Friday, April 18, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:


Catching Air by Sarah Pekkanen from Engleman (Amy got this too)




A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews from Little, Brown







Best Supporting Role by Sue Margolis from Penguin




Melissa P:


Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead from Knopf






Amy:


The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand from HBGUSA (Melissa P also got this)

Gail:


Pretty in Ink by Lindsey Palmer from Kensington






Jami:


The Breakup Doctor by/from Phoebe Fox

Carole Matthews is at home with chick lit....plus a book giveaway

We are so glad to have Carole Matthews back at CLC today! She's been here before to talk about chocolate and romance. This time, she's talking about writing and some other fun topics.

If you haven't read a Carole Matthews novel yet, you definitely should get started! She has over 22 of them now, covering a whole range of topics. My first novel of hers was For Better, for Worse. It was the perfect dose of chick lit and full of delightful humor. I started binge reading her books after that! The Chocolate Lovers' Club is definitely my top favorite of hers. Wrapped Up in You (reviewed here) is also very sweet and charming. Her latest novel is A Place Called Home and I look forward to reading it soon.

Visit Carole at her websiteFacebook, and Twitter. We also have a chance for a lucky reader anywhere in the world to win a surprise novel of hers. Whether it is your first or 21st, we hope you will enjoy it!

You've written over 22 novels in 16 years. Which was your favorite to write and which was the most challenging?
My favourite has been the two Chocolate Lovers’ books - The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet. The ‘research’ was amazing! I enjoyed them so much that I’m currently writing a third in the series.
The most challenging has been the book I’ve written for this Christmas. It’s my 25th novel and I’d just written two quite emotional books - including the current one, A Place to Call Home. I felt that I didn’t have the stamina to write another heart-rending book, so I went for something much lighter with some elements of slapstick. As I do two books a year I think it’s sometimes a good idea to go for something a little different.

If you could bring any one of your main characters to life and meet them in person, who would it be and why?
I think it would have to be Dominic, my hero from Wrapped up in You. He’s a Maasai warrior who has such a warm heart and a great sense of humour. He can wrestle lions and cook a mean roast dinner. Not your average romantic hero. All of my readers were a little bit in love with him.

In one sentence, share the most important piece of advice you have with someone looking to write their first novel?
Make time for yourself to write. I get many, many emails and messages from people looking for advice and, without exception, they complain that they don’t have time to write. This is what sorts out the men from the boys! Only those who find the time ever get their novel finished. If it’s really what you want to do, then block out at least half an hour a day and put that booty on the chair. It’s the only way to develop your voice.

If A Place to Call Home were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I think Parminder Nagra from ER would be great for Ayesha Rasheed, my heroine. So talented and beautiful. For Hayden, I’d like to see Alexander Skarsgård. He is just so mind-numbingly handsome and has the right amount of inaccessibility to play a tortured musician. I adore him in True Blood. He needs many, many more film roles.

What was the most creative cake you've baked and what was the occasion?
I baked a Christmas cake taking elements from the cover of my book - With Love at Christmas. I was pretty pleased with that. I’ve just been asked to do the wedding cake for my partner’s son and his fiancée. First I was really thrilled. Now I’m terrified.


What was the last movie you saw in the theater and would you recommend it?
The last film we saw was Gravity in 3D. I sort of liked it. The special effects were amazing and Sandra Bullock is looking hot for 50. But despite that, I felt she spent far too much time huffing and puffing around in little more than her pants - which is, of course, what all women would wear in space. There simply wasn’t enough story for me and I don’t think it deserved all the hype it got. I also can’t stand going to the cinema now as everyone is either texting or on their iPads. Watch the flipping film!

Thanks to Carole for chatting with us and Little, Brown for coordinating the interview.

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

How to win a surprise Carole Matthews novel:  Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Worldwide. Giveaway ends April 23rd at midnight EST.

Don't miss out on the other blogs Carole is visiting or has already visited!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Book Review: Brooklyn Girls

By Karen Waskewich

I was thrilled to receive the two Brooklyn Girls books and after finishing the first, I can’t wait to immediately jump into the second. Brooklyn Girls is a fun and sassy novel – it’s Sex and the City meets Gossip Girl but with more action and characters who are much more down to earth and relatable to the average young woman.

Fantastically funny, fresh and utterly relatable, Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess is the first novel in her brand new series about five twenty-something friends—Pia, Angie, Julia, Coco and Madeleine—sharing a brownstone in hip, downtown Brooklyn, and discovering the ups and downs and ins and outs of their “semi-adult” lives. The first story belongs to sophisticated, spoiled, and stylish Pia, who finds herself completely unemployed, unemployable, and broke. So what is a recent grad with an art history degree and an unfortunate history of Facebook topless photos to do? Start a food truck business of course! Pia takes on the surprisingly cutthroat Brooklyn world of hybrid lettuce growers, artisanal yogurt makers and homemade butter producers to start SkinnyWheels—all while dealing with hipster bees, one-night-stands, heartbreak, parental fury, wild parties, revenge, jail, loan sharks, playboys, karaoke, true love, and one adorable pink food truck. And that's without counting her roommates' problems, too. Gemma Burgess has captured the confusion, hilarity and excitement of the post-graduate years against a backdrop of the pressures and chaos of New York City life, with heartfelt empathy, fast humor and sharp honesty.

A charming debut series about five twenty-something girls and the humor, heartbreak, and drama that bring them together.
(Synopsis from Goodreads.)

Brooklyn Girls centers on Pia, a recent college graduate who moved to New York City to start out her life in the ‘real world.’ To an outsider, Pia seems like the typical spoiled rich kid who jumped between boarding schools and spent a lot of her teenage years hopping around to different destinations at the expense of her parents. What you don’t realize until you dive into the book is that Pia is a strong woman and one most girls can relate to. She spends her first year out of college partying and making bad decisions yet gets her act together and opens up a food truck called SkinnyWheels.

The book follows the life of Pia and her roommates who all are struggling to find their way in the adult world. All of these women who share the same Brooklyn brownstone are wildly entertaining and I loved each and every one of them. They are all different in their own ways and I am hoping (praying!) that Gemma Burgess writes a book on each of them – she has already released her second Brooklyn Girls book called ‘Love and Chaos,’ which centers on Angie, one of Pia’s best friends.

I’ve already recommended this book to a few of my friends. The girls’ stories are so entertaining and relatable and very similar to what my life was like when I started out after college. I know exactly how the young women are feeling when they seem lost and unsure of themselves.

Brooklyn Girls is a fresh take on the lives of new adults and has everything you could want in a book – drama, romance, friendship and humor. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this one and I hope the second one is as good as the first!

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Karen Waskewich is a fiancé to a wonderful man and a mom to a beautiful brindled boxer in Rockville, MD. When she's not working as an IT consultant, she opens up a good book (or turns on her Kindle) or makes her way into the kitchen to cook for her family and friends. Find her at her blog. You can also learn more about her from our very first reader spotlight post!

More by Gemma Burgess:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Lilac House

By Jami Deise

While women’s fiction and chick lit tends to be dominated by American and British writers, the themes the genre explores are global: love, relationships, parenthood. More specifically, one thread that writers turn to time and again are the casual, cruel ways men treat the women in their lives. India, the setting for Anita Nair’s complicated novel The Lilac House, is a country in which this cruelty is built into the very fabric of the nation. Female fetuses are routinely (if illegally) aborted; female babies smothered at birth; widows were once expected to throw themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre; gang rape is common and only just starting to be protested. It is ironic that a country where men outnumber women treats them so poorly.

Nair covers many of these subjects in The Lilac House, through two protagonists experiencing this cruelty first and secondhand. Meera, a 44-year-old mother of two and author of The Corporate Wife’s Guide to Entertaining, is suddenly deserted by her husband Giri, who blames her for his dissatisfaction with his life (and refusing to sell her family’s home, the Lilac House, so he can use the money to start his own business). Jak, a cyclone professor, has returned to India to care for his catatonic 19-year-old daughter Smriti and to try to uncover the truth about the accident that left her that way. When Meera’s publishing company rejects the premise of her latest book, she takes a job as Jak’s secretary, and helps him investigate the days leading to Smriti’s accident.

Meera is a tragic heroine. Although Giri is a self-centered jerk, she constantly blames herself for his actions and hopes for his return. Her own college-aged daughter blames her as well. She lives in a society where a woman is faulted for not being able to keep a man around and happy. In this way, she is similar to Jak’s mother, whose husband left her to live in an ashram. Jak himself is not without fault. Divorced, he seduces his colleagues’ married wives for sport. When he was younger, he froze his mother out of his life for getting married a second time. Yet the reader will root for these characters to come together romantically.

The Lilac House is a difficult novel to get through. It’s densely written and complicated, with myriad points-of-view, back stories, and flashbacks. I had trouble keeping track of who everyone was and how they were related to each other. Jak goes by several different names, which adds to the confusion. Meera has a habit of comparing herself to the Greek goddess Hera, and goes on long internal monologues referencing specific Greek myths. But the mystery at the core of the story – what really happened to Smriti – is compelling enough that it was worth working through those complications to get to the end.

It is not giving away too much of the novel to reveal that Smriti’s story touches on the suffering of Indian women in every way. The fact that Smriti herself was an American of Indian background, returning to her father’s home country with the idealized dream that she could make a difference, makes her tragedy a universal one. The Lilac House is not just a story about what happened to an Indian wife and an Indian daughter. Smriti is everyone’s daughter, a constant reminder that over half of the population is not safe simply because of her gender.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: Undertaking Love

By Gail Allison

Imagine a little white wedding chapel in a charming, sleepy British town. Now imagine that it’s run by Marla: a love-phobic wedding director who has no plan to settle down herself, but is completely committed to helping her clients have their own Happily Ever After moments. And then plunk a funeral home next to it, right where Marla expects a bakery – the perfect complement to her little wedding chapel – to settle in. Naturally chaos is about to ensue, especially when the funeral director comes over to introduce himself. All sparkling eyes, black hair, and Irish brogue, Gabe has gone into the family business of funerals, and doesn’t see a problem with settling in next to Marla’s homegrown business. And the fact that Marla is completely adorable doesn’t escape him. Throw in an over-the-top wedding planner who is as flamboyantly gay as he is loyal to Marla and her business and a scheming assistant at the funeral home who wants nothing more than to have Gabe all to herself, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Can the two clashing businesses (and their respective owners) find a happy middle ground, or are they going to divide the town in two with their turf wars?

Undertaking Love, by Kat French, was a fun book with a few laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout, as well as some moments that really tugged at the heartstrings. I found that one of the best points of this novel was the fact that the secondary characters were very well fleshed out. Nearly every member of the supporting cast had their own backstory, their own issues, and their own drama. It made for a much more interesting story than simply having one-dimensional characters that are just hanging around to support the main story line. The well-developed characters did add some confusion to the mix, though. I found that there were so many characters, all with their own problems and partners and issues that the novel tended to get a bit muddy at times. It made it tough for me to pick up again after I had put it down, as I generally had to go back a page or two to figure out who we were dealing with and what was going on, exactly.

That being said, this is a nice, easy read, and if your life is slightly less chaotic than mine and you can commit a few days to a novel, I’d recommend Undertaking Love to you. It’s a lot of fun, and the situations brought forward in it really do run the gamut from tear-jerking to snickering out loud. Honestly, the only issue I had with this novel was the fact that there were so many characters and situations that I’d lose track of who was doing what if I put it down for a few days. The volume of detail, combined with my habit of reading no less than five books at a time, combined to muddle the details in my head at times. But maybe that’s just me.

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Best Thing I Never Had

By Becky Gulc

**Giveaway is now closed**

The Best Thing I Never Had by Erin Lawless is another fantastic debut novel by an author I'd happily read further novels from in the future. But whats it all about?

This book is about seven University students who couldn't be closer in their university heyday in 2006/7. It's about bonds developing and breaking, and asks whether broken friendships or relationships can ever be repaired later in life.

The novel starts in the present, 2012, when two of the friends, Nicky and Miles, announce their engagement and we are shown the different reactions to the upcoming wedding by the other five friends. To say there is some apprehension about all getting together again after five years is an understatement. With the apprehension building up, the questions surrounding what went on between this set of friends to break some of the bonds allow us to go back in time to 2006/7 for the first half of the novel.

Here we learn what university life was like for this set of four female and three male friends. With one couple in love, a couple of cases of unrequited lust and love, and an awkward developing romance that could fracture long-standing friendships, there is a lot going on.

Without wanting to spoil what goes on, needless to say I was intrigued to see how the wedding in 2012 would pan out following what is basically a big messy fall out amongst several members of the group at the end of University. What happens in 2012 is covered in the latter part of the novel.

I enjoyed the narrative and was drawn in immediately, wondering why each character had so much angst about attending their friend's wedding, and it worked well by having a good chunk of the novel set in the past and later the present, without constantly flitting between the two.

I found the number of characters confusing for quite a while when reading this, but my head soon got around who was who, and who felt what about whom else, but I did keep having to do a little recap in my head initially. It wasn't long before I felt strongly about what I wanted to happen/not happen between the characters and who I felt was in the right/wrong when events unveil themselves. Because I felt so strongly, I was almost shouting at the book at some points when I could see where it was frustratingly going. I think i would have found it a little less frustrating if Leigha's feelings for one of the friends had been covered in more detail in the early parts of the novel; this seemed minimal, so I had little empathy to her feelings for the most part though.

Overall, I thought there was good character development, particularly for those whom I considered to be the more central characters of Harry, Adam, Leigha and Johnny. By the end of the first half, I couldn't wait to find out what happens in the present and whether my hopes for the characters were realised. I was very happy with how things were tied up at the end, it felt realistic rather than contrived.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to others. If you want to be reminded of University days and how happy yet complicated friendships can be (in a more care free time in someone's life as well as when older), this may be the book for you. I'd love to see some of these characters feature in Erin's future work.

Thanks to HarperCollins UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have TWO e-books for some lucky readers anywhere in the world! 

How to win:

Please tell us about someone from your past you'd like to reunite with.

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

Open worldwide. Giveaway ends April 16th at midnight EST.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Go-To-Gay: Intuition

Introduction by Tracey Meyers

I’ve lived to regret it on several occasions. Not following my intuition (aka – my gut), that is. From time-to-time I’ve been delightfully surprised, however a majority of the time I’m spot on.

The times I listen to my gut the most is in my professional life, such as when I’m making decisions to help others. However, when it comes to my personal life, it’s a bit harder because I want to believe the best in people. I want to believe that I’m the one whose compass is off. I want to see things for what they can be, not what they are at that moment.

Sometimes listening to your gut is most difficult when reason seems to make the most sense. When your head and your gut are in two totally different places.

Today, our Go-To-Gay, Gary Edwards shares with us his thoughts on intuition.


Intution
By Gary Edwards

Would have, could have should have! We all have that inner voice the one that we often tune out! Many of you are Mom’s and I am sure can tune in to your instinct for your kids. That voice that tells you when and what to do to be able to protect your kids and keep them safe from harm’s way.

Well, how come we forget to do that for ourselves. So often after a horrible situation or dealing with an awkward moment we will say “I knew better,” I had a weird feeling about that!” or “I should have listened to myself”

Is it time to slow down and connect with yourself again? Time for you can clear your head and connect to your internal voice. How do you slow down and take a minute to think a minute from rushing and pay attention to the world around you. We are all on a path with many, many options some are gifts and wonderful opportunities others may be distractions or a quick fix and total lack of judgment.

Think back to a time when you felt the most connected to yourself, G-d, a higher power, energy, whatever you want to call it. What where you doing and how to you get there again. Someone once pointed out to me once you identify with your own center; you will be able to get back to center easier. If you were always centered you would not know you were there.

I think we are always learning, growing and striving to make our lives the best they can be. We are all here to be happy, joyous and free. How do we make that be the biggest part of our life? For me I practice yoga, run and read a lot of books about self help and also staying positive. One of the books I am reading right now is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. When I am in a positive place of mind and I tend to listen to myself go with my gut decisions and follow my instinct. When I am in a negative place of mind I tend to make bad choices and have a lot of negative self talk, leading to me not following my heart and listening to that inner voice. Being negative, doubt, fear, and panic can set in and that is when we think we are responding, but we are reacting. Nothing good can come when we are in that frame of mind.

What are some things that you do to stay centered? What is an example of you using your instinct? I would love to hear what works for you!

Gary Edwards is the marketing and events manager for bestselling author Wade Rouse. Edwards arranges Rouse’s tour schedule, speaking engagements as well as coordinates and facilitates his writing workshops and retreats.  Additionally, Edwards has helped market and promote all five of Rouse’s books. Edwards also has a background in hospitality, and sales as well as design. 

With his vast professional back and a love to listen and help friends he is a perfect storm of love and nurture. Edwards is Martha Stewart meets Dear Abby with a dash of Mrs. Doubtfire.  For more, please friend him on Facebook and Twitter.