Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Little Free Library

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I love sharing books with people, whether it is friends, co-workers, or e-mail pals. Some people consider my house to be a library. One of my friends bought me a stamp that allows me to emboss my name in all my books. It even implies that I have my own personal library. I've even participated in Paperback Swap from time to time.  At work, I started a program where people could exchange books every so often. This was inspired by the times I'd go into Starbucks or a train station and see bookshelves encouraging people to take and leave books. Now that our office is in a new location with a bigger breakroom, I asked the facilities manager about adding in a bookshelf so that we could take and leave books whenever we wanted, instead of having days designated for this activity.

I've seen pictures of Little Free Libraries, but haven't encountered one in person. I'm sure that my bookshelves would be begging for mercy if I ever did happen upon one! Therefore, I'm jealous of our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, who was invited to be the guest of honor at a Little Free Library dedication!

From the Library of....

One of the things I love about living not too far from Indianapolis, Indiana, is discovering the cozy suburbs surrounding the capital city. From artsy to industrial, great places and spaces abound. One of my favorite little burbs is Zionsville. Fine cuisine, art galleries and quaint shops line the downtown streets. It’s one of my favorite halfway points to meet my friend, Christy, for dinner. One night after chowing down with our hubbies, we strolled along the sidewalks admiring the rows bungalows. Perched in the front yard of one was something I’d never seen before. At first, I thought it was a birdhouse, yet as we moved closer, I realized this small wooden structure had a window paned door with a little sign above it. I had just been introduced to my first Little Free Library.

This movement to provide a place for neighbors to swap books was the brainchild of Todd Bol and Rick Brooks. Bol was looking for a way to honor the legacy of his mother; a retired teacher who was passionate about reading. Brooks was investigating ways to make a social impact through enterprise. Together, they set out to create a non-profit organization setting a lofty goal, inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s financial backing of 2,509 libraries across the country at the turn of the century, to match that number in Little Free Libraries being created around the world. They surpassed it. Today there are over 15,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide with thousands in the process of completion.

I had no idea how this little book swap box came to be when I snapped a photo of the one I was so taken with and shared it on Facebook. After posting the photo, I received a message from a reader I’ve had the pleasure to get to know via social media. Jane Cook, who lives in Westfield, Indiana, broke the exciting news to me that she was in the process of having a Little Free Library built in her neighborhood and asked if I’d be willing to donate a book. I excitedly packed up a box full, eager to help. I asked her to let me know when it would be finished, that I would love to see it. Jane so graciously invited me to be the guest of honor at the dedication. Believe you me, I was the one honored to see how a woman rallied her community to install this treasure trove of literacy.

Jane and I spent time together in her home before the ribbon cutting ceremony. Being the curious girl I am, I asked her about how her love of books developed. She shared with me she grew up on a farm, an only child, and books became her friends. She traveled to many lands, met many interesting people, and experienced things beyond compare while delving into the pages of novels. That passion for reading followed her into adulthood yet came to a halt after the death of Jane’s husband. For hours, she’d tenderly read to him while he was ill in the hospital. Once he passed away, books were too painful to open.

Through the connectedness of the internet, Jane shared with me she noticed people discussing books they enjoyed. She began reaching out to authors whose work spoke to her. Slowly, she began turning pages again. Another step in healing from her loss was dreaming of a place, a Little Free Library, where children and adults could share books with one-another.

And it has come to pass. And it’s beautiful.

The big picture is what a team of people can accomplish when they share a mission, a passion, a drive to make something better for others. The power of one is strong. The power of many is a force to be reckoned with. No goal or ambition is too big when you dream dreams. Not to get all science fiction geek on you, but as Yoda says, “Do or do not, there is no try.” And that’s exactly what this little band of book lovers did. They made the Little Free Library so. Again, pardon the Captain Picard sidebar.

Jane, this column is dedicated to you and all those making a difference in literacy each and every day across the globe. You saw a need in your community, you acted upon it with a team of volunteers and friends, and you’ve left a lasting imprint. You are a treasure. I’m proud to call you friend. Thank you for allowing books to pick you up and sweep you away once again. They never left you. The pages held fast waiting until you were ready to turn them again.

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.

Book Review: Love Me or Leave Me

By Becky Gulc

I’ve been lucky enough to review a couple of Claudia Carroll’s novels now and have enjoyed each one, particularly Me and Youwhich is just a wonderful story. Needless to say I was very happy to review Claudia’s latest novel, Love Me or Leave Me. Here is the synopsis:

‘Chloe Townsend was dumped at the altar. But now she's landed an incredible new job.

She’s running a pioneering boutique ‘divorce hotel’. It will make every aspect of breaking-up pain-free – all in a single weekend.

No one is better qualified than Chloe to deal with relationships at crisis point, but, with three unhappy couples needing her help, she's forced to tackle her own secret heartbreak.

Can she hold it together and prove that she's over it and up to the job?

The opening weekend approaches, and it soon becomes clear that some endings can be VERY exciting new beginnings…’ (Courtesy of HarperCollins UK.)

Whilst the premise for a ‘divorce hotel’ made me go ‘really?’ to begin with, if I’m honest, such a thing does actually exist and I thought it sounded like an interesting concept for a book. I thought the introductions to each character were great. We feel for Chloe and like her immediately, and we get a real sense of the dynamics at play for each of the three couples at the centre of the book by way of seeing their wedding invitations, completely different couples.

Even though there are three different couples as well as Chloe (the only one in first person narrative), I never found it confusing to keep up with who was who, Claudia’s characters are all very distinctive. Whilst Chloe is keen to vet everyone staying at her hotel to make sure it’s fairly amicable between people and they’re sure divorce is right for them, it would be too easy wouldn’t it if it were this straightforward?

I enjoyed all the couples’ stories, we slowly find out more and more about their histories. I particularly warmed to Jo and Dave as characters, even though Jo appears uptight, much of what we learn of the relationship is through seeing their quite harsh email exchanges. I felt like as a reader her defences were slowly broken down and of course we learnt more about what had happened in their relationship to bring them to the hotel, I was really routing for these two.

My only criticism, and this is very minor, is that some of the logistics didn’t seem to stack up or weren’t explained fully, but apologies if this is just my interpretation or I missed something. It was explained that Chloe interviews everyone personally before agreeing to them staying at the hotel, with a lot of guests from overseas (who were supporting rather than main characters). I didn’t see how this would have been possible, and skype or telephone interviews weren’t mentioned. I also wondered about the practicalities of Chloe taking the second weekend off that the hotel has been open especially if the emphasis is that the divorces are sorted out over a weekend. These things didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the novel at all, but I did wonder about them.

Overall I loved this book and it was a book I got through quite quickly as I was keen to see what happened to all the couples. A great book and I look forward to the next one. When I think about which author’s books I would actively go out and buy, if I weren’t reviewing Claudia’s would definitely be on that list.

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

More by Claudia Carroll:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A star-studded shopping trip with Sophie a book giveaway

I can't decide if it's a good thing or not that Sophie Kinsella is in New Jersey today and I live four hours away. The not-so-good thing is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet one of my all-time favorite chick lit authors. On the other hand, if we were to be in the same room, I probably would be all star-struck and not have a single witty thing to say to an author whom I consider as more of a celebrity.

If only I were like Becky Brandon and could easily schmooze with my favorite celebrities (or authors, in my case) the way she does in Shopaholic to the Stars, Sophie's latest novel in the popular series. I read it recently (review coming soon) and it's hilarious, as always. Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Sophie is here today to talk about shopping (what else?!?)....and to get us psyched up for next month's theme, which is CELEBRITIES!

Tell us about a memorable purchase or shopping trip.
I remember once I had told my whole family to leave me in peace to write. I decided to pop out for coffee... saw an amazing evening dress in a shop window... and found myself edging in to try it on, even though I had no idea where I'd ever wear it. Then my husband phoned: 'How's the writing going? Can I do anything to help?' I couldn't tell him I was in a changing room with one foot in a sequinned evening dress! (But I did buy the dress. And I did wear it!)

If you were to take Becky on a shopping spree, what three stores would you HAVE to visit?
Ooh, very tough! Anthropologie for sure, it's such a feelgood place. Liberty because it's a wonderful old store with a great atmosphere. And Jimmy Choo, because Becky loves her shoes!

Which celebrity would YOU like to style?
I love Lupita N'yongo, she's absolutely gorgeous, and I would be very happy dressing her up.

What is the best deal you ever received on a purchase?
I was once in a charity shop and found a Moschino skirt for ten pounds. It was the most beautiful red pure wool skirt, with a heart shaped button - for a mere ten quid! I couldn't believe my luck and I wore it to death.

What is your favorite thing to buy when you go shopping?
I used to say shoes, but I have noticed that my new tendency is coats. I think it's because I can just swing them over whatever I'm wearing.

If you could go shopping in any city in the world, where would you go and why?
I'd go to Melbourne, as I've never been to Australia, and I've heard Melbourne is a fabulous shopping mecca, so I'd be killing two birds with one stone!

Thanks to Sophie for a fun chat and to Penguin Random House for sharing her book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview 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 October 26th at midnight EST.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Book Review: Driving with the Top Down

By Amber Myers

Road trip!

Who doesn't love a fun road trip?

Colleen was looking forward to one. She finds antiques and other old things and turns them into something fantastic. She was planning on searching for antiques on her road trip while her husband and son go on a boy only trip.

But then her husband asks if she'll take their 16 year old niece, Tamara, with her. Tamara has gotten in trouble. A lot. It's probably because her mother died and she was put in the charge of a father who did not want a kid. (It's called a condom, dude.)

Colleen agrees to take her and they begin their trip. Colleen makes a stop in her old college town and while in a diner she used to frequent, she runs into Bitty, an old friend. (Bitty is not an old lady. I thought so because I immediately thought of "old bitty" which I know is probably rude of me. No, Bitty is called Bitty because she's tiny.)

Bitty has her own share of problems. She ran away from her marriage. Her mother raised her to be a creepy lady (meaning, she wasn't supposed to eat much. Hence why she's Bitty.) Bitty even debates killing herself. But then she sees Colleen and agrees to join in on the road trip.

All these women have their own set of problems. Will the problems be solved on the road trip? Or will they explode?

I enjoyed the friendship and the fact that they all helped each other in a way. Driving with the Top Down had me rooting for everyone. With all the depressing stories in the news, this was a nice escape. And yes, it made me want to go on a road trip. I also wanted to stick my feet in the air like on the book cover, but then I'd frighten those around me. I don't have the prettiest feet, after all.

Amber Myers is a military wife and mom to a son with Aspergers and a daughter who is dramatic. She blogs over at Airing My Dirty Laundry, One Post At A Time and loves to read and write when her children allow it.

More by Beth Harbison:

Friday, October 17, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel from Gallery Books

Walking on Trampolines by Francine Whiting from Gallery Books

A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill from St. Martin's Press


Saving Grace by Jane Green from Sarah Hall Productions

The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen from Random House


Hello from the Gillespies by Monica McInerney from Penguin/Berkley (e-book)

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing by Lesley Kagen from BookSparks PR (e-book)


Snow Angels, Secrets, and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson from Bookoture (e-book)

Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner from BookSparks PR (e-book)

Maybe Tonight by/from Kim Golden (e-book)


It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley from Bantam Press


The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman from Notting Hill Press

Book Review: Bad Bridesmaid

By Sara Steven

When I was asked to review Bad Bridesmaid, I immediately accepted. I loved MacIntosh’s How Not to Be Starstruck, so it seemed fitting that I check out her latest novel.

Formerly pudgy and plain, Mia Valentina (who used to be Mia Harrison; she wanted something a little more spectacular in the last name department) has a bad rap. She moved from England to get away from her overly-critical family and after planting roots in sunny L.A., she lost weight, worked hard to have the body she always wanted and made a name for herself in the movie industry. She figured this would at long last bring her the respect she’s always craved from her family, but it doesn’t play out that way. When she’s invited back to England as a bridesmaid for her younger sister Belle’s wedding, everyone expects the absolute worst from Mia. After unintentionally injuring the groom, finding herself in bed with one of the groomsmen and constantly placing herself in uncompromising positions, Mia finds herself alone and disliked. Well, that’s not entirely true. Her pre-teen cousins absolutely adore her, especially after she allows them to watch Pulp Fiction. This doesn’t go over well with Mia’s aunt. Not after the boys walk around quoting various phrases from the film; the ones that contain the most swear words, of course.

I found myself annoyed with Mia’s family. Even when she tries her best, they constantly negate her which only facilitates and feeds into the bad behavior. And Belle blames Mia for everything that is going wrong with her wedding, even the stuff that has nothing to do with Mia and is out of her control. I wondered if this train wreck of a family would ever right itself back on track or if Mia would be able to stick it out until the big day. Sure, she’s rough around the edges but you can tell she’s got a heart of gold. She has to, in order to put up with her jerky relatives.

True to MacIntosh’s style, there are a lot of comedic moments, a lot of “Oh wow, did that just happen???” situations that made it very hard to put this book down. There’s also a sweet little twist at the end, too. I was emotionally invested in Mia, the proverbial underdog. It’s hard not to be, and I appreciate that MacIntosh’s characters always show growth and development, never stagnant. Never one dimensional. A great read!

Thanks to Portia MacIntosh for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: A Pretty Mess

By Jami Deise

Writers are geniuses at finding ways to get out of writing, and one of our favorite methods of procrastinating is getting our stuff organized. We love to go through our little piles, clip articles out of magazines, make sure all our paperclips are together in that cute little Mexican bowl. And next to book stores and libraries, there is no place we like more than a huge office supply store. Look at all those folders! Worship at all those white boards!

Celeste Pretty and I would get along just fine.

Australian Celeste is the heroine in Carla Caruso’s romantic comedy, A Pretty Mess. A former interior designer for the most well-known (and bitchy) designer in town, Celeste has just gone on her own as a professional organizer. Her first client is the celebrity lifestyle/fitness guru Natalia Samphire, who has just moved to tony Astonvale and is in desperate need of Celeste’s services. Not only is her new estate a mess, but it’s undergoing renovations as well – and builder Lenny Muscat is a good-looking (if annoying) distraction. Another distraction is Celeste’s young cousin Flip, whom she’s been bullied into taking on as an assistant. When Celeste finds a blackmail note addressed to Natalia, she and Lenny team up to find out what she’s hiding – after all, their paychecks could be at stake. But Celeste has a secret of her own – her own father is a hoarder!

A Pretty Mess is a very neat little book – just what readers are looking for from the chick lit genre. With her hoarder father, ex-boss frenemy, milquetoast boyfriend, flaky assistant and mysterious solo client, Celeste is sympathetic without feeling sorry for herself. She and Lenny have an entertaining love/hate relationship, and the question about Natalia’s secret adds a fun dash of mystery to the mix. However, the book is predictable, and the characters pretty stock for the genre.

Caruso provides a fast-paced, witty addition to the chick lit world. It’s a quick read and most people will find it preferable to cleaning out the cabinet underneath the sink. However, once you’re finished the book, you may find yourself motivated to throw out all those old Tupperware containers after all.

Thanks to HarperCollins Australia  for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Carla Caruso: