First, a couple of updates before I get to the reading list:
I'm going to be on Twitter tonight discussing Jeneration X at 8:00 PM EST. You can ask me questions at @altgeldshrugged and follow the discussion with the hashtag #readpenguin. Hope to see you there!
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
Now, for the social media experiment, it was a success... of sorts. In this small case study, I determined that - at least for my purposes - people talking about me on social media doesn't translate directly into people buying my books. To be fair, I garnered more Twitter followers, and gained "likes" on Facebook which may result in sales later, but in terms of actual money being given to actual booksellers for actual (or virtual) books?
Not so much.
What's interesting to note is that all the Facebook mentions lost me a significant number of "likes" from friends who quickly tired of seeing my name pop up on their feeds.
Again, it's possible that in the long term, sales will trend upward but in terms of immediate cause and effect, the relation was negligible.
Really didn't see that coming.
From a business perspective, my goal was to figure out if I should bring in a social media/SEO expert or contract more of an old-school publicist and this neatly answered my question. I think there's so much noise/chatter right now in the social media realm that it's losing its efficacy and I need to go more old school in terms of hiring someone with actual media contacts. Regardless, I really appreciate everyone participating and helping me make my decision! (I'll leave the link to the short story live for a few more days.)
THE TAO OF DOING STUFF
As for the rest of the summer, I'm going to be slammed working on projects for The Tao of Martha, so posting will be very light in July and August. And, some readers tell me they don't like when bits of the blog are turned into larger chapters in books, so I plan to fix that immediately and in perpetuity. The Martha memoir will be 100% original content, which means that smaller asides won't be on the blog first. This will make for a better book, so, really, it's a good thing, even if you hear from me less frequently in the interim.
BTW, the novel Here I Go Again is also 100% brand-new material, as I was not a high school mean girl (much), was not a Whitesnake aficionado, nor have I ever time-traveled.
BEST! EVENT! EVER!
For those of you who are local, here's a quick reminder of what's happening in a couple of weeks:
Friday, July 13th at 7:00 PM
CHICKLITPALOOZA WITH JENNIFERS WEINER AND LANCASTER, SARAH PEKKANEN, AND STACEY BALLIS!!
LAKE ZURICH MIDDLE SCHOOL SOUTH
435 W. Cuba Rd
Lake Zurich, IL
Free tickets are available HERE and Lake Forest Books will be onsite selling books. If you're interested, register now! I guarantee that Stacey Ballis, Sarah Pekkanen, and Jennifer Weiner and I will delight and entertain and we'll be more than worth the price of (free) admission.
AND NOW, THE SUMMER READING LIST!
That brings me to my unintentional summer reading list. I still plan to feature my Summer of Other reads by new authors via tweets/FB, but I feel this list is significant enough to post here.
Here's the story - my dear friend Angie is leaving to teach in China for two months. (Yay for her, boo for me!) She was telling me that she just got a Kindle Fire and had planned to spend the summer reading all the free classics that are available. But somehow the idea of her being half a world away with only the company of Thomas Hardy was too much for me to take.
(At least that was my thought process after I swallowed my Ambien.)
So I decided to send her a book on her Kindle.
Yet what I wanted to send was written by my friend Stacey, and that's problematic as apparently you can't preorder a gift for someone else on her Kindle.
Or maybe you can, if you're not all Ambien-addled.
This is what I meant to buy for Angie:
From Amazon's description:
As the executive culinary assistant to celebrity Chicago chef Patrick Conlon, Alana Ostermann works behind the scenes—and that’s just the way she likes it. But with developing recipes for Patrick’s cookbooks, training his sous chefs, picking out the perfect birthday gifts for his ex-mother-in-law, and dealing with the fallout from his romantic escapades, she barely has a personal life, much less time to spend with her combo platter of a mutt, Dumpling.
Then a fluke online connection brings her RJ, a transplant from Tennessee, who adds some Southern spice to her life. Suddenly Alana’s priorities shift, and Patrick—and Dumpling—find themselves facing a rival for her time and affection. With RJ in the mix, and some serious decisions to make about her personal and professional future, Alana must discover the perfect balance of work and play, money and meaning, to bring it all to the table—one delicious dish at a time…
What Amazon doesn't tell you is that one of her characters is absolutely based on me. I can't not get behind that and I thought having fictional me with Angie would help if she got homesick.
Or maybe make her happy being thousands of miles away.
(By the way, it's not too late to win a lunch with Stacey and me!)
Anyway, I couldn't get the gift pre-order to work.
So to show Amazon who's boss, I decided to buy her some other books.
(No, I don't really understand my Ambien-logic either.)
But the way I figure it, the titles I sent her are all my favorite things I read in the past six months. So if they're significant enough for my subconscious to note them, then I'm obligated to share. I'll leave you guys to check out the covers and descriptions (am very lazy) but here's my quick take on each:
White Girl Problems by Babe Walker - I thought it would be helpful for Angie to know that there's someone out there more narcissistic than I am. Granted, Babe's actually fictional, but still. Good to know.
Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews - Sassy southern fiction and I love MKA so much I want to wear her skin as a coat. (Is that wrong?)
11/22/63 by Stephen King - Quite simply the best book I've ever read. Possibly the best book ever written. Or at least way more interesting than Thomas Hardy.
Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman - Wonderful in the way that Johnathan Tropper is wonderful. Complex, imperfect characters and a scathing sense of humor wrapped around an ending in which everyone's invested.
Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand - A fictionalized take on the woman behind the man behind the ponzi scheme. And total porn for those who love beach houses.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - It's YA but it's the best YA I've ever read, and very likely one of the best books I've ever read. When I met John Green, I grilled him on how exactly he was able to morph into having been a teenage girl with cancer. I can't recall his exact answer because I was too busy fangirling out.
Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock - Hung out with Liz the last time I was in New York and fell madly, passionately in love with her. And then I realized even though I was a fan of her writing, I'd never read her biggest book. Remedied that right quick and was riveted the whole time.
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson - Joshilyn Jackson's books give me the big, ugly cry every damn time. So worth it and her best work yet.
The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore - This novel is what happens when your adult children return to the nest. All of them. It's about family and summer and the consequences of not acting like grown ups. It's perfection.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - I bought this one because the cover was dreamy and I wanted to support new female authors. As this book has been topping the NYT list since its release and was written by a very successful male author with a long-established career, I am an asshole. But I'm an asshole who can pick the most gorgeous, hilarious, fascinating reads apparently.
These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen - I love Sarah forever and ever and I will never stop advocating her brilliant work on the dynamics of women's relationships.
Still Life with Husband by Lauren Fox - An intense character study on what leads a spouse to cheat, while being both funny and bittersweet.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - In a word? Breathtaking. Bought it because my friend Karyn told me I had to. Then I spent two nights in a row up until 4:00 AM because I could not get enough of this did-he-or-didn't-he-kill-his-wife mystery. Again, small wonder it's been topping the NYT list.
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton - I don't know how to categorize this one. Is it a mystery? A love story? Magical realism? Regardless, this is the kind of hauntingly beautiful book that stays with you for weeks afterward.
I Couldn't Love You More by Jillian Medoff - An exploration of what happens when a parent is forced to choose which child she'd save. I could not put this one down.
The Expats by Chris Pavone - Every time I though this story about an ex-CIA agent wife couldn't take another twist or turn, bam! I call this kind of book a bather, meaning I had to sit in the tub rather than shower because I was so remiss to stop reading. And if someone doesn't make this into a movie starring Jennifer Garner, then my world no longer makes sense.
And finally... I bought Angie the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.
To be very clear, I read the first one in the series and I did not like it.
Wait, that's an understatement.
In fact, I hated this novel more than anything I've ever read, and that's after reading Tyra Bank's five-hundred page dystopian YA novel about modeling. (Am I jealous of the series' success? OH, HELL YES.) (But that is beside the point.) (I just feel like there are only so many times you can hit stuff with riding crops until it becomes less "sexy" and more "hilarious.") Yet in my Ambient state, I rationalized that if Angie's sad and lonely in her little apartment in China and missing family and awesome friends, then all she has to do is open this thing and she will instantly laugh herself back into a good mood.
So, that's it.
For some of you, see you tonight on Twitter!
For others, see you in Lake Zurich!
For others still, see you here some time later this summer!
For Angie, see you when you're home from China!
(And please bring me back a treat.)