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Category Archives: book club

Six Weeks from The Last Summer

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I cannot believe we’re six weeks out from the launch of The Last Summer! How is this even possible?! It’s actually already available for pre-order on Amazon. The publisher is working on the cover. Final corrections are being made to the proofs. And this is feeling really real, y’all.

I’m scared.

I was putting together a list of early readers this weekend, and the thought of people actually READING this story started to give me a little anxiety. Remember, these characters first came to me when I was 18 years old. A lifetime ago. They’ve been living in my head all this time. Now their story is finished and about to be available for people. I think nerves are just part of the process.

Nerves and excitement. I’m thinking of a book launch party and other fun, book-release things and excitement is part of all that. I’ve loved every book I’ve written–of course I have. You pour yourself into the writing and spend hours upon hours with your characters.  But this book, lovey. This book.

It’s just different.

I love it in a nostalgic, memory-filled, roots kind of way. Because I remember forming these characters on the bottom of a bunk bed while living in a dorm room with five other girls, one of whom has already gone to heaven, which breaks my heart. We were just young girls then.

And then I remember re-writing it, living with Leah in dorm 23. Then Courtney and Kat. Dave Matthews or Matchbox Twenty on the radio. And then in our apartment while living with Laurie. Staying up late in my room, typing away on this same story.

Then becoming an intern for a publishing company and letting Mick and Kathy read it, getting feedback and feeling terrified as real, grown-up editors read my writing. Working on it while sitting with Samantha Krieger in one of the houses I was staying in during our internship. I think back on that and smile, thinking that’s what it looks like when you’re writer-friends. Come over, and bring your laptop, and we’ll sit together and type!

Then taking a break from it and writing Looks Like Love. Time passed during those years and life changed and I became an editor and lived out my dream job. Babies came. Then I wrote Table for Two, then Second Chance Café, then Recipe for Love. All while editing the books of so many others.

And finally, while pregnant with my third baby, I decided to start with a blank page, and rewrite this novel (in first person this time, which I loved while working on Looks Like Love).

So as Lily grew inside me, I wrote, for the last time, Sara’s story, The Last Summer.

And now, we’re six weeks out from release date.

But in my heart, we’re twenty years in. And I could just about cry.

So I’m scared and excited and happy and relieved and ready. I could use your help, loveys, to get the word out about this story. I hope to do a cover reveal in the next few weeks. And you can see the hashtag in the photo above. Once the book is out, I’d be so thankful to see readers with it, and please include that hashtag. Please leave reviews–you don’t even know how invaluable that is for authors. Share the book announcement on your pages. Contact me with any questions about how you can help! brandybrucewrites@gmail.com.

It’s nearly time. The COUNTDOWN is beginning.

Oh gosh. I’m so happy!

 

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Chocolat and Other Delicious Things!

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Loveys, it’s almost book club time again! Which I’m thrilled about because the last month has had all kinds of unexpected issues (illness for one) and I feel like I have hardly been a part of humanity! I had all of these great intentions about being super social this year, and then one thing after another has happened, and basically my only social interaction lately has been with Jeff and my three children. SO, fingers crossed nothing else happens, and book club goes as planned next week.

Book club this month is Joanne Harris’s delightful novel Chocolat. I was immediately on board with this since I LOVED the movie so much. I was surprised by how much they changed from book to film–but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the changes were good changes. They held to the themes while making the story something that worked perfectly in movie form. (This made me think of Julie and Julia. In that case, I loved the movie so much, but when I read the book, I didn’t connect with the author. The book just didn’t move me in any way.) When it came to Chocolat, I ended up loving the book and the movie. (Confession: I liked some of the characters from the movie better, but I liked getting to know Vianne in a deeper way.)

I was also reminded that I’m sort of obsessed with food. I really enjoyed the food/dessert aspects of this novel. I wish I could go to a chocolaterie in France! (This is also why I loved the movie.) I also enjoyed the mystic elements of this book. Whenever there are mystic elements in this kind of story, you end up wondering about how much is meant to be real or imagined, or perhaps the line between reality and otherworldly is intentionally blurry. I like the feeling I get when I read something that makes even the everyday seem like an adventure. The characters involved in the small town–mysterious, sympathetic, frustrating. The wind for Vianne, will it move her again and sweep her away to a new place?

So I get to host book club at my house this month and I’m thinking chocolate is in order. Maybe fondue? Maybe chocolate martinis? Maybe both? Jeff bought me a bottle of chocolate wine because he loves me, so we’ll try that. I’m feeling desperate for grown-up conversation, and book club is the perfect remedy. The only thing better than reading about food in books is drinking wine while talking about food in books!

P.S. I’ve been finishing up the final touches on my compilation book The Romano Family Collection. This compilation project is made up of my three Heartsong Presents novels, Table for Two, Second Chance Café, and Recipe for Love. I am so excited to have those available again! As I’ve been going through proofs, I can see again how much I enjoy food in fiction. Leo’s Lobster Magnifico, Isabella’s Corn Chowder, Alison’s Breakfast Casserole, Jeremy’s Bread Pudding–really, this girl likes to eat. In the Romano Family Collection, there’s a bonus short story called A Southern Belle Road Trip. I’m really thrilled for readers to get this glimpse into Ashley’s life (she’s a character from Table for Two!) It’s just a short story, but I managed to squeeze food scenes in regardless. And there’s a bonus recipe included! The Kindle version should be up and running soon, and I’m hoping the print version will be available within the next two weeks. Stay tuned for an update and possibly a giveaway!

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Dragonfly in Amber Book Club

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Dragonfly in Amber Book Club

Loveys, so Saturday night was book club at the Bruce house and we were talking about all things Dragonfly in Amber. This is book 2 in the Outlander series (which I love!). Honestly, it’s not my favorite book of the series (that would be Voyager), but it’s an important part of the overall story and there’s plenty to discuss. Seriously, we sat in my living room, talking and laughing, till after midnight! This is why I love book club. Book discussion can go in so many directions and you end up learning so much about each other in the process.

Back to the book. Outlander is all about Scotland, and the setting is important to understanding the characters. But in DIA, our setting moves to France, and again, the setting is extremely important to the story (it does reach back to Scotland eventually). So we stuck with France for our book club theme, specifically the spookiness of Master Raymond’s shop. img_4856

Master Raymond is one of the most intriguing new characters in DIA and he’s a favorite of mine. He owns something of an apothecary shop and he’s fascinating on many levels, not to mention the fact that he ends up being a good friend to Claire. I tied our table décor to themes in the book–Master Raymond’s shop, Claire being labeled ‘La Dame Blanche’ (the white witch), Jamie joining the wine business with his cousin Jared, and so on.img_4862

It was fun to tie in the role of wine from the book to our book club night because…um, wine and book club go together like syrup and pancakes. For real. So for our party favors, everyone received little bottles of wine.

I printed off discussion questions, just as a starting off point, but some of the best discussion came organically. There’s a moment early on the book, when Claire is telling her daughter Brianna the truth about who her father is and what happened, and Claire tells Brianna that she hated her for a time. This topic resulted in a lot of interesting discussion. Other topics that I felt were really good included the role of faith/God in the story, whether or not Claire made the right choice in leaving, whether Claire owns that decision or blames Jamie (or even Brianna), and Claire’s marriage to Frank. For literally hours, the girls and I dove deep, talking about the books and sharing about ourselves. Good stuff.

(To be honest, these books are really long. You could have a great discussion on the TV series alone. Though I’d argue the characters are much better in the books and there’s so much more! But still, good discussion.)

So, Outlander book club part 2 was a success! I’m thankful to the girls who came. Friends and wine and snacks and books…all good things. (Jessica and Marina, I missed you girls! Next time for sure!)

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Hosting Outlander Book Club

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It’s almost time for Dragonfly in Amber book discussion! I’ve been thinking about book club and hopped on this blog to remind myself of what I did the last time I hosted Outlander book club, and I can’t believe I never wrote an Outlander post over here! For all those people who watch the show, we’re currently experiencing Droughtlander, so some of us are reading through the books to compensate. But for all those lovely women reading Outlander and looking for book club party ideas, let me share with you!

img_2314 Let’s talk about Outlander. So I discovered the show on a free preview Starz weekend. Honestly, I wasn’t all that hooked on the first episode, but it intrigued me enough that I wanted to keep watching. So I did. And I started reading the first book (which was intimidating because these books are massive!). I ended up being really hooked and reading all of the books and becoming a crazy person who vents on forums when the show makes me mad. So there’s that.img_2357

I found some other women to be crazy with me and we read the first book together and had an Outlandish book club night at the very beginning of summer. And it was perfect! Book club is always a fun time. But there’s something about Outlander that makes it even more fun (could be James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser–just sayin). img_2279

I found discussion questions online and printed those off. I also printed off the “Claire Randall Missing” flyers that you see above. I put one on the front door, which was so fun for all the guests to see. And as you can see above, our party favors were little bottles of whisky, with name tags. (I thought about making Scottish dishes to serve, but for real, I couldn’t find any that sounded very appealing. Haggis? Um, maybe not. Even the Scotch cocktails sounded kind of scary, like The Penicillin and the Rusty Nail. Or the Car Bomb and The Meatball. What?? When in doubt, stick with chocolate and wine, lovey.) I rented the Outlander soundtrack from the library (p.s. The soundtrack is amazingly beautiful), and that was our background music.

Because it was basically a perfect summer evening, we sat outside under the pergola and had cheese and chocolate fondue and drank lots of wine and talked about Scotland and time travel and romance and all sorts of things related to the book for hours. There’s so much to unpack with a book series like Outlander, add the show to the mix, and it makes for good discussion.

I love the heart of the story–which is the relationship between Jamie and Claire. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Claire in the first couple of books. There are things I like about her, and things that I don’t connect with (I feel much the same about Brianna, her daughter). Jamie’s a straightforward character and there’s SO much to love about him (still, he’s not without his controversial moments). It’s who they are together that I totally get, and that keeps me reading. The show is much like the books, some parts I love, some I really don’t. Last season especially, I was ranting on forums at times! But part of the fun of Outlander is the enormous community out there to share it with. (I love My Outlander Purgatory blog!)

Practically speaking, reading is a solitary experience. But when you’ve read a great book or watched a great movie, you want to dish about it with other people! And sometimes you have to go looking outside your usual circle. Maybe this is an interest that some of your close friends don’t share–that’s okay! There are book lovers in every neighborhood, you just have to find them. Example, I was at a birthday party this weekend and I was standing and chatting with some women I’ve never met. I randomly said, Do any of you read Outlander? Voila! A kindred spirit was in the midst. A new recruit for all the crazy.

Here we are now, just days away from getting together to talk about Dragonfly in Amber! Just a few girlfriends and a couple of bottles of wine, talking about a Scot and his lass. Swoon! I’ll be back with ideas for hosting a Dragonfly in Amber book club night (if I actually have any ideas, which I don’t yet!). Book club is my favorite, loveys. And it’s not just because of the books, it’s the community. It always comes back to community. Finding something great and sharing it.

Terra Soul by S.J. Abraham

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Terra%20Soul%20Cover_zpsd6ycqimvLoveys, I want to tell you about a story I’m excited about! So I had the privilege of working on this super-fun, YA, sci/fi novel and I loved it! Here’s the book blurb:

Ayla thinks she’s just a comic-book nerd with a photophobia until the day a space fold forms in her living room and her father drags through it to the alien world of Karanik, her birthplace. When she discovers that soul-drinking aliens have infested Earth, she must embrace who she truly is in order to save it.

This story is great for young adults, boy and girls. It’s got aliens, teen angst, adventure, basically the world coming to an end and all that great stuff. I really enjoyed it and I think this author will have more amazing stories to tell. So check out Terra Soul on Amazon!!

https://www.amazon.com/Terra-Soul-S-J-Abraham/dp/0997625813

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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11243470_10102047668403458_2667479449231852400_nI love Harry Potter. This is common knowledge. I own trading cards (the kind that come with chocolate frogs). I went to see the movies at midnight on opening night and wore an HP T-shirt. I own every book and every movie and I’ve been to that magical place that is the Wizarding World at Orlando and I could have cried.

SO….of course I would read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. On a particularly rough day I was having recently, my sister showed up at my house with goodies for me, in the way of Tea Time magazines, a caramel Frappuccino…and the new Harry Potter book. Oh heavens. It’s the kind of deliciousness that makes you spend days reading while your children crawl all over you and remind you that they have to eat. Back in the olden days (pre-kids) I would have sat up and read that thing all night. These days, however, it takes longer. But I’ve finished and I want to TALK about it.

I will admit I had fears. First of all, I’m not big on reading scripts. I was in a screenwriting class in college for two days before I had to drop it and take something else like Southern Fiction. I’m fiction all the way. BUT this is an amazing script and reads like a novel. I wish it were a novel, to be honest, with details and all that good stuff. But it was really, really good. Second fear: some of the things JK has said about the characters post the perfection of Deathly Hallows has made me not excited. Like Ron’s two different jobs and Ginny off in the Quidditch Olympics forever, and the one time she said something like Harry probably should have ended up with Hermione (WHAT? Not even.). Sooo, I was a teeny bit afraid that Harry would be pining after Hermione and Ginny would be off playing Quidditch and so on.

But. Sigh. This was JK in her best form ever. It was truly a wonderful companion to the novels and I loved every second. It. Was. Magic. To be back in that world. To see Snape (one of my favorite characters). To see the adorableness of Ron and Hermione being Ron and Hermione. To see the connection between Harry and Ginny and what that looks like in a grown-up marriage. To get to know Albus and Scorpius. The threat of Voldemort–the hurting of the scar–I was so captivated.

(THANK YOU, SISTER, FOR BUYING ME THIS BOOK. LOVE.)

OK, spoiler situation. Read the book before continuing on.

I can’t help asking… who is the cursed child? Was it Albus? Cursed by Harry’s fame? Or Scorpius? Cursed by the rumors of his birth? Or Delphi? Cursed for being who she is? I was just a little sad to know that Albus was a Slytherin, but at the same time, it fit. He’s named after Severus as well and he’s a little of both. And Harry chose Gryffindor–what if the hat had meant to put him in Slytherin? Harry understands the dark side better than anyone and he’s seen the bravery and courage on both sides. Again, I loved seeing Snape, even in an alternate universe. Because he’s the same–spiteful and annoyed and choosing sacrifice anyway. He’s such a multi-faceted character. I LOVED hearing from Dumbledore, even from the paintings. He was still so…Dumbledore. I wanted to cry. Hearing both Draco and Ginny admit to having been jealous of the friendships of the other three felt so real and true–of course they would. The bond between Harry and Ron and Hermione was and is one that is enviable. And when you live through something like that together, I think pieces of you forever are knit to each other. Like the Lord of the Rings characters. Such a journey never leaves you, right? Seeing Draco have to work together with Harry and the others was great. He always seemed to be someone who never quite found himself. And when Harry says that he never goes it alone–that he always has help–oh gosh. That was Harry Potter. The boy who lived. Who needed Hagrid and Dumbledore and the Weasley’s and Hermione.

Oh. It still makes me cry. What a gift those stories are. I told Ashtyn that I think we’ll start reading book one together this year. She’s so excited because she’s been to the Wizarding World and had a taste of that magic.

She has no idea what true magic is to come with reading those books. Thank you, JK Rowling!th910RV9QZ

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

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Loveys, so this was the latest book club read over here! I really love to read so much that I wish I could read a book a month and get together to discuss. But amid the craziness of raising kids and doing life, I have to be careful with how much I take on. After the lovely chaos of the holidays, I started thinking it was time to find a book for book club. As usual, I get all my ideas from my sister Sara. She’s an amazing reader and always has a pile of books she’s reading. She recommended Lizzy and Jane to me a while back, and if Sara recommends it to me, it’s usually a very good read. So I emailed all the girls from book club to see who was up for it, and we got a good group together!

Here’s the scoop on this book (via Amazon):

Lizzy and Jane couldn’t be further from Jane Austen’s famous sisters for whom they are named. Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.

Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.

As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s handsome coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create?

*My thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. It’s full of emotion (though sometimes you want to strangle the sisters!) and there are a lot of layers for discussion. For this reason, especially, I think it works well for book club. There are parts to love and parts to pick apart. I loved the food element woven throughout. One of the sisters is a chef, so food is almost a main character in the book. (Which I love!) When it came time for book club, I decided to host a potluck dinner. Last summer, our book club read 800 Grapes (good choice!) and wine was an important part of the book. So a night of appetizers and wine went well with book discussion. This time, a potluck dinner sounded super fun to me. So we sat around my table and, over pasta and salad and bread, talked about the complicated family relationships in the book, the decisions the sisters made, and more.

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Especially for Austen fans, you’ll enjoy the mentions of Austen’s novels and characters. For people who’ve experienced difficult illness, you’ll appreciate the family dynamics in conjunction with stress and hurt feelings. For foodie’s, you’ll love the ties to food and cooking.

More than anything, what I love about book club is simply coming together to share our perspective and our own stories. I’m very grateful to all the lovely ladies who took part. Good times. Can’t wait till next time!

For my reader friends, check out Lizzy and Jane!