Monday, July 27, 2015

Jenny O'Regan is "positively" amazing...plus a special giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

We are honored to have the delightful Jennifer Tropea O'Regan here today. I met Jennifer via Facebook last year, when Stephanie Elliot of SE Reviews and Reads shared one of her giveaways. I then saw that she liked the same books as I did and that she lives not too far from me. I connected with her and we instantly became friends. 

"Chick Lit Soup for the Soul" month is a perfect time to have Jennifer here, as she is full of kindness, generosity, and positive energy. If I'm having a bad day, I just need to message with her and I instantly feel better. (Keep in mind, I don't run to her with my problems, I just bask in her warm glow of happiness.)

In addition to fostering a love of literacy within her unprivileged high school students, Jennifer has many noteworthy philanthropic accolades. During her husband’s plight with cancer, she single-handedly raised over 3,000 books for the Johns Hopkins Hospital Oncology Patient Library. Jennifer is now sharing her unbridled passion for reading via Confessions of a Bookaholic —a page dedicated to celebrating female authors. She's also hanging out on Twitter and Instagram, just waiting to celebrate authors and books with her followers over there. Jennifer lives in the DC area with her husband and two of the cutest dogs ever. And she sometimes gets mistaken for Elsa from Frozen.

Since Jennifer is well-known for her incredible book giveaways, she has a special treat for our readers: a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card for readers anywhere in the world to try and win! (Note: if the winner is outside of the US, they will receive a different prize of equal value.)



Something good that happened to you recently.
I received an email from a former student detailing his profound gratitude for my guidance during a tumultuous time in his life. He wrote, quite candidly, that he would not have graduated from high school or gone on to college were it not for my encouragement. (Blinking back tears as I recount the details!) His words, forever resonant, are a strong reminder that we should never underestimate the power of kindness.

Something good that happened to someone you know recently.
My handsome hubby, Mike, was selected for promotion to Commander in the Navy Reserves!




Something good you witnessed.
I observed a young man, presumably 18-19 years old, escort an elderly woman through a busy DC intersection. It warmed my heart. His mama taught him well!

Something good you heard on the news.
University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono rejected a $200,000 bonus, asking for the money to instead be donated to charities and scholarships. Talk about a shining example of selflessness. Bravo, President Ono!

Something good someone did for you.
A kind man insisted on paying for my coffee at Starbucks recently. His only contingency—pay it forward! Consider it done, sir!

Something good you did for someone else.
I aspire to do good each and every day, without exception--whether in a grander sense (running an 8K for The Wounded Warriors Project) or via simple everyday benevolences (bringing a sick neighbor chicken soup).

Thanks to Jennifer for making us smile and for sharing such a special prize 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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Worldwide. Giveaway ends August 2nd at midnight EST.

Friday, July 24, 2015

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

Melissa A:

Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope (won from Great Thoughts' Great Readers)

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy from Penguin Random House

Losing Me by Sue Margolis from
Penguin Random House
(Don't miss out on our giveaway!)

I'm Not Her by Cara Sue Achterberg

The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur from Thomas Dunne Books

Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon from Putnam

The Woman in the Photograph
by Dana Gynther from Gallery Books

Hello? by/from Liza Wiemer

The Silver Cord by/from Alison Caiola
(e-book)

Starting from Lost by/from S.K. Wills (e-book)

Amy:

The Invisibles by Cecilia Galante
from William Morrow

Becoming Ellen by Shari Shattuck from Putnam

Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams from Putnam


A Remarkable Kindness by Diana Bletter from William Morrow

Sara:

Family Trees by Kerstin March from Kensington (e-book)

Becky:

Pippa's Cornish Dream by Debbie Johnson from Harper Impulse

The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown from Harper Collins

What could be in YOUR mail:

The Someday Jar by Allison Morgan
Berkley has TWO copies to give away!

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMON-DROP MARTINIS...
Real-estate broker Lanie Howard figures she has the perfect man, the perfect job, and the perfect life. Then she stumbles across her old Someday Jar, the forgotten glass relic where she stashed all the childhood wishes—no matter how crazy—that her father encouraged her to write down on the backs of Chinese restaurant fortunes. She used to be fun once! What happened to her?

DON'T CHOKE ON THE RIND.
Although Lanie is wary of uncorking her past, when an attractive stranger saves her from a life-or-death encounter with a lemon peel at the bottom of a martini glass, she realizes that life is way too short for regrets. Now, jar in hand, Lanie decides to throw caution to the wind, and carry out everything she had once hoped to do, even if it means leaving her perfectly “perfect” life behind…

Fans of Sophie Kinsella and the Shopaholic series will fall in love with Lanie Howard—young, fabulous, and desperate to transform her life—in this funny, quirky, and endearing story about finding perfect happiness in life’s most imperfect moments. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

You also have a chance to win this special prize:
Like BookBub? Then you’ll absolutely and irrevocably fall madly in love with Forewordz (coming soon), a book lover’s community connecting authors and readers through daily eBook deals and special promotions. We heart readers so much that we're giving away a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card before we even launch! Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

**Both giveaways are US only**

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 July 29th at midnight EST. First winner who is chosen by Rafflecopter will receive the gift card.

Double Feature Review: Romantic Getaways

By Melissa Amster

Both these books are about travel and romance, as well as women facing some problems back home, so I thought it would work well to pair them up for sharing about some hot summer reads. Also, both covers feature women in wide brimmed hats at the beach, facing the ocean.

**Both synopses courtesy of Goodreads**

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Serena has the job she's always dreamed of and Chase, the man her heart never dared to. As a new editor at Vogue, she bags the biggest interview of the year with Yvette Renault, the infamous former editor of French Vogue, in The Carlton-InterContinental Hotel during the Cannes Film Festival. She eagerly jets off to France while Chase stays home, working with her father, a former senator, on his upcoming mayoral campaign.

Everything feels unbelievably perfect...until it doesn't. The hotel loses her reservation hours before her big interview. Serena fears that she'll have to go home without her story, but then she meets Zoe, a quirky young woman staying in the suite below Yvette's who invites Serena to stay with her. Serena is grateful for her mysterious roommate's generosity, but it seems that there's more to her story than meets the eye. To make matters worse, soon after arriving in Cannes, Serena learns a shocking secret about her parents' marriage, and it isn't long before she begins to question her own relationship.With her deadline looming and pressure mounting, Serena will have to use her investigative journalism skills, new friendships, and a little luck to get her life and love back on track.

If you're looking for an indulgent, escapist read, you've come to the right place! In typical Anita Hughes style, she delivers exquisite settings, delicious sounding food, and hot romantic scenes. Readers will be in for quite an armchair adventure! While I don't know enough about fashion to picture certain designer couture, the name dropping was lost on me. However, I'm guessing the clothes were amazing too. There were some interesting twists that I did not see coming and kept me on my toes throughout the story. I did have a couple of concerns. One was that there was too much description nestled within each scene, which included people talking about clothes they wore decades ago to enhance a visualization. The other was that some chapters or sections ended abruptly instead of transitioning to the next chapter or section. Even so, it was an enjoyable novel and I'm excited to read Rome in Love soon.

Dream movie cast:
Serena: Laura Ramsey
Chase: Chris Pine
Nick: Adrian Grenier
Zoe: Tatiana Maslany
Yvette (young): Odette Annable

Thanks to Anita Hughes for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Truly, Madly, Greekly by Mandy Baggot

Sun, sea and a sexy stranger - a whole lot of fun just got a lot more complicated.

Capable, confident and career-driven, Ellen had her dream job and a marriage proposal from boyfriend Ross. Life was good, her future set. Until it wasn’t and everything fell apart…

Whisked off to the beautiful island of Corfu to plan her sister Lacey’s big, fat, Greek wedding, Ellen is hoping some time out will help clear her head and heal her heart. But letting go of her past is not going to be easy.

With Lacey in full on Bridezilla mode, Ellen is soon distracted from her own problems. And when the all-inclusive treats on offer at hotel Blue Vue include one gorgeous, brooding Adonis – Yan – Ellen finds him difficult to resist.

But Ellen isn’t looking for love or lust, or anything involving too much ouzo…or is she?

I read Excess All Areas a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so it was nice to be back in Corfu, albeit with a new set of characters. The setting reminded me of the all-inclusive resort where I stayed for my honeymoon, even though that was in St. Lucia. It made me want to go back there, all the same! Overall, Truly, Madly, Greekly was a fun and entertaining story. There were some interesting conflicts that had an element of mystery and suspense to them, as they were built up throughout the story. The romantic chemistry was at just the right notch and there were some scenes that got the imagination going. Some aspects of the story made me think of Dirty Dancing, such as how Ellen and Lacey spent so much time with the resort staff and how Lacey was boy crazy and Ellen felt the need to protect her. If you're looking for a delightful beach read, you've found it!

Dream movie cast:
Ellen: Felicity Jones
Lacey: Lily James
Yan: Justin Baldoni

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

More by Anita Hughes:



More by Mandy Baggot:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: The Cake Shop in the Garden

By Becky Gulc

‘Fay Merryweather runs her cake shop from her beautiful garden.

She whips up airy sponges and scrumptious scones while her customers enjoy the lovely blossoms and gorgeous blooms.

Looking after the cake shop, the garden and taking care of her cantankerous mother means Fay is always busy but she accepts her responsibilities because if she doesn’t do all this, who will?

Then Danny Wilde walks into her life and makes Fay question every decision she’s ever made.

When a sudden tragedy strikes, Fay’s entire world is thrown off balance even further and she doesn’t know which way to turn. Can Fay find the strength to make a life-changing decision – even if it means giving up the thing she loves the most?

Life, love and family are about to collide in . . . The Cake Shop in the Garden. (Synopsis courtesy of Carole Matthews' website.)

This book has such an amazing cover, it’s so enticing with all that cake, and doesn’t it just have a lovely spring/summertime feel to it? Perfect! Definitely eye-catching and makes you want to dive straight in. And what a stamp of approval to have from the queen of baking herself, Mary Berry. The synopsis also enticed me, being a keen amateur baker.

Well, I told my mum she had to take this book on holiday with her, I loved it. Fay runs the cake shop from the garden of her much-loved but somewhat neglected home which she shares with her mother. The garden backs onto a canal where the family’s narrow boat lives, the Maid of Merryweather. This narrow boat also serves as a shop for the produce Fay and her assistant Lija create. The setting was so vivid in my mind, I could just imagine myself having an afternoon tea in the garden watching the world--and ducks--go by. And if Danny Wilde was there doing a bit of DIY around the place whilst I was there, well even better!

Fay is someone who works hard and plays...well pretty much never; she is someone growing old before her time. She’s in a relationship with Anthony, a relationship that she’s quite passive about, they don’t live together and everything seems to be on his terms (he is very busy bell ringing...). With Fay caring for her mother as well as running her business, the situation kind of suits her. I liked Fay a lot, although this passiveness did frustrate me at times. She was continually convincing herself Anthony was a good catch, but that made some of the plot twists more interesting later on. As for Fay’s mother and sister, well, you’ll have to read it, but gosh--Fay has the patience of a saint! Great characters though, again leading to twists and turns I wasn’t expecting in the second half of the novel, which were gripping.

My favourite characters were Lija, Fay’s assistant at the cake shop, and Stan, the elderly regular customer. Both of these characters treated Fay the way she deserves and have her best interests at heart. Lija may seem aloof and unfriendly to most people but she has a lovely relationship with Fay. And Stan, well I was on tenterhooks at the end of the novel. It was quite an emotional ending as these characters drew me in to their world.

If I were to be picky the only thing I maybe didn’t like about this novel was some of the language used to describe the ‘love’ scenes, but these scenes must be so hard to write to everyone’s taste!

I’ve read a few of Carole’s books now, and to quote the lovely character of Stan from I would have to say this is ‘my favourite.’ A perfect setting and a perfect range of characters. I really hope there will be a sequel to this as there seems to be some much more scope for these characters, and the cake garden which I wish was real.

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

More by Carole Matthews:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chick Lit Cheerleader: The First Bird

Introduction by Melissa Amster

With my youngest about to graduate in less than a year (from Pre-K, but still...) and my oldest getting closer to his Bar Mitzvah (three years to go), I can relate to this post from our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, written in honor of "Chick Lit Soup for the Soul" month. I met her son, Wil, who is the main subject of today's post. He's a remarkable young man and is so funny and charismatic. I couldn't be happier for him (and Jen) with reaching this milestone. 

Fair warning: Have some tissues handy...

The Best is Yet to Come

Rites of passage. We anxiously await their commencement, we meet the milestone with pomp and circumstance, and we look behind us as they roar past, wondering, “Where did the time go?” I’m not the first nor last person to have her first baby bird jump out of the high school graduation nest. I knew this day was coming for 18 precious years.

And I was hanging in there.

Until a few weeks before graduation when Wil paraded into the kitchen and asked, “What do you think?”

Standing before me was my son wearing his navy gown lined in orange around the zipper, his cap crookedly resting upon his head and his tassel swaying to and fro. I saw his life flash before my eyes. And because so much of my writing tells stories about my family, I feel like Wil’s journey in a way is yours as well.



“Mommy, how I yook?” Wil asked. Three years old, dressed as Buzz Lightyear for Halloween. With a year of speech therapy under his belt, any words from his lips were music to my ears. “To affinity and pee-yond!” was his candy haul battle cry.

“Mommy, is this cool (school) clothes?” The first day of kindergarten. His backpack gave him a run for his money to balance and navigate. A Blue’s Clues tee shirt and matching shorts gave him the confidence to go out and face the day. I on the other hand was in la-la land, convincing myself kindergarten was just preschool with homework accompanied by a bonus bus ride meaning my tears were minimal.

“Mommy! Did you know trees have leaves?” Wil cheered as we drove home from the eye doctor. Wearing his first pair of glasses, bifocals no less, this mother of the year thought he was being lazy when he colored outside the lines. Turned out he couldn’t see lines nor leaves on tress, obviously. Best mom ever.

“Mommy, this isn’t mine!” Wearing his little brother’s size 2T Baby Gap shirt, I have no idea how he even got it over that huge melon of his, let alone his arms through the sleeves. Bare midriffs are not a good look for him.



“They shrunk at the night time!” Wil was seven and woke to the harsh reality that his favorite Thomas the Train pajamas seemed to be a little smaller in the morning. How did that commercial go? “If they could just stay little ’til their Carter’s wear out.”

“I don’t think this looks like this.” Soccer. Shin guards and socks. Yeah, I had no idea how to work that combo.

“This doesn’t match?” Chilly air outside means wearing more layers in Indiana. October of his Freshman year of high school, Wil walked into the kitchen wearing a lime green V-neck sweater and navy track pants. Befuddled after I gave him “the look” and told him his top and bottoms were not even on the same playing field, he returned to his room and changed. He put a cordovan colored v-neck on instead hoping that was the winning combination with his athletic bottoms. Not so much.



“So, what do you think?” His high school Bowling Team uniform. He ironed it himself. Why is it his pleats crease better than mine? Why do I care? This means he should iron for the entire family from now on.

“Did you see me?” he asked Mike and me after scoring four strikes in row while competing in the Special Olympics State Bowling Championship games. He joined Special Olympics one year after leaving the school’s bowling team. Where high school sports were not a place of acceptance, patience, or tolerance for Wil, being brave in the attempt with others with special needs was bliss for him. He made friends. He did his best. He was accepted just the way he was. He won the silver medal at State his first year. His joy filled our hearts ten times over. I had never seen him so happy in his teen years as I did that day. That’s worth a Turkey any day.



This young man on the precipice of graduation stood before me. He wanted me to compliment him. Tell him how handsome he made the gown look. Tears welled as I embraced him. I wiped them away, saying, “You look amazing. Like you’re ready to start the rest of your life.”

School was never a place of comfort, friendship, success or ease for Wil. It was simply a means to a diploma so he could move on and move on out. His strength and courage will always astound me and put my whiny bad days about “First world problems” to shame. On his saddest and darkest of days living in an apraxic body that, at times, refuses to do what he wills it to, he remains the brightest star of all.




I stepped back drinking in the sight of my handsome young man on the verge of experiencing life after school. Wil took my hands into his and said, “Mom, don’t cry now. Save some for the ceremony, will you?”

You’ll be happy to know Wil made it across the stage in the weeks following the kitchen crying incident. I didn’t cry once at graduation. Not even the excusable “It’s just my allergies” tears fell. Instead, I cried seven times before we even arrived on campus for the ceremony.

Fly my little bird. May you see wonders, live life loud and proud, and know that no matter what happens, the best is yet to come.



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: 15 Minutes of Summer

By Jami Deise

There are two types of people in this world: People who love the Kardashians, and people who hate them. And I’d bet a significant subset of people who follow all things Kardashian are hate-watchers, which would put them in the latter camp. It’s not that the Kardashians are any more heinous than other famous families out there. But many people have an aversion toward those who are famous just for being famous. And what kind of person is so needy that their lives aren’t fulfilling unless the cameras are on them?

15 Minutes of Summer gives readers a peek into the mind of someone who’s so desperate to be famous, she violates her own personal code of ethics. It’s the third book in Heather Wardell’s Seven Exes are Eight Too Many series. The last book, Bad Will Hunting, featured one of Kent’s exes, Ashley; this one features his ex-wife Summer, the only woman Exes protagonist MC (yes, you really do need to read the first two books to appreciate this one) really felt threatened by. In Exes, Summer was your basic cheerleader type – gorgeous, outgoing, always smiling, and obviously still soft on Kent. In her own book, her insecurities take center stage: She’s the “stupid one” in a family of geniuses. While this doesn’t completely explain why she’s so enamored of the spotlight, it keeps her from seeming shallow.

The book picks up near where Bad Will Hunting ends, then back tracks over some of the same timeline so readers can see how Summer ended up doing what she did. Unlike "Hunting," in which Ashley comes across as a very unlikeable protagonist, Summer is sympathetic, and her thoughts and actions are mostly understandable. And Wardell gives herself a way out when Summer doesn’t take the most logical action – by establishing her heroine as not the sharpest knife in the drawer, it makes sense when she can’t see her way out of traps of her own making.

After the wrap-up show, the show’s producer makes an off-hand comment to Summer that she could be in the TV business. That sets Summer – who already has a custom swimsuit business that’s taking off because of the reality series – on a quest to make that happen, even though it requires her to work for sleazy Simon and ingratiate herself into the lives of celebrities as she seeks to find the scoop to make her career as a gossip reporter. Of course, the biggest get in reality-TV land is her own ex-husband Kent and MC. Will Summer betray her friends in order to get the career she wants?

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of reality TV (other than the shows on HGTV). In fact, when the movie EdTV came out, I couldn’t believe anyone in America would watch a show about real people living their lives, much less obsess over it. Boy was I wrong. But I really enjoy Wardell’s writing, and I love how she develops her characters. What made Summer so interesting to me, as a fan of the previous two books, was how Summer’s perception of herself was so different from how MC and Ashley perceived her. And frankly, MC does not come across in this book very well. While Summer never disparages her – she’s actually eager for her friendship – MC is a mouse of a person, and the pettiness that bothered me near the end of the first book rears its ugly head here as well. This point is not meant as a criticism of the book, but as a point in its favor. We are all protagonists in the book of our life, and our friends, family and acquaintances the main characters in theirs. How much overlap is there in how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us?

I did have a few issues with the book, but they are minor. Wardell spends a lot of time on the details of Summer’s celebrity journalist gig, which meant a lot of made-up celebrities and their exploits. It was hard to keep track of who was whom in fake celebrity world, and I didn’t really care about any of them. Also, Summer seems to have only one friend other than the people from the "Seven Exes" crew, and she’s not a good one. For someone as outgoing as Summer is, I found it hard to believe that she was so isolated. But these are quibbles, and don’t take away too much from the enjoyment of the book.

If you haven’t read the first two books of the series, download them before reading this one. All three together could make for a fun beach-reading weekend. And as for those of us who have read the books, let’s get started guessing which movie title Wardell will use for book number four. Sleepy in Seattle? Nothing Hill?

Thanks to Heather Wardell for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Heather Wardell:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Amy E. Reichert is the frosting on the literary cake...plus a book giveaway

Photo by Kelly Johnsen
We're pleased to have Amy E. Reichert here to talk about some of the good things in life, as part of our "Chick Lit Soup for the Soul" month. We're also celebrating her pub day today. Thanks to Gallery Books, we have TWO copies of her debut novel, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, for some lucky US readers. 

Amy Reichert earned her MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed her writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, she loves helping readers find new books to love. She’s a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, she loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and test the limits of her DVR. (Bio courtesy of Amy's website.) 

Visit Amy on Facebook and Twitter.

Something good that happened to you recently.
It’s been an abundance of riches for me, lately. With THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE finally coming out, everything is shiny and bright! It’s kind of hard to top that. If I were to name something specific, visiting the printing plant to see my book be printed rates very high. Everyone was so generous with their time. I’ll never forget seeing an entire palette of my books.

Something good that happened to someone you know recently.
A friend recently visited India, where she and her family had lived for a short time six years ago. People they knew during their first stay recognized them and even with the language barrier, were able to express their delight at the reunion. (You can read more here.) I love stories that remind me that kind people are everywhere.

Something good you witnessed.
I’m currently helping out at Girl Scout camp for my daughter’s troop. Our group is a mish-mash of five different troops—some of the girls came to camp all alone. I’m delighted that they have mixed up and made sure no girls are left out without any adult prompting. It’s so rewarding to see these girls become compassionate and caring young women.


Something good you heard on the news.
This is a bit silly, but I read a story that Channing Tatum helped 92 year-old Stan Lee off a Comic-Con stage. It’s a small thing, but reveals so much about the kind of person Channing Tatum is. I just love it.

Something good someone did for you.
My sister, Pam Lehman, is like my angel. I’m the worst sister. I never call (unless I need to ask for something), and she’s still waiting for her signed copy of my book, but she is always there for me. Always. Most recently, she volunteered to take a day off of work to help with my book launch party. Seriously, she’s an angel!

Something good you did for someone else.
My mom is moving out of her house after 40 plus years. So my sister (the above mentioned angel) and I are helping her pack things up, put her house on the market, and find a new place to live. It doesn’t really feel like I’m doing anything special, because she’s my mom and I’d do anything for her, but I know there are a lot of people who don’t have that type of support.

Thanks to Amy for warming our hearts and to Gallery 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.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


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