Thursday, September 3, 2015

Elise Miller's shining star...plus a book giveaway

How many of you can say that your significant other is your best friend? How many of you have married someone with whom you started out as friends? How many of you are close friends with someone of the opposite gender? Elise A. Miller is here today to talk about how her husband and best friend are one and the same. Thanks to BookSparks, we have a copy of her debut novel, Star Craving Mad, for a lucky US reader.



Elise A. Miller discovered her talent and passion for writing by accident, during a short-lived but rigorous acting pursuit in the late 1990s. She immediately began studying writing in earnest at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City, and hasn’t looked back since. Elise completed courses in advanced fiction, memoir, novel writing, stand-up comedy and screenwriting. In 2000, she published her first piece in The Sun Magazine, and in 2002 she was one of the founding members of Little Red Writing Group in Brooklyn. She later went on to publish personal essays in anthologies and literary journals. Elise lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two teeny rescue dogs. She blogs about everything and anything at her website, about her personal fitness journey at bodyenta.com and about creative writing coaching at beechwoodwriters.com. You can also find her at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Synopsis of Star Craving Mad:
Maddy Braverman, thirty and single, has taught first grade at an elite private school in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village for the past six years. Angry at herself for not moving on, Maddy is distracted from her pity party with a new student—Lola Magdalena, daughter of A- list celebrities Nic and Shelby Seabolt—a last-minute addition to her class roster.

When Lola breaks her arm on the playground, Maddy has the chance to meet with Nic in his TriBeCa apartment. Maddy’s celebrity fantasies turn to reality—make out sessions, sex and even a Hamptons holiday bash that leave Maddy yearning for Nic’s love.
(Courtesy of BookSparks.)



In Bryan’s Company

Growing up in an unhappy dysfunctional household meant that my friendships with girls were fragile—tenuous and easily breakable, laced with suspicions and back-stabbing. My mother didn’t have the time or resources to counsel me. Nervous breakdowns that left her crying in dark closets were more her thing. My father meanwhile busied himself with explosive tantrums, spurred on by the chaos that accompanies most children—messiness, noise and the inability to follow simple instructions.

My half-siblings from my mom’s first marriage were a decade older than me and had lives of their own. Their hobbies ranged from breaking petty laws and getting high to running away to the Jersey shore for days at a time. Maybe it’s no wonder that I gravitated toward friends who smelled like dirty laundry, read my diary and shared its contents with the entire third grade class.

Left to my own devices I developed an early obsession with romantic love, starting with a crush on Shaun Cassidy, which found me pressing my sticky glossed lips to his album cover. If you looked at my childhood as a recipe, stirred it with a move halfway across the country when I was twelve, you got one lopsided, pathetic soufflé. I was in no shape to have the kinds of girl friendships I read about and saw on television.

I was still, however, addicted to love. And like another popular song of my youth, I looked for it in all the wrong places.

After over a decade of misguided social navigation, during my senior year at Syracuse University, I finally had enough. A switch flicked somewhere deep in my psyche and I felt something I’d never experienced before—self-respect. For the first time I saw my own responsibility and culpability in my misery. I had slept with dozens of guys who clearly did not love or respect me. As for girls, I had counted bulimics and heavy drinkers among my coterie, of which here and there, I was one.

My life was too painful to keep mistreating myself. What’s more, I witnessed first-hand loving, mutually respectful relationships among college roommates and extended family.

Whether consciously or not, I was determined to be happy and mentally healthy. I entered therapy, read stacks of self-help books and started journaling; then writing memoir pieces about my childhood and adolescence, which blossomed into my writing career.

During this transition, I met my husband at a New Year’s Eve party. We’ve been together since January 1991. He’s stuck around while I grew out of old relationships and into new ones. He was there for my tears, pain and generally horrible behavior while I sorted out my past and eventually took up strength training and started taking medication. He’s supported my multitude of professional endeavors and eventually inspired the character James in Star Craving Mad.

Over the quarter-century that we’ve been together, he’s taught me how to be a friend—to him, to the girlfriends I have now, and most importantly, to myself. We joke together about annoying life circumstances, tackle home DIY projects, commiserate about the difficulty of parenting, hug frequently to our children’s embarrassment because as we say, “It’s important to hug,” and he brings me coffee on Saturday mornings.

In Bryan’s company I’ve cultivated the patience and wisdom to graciously endure the unsavory bits that accompany every relationship. As a result, I now have a small but hardy band of girlfriends who I can gossip with over long dinners and dance with until the sun rises.

Even the girlfriends I made and lost along the way, we’ve caught up to each other thanks to social media. And though they remind me of my less than optimal past, they also demonstrate the resilience and ultimate transcendence we are all capable of, in the name of friendship with others and with ourselves.

Thanks to Elise for sharing Bryan with us and BookSparks for sharing Star Craving Mad with our readers. This is part of their Summer Reading Challenge (#SRC2015).

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 September 8th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Cover Reveal: Some Women

Emily Liebert was born and raised in New York City, attended the Horace Mann School and Smith College, where she graduated with a B.A. in English Language & Literature. After her first job as an Executive Assistant at ABC News, she became Editor-in-Chief of The WAG—a luxury lifestyle magazine covering Westchester and Fairfield Counties—where she wrote hundreds of articles, including celebrity profiles, travel, fashion, and beauty. From there, Emily became a full-time freelance writer, penning lifestyle pieces for media outlets such as, The Huffington Post and Oprah.com.

Emily's first book, Facebook Fairytales, was featured at the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair, and Emily was one of 20 guests of honor at the renowned Literary Feast 2010, a privilege reserved for best-selling and buzz-worthy authors. In 2012, Emily wrote her debut novel, You Knew Me When (Penguin), which published on September 3, 2013. She followed that up with When We Fall, published on September 2, 2014. Those Secrets We Keep released this past June, and Some Women is due to publish in early April, but is available for pre-order. However we're sharing the cover and a synopsis right here! 

When Emily’s not writing, she teaches Pure Barre classes and enjoys traveling, cooking, and cozying up with a good book. She’s been known to ride on a Harley Davidson. And she does a mean Running Man on the dance floor. Emily lives with her husband, Lewis, and their two little boys in Westport, CT, where she moved kicking and screaming for fear that there would be no Chinese food delivery at three in the morning. She was right.

Visit Emily at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


An engrossing and thought provoking novel that examines the intricacies of marriage, friendship, and the power of unexpected connections...

Annabel Ford has everything under control, devoting her time to her twin five-year-old boys and to keeping her household running seamlessly. So when her husband of a decade announces that he’s leaving her, without warning, she’s blindsided. And suddenly her world begins to unravel.

Single mother Piper Whitley has always done her best to balance it all—raising her daughter Fern by herself and advancing her career as a crime reporter. Only now that she’s finally met the man of her dreams, Fern’s absentee father arrives on the scene and throws everything into a tailspin.

Married to the heir of a thriving media conglomerate, Mackenzie Mead has many reasons to count her blessings. But with an imperious mother-in-law—who’s also her boss—and a husband with whom she can no longer seem to connect, something has to give.

On the surface, these three women may not have much in common. Yet when their lives are thrust together and unlikely friendships are formed—at a time when they all need someone to lean on—Annabel, Piper, and Mackenzie band together to help each navigate their new realities.

And now for the cover....

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Friendship makes a difference to Leah Ferguson...plus a book giveaway

It's Friendship Month at Chick Lit Central! To help us kick it off, debut novelist Leah Ferguson is here to talk about one of her best friends. And Berkley has THREE copies of her novel, All the Difference, for some lucky US readers!

Born on Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland and raised in Carlisle, Leah Ferguson moved to Philadelphia for college, stayed there to work, thought about moving to San Francisco, and ended up in downtown Baltimore. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her Baltimorean husband and two young daughters, toddler son, a very large husky and a tailless cat. Leah's focus is on women's fiction, and has a writing voice that is bright and sarcastic, introspective and thoughtful. All the Difference staretd out as a little NaNoWriMo project was edited to within an inch of its life over the course of three and a half years. Visit Leah at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Synopsis of All the Difference:
New Year’s Eve. A time for resolutions. A chance to make a change. And for thirty-year-old Molly Sullivan, a night that will transform her life forever…

All it takes is one word—yes or no—to decide Molly’s future. As the clock counts down to midnight and the ball slowly begins to drop, Molly’s picture-perfect boyfriend gets down on one knee and asks her to marry him. She knows she should say yes, especially considering the baby-sized surprise she just discovered she’s carrying. But something in her heart is telling her to say no…

Now, Molly’s future can follow two very different paths: one where she stays with her baby’s father, despite her misgivings and his family’s unreasonable expectations, and one where she ventures out on her own as a single mother, embracing all the hardships that come with it.

And by the time the next New Year is rung in, Molly will know which choice was right—following her head or listening to her heart...
(Courtesy of Berkley Publishing.)


My Jenny

I’d like to talk with you about one of my best friends. She entered my world at one of the most crucial times in my life, and from the moment we met, our relationship grew together as easily as one of those crossword puzzles you find in the back of a trashy magazine and finish in three seconds flat. It didn’t take long for me to assume she was going to be one of those in-it-for-the-long-haul friends, the bestie I’d talk with as easily at sixty-five as I did when I was thirty-five. I figured she’d be the friend who cried on my shoulder now when our babies gave us trouble, and would do it again in twenty years when those same babies graduate from college. In my debut novel All the Difference, the main character, Molly, has a best friend named Jenny who’s been in her life for years. The woman I’m describing now was my Jenny: a friend-friend. The only, teeny problem? We don’t speak anymore. Yes, I’m confused, too.

We met in a library one day years ago after a mommy-and-me reading program. We had no business taking infants to this thing, but it was just so nice to get out and and interact with other human adults that it didn’t matter at all that our babies would rather chew on their carriers than listen to Corduroy. We ended up talking in the parking lot that morning for ages, and I found her fascinating. Her intense blue eyes held on to mine with interest. She wore Dansko clogs that I would never pull off in a million years, and when I admired a hat she placed onto her son’s head, she said that she’d knitted it herself, and that knitting wasn’t as hard as I thought (it is, I swear it is. So much counting). We were both former teachers, exhausted and worn out and so, so tired from the constant breastfeeding and endless nights and four walls of our own homes. We liked sugar, and baking, and reading up a storm. We were stay-at-home moms trying to find our way in this new wilderness of parenthood. When I ran into her a couple of weeks later at a different program (at a different library, no less. Desperate times call for desperate measures, you know) and found out she and her son went to the same music program I’d wanted to join with my daughter, I saw the look in her eye that recognized the thought in my heart: Ah, is what it said. Here might be my friend.

We had so much in common: the identity crises that came with leaving a service career where we impacted scores of kids in order to take care of one child, 24 hours a day. The slight resentment that mixed in with the love of our (admittedly kind, supportive, smart) husbands who got to leave the house for their jobs and travel and eat lunches that weren’t pb&j and Pirate’s Booty. The yearning for something else, something more—writing for me, a bakery for her—both of us knowing full well the guilty luxury of being able to actually choose what we’d want to do next, once the babies didn’t need us as much anymore. We both had a penchant for entertainment magazines (US Weekly for her, People for me), and could talk as deeply about Kim Kardashian’s butt as we did about No Child Left Behind. She read so, so much, and tore through books more quickly than she could recommend them to me, the former English teacher. She impressed me as much as she suited me.

So, yes, this friend and I had a lot in common: enough to make us close restaurants after meeting for dinner, than chat some more in the parking lot until we were the only ones standing in the dark beside our cars (which first were SUVs, then, as our families grew, minivans). But it was her encouragement of my dream that made her the friend—she was there in the beginning, encouraging me to write, reading my blog, talking, talking, talking about what could happen with the book. She was the one who knew and believed, but more importantly, asked. She asked questions, and listened to the answers. Most of us only half-listen to one another, ready to jump in with a response before the other person’s even finished her thought. My friend? She sat. She listened. She asked some more. If ever there was a light that went off in my head, it did with her—she was it. And the day she broke down in yet another parking lot—this time after a playdate at a local park—when she broke down into tears and just wept from exhaustion and possible depression and a horrible feeling of being done after her second daughter was born and refusing to sleep—that was the day, I believe, that I was her friend, too. For listening. For asking questions. For listening and asking some more. I became her friend-friend. I was her Jenny.

But we are not friends anymore, this woman and I. No, there was no fight. And nope, we didn’t have some big blow-up in the driveway of one our (old, small, “starter”) homes over a silly miscommunication. It just became…done. She suffered a personal loss, and grieved more than I understood at the time. I thought I was there for her, but looking back, it wasn’t enough. Then her husband got a great job in another state, and she moved. She stopped sending texts as often. I got pregnant with my third child, and the texts stopped altogether. She barely acknowledged my son’s birth. I sent her a first draft of my first novel, one she’d cheered, and she never read it. I still don’t know if she threw the manuscript out or if it’s hanging around her house in a drawer or if she just uses the blank sides of the papers to make grocery lists. After my son was born, I sent her an email—hormonal, sad, frightened of losing the friend I thought was the friend—asking if we could talk about what happened. I needed my friend. I missed her terribly. She was the one who’d text me at 11 p.m., chatting like we would at the dining table of each other’s houses. She’s the one I’d turn to with questions, and funny stories, and cries for help about this child behavior or that recipe. The void that was gone when she left—really left, I mean, body and spirit and texts and all—left a gaping hole. I’d counted on her to be my friend. Moreover, I thought we were. If she could just vanish like that—if she was okay if I vanished, too—were we ever friends at all?

In reply to that email, she said she was busy, she was sorry she wasn’t in touch, but that she’d try harder. That was the last I heard from her. We’re still friends on Facebook, though we never communicate. I see her pictures of her latest baby, #3, and of her newly pregnant belly, but never hit “like.” She must see news of the book release pop up on her feed, but I wouldn’t know it. I know I should cut ties completely, unfriend her, but I can’t. Not yet. I love to see her kids grow—the kids my children played with, squabbled with, splashed in the baby pool with. I want to see what baby she has next, what its name will be. She seems so happy. I hate that that makes me sad.

She was my friend once. She was my friend when we needed each other so. She was my cheerleader and my sounding board and my rock and my constant, pretense-free friend. She, though, was not my friend-friend. She isn’t my Jenny after all. But for a while there, she was pretty darned close, and I guess that’s as good as anything.

Thanks to Leah for sharing her thoughts on her friendship with us and to Berkley for sharing her 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 September 7th at midnight EST.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reviews at Amazon--August edition

We're posting some reviews at our Amazon account, as either they've been sitting in queue for a while and deserve their time in the sun or they're new reads that we couldn't wait to post at the blog. You can check them out at the links below. Hope we can help you find your next favorite book!


Jami's review
Jami's review


Becky's review
Becky's review


Sara's review
Sara's review

Sara's review 
(also includes
The 8 Mistakes of Amy Maxwell)
Melissa A's review



Book Review: Play for Me









By Sara Steven

It happens without warning: At a folk-rock show at her son’s college, Lily becomes transfixed by the guitarist’s unassuming onstage presence and beautiful playing—and with his final note, something within her breaks loose.

After the concert, Lily returns to her comfortable life—an Upper West Side apartment, a job as a videographer, and a kind if distracted husband—but she can’t stop thinking about the music, or about the duo’s guitarist, JJ. Unable to resist the pull of either one, she rashly offers to make a film about the band in order to gain a place with them on tour. But when Lily dares to step out from behind her camera, she falls deep into JJ’s world—upsetting the tenuous balance between him and his bandmate, and filling a chasm of need she didn’t know she had.

Captivating and provocative, Play for Me captures the thrill and heartbreak of deciding to leave behind what you love to follow what you desire. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Many of us have delved into the waters of temptation. It’s the “grass is always greener” mentality, where you find yourself wandering into uncharted territories, seeking out whatever you might desire. Often, this comes at a price, and that is what Lily encounters when she leaves behind the security of what she knows, for the excitement of the unknown.

I felt the constant struggle within Lily. Recently an empty-nester, there’s a void within her that she has suppressed for many years. Her son’s new life at college has reminded her of the life she had given up when she’d decided to leave behind her own passions in order to take care of her family. There is something about the music, touching parts of her soul, making it an instant obsession. The reality of what’s right and wrong becomes blurred and isn’t tangible. She has everything to lose, whether she decides to give up the music or hold onto it for dear life.

I felt JJ represented lost youth for Lily. He lives his dream, even when it’s not ideal. A musician’s life can be a very marred, an ugly existence at times. Lily lives comfortably and safe, never pushing the envelope or attempting to achieve her own dreams. She can live vicariously through JJ, enabling an odd connection between the two of them. In his own right, he feels he’s struggling, too, and she’s a life preserver. Normal, and grounded. Will Lily do the unthinkable, damaging everything she’s ever known, or will she break out of her shell and let everything go?

I enjoyed this book immensely, finding it very difficult to put down. There are so many emotions, so many black and white scenarios blurred into a messy gray. CĂ©line Keating knows just how to carry you through a woman’s journey, into what essentially becomes a re-discovery for Lily, and for most of us who have ever teetered on the “grass is greener” fence line of life.

Thanks to BookSparks for the book in exchange for an honest review. This is part of their Summer Reading Challenge (#SRC2015).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: What Comes Next and How to Like It

By Denise Keliuotis

A confession: I struggled in writing this review.

I struggled not because this book isn’t beautiful and honest and well-written – all of which it is. No, I struggled because of those reasons. How could I find the words to describe Abigail Thomas’ wonderful work? How could I talk about someone else’s remarkable life in just a handful of sentences? The task daunted me.

What Comes Next and How to Like It is a singular piece of art; as such, summing it up in a few hundred words borders on unfair. In a mere 219 pages, Thomas manages to capture the almost indescribable emotions she’s experienced over the decades as she’s faced life events that would have brought weaker women to their knees, literally. But not Thomas. Instead, she talks about these experiences – the death of her husband, the ups and downs of a life-long friendship, the complexities of her relationship with one of her children – with an honesty so raw and so real, I actually had to put the book down about two-thirds in and take a break. I needed a breath. I needed time to truly absorb this formidable woman’s life, to truly take in her words. I refused to rush.

Thomas’ book follows her down the road as she navigates life in the aftermath of some major events, tracing what her life looks like after she loses a spouse, after her relationship with a lifelong friend is rocked to its core, after she and one of her daughters almost lose each other – twice. Thomas writes about the jarring and the mundane: the meals, sleeping with her dogs, a phone call with a friend, the sometimes endless lonely hours. But there is nothing mundane about her writing, and her message is always clear: this is what life has dealt me and where it has taken me, and this is how I have learned and continue to learn to be okay with that.

Reading What Comes Next and How to Like It felt a bit like looking into Thomas’ windows – ironic, really, as her favorite hobby is to paint glass windows, most often creating blue skies on the smooth panes. And that’s ironic, too, because events in Thomas’ life are often much less than sunny. Perhaps that is why she creates her own light.

I hesitate to give away too much detail about Thomas’ story, because joining her on her path – complete with surprises big and small – is a huge part of the joy of reading this book. But I will share one passage that, to me, sums up Thomas’ book. It is from the essay Scraping, and Thomas writes: “The first time I scraped off most of a painting I turned it over and saw streaky white trees and a lot of Spanish moss. That wasn’t what I’d planned, it was better than what I’d planned.” Those words apply to Thomas’ life, maybe to all of our lives.

Thomas broke her book into small essays, each of which easily stands alone but which also fit beautifully together. Each essay holds a message, each essay is a piece of a theme. Together, they form a beautiful literary jigsaw puzzle. Hands down, my favorite essay is entitled, Too Much, which is a half-page long and which made me laugh aloud. Not surprising, because one of the ways Thomas has learned to be okay is to find the humor in a not-so-funny situation. (Often, that humor is dark, as in Too Much, which I greatly admire; so few authors truly master that art.)

If you are looking for a light beach read, What Comes Next and How to Like It is not that book. But if you are looking for a thoughtful, well-written, honest look into the life of a talented, loving, genuine woman, I could not recommend "What Comes Next" more. I’m adding Abigail Thomas to my list of authors with whom I wish I could eat lunch, and I’m adding her other books to my “to be read” pile. I highly recommend you do the same with "What Comes Next."

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

More by Abigail Thomas:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Elisabeth Egan's "Glamour"-ous life...plus a book giveaway

I can’t remember the last time I read Glamour magazine. This may seem like a truly random statement to be starting out the beginning of an introduction, but it really isn’t, since our guest author today is the Books Editor at Glamour.

In addition to Glamour, Elisabeth Egan’s essays and book reviews have appeared in other publications such as Self, O, People, Publishers Weekly, Huffington Post and Chicago Tribune…. just to name a few. Today, she is celebrating the release of her debut novel, A Window Opens. Elisabeth lives in New Jersey with her family. You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

So, without further ado, please give a warm Chick Lit Central welcome to Elisabeth Egan.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy of A Window Opens for a lucky US reader. 

Check out a review by our Author Liaison, Cindy Roesel.

How did being the Books Editor at Glamour magazine impact your writing as an author? 
My job at Glamour made me aware of exactly how many books are published every year. On good days, this gave me hope that mine would be published, too. In low moments, I’d look at the stacks of galleys on my desk and the piles of envelopes waiting to be opened and I felt like I was staring down a long tunnel. Luckily, I’m surrounded by smart, fun colleagues who are the perfect antidote to lonely days of writing—when you’re in my office, it’s hard to feel discouraged for long.

Where does the inspiration for your writing come from? 
From my own life, mostly. Not always from my own experiences, but from conversations I’ve overheard, people I’ve observed at the grocery store, situations I’m curious about. For instance, I grew up near the Thomas Edison Museum and I’ve always loved his mad genius ways—so I had my main character’s mother work at the museum in A Window Opens. This gave me an excuse to learn a little more. For instance, did you know that Edison proposed to his first wife by Morse Code?

What are three things you always have with you when you write? 
My laptop, my red earbuds and (depending on the time of day) a cup of coffee, a can of seltzer or a glass of wine. I used to eat gummy bears but had to cut back.

If money were’t an issue and you had 48 hours to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? 
I’d plan a whirlwind family trip to the Grand Canyon with my family. The itinerary would include hiking, horseback riding, napping on a warm rock and reading. If my personality weren’t an issue, we’d camp under the stars; but in reality, we’d bunk in a luxurious lodge with delicious food and high-end bedding. The soundtrack would be James Taylor meets the Indigo Girls meets 10,000 Maniacs and nobody would make fun of me for listening to music from another century.

What are your three favorite memories from the summer of 2015? 
The time I took a moonlit stroll on the beach with my sister; the time I stayed at the pool until it closed; the time we finished shipping the September issue and I fell asleep on the front porch after dinner.

My all-time favorite meal is: 
Sushi with chocolate cake for dessert.

Thanks to Elisabeth for visiting with us and BookSparks for sharing her book with our readers as part of their 2015 Summer Reading Challenge (#SRC2015).

~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 September 1st at midnight EST.