The 500

Lisa's Favorite books of 2012

Echoing what Liz said yesterday, there have been so many awesome books this year. In fact, let's have a round of applause for the fabulous novels and memoirs we were so lucky to devour! But because there was such a long list of exciting reads, selecting only a handful of my favorites was so not easy. (It made the past two weeks of dealing with my sick toddler waking up at all hours suddenly seem like a cinch).  So here goes...

And hey, we want to hear what books you LOVED in 2012.  Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know!

1. The Song Remains the Same by Allison Winn Scotch I instantly fell in love with Nell, who loses her memory after being one of two survivors of a horrific plane crash.  She must then attempt to navigate the stories that her loved ones are telling her about herself and her past--stories that aren't exactly adding up.  Nell not only must figure out who she was, but who she is going to be as she moves forward. The Song Remains The Same (coming out in paperback on December 31 with this fabulous new cover) is my fave from Allison thus far, a sparkling page-turner that I was not able to put down.


2. Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio  This is not only one of my favorite books of the year, but it's also my favorite Sarah Jio book so far (she's written two others). It's a powerful and emotional story of two women who've never met, but are connected in unimaginable ways. In 1933, single mother Vera Ray loses her son the night of late-season snowstorm in Seattle--a cold-weather phenomenon called Blackberry Winter. Almost eighty years later, Seattle Herald reporter, Claire Aldridge, is assigned to cover a similar snowstorm that hits in May and learns of the unsolved abduction of Vera's son. She vows to find out what happened... Warning: Once you pick it up, will not be able to put this New York Times bestseller down. As you turn the pages, it's one unexpected twist after another right up until the shocking ending. (PS: Jio's upcoming novel, The Last Camellia, is out May 28, 2013. I cannot wait to read it!)

3. Jeneration X by Jen Lancaster This is hands down, Lancaster's funniest memoir yet. Not to mention the most hilarious book I read this year. (And yes, I'm more than a little in love with her sense of humor!) From the full title of her book alone,  Jeneration X: One Reluctant Adult's Attempt to Unarrest Her Arrested Development; Or, Why It's Never Too Late for Her Dumb Ass to Learn Why Froot Loops Are Not for Dinner, you know it's going to be a highly-entertaining page-turner. But it's the comedic tales she shares that suck you in for a wild ride as you hungrily devour chapter after chapter of her witty moments. This book appeals to all, but in particular the Gen Xer (ahem, me!), who will laugh and relate as Lancaster explores what it means to finally decide to grow up — sort of. I particularly enjoyed the stories about perimenopause and a home waxing kit. (PS: I've already read Jen's upcoming novel, Here I Go Again, out January 29, 2013, and it's fabulous!)

4. These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen Ah, Sarah Pekkanen. Where do I begin? Her books always top my favorite lists because she is such a brilliant writer. I swear she can give you the full picture of who a character is in just a few words. That's talent! So not surprisingly, what I love most about These Girls are the three main characters, roommates Cate, Renee and Abby. Cate has just been promoted to the editor of a fashion magazine but quickly realizes her new job comes with as many problems as perks. Renee, who is vying for a promotion of her own at the same magazine, turns to a bottle of diet pills after she overhears snide comments about her weight. And Abby is their newest roommate who is tight-lipped about what caused her to flee her nanny job in the suburbs. And as these girls help each other bring their truths to light and overcome their personal battles, I was reminded of the power of female friendships.  (PS: I've just finished Sarah's next book, The Best of Us, coming out April 9, 2013, and she nailed it--uh gain.)

5. Outside the Lines by Amy Hatvany This is one of the most moving and thought-provoking books I read this year. Hatvany is a beautiful writer and proves her skill, once again, at tackling tough subjects. In Outside the Lines, Eden searches for her father who left her two decades before, when she was just 10 years old.  After a series of failed romances and health scare from her mother, she knows it's time to face the emotions she's had bottled up all this time. Her journey to find her father, who she isn't even sure wants to be found, had me on the edge of my seat as I flipped the pages wondering how the story would end. (PS:My next read will be is Amy's upcoming book, A Heart Like Mine, out on March 19, 2013! The buzz? It's sensational!)

Man Candy bonus pick!

The 500 by Matthew Quirk (Because we read great books by men too!) This book is a complete departure from the novels I usually gravitate toward.  In the vein of John Grisham's The Firm, I was gripped from page one and felt more like I was watching an action movie than reading a story (in a good way). Mike Ford lands his dream job at Washington's most powerful consulting firm which turns out to be a world filled with lies, cheating and stealing. While rubbing shoulders with "the 500," the group of elite men and women who really run Washington, Ford is expected to join in on the fun. But even though he comes from a world of con men, he isn't sure he's cut out for the job. Can't wait to find out what's up next for this debut author.

xoxo, Lisa


7 Seconds in Heaven with...Matthew Quirk

Today's guest: Matthew Quirk His debut: The 500

Why we love him: He knows how to write for men and women!

The scoop: A year ago, fresh out of Harvard Law School, Mike Ford landed his dream job at the Davies Group, Washington's most powerful consulting firm. Now, he's staring down the barrel of a gun, pursued by two of the world's most dangerous men. To get out, he'll have to do all the things he thought he'd never do again: lie, cheat, steal-and this time, maybe even kill.

Mike grew up in a world of small-stakes con men, learning lessons at his father's knee. His hard-won success in college and law school was his ticket out. As the Davies Group's rising star, he rubs shoulders with "The 500," the elite men and women who really run Washington -- and the world. But peddling influence, he soon learns, is familiar work: even with a pedigree, a con is still a con.

Read an excerpt here.

Our thoughts: We loved The Firm and have been waiting for another author to take us on an equally suspenseful and page-turning ride. PS: We were SO THRILLED Matthew agreed to be our guest today to answer our 7 "burning" questions. We love the story behind his author photo & the fact that he loves strong women!

Fun fact: The 500 has already been optioned to be made into a movie and has been translated into 20 languages. Did we mention this is his DEBUT?

Giveaway: 5 copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win. We'll randomly select the winners after 6PM PST on Sunday, July 29.

Where you can read more about Matthew: Facebook, Twitter and his website.


Liz and Lisa:This is your debut novel and has already been compared to The Firm, been translated into 20 languages and is in development to be made into a movie by 20th Century Fox. What's been the biggest surprise to you about the success of The 500?

Matthew Quirk: Everything about the book’s reception has been a wonderful surprise. You always daydream about this sort of thing in the long years when you’re working on your writing without recognition. But for it to actually happen is just mindblowing. I was hoping to be able to write books as a day job. That was the dream. The rest is beyond everything I hoped. I had lost my job as a reporter at The Atlantic and my then-fiancée, now-wife was incredibly supportive, adamant actually, that I go for it (I dedicated the book to her). I wrote The 500 at a folding table in the little one-bedroom apartment where she and and I were both working from home. I finally sold the book a month before our wedding, just when I was running out of time on the whole writing experiment. Talk about suspense!

If I had to pick the most surprising element, it would be how receptive the film and publishing people are to a first-time author and how quickly it all happens. People often think of those industries as being really tough to break in to, and they are, but they are always looking for good stories and if they find something they like, it doesn’t matter who you are, they’ll snap it up. One day I had this giant word document on my computer and the next week it was shooting around Hollywood and people were makings bids on it from restaurants in Malibu. It’s nuts.

L&L:  What's the story behind the title of the book? The cover?

MQ: The 500 refers to the 500 most powerful people in Washington, most of whom have a relationship with the Davies Group, an extremely powerful DC consulting/lobbying firm run by a power broker named Henry Davies. Mike Ford, a guy with a shady past who has spent years working to earn a respectable life, puts himself through Harvard Law and lands a job at the Davies Group. He learns the ways of power in Washington, and soon enough, learns the secret behind Henry Davies’ power.

It was fun to mine all the real Washington grit I’d learned working as a political reporter in DC and put it to work in the service of a fast-paced, twisting plot like the kind I love to read.

I think the publisher and designer, Ploy Siripant, did an amazing job on the cover. Many of the foreign publishers are using the same design. There’s not too much of a story to it, which I think is its strength. I like that it’s not the usual DC thriller cover, you know, a guy with a briefcase running for his life with the Washington monument or the Capitol Dome in the background. I think it fits the book well, because hopefully The 500 will satisfy hard-core political thriller fans while standing out of the crowd a little because of the narrator’s voice, the humor, the characters, and the love story.

L&L:  We're women. A lot (make that most) of our readers are women. Why should women read your novel?

MQ: I love strong women, and I tried to make sure that the women in this book didn’t fall into any outdated thriller clichés. Mike Ford’s love interest, Annie Clark, is a badass: smart and strong and independent and successful. And there’s a fun love story in this as she and Mike fall for each other and take turns saving each other’s butts. Mike can definitely hold it down as a tough guy, but he’s also thoughtful and able to laugh at himself. I did have “chick lit” tropes in mind for one scene where, believe or not, a pair of Jimmy Choo slingbacks play a key role in some serious action. A good book appeals to everyone. I was shooting for a novel that above all, was fun to read and hard to put down, one of those books where you say, “oh my God, it’s one am. I should go to bed…maybe one more chapter.” A few people have written me notes saying the book kept them up way too late. That always makes my day.

L&L: Your book was recently written up in Entertainment Weekly's Must List and received an "A." What entertainment is on your must-list?

MQ: Breaking Bad. I can’t wait for the final season. That show is such a great mix of smart action, character, and humor. I’m loving Veep, too. It can be a little cynical, but it nails a lot of the petty, mundane aspects of political life you don’t see on the West Wing. I’ll talk more about books below, but a great, great book that everyone should read is Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. It’s hilarious. I need to go back and re-read all of his novels.

L&L: When not living and breathing your current book tour, what do you that has nothing to do with books or writing?

MQ: Going out with friends, cooking with my wife, hiking and cycling and skiing and sailing. You never know what will end up going into the books, though. I wrecked my knee skiing last year, a pretty harrowing accident where I tumbled down some steep chutes and ended up alone in the trees with a torn ACL fifteen minutes before the mountain shut down. The last thing I was thinking about was writing, of course, but I’m sure it helped. Periodically scaring the living daylights out of yourself is a good thing to do if you write thrillers.

L&L: What's something we'd be surprised to know about you?

MQ: People who have only seen the author photo are usually surprised when they meet me in person. When I was setting up my headshots, I looked at a bunch of thriller authors and said, Ok, industry standard is the total badass look. But when I’m hanging out with people, I’m usually laughing and smiling. When I went to meet the Dutch publishers for a book event in Amsterdam, the women who first met me, who had only seen the photo, greeted me by saying, “Oh! I thought you would be taller…and more regal.” It was hilarious.

L&L: What are you reading right now?

Tailor of Panama, by John Le Carré I’ve been reading a lot of Le Carré recently. As a former intelligence officer, he really knows what he’s talking about and as a stylist he can hold his own with most any literary author. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead is great, as is Dare Me by Megan Abbot. And then I have a big stack of books on my desk about prison security, lock-picking, safe-cracking, corporate espionage, and political corruption. It’s all research for the sequel to The 500, which I’m wrapping up now. I’ve always loved research and reporting and am glad I get to do it for the novels.

Thanks, Matthew!


Liz & Lisa