Friday, May 1, 2015

What's in the mail...plus a book giveaway

Melissa A:

Good Girl by Sarah Tomlinson from
Reading with Robin

The Canterbury Sisters by Kim Wright from Gallery Books

Melissa P:

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza from Doubleday

Becky:

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman from Ebury Press

The Dress by Kate Kerrigan from Head of Zeus

A Good Catch by Fern Britton from HarperCollins UK

Gail:

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher from St. Martin's Press

Borrow-a-Bridesmaid by Anne Wagener from Gallery Books (e-book)

The Legacy of Us by Kristin Contino from BookSparks PR (e-book)


The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft from Sourcebooks (e-book)

Jami:

What Matters Most by/from Dianne Maguire (e-book)

The Lives Between Us by/from Theresa Rizzo (e-book)

Sara:

Post Traumatic Brazilian Wax Syndrome by/from Tamara Lyon (e-book)

Help Wanted by/from Barbara Valentin
(e-book)





What could be in YOUR mail...but first a commercial break:

Before we move on to our giveaway, we first want to tell you that International Chick Lit Month starts TODAY and will be going on through May 31st. Visit the blog EVERY day to meet authors and potentially win books!

Back to our regularly scheduled giveaway...

We're featuring The Beautiful Daughters by Nicole Baart.

Nicole has two copies for readers located in the US and/or Canada!


Synopsis:

From the author of Sleeping in Eden, described as “intense and absorbing from the very first page” (Heather Gudenkauf, author of The Weight of Silence), comes a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.

Adrienne Vogt and Harper Penny were closer than sisters, until the day a tragedy blew their seemingly idyllic world apart. Afraid that they got away with murder and unable to accept who they had lost—and what they had done—Harper and Adri exiled themselves from small-town Blackhawk, Iowa, and from each other. Adri ran thousands of miles away to Africa while Harper ventured down a more destructive path closer to home.

Now, five years later, both are convinced that nothing could ever coax them out of the worlds in which they’ve been living. But unexpected news from home soon pulls Adri and Harper back together, and the two cannot avoid facing their memories and guilt head-on. As they are pulled back into the tangle of their fractured relationships and the mystery of Piperhall, the sprawling estate where their lives first began to unravel, secrets and lies behind the tragic accident are laid bare. The former best friends are forced to come to terms with their shared past and search for the beauty in each other while mending the brokenness in themselves.

Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.



US/Canada only. Giveaway ends May 6th at midnight EST.

For another chance to win The Beautiful Daughters, visit Goodreads. (US only. Ends 5/12.)

Book Review: Bellamy's Redemption

By Sara Steven

The opening scene in Bellamy’s Redemption reminds me of a typical Monday evening at my house. Sitting in front of the television, eagerly anticipating the drama and chaos that will ensue when The Bachelor broadcasts. I’m sure that's why I was undeniably hooked just a few pages in while reading "Bellamy." In fact, much of this novel made me feel as though I was getting a behind-the-scenes look at what really goes on when dealing with reality television.

Emma Van Elson, the sweet and kooky female lead, is just as hooked as I am. She’s waiting to see who Alanna Rutherford will choose for her husband, on a show quite similar to The Bachelor. When Alanna doesn’t pick the man of everyone’s dreams, Bellamy Timberfrost, it feels as if the whole nation, including Emma, has let out a collective gasp. What was Alanna thinking?

Bellamy now has the chance to seek out love in front of millions of viewers on his own show, “Bellamy’s Redemption”. Emma has to get on the show. She’s never met Bellamy, but she has to discover if he’s just as dreamy in person as he is on the small screen. Emma has complete and total tunnel vision, even blocking out a potential love interest who lives just down the hall from her in her apartment building, all in the name of romance.

The road to romance is never easy. Emma is up against some fierce competition when she is accepted onto the show. It seems as though all the other women are gorgeous and much better suited for Bellamy, although the majority of them don’t seem to be there for the “right” reasons. And, where do Emma’s loyalties lie, anyway? While she’s finding herself becoming more and more infatuated with Bellamy, she can’t seem to get her hunky neighbor out of her head. Is she getting sucked into the limelight, or is Bellamy the one for her?

"Bellamy" was absolute fun from start to finish. I loved the catty scenes with the other female contestants, including a surprise guest that no one saw coming, throwing a huge wrench into Emma’s plans. What I also appreciated: the blindsides. Many times I’ve had an inkling as to which direction a book was headed, but "Bellamy" is an absolute surprise. It keeps you guessing, all the way through.

Thanks to Holly Tierney-Bedord for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jen Lancaster is no longer "bitter"....plus a book giveaway

It’s not a secret – I LOVE Jen Lancaster. Even before I ever read one of her books, I could tell from reading her blog she was my kind of person. Funny in a snarky way, isn’t afraid to call out the elephant in the room, and painfully direct. But what I didn’t get from her blog that you immediately find out once you meet her in real life, is that she is one of the nicest people ever. So nice you don’t know why the hell you ever thought you thought she was one of those “mean girls” you did everything possible to avoid in the halls in high school – maybe it has something to do with the snarky and direct nature of her writing.

Since I’ve interviewed Jen before, I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to ask her this time around. So I did something I never thought I would do...I asked her what interview questions I should ask her. Yep, that’s right. In an interviewing first, I asked my interviewee what I should ask them. It happened at a recent book event of hers that I attended and figured since we were chatting maybe she could give me a clue, or two, since I had none of my own. Note: The questions below are not a result of that direct question. But it was fun channeling my “inner direct Jen” for just a brief moment, nonetheless.


If you'd like to connect with Jen or just need a good laugh, visit her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter

**Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies of Jen's latest book,  I Regret Nothing, for some lucky US readers!**


It's been nine years since your first book, Bitter is the New Black was published. How has your writing process evolved since that first book? How has it stayed the same?
Nine years seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?

In terms of process and change, I’ve definitely improved my technical skills. When I look back at parts of "Bitter," I cringe. There’s so much I’d fix if I could, e.g. I’d stop using the same words over and over again. (BUY A THESAURUS, 2005 SELF.)

That being said, "Bitter" was definitely the most organic book. I wrote this with no regard for proper structure and long before there were ever any expectations/sales plans/marketing strategies, etc. (NEXT TIME, GOOGLE THAT SHIT, 2005 SELF.)

Looking back, I realize exaggerated my bad behavior at the beginning of the book, inadvertently turning myself into a caricature. So, people read "Bitter" and came away with an impression of me that wasn’t 100% genuine. Really, it’s like 80 - 85%, as I’ve always been more empathetic/nicer than I portray. (I AM NICE, DAMN IT, WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE ME?)

Subsequently, now when I paint an accurate picture, I get a lot of snarky Facebook comments saying, “You’ve changed,” and that kind of makes me want to kick a lung out of someone.

Okay, fine. I am mostly nice.

Anyway, my work is much more personal in later books, more introspective, and I definitely enjoy the writing process to a greater extent, having done it so many times. In terms of professional skills, I definitely have a better grasp on time management and deadlines, while paying closer attention to showing and not telling. Though I can likely never recapture the whole let’s-throw-everything-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks parts of "Bitter" (coincidentally what makes me now cringe), I understand these imperfections are what people appreciated.

tl;dr: I’m a work in progress.

What is the most valuable lesson you've learned about the publishing industry?
Publishing is a business and profits and losses are as important as the art. Yes, many writers strive to pen legitimate literature, crafting the kind of prose that high school kids will complain about reading one hundred years from now, not caring if a single copy sells, as having created is its own reward.

For me? I kind of like to buy things, so I hope my work sells.

I’m happy to write light, entertaining stories, even if that means I’ll never be reviewed by the NYT. (At least in a flattering manner.) And hey, that’s cool, because I believe there’s nothing thing wrong with aiming for commercial success. In fact, publishers quite like that. For example, while I’m personally not a fan of the "50 Shades" series, I have such an appreciation what that book did for Random House. Every single employee received a "50 Shades"-based $5000 holiday bonus the year the books came out, from the publisher down to the guys in the mailroom. The success of "50 Shades" allowed Random House to gamble on a lot of unknown authors, which may introduce us to the next Faulkner or Hemingway or Steinbeck, or whomever else high school kids will bitch about reading in the next century. And if my silly stories help pave the way for the kind of authors who’ll create a legacy? All the better.

If you had a chance to go back and rewrite one of your books, which one would you choose and why?
You’d think "Bitter," but actually it’s If You Were Here. This love letter to John Hughes was my first novel. I figured the easiest way to bridge the gap between memoir and novel was to create doppelgangers for Fletch and me, particularly since he and I had just moved to the suburbs, exactly like the characters Mac and Mia. The thing is, after those two got to the suburbs, their story diverged greatly from our own as ours was drama-free. (Which is a nice way to live, but lousy in terms of creating conflict.)

Because we bore such a striking resemblance, the memoir-readers were confused. I was unaware of how frustrating this blurred line could be until I read Bethenny Frankel’s novel and I couldn’t figure out what was fact and what was fantasy. Since then, I’ve worked hard to separate my life and my characters’ lives.

Still, sometimes my characters still sound like me, largely because I’ve created them. And I think that’s okay.

If you were to interview yourself, what is the first question you'd ask yourself? What is the answer to that question?
I’d ask what people don’t know about me, and the answer is that I have an almost pathological need to please others. (See? No one got this impression from "Bitter," yet it’s always been true.) I have a hard time not being everyone’s dancing monkey. I struggle with saying no because I don’t want to let folks down, even when it’s to my own detriment. I’m getting a lot better at saying, “Sorry, that doesn’t work for me,” but it’s so against my kiss-ass-cheesedog-suck-up nature.

Superstitions - A bunch of garbage or totally real? Why do you feel this way?
I want to say I’m not terribly superstitious, but that’s likely untrue. I don’t fret about black cats or Friday the 13th, but sometimes I have trouble celebrating what’s going well because I’m always afraid that by doing so, I’ll jinx it.

Which is essentially crazy.

I learned that this is a symptom of anxiety and the way to combat it is to keep a running list of things for which I’m grateful. Easier said than done, but I do try.

My all time favorite TV show is:
Really, this depends on my mood, but I desperately and consistently love Arrested Development, Veronica Mars, and Mad Men. I have such an appreciation for shows that reward viewers for paying attention; good writing conquers all.

Thanks to Jen for chatting with us and to Penguin Random House 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. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


US only. Giveaway ends May 5th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: The Balance Project

By Melissa Amster

If you think I have it all together. I guess I'm a really good actress and should be making an Oscar acceptance speech right about now. The fact of the matter is, as I said in my Balance Project interview with Susie Schall last autumn: "Having it all is overrated. Something has to give in some area of life." I also mentioned wishing that Mary Poppins would come over and snap her fingers so that my home would be organized. However, it's not just my home. My inboxes for my various e-mail accounts are overflowing and I can barely stay focused unless I have a to-do list or send myself constant reminders. So while it may look like I can balance a full-time job, three kids, and a book blog, I am just doing well at making it look easier than it truly is. For that reason alone, I could relate to The Balance Project and even sympathize with Katherine, who was made to be an antagonist at times.

Loyal assistant Lucy Cooper works for Katherine Whitney, who seems to have it all: a high-powered job at a multi-billion-dollar health and wellness lifestyle company, a successful husband, and two adorable daughters. Now, with the release of her book on work-life balance, Katherine has become a media darling and a hero to working women everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and Lucy is the one holding it all together, causing her own life—and relationship with her boyfriend Nick—to suffer. When Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy must decide whether to change Katherine’s life forever or continue being her main champion. Her choice will affect the trajectory of both of their lives and lead to opportunities neither one could have imagined. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Initially, The Balance Project felt like the 2015 version of The Devil Wears Prada, in which a 20-something woman becomes an assistant to a demanding boss and ends up managing their life outside of anything career-related (such as picking up their dry cleaning, babysitting, etc.). Unlike Andrea, who is trying to get her foot in the door to a better career and doesn't hide her distaste for Miranda, Lucy is happy to work for Katherine and has a friendly working connection with her. She likes feeling needed and doesn't consider her own career until other people push her to see otherwise. I could relate to Lucy on that end, in terms of feeling loyal toward her boss instead of getting a job in her career field.

One might think that finding balance is only for women with children. They would be wrong. Ever since reading The Balance Project, I've been encouraging my friends without kids to participate in Susie's interview series. The story allows the reader to appreciate the different facets of finding balance, whether or not someone has kids. Just like for Andrea in The Devil Wears Prada, Lucy's job takes a toll on her personal life, including her relationships with her family, friends, and especially her boyfriend. While the story wraps up neatly, there are a lot of twists and surprises along the way that kept me on my toes and made me nervous for Lucy at each turn of the page. I even got teary-eyed at the end.

Utterly compelling and impossible to put down, The Balance Project speaks volumes about how important it is for women at any stage of life to find realistic and meaningful balance. I hope every woman has a chance to read it and discusses the questions in the back of the book with their friends and/or book club.

Just like Susie did in her interview, I had some fun casting the movie version:
Lucy: Anna Kendrick
Katherine: Naomi Watts
Nick: Chris Pratt
Theo: Mike O'Malley
Ava: Emma Stone

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the book in exchange for an honest review (and blurb). 

Enter to win a copy of THE BALANCE PROJECT, along with an iPad mini and case. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Melissa Baldwin Will Never Go Out of Style...plus a special giveaway

We always enjoy featuring authors named Melissa at CLC, and our latest guest is no exception! In fact, just by reading this interview, Melissa A found all these things she has in common with her.

Melissa Baldwin graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications; she has always had a love for writing. An avid journal keeper, she fulfilled her dream with her novels, An Event To Remember . . . Or Forget and Wedding Haters. Melissa resides in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and young daughter. She is a master at organization and multi-tasking. Aside from being an author, her daily jobs include mother, chauffeur, wife, PTA President, and Fitness Trainer. When she has free time, she enjoys traveling, fitness, decorating, fashion, and taking a Disney Cruise every now and then. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter

Melissa is generously giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

How did you decide to write chick lit novels? 
I have always loved to read Chick-Lit, so it made sense to write Chick-Lit. I have tried to venture out into other genres but always find myself coming back for more. I love the drama, the fun, and those crazy situations that most of us girls have found ourselves in.


In one sentence, please share some advice for future authors.
My advice would be to write because you love it and because it makes you happy, don't try to make everyone else happy.


If your books were made into movies, who would you cast as Sienna and Madison? What about Luke, Ace, and Cole?
Since I first started writing the "Event to Remember" series I have always pictured Amy Adams cast as Sienna and Cameron Diaz as Madison. I would cast Bradley Cooper as Luke, Ryan Gosling as Ace, and Jason Bateman as Cole. On my Pinterest page, I have a board with my entire dream cast for both of my novels.


Who is your favorite celebrity named Melissa?
Probably Melissa McCarthy. She's so funny and down to earth.

If you could take us on a tour of Orlando that didn't touch on the obvious places, where would we go first?
I'm a huge Disney fan, so of course we would go there--but that's pretty obvious--as well as Universal Studios and Sea World. Otherwise we would probably go to International Drive- lots of great restaurants and entertainment.

What song do you get in your head the most often?
My eight year-old daughter is always listening to Taylor Swift, so chances are it would be one of Ms. Swift's latest hits.

Thanks to Melissa Baldwin for visiting with us and sharing a gift card with our readers.

~Interview by Melissa Amster

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Open worldwide. Giveaway ends May 3rd at midnight EST.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: Game of Scones

By Becky Gulc

‘Growing up, Pippa Pattinson’s summers were spent in the idyllic Greek island fishing village of Taxos. There she spent many long hazy days determinedly ignoring thoughts of the life her parents had mapped out for her (a dreary-but-secure accounting job and obligatory sensible husband!) Instead she daydreamed of running her own tea shop – serving the perfect scones – with mocha-eyed childhood friend Niklaus by her side…

Arriving back in Taxos for the first time in years, with suave boyfriend Henrik, Pippa barely recognises the tired little town – but is relieved to catch glimpses of the quaint, charming village she’s always loved. Together Niklaus and Pippa put together a proposal to save Taxos from tourist-tastic ruin, and at the heart of their plan is Pippa’s dream project: The Tastiest Little Tea Shop in Taxos. It’s time for Pippa to leave her London life behind and dust off her scone recipe that’s guaranteed to win over both locals and visitors. And amidst the rolling pins and raisins, it seems romance is blossoming where she’s least expecting it…’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Game of Scones is an e-book only publication from Carina Press and is Samantha’s fourth novel. This was my first introduction to Samantha’s writing and I liked the synopsis, I’m always happy to be taken on holidays through books and I do love baking too, so it sounded like a great combination!

It doesn’t take long for us to be transported to Taxos and for Pippa to be reacquainted with the Greek family she knows so well from the many summers she had spent on the island with her parents while growing up. With this being her first visit as an adult, it’s a risk that she’s become distanced from the family, but this isn’t the case at all. In fact, Pippa sees some things a lot differently in these people as an adult. This is a place with which Pippa has strong ties; she loves the island and the people on it, so this is one young woman who will fight for the future of the island when it’s threatened, even if this creates difficulties in her relationship with Henrik.

I particularly enjoyed the Greek family in this novel: Niko, his parents and the lovely Grandma (who was a great character and had a lovely relationship with Pippa). This is a very loyal and tight-knit family who you feel for when their island is under threat from unwanted development. The community spirit is also a very uplifting part of the novel, these islanders are not going to be pushovers by any means!

I perhaps would have liked more build-up in the novel before Pippa heads to Taxos, and I sometimes felt like Pippa’s internal questioning of her relationship with Henrik became a bit repetitive at times. I would have liked to see an epilogue as the ending felt a bit abrupt and I wanted to know more about what happened next, but these are small qualms overall, and maybe there will be a follow-up!

Game of Scones is an enjoyable light read with a good story and characters. The baking element of the story is also an enjoyable aspect, it doesn’t overly feature just when pertinent to the story. I certainly enjoyed the descriptions of the various types of scones Pippa makes and in fact I’m going to make some scones this afternoon! An enjoyable read for summer.

Thanks to Samantha Tonge for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Samantha Tonge:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: Office Girl

By Sara Steven

Something I’ve been struggling with lately, is my lack of a college education. I never intended to stray from the four-year plan. I wanted to be a teacher. I attended a solid community college to save money, ready to transfer to a teaching college in Nebraska when the time came. Unfortunately, a lot of chaotic life experiences got in the way, and my goal of becoming a teacher fell by the wayside.

Reading Carey RavenStar Robin’s memoir, Office Girl: A romantic comedy and true story about the terrible jobs one reader and writer suffered after majoring in English, I wonder if those chaotic life experiences may have been a blessing in disguise for me! For Carey, after majoring in English, obtaining a teaching certificate, an extra year of undergraduate credit, a paralegal certificate and 24 Master’s credits in English, she can’t seem to get a job! Not a very good one, anyway. You’d think with credentials like that she’d score something big. Instead, she’s a secretary, where she’s very much underutilized. Or a desk clerk for a motel. When she breaks into teaching, she’s barely scraping by with low-wages and non existent health care, not to mention the odd-ball coworkers who love to undermine Carey at seemingly every chance they get! With job prospects like this, who needs a career?

Things aren’t going well in Carey’s love life, either. Divorced, she’s come up with a scoring system of men she’s run into, based on their potential for loss of time and energy, self-esteem, etc. I was laughing at the similarities of some of the “winners” I’ve dated in the past, easily fitting my own experiences into each category Carey has conjured up. I love the humor and easy-does-it approach she uses when it comes to her love life. Really, what other choice does she have?

Carey is a very candid and funny storyteller. Just when I thought things were going to look up for her, something else would happen that would knock her back a step or two, but she keeps coming back, swinging and fighting even harder to achieve success in her life. There is a lot Carey identifies with from her past, parallels she drudges up and it’s obvious she doesn’t want to make the same mistakes she’s seen others in her life make. I know that scenario all too well, making it easy for me to relate with Carey.

Will I ever get back into the college game myself? I decided after having my own children that teaching wouldn’t be the best fit for me. I just don’t think I’d have the patience for it, not anymore. I’m still open to college, however. There are other passions in my life I can pursue, too, and where there is passion, there is hard work and a rollercoaster ride of achievements and failures. Office Girl is a true, honest, enjoyable testament to that!

Thanks to Carey RavenStar Robin for the book in exchange for an honest review.