someone_could_get_hurtI’ve written three books in my life and all three of them have been subjected to the merciless criticism of the folks over at a certain social networking site for bookworms.  These people are deadly serious about books, so when they detect the slightest weakness in your text, they’re more than happy to pounce on you like a wounded antelope caught under a rock.  I read every review because I’m repulsively self-absorbed and because while getting a one-star review sucks, the people writing that review usually have valid criticisms.  In fact, as you will see, I much prefer getting a one-star review to certain other ratings.  Here now is my quick guide to how authors usually respond internally to their reviews, based on rating.

FIVE STARS: YES!  Sh*t yes!  Can’t do better than five stars.  I’m right up there with Hamlet.  But why did this person write ONLY one paragraph about how much they loved it?  Seems like a copout.  If you’re gonna give me five stars, you better MEAN it, buddy!  I want a PhD dissertation that can serve an annotated companion to the text for future college students.  Did you not notice the part where I alluded to tree branches on both page 134 and page 238?  I planted that imagery there for a reason, Mr. Lazy!  Seriously though… FIVE STARS!  BOOSH!

FOUR STARS: Very nice.  But why didn’t you give it five?  Virtually every four star review says, “I would have given this book five stars, except for (insert one incredibly petty little grievance).”  The author used too many commas!  I didn’t like the jacket copy!  The salesman at the bookshop who helped me find it was kind of a dick!  Just give me the five stars.  You’re dragging down my average.

THREE STARS: F*ck you.  F*ck you, three-star reviewers.  You are kind of the people who register onto message boards just to say, “meh”.  Have a REAL opinion the next time you read a damn book.  “Well, I kinda liked it but I kinda didn’t, so here’s my half-assed three-star review…” SH*T OR GET OFF THE POT, MISTER.  Love it or hate it, damn you.  Does nothing in life excite you?  At least with a one-star reviewer, I know where I stand.  But YOU, you filthy urchin, you think you’re being charitable by throwing me three stars like it’s loose change?  You are horrible.  And double middle fingers to the people who give you three stars but LOVE your book… those people who reserve four and five stars only for, like, the New Testament.  You’re not reviewing restaurants for the Times.  Be more of a star whore if you actually like something.

TWO STARS: Crap.  So you really didn’t like it, eh?  Sh*t.  Was it something I said?  Was it that sex scene on page 167?  I can have that expurgated, you know.  I’ll totally mail you a version with that part ripped out.  WHOLE NEW BOOK.  Hey, wait a second, did you base your review on a galley?  Dude, that wasn’t proofread!  You know that, right?  I made six tweaks that change the whole TONE of the book.  Give me another chance.  Please.  Please, I beg of you.  They’ll never give me another book deal now.  OH CURSE YOU!!!!!

ONE STAR: Haterz gon hate.




spot and beth1When friends meet my rotund, midnight-black cat, they invariably ask me: “Why would you name him Spot? He doesn’t have any spots on him.”

His name makes perfect sense to me. Ten years ago I had a friend with an adorable black-and-white spotted cat. I dubbed him “Cow Cat.” I had just moved into my own place, and the apartment felt somewhat empty. I wanted a pet for companionship—one that was as cool and friendly as Cow Cat.

I visited many rescue homes and shelters, looking for just the right cat, but all the spotted cats that I met seemed either standoffish or frightened. After weeks of searching, I arrived at the Yonkers Animal Shelter, where a skinny black cat with a huge head ran up to me and didn’t leave my side the entire time I was there. I gravitated toward the cow-like cats, and still, this big-headed black cat continued to rub against my legs. He chose me and now was doing all he could to let me know that, no matter what, he was going spothome with me. Who was I to argue?

I didn’t need much convincing. The more I petted him, the more I thought that he was the pet I was looking for all along. He was the black spot from Cow Cat. From then on, he became my Spot.

And he is the friendliest, most snuggly cat I have ever met. He may not be skinny any longer, and his head no longer is freakishly spotout of proportion with his body, but he still follows me around everywhere, reminding me every day of why we were meant to be together. Even if it takes some explaining, Spot truly is the perfect name for my 20-pound snuggle machine.

I love the idea of Read Humane and am so proud to be a part of an organization that values rescue animals and organizations. You can tell when you bring home a rescue how appreciative they are, and you get back so much love from them.

- Beth Parker, Associate Director of Publicity, Gotham/Avery

Learn more about Read Humane



Abby came to us from a breed rescue in Alabama—and while she’s certainly no pure bred, she’s best in show to us!

I’m proud to work for a company that not only publishes great books, but also recognizes the needs of organizations like the Humane Society and partners with them to help

- Kristen O’Connell, Director of Consumer Marketing and Social Media

Learn more about Read Humane

RoninI adopted Ronin two years ago after my cat of 14 years passed away.  I couldn’t have wished for a more amazing cat!  He makes me smile everyday and I am so grateful that we found him. I am pleased to see Penguin supporting the “adopt don’t shop” ideology with Read Humane.  There are so many wonderful animal companions (of all ages) that need good homes.


- Morgan Green, Assistant Manager Paperback Sales Administration

Learn more about Read Humane

someone_could_get_hurtI hit a car when I was going to visit my baby son in the hospital.  I was pulling into a gas station and there was a pump available just past this other car.  I wanted to get to my son as quickly as possible, so I arrogantly tried to sneak by the other car with my bigass minivan.  And I could see the Latina woman in her car screaming at me WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! as I edged forward, and I heard her shriek out in anger when I brushed against her front panel.

If you’ve ever been in a fender bender, you know how awkward it is, especially when it’s your fault.  I got out of the car and did the customary amateur inspection of the woman’s car, praying I’d find nothing.  But no, her shit was scratched up pretty good.

“Why did you do that?!” the woman screamed.

“Oh, God.  I am so, so sorry,” I said to her.

“How am I gonna pay for this?” she cried.  “I’ve had a really terrible week, and now this.  This is a loaner car because someone hit me last week, and I’m here illeg…” She cut herself off before she could say more.  She began sobbing heavily, with her sister trying to comfort her.  I wanted to crawl into a hole and die.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.  I said it over and over, as if it would do any good.  This woman was being crushed by life, and I was the cherry on her shit sundae.  I was the white asshole in the minivan swooping in to drive her to the brink of madness.

I tried to comfort her.  “I have a son in the hospital, and uh…” I trailed off.  My son, barely a week old, was on the verge of being operated on for a life-threatening condition, which you can read about in this book.  I guess I was trying to even up our suffering somehow, even though that was crude and pointless.

“I’m sorry about your son,” she said.

“No, no.  I hit you.  This is all my fault.”  I tried my best to let her know that I knew how it felt, that I knew about those moments when everything just piles and piles and piles on top of you until you feel ready to break, when you wonder why life is so intent on shitting all over you.  I gave her my insurance card, my full name, and my phone number, and I told her she could contact me at any time if she needed more information.  And then she drove off.  I felt like I had handled the situation responsibly… that I had somewhat atoned for my stupidity.

A mechanic who saw the whole exchange went up to me.

“Why didn’t you just give that woman some cash?”

I hadn’t even considered that.

“Should I have done that?” I asked him.  “I just gave her my insurance information.”

“Just give her a hundred bucks.  She doesn’t have any fucking insurance, man.”

And he was right.  I never heard from the woman again.  I don’t know what happened to her.  I don’t know if she went further into debt, or got deported, or any of that.  I wish I would bump into her again (not with my car!) so that I could hand her all the cash in my wallet, to make up for the time when I hit her right at a moment where I cared about my son’s life and no one else’s.  I wasn’t the only one in rough shape that day.  Your suffering is never unique to the world, and I wish I had remembered that.

Today marks the publication of Dan Brown’s newest thriller, Inferno, which reunites readers with Robert Langdon of The DaVinci Code fame. If you enjoy books that mix together secrets, suspense and adventure, then check out these great titles.

angelopolis city_of_dark_magic strindbergs_star






zero_hour shadow_of_night devils_elixer







babylon_rite cassandra_project of_saints






And the book that inspired Dan Brown’s Inferno, Dante’s Inferno







Posted by: John Mercun, Consumer Engagement Manager

cheesedoodle readhumanebooks marianne and cheesedoodle

There’s no greater love like the love of an adopted pet. I found my forever friend in Cheese Doodle!

Change your life and help save theirs. Adopt a rescued cat or dog today.

I’m so thankful for Penguin’s continued support to fight against animal cruelty and its donation to The Humane Society.

Please join this cause and pick up a Read Humane book at your nearest retailer.

- Marianne Pappas, Assistant Manager, Distributor Sales

Learn more about Read Humane

Are you on the hunt for the perfect last minute present for your mom? What I Love About You, Mom is the ultimate DIY keepsake and makes for a superbly unique and heartfelt gift.

What I Love About You, Mom

What I Love About You, Mom is a journal with writing prompts to guide you in celebrating what’s special about your mom, and recounting, in your own words, some of your fondest memories. This book may be just what you need to find the right words to say what you’ve always wanted to say on Mother’s Day!

In anticipation of the big day, we asked Penguin staffers to use some of the prompts to write their own loving notes in appreciation of mom. Here are a few.



Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted by: Christina Marie Castro, Senior Coordinator – Consumer Engagement and Social Media

shells and me shells belly

I have a soft spot for rescuing adult cats: while everyone coos over adoptable kittens, I’m the one leaning down to pet the cranky, elderly cat alone in its cage. You know, the one rolling its eyes and decisively NOT batting at any proffered string or mouse. This is how I found Ms. Shells: on a ferociously hot summer day in Brooklyn, walking down Smith Street, I saw an enormous adult tabby looking sad and alone in a Rescue Animal cage display. When I learned this gorgeous girl was scheduled to be killed the following day because no one wanted to adopt an adult cat—despite her being in perfect health—my stomach lurched and I knew I would be taking her home.

Like any new adult relationship, Ms. Shells came with a lot of baggage from her past: intimacy issues, a severe biting problem, and a penchant for urinating in purses. But who amongst us hasn’t been there? It was nothing that time, love, and a $300 cat psychotherapist couldn’t solve. Years later, my plump and beautiful tabby is a well-adjusted cat who loves feather toys, tuna, chatty conversations, and showing off her enormous white belly while she naps.

My love of animals and vegetarianism is one of many reasons I am proud to work at Penguin Books, which for the second year now is donating a large sum to The Humane Society through their Read Humane program, in support of the thousands of animals that depend on humans for kindness, food and shelter. Thanks for reading about me and Shells and I hope you will support this terrific Read Humane program!

- Jynne Dilling Martin, Director of Publicity, Riverhead Books

Learn more about Read Humane

standingbyFour years ago, in the spring of 2009, the Iraq War was at its height.  American soldiers and sailors overseas made headlines every day, but military spouses –holding down the home front during an era of deployments that set records for length and frequency — were rarely heard from.  But all of that was about to change.

Soon after President Obama was elected for the first time, he issued a proclamation marking the Friday before Mother’s Day “Military Spouse Appreciation Day.”  (President Ronald Reagan started the tradition, but it faded into obscurity with following administrations.)  Around the same time, there were rumors that the new First Lady would focus her efforts on improving the situation of military families.  Few could have predicted then that Mrs. Obama’s devotion to this cause would help transform military spouses’ lives, leading not just to an increased public awareness of these families’ sacrifices, but to much-needed changes in military spouses’ career licensing requirements, school testing standards for service members’ kids, and veterans’ hiring initiatives.

As a Navy wife raising two small children alone while my husband flew jets in the war, I was encouraged, back in 2009, that Americans seemed to be interested in the fate of the families left behind.  As a writer, I was intrigued by the possibilities of Mrs. Obama’s advocacy because I had been studying First Lady Martha Washington’s successful efforts to engage the non-military public in the troops’ welfare during the Revolutionary War.  In my book, Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War, I included stories of Martha Washington’s actions as a military spouse because before she was the first First Lady, she was equally well known as the General’s wife.

In this role, Martha enjoyed a privileged position, but according to letters and accounts of the period, she never put on airs. She spent her time with the other officers’ wives as they knitted socks, patched garments, sewed shirts for destitute soldiers, provided medical aid, comforted the dying men, and took widows under their wing. Leveraging her high-level contacts in the civilian community, Martha collected cash donated by upper-class women who supported the Revolutionary cause (“the offering of the Ladies”), and used it to purchase linen to make more than two thousand shirts for soldiers. Without knowing that the implications of her actions would resonate for hundreds of years, Martha created the prototype of the military wife.  She referred to herself as “steady as a clock, busy as a bee, and cheerful as a cricket.”

My own story couldn’t have been more different. I was a most unlikely military spouse: some of my first memories are of being pushed in my stroller in antiwar rallies throughout Madison, Wisconsin, in 1970, when my parents were students there.  Because I had grown up with no first-hand knowledge of the military or anyone in it, I imbibed all of the stereotypes about servicemembers.  They were robots who only followed orders; high-school graduates with few opportunities; good ‘ol boys whose daddies and granddaddies set the tradition of service in stone.  Their wives were white-gloved ladies who lunched, gossiped, and raised cookie-cutter children.

After I married my husband and lived in a series of military communities, I saw nothing that resembled those crude sketches.  The military spouses I came to know and write about in Standing By taught me about courage, motivation, and endurance.  They showed me what loyalty and honesty mean, and they demonstrated how friends can become closer than family.  So on this Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I remember Martha, and those of us who try, deployment after deployment, to learn from her example – even if we’ll never be steady as a clock, or cheerful as a cricket.