Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Things and Stuff...plus a giveaway

Jen with one of her close friends
Introduction by Melissa Amster

When our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, sent me her column for "Favorite Things" month, she gave me some food for thought. "Things" don't have to be about the material goods. She differentiated this by calling it "stuff." She got me thinking about what I enjoy that money can't buy. Since I'm sharing a top five list of favorite material things tomorrow, I'm also going to list a few concepts/activities that always make me happy.

1. Shabbat: I enjoy the quality family time, as well as getting to unplug for a day. The rituals are really nice and there's good food to be had.
2. Google Hangouts with my BFF. We do them once a week and it's like we're in each other's living rooms. Our chats have brought us even closer and we have a fun way of ending them each time, as well.
3. Hearing someone sing really well. It always brings tears to my eyes. You should have seen my reaction to Ariel's voice at a local production of Disney's The Little Mermaid musical this past year.
4. Blogging: Whether it's for CLC or my personal blog, I love when a post just comes together and even enjoy looking back on posts from past years.
5. Laughter: If a day goes by where I didn't laugh at all, it never happened. I love finding things to laugh about.  My husband and kids usually make me laugh the most.

Check out Jen's favorite things and stuff and then enter to win her giveaway!


Just Enough Stuff

If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, and maybe an up-and-coming talk show host named Oprah, you might know they have something in common; favorite things. While Julie Andrews crooned about visions and experiences that made her feel not so bad, Oprah gifted tangible goodies audience members could wear, drive, or sell on eBay. Favorite things recognized and shared in very different ways.

When Melissa asked me to share my favorite things with you, the “stuff” I love versus the “things” I love clashed for my attention. Never fear! Since I couldn’t decide whether to focus on the happy thoughts or the happy stuff, you get both! Just as fun as finding new car keys under your audience seat, right?

Jen’s Favorite Stuff
1. Hope in a Jar- My favorite Philosophy brand skincare product. It’s going with me on a desert island.
2. Dark Chocolate- It completes me. Milk chocolate is okay in a pinch. White chocolate? Is that even chocolate?
3. Cozy Socks- I have chronic cold feet, yet a warm heart. There’s nothing like toasty socks to cover my popsicle toes.
4. Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss-I’m nondenominational when it comes to color. I love them all!
5. English Breakfast Tea- A devoted morning tea drinker, this is my favorite brew. I’m not a coffee drinker, which surprises people since I run on high octane. Leaded tea is my morning caffeine fix.

Tracey made these socks!
And my photo with Seal is here too...


Jen’s Favorite Things
1. Just Enough- Just enough gas in the tank, just enough milk for a recipe, just enough time to make it to the movies before the previews air. I’m a huge fan of having just enough.
2. Happy Accidents- Loose change in the bottom of the washer, finding the cardigan you haven’t seen in ages, bumping into a friend you haven’t seen in ages who’s been on your mind.
3. Quiet- Like Depeche Mode recommended, “enjoy the silence.”
4. Love- I can’t hear it enough nor say it enough.
5. Cuddles- Snuggles with my children, affection from my hubby, golden retrievers who warm my feet fill all my heart.

My daughter and our dogs, the latter not normally allowed on the bed!


In honor of a new year, and my thankfulness that CLC decided to let me hang around for another year, I’m so excited to send one lucky reader in the continental U.S. some of my favorite stuff! Simply share with us some of the "things" that make you smile for your chance to win. I promise I won’t be regifting my Christmas haul to you.

May 2015 bring you sweet blessings and moments to appreciate the things, rather than the stuff, life brings your way.

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


Continental US only. Giveaway ends February 3rd at midnight EST.


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: Now That I’ve Found You

By Becky Gulc

I very much enjoyed Lifesaving for Beginners by Ciara Geraghty a couple of years ago so I was quick to say yes to the request to review her latest novel, Now That I’ve Found You. I finished the book recently, and I’m so sad that I did! I adored this book and will miss the characters so much. Dare I say I enjoyed it even more than "Lifesaving," but what’s the book about?

‘Forty-two-year-old Vinnie knows lots of things.

He knows new books and school shoes are expensive. He knows his teenage daughter keeps getting into trouble and he knows his seven-year-old has wet the bed every night for over a year.
What Vinnie doesn't know is whether his wife is coming back, or if he will ever get better at single fatherhood.

Ellen knows that what happened in the accident was all her fault. She knows she's too scared to get behind the wheel of a car ever again and she knows that some scars are harder to hide than others.
What Ellen doesn't know is how to move on. And she doesn't know anything about Vinnie, the taxi driver who drives her to physiotherapy every week.

And neither of them knows they're going to change the other's life forever.’ (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Vinnie, he’s simply adorable I could gush about him all day. He’s someone doing his best to raise his children not knowing if his wife is ever going to return. Paula has bi-polar disorder and was struggling with family life, so after a very difficult period for everyone she simply left one day and told Vinnie not to try and find her. Despite being a family man through and through he did as she wished, but he didn’t feel able to move on particularly either, neither did her children Finn and Kerry who each clearly struggle with her departure in their own ways.

Although it’s a dual narrative, switching between Vinnie and Ellen, I felt we get to know Vinnie a lot more than Ellen. Ellen’s narrative is presented to the reader through letters she has written to her husband Neil. With each letter we learn a bit more about this woman who has largely closed herself off to the world, the troubles she faces, the glimmers of hope for the future as they slowly emerge. I thought it was a clever way of presenting this character, I was intrigued by her, kept guessing for quite a while as to what had happened to her in the past, I liked her very much.

This book has not just two lovely characters you will champion but several: Vinnie’s children, his Mum, his work colleagues and good friends Kenny and Janine – I loved them all. The book contains colloquial language (based in Ireland) and I thought this just added to its charm. Vinnie was such a distinctive character who I warmed to straight away, although I found it hard to picture him until we learn someone compares him to John Cusack, that suited him!

Ultimately this is a book about two good people who face difficult circumstances, two people who come into each other’s lives just at the right time for both of them. I felt it was a very ‘grown up’ exploration of difficult situations through these characters, and a gentle reminder of how important our family and friends are.

This book made me laugh, made me cry (more than once) and whilst it left me wanting more I felt a sense of satisfaction at how it ended, I just wasn’t ready to let go of these characters I’ve adored spending this time with.

Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for the book in exchange for an honest review. See what Ciara's favorite things are.

More by Ciara Geraghty:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The world according to Mike Greenberg...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Pamela Einarsen
We're pleased to have Mike Greenberg back at CLC to promote his sophomore novel, My Father's Wives. He was here almost two years ago with the soundtrack to his debut novel, All You Could Ask For (reviewed here). This time, he's talking about his favorite things.

Mike Greenberg is the cohost of ESPN's Mike and Mike, the highest-rated sports talk program in the United States, and the author of the New York Times bestselling books All You Could Ask For, Why My Wife Thinks I'm an Idiot, and Mike and Mike's Rules for Sports and Life. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a native of New York City. He currently lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter.

Thanks to HarperCollins, we have THREE copies of My Father's Wives for some lucky US readers!

Synopsis of My Father's Wives:
Jonathan Sweetwater has been blessed with money, a fulfilling career, great kids and Claire, his smart, gorgeous, sophisticated wife. But there is one thing Jonathan never had: a relationship with his father.

Percival Sweetwater III has been absent from his son’s life since Jonathan was nine years old. A five-term U.S. senator, now dead, Percy was beloved by presidents, his constituents, and women alike, especially the five women who married him after Jonathan’s mother.

Jonathan hasn’t thought about Percy or the hole he left in his life for years. Dedicated to Claire and his family, he’s nothing like his serial monogamist father. But then Jonathan discovers evidence that everything in his marriage may not be as perfect as he thought. Hurt and uncertain what to do, he knows that the only way to move forward is to go back.

On this quest for understanding—about himself, about manhood, about marriage—Jonathan decides to track down his father’s five ex-wives. His journey will take him from cosmopolitan cities to the mile-high mountains to a tropical island—and ultimately back to confront the one thing Jonathan has that his father never did: home.


If Mike Greenberg did his own "Favorite Things" show...

1 - Everyone would get a copy of The World According To Garp, by John Irving. It changed my life. And it might change others' too. I find it the most accessible, readable, easily devourable work of great fiction I have ever read. In my case, it inspired me to write. When I finished "Garp," I thought to myself I was either going to be a writer or I was going to be nothing at all.

2 - Everyone would get a copy of the Paul Simon album, Graceland. A quarter of a century after it was released, every song still sounds like you are hearing it for the first time. I am a fan of poets and lyricists, and Paul Simon is both. The imagery in the writing on Graceland is epic. "The way we look to a distant constellation that's dying in the corner of the sky..." He's a genius.

3 - Everyone would get an iPad. I genuinely have no idea how I lived without mine, which, by the way, I am using right now to write this. And when I am done I can use it to listen to Graceland and read Garp, along with about a trillion other uses.

4 - Golf clubs. I love golf about as much as I love anything or anyone I am not related to. And the game is struggling in our country, fewer people are playing, courses are closing left and right. To me this is a tragedy. Golf provides fresh air, green grass and a lesson in patience: three things all of us surely need.

5 - A new car. Doesn't even really matter which kind. It's just that I was raised on game shows, and there was never anything more exciting than when a prize was revealed and the announcer would shout: "It's a new car!!!!" Just once in my life, I'd like to do that.

Thanks to Mike for sharing his favorite things with us and to HarperCollins for sharing his book with our readers.

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



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US only. Giveaway ends February 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Cover reveal and giveaway: The Balance Project

We enjoyed Susie Orman Schnall's debut novel, On Grace (reviewed here), last year. So we were thrilled to find out that she's publishing her second novel, The Balance Project, this spring. Susie has a blog series, also titled "The Balance Project," and Melissa A. was a guest over there last year. Other interviews include chick lit novelists, celebrities, bloggers, and women with some fascinating careers. You can see the entire line-up here.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have your exclusive cover reveal right here AND they're offering an ARC to one lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Synopsis:
Katherine Whitney has it all. She’s married, has two daughters, is the COO of a multi-billion dollar company, and with the release of her book on work-life balance, she is not only a media darling but she is a hero to working moms everywhere. In reality, though, Katherine’s life is starting to fall apart, and her loyal assistant Lucy Cooper is the one holding most things together. But when Katherine does something unthinkable to Lucy, Lucy is faced with a difficult decision. THE BALANCE PROJECT: A NOVEL (SparkPress April 28, 2015) is a story of loyalty, choices, and most of all balance as it explores the hot-button issue that all women struggle with.

Here is the beautiful cover we've been waiting for! (The cover we originally saw on Amazon was darker and just had a red baby carriage surrounded by greenery. While it was cool, this official one is so much better!)



Susie Orman Schnall is the author of the award winning novel On Grace, named Kirkus Best Indie Book of 2014. She is the founder of The Balance Project popular interview series about the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Times of India, The Nest, Glamour, Mind Body Green, Westchester Magazine among others. Susie graduated the University of Pennsylvania and now lives in New York with her husband and their three boys.




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.

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US/Canada only. Giveaway ends February 1st at midnight EST.

Friday, January 23, 2015

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

30 First Dates by Stacey Wiedower from Gemma Halliday Publishing

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins from Confessions of a Bookaholic

The Girls of Mischief Bay by Susan Mallery from Mira

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand from Hachette (paperback edition)

Amy:

Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer from William Morrow

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley from Confessions of a Bookaholic

Melissa P:

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick from BookSparks



Jami:

Dangled Carat by/from Hilary Grossman

Milked by Lisa Doyle from Simon & Fig

The Secret Life of Book Club by/from  Heather Woodhaven

Bedside Manners by/from Phoebe Fox

I Don’t Have a Happy Place by Kim Korson from Wunderkind PR

**All are e-books**

Gail:

Just a Little Crush and That Old Black Magic by Caroline Fardig

If We Lived Here by Lindsey Palmer from Kensington


Becky:

Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe from Transworld

As Good as it Gets? by Fiona Gibson from Avon

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis from Hutchinson (See Author Liaison Cindy Roesel's review at her blog.)


Sara:

Office Girl by/from Carey RavenStar Robin

Revenge of the Cube Dweller by/from Joanne Fox Lewis

Double Feature Review: Sweet, Sweet Fantasy

By Melissa Amster

I read two very sweet and romantic stories this past winter and only really have good things to say, so I figured I'd keep the reviews simple and to the point, while also singing praises for these novels. Since both have surreal elements, figured the heading for this review post was fitting. (Of course, I have a Mariah Carey song in my head now!)

Both synopses are courtesy of Goodreads.

The Life Intended 
By Kristin Harmel

After her husband's sudden death over ten years ago, Kate Waithman never expected to be lucky enough to find another love of her life. But now she's planning her second walk down the aisle to a perfectly nice man. So why isn't she more excited?

At first, Kate blames her lack of sleep on stress. But when she starts seeing Patrick, her late husband, in her dreams, she begins to wonder if she's really ready to move on. Is Patrick trying to tell her something? Attempting to navigate between dreams and reality, Kate must uncover her husband's hidden message. Her quest leads her to a sign language class and into the New York City foster system, where she finds rewards greater than she could have imagined.


There's a reason The Life Intended made it onto my 2014 Favorites list. Everything about it is fantastic. It's a beautifully written and incredibly powerful story throughout. I've seen authors being asked (during interviews) what book they wish they had written. I can say, without a doubt, that this is the book I would have answered with. I also felt a personal connection to this story because of the hearing loss aspect, as I have two children who were born with hearing loss and wear cochlear implants. Kristin mentions cochlear implants, so it was exciting to see that aspect included in a story. I won't say why or how, as to not spoil it! Of course, this would make an awesome movie, and here's who I'd cast.

Kate: Elizabeth Reaser
Patrick: Eric Bana
Dan: Peter Sarsgaard
Andrew: Nathan Fillion

Thanks to Gallery Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.



The Look of Love 
By Sarah Jio

Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed.

This is different from Sarah Jio's usual fare, but I still enjoyed it and couldn't stop turning the pages. The stories of Jane's friends were so compelling and some were even heartbreaking. However, I didn't feel as emotionally overwhelmed (to the point of tears) as I have from her previous novels.  The novel had a Love, Actually feel and since I enjoy that movie, this is a good thing for me. Even if you've never seen this movie (or didn't enjoy it as much as I did), I think you'll still like The Look of Love a lot. I was even casting it as a movie in my head the entire time. Here are the ideas I had for some of the characters (as there were a lot).

Jane: Yael Grobglas
Cameron: Brandon Routh
Lo: America Ferrera
Flynn: Adrian Grenier
Katie: Michelle Monaghan

Thanks to Penguin Random House for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Kristin Harmel:

More by Sarah Jio:

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Tracie Banister has "piqued" our interest...plus a special giveaway

I have a confession to make (I have these a lot)...I haven't read a book by Tracie Banister until now. And, of course, I had no idea what I was missing either! I have only heard good things about Tracie's previous novels, Blame it on the Fame and In Need of Therapy (links are to past reviews), so I decided to dig in with Twin Piques, her latest novel. I am more than halfway done and enjoying it a lot so far. I keep finding posts, articles, and videos that are related to what Tracie mentions in the story and sending them to her.

This past year, Tracie started watching The Mindy Project and then convinced me to watch Jane the Virgin, so we dish often about such fun, chick-lit themed shows. And in doing this post, I sent her an example of what I did a few years ago and we found out that we share a love for Broadway musicals too!

Tracie was recently at CLC to help us celebrate celebrity month. Her fun answers to our themed questions were enjoyable to read. This time around, she's sharing her favorite things and we think you'll enjoy what she has to say.

In honor of Twin Piques taking place in San Francisco, Tracie is giving away one of our favorite things to a lucky US reader... CHOCOLATE! She will send a Cable Car Gift Tin w/17 Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares to the winner of our giveaway.

You can find Tracie at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


Synopsis of Twin Piques:

Forensic accountant Sloane Tobin and kooky pet psychic Willa may have the same face, but that’s the only thing these identical twins have in common.

How she can read the hearts and minds of animals has always been a mystery to Willa, and her rotten luck with men is equally baffling. Although she’s been looking for “The One” for what feels like forever (A teenage marriage to a French mime and dating a guy named Spider seemed like good ideas at the time!), optimistic Willa refuses to give up on love. When she meets Brody, the handsome rose expert hired to save her grandmother’s garden, she’s instantly smitten, but why does he keep sending her mixed signals? Does he return her feelings, or is their attraction all in her fanciful head?

Unlike her twin, Sloane has zero interest in romance. Her passion is her job, where she uses her gift for numbers to take down slimy embezzlers and asset-hiding spouses. When she’s assigned two high profile cases, Sloane feels confident the promotion she’s been angling for is within her grasp. But will her plan to climb the corporate ladder be thwarted by difficult clients, her co-worker-with-benefits, or – most surprisingly of all – her own sister? And how’s she supposed to stay focused on the drama at work when her childhood friend, Gav, moves in next door and the spark between them becomes impossible to ignore?

To get what they both want, can Willa and Sloane band together and rely on each other’s strengths? Or will their differences drive them apart once and for all?


Playing Oprah on Chick Lit Central today feels like a strange sort of kismet as it was O’s “Favorite Things” show back in 2008 that introduced me to the Kindle, the clever, little device that would go on to change my life as both a reader and a writer! I don’t know if I’ll be setting any trends with the items on my Favorite Things list, but all these goodies have certainly brought joy to my life!

Kate Spade Shanghai Deco Dot Scarf – Having been obsessed with polka dots since I was a child, my eyes lit up like a pinball machine when I saw this scarf. It’s black with white dots, which is très chic, and I love that Kate Spade New York is spelled out on the scarf with pink stitching. So fun, so girly; it’s the perfect fashion accessory for this winter.

The Mindy Project S1/S2 DVDs & Mindy’s BookThe Mindy Project is TV Chick Lit, and I can’t get enough of it! I want everyone to watch this show and love it and quote it as must as I do, so I am giving my faux audience the first two seasons on DVD, which I recommend you marathon in one weekend. And since money is no object in this scenario, I’m flying Mindy Kaling in to sign copies of her very funny book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, for all of you.

Fitbit – We all start out the new year making resolutions to lose weight and get on a regular exercise routine, right? The Fitbit can be a big help with that as it tracks your steps, distance, and calories burned all day long. I absolutely love the one I received this Christmas. It helps me to set different exercise goals for myself every day, and it’s super motivating to see those stats on my wrist. Bonus: The Fitbit comes in ten different colors, so you can choose the one that suits your style best. Mine is classic black, and I love how sleek it looks.

Coconut Body Butter by The Body Shop – This smell of this product is divine; it always makes me think of suntan lotion and the beach. I have super dry skin (as most of us do at this time of year), but this body butter keeps my skin soft and hydrated all day long. Love! Since this is a fantasy giveaway that will cost me nothing, I’m giving you all a year’s supply of this yummy body butter, which made Nylon’s 2014 Beauty Hit List.


Tiara – I am of the firm belief that every woman should own one of these so that she can feel like a queen at all times. I received a beautiful, rhinestone-encrusted tiara with a heart design from a dear friend of mine, author Kathleen Irene Paterka, who shares my love of royal-watching. She actually works at a castle (Castle Farms in Charlevoix, MI) and my tiara came from the gift shop there, so it’s legit! I like to wear it when I’m writing, taking a bubble bath, even when I’m doing chores around the house. I would gift everyone with their own tiara and then conduct a class on how to do a proper royal wave (As you can see from the picture, I practice mine on my neighbors quite a bit.)

Thanks to Tracie for sharing her favorite things with us and giving our readers a chance to win chocolate!

~Introduction 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


US only. Giveaway ends January 27th at midnight EST.