Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Going Back in Time with Juliet Madison...plus a giveaway

Juliet Madison doesn't need an introduction these days. She's practically family now! She last visited us for International Chick Lit Month. We're so glad to have her back to kick off Nostalgia Month by taking about her favorite movies from the 80s! She is also doing a totally rad giveaway with her blog tour. You can win a bracelet from Mantraband and one of Juliet's e-books! Her latest novel, Haunted Ever After (which has a bit of "dirty dancing" in it), is included!

Visit Juliet at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

My Top Ten 80s Movies

They just don’t make movies like they used to! Movies from the 1980s have a special place in my heart as they bring back so many memories. Here are my Top 10 faves and why I love them, in as much order as I could manage – it’s so hard to choose!

1. Dirty Dancing
Ahh… Best. Movie. Ever. It has it all: forbidden love, dancing, great characters, memorable music, intimate setting, and watermelons. I still want to learn the trademark dance routine and lift one day, it’s on the bucket list.

He's hot, but he's not Johnny!
2. Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Another dance movie. Can you tell I like dancing? As a young dance lover this movie was like candy to me. Sarah Jessica Parker will always be Janey to me. And my fave line at the end of the movie: “Let’s do it.” (translation: let’s dance and win this contest).

3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Anyone else love this movie? Anyone? Anyone? ;) I think I still know the script by heart. What teen didn’t dream of having a really awesome fun day off school? What I love about this movie is Ferris’s philosophical words of wisdom, especially: “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

4. The Breakfast Club
This movie really inspired me as a writer, because it’s a great example of powerful dialogue. Most of the movie is set in the same room with a bunch of talking heads. But it is so compelling and entertaining.

5. The Lost Boys
Another movie I’ve memorized. My friends and I used to watch this repeatedly at our slumber parties, it will always be the best vampire movie to me.

6. Sixteen Candles
Your family forgets your sweet sixteenth birthday? Devastating! This movie epitomizes the best of 80’s flicks – teased hair, school politics, nerds versus jocks, and teenage angst. And that ending when her wish came true – swoon.

7. Peggy Sue Got Married
This may have subconsciously inspired my first novel, Fast Forward, as I love time travel stories and do-overs.

8. Back to the Future
Another time travel classic, great plot and characters, and fast-paced action. But… where’s my hoverboard?

9. Footloose
Gotta love a rebel character, and one who can dance at that. My fave scene is Kevin Bacon’s anger-fuelled dance in the warehouse. Swinging from all those pipes and stuff – cool!

10. Flashdance
Any movie about someone going for their dance dreams wins me over. And who could resist that final dance scene in the audition when she gives the judges a show to remember?

I often use movies as inspiration for my writing, and looking back over my fave 80’s movies is it any wonder I grew up to write romantic comedies and emotional romances with elements such as time travel, birthday wishes, dance scenes, clubs, and friendship? ;)

Mixing romance, humour and a sparkle of magic, Juliet Madison is back with a new full-length novel about a bride-to-be, a mystery and the stripper next door.
When bride-to-be Sally Marsh attends a weekend away with her bridesmaids, the last thing she expects is an uninvited guest: the ghost of her fiancé's ex-girlfriend.
Red is quirky, loud and distracting, and Sally is soon desperate to find the reason behind her presence, so she can rid herself of her embarrassing shadow before the wedding day. Unfortunately, the ghost is reluctant to share the reason for her existence, but very enthusiastic about Ty, the surprise hen’s night stripper who keeps showing up at awkward moments.
Time is running out for Sally, but it’s also running out for Red. By the time all is revealed, Sally will be tested to the limits, and go above and beyond everything she’s ever believed in order to ensure not only her own happy-ever-after – but Red’s as well.

BUY NOW from Escape Publishing or via the links below:

Thanks to Juliet for the trip down memory lane and for this awesome giveaway:

Win a bracelet of your choice from Mantraband worth $25, and one ebook of your choice by Juliet Madison. (Use the Rafflecopter to enter.) In addition, US readers can tell us their favorite 80s movie(s) for a chance to win a surprise 80s DVD! (One entry per person, contact info MUST be included, Google + not counted.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bracelet and e-book giveaway open worldwide and ends September 15th.
Surprise 80s DVD giveaway US only and ends September 7th at midnight EST.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: Astonish Me

By Melissa Patafio

As a ballet dancer, I was excited and intrigued to read Astonish Me, the latest from author Maggie Shipstead. The story is about a young dancer, Joan, in New York who helps a world famous male dancer, Arslan, defect from Soviet Russia in 1975. From there the plot takes many twists and turns as Joan tries to navigate a world in which she knows she will never be a prima ballerina, nor will she ever get Arslan to ever fully commit to her.

When Joan’s world is turned upside down, she has to make choices that will haunt her forever and leave her wondering what could have been if she had taken a different path.

Maggie Shipstead’s writing is new to me. I have not read her other well known novel, Seating Arrangements, and I am glad I gave Astonish Me a chance. You don’t have to be well versed on the ins and outs of ballet to appreciate this one. There is so much drama and heartfelt emotion in the story and I loved every page of it. From the suspense of the night Joan helped Arslan defect to the regret she has later on about keeping secrets, this book was packed with life.

While there are some serious moments and I sometimes wanted to shake Joan and ask her what she was thinking, the story is very well written and Shipstead brings a certain rawness to Joan that makes her lovable. While some may see her as ‘cold’, it is clear that Joan has been taught to harden her heart to eliminate the possibility of feeling pain.

Anyone looking to branch out a little from the stereotypical “Chick Lit”, this is a great place to start.

Thanks to Knopf for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

On the "Road" to Reinvention with Claire Cook...plus a book giveaway

It was Thanksgiving 2010.  I couldn't sleep because I had a million things on my mind.  Most of them revolved around where my life was (or for that matter, wasn't) going.  In lieu of sleep, I went into my kitchen to get something to eat while I figured out a solution to my immediate issue - insomnia.  Within moments of entering my kitchen I decided I needed to create a map of where I wanted my life to go and before I knew it my kitchen walls were covered with what I now fondly refer to as "my life road map."

It's now almost four years later and I have stopped following that road map as religiously as I did in the beginning, however it doesn't mean I don't still have some kind of structure that guides me where I wish to take my life.

Today's Chick Lit Central guest, Claire Cook, is also a supporter of having a "roadmap" to take your life in the direction you want it to go.  It is for this reason she is her to celebrate the release of her first non-fiction book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention. She even has one signed and personalized copy to give away! (US/Canada only.) And as a FREE gift to all readers, if you sign up for her newsletter, you can download the Never Too Late workbook!

Prior to writing her first novel, Claire was also a teacher for 16 years where she worked with children in preschool up to middle school.  She is also the author of the popular novels Wallflower in Bloom, Time Flies and Must Love Dogs, which was adapted for the big screen in 2005. You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

So, buckle your seat belt and get ready for the ride of your life with Claire Cook!

After writing so many novels, why did you journey into non-fiction writing?
In all eleven of my novels, reinvention is essentially the theme—the heroine is stuck in some way and has to reinvent her life to get unstuck. I wrote my first book in my minivan when I was 45 and walked the red carpet of the Hollywood premiere of the film adaptation of my novel, Must Love Dogs, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack at 50, so reinvention is also the story of my own life. Because of that, it has always been the thing readers want to hear about when I'm on book tour, and I've also spoken about reinvention at conferences and festivals internationally.

So it was a pretty natural progression to this book. At one point it just hit me that even if I traveled and traveled, I wouldn't get to meet everybody who needs some encouragement in person, so I decided it was time to share everything I've learned on my own journey might help other women in theirs.

In Never Too Late, I share my own stories, successes and failures, as well as those of other women who have reinvented their lives, plus tips for digging up your buried dream, finally figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, getting a plan, staying on track, pulling together a support system, building your platform in the age of social networking, dealing with fear and the inevitable ups and downs, overcoming perfectionism, and tuning into your authentic self to propel you toward your goals. I also tell the story of how the Must Love Dogs movie really happened as well as the story of my journey to becoming a hybrid author.

This book was such a labor of love for me, and the response has been amazing. Never Too Late is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Women's Personal Growth, and I'm getting tons of email from women saying how it has inspired them and also given them the kick they needed. So I'm really glad I decided to write it!

Which part of non-fiction writing did you struggle with the most and which part did you find the easiest?
I didn't really struggle. I went into it wanting to help other women, so that's what I focused on. When I started writing it, I figured if it didn't feel right, I could always turn it into a blog post and write another novel. But it took on a life of its own right away, so I just kept writing. The interesting thing is that everybody is telling me Never Too Late reads just like a novel, so maybe that's why it felt so natural.

Why the term “Roadmap?"
If there were a secret to personal success, we'd all be following it. But the truth is that nobody really knows how to achieve it. What works for you might not work for me. What works tomorrow might not work the next year, or even the next day. If it were easy to be successful, we'd all be doing it. So you have to create your own roadmap. You have to designate your starting point, figure out your destination, work around the inevitable potholes and traffic jams. It's a huge leap of faith. It's a ton of work. But it feels awesome when you get there.

What is the life lesson you hold dearest to your heart?
"It's never too late to be what you might have been." It's my favorite George Eliot quote and it inspired the title of my new book. And it's just so true! Back when I was afraid to go after my lifelong dream of writing a novel, I wish I'd known that. So if you're reading this now and wondering if it's too late for you to do what you've always wanted to do, take it from me, it's not!

What do you want your legacy to be?
I brought two amazing kids-turned-adults into the world. My twelve books—and counting—have been translated into fourteen languages and read by women all over the world. I think that's a pretty good legacy!

If I had 24 hours to do anything I wanted (money isn't an issue), I'd:
Do exactly what I'm doing. That's how you know you've found the thing you were born to do!

Thanks to Claire for the new lease on life and for sharing her book with our readers!

~Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

How to win:  Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends September 3rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reader Spotlight: First a reader, then a writer

This year, we're doing "Reader Spotlight" posts on a bi-weekly basis. We want to feature readers who have been actively following CLC for a while. We're hoping you can get to know some new friends this way. One of the joys of having CLC is that readers have connected with each other, as a result. That's one of the reasons it was started up in the first place...to bring chick lit fans together from all over the world! We've made some amazing friends because of this blog and we hope you'll get to do so too!

If you'd like to be spotlighted sometime this year, please contact us.

See our previous Reader Spotlight posts.

Note from Melissa A: When Gail approached me about participating in the reader spotlight, I had no idea she was also an author. By the time she got back with her answers and mentioned her debut novel, I didn't want to begrudge her the opportunity to participate because as she said: "I've only written one book, but I've read thousands! I guess I would say I'm a reader first!" 

Name: Gail Ward Olmsted
Age (or age range): In my 50's
Location: Western Massachusetts

How did you find Chick Lit Central?
I found Chick Lit Central on Facebook when trying to figure out how to promote my new novel, JEEP TOUR.

What are your top FIVE favorite chick lit novels of all time?
The Wildwater Walking Club, The Sock Wars, Blame it on the Fame, The List Trilogy and Summerland.

What do you do when you're not reading?
When I'm not reading, I am writing or teaching or hanging out with my family and friends or traveling someplace fun. Find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Book Review: One Plus One

By Melissa Amster

This past spring, I had my first experience with a Jojo Moyes novel. Everyone had been recommending Me Before You, so I finally picked it up and then completely devoured it (see my review). So when I was given the opportunity to review her latest novel, One Plus One, I had some high expectations in place. I'm glad to say that Jojo surpassed these expectations...and then some!

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied, and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight in shining armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages...maybe ever. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Right from the beginning, I was completely drawn into the story. The characters were so compelling and I love that it shifted between viewpoints, even giving us access to Tanzie (math whiz) and Nicky's (teenage stepson) minds. Jess's life seems like a total mess in the beginning, but she's tough and I love that about her. And Ed just seems more human than Jess is initially willing to give him credit for. It's easy to get emotionally invested in the lives of all the characters and feel their highs and lows. The dialogue and interactions are genuine and fit really well into the concept of the story.

The only thing I had trouble with was that the timing of events became confusing since there was so much going on during each day. There also seemed to be an excess of vomit during the road trip, which was unsettling to visualize.

One Plus One was a memorable story that was incredibly hard to put down once I got going with it. I have been recommending it to everyone and will continue to do so!

I recently found out that New Line picked up the rights to adapt this fabulous novel into a movie. I hope their casting director is reading this review because I have some suggestions!

Jess: Emily Blunt
Ed: Hugh Dancy
Nicky: Jonah Bobo or Ezra Miller

Thanks to Viking (Penguin) for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jojo Moyes:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dani Atkins tells a fascinating story

Dani Atkins was at CLC last winter to talk about holidays with us, and I fell in love with her debut novel, Fractured (reviewed here), known in the US as Then and Always. Naturally, I was thrilled to find out that she had another novel coming out this summer. I'm glad to have her back here to talk more about her writing and her latest novel, The Story of Us.

Visit Dani on Facebook and Twitter.

What inspired you to write The Story of Us?
I wanted to write a book which touched on real themes which as many readers as possible could relate to. Although at its core there lies a romance and a love triangle, The Story of Us is every bit as much about the love that ties you strongly to both your family and your friends. I wanted to write a story where these ties are pulled and tested, by tragedy and betrayal, and where brave, bold and life changing decisions have to be made between your head and your heart.

Which authors were role models for you when you started out?
It might be a little surprising for someone who is writing in the genre of women’s fiction, but one of my literary role models is most definitely Stephen King, who I feel is one of the greatest storytellers of all time. I read my first of his books thirty years ago, and was instantly hooked by his astounding ability to breathe life into every character, even minor ones, while never losing pace in his narrative.

And, for his ability to tell wonderful stories of enduring love, often against the odds, without necessarily ending with everyone “living happily ever after”, I have always been drawn to and inspired by the novels of Nicholas Sparks.

In one sentence, tell us what the road to publishing was like for you.
To borrow the title of a famous Beatles song it was most definitely The Long and Winding Road! But like all journeys that take a little longer than you would have liked, it was definitely worth it in the end.

If The Story of Us were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
This is an easy one to answer, because all the way through writing the book I already had a particular actor in my head for the character of Jack, and that was Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide in True Blood, who I think is quite possibly the fittest man on the big screen or small at the moment. For the role of Richard, I can see a young Aaron Eckhart, and for Emma – and not just because they share the same name – I would cast Emma Stone. (By the way this was a fun question to answer – I wish it was for real!)

What is the best compliment you received about your writing or books?
I have been very fortunate and have received many lovely compliments from readers via reviews for Fractured and also for The Story of Us. I think the one that sticks in my mind was paid to me only recently when a reader wrote: “I always feel sorry for the book you read AFTER you read a book as good as this, because it simply can't match up.” That is truly humbling.

What is your theme song?
I actually don’t think I have a single song as my own personal theme. There are songs which are themes for certain areas of my life: Even Now by Barry Manilow (no judging now) for my relationship with my husband and In Your Eyes by George Benson for my role as a mother. Something that does most definitely have a theme song is The Story of Us. I pretty much played this track on a loop when writing the book and when I hear it I can actually visualise scenes in the book being played out like a film. The song is Arms by Christina Perri.

Thanks to Dani for visiting with us again!

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cassandra Dunn wonders "What if?"...plus a book giveaway

I recently was introduced to Cassandra Dunn by Jenny O'Regan from Confessions of a Bookaholic. She shared the book on her page for a giveaway and after I commented about it, she immediately sent us an e-mail to connect us. I'm so glad she did because Cassandra is so sweet and her debut novel, The Art of Adapting, sounds intriguing. I have it in on my TBR shelf and am excited to check it out soon.

Cassandra received her MFA in creative writing from Mills College. She was a semifinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers, and a finalist for Clapboard House’s Best of the House. Her stories have appeared in All Things Girl, Midwest Literary Magazine’s Bearing North, Read Short Fiction, Literary House Review, The MacGuffin, 322 Review, Fix it Broken, Clapboard House, Every Writer’s Resource, Rougarou Fiction, and Sand Canyon Review. Aside from writing and editing, she is the mother of two girls. (Bio info from Cassandra's website.)

Today, Cassandra is here with a guest post to talk about how she came about writing her novel. Thanks to Simon and Schuster, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Visit Cassandra at her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

What If?

I started out as a nonfiction writer. The focus of my MFA was creative nonfiction, or memoir. I enjoyed writing stories about actual, believable people, about the real relationships I struggled with and learned from, my personal triumphs and failures. But there are limits to memoir. For one, if you hope to publish, the people you’re writing about have to be okay with it. Most of my immediate family knew that I used them as subjects and were fine with the notion, but I had friends and exes who I suspected might object, so I felt limited in the scope and depth of stories I could tell. I also felt like I had a finite number of tales in my arsenal, the kind of life-altering moments and connections that warranted an essay or a chapter. After devoting a piece to musing on these events, what else was there to say about that particular incident or relationship? After years of exploring my own life through memoir, I began to feel a pull toward fiction. Maybe I just needed to get my own story out of my system first, or maybe I was just practicing the craft of writing within the safety of writing what I already knew. In comparison, fiction actually felt like a challenge for me, making up characters and settings and scenarios, and making them feel as real to me as the true stories I’d been writing. I started out with short stories, taking a pivotal moment in a character’s life and embedding it in the everyday world I built around them. And as soon as I switched to writing fiction, I found what was really magical for me about fiction vs. nonfiction: the concept of what if. What if I had not left home when I did? What if I had been a boisterous and outgoing person instead of a shy and reserved one? What if I had gone right instead of left?

My debut novel, The Art of Adapting, is another what if story for me. There are elements of the story that come from my life. The story is set in northern San Diego, where I lived for five years. Lana’s new journey into single motherhood coincided with my separation from my husband. And Matt, Abby and Byron’s uncle who has Asperger’s, was inspired by my own uncle who had Asperger’s. But the similarities end there. Because this isn’t my story. This is my "what if" story. My children were rather young at the time, but what if they’d been teenagers? My career became a serious focus as I started over, but what could have filled my days if I hadn’t been looking to launch a new career? What if I’d jumped back into the dating game? What if my reclusive uncle had been taken in by someone who could have helped him stay sober, and offered him a safe space to simply be himself? Fiction is a fun way to look at all the roads I didn’t take, all of the developments that didn’t happen, all of the problems that could’ve been solved a different way. And once I give my characters their own paths, their own actions, their own self-doubts and areas of confidence, they develop into people who feel as real to me as my memoir subjects.

And that’s the real fun of fiction for me. Beyond the idea of shaping situations and characters to my own whims, there comes a time when the scenes start coming on their own, situations that can push and deepen and stretch the characters, and I’m following their lead instead of crafting it for them.

Thanks to Cassandra for visiting us today and to Simon and Schuster for the books for our giveaway.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win:  Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends September 1st at midnight EST.