Book Club

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

The amazing Brenda Janowitz has a new book out April 12th and we've selected it as our #bookclub pick because it's a must-read for anyone who wants to be thoroughly entertained for 300 pages! Add THE DINNER PARTY to your TBR list for Spring--you'll thank us!

And we have a copy for #giveaway. Just leave a comment here or on our FB page to be entered to #win. Share this post for a second entry. Contest closes on Friday, April 8th at 5pm PST.

Brenda, also the force behind many of PopSugar's must-read lists, stopped by to answer some of our burning questions. (Find out why she's inspired us to use the voice memo app on our phones!) But first, more about her novel!

The scoop: This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

Our thoughts: Read. It. Now.


PHOTO BY: Hy Goldberg / Cristina Calvi

PHOTO BY: Hy Goldberg / Cristina Calvi

How did you come up with the idea for THE DINNER PARTY? And on that note, when you think of an idea, do you write it down in a notebook, pin it up on a corkboard, file it away in your mind, promptly forget it and then curse yourself for not writing it down? 

I wanted to write a novel about letting go of the past, and how only when we do that can we move on to the future. The novel originally began at Chapter Fourteen, where Sarah’s boyfriend insists on wearing a “tie substitute.” (I have such affinity for that chapter, and it’s the one that was featured in my PopSugar First Look.)

When I think of an idea, I usually write it down. I’ve done the “file it away in your mind” thing and I always forget it (and then curse myself for not writing it down!). So, these days I live by my notes and the Voice Memo app on my iPhone.

The book is chock full of lively and complex characters that anyone in a family can relate to--especially during the holidays. Did you have a favorite to write? One that you found more challenging than another? 

Thank you! I appreciate that so much. I definitely had a blast writing Valentina, the woman who says what everyone is thinking. I wish I could be the sort of woman who says what everyone is thinking. But alas….

I always find male characters tough to write. I’m such a girly girl, and sometimes my worldview sneaks into their dialogue. In the book I’m working on now, one of my agent’s comments was: “A man would never say that.” And she was completely right! I was saying the line in my own head, when really, I should have been imagining Ryan Gosling, or Henry Cavill, or Joe Manganiello, or… I’m sorry, what were we discussing?

Ooh how we loved the drama in this book! In your own life, how do you handle drama when it comes your way?

You two are seriously making me blush! Thank you!!

I love family drama, but only in novels. In real life, family drama is so much harder to deal with. I think that’s what I love about fiction—you can create this entire world that you control. And you can give it a resolution.

Oh, and how I deftly answered around your question? That should give you a little glimpse on how I deal with family drama. I duck and I swerve and I try not to say anything too incriminating.

You are such a huge supporter of other writers. Why do you feel this is important?
I love reading and I love books. There’s nothing I love more than a good book, so why not talk about it?

What are three things your readers might find interesting about your writing process? 

One: I dictated full chapters of this book on my Voice memo app on my iPhone. (See, above, regarding not losing ideas when they come to you!)

Two: I don’t have a set writing routine—I basically write whenever and wherever I have the time. Sometimes it’s the nursery school parking lot (thank you, Voice memo app!), but I prefer it to be in my office.

Three: I’ve always had vivid dreams and nightmares, but I think it’s a big part of my creative process. I keep a pad next to my bed at night since I often wake up in the middle of the night with an idea.

Have you recently discovered any debut authors you'd recommend? 

So many!

In the past year, I loved EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford, SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler, EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE by Mo Daviau, A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan, HUGO AND ROSE by Bridget Foley, LOVE AND MISS COMMUNICATION by Elyssa Friedland, MAESTRA by L.S. Hilton, BE FRANK WITH ME by Julia Claiborne Johnson, THE THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE by Lynda Cohen Loigman, MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS by Catherine Lowell, THE ASSISTANTS by Camille Perri, THE NEST by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, and DIETLAND by Sarai Walker.

What's up next for you?

I’m working on my sixth novel and doing lots of freelance work. I’m getting ready for the launch of THE DINNER PARTY and reading seemingly a million galleys for my PopSugar Best Reads of Summer list. Maybe somewhere in there, I’ll work in a nap, but it’s doubtful.

Thank you so much for having me here! 

Thank you, Brenda!

xoxo, Liz & Lisa

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: How to be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

HowtobeagrownupWe LOVE Emma and Nicola. They are not only great people who blurbed our debut novel and have been kind enough to give us advice along the way, but they are fabulous authors. And we couldn't love How to Be a Grown-Up more! And we have a copy for #giveaway! To be entered to #win, leave a comment on this post or on the status on our FB page. Contest closes Thursday, September 17th at 6:00 p.m. PST.  The scoop: From bestselling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus comes a timely novel about a forty-something wife and mother thrust back into the workforce, where she finds herself at the mercy of a boss half her age.

Rory McGovern is entering the ostensible prime of her life when her husband, Blake, loses his dream job and announces he feels like “taking a break” from being a husband and father. Rory was already spread thin and now, without warning, she is single-parenting two kids, juggling their science projects, flu season, and pajama days, while coming to terms with her disintegrating marriage. And without Blake, her only hope is to accept a full-time position working for two full-time twenty-somethings.

A day out of b-school, these girls think they know it all and have been given the millions from venture capitalists to back up their delusion—that the future of digital media is a high-end “lifestyle” site—for kids! (Not that anyone who works there has any, or knows the first thing about actual children.) Can Rory learn to decipher her bosses’ lingo, texts that read like license plates, and arbitrary mandates? And is there any hope of saving her marriage? With her family hanging by a thread, Rory must adapt to this hyper-digitized, over-glamorized, narcissistic world of millennials…whatever it takes.

Our thoughts: So damn witty and smart! As forty-something self-proclaimed technological dinosaurs, we related to Rory and her roller coaster life. This is a LOL funny novel we could not put down.

Liz & Lisa's Book Club: How to Be a Grown-Up by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

EmmaandNicolaWhat inspired the idea for HOW TO BE A GROWN-UP?

When we graduated from college we looked up to the women we worked for who were in their 40s.  They were in the corner office.  They had great husbands, great kids, and seemed to have figured it out.  Fast forward twenty years and there is no corner office—only a bullpen.  In New York our friends in their 40s are being eliminated and replaced with kids in their 20s at half the price.  The whole idea of job security seems a thing of the past.  Add to that our culture’s idea of beauty skews ever you nger and it can leave a women with a serious case of the blues.  We wanted to create a character who’s up against all of that—and vanquishes it.

As 41 year old women, we really related to your main character. How much of that character comes from your own experiences?

Emma kept saying to me as she was writing, “Is this actually funny—or just my morning?”  Rory is so close to us we kept losing perspective.  BUT we are luckier than Rory in two regards—we have not had a 23 year-old boss—YET.  And thankfully we are both married to men who are very much grown-ups.

How has your writing changed over the years as you've both gotten older?

You know, for a few discombobulated years after our kids were born we tried to “write to the marketplace”—I think out of fear that we wouldn't be able to support our new families.  The results were uneven.  We knew this was our last book and we wrote it for the sheer pleasure of it.  The lesson being follow the love—write for yourself first and foremost becasue if you write what someone in the industry tells you is “hot” or “on-brand” and it doesn’t sell, you’ll kick yourself.

What are you reading right now?

I (Nicola) just finished The Girl On The Train, which I loved. And Paper Towns.  John Greene, man.  He sticks the landing every f’ing time.  Now I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds.  It was in the cabin we rented and I couldn’t leave it behind!

You've said this book will be your final book together. (Cue tears!) What's up next for both of you?

Emma has returned to organizational development—which is what she was getting her Masters in when I seduced her away to the very not-grown-uo world of entertainment.  She has a thriving transition coaching practice.  I have a comic book series called The 29ers coming out next year about a group of teens who survive when the world suddenly stops.  And I’m writing a self-help book called How To MANifest Your Husband.  We are still each other’s kidney donors.  Nothing could ever change that.  We grew up together!

Thanks, Emma & Nicola!