Books in the Burbs News

Book Giveaways Galore!

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I love this time of year, when bloggers are hosting a lot of their end of year giveaways.  This is also my 5 year blogger anniversary, so it seemed rather fitting to have more than one giveaway this month.  While many of the giveaways end this week, you still have time to enter and win some fantastic books.  I’m hosting quite a few, so take a peek and see which ones interest you the most!

Choose from 3 Gift Packs!

Giveaway ends December 18, 2014

Giveaway ends December 22, 2014

Giveaway ends December 20, 2014

Giveaway ends December 19, 2014

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Peanuts Gift Pack Giveaway!

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Hard as it is to believe, but this year marks the 50th annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas!

To celebrate the occasion, ABC will air the special twice: Tuesday, December 2 at 8:30PM ET/PT and Tuesday, December 16 at 8:00PM ET/PT.  Meanwhile, Peanuts Worldwide is offering a host of great holiday books guaranteed to get you in the mood for the big television anniversary.



This lushly illustrated tribute to the television classic takes readers behind-the-scenes of the Peanuts holiday special. Including the script of A Charlie Brown Christmas, more than 200 full-color pieces of original animation art, Vince Guaraldi’s original score, and a look at the making of feature from producer Lee Mendelson and original animator, the late Bill Melendez, fans of Charles M. Schulz, the Peanuts gang, and A Charlie Brown Christmas will treasure this beautiful keepsake volume for years to come.

Available at and major book stores nationwide for $19.99.

My Review:

I grew up watching Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang.  I especially love the cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas!  So, this is a real treat for my blog to offer you so many great books to read, buy, and possibly win!  This book is the perfect gift for someone who grew up watching the Christmas movie!  With attention to detail, skits, sketches, and dialogue from the actual movie, the Peanuts fan will love this book!  It’s very well made and gives a behind the scenes look to the movie!


This charming little book filled with Peanuts inspirational wisdom is the perfect stocking stuffer! The book highlights the simple joys of friends, life and goodwill through a collection of heart-warming quotes and illustrations from the Peanuts classic comics.  Available at or wherever books are sold for $7.95.

My Review:

This is definitely the perfect gift for someone who loves to read little quotes from the Peanuts gang!  It’s quite colorful with simple quotes from your favorite characters, that will definitely make you smile and feel a bit nostalgic, too!




Charlie Brown and the football, Snoopy’s happy dance, Schroeder at his toy piano—cherished characters and iconic moments come to life through the magic of Scanimation.  Created by Rufus Butler Seder, an inventor, artist, and filmmaker fascinated by antique optical toys, Scanimation is a state-of-the-art six-phase animation process that combines the “persistence of vision” principle with a striped acetate overlay to give the illusion of movement. It harkens back to the old magical days of the kinetoscope, and the effect is astonishing, like a video without a screen. It is Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts—funny and wise and beloved, forever a part of our lives—like you’ve never seen before. Available for $14.95 at,, Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble, and independent book stores nationwide.

My Review:

This is the kind of book that any little reader will love!  The scanimation design is pre-electronics, but still is just as entertaining.  With a little storyline, each page has the scanimation that gives movement to each character and scene.  It’s a hard book that is a great size for small hands.  It’s a book that will be a great introduction in to the Peanuts gang, which will be a childhood favorite for your own little one, too!


This play-a-sound book comes with its own adorable mini-Snoopy plush—essentially making it two gifts for the price of one! Aimed at the toddler on your list, the book spotlights the topic of best friends from the Peanuts point-of-view and features three buttons that highlight a different sound from the story when you press them. Available for $11.99 at Toys R Us or wherever books are sold.

My Review:

Any little child will love this book!  With coordinating buttons to cue each page, your little reader will love to hear the sounds form the Peanuts Gang!  Along with a plush, stuffed Snoopy, this will be a great treat for little ones!  The book is small enough for little hands, hard pages to prevent bending and tearing, and the sounds really encourage the reader to look for sight words and press the button to hear the sounds.  This is an excellent book that will make a great gift for any occasion!





The Peanuts gang believes in “growing up without growing old” and that’s the message behind this hilarious book filled with famous celebrity quotes paired with artwork from the classic Peanuts comic strip. Among the celebrities quoted are George Burns, Mae West, Audrey Hepburn, and of course, Charles M. Schulz himself! Perfect for anyone on your list celebrating a birthday in December and beyond. Available at Target or wherever books are sold for $9.66.

My Review:

This book is perfect for any person, as you celebrate that special birthday! I love the quotes that correspond with each Peanuts character.  Each quote makes you smile, laugh, reminisce, and will definitely make a great birthday gift for a loved one!


For the budding artist, The Classic Peanuts Paint-by-Number Kit provides everything you need to make five paintings of iconic Peanuts moments.  From a group shot of Charlie Brown and the gang to Snoopy as Joe Cool, bring the charm and nostalgia of the classic comic to the canvas. Inside the box, you’ll find five paint-by-number canvases and stands, 10 acrylic paints, paintbrush, and a book exploring the comic’s great moments. Available for $15.25 at Barnes and Noble or wherever books are sold.

My Review:

This is the gift that is perfect for any person that loves to paint!  I was quite impressed with the quality of the paper, which has numbers corresponding with the paints.  Of course, any artist can deviate from the suggestions!  I also love the little book enclosed!  This makes a great gift for the artist in your life!  After each page is painted, the hard back pictures can easily be framed!

Overall Thoughts:

We all love Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang, especially if you are child of the 80’s/90’s.  However, this is a fantastic way to introduce your beloved cartoon characters to your own children, grandchildren, friends, students, etc.  Books in the Burbs is quite excited to introduce these fantastic gift ideas, as well as offer a few giveaways!

Giveaway Details:

US entries only.

When you fill out the form, your information doesn’t appear on my blog.  It is sent to me directly.  The 3 winners chosen will have their addresses sent directly to the publisher, who will mail the gift sets directly.

Giveaway ends December 18, 2014.


An Interview with Author, Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

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I suppose every reader has a guilty pleasure.  For me, my guilty pleasure is reading “Chick-lit”.  I first started reading Chick-lit books with the Bridget Jones Diary series, and from there would pick up a book here and there, to read.  It’s not a genre I read all the time, so when I do, it has to be a book that really calls my attention.  There are just so many books out there, so how do you choose, right?

They synopsis was quite interesting in New Money, which I read about a year ago. I love the Cinderella themed novel, and Savannah is a character I really liked.  You can read my review here.

I am also a huge fan of sequels and trilogies!  I love a great book series because I have a chance to read more about my favorite characters and their adventures!  So, I am quite happy that Lorraine decided to write the sequel to New Money: Independently Wealthy.  She has graciously given some of her time for an interview, for you all to read!   There is also a giveaway, because you know…we all love a free book!




Savannah Morgan had high hopes. She dreamed of becoming a writer and escaping her South Carolina town, where snooty debutantes have always looked down on her. But at twenty-four, she’s become a frustrated ex-cheerleader who lives with her mother and wonders if rejecting a marriage proposal was a terrible mistake. Then Savannah’s world is shaken when she learns the father she never knew is Edward Stone, a billionaire media mogul who has left Savannah his fortune on the condition that she move to Manhattan and work at his global news corporation. Putting aside her mother’s disapproval, Savannah plunges into a life of wealth and luxury that is threatened by Edward’s other children—the infuriatingly arrogant Ned and his sharp-tongued sister, Caroline, whose joint mission is to get rid of Savannah. She deals with their treachery along with her complicated love life, and she eventually has to decide between Jack, a smooth and charming real estate executive, and Alex, a handsome aspiring writer/actor. Savannah must navigate a thrilling but dangerous city while trying to figure out what kind of man her father truly was.

author spotlight pic


1.  Independently Wealthy is the sequel to New Money. What do you hope readers will enjoy most about this sequel?

Lorraine:  I hope readers will enjoy the evolving relationships between the characters and seeing that by the end of the story, many of these characters have changed a great deal from who they were in the first book. I also hope readers will enjoy that a big part of the story takes place in a wonderful setting—NYC during the holidays.

2.  In what ways do you think Savannah grows more in this novel?

Lorraine:  In New Money, Savannah was abruptly thrown into a situation that was very fortunate, but it was also filled with treachery, conflict, and hard feelings. Being a wealthy heiress in Manhattan was completely foreign to her, so she didn’t always know how to navigate this world filled with people who want to take her down. In Independently Wealthy, some time has passed since she arrived in NYC, so she has become more comfortable with her new circumstances. But the way in which Savannah grows most is through her relationships—especially with her half-brother (Ned) and half-sister (Caroline). In New Money, Ned and Caroline were devastated that their father left his fortune solely to Savannah, and they were understandably resentful toward her. Toward the end of that story, Caroline had reasons to soften toward Savannah, and their relationship continues to grow in Independently Wealthy. Ned’s relationship with Savannah slowly changes throughout Independently Wealthy—and both of these characters change, too.

3.  Which character did you most resonate with?

Lorraine:  I think authors generally resonate most with their main characters—probably because we spend so much time with them! So I would say that I related most to Savannah. Despite her glamorous life, she really is just a regular girl!

4.  What would you like your readers to learn most from your novel?

Lorraine:  Readers interpret literature based on their individual personalities, values, and taste—so I think everyone will view the story and characters uniquely and learn something different from my book. However, a main theme in this series is that people are often quite different from how they appear on the surface—and it’s important to understand their circumstances and background before judging them.

5.  Prior to this sequel, you wrote your first novel: Other Words for Love. How different was the writing process for you this time?

Lorraine:  My writing process was the same, but the style was different. Other Words for Love is quite introspective and somewhat literary, while New Money and Independently Wealthy are more fast-paced. The time period is also different, as Other Words for Love takes place in the 1980s, and the New Money series is set during the present day—so when writing each story, I had to make sure the real-life references, characters’ values, etc., accurately reflected the time period.

6.  How challenging is it for you to write a book knowing that it will be sequel? Does that impact your writing the first novel: New Money?

Lorraine:  The challenge of writing a novel that will be followed by a sequel is being sure to wrap up all the storylines in a way that is satisfying to the reader but leaves enough room to continue the story.

7.  For aspiring writers: what is the one piece of advice you would like to share with them?

Lorraine:  Aspiring authors should always keep in mind that writing is extremely subjective. Just because an agent, an editor, or anyone else tells you that he/she doesn’t like your work doesn’t mean it isn’t good—it just means the reader didn’t make a connection. When that happens, don’t allow it to discourage you or make you doubt your abilities. Listen to people’s criticism, take from it what you think is valid, and discard the rest. Don’t allow criticism to stop you from writing or make you give up trying to become a published author. Some people might not care for your work—but there might be many others who will love it. Just keep looking for those people, and always keep writing.

8.  Paper/pen or computer: Which method do you prefer when writing?

Lorraine:  I write all of my novels on a computer—but when I’m not in my office and ideas pop into my head, I reach for the paper/pen to write them down.

9.  Day/night/afternoon: Which time of day do you feel most productive when writing?

Lorraine:  I usually write during a 9 to 5 schedule, but I do work a lot of nights and weekends. I have often felt that I am most productive very late at night. It’s easier to become absorbed in a scene when it’s quiet and there are no interruptions.

10.  How do you best prepare for writing a novel?

Lorraine:  It’s really just a lot of thinking—and listening to music helps, too. Music is very inspirational and can also evoke the emotions that I want to capture in particular scenes.

Thank you for time!

You are welcome! Thanks so much for having me here.


About the Author:

I was born and raised in New York City, where I went to high school in Queens at St. Francis Prep: I graduated from the University of South Florida in Tampa: with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Education. I also earned a Master’s degree in English, with a concentration in American and British Literature, from Northern Kentucky University:, which is located just across the bridge from Cincinnati.

When I’m not writing, I like to read, work out, and spend time with my husband. I also enjoy keeping up my lifelong hobby of being a devoted TV & film buff.

Follow Lorraine on Twitter!

Lorraine’s Blog


 Giveaway Details:

Win 1 copy of Independently Wealthy

Add your email and answer this question in the comment section:

What is one interesting tidbit you enjoyed from Lorraine’s interview and/or the synopsis for her new book?

US entries only.

Giveaway ends December 20, 2015

Author, Robert Kolker Discusses His Novel & Shares Writing Experience!

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bob5 bob8Today, the Creative Writing class at Houston Baptist University, had a fantastic author talk to their class.  Author, Bob Kolker visited with the class for about 30 minutes, and gave a lot of great information regarding writing, journalism, social media, networking, and interviewing subjects.

Skype is a wonderful tool that worked great for this meeting!  The professor, Garrett D. Johnson, had wonderful questions that were most useful for his students.  Most of his students are majoring or minoring in Creative Writing, and meeting an author was a great way to hear from someone already working in their field of study.


I had the opportunity to read and review Bob’s book last year.  You can read the review here.

Bob gave lots of great insight with the writing and research that helped shape his novel:  Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery.  Because Bob takes such a humanistic approach to this novel, readers who enjoy different genres will want to read this book! It’s more than just a non-fiction novel about murders, it’s about the families left behind and the women who no longer have a voice.  This is exactly why Bob’s book is one my absolute favorites of all time.

Bob took some time to discuss  the research and writing process for his novel, as well as the journalistic work he does for The New Yorker.  It was such a valuable experience for the students to hear about some of the investigative work he did for the novel and how he focused on the narratives of each family and victims, rather than just a book filled with data and facts.


Some of the valuable information that Bob shared with the students:

1)  Listen: Let your subject talk and go to the interview without judgment or pretense.

2)  Don’t isolate yourself: Meet other writers, readers, those in the literary world who can mentor, be a confidant, and share your thoughts with.  Find someone you can trust!

3)  The first step is always the hardest: Making the first phone call, writing your first sentence, etc.  It’s something everyone experiences, no matter who you are.

4)  Research! : Learn your subject, study, ask questions…never stop learning.  The more information you have, the better.

5)  Write! :  No matter the assignment, take pride in your work.  Write your passion.  When it no longer interests you, move to another genre, another topic, even another agency.

6) No job is too small:  Everyone starts small.  Take your job seriously, meet those deadlines, and maintain good ethics.  Always have the mindset of being willing to learn from others.

bob3After the discussion with Bob, Profession Johnson spoke with his class.  The class stated they had learned a lot of valuable information.  One student was amazed that Bob remembered her name and answered her 2 part question.  She felt that he truly practices what he preaches: being a great listener.  Other students felt Bob really excited them about writing, journalism, and continuing their dream of one day being a writer.

The students in the Creative Writing class, and Professor Johnson, are so thankful for Bob Kolker’s time!  I would also like to thank Bob for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with a group of students, who view him as a role model in their field of study.  Bob took the time to listen, answer openly and honestly, and was a wonderful presence in that room-even through Skype!

The students each received an autographed book plate from Bob Kolker, with Professor Johnson receiving an autographed book and one lucky student won an autographed book, too!

To learn more about Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery and Robert Kolker’s work,

please visit him on social media.

Connect with the Author:




Many, many thanks Bob!


Lisa Salazar

Author, Syrie James Talks Jane Austen & Book Giveaway!

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“The queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings.” —Los Angeles Magazine

Syrie James is the bestselling author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Jane Austen’s First Love, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, Nocturne, Dracula My Love, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages, awarded the Audio Book Association Audie, designated as Editor’s Picks by Library Journal, named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association, a Discover New Writer’s Selection by Barnes and Noble, and Best Book of the Year by The Romance Reviews and Suspense Magazine.

Syrie is a member of the WGA and a life member of JASNA (the Jane Austen Society of North America). She spent many years as a screenwriter and enjoys writing both novels and screenplays. Syrie writes practically every weekday. She says, “Many people can’t wait for the weekend to arrive. It’s the opposite for me. I truly love my jam-packed weekends, but from the time I turn off the computer on Friday evening to the moment I’m back in my chair on Monday morning, I’m anxious to get back to the characters I left in limbo, who are just waiting for me to continue their story.”

Syrie was named after a character in a radio show that her mother listened to as a girl. Today, Syrie is thrilled that her name is pronounced the same as Siri, the iPhone personal assistant–even if they spell the name incorrectly. :)

Syrie was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and moved west at age one because her father didn’t like shoveling snow. She has lived most of her life in California, if you don’t count the two years as a child when she lived in France.

Connect with the Author:





Click to read synopsis

1) What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned during your research for this book?

When I first proposed to write about Jane Austen’s romance with Edward Taylor, the young man upon whom she had admittedly “fondly doated” in her youth, I couldn’t find much information about him. Jane refers to Edward Taylor several times in her letters with affection, and I learned that he was heir to Bifrons Park, an estate in Kent—but that was it. Austen biographers didn’t seem to know any more than that. They referred to Edward Taylor as the “shadowiest of Austen’s suitors,” and most (I later realized) got his age wrong, apparently copying inaccurate data from one text to the next. I worried that I was going to have to create a back story for him entirely out of my imagination, which didn’t satisfy me. I wanted to know the real Edward Taylor. Who was he? Why had Jane Austen been so fond of him?

I spent many months buried in research, looking for nuggets about Edward Taylor. I found his actual birth date, the date of his marriage, the college he’d attended at Oxford, and the fact that he’d served in the army (unusual for a first son and heir). This only piqued my curiosity even more. Then, quite unexpectedly, I came upon The Taylor Papers (1913), the memoirs and letters of his brother, Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Taylor, published many years after his death. It was a gold mine of information which revealed that Edward Taylor was a member of a large and remarkably accomplished family who had spent most of their formative years living and traveling on the continent, where they were all educated by private masters and became fluent in five languages. No wonder Jane Austen fell in love with this extraordinary young man! It was thrilling to know that I’d discovered something so precious that was unknown to Austen biographers, and exciting to bring the real Edward Taylor to life in my novel, Jane Austen’s First Love.

2) If someone has never read Jane Austen, what book of hers do you recommend they start with?

I adore all of Austen’s novels, but I recommend that newcomers begin with Pride and Prejudice. Austen called the book “my own darling child,” protesting (in jest) that it was perhaps “too light, and bright, and sparkling” —and sparkle it does. There’s a good reason why it’s Austen’s most popular work. It begins not with Austen’s usual introductory prose, but with a lively, charming conversation that immediately grabs the reader’s attention. The story arc is so brilliantly constructed that it’s been endlessly imitated. The characters are so memorable and so beautifully drawn that they are some of the best-known and most-loved in all of fiction. Mr. Darcy has become a fangirl phenomenon, and even Jane Austen adored her heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. As she confessed in a letter to her sister, “I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know.” Price and Prejudice is fun and funny, it tugs on your heart strings, and it’s almost impossible to put down. What more could one ask for in a book?

3) Why do you think Austen’s novels continue to resonate with readers today?

Jane Austen was a brilliant craftsman who wrote with elegance and wit. I think her books are timeless because she created such clever storylines and characters who are so familiar to us. We all know an attention-seeking hypochondriac like Mrs. Bennet or Mary Musgrove, a handsome rogue like Willoughby or Wickham, and an imperious matriarch like Lady Catherine—and we sympathize with the heroes and heroines, who wrestle with social, emotional, and economic problems similar to those we experience today. Another reason Austen’s works are so beloved today is that, through the experiences and choices of her characters, she subtly shows us the right way to live, and how to be the best people we can be. Austen’s novels are funny but heartfelt. They provide a pleasurable way of connecting to a past era that we view as romantic. But ultimately, what attracts us to Austen now is probably what’s been attracting people to her for two centuries: anyone, at any time, can relate to falling in love. When we read an Austen novel, it’s easy to believe that there’s a great love out there for everyone, if only we are wise enough and patient enough to know how and where to look.

4) Jane Austen’s First Love almost feels like it was written by Austen herself. How do you channel her voice in your writing?

Thank you for the kind words! To keep Jane Austen’s voice in my head while I was researching and writing Jane Austen’s First Love, I re-read her novels and letters over and over again, and restricted my other reading to books about Jane or those written by other authors in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I also meticulously checked to make sure that every word I wrote had been in use in the English language in 1791, when the story took place. I may have inadvertently included a few anachronisms, but I did my best. I felt it was critical, in this novel as well as in my previous books, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, that the voice be as close to Austen’s as possible, so the reader could feel they were truly communing with Jane—and I’m delighted that you feel I’ve accomplished it!

Book Giveaway:

In the comments section-

Include your email address and answer this question:

What is one aspect of the book or interview that interests you the most about this novel?

Giveaway ends December 19, 2014.

US entries only.

***Responses without emails can’t be included in giveaway, as I have no way to contact winner without email.

A Discussion with Christina Baker Kline

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 I was introduced to Christina Baker Kline and her work, through Edelweiss.  I signed up for a book tour: Orphan Train, and loved the book!  It’s not very often that a book reads like a movie, and this was one of those instances, where I could picture the characters and the movie set.  Imagine my absolute excitement to know that a movie is going to be made!  Around this time last year, Christina and I emailed each other and talked about her book and writing.  It was much later that year, October 2013, that I was traveling to Tennessee to visit family.  A family member was gravely ill, so it prevented me from meeting with Christina.  I am still so bummed that we weren’t able to meet and talk!

In October, 2014, I was part of another book tour for Bird in Hand, with TLC Book Tours.  Because I enjoyed the book so much, I offered the book as a giveaway!  Katherine I. was randomly selected to win the book.  So, while I was not able to meet Christina last year, I am quite excited to have been given the opportunity to share this interview with you!  It’s about her book: Bird in Hand.  I hope you will enjoy reading it and look at the books she has written!


 Connect with the Author:





Bird in Hand is about “Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship. Everything is about to change.” Where did you get the idea to explore these themes in your novel?

Christina:  Bird in Hand opens with a car accident that sets in motion a series of events that changes the (interconnected) lives of four people. It moves forward in the present day through the alternating perspectives of these four characters, and it also moves back in time through their perspectives to a specific moment in the past.

The story of Bird in Hand emerged slowly, from a number of sources, but it first began as a “What if?” question.   Just over ten years ago I moved from New York City to Montclair, New Jersey with my husband and two young boys.  After many years of relying on subway trains and taxis, suddenly I was driving on unfamiliar (and confusing) highways, with not only my own precious human cargo in the backseat but other mothers’ as well.  Late at night, I’d terrify myself with “What If” questions, such as: what if something happens to one of these children, my own or someone else’s?  What if somehow I’m responsible?  As I turned these kinds of questions over in my mind, I realized – with the writer part of my brain – that it would be a lot more useful and less neurotic to use them as material than to keep pointlessly obsessing.

At the same time, my husband, David, and I were, like many of our friends, adjusting to many life changes:  a new house, a new lifestyle, two small children, loss of autonomy for both of us, some loss of identity for me, a stressful job for him, a commute into the city.  We weathered these storms, but I wanted to write about the complexities many couples deal with at this stage of their lives, whether or not they come through intact.

In the novel, you have four characters, whose lives are intertwined. Alison and Claire, who are best friends even though Claire is having an affair with Alison’s husband, Charlie. You also write about Ben, Claire’s husband, who desires children and admires Charlie and Alison’s marriage. Was it difficult to write about four characters and keep them all straight? Do you favor any characters over the others?

Christina:  It was actually exhilarating to move from one character to another in this novel.  I loved all of them equally.  Flaubert famously said, of the vain, shallow, adulterous heroine of his most famous novel, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” – and that’s exactly how I felt with these characters.  I found that I sided with each as I wrote from that character’s perspective.  It made perfect sense to me, writing as Claire, that she was entitled to Charlie’s love.  I understood Ben’s ironic distance and distraction.  I empathized with Charlie’s restlessness and yearning.  And though Alison’s perspective begins and ends the novel, I always thought that the other characters were equally entitled to their points of view.   I think that Alison is probably the most sympathetic character; she is sort of an Everymom.  But I appreciate Claires unapologetic ambition, her undisguised lack of a maternal instinct.  I admire Charlie’s love for Claire – in a funny way, I think of their relationship as a classic love story:  kept apart for years, they’re determined to find a way to be together.  And Ben, with his working-class background, his ongoing quest to reinvent himself, and his work ethic, is a character I just plain like.   (I will say that I don’t know if Claire will ever be truly happy.  I think the other three characters have a greater capacity for it than she does; her restless spirit, her sense of never being exactly where she wants to be, may be too deeply ingrained.)

BIRD IN HAND can be seen as a criticism of romanticizing modern marriage.  And yet the ending isn’t necessarily sad.  Do you feel that each of the characters made the right choice?  Or just made a choice, and that if Alison hadn’t gotten into the accident, nothing might have changed?

Christina:  In real life, I am something of a romantic – and happily married!  But I also know that marriage is hard, even under the best of circumstances.  In this novel I wanted to show what’s hard about marriage; I wanted to explore characters who can’t quite figure out how to communicate with each other.  I wanted to follow them to all the dark and elusive places.  Truly, I don’t think Alison and Ben had much of a choice in any of it.  But I suppose I believe that for Alison to live the rest of her married life with someone who isn’t in love with her would be sad and pathetic.  It’s better to know it now, while she’s young and has a chance for a rich, happy family life with someone else.  Charlie’s decision may have been just the impetus she needs to find out what she really wants.  And Ben?  Maybe he’ll get that baby after all.

What would you like readers to take away from the novel?

Christina:  The questions I explore in this book – about true love, marriage, ambition, dreams, and happiness – aren’t simple ones.  I want readers to identify with one character and then another; I want them to think about how the choices they make define who they are in the world.  I hope this story inspires people to think about their own lives and motivations.

Please share with us a little about your novel writing process. Do you start with characters, a theme, or a plot idea? How long does it generally take for you to work through your process?

Christina:  For me, the process of writing a novel begins months or even years before I start writing.  It evolves from pieces of my own past, stories I’ve heard, things I’m curious about, emotional journeys that interest me, unexpected ideas, unresolved questions.  Most of this development of a central idea isn’t even conscious.  Over the years I’ve learned to trust this creative process, slow and circuitous as it may be.  I’ve always thought of it as akin to sand rubbing against other detritus inside an oyster shell, eventually creating a pearl. (Though I recently learned that this theory of pearl formation is apocryphal, I still like the idea.)    Bird in Hand took much longer to write than my other novels; I left it and came back to it.  But writing a novel usually takes me two years in all, with many detours along the way.

Writers are always asked about their work habits because it’s endlessly fascinating (even to other writers). Do you write in the morning or the afternoon? Do you work on a laptop or with a ballpoint pen? Do you sit in a basement, like John Cheever, or an austere sliver of a room, like Roxana Robinson? Do you work for two hours or ten? I used to worry that I wasn’t working the “right” way.  But here’s the thing:  it doesn’t matter what anyone else’s process is. What matters is what works for me. For example – unlike most other novelists I know, I’m not a morning person. My best writing time may be mid-to-late afternoon.

Writing Bird in Hand, I often worked in a generic Panera Bread Shop in a different town, on subways, and in dentists’ offices.  I set myself the task of writing four pages a day … on a college-ruled notepad – faint blue lines on white paper, a firm pink margin with an old-fashioned micro-point Uniball pen, which few people seem to do anymore. Maybe I could train myself to write first drafts on the keyboard, but why should I? This is what works for me. And that’s my point. I’m still intrigued by how other people work, but I also know that writing is a strange alchemical business, and I need to follow my own impulses. Whatever it takes to get the words on the page is what I need to do!

Who would you recommend an aspiring writer to consult with?

Christina:  Though I know that my experience is pretty unusual, and I was lucky, I always tell my students that what’s most important is that they find someone — a mentor if possible, a friend, even a parent — who believes in their work and encourages them to move forward.

Further advice:  Avoid people who are “toxic,” to use an old self-help phrase — people who are competitive with you or otherwise sabotage your writing. Set clear goals for yourself (”I will write a draft of a novel in one year,” “I will write one short story a month”) with daily goals as well. When I’m writing a novel, as I said, I set myself the task of four pages a day. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less, but that’s always the goal.

Thank you so much, Christina!  We appreciate the time you’ve given us for this amazing interview! 

Wishing you continued success,

Lisa Salazar

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Sometimes Less is More!

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If you’ve been following this blog for the past few years, then you know how much I love e-readers.  I’ve written posts about the different readers I’ve purchased, too!

Yep, so I am an e-reader junkie, and am not ashamed to say it.

I love e-readers because:

1.  easy it is to buy a book (no more searching at stores or ordering online and waiting)

2.  easy to download with the click of a button, it’s typically cheaper (as opposed to a paperback)

3.  no book light needed (because of the lighting within the reader)

4.  no more bulky carry on bags ( I used to have 2-3 books with me anytime I went somewhere)

5.  More convenient and easier to find sales.


After many tablet changes and upgrading readers, I was finally at a point where the new readers just didn’t call my attention.  UNTIL, I started to get really annoyed with my 1st version Kindle Paperwhite and the lack of page numbers and/or percentage information at the bottom of each page.  Granted, it does give a location and percentage rate for books I have purchased from the Amazon bookstore.  However, I typically read books sent to me by publishers and download them through NG and Edelweiss.  Those are the books I read without any frame of reference to how many pages I have left, where I’m at in the book, and how far I should read as a way to pace myself. 

I went to Best Buy, broke down and bought the 2013 Kindle Paperwhite.  It’s 4 gb, as opposed to 2.  It does give percentage rates for books downloaded from outside sources, and runs a little faster-so the pages are smoother.  While at Best Buy, I did get to play with the other Kindle devices and even thought of purchasing a Kindle Fire 6.  The Kindle HDX 7 is too bulky for reading, so I had no interest in it.  The Kindle Fire 6 is perfect for readers because it’s about the same size as the Kindle Paperwhite, not much thicker or heavier.  I also liked that you can check your emails and use many great Amazon apps.  It even has text to speech!  How cool is that?  The reason I didn’t go for that one, even though it is only $99 is because I use my phone and ipad for pictures, checking social media, watching movies, etc.  When I read a book, I don’t want to have to continuously charge the reader because I am using it for other things, too.

I looked at the Kindle Voyage.  It’s a little lighter than the Kindle Paperwhite and does have the option to turn pages by pressing the device sides (like the older versions).  However, it doesn’t have text to speech, doesn’t have 3g wifi (unless you pay extra), it still comes with ads (unless you pay extra), and is just priced too high above the Paperwhite that I couldn’t see myself paying that much more.  I did like the landscape option to read your book, however it’s not that big of a deal to make the larger investment.

So, that is why I purchased the Kindle Paperwhite 2013 version.  I still have my Nook Glowlight, which I use to read books I’ve purchased.  I love to support small business, and in my opinion, Amazon is Goliath and Barnes and Noble is David.  So, I tend to buy Nook books more than Amazon purchases.  I also have a loyalty to Barnes and Noble because of their excellent customer service and anytime I have an issue, I can take my reader to the store and someone will help me with it.  I don’t have to deal with online customer service support or calling someone.  It’s just good ole’ fashion customer service!

While at Barnes and Noble, I did see the Samsung tablets and wasn’t impressed with them either.  Again, the 7 inch for both Nook and Kindle seem to be bulky for reading.  Since I read a lot, I need something that is light!  Again, I don’t need the extra features because I don’t plan to use them. 

I also went to the new Microsoft store in the mall and fell in love with the HP Stream 6.  It’s small, easy to handle and you can add both Nook and Kindle apps to the device.  You can read and write using Microsoft Tools (already installed), watch movies, and use it for anything really (aside from a phone).  It is also only $99!  That’s an awesome buy!  However, I also know that my eyes are sensitive to back lights and no matter how dim I put the settings, my eyes will suffer.  So, I had to pass on that one, too.

I’ve come to realize, less is more.  I like simple.  I just want a reader that I can use to read books.  I don’t want all the extra gadgets.  That’s what I have my phone for.  I remember I used the Nook HD, before I switched to the Glowlight, and hated it.  Why? Because the battery ran down quicker, my eyes hurt from the backlight (no more how dim I had it), and it was too big for me.


I have come to conclusion that I just like simplicity.  Perhaps if I was younger and had grown up gadgets, it would make sense to get a tablet to use as a reader.  However, I just don’t like things complicated, and tablets are complicated.  I have my ipad and use it for everything except making a phone call and reading.  I use my phone to text and take pics.  I also use it look at social media.  However, I love my e-reader because when I just want to get away and read, I can leave my phone and ipad behind and just read undisturbed!

I’m the one with multiple gadgets, but each serve important purposes.  I have accepted the fact that there isn’t a device at there that will suit all my needs, and that’s okay, too.  For now, I am the one toting devices around, rather than books and loving every minute of it!

Which device do you use and what do you love most about it?  I look forward to reading your comments!

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Free Nook Books for Children!

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I was downloading some freebies onto my Nook and came across so many children’s books that are free right now!  I haven’t read them, can’t endorse them, but they are free!  If you have the Nook Tablet, Nook HD, or any other colored Nook device, you should be able to download them!

As always, before you download them, make sure the price is still “free”.  Sometimes these books are free for a very limited time, and I don’t know when that will change for each book.  I am not an affiliate and do not receive any points or compensation.



Lots of great books! Simply click on the book cover and you will be directed to Barnes and Noble for that particular book.



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The Literary Blog Hop: November 1-5, 2014

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Welcome to the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

I love participating in hops! It’s my way of giving thanks to you, for stopping by to read my humble, little blog.  This is an easy hop, so I hope you will stop by other blogs and enter those book giveaways, too!

The Giveaway:

From Goodreads:

The accident was just that — an accident. It was dark, it was raining, ALISON had two drinks in her, and the other car ran the stop sign. She just didn’t get out of the way fast enough. But now a little boy — not her own — is dead, and Alison finds herself trapped under the twin burdens of grief and guilt, and feeling increasingly estranged from her husband . . .

CHARLIE, who has his own burdens. He’s in a job he doesn’t love so that Alison can stay home with the kids (and why isn’t she more grateful for that?); he has a house in the suburbs and a long commute to and from the city each day. And the only thing can focus on these days is his secret, sudden affair with . . .

CLAIRE, Alison’s best friend. Bold where Alison is reserved; vibrant where Alison is demure, Claire has just had her first novel published, a thinly-veiled retelling of her childhood in South Carolina (which is also Alison’s, in a sense). But even in the whirlwind of publication, Claire can’t stop wondering if she should leave her husband . . .

BEN, an architect who is thoughtful, kind, and patient. And who wants nothing more than a baby, or two — in fact, exactly the kind of life that Charlie and Alison have . . .

Four people, two marriages, one lifelong friendship: everything is about to change.

My review can be found here.

To enter

To enter, please read the rules and then fill out the form below.

The rules:

  1. Anyone can enter. You do not need to have a blog.
  2. You do not have to be a follower of my blog or become a follower, although if you like my blog I hope you will! You can follow by email or through different social media sites, that you can find on the right of my blog bar.
  3. There will be one winner.
  4. You need a US address.
  5. Fill out the form below. You can enter the giveaway until Wednesday November 5th. I will close the giveaway when I turn on my computer on November 6th (Central time).
  6. Tweet about the giveaway for ONE extra entry. Use this text: Win Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline @booksintheburbs, in the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by @Leeswammes.
  7. I will notify the winner by email. The winner need to answer my email within 3 days, or I’ll announce a new winner.
  8. That’s it! Good luck and thanks for playing.

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Now start blog hopping!

For more giveaways check out these blogs. There are some real treasures out there for grabs!

Giveaways are worldwide, meaning people from most or all countries of the world can enter, unless mentioned otherwise.



  1. Leeswammes
  2. Read Her Like an Open Book (US/CA)
  3. My Book Self
  4. The Book Stop
  5. My Book Retreat (US)
  6. Books in the Burbs (US)
  7. Guiltless Reading
  8. Word by Word
  9. Juliet Greenwood
  10. BooksandLiliane
  11. Words for Worms (US)
  12. The Relentless Reader
  13. The Misfortune of Knowing
  14. The Friday Morning Bookclub (US)
  15. Readerbuzz
  16. Lavender Likes, Loves, Finds and Dreams
  17. The Emerald City Book Review
  18. Wensend


  1. Laurie Here
  2. A Cup Of Tea, A Friend, And A Book (US)
  3. Moon Shine Art Spot (US)
  4. I’d Rather Be Reading At The Beach (US)
  5. Lost Generation Reader
  6. Books on the Table (US)
  7. Orange Pekoe Reviews
  8. Words And Peace (US)
  9. Booklover Book Reviews
  10. Inside the Secret World of Allison Bruning (US)

Dinner with a Vet

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I don’t know if it’s due to the economy, road construction, or more people moving down South, but there has been an increase of homeless people on the corner of almost every big street.  As a family, it is our rule to never give money to panhandlers.  However, we donate money and items to shelters and organizations that help different causes we believe in: homeless vets, women and children, school drives, etc.

Yesterday, my husband, daughter, and I went to a cafeteria for dinner.  It was a little late and we were in a hurry to get our daughter home for bedtime.  As we pull into a parking lot, my husband notices this man slowly walking towards a dumpster to sit down.  E and I talk about it briefly, and agree for him to invite this person to get a plate of dinner with us.  The man, whose name is Ron, is hesitant and apprehensive.  However, he takes a chance and goes inside with us.  We have never invited a homeless man to come eat with us, but we weren’t driving anywhere, the place is pretty public, and E felt spiritually led to invite him for a meal.

The minute Ron enters the building, everyone turns to stare at him.  He is dirty, has flip flops so worn and weathered, that they almost meld with his skin. He looks overwhelmed and wants to leave, but we let him know that he is our guest and will be okay. He has never eaten at this place and doesn’t know what to expect. As my husband guides him through the line, the workers don’t know how to approach him, until they realize he is with us.  As soon as I get nervous, two police officers come in behind us to order, too.  It was reassurance, but also showed us that God was in control and we were to do His will, not ours.

Ron asked what he should eat, and E told him what he typically orders, so that is what was ordered.  He didn’t want to sit with us, because he felt he was imposing, but we encouraged him and let him know he was safe.  So, he ate with us.  We prayed, and ate our meal together.  During the meal, E and Ron had their military service in common. Both were in the Army, both worked in communications in the service, and E was stationed in the city that Ron used to live at.  We talked about his mom, his only child-a son, and about his dreams and past.  We laughed, talked, and shared a lot.  Through the course of our conversation, it really moved me to see that this was a young man: 52 years old, who served our country, is homeless, has to panhandle for money to help with food, has a lot of health issues that prohibit him from getting a manual labor job (no formal education), and the shame he feels because of his homelessness. That night, he was treated as all should be treated: with dignity.  He was amazed by the customer service and was shocked to see the waitress refill his drink, give him a cup to go, and just made him feel at home.

Before he left, we gave him a gift card so that he can go back and get a meal.  We talked to him about what to expect from service there, and what he can get while there.  He was amazed to know he could use their restroom, too.  He has a little AM/FM radio and loves to listen to the Houston Texans.  So, we told him to go on Sundays to watch the game and enjoy a meal, and to enjoy his time there.  He almost cried when he saw the card, and told us that no one has ever given him something that nice and without expectation.

We asked if he had any prayer needs, and he requested prayer for his prostate.  He goes to the VA and gets his meds and treatment. Please keep Ron in your prayers and that he feel surrounded by God’s peace.  He felt safe after we were finishing up dinner to tell us where he camps, in case we wanted to go by and visit him.  So, we walk back to the vehicle, he gives a hug, tells us thank you, and watches us drive off.  We told him we were honored to call him friend and he smiled and was so happy.  He said that maybe next time he will be the one to treat us with a cup of coffee, and we said we would love that.  It gave him so much joy to know we plan to visit him again.

I wouldn’t recommend picking up a homeless man to offer him a meal.  However, if you see one, it would be nice if you stop to give them some fries, a drink, maybe even a smile.   Don’t be unsafe, but always follow the nudge of the Holy Spirit, because we never know who God wants us to meet.  Ron truly felt that it was God led, as we did too, because he has a oncology appt. next week and last night we were able to pray for him.  We don’t know what will happen, but we do know that for that hour, we all got to laugh, reminisce, and enjoy friendship, over a delicious meal.