Samantha’s Favorite Reads of 2011!
As another year comes to an end, a fun thing we book bloggers like to do is look back and crown our favorites of all favorites when it comes to books we read. Throughout 2011, I read and reviewed 143 books, a twenty-two book increase compared to 2010. Not too shabby considering I also published my own novel and started CLP Blog Tours! I can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for me, but for now, let’s reflect on my Favorites of 2011!
Each book in the Fool’s Gold series is a standalone novel, meaning that you won’t get lost if you read them out of order. Fool’s Gold is a town facing a serious (and seriously funny) problem – the 2010 census revealed that the town is suffering from a man shortage. Fool’s Gold has become the punch line of countless jokes on TV talk shows, which makes the strong, independent women in town pretty darn crabby… and which attracts the attention of a sleazy TV producer.
In ONLY MINE, it’s Dakota Hendrix’s job to interview potential contestants. After she recommends two handsome young twins for the show, the twins’ gorgeous, stern older brother demands that she declare them unfit. Finn Anderson wants his brothers to return to college. Finn has raised the boys since their parents died, and he won’t consider his duty done until they graduate. While Finn does everything he can to strong-arm or coerce his brothers back to Alaska, Dakota is struggling with a problem of her own, a problem so big that it will change the course of her life.
You can read free excerpts at www.foolsgoldca.com. You’ll find lots of freebies and fun bonus content there, too!
How did you come up with your Fool’s Gold series?
I knew I wanted to create a series based on a place. In the past, I’d written series based on a family, so once I ran out of siblings, I ran out of stories. Readers kept asking me for more in every series. They loved that sense of connection, and they wanted it to go on. Debbie Macomber was the one who suggested I stop writing about families and start writing about a place. With a place, the story possibilities are infinite. (Debbie Macomber is like my Mayor Marsha – I never say no to Debbie! She’s a genius.)
The place itself needed to have a strong identity. As I was brainstorming the series, I heard a story about the then-upcoming 2010 census, about everything a town can discover about itself from census results. I wondered, “What if there was a man shortage?”
So Fool’s Gold was born… the town with the man shortage. But instead of making the women eager to get more men to town, I tweaked reader expectations and made the women strong, self-sufficient, and kind of crabby that anyone would think they need more men. They can run the town just fine without men. Which means that any men who do move to Fool’s Gold have to earn the right to live there . . . and they have to earn the hearts of the women they love.
www.FoolsGoldCA.com is my gift to readers who have been so loyal to me. I wanted to create an experience for readers that goes beyond the books. On FoolsGoldCA.com, readers will find amazing bonus content such as between-the-books updates, stories and pictures from the characters’ weddings, Fool’s Gold magazines, a map of town, and funny ads from local businesses… I could keep going, but the truth is, you have to see it to get it. Fool’s Gold is the Land of Happy Endings!
What draws Dakota and Finn to each other?
At their core, Finn and Dakota both value their families more than anything. Finn thinks he wants to be done with his familial duty. He wants to get his brothers through college so he can return to his days as a carefree bachelor, but he will learn that he’s not that guy anymore. Somewhere along
the way, he grew up. At heart, he’s a family man.
You love to write about families, such as the Hendrix triplets. Why?
I was an only child, so I love writing about the big, boisterous family that I never had. Triplets are an extension of that – three sisters who have been together since birth. Each of the triplets has her own personality, but the experiences these three women have shared throughout their lives make them as close as it’s possible to be.
You’re known for both the depth of your characters and for your humor. Do both come naturally to you?
I think men and women falling in love with each other is inherently hysterical. Who came up with that bright idea?! Men do everything they can to avoid emotion, and yet they’re irresistibly drawn to women, who overflow with emotion. When I get teary-eyed over a commercial, my husband looks at me like I’m completely nuts. There’s this constant push-pull between men and women that never really goes away, and it will always be funny to me.
Most of my storylines are not funny in and of themselves. My characters deal with some very serious issues in their lives, but their ability to find the humor says a lot about their resilience. I like people in real life who can laugh at themselves, and I like that in characters, too.
Do you plot your books before writing?
I do a lot of plotting in advance, which means I can write the story quickly, which further means that I don’t lose interest. For me, the creative rush is highest during the plotting process, and the actual writing of the book is more about getting the story down on paper. I’ve tried
writing without a plot, and it just doesn’t work for me. I enjoy the aspect of surprise, but I dread revisions. Even when a book is thoroughly plotted, though, the characters can sometimes surprise me. I was sweetly surprised by a secondary romance in ONLY MINE.
There will be at least seven more books after this year’s. In 2012, three delicious cowboy brothers and their younger sister will move to Fool’s Gold. And in 2013, I think I’m going to establish a bodyguard academy on the edge of town. After that, who knows? If readers clamor for more from Fool’s Gold, anything’s possible. (You can let me know you want more by writing to me at
www.facebook.com/susanmallery, www.twitter.com/susanmallery, or www.goodreads.com/susanmallery.)
Are you working on anything new outside of Fool’s Gold?
BAREFOOT SEASON, my next women’s fiction novel, will be out in April 2012 and will launch a new series set on quaint Blackberry Island. The story is about two former best friends who form a turbulent truce to save the inn they both love.
The recent Buzz has been that you have your own team of Cheerleaders for the release of Only Mine and the books to follow. How did the idea come about? What is their purpose? How did you choose the squad?
Often, I hear from excited fans who discovered me because someone put one of my books in their hands and said, “You have to read this!” It moves me. And this year, it inspired me to create the Fool’s Gold Varsity Cheerleading Squad. I decided to form a team of avid readers to share with the world their love of Fool’s Gold, the Land of Happy Endings. (Fool’s Gold is the setting of my ongoing series of romance novels. It’s a quirky small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Fool’s Gold is dealing with a man shortage. This year’s stories center around the Hendrix triplets. They are ONLY MINE, ONLY YOURS, and ONLY HIS.) The cheerleaders will earn lots of prizes along the way for doing what they love – talking about books – and I will dedicate a book next year to the grand prize winner.
I invited my fans to “try out” for the team by sharing three creative ideas for spreading the word about Fool’s Gold. I was overwhelmed by the response! More than 500 fans tried out in the first few days, with some pretty amazing ideas. As I read through their applications, their enthusiasm brought a lump to my throat. I wish I could have accepted every one of them and had a cheerleading battalion that could take over the country. Unfortunately, I
only had 25 advanced copies of ONLY MINE to give away. Selecting the final 25 was a daunting task. I wanted to get a good mixture of people who emphasized online ideas and those who emphasized in-person ideas, such as standing in front of a bookstore on release day, wearing a sandwich board, ringing a bell like the Salvation Army. (Yes, she got picked. Hi, Stacey!) I also wanted cheerleaders from all across the U.S., so geography played a
I don’t know if it was pure luck or my discerning genius, but I am thrilled with the cheerleaders who made the team! They’ve handed out bookmarks, talked to people at the bookstore, called long distance friends. And now they’re doing a blog tour to tell the world how much they love Fool’s Gold!
Where can readers meet the squad?
The cheerleaders are pictured on my Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/SusanMallery?closeTheater=1. You can also join my Goodreads fan page http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8716.Susan_Mallery and my goodreads group to discover other readers who love my books! (Including
the cheerleaders!) (http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/49998.We_love_Susan_Mallery_)
Will your squad answer some questions?
They would love too!! Readers please meet the squad…
Why did you try out for the squad?
Atmac: Honestly? Because I thought it would be fun. I LOVE Susan’s books… I’ve been a fan of hers for years. I’ve met some really great people through FB author pages and knew I’d enjoy meeting and working with a crew who enjoyed her books. It’s hasn’t really felt like a competition…. more like a group of women with similar interests. Already, I’ve met more people than I imagined and it’s only been going on for a week!
Marilyn: Because I missed the last try out!
What is your favorite Fool’s Gold title?
Kelly: Sister of the Bride, which was part of the Summer Brides anthology. I could relate to Kate being a complete tomboy and sportswriter myself.
What’s your favorite book by Susan?
Beccie: My favorite book of Susan’s would have to be from her Buchanan Family series, “Sizzling”. I love Reid’s character and how he falls in love with the smart and understated Lori. I guess I see myself in Lori and that’s why I love it.
Marilyn: Accidentally Yours and Sunset Bay
How did you discover Susan for the 1st time?
Stacey: I am an avid reader of the Harlequin Desire line and found Susan that way. Her “Millionaire” series was my favorite.
Jen: My Aunt had given me a stack of books & Susan’s was included…I can’t remember the title now (of course), but it was with the ex football player & a bakery.
What made you an avid fan of Susan’s books?
Heidi: Susan’s writing made me an avid fan! I love the way her writing can pull me into a story, make me feel part of a small town, and fall in love with the characters. As I began to research her list of back-list, trying to find more to read, I found that Susan is a very fun and out-going person. The creativity behind Fool’s Gold website is brilliant and has me wanting more and more from this small community of people. I love how Susan tries to connect with her readers through her website and blog…the videos, yummy recipes, and I love the fun stories and pictures of her dog, NIKKI.
Jennifer: Her writing is humorous with a great story…she is a one of a kind author.
What’s it like to be on the squad?
Charlotte: To be on the Varsity Cheerleading squad with the 24 other women who love Susan as I do is AWESOME, we all share a love for Susan and her novels. We sit and wait with baited breath for the next installment.
Have you read only mine yet? What do you think?
Atmac: Yes! LOL… and I loved it!! My daughter adopted a child just this year. She has 2 children, but we nearly lost both of them with her second child. Her husband refused to let her bear any more children, so they decided to adopt. The months and months of filling out paperwork, and it happened just as suddenly for her as it did for Dakota. I really liked how strong Dakota was–she never whined or complained about the hand that Life dealt her. Finn was a hero who was easy to respect. Even though he comes off strong in the beginning, you know WHY he’s the way he is. He’s like the parent, but not. And so close to feeling like he could do “his” thing.
Why should readers buy this book?
Kelly: Because it will make you smile. This is the perfect escape from reality with some wonderful characters read.
Marilyn: Why not?
Any favorite quotes from the book?
Atmac: “You’re not funny,” her mother snapped. “If you think this is humorous, you’re wrong. I’m in crisis here. A really, really big crisis. I feel sick to my stomach, my head hurts, I’m retaining enough water to sink a battleship. I’m a woman on the edge. You need to respect that.”
Charlotte: “Mom I’m pregnant!” bhahahah I would have been killed but her mom embraced her and wanted to share in her love.
Be honest… What’s Susan really like?
Jennifer: She is humble and an absolute doll!!
Jen: She’s amazing! I never thought she would be as involved with our squad as she has been. Everyone and I feel I need to keep up & stay on top of those.
Tiffany: Supportive, Caring, Giving, Friendly, Creative, and a great author! She is someone you would want as a friend in good times and bad. She really has been so kind and supportive of all of us even when it has nothing to do with her or her books! She just cares.
Jenna Stevens, a recently divorced sous-chef, moves back to her hometown of Georgetown, Texas to start over. Her adoptive parents greet her with open arms, and Jenna decides on a whim to open her own store. While Jenna always had a knack for cooking, her ex-husband worked diligently to place seeds in her mind that she was no good at her profession, so Jenna decides to open a retail store with cooking supplies, instead of doing any actual cooking. Quickly realizing she is in over her head, she hires Violet, a street smart woman that works well with the customers. The duo form an unlikely friendship, and Jenna thinks everything is finally falling into place in her life. But everything changes at rapid pace when her birth parents suddenly show up at her store, claiming they want a relationship with their daughter. Jenna is thrown by these free spirits- Serenity and Tom- who want so badly to reconnect with Jenna after so many years. But Jenna is weary- she loves her adoptive parents, and the timing doesn’t seem right. Why now, why after so many years did her parents decide to come find her? Can Jenna learn to love her birth parents? Or does fate have a different plan?
I adored Already Home by Susan Mallery. This was a book that from page one got my attention and drew me in. Jenna’s character seemed a little fragile after her nasty divorce, but I could tell she wanted to stay strong and make her parents proud. The love between Jenna and her adoptive mother was very touching to read, especially the loyalty Jenna felt to her once Serenity showed up. There wasn’t a whole lot of romance in this story, and I thought that was fine. It was deeper, made me ask myself a lot of questions and really put myself in Jenna’s shoes. Of course, there is a love interest for both Jenna and Violet, and Violet’s storyline really had me invested and shocked. The ending of the story brought tears to my eyes, but I felt satisfied after I flipped the last page. I think this is definitely one to put on your to-read lists!
Susan Mallery, author of ALREADY HOME
Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories of women and the relationships that move them. In her latest novel, ALREADY HOME, Jenna Stevens, still reeling from a recent divorce, is unpleasantly surprised by the arrival of her birth parents, who seem to want her to feel a family bond immediately. She was perfectly happy with the loving, traditional parents who raised her. Can she learn to love a second mother without damaging her relationship with the woman who raised her? Join Susan’s Members Only area at www.susanmallery.com for exclusive sneak peeks, short stories, and more.
Chick Lit Plus: Susan, what advice would you give to an unpublished writer who wants to break into the business?
The publishing industry is experiencing a lot of changes right now, but my advice remains the same: Write what you love to read.
You can only read what’s being published, meaning that there’s a market for that type of book. Now, if what you love to read are books that were published in the 1930s, for example, then you might have a tough time finding a market for that type of story today. So try to find books you love that are being published today. If no other author has written a book similar in theme, content, and tone to your book, then you might have a tough time selling it to a publisher.
Once readers discover you and fall in love with your writing, they’ll want more of the same type of story from you. That’s fabulous if you’re writing stories you love. But it would be confining, uncomfortable, and ultimately impossible if you published a story that doesn’t truly fit who you are.
Which is not to say that write the same story over and over again. What I mean is that readers will want to get the same emotional experience from reading your subsequent books. If you don’t like reading scary books, then don’t write one. If it’s fabulous, you could be stuck for years writing books that give you nightmares.
I started my career writing romance novels because that’s what I looooved to read. I still do, and I still adore writing them, too. Now I’m also branching out to write stories about the other relationships that touch women’s lives.
While ALREADY HOME isn’t a romance novel, I do fulfill the promises I have made over the years to my readers: They will get an emotionally complex story with characters who feel like real people, a lot of laughs along the way, and a satisfying ending. (There are romantic subplots, too, so readers who love love will get plenty of sigh-worthy moments.)
In My Mailbox: Week of April 3rd
Title: The Gin and Chowder Club
Received: From Kensington Books
Synopsis: Set against the beautiful backdrop of Cape Cod, “The Gin & Chowder Club” is an eloquent, tender story of friendship, longing, and the enduring power of love…The friendship between the Coleman and Shepherd families is as old and comfortable as the neighbouring houses they occupy each summer on Cape Cod. Samuel and Sarah Coleman love those warm months by the water; the evenings spent on their porch, enjoying gin and tonics, good conversation and homemade clam chowder. Here they’ve watched their sons, Isaac and Asa, grow into fine young men, and watched, too, as Nate Shepherd, aching with grief at the loss of his first wife, finally found love again with the much younger Noelle. But beyond the surface of these idyllic gatherings, the growing attraction between Noelle and handsome, college-bound Asa threatens to upend everything. In spite of her guilt and misgivings, Noelle is drawn into a reckless secret affair with far-reaching consequences. And over the course of one bittersweet, unforgettable summer, Asa will learn more than he ever expected about love – the joys and heartache it awakens in us, the lengths we’ll go to keep it, and the countless ways it can change our lives forever…
Author: Francine Pascal
Received: From St. Martin’s Press
Synopsis: It’s been ten years since the Wakefield twins graduated from Sweet Valley High, and a lot has happened. For a start, Elizabeth and Jessica have had a falling out of epic proportions, after Jessica committed the ultimate betrayal, and this time it looks like Elizabeth will never be able to forgive her. Suddenly Sweet Valley isn’t big enough for the two of them, so Elizabeth has fled to New York to immerse herself in her lifelong dream of becoming a serious reporter, leaving a guilt-stricken Jessica contemplating the unthinkable: life without her sister. Despite the distance between them, the sisters are never far from each other’s thoughts. Jessica longs for forgiveness, but Elizabeth can’t forget her twin’s duplicity. Uncharacteristically, she decides the only way to heal her broken heart is to get revenge. Always the ‘good’ twin, the one getting her headstrong sister out of trouble, Elizabeth is now about to turn the tables…
Author: Susan Mallery
Received: From Eric @ Planned Television Arts
Synopsis: After nearly a decade as a sous-chef in a trendy eatery, Jenna is desperate for a change. She’s supported her ex-husband’s dreams for so long that she can’t even remember her own. Until she sees a for-lease sign near her parents’ home and envisions her very own cooking store.
Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna’s adoptive mother. But just as she’s gaining a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents—aging hippies on a quest to reconnect with their firstborn.
Now Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with her traditional parents, deal with her feelings for a new love interest and decide what to do about her ex’s latest outrageous request. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love….