Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Pursuit of Happiness by Melissa Rae Madison (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Pursuit of Happiness by Author Melissa Rae Madison!

Author Guest Post

Humor = Tragedy + Time

Just a few months after I graduated from college, I totaled my first car in an unfortunate meeting with a rather large deer. I was underinsured and broke, so I was devastated. My mother, perhaps a little optimistically, told me that someday I would look back and laugh. I probably said something terribly obnoxious to her and then went off to sulk.

I owe her an apology (sorry, Mom!) because now that memory does make me laugh. Actually, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that story over the years. Personally, I like the part where the game warden asked me to avert my eyes while he put the injured deer out of its suffering. I looked at my first car, now a hulking, steaming wreck, and asked him to give me the gun so I could do it myself. (He refused. And please, rest assured that I’m an animal lover and at any other time I would have been horrified at the sight of that poor deer. But. My car.)

I’ve heard many words of wisdom from my mother and I’ve actually listened to some of them, but “this will be funny some day” (unconsciously echoing Mark Twain’s quote that humor is tragedy plus time), has resonated with me perhaps more than any other. Mining real life for moments of inspiration is a crucial tool in the writer’s toolbox, and tragedy is no exception.

Using humor to deal with pain isn’t, and shouldn’t be, solely the province of writers or artists, though. It’s a useful method of dealing with life’s disappointments for all of us. Don’t get me wrong. There are some experiences will never rise to the level of comic anecdote, and that’s fine. Some things aren’t meant to be funny, not now, not ever. But if you’re confident that someday you will be able to laugh at most of the events that seem so full of pathos at the time, it might help ease the pain.

By the time Monte Carlo meets deer ended in a tie, I’d already started to mentally rewrite events, even as I was experiencing them, to mine the comedic possibilities.

After the accident, I called my Dad, who had a body shop and would be able to tow away the hunk of metal that used to be my car. While I was waiting for him, another driver, who’d pulled over to make sure I was all right, eyed the deer. He looked from me to the game warden, then asked “Are you going to keep that deer?”

“No,” I said decisively

“Can you help me tie it on my car?” he asked, producing a length of frayed rope from his trunk. Without a word, I helped him lift the deer and secure it tightly to the top of his car. I’d grown up in a town where hunting was one of the major activities, so this didn’t seem at all strange to me. He was driving away with his prize when my Dad pulled in.

When you’ve just destroyed your first car and are still shaking from the accident, there are all kinds of things you might expect your father to say.

Mine said, “I can’t believe you gave away that deer. All that venison, gone to waste.”

As he shook his head at me in disappointment, I felt a giggle start to bubble up to the surface. I squelched it before it came out, the gravity of the situation washing over me. Now, if I could do it over, I’d let the giggle come, and the deep belly laughs that were sure to follow. It wouldn’t have undone the accident, but it would have made it all a little more bearable.

Humor can help ease the pain, soothe the sting, and bring a little more light into your life. And can’t we all use a little more light?

-Melissa Rae Madison

About The Author

Melissa Rae Madison, a partially reformed lawyer, is formerly from Pennsylvania but now lives in sunny Southern California, where she regularly laments the scarcity of really good cannoli. When she's not writing or lawyering, she enjoys reality tv marathons, sugary cereal, and being bossed around by her pushy Siamese cat.


Book Review

The Pursuit of Happiness by Melissa Rae Madison
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 26, 2014
Format: eBook - 279 pages
             Kindle - 911 KB
Genre: Contemporary Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: The Pursuit of Happiness

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours.

Book Description:

Tay Bellagio, a former tomboy from rural Pennsylvania, has finally achieved the life of her dreams, or so she thinks. She’s a successful lawyer for a top law firm in Philadelphia, making more money that she ever imagined. She has a group of dear friends and a loving extended family, and the attractive bartender at the local Irish pub has just asked her on a date. She has everything she wants, except happiness.

Why is Tay so miserable? Maybe it’s her boss, a power-hungry partner at her firm who thrives on humiliating his subordinates. Maybe it’s her friends, who are getting fed up with her diva attitude, or her family, who thinks she’s pulling away from them. Maybe it's the bartender, who thinks she’s shallow. Or maybe it’s because the life of her dreams is becoming a nightmare.

When family obligations and an ethical dilemma at work crumble Tay’s carefully constructed world, she has to take another look at her dreams and ambitions and decide what she wants out of life. And to her surprise, it may not be what she’d planned.

Book Excerpt:

It was Friday, my sweet beautiful Friday, and until Ed called me to his office, I had been in a particularly good mood. The previous weekend after reading a self-help article in a magazine aimed at working women (hey, that's me!) I had written a list of positive affirmations meant to improve my attitude, which admittedly is generally pretty crappy: "I have a satisfying job that is perfect for me" and "I'm in control of my thoughts and emotions."

So far it seemed to be working, as I'd gotten through the week without a nervous breakdown (a significant victory, in my view). It had been a calm week at Morris, Cramton & Watson and I was lulled into a false sense of security. Friday had been one of those serendipitous days when everything went right. It was such a nice day that I even ate lunch in the break room with a couple of my co-workers instead of sitting in the plaza outside our building and soaking up the city air as I do most days, in an attempt to get stoned enough on exhaust fumes to make it through the afternoon.

Naturally Ed had to spoil it all by calling me to his office, no doubt with some nefarious scheme in mind. While Ed ignored me by pretending to read his email, I tried not to hyperventilate, and went back to my repeating my positive affirmations to myself. I dropped "I have a satisfying job...." because I was pretty sure that charade wasn't going to hold up for more than another ten or twenty seconds. Instead I went with "I'm in control of my thoughts and emotions...I'm in control of my thoughts and emotions...I'm-"

"Are you aware that the deadline for filing a motion to compel is today?" Ed asked, swinging around in his chair to face me across his cluttered desk.

My mind raced and I was no longer in control of my thoughts and emotions.

Motion to compel? What is he talking about? Did I screw up? What did I screw up? Oh my god I'm going to get fired and I don't even know what's going on.

"I don't know what you mean," I squeaked. I hated the sound of my own voice. I wanted to slap that weak, cowering girl whose voice trembled and whose eyes were already starting to water. * Ed's bushy eyebrows shot up in mock surprise.

"You don't know what I mean." This was a statement, not a question. "You are, of course, aware of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. You have, in fact, conducted discovery. I would assume that you know what a motion to compel is." He pushed a couple of stacks of paper around, managing to knock one over completely.

I tried to collect myself and go on the offensive, but it was a losing proposition.

" I meant, what case?"

"What case? The case with a motion due today," he said. Ed was perfectly calm and I felt like Alice at a tea party.

Is he insane? Of course he's insane. The question is, am I?

"There aren't any motions due today," I stated with as much conviction as I could muster, which was somewhat less than zero. I focused on the huge stain on his collar and tried to guess what it was. Ketchup? Strawberry jam? The blood of the last associate to sit in this chair? I shivered and wondered if he'd chosen maroon upholstery to hide blood stains.

"Incorrect. The Samson motion is due today and I haven't seen your draft," he said.


Now I was completely confused. Yes, we had been conducting discovery in the Samson case for quite some time. We had served the plaintiff with interrogatories and requests for production, which is a lawyer's fancy way of saying we asked some questions and asked them to give us some documents. Opposing counsel in the Samson case had been more forthcoming than lawyers usually are when responding to discovery, practically handing us the keys to Mr. Samson's office and inviting us in for a little look-see. Neither party disagreed on any of the relevant facts and Mr. Samson had very few documents relating to the case whatsoever. As far as discovery goes, this case had been a piece of cake.

"Yes, the Samson motion to compel is due today," Ed said patiently, as if he were talking to a very small child or perhaps some sort of barnyard animal.

"But..." I knew the minute I said it that I was digging my grave even deeper, but I couldn't seem to shut myself up. "They responded in full to our discovery. They gave us everything."

"Oh really?"

Again with the eyebrows. Someone needs to teach him how to perform some basic brow maintenance. The look might have worked for Albert Einstein, but it did nothing for Ed.

"And how do you know they gave us everything? Can you read the plaintiff's mind?"

The little spark left in me wanted to make some wisecrack about mind reading but all I could manage to sputter was, "Uh, no. I guess not."

"Correct," Ed barked. "I want that motion on my desk in one hour."

My stomach twisted and dropped. I turned blindly and bolted from the room before I could burst into tears. Being humiliated has a way of turning on my internal waterworks and there was no way I was going to give Ed the satisfaction of crying in front of him.

My Book Review:

Tay Bellagio has everything in her life going her way: she was hired out of law school as an associate attorney with one of Philadelphia's most prestigious law firms; she has a beautiful apartment; an expensive car; money; and supportive friends .... so why is she so miserable?

In The Pursuit of Happiness, Author Melissa Rae Madison weaves an intriguing tale that has the reader following Tay Bellagio as she embarks on a personal journey of finding happiness. Set in Philadelphia and told in the first person narrative, Tay's journey is a roller coaster ride of dramatic highs and lows as she finds out that having everything doesn't always bring happiness. Sometimes life kicks you in the butt and makes you realize that changes need to be made in your life, and as Tay soon discovers, reality comes a calling when her life starts to crumble. I really enjoyed following Tay's journey, I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan of her in the beginning, but as she made changes in her life, it was really great to see her growth and the realization that she really could find happiness.

I loved that the author utilized her personal / professional experience as an attorney to weave a believable story that anyone can relate to. The author easily draws the reader into Tay's story from the beginning, and keeps them engaged and turning the pages as Tay's journey for the pursuit of happiness unfolds. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I loved that the author provides a richly detailed description of the local landmarks in her hometown of Philadelphia as the setting, that in itself gets two thumbs up.

With a fun cast of characters; witty dialogue and interactions; and a storyline that has a great mixture of drama and humor; The Pursuit of Happiness is an enjoyable story about what really matters most in life.


Virtual Book Tour

Book Tour Schedule:

December 1 - Chick Lit Plus - Kickoff
December 2 - FictionDreams – Q&A
December 4 - Doorflower- Guest Post
December 5 - AiLove Books – Excerpt
December 8 - ChickLit Club Connect – Guest Post
December 9 - eBookAddict- Excerpt
December 11 - Chick LitPlus – Review
December 12 - The Little Reading Cabin - Review
December 15 - Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post & Excerpt
December 15 - Ski-Wee’s Book Corner - Review

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