin has been everywhere, yet the ranch is the only place he feels at home.  Now Marilee's courage and independence make him want to protect her, win her heart, and finally settle down.  But trust is the one thing Wyatt and Marilee can't easily give.  And their survival and everything they cherish depends on whether they can surrender to each other -- to fight for their . . . Montana Destiny.

ISBN-10: 0446548634 - Mass Market Paperback $6.99
Publisher: Forever; 1 edition (May 1, 2010), 352 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
New York Times bestselling author R.C. Ryan has written more than ninety fiction novels, both contemporary and historical. Quite an accomplishment for someone who, after her fifth child started school, gave herself the gift of an hour a day to follow her dream to become a writer.

The Lost, an anthology of stories by J.D. Robb, Mary Blayney, Patricia Gaffney, and R.C. Ryan writing as Ruth Ryan Langan was published in Fall 2009. Ms. Ryan’s story, “The Legacy,” is an exciting tale of intrigue and other-worldly adventure. 

In a career spanning more than twenty years, Ms. Ryan has given dozens of radio, television, and print interviews across the country and Canada, and has been quoted in such diverse publications as the Wall Street Journal and Cosmopolitan. She has also appeared on CNN News, as well as Good Morning America.  If you'd like to learn more about R.C. Ryan, visit her website at

We're lucky to have R.C. Ryan with us today to discuss her inspiration for her latest novel, Montana Destiny.  Please welcome, R.C. Ryan!  R.C., thank you so much for taking the time to chat!


I'm often asked about my inspiration for my latest series.  It's a difficult thing to explain.  As a writer I have sudden flashes of character, followed by long sessions of mulling the things I think shaped a particular person, his personality quirks, his sense of humor or duty or honor or whatever the outstanding qualities I think he should have.

The McCord family is like my own in some ways.  Large, noisy, sometimes quarrelsome, but always loving.  And at the core, we care deeply about one another.  We feel justified in fighting with one another, but if anyone outside the family dares to challenge one of us, he finds himself standing up to an entire clan.  We suffer with one another, and cheer one another's successes. 

I like to think that everyone who reads these books will be able to identify with at least some of the members of this fascinating family.  I wanted them to be three-dimensional, living, breathing people that my readers would care about.  And I loved the idea of generations, because older members are often the narrators of family history to the younger generation.  I loved Cora and Cal.  I wanted my readers to see them first as they are, and then to learn in each book, who they were, and how they became the strong-willed people they are today.

I really love this family, and I'm so delighted that my readers love them, too.

Large, noisy, sometimes quarrelsome, but always loving -- that sounds a lot like my family as well!  I think that's one of the reasons why I've really enjoyed reading about the McCord cousins in Montana Legacy and Montana Destiny.  I'm looking forward to finding out what happens to the third and last McCord cousin!  Thanks so much for stopping by, R.C. Ryan!


To enter leave a comment below telling us why you'd like to read Montana Destiny.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on June 30, 2010.

Thank you so much Anna and Hatchette for sponsoring this giveaway!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Giveaway of The Knight Life by Keith Knight

Anna and Hatchette Book Group are generously giving away 2 copies of Keith Knight's The Knight Life.  

The Knight Life: "Chivalry Ain't Dead"
About the Book:
The Knight Life is a hilariously twisted view of life through the eyes and pen of its creator, community-oriented urban hipster and award-winning cartoonist Keith Knight. The Knight Life deftly blends political insight and neurotic humor in a uniquely fluid and dynamic style, offering a comic strip that's fresh, sharp, topical and funny. Designed for daily newspapers, The Knight Life follows Knight's long-running, 2007 Harvey Award-winning weekly comic strip "The K Chronicles," which appears on

An unabashedly provocative political and social satire, The Knight Life tackles contemporary issues like consumer culture, bacon, the media, race, family and everything else, gently mocking the minutiae of daily life with self-deprecating humor, honesty and goofiness-a combination that's perfect for the comics. And The Knight Life's energetic style reminds readers that comics can look funny as well as read funny. The result is accessible yet edgy, compassionate and political-and never preachy. Cartoonist and comic historian R.C. Harvey said, "The Knight Life is undeniably the best new laugh- and thought-provoker on the comics page. Not since Calvin and Hobbes has there been so novel an entertainment in the funnies."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  Read my review here.

About the Author:

Keith Knight was born and raised in the Boston area. Weaned on a steady diet of Star Wars, hip-hop, racism and Warner Bros. cartoons, Knight started drawing comics in grade school. After graduating from college with a degree in graphic design, Knight drove out to San Francisco in the early 90s. It was in the Bay Area where Knight developed his trademark cartooning style that has been described as a cross between Calvin & Hobbes and underground comix.

Knight is part of a new generation of talented young African-American artists who infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle,, Ebony, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, and the Funny Times. Knight won the 2007 Harvey Award and the 2006, 2007 & 2008 Glyph Awards for Best Comic Strip. His comic musings on race have garnered accolades and stirred controversies, prompting CNN to tap him to grade America on its progress concerning issues of race.

Keef has a 2-year old and has not read anything beyond little kiddie books in a long time. But he does have time for comics! He recommends: Ruben Bolling's "Tom the Dancing Bug", Steve Notley's "Bob the Angry Flower", Kate Beaton's "Hark, a Vagrant!", Harvey Pekar's "American Splendor", Amy Martin's "Bachelor Girl", Alison Bechdel's "Fun Home"…and way more.

Check out Keith Knight's website at

To enter, please just tell us why you'd like this book.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on June 30, 2010.

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Audio Book Giveaway: War by Sebastian Junger

Anna and Hatchette Book Group are generously giving away 3 copies of the audio book of War by Sebastian Junger.

About the Book:
In WAR Sebastian Junger gives breathtaking insight into the truths of war-- the fear, the honor, and the trust among men. His on-the-ground account follows a single platoon through a 15-month tour of duty in the most dangerous outpost in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. Through the experiences of these young men at war, he shows what it means to fight, to serve, and to face down mortal danger on a regular basis.

About the Author:
Sebastian Junger is the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont. He is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and has been awarded a National Magazine Award and an SAIS Novartis Prize for journalism. He lives in New York City.

Interested?  Listen to an excerpt.

To enter, please just comment below.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on June 30, 2010.

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Audio Book Giveaway: Fever Dream by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston

Anna and Hatchette Book Group are generously sponsoring this giveaway of Fever Dream, the latest audiobook by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston!

Fever Dream

About the Book:
Destined to be a fan favorite, this exciting new thriller from bestselling authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child features Agent Pendergast and tells the dark history of his murdered wife, Helen.

About the Authors:
Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are coauthors of the bestselling novels Relic, Mount Dragon, Reliquary, Riptide, Thunderhead, The Ice Limit, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Still Life with Crows, Brimstone, Dance of Death, The Book of the Dead, The Wheel of Darkness, and Cemetery Dance. Douglas Preston, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, worked for the American Museum of Natural History. He is an expert horseman who has ridden thousands of miles across the West. Lincoln Child is a former book editor who has published four bestselling novels of his own.

To enter, please comment below.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on June 30, 2010.

Thank you so much to Anna and Hatchette Book Group for sponsoring this giveaway!

Book Blog Tour of The Killing of Mindi Quintana by Jeffrey A. Cohen

Welcome  to the TLC Book Tour of The Killing of Mindi Quintana by Jeffrey A. Cohen

The Killing of Mindi Quintana
I'm particularly excited to welcome the author here today.    Let me fill you in on the book and the author and then we'll settle in for a chat with Jeffrey A. Cohen.

The blurb:
Freddy Builder is certain he is meant for more.  More than his life in corporate America bondage.  More than selling china to bluebloods in Philadelphia's landmark department store, Chanet's.  Meant for more, meant for better, and lacking only, only an occasion to rise to.

And now that occasion is murder -- of Mindi Qunitana, an old college flame wanting simply to stay in his past.

Freddy's crime is major news from the start.  Mindi is the beautiful daughter of a renowned Philadelphia businessman whose dramatic fall a few years back captivated the city.  A televised trial for Freddy is in the offing.  Meanwhile, he is writing the book about his relationship with Mindi -- a remorseless rewrite of her life, his own, and their miserably thin involvement.

As excerpts of the book are published to acclaim, he gives articulate, sympathetic jailhouse interviews, publishes ghostwritten articles on prison issues, and coverage goes national.  A new celebrity murderer is taking the stage -- a killer with a book, a jailhouse literary sensation.

Freddy's defense attorney, Philip, watches in disgust as his client builds his fame with the bones of his victim.  As a career public defender, Philip thought he'd seen evil in all its incarnations.  He'd lost his outrage, his passion for the law, and his marriage along the way.  But as Freddy's case is a turning point for him -- the public's sympathy for the poet-murderer, the rebel, the killer as great soul -- stirs something dormant in Philip.

To stop Freddy, and to vindicate Mindi, Philip will have to violate his oath, even break the law.  But with the help of Mindi's best friend Lisa, he gives Mindi back the truth of her life and her death.  And he'll deliver a comeuppance to a killer with a book.

The Killing of Mindi Quintana drew me in from the start.  The first scenes and much of the novel is told from Freddy Builder's point of view.  We're privy to his thoughts, grievances, and fears as he plods through his workday.   He is unhappy, quick tempered, emotionally sensitive and callous at the same time.   It is clear that Mindi Quintana had represented a bright spot in his college life and he often relives the time they'd had together.

When a chance encounter brings Mindi and Freddy together, he is desperate not to lose her this time.  Freddy's perception of her interest and his own determination  keep him from seeing Mindi's disinterest.   The disconnect between what Mindi is feeling and Freddy's excitement and expectations added another level of tension and was artfully done. 

The Killing of Mindi Quintana is not the usual legal thriller - in a good way.  Although Jeffrey Cohen incorporates the tension and uncertainty that makes a suspense thriller,  certain facts are known to us early on.  We get to know Freddy,  hear his thoughts and understand what drives him.  Even before Mindi Quintana is killed we see the tension build up and know that the confrontation is inevitable -- it's just the timing and the manner of the violence that is a surprise.   Jeffrey Cohen delves into the legal maneuvering, manipulation of public opinion and the politics that affect the district attorney's office - these details are usually glossed over in most thrillers.  The courtroom scenes are also authentically crafted.   If you're looking for a legal thriller with a strong procedural bent, I highly recommend Jeffrey Cohen's The Killing of Mindi Quintana.

ISBN-10: 1566499585 - Hardcover $24.99
Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers (May 16, 2010), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the author and TLC Book Tours.

About the Author:
Jeffrey Cohen is a writer, trial attorney and technology entrepreneur residing in Philadelphia.  He has written on legal issues, including short stories and articles such as “The Black-White Disconnect: A Conversation with Author David Bradley,” on the O.J. Simpson trial, and “Eight Days a Week,” on legal ethics.

Until April 2008, he served as CEO of Teleperformance Interactive, the automated technologies company he sold to Teleperformance in 2004.  Teleperformance is the world’s leading customer relations management company with more than 80,000 employees.

A 1988 graduate of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Cohen specialized in appellate, class action and mass tort litigation before entering the business world.  He has sold four of his companies to publicly traded entities since 1996 and now writes full time.  He is currently at work on his second novel, A Plea for Leniency.



Jeffrey A. Cohen has taken the time to answer a few questions about the book and his own writing process.  Please welome, Jeffrey Cohen!

Q:  What inspired you to write the Killing of Mindi Quintana?

JC: Years ago while in law school, I became interested in America’s fascination with our violent criminals; this tendency we have to attribute to them special qualities and talents, charisma and charm, and to make them folk heroes and sympathetic antiheroes. Among our iconic killers like Jesse James, Bonnie & Clyde, and Gary Gilmore, is Jack Henry Abbott, and his story in particular captivated me. Abbott was the convicted murderer who became a cultural icon and literary shooting star when his book of letters to Norman Mailer, In the Belly of the Beast, was published in 1981. 

One irony of the Abbott case is that this evil man’s letters, irrationally justifying his lifetime of violent crime, resulted in public sympathy, literary acclaim, and even his parole. Another irony, tragic, is that within six weeks of his release Abbott killed again, the night before a laudatory review of his book would appear in the New York Times. And a final irony—the one that got me writing—is that the man he stabbed in the heart, Richard Adan, 22, a night-shift waiter who refused Abbott the use of an employees-only restroom, was by day pursuing his dream of becoming a writer himself. 

This is the spark behind The Killing of Mindi Quintana. In my novel, Freddy Builder kills Mindi Quintana and is writing the book about their relationship everybody wants.  It’s a lying rewrite of Mindi’s life and his own, and of his miserably thin involvement with her. As he awaits trial, excerpts of his book appear to praise, and interest grows in the case.  His own lawyer, Philip, watches with disgust as Freddy builds his acclaim from the bones of his victim.  And as a new celebrity killer takes the stage.

Q:How were you able to balance your law practice with writing.  Did you write everyday? Could you tell us more about your writing routine?

JC: The truth is that it was very difficult to balance practicing law, and later running companies, with writing.  Law and business are both all encompassing—just as writing is.  My solution, finally, was to write full time. The Killing of Mindi Quintana is the first result of that decision.

Q: What are you currently working on?

JC: I’m currently working on my second novel, A Plea for Leniency, in which white-shoe criminal defense attorney, Frank Batiste, has just lost his case defending a major corporate America CEO. Convinced he’s failed an innocent man, A Plea for Leniency is his unorthodox request of the prosecutor for compassion in recommending sentence. It is the truth about his client Frank could not tell in court. The novel takes us from Wall Street to the mountain slums of Rio de Janeiro; and from astounding business success to ruin, and in some ways back. We come to see that Franks pleads for compassion not only for his client, but for himself. And we find reasons for mercy.

Q: What do you enjoy reading? What are you reading now?

JC: There are so many kinds of books I love to read, so I’ll keep my answer to what I’ve read recently—actually, reread. I’ve just been rereading The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer and In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Both are seminal portrayals of true-life, iconic American killers, and I thought a lot about them in writing of The Killing of Mindi Quintana.

Q: Do you have any advice for young writers?

JC: Just to let yourself play in your first draft—write the book you really want to write.  Some of the best things you’ll write come to you in doing that—playing, exploring, going on tangents.  To be sure, you’ll have to cut a lot of things out.  But something you wrote on one of your tangents may form the kernel of your book.  Your many subsequent drafts are for development, and imposing order and assuring that everything serves the whole.  It’s here you home in on what the story really is, develop it, cut what doesn’t serve the whole. It’s just my opinion, but I think if you’re too inhibited in the first draft, are too businesslike or bashful or hard on yourself, you may never find your book

Q: Is there a question that you wish you had been asked in a previous interview?

JC: Yes.  I’d like to have been asked, “Is your novel solely about America’s fascination with ‘the man or woman outside the law,’ the achievement of fame and acclaim through the backdoor of murder?  Is there more?”  The answer is there is.  My novel is also about the interplay of talent, hard work, and passion for what you choose do in life. Each of my main characters exemplifies a different mix of these, enjoying or suffering the consequences.  Except Mindi—she has all of her possibilities stolen from her.


 Thank you so much for taking the time to chat, Jeffrey!  Congratulations on the book and thanks again for this review opportunity!   Thanks also to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for the chance to participate!

Want to read more about Jeffrey A. Cohen and The Killing of Mindi Quintana?

Visit the other sites on this book tour:

Monday, May 3rd:  Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 4th:  Life of a Busy Wife
Wednesday, May 5th:  Rundpinne
Thursday, May 6th:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Monday, May 10th:  Rough Edges
Wednesday, May 12th:  Luxury Reading
Thursday, May 13th:  Novel Whore
Friday, May 14th:  Beth Fish Reads
Monday, May 17th:  Book Dilettante
Tuesday, May 18th:  My Two Blessings
Wednesday, May 19th:  Dan’s Journal
Thursday, May 20th:  The Book Faery Reviews
Monday, May 24th:  Starting Fresh
Wednesday, May 26th:  Book Junkie
Monday, June 7th:  The Betty and Boo Chronicles

Book Review of Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn. I admit that I was very excited to review this, particularly since I live in this Brooklyn neighborhood.  There had been much written about Prospect Park West though many Park Slope residents (and those of South Slope, Prospect Heights) were disappointed at how much the author had poked fun at the local residents.

Prospect Park West: A Novel

The blurb:
Brooklyn's famed Park Slope neighborhood has it all:  majestic Prospect Park, acclaimed public schools, historic brownstones, and progressive values.  Among bohemian bourgeois breeders, claiming a stake in Park Slope is a competitive sport.

In Amy Sohn's smart, sexy, satirical peek into the bedrooms and hearts of Prospect Park West, the lives of four women come together during one long, hot Brooklyn summer.  Frustrated Oscar-winning actress Melora Leigh, eager to relieve the pressures of raising her adopted toddler, feels the seductive pull of kleptomania; Rebecca Rose, missing her formerly robust sec life, begins a dangerous flirtation with a handsome neighborhood celebrity; Lizzie O'Donnell, a former lesbian (or "hasbian"), wonders what draws her to women despite her sexy husband and adorable baby, and Karen Bryan Shapiro consumes herself with a powerful obsession -- snagging the ultimate three-bedroom apartment in a well-maintained, P.S. 321-zoned co-op building.  As the women's paths intertwine (and sometimes collide), each must struggle to keep her man, her sanity. . .and her playdates.

Amy Sohn knows the Park Slope neighborhood well and this comes through in her novel.  I can see why Brooklynites who had been looking forward to a glamorous account of the area were sorely disappointed.

Sohn describes the local haunts of Park Slope from  the "Tea Lounge" a known hangout of young mothers which she dubs the "Teat Lounge," the local Food Coop, Prospect Park, the public library, neighborhood playgrounds, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores.  Each of Sohn's four main characters seem like a caricature of a "type of resident." 

Melora Leigh is a glamorous, high strung actress working to revive her career, worried about being bypassed in favor of younger actresses.  Melora seems to fall into situations and decisions and she feels as though her life is spiraling out of control.  She relies on her publisher, her therapist and, to a lesser degree,  her husband to help her navigate the tricky fishbowl of fame.  Melora joins the Food Coop despite her reluctance to work the required hours, and against her better judgment she participates with disastrous results.  Melora makes bad decisions over and over again  -- it's hard to imagine someone so savvy and successful in the entertainment world as out of touch with reality and with such poor judgment in her daily life. Melora and her situation read like the worst celebrity news.

The two friends, Lizzie and Rebecca, are Park Slope mothers whose children play together.  Lizzie and Rebecca see themselves as younger, more fashionable, and more attractive than the other "Park Slob" folk.   The two women  enjoy poking fun at the people around them who seem to have given up on their own achievement and now  focus all their energy and hopes on their children and have become boring.   Rebecca is wealthier and has the stronger personality of the two.   Lizzie, a former lesbian,  is eager to take their friendship to the next level, and is willing to take risks getting there.

Karen is married to a lawyer and is enjoying the life of a stay at home mother.  Karen wants a second child and a co-op in the right school zone.  Karen's a "helicopter mom"  -- she hovers over her son and pushes for what she wants, with little regard for social boundaries or niceties.

The story grows more interesting as the four women's lives intersect and I kept wondering what would happen next.  I didn't find any of the women to be sympathetic characters and kept hoping that something bad would happen to each of them!  I did enjoy the descriptions of real estate, condo board requirements and the hunt for the perfect apartment, but real estate is a blood sport in New York City. 
Overall, the book was an enjoyable and interesting read.  I'll admit to being very glad to read about my neighborhood -- even if the description wasn't all that positive.

ISBN-10: 1416577653 - Paperback $15.00
Publisher: Downtown Press (May 4, 2010), 400 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Amy Sohn is the New York Times bestselling author of Run Catch Kiss, My Old Man, and Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell.  She has been a columnist at New York magazine and has also written for The Nation, Harper's Bazaar, New York Times, and Playboy.  She lives in Brooklyn.  Find out more about Amy Sohn on her website

Thank you to Sarah and Simon & Schuster for this review opportunity!