Monday, July 28, 2014

Summertime fun with CLC

We answered some of the same questions we asked the authors who visited this month. Read about how we've been spending our summer! We'd love to hear about how your summer has been so far, as well.

Maryland State Fair, 2012
Melissa A:

Favorite thing about summer:
That's when my birthday takes place.

Did you go to camp as a kid? Day or overnight? Favorite memory from camp?
I went to both at different times. My second year at this one popular day camp, I met my BFF. We were in the same group and she asked me what it was like to have braces. We've been best friends for 27 years and even did one summer together at an overnight camp.

Song that reminds you most of summer:
"Accidentally in Love" by Counting Crows. I always think of Shrek and Fiona playing around on the beach. Really though, it's a fun and playful song and I always heard it during the first summer after I got married, so I just make that association.

Favorite ice cream flavor:
Chocolate chip cookie dough

Favorite movie that takes place in the summer: 
Tie between Dirty Dancing and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Have you been to the Renaissance Faire? If so, what was your favorite thing about it?
I've been several times and love the atmosphere. It reminds me of The Princess Bride. It's fun to watch people who aren't working there walk around in their elaborate costumes. And it's fun to see performances, especially of the comedic kind. (One time a juggler made me kiss him and he moved his face right as I was going for his cheek.)

Maryland Renaissance Festival


Favorite summertime food:
Corn on the cob, raspberries and blueberries.

When I go to the beach, I MUST bring these three things: 
Sunscreen, a towel and of course a beach read.

Do you like waterslides?
Absolutely! I'm a Pisces through and through. I actually was called fishy when I was in day camp because I was always under water.

Favorite carnival food:
Fried oreos and funnel cake.

Song that reminds you most of summer:
Definitely "All Summer Long" by Kid Rock

Favorite place to get ice cream:
That has to be either Emack & Bolio's  or Thomas Sweet.

Melissa P:

Favorite thing about summer:
My favorite thing about summer is being outside! I love to sit by the pool and read, have cocktails on a fun patio with my friends, or go hiking/walking outdoors. Moving to Colorado from Arizona was a big change because in AZ we are always outside, even in the heat. I've had to find any way possible to be outdoors here, even if it means just a glass of wine on my balcony, looking at the Rockies and the view of downtown :)
Favorite summertime food:
My favorite summertime food is all the fresh fruit! I could live off of a great fruit salad for days! :)

Did you go to camp as a kid? Day or overnight? Favorite memory from camp?
I went to overnight camp as a kid. It was on whitefish lake in Minnesota and was a private catholic camp. I learned to sail, shoot rifles, water ski, and we had church services every Sunday morning. It was a great experience for me!

Favorite summertime memory from when you were growing up:
My favorite summertime memory from growing up is playing ghost in the graveyard or kick the can with all the kids on our block in Chicago. Our parents would all sit in lawn chairs on one of the driveways and drink wine while we played. We also used to ride our bikes all over the neighborhood and swing on a rope across the creek and catch bull frogs and fish off the dock. It was the most idyllic childhood ever.

Bikini or one-piece?

Favorite ice cream flavor:
My favorite ice cream flavor now is half baked by Ben and Jerry's. When I was little it was either chocolate or mint chocolate chip. It was such a treat to get a cone and sit in the sun


Favorite summertime food:
I’m a born and raised Maryland girl. My husband is a born and raised Maryland boy. Both sets of parents were Maryland born and raised.... along with all four sets of grandparents! For us, summer food means only one thing – steamed crabs. Yes, we were both born with wooden mallets in our hands. From a very early age, we were handed a steaming hot blue crab, covered with Old Bay seasoning, and instructed not to rub our eyes. We were taught to pull off the claws first, bend them back, pull out the claw meat and stuff it in our mouths. (Only the front few claws have enough meat to make it worth the work.) Then turn over the crab, peel up “the apron,” bend the body in half, pull off the shell, throw away the devil’s meat, and dig out the juicy white meat. Maybe swirl it in some more Old Bay for extra spice. What about that mallet? Oh, only amateurs actually use it. Real Marylanders can crack open a crab with our bare hands. Of course, the ultimate irony is that after 45 summers of enjoying this regional treat, my husband and I moved to Florida. We’re surrounded by sunshine and sea water 12 months out of the year, but the crabs here are stone or Alaskan King. And there’s not a single container of Old Bay in sight.


Favorite summertime beverage:
Elderflower & Lime Kopparberg, you could forget it's alcoholic it's so refreshing.

Favorite ride at an amusement park:
I enjoy a good water ride, I could literally spend all day going on the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios I've been on it a fair few times and never tired of it.

Ocean/lake or pool?
Ocean. I grew up by the sea and I love spending time there still. I love closing my eyes listening to the waves and picturing myself somewhere a bit more exotic. I like a little paddle too, tend to save swimming in the sea for when I'm on holiday somewhere warmer!

Sandals or flip-flops?
I have wide feet so i have less issues with flip flops!

Favorite ice cream flavor:
I would say mint chocolate chip, although I had a turkish delight flavour recently which was amazing!

Favorite chick lit novel that takes place in the summer:
The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry


Favorite thing about summer:
Laying out in my giant hammock in the backyard, reading the day away in the sunshine.

Did you go to camp as a kid? Day or overnight? Favorite memory from camp?
I went to day camp as a kid for a few summers. I remember a gym n swim with one of my sisters (gymnastics in the morning, swimming lessons in the afternoon), but the BEST one I went to was at the local zoo. Because I was in the group of oldest kids (I was 12!) we got to prepare meals for some of the animals and I remember being allowed to hold a tiger cub. He was very warm and VERY heavy, but it was awfully neat to be allowed to hold him.
Ocean/lake or pool?
I prefer the greeblies on the bottom to grab at my feet. But I also enjoy summertime out at my parents' cabin at the lake. Just maybe not so much being in the lake. Seaweed. Enough said.

What is your favorite way to cool off?
Daiquiris. No....wait...margaritas. No...Mexican Bulldogs on the patio. Please can I have all three?

Time to barbecue...what will you be grilling?
Would you believe pizza?? My husband and I found a recipe for pizza on the barbecue and it's phenomenal! We put artichoke hearts, black olives, onions, green peppers, feta cheese, and spinach on it. Amazing. Also, spaghetti squash done on the barbecue is seriously delicious.

Favorite ice cream flavor:
Lemon sorbet. But not the sweet lemon kind. The super tart "omg it tastes like they put 900 lemons into this but I can't stop eating it" kind. Mmmmm....

Favorite movie that takes place in the summer:
Dirty Dancing!

Book Review: The Way Back Home

By Becky Gulc

I’ve been an avid reader of Freya North’s books for a number of years now and very much enjoyed a talk given by Freya at York library a couple of years ago. In the busy world of reviewing I’d admittedly bought but not got round to reading Freya’s last two novels (Chances and Rumours), but I’d loved the last book of hers I did read, Secrets. I even visited some of the settings from this novel in Saltburn last year. So when I was approached to review Freya’s latest novel, The Way Back Home, I was delighted and couldn’t wait to prioritise reading another book by one of my favourite all time writers, and this time with my reviewing hat on. So what is all about?

One summer, something happened that changed everything forever…

Growing up in an artists’ commune in Derbyshire, Oriana Taylor has freedom at her fingertips in a house full of extraordinary characters. Her closest friends, brothers Malachy and Jed, share their childhood with her. There, in the rambling old house and tangled grounds, their dreams and desires take wing unchecked.

But too much freedom comes at a price. Something happens the summer they are fifteen. And now, having been gone nearly twenty years, Oriana is back.

This is their story. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK)

This book was everything I hoped it would be and more. I’ve read that Freya was inspired to write this story after visiting her friend’s apartment in a Georgian mansion, which was also a former artist’s commune. Windward, the house in this story was destined to be a leading character in the novel, and it really is such a fantastic place to set a story. With such rich description of the setting, I could vividly picture Windward back in the day with the various interesting characters living there, separate but amongst one another, and also in the present when much has changed in many respects, while in other respects nothing has changed at all.

I was intrigued from the very beginning of the novel, we learn something serious happens in Oriana’s life when she is 15, and we are cleverly given snippets of information at different points in time during Oriana’s childhood. This kept me intrigued as to what exactly what happened until we near the end of the novel when all is revealed. Yes I may have seen it coming as we got nearer the end, but that didn’t spoil it for me at all, it just raised more questions for Freya to answer for me on how relationships could ever be salvaged after the incident, thankfully my questions were answered.

There were three very strong characters in this novel. I cared about all three of them; Oriana, Jed and Malachy, all flawed, realistic, a bit lost. I loved the complex relationships between them all, with some things clearly left unresolved from twenty years ago. Mistakes were made, but who hasn’t made mistakes, especially when young? Again I enjoyed the slow reveal of the past, what exactly was Oriana’s relationship with each of the brothers? I enjoyed Oriana working through her current dilemmas when returning from the US after so long, and felt the emotion and regret along with her. I willed her to speak up about her true feelings once she acknowledges these herself, even if there are potential repercussions. I was on edge as to how things would end up for them all, and I was pleased with how everything was tied up.

I always love it when authors bring back characters from previous novels, and Freya brings back Cat and Django in this novel which I’m sure will delight fans. (I pictured Django very clearly as David Essex thanks to some Facebook chat quite a while ago now!)

If you haven’t yet read a book by Freya North what are you waiting for?

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Guest Book Review and Giveaway: Styling Wellywood

By Jacqueline Friedland

How do you handle an upsetting situation? Do you face the music, try to come to grips with whatever happened, work through the issues and move forward? Or do you run? Do you evacuate the premises, the neighborhood, the state even? Perhaps you refuse to see or hear anything related to the harrowing incident that has gotten you down. If you ditch the group of friends that made you mad, or drop the class with the professor you accidentally offended, you know what you are: An escapist. You’re one of those people who thinks that if you never return to the store where the salesclerk bitched you out, it’s almost as if that lady does not exist. And if she doesn’t exist, you don’t have to feel bummed that she called you a stuck-up pig, right?

Wrong. In her debut novel, Styling Wellywood: A fashionable romantic comedy, Kate O’Keeffe drives home the point that you cannot always escape from your problems, no matter how far you run. The book’s protagonist, young, attractive, self-deprecating Jessica Banks, is an escapist extraordinaire. The book begins as Jessica reluctantly returns to her hometown of Wellington, New Zealand, single and unemployed. After a mysterious tragedy four years earlier, Jessica had left her family and her besties behind, hightailing it out of town. She spent the next few years living it up in London, but sadly, her visa expired, and she has been forced to return home. The story opens with Jessica watching her younger cousin’s school play, in the same auditorium where she performed as a child, and wondering how she has ended up exactly where she started.

Luckily for Jessica, she has at least arranged a professional venture with one of her best childhood friends. The beautiful and fashion-forward Morgan has agreed to include Jessica as a junior partner in her personal styling business. Jessica also reconnects with her old friend Laura, who is now a spit-up covered, harried mother of twins and Ben, the guy who has been vetting Jessica’s boyfriends since high school. Laura tries to convince Jessica to visit the parents of their other childhood BFF, Lindsay, who is mysteriously absent during much of the story. In typical escapist fashion, however, Jessica continually avoids the task, thereby letting us know that there is a big unresolved issue awaiting consideration.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s mother convinces her to play tennis at the local country club as a means of getting her single self out there. Before she knows it, the world’s hottest tennis pro is pursuing her. His looks make up for what he’s missing between his ears, and Jessica feels her time in Wellington might not be as bad as she expected. Sadly, just a couple of weeks into her return, everything seems to fall apart. Morgan disappears, leaving nothing but a hasty text message and Jessica holding the proverbial styling bag for many a high maintenance client. Worse yet, Laura loses her patience with Jessica’s apparent self-involvement, and Ben turns out to be not at all what Jessica always thought.

Jessica reaches a point where she can do little more than return to the single bed in her very lavender childhood bedroom and hide under her very lavender covers. She is finally motivated by financial necessity to continue the styling business in Morgan’s absence. Although she is petrified to fail without Morgan’s help, she soon learns that she is more capable than she realized. She also discovers that helping her clients deal with personal problems (like getting over a divorce or building self-esteem) through fashion and styling improvements actually helps her make many discoveries and positive changes to herself, as well. It’s not until she goes on a trip to visit her father and his new-age second wife, Morning (yes, that’s her name), that she understands she must face her Wellington demons before she can move forward with her life. Once she stops trying to escape, she might even discover that she doesn’t want to.

Part Bridget Jones’s Diary and part Eat, Pray, Love, O’Keefe’s book blends multiple styles to form a novel that is all its own. At first glance, the book presents like a light, summer beach read. The pacing is fast and there are many romantic conundrums and slapstick snafus. However, underneath the apparent light-hearted fluff are several weighty issues, which O’Keeffe treats with sensitivity, finesse and just the right touch of humor.

This ambitious novel tackles topics ranging from friendship, motherhood and divorce to sexual orientation and mental health issues, all while presenting a charming travelogue about the windiest city in New Zealand (which is apparently the windiest city on the entire Earth). Pieces of the novel might seem trite, like Jessica’s cocktail-drinking man-obsessed divorced mother, her high school arch nemesis who has of course, grown into a beautiful and successful woman, and the romance that you can predict from the novel’s start. Even so, the story’s circuitous path and the meatiness of the underlying issues are sufficient to set this book apart. It is worth escaping to a quiet spot to read O’Keeffe’s engrossing tale.

Thanks to Kate O'Keeffe for the book in exchange for an honest review. She has TWO e-books (Kindle) for some lucky readers anywhere in the world! 

How to win:
We're making it easy this time. Just comment below with your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win (i.e. Twitter handle)

Entries without contact information will NOT be counted (and we do NOT count "Google +" as contact information).

Worldwide. Giveaway ends August 3rd at midnight EST.

Jacqueline Berkell Friedland is currently an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, where she is studying fiction. She if a former attorney and law school professor. When she is not writing, Jacqueline can be found plowing through novels or chasing after her four young children.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Twisted Straight by Elizabeth E. Zerman

When You Make it Home by Claire Ashby from Red Adept (e-book)


Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand from Hachette


It Had to Be You by Ellie Adams from Transworld

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand  from Hodder & Stoughton


When We Fall by Emily Liebert from Sarah Hall Productions

Gravel on the Side of the Road by Kris Radish from BookSparks (e-book)

Ameera Unveiled by/from Kat Varn

Book Review: Pretty in Ink

By Gail Allison

There's a shakeup going down at Hers magazine, and it's affecting everyone from the Editor in Chief right down to the mailroom guy. Readership and ad sales are down, so Louisa (the old editor-in-chief) is out and Mimi (the new) is in with a vengeance. Everyone knows that a new boss means a new staff, but no one knows how that's going to work. Will Mimi keep the well-oiled cogs that are the current staff in place or will heads begin to roll? And how will everyone react to all the changes?

Pretty In Ink by Lindsay Palmer walks us through the inner workings of a women's magazine. We get to see firsthand the tug-of-war between journalistic integrity and what headlines actually get that glossy grabbed at the grocery store. We see the quiet war waged between staff who are used to doing things the old way, and those who have embraced (whether willingly or not) the new way.

This story jumps from character to character, and from department to department in every chapters. It's a unique way to get a number of viewpoints across, and can feel a bit muddled at points (more than once I had to stop and think about who was actually narrating this chapter), but once you get into the rhythm of it, it's an interesting way to tell a story, for sure. You get to see everyone's attitude towards the new boss, and watch some people come around, see Mimi woo some people to become her new work BFF, and feel the knots of tension in your stomach when some of them get that awful call to go upstairs and see HR. Their unique personality quirks and way of narrating helps keep the characters separate for the most part, and from chapter to chapter you get to watch the same story unfold, but from a whole spectrum of viewpoints. In fact, looking back on this novel, the story kept progressing at a formidable rate. The host of voices used made it feel like nothing at all, though.

I found Pretty in Ink to be quite captivating. Ms. Palmer definitely draws on her experience in the magazine industry to provide realistic situations (and people, most likely) throughout the novel. None of the situations seemed to be too far removed from what I imagine everyday life is like at a magazine, and as soon as I got a grasp on which character was whom, I settled in and enjoyed the story as it was told through the many different characters. It might be a little optimistic to call it a "beach read" due to the sheer quantity of narrative voices used (if you accidentally took a nap mid-chapter you might have to go back and re-read to figure out whose story it was), but it's definitely an enjoyable novel that you'll have trouble putting down.

If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the gleaming smiles and glossy covers of newsstand magazines, you won't want to miss this novel!

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spending summer down under with Liane a book giveaway

The weather here in Chi-town has been unusually chilly this summer.  Since I prefer cooler temps for running, this hasn't been a problem for me. However, not everyone shares my love of summertime highs in the high 60s/low 70s.

Though the US, along with other countries around the globe, is currently experiencing summertime, today's CLC guest is in the middle of a rather cold winter.  That's right, author Liane Moriarty lives in Australia, but that's not stopping her from celebrating the summertime season with us.

Liane hasn't always been a full-time writer.  She's had a variety of careers including a stint in marketing and advertising.  Liane is now a full-time author.  In addition to writing a children's series, she has written six novels.  One of those novels is the soon to be released, Big Little Lies. Thanks to Putnam (Penguin), we have FIVE copies for some lucky US readers!

So please join me in giving Liane a warm CLC welcome!

What makes summertime in Australia unique and special?
(First let me say I forgive you for making me think about summer when it’s FREEZING here in Sydney.) I decided to outsource this question, as I think only an outsider can say what’s unique about Australian summers, so I asked some expat friends from the UK. They rhapsodized for ten minutes straight about the beauty and wonder of our long Australian summers. “You Australians do everything outdoors in summer,” they said. “It’s such an outdoor lifestyle!” I felt proud as if I was personally responsible for our outdoor lifestyle (even though my husband has been known to say, “Put down that book and come outside!”). Then my friends began to chuckle at the elaborateness of our BBQs and picnics: the food, the equipment, the tablecloths, and I still felt proud but kind of embarrassed about the tablecloths.

Which book do you feel best embodies summertime?
The first book that came to mind was an Australian classic I read as a child called Ash Road by Ivan Southall. It was written in 1966, the year I was born, and it’s about a group of children who accidentally start a bushfire. I don’t remember much about the story except that it was completely gripping and terrifying and just thinking of it makes me smell summer in Australia.

The one thing I do during the summertime that I don’t do any other time of the year is:
Allow my morning-person husband to drag me and the children out of our beds early on a Sunday morning for a trip to the beach. “You’ll thank me!” he says, chirpily, annoyingly, but he’s right, it’s always worth it.

My favorite summertime guilty pleasure is:
The second almond croissant for breakfast on the beach. (I don’t feel guilty about the first one. I had to get up so early for it!)

I know it’s summertime when:
I can’t touch the steering wheel in my car because it’s so hot.

Favorite summertime food:

Thanks to Liane for visiting with us and to Putnam for sharing her book with our readers.

~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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends July 29th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reader Spotlight: Living for "Today"

This year, we're doing "Reader Spotlight" posts on a bi-weekly basis. We want to feature readers who have been actively following CLC for a while. We're hoping you can get to know some new friends this way. One of the joys of having CLC is that readers have connected with each other, as a result. That's one of the reasons it was started up in the first bring chick lit fans together from all over the world! We've made some amazing friends because of this blog and we hope you'll get to do so too!

If you'd like to be spotlighted sometime this year, please contact us.

See our previous Reader Spotlight posts.

Note from Melissa A: Michele and I instantly hit it off when she started following CLC. She's so friendly and fun to e-mail with. We have similar tastes in chick lit novels, so it's fun to share recommendations with each other. The icing on the cake is that she recently sent me a present for my birthday, which was unexpected and very thoughtful! Michele is a great friend to have in your corner, so I hope you'll take the time to connect with her! Her wedding anniversary was earlier this week, so send some good wishes her way. She can be found on Facebook.

Name: Michele Davenport-Burdick
Age: 45
Location: Bakersfield, CA

How did you find Chick Lit Central: I discovered Chick Lit Central on Facebook, through friends and authors I was following. It's a wonderful site to discover new authors and to see who is reading what.

Top FIVE favorite Chick Lit novels:
I have numerous favorite authors who I've become pretty good friends with, so I don't want to exclude anyone.
1. Emily Giffin's Something Blue
2. Jane Porter's Brennan Sisters Trilogy- The Good Woman, The Good Daughter, and The Good Wife.
3. Laura Spinella's Beautiful Disaster and Perfect Timing. (I had to mention both here as they are equally awesome-sauce!
4. Sarah Pekkanen's The Best of Us
5. Jane Green's Tempting Fate

What do you do when you're not reading? 
Writing. I think reading and writing go hand in hand. I read a lot and write a lot. I'm in the middle of writing my first novel and I appreciate authors so much more now as writing is a very tedious, time-consuming process.

Another fun fact: In March, I was asked to appear on The Today Show LIVE with Kathie Lee and Hoda for a Google hangout with the fabulous author, Jane Green. It was like chatting with old girlfriends and an experience I will never forget.