Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Part-Time Princess

By Sara Steven

Lucy is a down on her luck waitress at the local biker’s bar, trying hard to make ends meet. She not only has her own welfare to consider, but her uncle’s, as well. He ended up in a special care facility (a rather expensive facility) after the death of Lucy’s parents, and she feels responsible for him and his well-being. After a rough night and a run-in with a few jerks on her shift, she finds herself fired and without much to go on in the job department.

Then she spots an ad in the newspaper that totally changes her life. Can Lucy go from a crass-talking, biker babe to a posh, sophisticated princess?

In Part-time Princess, Lucy fills in for Lady Elizabeth, a woman who is beloved in the land of Fredonia, but has a few skeletons in her closet which have left her indisposed. After a total overhaul with a beautician and a hairstylist, not to mention etiquette training, can Lucy pull off this ultimate con? It’s My Fair Lady meets Ms. Congeniality! And where would we be without the quintessential love triangle? Part of Lucy’s job is to keep the Prince of Fredonia, Cristoph, interested. She never bargained on his brother, Nick! Both men are hunky. Both vie for her affections, but only one can win, and who are they really vying for? Are they falling for Lucy, or for who they believe to be Elizabeth?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Once I got going, I had a really hard time putting it down! It’s comedic and candid, and Lucy is a total riot with the way she thinks, the way she communicates and the way she tries to behave when she’s “on duty”. She’s constantly trying to stop herself from letting the cat out of the bag, not wanting to reveal that she’s an imposter. It makes for a lot of fun, exciting moments, yet there are touching, serious moments as well, especially where Elizabeth’s family is concerned. Lucy may not have come from royalty, but she’s certainly regal in my book!

Thanks to Pamela DuMond for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Pamela DuMond:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sarah Jio has "the look"....plus a book giveaway

By Melissa Amster

A couple of years ago, we asked Sarah Jio who her celebrity doppelgänger was. She said Charlize Theron. I can definitely see that resemblance. However, I've found some other celebrities she looks like and have sent her pictures of them in the past. I wanted to share about them today in honor of celebrity month and her latest novel, The Look of Love, which comes out on November 25th. I read it recently and had a hard time putting it down! It's perfect for fans of Love, Actually and anyone who just wants a new and interesting love story. Thanks to Penguin Random House, we have TEN copies for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

Visit Sarah at her website, Facebook, and Twitter. Read her columns at Glamour, as well.

Sarah Jio's Celebrity Doppelgängers

* Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry: Around the time The Violets of March came out and I first met Sarah, I also saw the video for "If I Die Young." I immediately saw the resemblance between these two fabulous women! See for yourself:



Ashley Benson from Pretty Little Liars: When I first saw a picture of Ashley, I thought of Sarah right away and even sent her a picture to show her. She definitely took it as a compliment!

Yael Grobglas from Jane the Virgin: The first time I saw her, I made this Sarah Jio connection. At the same time, I thought she'd be perfect as Jane, the lead character from The Look of Love. (She's not Jane on the current TV show; she plays Petra, the wife of Rafael.) This is a more recent resemblance, so I haven't sent Sarah a picture yet.

* Debbie Gibson: One of her 80s songs came on my Spotify and as I was looking at her picture, I saw a resemblance to Sarah. I went to her website for further confirmation and I realized I wasn't losing my mind after all. I especially see some similarities in this video.



* While she's not officially a celebrity, there's no way you can be a book lover and NOT have been acquainted with Jenny O'Regan from Confessions of a Bookaholic. I was looking at some pics of her recently and definitely think she and Sarah could be sisters. She's also doing a giveaway for The Look of Love. (US/Canada. Ends 11/23.)

Synopsis of The Look of Love:
Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed. Inspired by the classic song, The Look of Love is utterly enchanting. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

Thanks to Penguin Random House for sharing the book with our readers!

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway


US/Canada only. Giveaway ends November 24th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Material Girl

Introduction by Melissa Amster

I don't remember how my childhood obsession with Madonna got started. I know one day I was given the "Like a Virgin" cassette and before I knew it, I was listening to it all the time. I think this was around third grade. Maybe it had to do with seeing all her music videos on MTV. She just seemed so cool and had such a great voice. At the time, I didn’t even know how big of an icon she’d become. I had a friend in my class who also liked Madonna. One time we had to do a project and we made up a song about it by changing the lyrics to “Material Girl.” Then there was this one time...at day camp...when I dressed up like Madonna for costume day. No one else seemed to get it though. I had blonde curly hair and a freckle above my lip. I thought that would add a natural appeal to the look I was attempting. In fifth grade art class, we all had to make these people out of construction paper. I made a replica of Madonna, of course. I got teased about it, but I still was obsessed with her. While it was around the time her “True Blue” album came out, I still went with a “Dress You Up” look for the project. Flash forward 20 years...Madonna sounds just as great now as she did when I was a kid. I’m impressed that such a great pop star from my youth is around for my children to hear (when they’re ready) and still seems young no matter how many years have passed. (Excerpt from my personal blog, Merrylandgirl, April 21, 2010.)

I'm not the only Madonna fan though. Our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, is here to tell us what she'd bid on at Madonna's recent auction.

Going Once, Going Twice...

In my office, resting on my desk next to the framed photo of my boyfriend Seal with his arm lovingly draped around my shoulder, I have a rubber duck whose rear end is signed by Hodor. For those who do not speak Game of Thrones, Hodor is a character played by Kristian Nairn on the HBO series based upon the epic novels by George R. R. Martin. My friend, Sabrina, scored the yellow quacker for me when the actor visited Indianapolis as part of Comic Con, Gen Con or maybe it was Con-Con; I can’t keep track anymore, can you? Regardless, having a little something signed by an actor on a hit show watched by millions of fans around the globe is pretty freaking special to me. Different strokes for different folks, right?

With Sabrina and the Hodor duck

Recently, a gaggle of items owned by the Material Girl went up for bids at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills. Madonna parted ways with costumes, contracts, cancelled checks and chopped credit cards. While leafing through the online catalog of itemized photos, I couldn’t help but wonder if money were no object, and I was sitting amongst the high bidders on November 7-8, 2014 as Madonna’s items paraded into the crowded room one-by-one, what would I be willing to raise my numbered paddle to bid on? Decisions, decisions....

Her shoes? No way. According to the item descriptions, she wears a size seven. I wear size whatever fits over my bunions, and that’s not a size seven.

The candy pink dress and bracelets she wore in the "Material Girl" video? As stunning it was, if I was going to splurge on one of many dresses available, it would be the one she wore the day she married Sean Penn. Layers of tulle, a sash covered with pink ombre flower petals trimmed with golden pearls, accompanied by a black bowler hat with veil attached and the matching shoes that’d never fit on my tootsies. This isn’t the dress I’d save for my husband’s company party or for dancing around the house while alone and singing Crazy For You into my hairbrush. Oh no! This is the little number I’m wearing to the grocery, while waiting for the elliptical machine at the gym, and definitely while eating popcorn and Sno-Caps while watching the new Mockingjay movie. Why? Because I could, right? Let’s not tuck such a beauty away for a special occasion that may never arrive. Every day is an occasion if you spent—cough—$81,250 for a dress. I’d even let my girlfriends borrow it while they drove carpool or took their goldendoodle to the dog park because that’s the kind of friend I am.

Maybe Madonna’s Day Planner from 1988 would be an interesting catch. Some of the highlights betwixt the pages include dinner dates, rehearsals and appearances, birthday reminders and other little things like appearing on The David Letterman Show or a photography session with Herb Ritz. If you would peek into the pages of the dairy I never kept that same year, it would probably include tanning appointments, who I owed money to for fronting me Bahama Mama Tropical Fruit Punch Schnapps, and my next boomerang perm appointment. Almost as interesting, right?

When the fun of daydreaming fades away and I ponder the mementos and memorabilia Madonna parted with raising generous funds for charity, I’m left pondering the importance of things taking up space in my life. Things I can’t take with me when I check out permanently. Things that someone else might be able to use if I donated them rather than me dusting them from time-to-time. It’s good for the soul to clean out the junk drawers once in a while. You might find the key to your barn that went missing quite some time ago too (not that I’d know anything about that). You might wonder if I’m considering parting with my Hodor signed duck butt since Madonna sent her League of Their Own costume off to a better life. It’s a nice thought yet so not going to happen. It’s my woobie. Yet if you want an adorable pink sock monkey, I can totally hook you up!


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: Expecting

By Jami Deise

Pregnancy stories are a staple in women’s fiction, and with good reason: While most women eventually become mothers, every pregnancy and delivery story is unique. “Tell me your labor story,” is a request many new mothers hear over and over again. For Laurie Gaines, however, her labor story could take up an entire book. In fact, it does.



In Ann Lewis Hamilton’s novel, Expecting, Laurie and her husband Alan never expected having a baby to be quite so difficult. But after two heartbreaking miscarriages, they consult a fertility specialist who recommends IUI – intrauterine insemination. And the third time’s the charm – Laurie gets pregnant again, and this time the pregnancy keeps. But when Laurie’s almost completed her first trimester, she gets a call from the fertility clinic that no one wants to hear – a disgruntled tech had thrown Alan’s sperm sample away. Laurie was inseminated with sperm belonging to an Indian-American college senior named Jack. Now what?
Now what is the question asked by all three players in this story, as it is told from the points of view of Laurie, Alan and Jack. Laurie understands her husband’s mixed feelings, but she’s already completely bonded with her baby and believes the best solution is to get to know Jack. Jack is already under enormous pressure from parents who constantly compare him to his doctor older sister, not to mention juggling two girlfriends and trying to graduate after changing his major – again – at the very last minute. And Alan copes by throwing himself into his job and secret Facebook conversations with his old college girlfriend.

The biggest surprise I found in Expecting was how the writer made me sympathize with Alan, the ostensible villain of the piece. Ordinarily, novels that feature husbands having physical or emotional affairs while their wives are pregnant tend to be rather one-sided, but Hamilton took care to communicate how Alan’s turmoil, his inability to fully share his feelings with his wife, and the decision to keep quiet about the baby’s origins prompted his actions.

The novel begins as Laurie goes into labor, and then backtracks to Laurie and Alan’s first pregnancy, proceeding linearly from there. This worked very well (I usually feel this type of beginning is a cheat) as the dialogue and character actions seem completely out of place for the situation, and gets the reader guessing right away what might have led up to this scene. For the record, I guessed wrong.

There are some funny bits, and certainly the overall situation is comedic, but the book has its dramatic moments as well. Certainly there’s no shying away from the pain of pregnancy loss, and in the reader notes Hamilton is open about the fact that the story is somewhat based on her own life. (The sperm mix-up, thank goodness, is completely a figment of her imagination.)

Hamilton is an experienced TV writer, but Expecting is her first novel. However, her expertise shines through. Another interesting note is that the book began as a short story, and she expanded it into a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, an annual event every November. NaNoWriMo encourages participants to write at least 1667 words a day, in order to have a finished (albeit raw) 50,000 word novel by December first. Expecting should be the poster child for this project, and if you’re participating, take a few hours off and read it. You’ll be both inspired and humbled.

Thanks to Julia Drake Public Relations for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tracie Banister explains it all...plus a book giveaway

No celebrity month would be complete without featuring Tracie Banister's debut novel, Blame it on the Fame (reviewed here). We invited her to chat with us about celebrities and she had a lot to say! She's even giving away an e-book of this novel to a lucky reader anywhere in the world!

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. She is currently the author of two novels (the second being In Need of Therapy) and has a third one on the way. She resides in the South and enjoys watching TV, going to the theatre, finding talented new writers, and spending time with her three adorable rescue dogs. Tracie is also the moderator of ChickLitChat, which takes place every Thursday at 8 pm EST on Twitter.

Visit Tracie at her blog and on Twitter.

Who is your favorite fifteen minutes of fame celebrity?
Her fifteen minutes should have been up a long time ago, but I’m still strangely fascinated by Kim Kardashian. She keeps finding new ways to keep herself relevant and in the spotlight while others of her ilk (see former bestie Paris Hilton) have faded into semi-obscurity. I’ve got to give her credit for that and I want to thank her, and her media-loving family, for keeping me endlessly entertained with all of their shenanigans, which include everything from outrageous fashion faux pas to surprise divorce/pregnancy announcements.

Who is your favorite celebrity couple?
The only couple who currently has my undivided attention is Prince William and his lovely bride, Kate. I’ve been a royal-watcher going way back to the engagement of William’s parents. I adored Princess Diana and followed her all through my teen years. I still have tons of magazine clippings of Diana, the wedding, the births of her sons, all of her fashion triumphs, etc. stored in a box somewhere in my attic. Now that William is all grown up and has a family of his own, it’s fun to keep tabs on what he and the duchess are doing. They seem like such a nice couple, and their love story (friends turned sweethearts) is a plot plucked right from the pages of some of my favorite novels. I can’t wait to see if baby number two is a boy or girl!

Which celebrity did you crush on the most when you were a kid?
My first, and also my longest-lasting, celebrity crush was Harrison Ford. I believe the crush started when I saw The Empire Strikes Back and fell head over heels for Han Solo. Who could resist such a lovable rogue? My crush continued when the first Indiana Jones film came out. No lie - my friends and I watched that movie in the theatre 8 times during the summer of ’81. We didn’t have a lot to do back in those pre-internet days. ;) I remained devoted to Harrison Ford well into adulthood, but the thrill wore off when he turned gray and started wearing an earring. So, I threw him over for a rotating roster of fake boyfriends, most of whom have British accents.

Have you ever met a celebrity? If so, what was the experience like?
I met quite a few through my job, actually. During the ‘90s, I worked for a company that sold a communication product widely used in the entertainment industry, so we had a booth at a big television industry conference that was held in Vegas every year. I roamed the floor a lot at that convention and got to queue up and have my picture taken with many popular television stars of the time – Fran Drescher, Matthew Fox, Jane Seymour, Chuck Norris, Lorenzo Lamas, and William Shatner just to name a few. Everyone I met was really nice; a few of them even confessed to me that they were super nervous and couldn’t stop sweating. Celebrities are people, too! :)


Are there any celebrities who came from your hometown or where you live now?
Of course, the most well-known celebrity to hail from the Atlanta area is Julia Roberts. She grew up in Smyrna, which is a suburb about ten minutes from me. Kim Basinger is, also, a Georgia peach, but her family was from Athens, the home of UGA in the eastern part of the state. Ryan Seacrest is another Georgia native. And, of course, there are tons of musicians who started out in Atlanta – Cee LoGreen, Jason Aldean, André 3000, and Chris and Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes (My brother went to high school with them!)


Do you have a celebrity doppelgänger?
I’ve had a few throughout the years, but the one I get the most frequently now is Melissa Joan Hart a.k.a. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, probably because we’re both petite and blonde. I’m actually several years older than Melissa, so it’s her that looks like me, not vice versa!

Thanks to Tracie for visiting and 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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Worldwide. Giveaway ends November 23rd at midnight EST.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Blame it on the Fame

By Gail Allison

The road to the Oscars: a red carpet littered with couture gowns, killer heels, and enough paparazzi energy to power an entire city for a week. But what comes before all the lights and the swagger? What are the lives of the nominees like leading up to the big day? And what if each of the five glamorous nominees for best actress is completely different from the other, and each woman has her own special (if, in some cases, dysfunctional) way of dealing with the pressures of a nomination from the Academy? Blame it on the Fame by Tracie Banister was so much fun to read. In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, she lets us follow each of the five nominees for the coveted Best Actress award and observe how they’re dealing with the pressure of wanting that golden statue so badly, and exactly what each one of them is willing to sacrifice to get it.

Anaya Reynolds is an ex-model who has her sights set on being the next big thing on the silver screen, but the sex, drugs, and booze seem to be getting in the way. Or is it the acting that’s getting in the way of her partying? Can she rein in her wild child ways or will her career implode with a spectacular crash and burn like so many wannabes in Hollywood?

Laurel Hastings appears to have it all, until her personal life disintegrates in front of her very eyes, and then her scheming best friend splatters the gory details all over the entertainment news. Can she get it together in time to walk the red carpet with grace and style or will she end up running from the spotlight, just like she did last time she was thrust into the public eye?

In the press, Danielle Jamison is perfectly balancing motherhood and a skyrocketing acting career...but behind closed doors her life is a totally different story. The children she’s so devoted to in front of the cameras are nothing but an inconvenience, and the husband she’s so committed to is nothing but a dead weight who is riding her coattails to the top and not pulling his weight in the household, according to her. Now if Danielle can just keep the two worlds from colliding and maintain the picture-perfect facade that she’s created for the press, everything will be ideal. But what if someone spots a crack in her veneer?

Jordan Schaeffer is trying to build an acting career on her own name and her own talent: not an easy thing to do when you’re the child of a movie star mother and a powerhouse producer father. She knows the road that she wants to be on isn’t easy but she’s willing to put in the time and effort for it. Now she needs to convince her mother that she’s doing what’s right for her. But can she live her own life and be happy with it when her mother, one of the biggest names in show biz, is intent on creating the right path for her?

Philippa Sutcliffe is choosy about the roles she’s in and even choosier about the men she’s with. When an off-screen romance between her and her leading man ends in betrayal and tears she vows never to work with him again. So what will she do when that same picture receives a number of nominations from the Academy, and they’re pushed back together for a nonstop run of press engagements? Will she get pulled back in by his charm and charisma, or is she really over him now?

Blame it on the Fame was a really fun read, especially if you enjoy awards shows. It was a look behind the curtain at the way five very different actresses dealt with the pressures and stresses of being acknowledged for their talents. It was never too heavy, even though it touched on some fairly weighty topics (mental health, infidelity, and substance abuse to name a few). The ending was just perfect too. Very well written, and easy to enjoy, I’d recommend Blame it on the Fame to anyone who enjoys awards shows (and the catty commentary before and after). There was definitely some colorful language as well as some steamy love scenes, so if that’s not your thing, maybe steer clear. In my opinion, though, Ms. Banister has come up with a winner here, and I’ll be putting this in my re-read pile for sure. This book managed to take me off the couch and on to the red carpet every time I picked it up...and I didn’t have to get cinched into spanx and a strapless gown to attend!!

Thanks to Tracie Banister for the book in exchange for an honest review. Come back tomorrow to hear Tracie's thoughts about celebrities and enter to win this book! (Worldwide giveaway.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

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

Melissa A:

Independently Wealthy by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal from St. Martin's Press

New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick from Penguin (Berkley)

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg from PaperBackSwap






Jami:

I am Ella. Buy Me. by Joan Ellis from Word Slinger Publicity (e-book)

The Thursday Night Club by/from Steven Manchester (e-book)

Kathryn:

The Truth About Suzie by/from Erica Rimlinger


Becky:

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty from Penguin UK

Thornfield Hall by Jane Stubbs from Corvus

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes from Penguin UK

Sara:

Confessions of the Sausage Queen by Ute Carbone from Bridging the Gap Promotions (e-book)


What could be in YOUR e-mail:

Peace by Piece and Cape Maybe by Carol Fragale Brill

Carol has THREE e-book sets of both books to give away worldwide (with a printed book option to one US winner)

Visit Carol on Facebook and Twitter.

Cape Maybe

Sometimes the toughest journey is the one that takes you back to your roots. For Katie, navigating life and love is trickier than walking barefoot on a beach full of broken shells. Maybe Katie will break the family cycle of alcoholism. Maybe she won’t. Set against the backdrop of picturesque, seaside Cape May,
Cape Maybe traces the push and pull of Katie’s conflicting love for her erratic mother and steadfast grandfather, and her ever-growing attraction to her best friend, Dennis. Katie’s life is shaped by her vow to be nothing like her alcoholic mother. Her reckless teenage choices test the strength of family ties, friendship, and first love. Ultimately about hard-earned hope, what we inherit, and what we choose to let go, in Cape Maybe Katie discovers what she never expected about motherhood, forgiving yourself, and creating your own second chances.




Peace by Piece

Six years after fleeing college and Thomas’s betrayal, Maggie has nearly given up on love. Enter Izzie, a motherless eight year old, and every maternal instinct kicks-in. With Donald, Izzie’s dad, Maggie waits for the thrill—for anything magic: a spark, a quickening, a quiver racing up her spine. The magic never comes, but it is precisely the ordinariness of his kisses and subsequent proposal that make her feel safe. She imagines that loving Izzie is enough to finally lock Thomas out of her heart. Donald sways Maggie to quit work and be a stay-at-home mom to Izzie, cajoling her to wait for the right time to have a baby. Izzie is the center of her world, but some days Maggie cannot think over the roar of her biological clock. Unable to win the baby debate, she returns to college and accepts a teaching job. She has what many women long for: the house and minivan, the daughter and spouse, a career and steadfast girlfriends. But there’s an empty space inside that no amount of bingeing can fill. After an ectopic pregnancy, Maggie’s bulimia worsens. Donald cannot cope with all her tears over her lost baby. For a much needed break, Maggie attends a teacher’s conference in her college town, a handful of miles from where her heart first came alive—and where it was irrevocably shattered. By chance, Maggie and Thomas, also a teacher, reconnect. Will Maggie return to her enviable life as a wife to a successful banker and as a mother to the child who has become her own? Or this time around, will she trust Thomas and follow her heart?

See Jami's review.

How to win:

Please answer ONE of these questions:
*Are there any celebrities who came from your hometown or where you live now?
*Have you ever dreamt about a celebrity?
*Who is your favorite celebrity with the same first or last name as you?

One entry per person (if you choose to answer all the questions, they will NOT count as extra entries)

Entries without contact information (e-mail address, Twitter account, Facebook page, etc.) will NOT be counted (and we do NOT count "Google +" as contact information).

Worldwide (with print option available to ONE US winner). Giveaway ends November 19th at midnight EST.