Hello, my name is Lisa Jakub and I used to be an actor

This is a weird thing for me to write about. You see, I’ve been spending the last 10 years running from my past. A friend said that I’m so dodgy about my old life, that I behave like someone who killed her entire family and moved out of state.

I’m that elusive about it.

But I didn’t kill anyone.

I was just an actor. Continue reading

There’s real famous. Then there’s me.

It is possible to leave Hollywood.

It’s not easy.

People wrinkle their foreheads at you and ask “why?” in this tone that makes you feel like you have just announced your intention to dress yourself entirely in tinfoil. People say you’re crazy for walking away from a good career just because it wasn’t making you happy. But it can be done. You can leave the film industry and do new things and you can almost leave it all in the past. Almost.

Certain things tend to linger.

I rarely talk about my old job in my daily life. I am now a writer who lives in Virginia, and my acting past is simply not relevant. I’ve been friends with people for a while and they have no idea that I used to be an actor. Usually, it will come up because I have to explain why I never graduated from high school or why I have DVDs of the movies that are still in theaters on my coffee table.

It’s not like I’m legitimately famous. It’s not like I walk into a room and I’m Jennifer Lawrence and everyone starts squealing. Occasionally, people recognize me. Often they squint at me and ask if we knew each other in high school. Or, it’s just odd.

My past creates certain challenges when making new friends – because I don’t know if they know, either from recognizing me or hearing about it from someone else. So, I don’t say anything, because saying something would be obnoxious. Why does my old job matter now? Who’s like “Oh, just so you know, 15 years ago, I worked at The Olive Garden, I hope that doesn’t make things strange now.”

So when I dance around the issue of my past, when I get flushed and nervous and look at my feet while using vague language like, “I was in Honduras once, for this…um…you know…work thing….” I look like I might be a repentant drug lord.

So, I test the waters and mumble “Oh, dunno if you know or not, I used to be an actor, so um…yeah…there’s that.” And I nervously wait for their reaction and try to come up with an excuse to check my phone for text messages.

I’ve had people get weirded out and uncomfortable, thinking this somehow makes me exotic and un-relatable because actors are apparently made of different stuff than regular folk.

I’ve had people get too excited and too comfortable and then they only want to talk about whether or not Fran Drescher really talks like that.

And then there is my all-time favorite reaction. When one of my friends found out, after months of knowing each other, she looked at me and said “Oh my God, it’s like, you’re….fake famous. That’s hilarious. Hey, hand me that yoga mat.”

She’s right. I am fake famous. I have this little bit of recognizability, but I don’t get mobbed in public or walk the red carpet anymore. I never enjoyed those things, they just sent my anxiety into overdrive. I like my life so much better now.

As it turns out, the authentic me is much happier being fake famous.

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Last call for my online writing class!


My online memoir class starts this weekend – want to join us?

This class is open to all levels – from experienced writers to those who have only written emails. All we require is passion and enthusiasm. You’ll learn a lot about memoir craft, we’ll do fun exercises to open the creative floodgates and I’ll offer feedback on your work. We’ll read great writing samples and totally nerd out about words. It’ll be awesome fun.

Here are some of the topics we’ll be covering.

  • Class #1 – Where to begin: on beginnings, middles and ends
  • Class #2 – The Hero’s Journey: structure and story arc
  • Class #3 – “Truth” and dealing with the real life people you write about
  • Class #4 – Living like a writer: deadlines, scheduling and writer’s block
  • Class #5 – Go deeper: show don’t tell and finding your voice
  • Class #6 – Covering a few Ws: Character, dialogue and settings
  • Class #7 – What’s next? Pitching, queries, agents, publishing and editing

The class will be held ONLINE – on seven Sunday afternoons:

Sept. 27

Oct. 4, 25

Nov. 8, 15

Dec. 6, 13

 From 12 – 2 pm PST  (3 – 5 pm Eastern)

I hope you’ll join me! No grades, no stress, just great information and motivation for your book. Sign up here.

(And if you want a little writing tip to get you started – here you go!)

Questioning the Cult of Busy

“How are you?”

It’s become the standard answer to the question.
Ah, yes. We’re busy. We’re all so very busy. We have so much going on. Things are CRAZY.

I’m not doubting that life tends to get hectic. Jobs and kids and pets and Instagram accounts. Yard work and work outs. Parents get medical procedures and laundry gets left in the washer.

We all have stuff.

But somehow, being “busy” seems have become a point of pride in our culture. Like, “I am a very important person because I only have time to sleep for five hours a night.”

That doesn’t make you important. You know what that makes you? A victim of advanced interrogation techniques.

I just had a book published. I did a book tour and media that consisted of things like twelve radio interviews in one day. I’m writing another book, I write two blogs, contribute to various online publications and I’m about to start teaching a writing class. I travel and give talks at schools and conferences. I also run the website and social media for a local business in my town. And then, you know. I have my life.

So, I understand busy.

But this is a shift for me. Generally, my life is not that busy. I’ve intentionally made it that way. I say no to things that spread me too thin and require me to multi-task, because multi-tasking just means I do several things badly. For the past several years, I’ve just been working on my book. So, I was writing. I was walking the dog and doing yoga and cooking dinner. I read a lot.

But with this new avalanche of stuff, I’ve recently fallen into that trap that I hate – sighing and saying I’m BUSY. And enjoying the fact that people seem impressed by that.

But nothing in my life is better or more impressive or more fulfilling when I’m busy. It might be just the opposite.

So, instead of saying I’m SO busy, how about I talk about something real.

  • I’m excited about my new teaching gig.
  • I’m sad that my friend is moving out of town.
  • I’m madly in love with this new taco place I discovered.

That’s actually how I’m doing. That has some substance to it. And it doesn’t have the slimy aftertaste of a humble-brag.

What’s so important when life is…let’s call it… “full”…. is that I don’t get caught up in my own busyness. I don’t think that any of it defines me, or somehow makes my life more worthy than when I have time to take a nap on a Wednesday.

Why do we feel the need to fill every second of the day with stuff? Is it so we can feel we are important to the world? Like we need to earn some badge of worthiness? Like people will forget about us if we’re not everywhere at once? It is just the classic Fear Of Missing Out? If we step back, can we see that much of this business is self-imposed. We really can sit and read a book sometimes. The world will keep spinning all by itself.

I’d offer this: relaxing isn’t lazy when it’s planned.

We need time to relax and play as much as we need water. Play isn’t frivolous. We can be better at the important things with the kids and the job and the pets and the Instagram accounts – when we have taken the time for self care. Stillness is important. Reading the Pottery Barn catalogue in the bathtub is important. Sitting on the porch and talking about why there are so many caterpillars this year – is important.

Stressing out about making the perfect key lime bars with the hand-squeezed key limes for the pool party is not that important.

We can choose to set boundaries on things and tell people we are sorry but we just can’t take that new thing on. And we can be okay with the fact that we said no.

We can be *gasp* not that busy.

Because when we can create some space, we can actually be awake for our lives. We can be better for everything and everyone that we love.

Check out this New York Times article “The Busy Trap.” It’s long, and I know you are busy, but it’s a good read.

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Want to hang out with me and write?

I’m teaching an online memoir writing class with Writing Pad! It’s open to folks with all levels of writing experience – you just need to be courageous enough to want to share your story.  This is going to be a fun, supportive environment where we can all work together and create something wonderful.

The class will be held ONLINE – on seven Sunday afternoons: Sept. 27, Oct. 4, 25, Nov. 8, 15, Dec. 6, 13

 12 – 2 pm PST  (3 – 5 pm Eastern)

I hope you’ll join me! Sign up here.

(And if you want a little writing tip to get you started – here you go!)

Recipe for happiness: squash the expectations



This is apparently the mathematical breakdown of what it means to be happy.
I totally agree, don’t you?

Actually, my idea of happiness doesn’t ever include exponents, but what this equation means is totally fantastic.

There was recently an article in The Atlantic that offers this equation and says that happiness doesn’t depend on how things are going. It depends on whether things are going better or worse than you thought they would.

Happiness is all about expectations. 

This is entirely true in my experience. My life used to go like this:

  • I get manically excited about something (starting a Facebook page to share my blog)
  • it starts off the way I hoped it would (I post stuff, I have 9,000 fans)
  • then, that’s not enough, I change my expectations and emotionally crash because I don’t have the upgraded version of that manically exciting thing (why do I not have 90,000 fans?)

And when things don’t go at all as I expected? If someone doesn’t respond the way I want them to respond, or I work really hard on something and it flops – suddenly I’m curled up on the couch claiming I’m eternally destined to be a dismal failure. It’s a screwed-up roller coaster of emotional angst.

And it’s the nature of the human condition.

It seems we’ve always been that way, and that’s why 2,500 years ago, the Buddha said that life is suffering. (He used the Pali word dukkha, which could be less-dramatically translated as “unsatisfactory” or “stressful.”) We suffer because we are constantly clinging to something that is slipping away. Everything is slipping away because everything is impermanent and nothing lasts forever.

Which seems kind of dark and horrifically depressing, until you realize this is just the reality of the world and there is an answer for dealing with it:

    • The Buddha called it equanimity
    • The coach from the UVA men’s basketball team told his guys to not get “too high on themselves or too low”
    • The Gin Blossoms said “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.”

It’s all about managing expectations. Of course there are things we want. That’s good. But when we tie our self-worth and inner peace to whether or not we get them, that’s when the trouble starts.

I want to do well in life.

I want everyone to like me.

I want to have a nice glass of scotch without it giving me a massive headache.

I can’t always have all the things I want. But I want them anyway. And sometimes, I expect them. Which, if I look at that another way, can seem like I’m saying that I am entitled to have those things. And an attitude of entitlement is gross.

So, is the answer to never want anything? Or to wander around like Eeyore expecting life to generally suck? No. It’s finding that beautiful middle ground. It’s about living in a place of contentment, where what you have is enough, and your expectations are humble – so you are pleased when things are going well and only slightly ruffled when they are not. It’s riding that wave of life with gratitude, rather than fighting with the tides because you’d prefer if the ocean was a puddle.

Let’s stop thinking the world owes us something, let’s work hard but let go of the emotional attachment to the outcome, let’s be kind without looking to get something in return. Suddenly, 99% of what happens is a joyful surprise.

And that is a really happy thing.

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The art of stealing: books I loved while writing mine


Since my book was published, I’ve been getting a lot of book-ish questions.

I was recently giving a talk to writing students and they asked me what I like to read, and what I think writers should be reading. I found myself saying, “I think it’s important to read great work and then steal it.”

I quickly backtracked – okay, I’m not encouraging you to ‘steal’ as in ‘plagiarize.’ I mean steal like…borrow another author’s voice and try it on. See what it looks like with your own spin. A voice is just like a dress, it’s not going to look the same on me as it does on Heidi Klum. But learning how writers we admire use words and tone, and then seeing what that looks like when reflected through our own unique lens, can be really beneficial.

This doesn’t just apply to writing. Inspiration about how to live well and work better is all around us – it can come from anywhere. We get to observe the world around us and decide what aspects we want (or really don’t want) in our own lives.

Here are some books that inspired me while I was writing my book.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

I love to read anything and everything from this man. I attended his reading once, so it’s fantastic to hear his cadence in my head as I read his books and New Yorker articles. His attention to detail and ability to find side-stitching humor in mundane circumstances delights my soul. Because of this book, my book got funnier.

Stories I Only Tell My Friends – Rob Lowe

Hands down the best celebrity memoir I’ve ever read. He tells great stories and is honest and I loved it. I found it interesting that he was able to stay throughly engaged in the actor’s life – something I personally was not able to do. It’s the perfect example of people needing to pursue their bliss – whatever that is. Because of this book, my book got more candid.

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

This one is a classic for me and I reread it often. The characters are what bring me back. They are developed and flawed and confusing. They are real to me. I wonder about how they are doing now. Because of this book, my book got more interesting characters.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

This was my first Murakami book and I freaked out over it. It was so strange. I’ve always been worried about fitting in and being seen as “normal” and this book was wacky and totally okay with it. Such a fun, crazy read. Because of this book, my book got a little weirder.

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I fell madly in love with this one. The detail of the narrative was exquisite and I felt every detail of that world in all five senses. It was all so vivid to me that I still miss that world, and I have an enduring literary crush on Theo, the main character. Because of this book, my book got more detailed.

Liz Gilbert – TED Talks

“Liz Gilbert is your spirit animal” – my husband.

When I was writing, I read The Signature of All Things, which was beautiful, but it was really her talks that got me. Her TED Talk on creativity broke my world open. I think every writer/artist/creative soul should watch Your elusive creative genius.

Still Writing – Dani Shapiro

A lovely little book about writing, meditation and presence. Some of my favorite things. My writing process got more easeful, as I remembered to breathe through the challenging parts and remember that it’s all part of the bigger picture. Because of this book, my book got more spiritually connected.

On Writing – Stephen King

One of my very favorite books about writing. Part practical instruction, part memoir, this book ignites my soul on those days when sitting down in front of the computer feels too painful to even contemplate. Because of this book, my book got done.

We are constantly evolving and changing as human beings, whether you are a writer or a painter or a dental hygienist. It’s a wonderful thing to keep reassessing what you want for yourself and your work – because that is always in flux. That’s the beautiful thing about life – we get to start over, every day, and decide who we want to be.

Books are an incredible way to explore your options, and the world…and you don’t even have to leave your couch.


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Embrace your weird

Me. At my wedding.

Me. At my wedding.

I’ve always felt like I was weird.

I’m goofy and dorky and awkward. I make faces like that when I’m supposed to be a composed bride.

Sometimes people stare at me. There is pointing. And whispering.

I didn’t go to school the way most other people did. I had different experiences and I didn’t know things that other people knew about. I didn’t know how to play hopscotch or jacks, I knew how to play poker and craps – those were the kinds of games we played on set.

I was super insecure about that. I liked my job as an actor, I enjoyed working, but I also felt ashamed because it made me different.

I felt like I’d never fit in anywhere.

But I’ve realized that the vast majority of people feel like they are different for one reason or another. They think that they don’t fit in. That they have to hide something about themselves, so that other people will accept them.

But the problem with that fear is that it isolates us and keeps us in situations that stifle our talent and true purpose.

That thing that makes us feel weird is actually really important. That thing can make us powerful. Because if we can learn to embrace that, we can do anything. If we embrace our weirdness, we can be our true selves and bring our own unique perspective and experience to the world.

Hiding and feeling ashamed just doesn’t work. The desperate desire to fit in only makes us invisible.

I was always terrified to share my writing because I was worried that people would tell me that I sucked…and I didn’t know if I could recover from that. But I realized that I’d never be happy if I didn’t at least attempt thing I was most passionate about. It got to the point where it was more painful to stifle what I loved, than it was to be criticized for it.

After I started this blog — that really scary thing actually happened. There were some people who told me I sucked. Anonymous Huffington Post commenters said all the terrible things I worried people would say, that I was washed up and irrelevant and a bad writer and it made me cry and feel miserable.

It felt like a punch in the face.

But it didn’t kill me.

Because, actually, it didn’t matter what they thought of me. There are plenty of other things those people can read on the internet. There are lots of things about cats wearing sunglasses and endless Buzzfeed lists — and I hope they enjoy those more than my work. Eventually, I stopped crying and went back to my desk and I wrote more. Because my job is to write. Because it’s none of my business what those other people think about me – it matters most what I think about me.

That’s what happens when you embrace your weird.

When you get comfortable with your weird, then you no longer feel the need to pick on someone else for theirs.

In embracing my weird, I wrote my book. I started giving talks at colleges, high schools and conferences. I brought to light everything that I was once ashamed of. I talked about how I never graduated from high school, that characters in books were my best friends, that I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks.

I’ve gotten to the point where I would rather fail than quit – and that’s when cool things become possible.


(By the way, this is pretty much what I talk about when I do workshops and talks. If you think your school/conference/company might want to hear more about embracing your weird – contact me – LisaJakub108@gmail.com)
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Fighting the demons: typos

The missing the: just one of the many typos in my book

I started acting when I was four years old and by the time I was five, directors had nicknamed me “One Take Jake” because I tended to be well-prepared and didn’t usually need more than one take. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get in there and get it done. Get the shot. Nail it the first time.

But this means I give myself very little wiggle room when it comes to making mistakes.

I could not be more thrilled that my book is being published, and the day it went to print was overwhelming/exciting/terrifying. Then, a few days later, I started recording the audio book. In recording the audiobook and reading each one of my words out loud – I came face to face with my demons.


I found typos.

I had read through the final version of my book at least four times, but some typos got through. My husband read it, but some typos got through. My publisher’s editor and proofreader read it, but some typos got through.

How have I dealt with this discovery of typos?

I decided I didn’t want to publish my book anymore.

I decided I didn’t deserve to call myself a writer.

I decided that the years of hard work that I put into this were worthless because the book is completely ruined.

I’ve been essentially having a temper tantrum, like a toddler who dropped her ice cream cone. I’m frustrated that I didn’t catch these typos and I’m worried that readers will think I’m dumb. I want to run and hide in shame. But there is nothing I can do about these typos – the book is printed. If we do another printing, we can fix them, but there is simply nothing else to be done about it.

That’s the thing about life. We can’t always go back and fix our mistakes. Sometimes we just have to surrender to whatever it is, even if that means accepting that we are disappointed. But being disappointed is not going to kill us.

The Serenity Prayer might be cliché at this point, but it is so very valid. I just make a slight edit to it:

God grant me the serenity to accept the [typos] I cannot change; the courage to change the [typos] I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

I have a hard time accepting the perfectionist label for  myself because I don’t feel the need to be perfect all the time. I don’t care about my hair or makeup or clothes, I don’t care if my house looks like the Pottery Barn catalogue or if I have whatever thing is the cool thing. But I do care about my work. It’s the thing that I feel most vulnerable about. It is an expression of my soul, and apparently, I want it to seem perfect.

Brené Brown talks a lot about perfectionism. It is essentially the idea that if you are perfect and have everything under control all the time, that you will escape criticism, blame and ridicule. It’s a shield that we carry around, thinking that it will protect us. But all that shield does is weigh us down and keep us from really being seen. It doesn’t protect us from suffering at all, it just masks our authentic selves. It’s different from healthy striving, which is internally focused – perfectionism is driven by the fear of what other people will think.

It’s pretty clear which of these I’m dealing with.

I have caused myself a massive amount of suffering over these damn typos. My perfectionism is causing pain, not protecting me from it. And when I look around me, there is not a single person in my life that I love because they are “perfect.” There is no one I respect more because they seem to do everything right. If anything, the people I love and respect are the ones that screw up and laugh it off, the ones who do things in a way that works for them, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

So, of course, I’m still going to publish the book. It just has some mistakes in it. I tried my best, but I’m not perfect. I’m not One Take Jake anymore. I’m just me. I’m messy and I’m whatever is the opposite of a Grammar Nazi (a bunny rabbit who takes creative license?) and I don’t write perfect, typo-free sentences. I write sentences that are full of life and passion and sometimes an extra word gets thrown in with all that excitement, or I forget to add an article. And although I do know the difference between chose and choose – that one got by me, too.

I hope you enjoy the book, anyway. Because typos and all – it’s just me.


If you want to know more about Brené Brown’s work, check out The Gifts of Imperfection. I reread it in two days during my Typo Breakdown Spiritual Awakening.

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The curing of a sleepwalker: hypnosis, trust and a pretty fish

The sharp click of the breaker box was what woke me up.

As my eyes came into focus, I snatched my hands away from the fuses and looked in horror as I wondered which ones I’d already flipped in my sleepy panic.

I was in my garage. And I was sleepwalking again.

Being a chronic sleepwalker is truly bizarre. Sleepwalking has a distinct undead quality. You wander around in a subconscious fog, unaware of surroundings but somehow functioning, albeit on a low level. Being in this limbo between sleep and wake feels both fascinating and terrifying. If you can get a little distance from it, it’s pretty damn funny. It’d be even funnier if it were not an offshoot of my anxiety and panic attacks.

I’ve been sleepwalking since I was a child. It’s something most people grow out of, but I never did. I’ve walked out of my house, I’ve wandered around like a creepy little zombie while staying at other people’s houses, I’ve rearranged everything in my kitchen and have written myself desperately important notes – like “salad dressing singing.” I walked out of my dorm room when I was studying for a summer at Oxford, franticly stumbling around the ancient halls like the ghost of Percy Shelley.

But eventually, the whole thing became less of an amusing quirk and more like it could lead to my unintentional death. My sleepwalking could be more appropriately called sleep running. Which, thanks to my inherent clumsiness and the fact that I’m not actually conscious, often means that I fall down. Falling down stairs and playing with electricity while in a undead state is just not good.

When my grandmother noticed the bruises on my arm, I explained that I had fallen down the stairs again while sleepwalking. She nodded knowingly; sleepwalking is a family trait. My grandma reported that her twin sisters used to sleepwalk — together. (Yeah. I thought of The Shining, too.)

“You should try hypnosis,” my Grandma said.

I had been to many doctors, who all claimed that sleepwalking is only manageable with drugs. The idea of knocking myself into oblivion every night didn’t sound appealing. Also unappealing is the way comedian Mike Birbiglia deals with it, which involves a highly restrictive sleeping bag and wearing mittens so he can’t undo the zipper.

But I had never been hypnotized before, and it sounded…out of control. It sounded like handing over my subconscious to be splayed open for judgment and manipulation, while I napped.

My poor, sleep deprived husband was building elaborate structures with chairs and sheets, topped with precariously placed bells, in his attempt to safely cage me in our bedroom. I still escaped every night like a sleepy Houdini. Something needed to change.

I went to a hypnotist who came highly recommended and was not one of those people who had a neon hand flashing in the window. Her office had a large bowl with one of those beautiful Siamese fighting fish in it, something that I found inexplicably comforting. It seemed to indicate permanence. Who would abscond in the night after training my brain to cluck like a chicken at the mention of the word “eggs” – if they had a fancy fish to care for? Fish are not easily transported, and who would leave a nice-looking fish like that to die of starvation?

The fish convinced me.

When I explained my almost-nightly routine, along with the graphic and detailed nightmares that involved violent acts with much blood and torment, she said,

“Okay, this session, we’ll get to know each other, because I can’t hypnotise you if you don’t trust me. Next time we’ll go into deep trace, then we’ll have one last clean up session.”

“That’s it?” I asked. She was so calm and confident and didn’t seem unnerved by my 30 years of undead behavior at all.

“Well, trance is difficult and exhausting work. But yes, three sessions ought to take care of it.”

Know what else is exhausting? Waking your husband up with your screaming twice a night. That’s tiring, too. For a couple of people.

I decided to trust her.

Hypnosis is strange. It feels like being half-awake, like in those moments right before you fall asleep. I remember everything that went on. I never felt out of control or scared. I saw some really wild stuff way down there in my subconscious. Memories and thoughts and images float around. I told stories about things I hadn’t thought about in years. I saw scenes play out that and I have no idea what they were. Was it all just my imagination? What is imagination, anyway? She walked me through my own brain, told me to visualize things and categorize them in my mind.

And since my sessions with her, four years ago, I’m pretty much cured. I’ve had a couple of relapses, which were largely margarita-induced.

Even after all this time, I can’t really explain why it worked. Even though I don’t run screaming through my house anymore, I still think of myself as a sleepwalker. It’s kind of like being an alcoholic, you always hold on to that label of yourself.

It’s strange to realize that you don’t always know what is going on in your own mind. It’s scary to admit that you don’t totally understand. But eventually, you might need to surrender a little control and trust someone who is worthy of your trust. Sometimes you can find help in unusual places, and sometimes when you get there, there’s a really nice fish.


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You Look Like That Girl: Goodreads giveaway!

I’m giving away five Advanced Reader Copies of my memoir – enter to win at Goodreads. (And friend me while you are there, so we can talk about books!)
Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You Look Like That Girl by Lisa Jakub

You Look Like That Girl

by Lisa Jakub

Giveaway ends June 07, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to Win