Friday, October 21, 2016

What's in the Mail

Melissa A:
The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner from Touchstone (e-book via Edelweiss)
It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany from Atria  (e-book via Edelweiss)
Bridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries by
Helen Fielding from Alfred A. Knopf
This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger from Touchstone
I See You by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley
The Slow Waltz of Turtles by
Katherine Pancol from Penguin Random House
Hot Flash Holidays by Nancy Thayer from Random House
The Hope Chest by Viola Shipman from Thomas Dunne
The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman from William Morrow

Melissa A and Amy:
First Light by Bill Rancic from Putnam

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams from HarperCollins

To Catch a Cat by/from Heather Green

I See You by Clare Mackintosh from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)

The Christmas Cake Cafe by Sue Watson from Bookouture (e-book)
Licking Flames by Diana Kirk from
MindBuck Media (e-book)
Amour Anarchy: A Memoir by/from
Maura Stone
Seed of the Sunflower by/from Lisa Edwards (e-book)

Guest Book Review: The Littlest Bigfoot

By E.Z. Amster

Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, slips through the world unseen and unnoticed. Ignored by her family and shipped off to her eighth boarding school, Alice would like a friend. And when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in a lake one day, she finds one.

But Millie is a Bigfoot, part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs, as they call them—are dangerous, yet Millie is fascinated with the No-Fur world. She is convinced that humans will appreciate all the things about her that her Bigfoot tribe does not: her fearless nature, her lovely singing voice, and her desire to be a star.

Alice swears to protect Millie’s secret. But a league of Bigfoot hunters is on their trail, led by a lonely kid named Jeremy. And in order to survive, Alice and Millie have to put their trust in each other—and have faith in themselves—above all else. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

The Littlest Bigfoot is truly inspiring to me. It teaches me about friendship. When Millie, of the Yare, meets Alice, the human or no-fur as the Yare called them, they begin a friendship that no one could ever make as beautiful as theirs. They were very lonely children so it was such a miracle for them to find each other from two different sides of Lake Standish. I would recommend this book to all of my friends in my grade (80 students!). I give this book five stars for its beautiful story of how the lonely children make a friendship. I hope Jennifer Weiner will write more books for kids my age.

P. S. The cover is beautiful!

E.Z. is Melissa Amster's older son. He enjoys reading, cooking, playing clarinet, and drawing pictures. The Littlest Bigfoot was published on his birthday. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jacquelyn Middleton's bridge to a book giveaway

We're pleased to introduce Jacquelyn Middleton and feature her debut novel, London Belongs to Me. Upon seeing her photo, Melissa A immediately introduced her to our Chick Lit Cheerleader, as they look like they could be sisters. They hit it off right away!

Jacquelyn is an award-winning freelance writer with articles published by several of the most popular magazines, newspapers, and websites in North America including Canadian Living, Best Health, National Geographic Travel, The Toronto Star, Reader’s Digest, Chatelaine, Today’s Parent, and Flare. She previously worked in television broadcasting for Chum Television (Citytv and MuchMusic), and Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting (Discovery Health Channel, Slice and National Geographic Channel), and lives in Toronto.

When Jacquelyn is not writing, you can find her hanging out in London, waiting in a comic con line with her husband, or chasing after her bossy Schipperke. Visit Jacquelyn at her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thanks to BookSparks, we have one copy of London Belongs to Me to give away. This book is also part of their 2016 Fall Reading Challenge.

Meet Alex, a recent college graduate from Tallahassee, Florida in love with London, pop culture, and comic cons. It’s not easy being 21-years-old, and Alex has never been the most popular girl. She’s an outsider, a geeky fangirl … with dreams of becoming a playwright in a city she’s loved from afar, but never visited. Fleeing America after a devastating betrayal, she believes London is where she’ll be understood, where she belongs. But Alex’s past of panic attacks and broken relationships is hard to escape. When it teams up with a jealous rival determined to destroy her new British life, Alex begins to question everything: her life-long dream, her new friends, and whether London is for her.

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you?
Publishing London Belongs to Me was the realization of a life-long dream.

How did you decide to write chick lit?
To me, Chick Lit is the most enjoyable genre to read and it has so much heart. My favourite books are stories about love, friendship, and overcoming great odds to become the woman you are meant to be. Everyone can relate to yearning for someone, or something, and the struggle to be understood. The best chick lit stories always have a large dose of all those ingredients. With London Belongs to Me, I basically wrote the story that I wanted to read.

Which authors have inspired you?
My favourite book growing up was E.B. White's Charlotte's Web. It's the most beautiful story about friendship that I've ever read. And that last paragraph … makes me cry every time I read it. I also find Karen Swan, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Karma Brown, and Mhairi McFarlane incredibly inspiring. I devour their novels.

A brilliant American writer named Helene Hanff is a huge inspriation to me. In her memoirs, I found a kindred spirit. She loved London like I do. She wrote two memoirs that I highly recommend: 84 Charing Cross Road, and The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. I'm also very fond of Susan Allen Toth. She's an author of several memoirs about England. I naturally drift to people who love London, and the UK like I do.

If London Belongs to Me were to become a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
I love this question. I definitely have certain people in mind for my characters. In some cases, they're an amalgamation of several people, while others are just one person. Many of the early readers of London Belongs to Me have told me who they see for Alex, Lucy, Freddie, etc., but rarely do their choices match mine. I like the idea that readers will visualize their own cast, and I would hate for my casting to sway how they might feel about the characters, so I'll leave you guessing!

What is the strangest or craziest date you have ever been on?
My craziest date is straight out of a chick lit novel. It took place in NYC with my now-husband. I lived in Canada. He lived in the UK. We met the night before at a concert by an Irish band, and we were both leaving to fly home to our respective countries the next day. Maybe I'll turn our story into a novel one day.

What is your favourite weekend activity?
Weekends are usually devoted to plenty of walks with my dog, watching Manchester United play, or the latest British TV series with my Brit husband. The weekend gets bonus points if it involves a meal out for Italian or Indian, a leisurely stroll around our favourite bookstores, and a film. And there has to be British chocolate, but that's a daily thing. Why wait until the weekend?

Thanks to Jacquelyn for chatting with us and to BookSparks 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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Giveaway ends October 26th at midnight EST

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Every vote matters

Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker is not here to tell us how to vote next month. Instead, she has a sweet and heartwarming story about her daughter's campaign for Student Advisory Council. This sounds like it would be much more fun to follow than the real election.

Take it away, Jen!

The Campaign Trail

“I’m going to run for Student Advisory Council,” my daughter, Gracie, announced while haphazardly rifling through her purple Trapper Keeper. I wasn’t quite sure I heard her correctly. This is my child who loves the path of least resistance; loves a sure thing. Her safety net usually consists of steering clear of anything that might involve rejection, conflict, or opening up to others. I know this well because she is the younger version of me. I’m not certain what the catalyst was that changed my inhibitions years ago. Perhaps series of small steps of confidence, a giant leap—who knows? If only we had Marty McFly’s Back to The Future DeLorean, we could check it out together. Somewhere along my journey through life I made the choice to not let fear of anyone, or anything, hold me back and that’s something I want not only for my children, but for others as well. Fear can be gripping; paralyzing, and keep you from what your heart desires.

Gracie handed me the paper to sign. The one that sealed her fate as a nominee once I gave my permission for her to run. How interesting in this 2016 election season, right?

The time had come to get down to brass-tacks. “So we’re going to need to talk about your platform,” I advised. She stared at me with the face of a lost soul, to which I quickly countered, “What matters to you? What do you want to see changed at school? What would you like to see happen to make your fellow students and community happy?”

The lightbulb moment.

“I want to make sure we have more playground equipment because not all kids get to play at recess. I want my school to work with others in the community to help raise money for causes; veterans, animals, and kids who are sick.”

And away she went filled with ideas, dreams, and plans.

Over the next few days, her campaign team (read: me) went to work helping design posters, prepping her speech, and keeping morale up. It also led to discussions about the season our nation is in. One where we as a nation are on the precipice of electing new officials into office. The revelation to my daughter that once upon a time, women and minorities couldn’t cast a ballot. I hope I impressed upon her the clear truth that every voice, and every vote matters.

I'd like to thank Pinterest for helping me
NOT reinvent the campaign poster! 

So she campaigned. She made crazy cool posters. She delivered a speech filled with her hopes and wishes for her classmates. Then the scariest thing of all happened—she left her fate in the hands of the voters.

I picked her up after school on election day. Gracie’s head hung as she walked to the car. Her lip quivering as she closed the car door. “I didn’t win.”

My heart sank. “Baby, I’m so proud of you for running…”

Before I could go on with the “atta girl” pep talk, she interrupted. “Just kidding! I won!”
“You booger!” I laughed. I threw my arms around her. “Way to go!”

“Mom, I just hope I can do the best job possible to make my fifth grade class proud,” she remarked on the quick trip home.

I paused and thought about my words before offering advice. I mean, I was now Chief of Staff for Gracie Tucker. Kind of a big deal. “Gracie, as long as you follow your heart, do the right thing, listen to others and work with your peers to make positive decisions for others, it’ll be a great year.”
“Mom, I think you should tell the same thing to the two running for president because I hope they think about those things.”

And this is why I’m thankful to be Senior Advisor for my daughter and not for anyone on a larger scale. This little corner of the world, this young student council member whom I’ve been given the charge to raise, is all the political pull on a member of office I desire.

When she came home and celebrated her win
with her best four-legged friends. 
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.

Release Week Blitz and Giveaway: Mixing It Up

We're excited to feature Tracie Banister's latest novel, Mixing It Up! Gail enjoyed Tracie's debut, Blame It on the Fame. Melissa A included her previous novel, Twin Piques, on her 2015 favorites list.

Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Manhattan upper-cruster Cecily Sinclair now uses that pricey utensil to dish up fancy French fare on her cooking show, Serving Romance. When there’s an executive shake-up at the network, she’s not worried. Not much anyway. Her show’s a hit after all. Why would the new CEO want to mess with success?
The driving force behind several buzzed-about networks, Devlin Hayes is considered to be a wunderkind in the television industry. Although his plans to rebrand CuisineTV and make Serving Romance more Millennial-friendly don’t thrill Cecily, her charming, blue-eyed boss is a hard man to say “no” to and she really wants to keep her jobeven if that means sharing screen time with a loathsome blast from her past.   
Mercurial Italian chef Dante Marchetti a.k.a. “Il Duce” was once Cecily’s boss, and she has the PTSD to prove it. Now the owner of one of the hottest restaurants in town, Dante’s egomania knows no bounds and his constant attempts to provoke and upstage Cecily make her want to conk him on the head with a sauté pan. She thinks they’re toxic together, but viewers love their chemistry and clamor for more.
As Cecily battles to maintain the integrity of her show, she finds herself scheming and manipulating right along with Dante and Devlin. Is she fighting a lost cause? Does she really belong on TV, or would her culinary talent be better served elsewhere? And could one of the men who makes Cecily’s blood boil ignite a passion in her for something other than food?

Purchase a copy of Mixing It Up between October 19th, 2016 and October 25th, 2016 and you could win this fantastic prize pack inspired by the book’s heroine and her love of French food!

This prize pack includes:
Garnier-Thiebaut Oh, La La, Chéri French-themed 4-piece Kitchen Linens Set
(Apron, kitchen towel, pot holder, and oven mitt.)

Kate Spade Deco Dot Recipe Box with 8 tabbed dividers and 40 recipe cards

The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano

To enter this giveaway, simply e-mail the author at with your proof of purchase. Entries will be accepted until midnight on October 26th, 2016 when a winner will be selected via random drawing. This is an international giveaway, so anyone who buys Mixing It Up within the allotted time frame is eligible to win. Good luck!

An avid reader and writer, Tracie Banister has been scribbling stories since she was a child, most of them featuring feisty heroines with complicated love lives like her favorite fictional protagonist Scarlett O'Hara. Her work was first seen on the stage of her elementary school, where her 4th grade class performed an original holiday play she penned. (Like all good divas-in-the-making, she also starred in and tried to direct the production.)
Tracie’s dreams of authorial success were put on the backburner when she reached adulthood and discovered that she needed a "real" job in order to pay her bills. Her career as personal assistant to a local entrepreneur lasted for 12 years. When it ended, she decided to follow her bliss and dedicate herself to writing full-time. Mixing It Up is her fourth Chick Lit release, and in it Tracie finally got to live out her fantasy of being a Cordon Bleu-trained chef.

Author Newsletter – The Banister Buzz

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Warming up to the winter a book giveaway

Halloween hasn't even begun and we're getting into a winter holiday mood. How about you? To get you started, we have TWO copies each of Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand and Christmas in Paris by Anita Hughes to give away, thanks to Little, Brown and St. Martin's Press, respectively.

Winter Storms (may contain spoilers for Winter Street and Winter Stroll)

Gather under the mistletoe for one last round of caroling with the Quinn family in this heartwarming conclusion to Elin Hilderbrand's bestselling Winter Street Trilogy.

Some of the stormy weather of the past few seasons seems to have finally lifted for the Quinns. After a year apart, and an ill-fated affair with the Winter Street Inn's old Santa Claus, Mitzi has returned to rule the roost; Patrick is about to be released from prison; Kevin has a successful new business and is finally ready to tie the knot with Isabelle; and best of all, there's hopeful news about Bart, who has been captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan.

That doesn't mean there aren't a few dark clouds on the horizon. Kelley has recently survived a health scare; Jennifer can't quite shake her addiction to the drugs she used as a crutch while Patrick was in jail; and Ava still can't decide between the two lovers that she's been juggling with limited success. However, if there's one holiday that brings the Quinn family together to give thanks for the good times, it's Christmas. And this year promises to be a celebration unlike any other as the Quinns prepare to host Kevin and Isabelle's wedding at the inn. But as the special day approaches, a historic once-in-a-century blizzard bears down on Nantucket, threatening to keep the Quinns away from the place--and the people--they love most. Before the snow clears, the Quinns will have to survive enough upheavals to send anyone running for the spiked eggnog, in this touching novel that proves that when the holidays roll around, you can always go home again.

Elin Hilderbrand is the bestselling author of Here’s To Us—which debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list and was praised by People Magazine as “just the thing for a day by the sea.” —as well as 17 previous novels. She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has lived on Nantucket for over twenty years. WINTER STORMS is Elin Hilderbrand’s eighteenth novel. Visit Elin at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris is a moving and heartwarming story about love, trust, and self-discovery. Set during the most magical week of the year, the glorious foods and fashions of the most romantic city in the world are sure to take your breath away.

Isabel Lawson is standing on the balcony of her suite at the Hotel Crillon as she gazes at the twinkling lights of the Champs Elysee and wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake. She was supposed to be visiting the Christmas tree in the Place de la Concorde, and eating escargots and macaroons with her new husband on their honeymoon. But a week before the wedding, she called it off. Isabel is an ambitious Philadelphia finance woman, and Neil suddenly decided to take over his grandparents’ farm. Isabel wasn’t ready to trade her briefcase for a pair of rubber boots and a saddle.

When Neil suggested she use their honeymoon tickets for herself, she thought it would give her a chance to clear her head. That is until she locks herself out on the balcony in the middle of winter. Thankfully her neighbor Alec, a French children’s illustrator, comes to her rescue. He too is nursing a broken heart at the Crillon for the holidays. With a new friend by her side, Isabel is determined to use her time in the city of lights wisely. After a chance encounter with a fortune teller and a close call with a taxi, she starts to question everything she thought was important.

Photo by Sheri Geoffreys
Anita Hughes is the author of Monarch Beach, Market Street, Lake Como, French Coast, Rome in Love, Island in the Sea, and Santorini Sunsets. She attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program, and lives in Dana Point, California, where she is at work on her next novel. For more information visit Anita at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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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Giveaway ends October 25th at midnight EST

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: Undertow

By Jami Deise

Since the days of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, British writers have been known for fast-paced, well-plotted thrillers and mysteries. With Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on a Train in theaters (although the London location has moved to New York City), it’s not surprising that publishers are hopping aboard the Brit Lit express. To Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10, Clare Macintosh’s I Let You Go, and Gilly Macmillan’s What She Knew, add author Elizabeth Heathcote’s debut, Undertow.

Undertow reminded me a bit of The Girl on the Train; if Hawkins had decided to write her book from the point of view of Anna (Rachel’s ex-husband’s current wife) instead, it might have ended up something like this.

Carmen is the woman at the center of Undertow, although most of the action took place well before she hit the scene. She’s the second wife of Tom, who left his first wife Laura and their three children for his girlfriend Zena. But Zena drowned off the beach at Tom’s summer place in St. Jude, and later Tom married Carmen. In the grocery store in St. Jude one day, Carmen overhears gossip that Tom actually killed Zena. This rumor propels Carmen into an investigation: Did Tom actually kill his girlfriend? His answers don’t hold water, and when Carmen learns that Zena had suffered a head wound before drowning, she pulls out all the stops to find the truth.

Heathcote sets out a winding trail of bread crumbs for Carmen to follow, and Carmen gobbles them up steadily. Other than some minor details about Carmen’s private life, the character is steadfast to her goal, and seems a little one-dimensional as a result. There’s also an element of “don’t go into the basement!” as Carmen remains married to a man she suspects killed his last lover.

The competition in this genre is fierce, and Heathcote’s voice isn’t quite as engaging as the narratives offered by similar authors. Carmen seems younger than her age, and, more frustratingly, Heathcote twice stops the narrative at a critical juncture, only to jump ahead in the timeline. Both times this allowed her to avoid writing out important scenes.

Heathcote does a nice job setting up a few red herrings. But it would have been more effective had Carmen also considered that someone other than Tom might have killed Zena, had her death not been an accident. I finished the book mostly to find out whether my guess about the ending was correct. (It was. However, I also guessed the ending of The Girl on the Train. Your experience may vary.)

While Undertow doesn’t reach the level of other recent British thrillers, for readers who enjoy testing their smarts against the author’s, it’s a fun read.

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