Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Starstruck

Jen with her "boyfriend"
Introduction by Melissa Amster

I love meeting celebrities. It's like an amazing natural high that sticks with me for years to come. In the past, I've met some celebrities that weren't extremely famous, but still well known amongst the circles I traveled. There have been some really positive encounters (where the celebrity takes the time to take pictures, chat, etc.), some so-so encounters (where you just get their autograph and that's it), and, unfortunately, some negative encounters. One of the more disappointing encounters on the spectrum happened with someone I really admire, so that was a hard pill to swallow. I won't share their name, but if you know me well enough, you know who I'm talking about. However, that moment was balanced out by all the wonderful experiences I've had meeting authors (whom I consider celebrities) in person, such as Jane Green, Jennifer Weiner, Jane Porter, Sarah Pekkanen, Kristin Harmel, Jodi Picoult, and Wally Lamb. One of the best author meeting experiences (so far) was definitely with our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker! (I talked about this last month, so check out that post if you missed it.) Jen is here today to talk about her experiences meeting celebrities and other people she admires.

We're All Human

Do you ever ponder what it would be like to meet someone you admire or adore? Maybe it’s Captain America (with or without his shirt on; totally optional), an activist or inspirational speaker, or perhaps the person inline ahead of you who paid for your Starbucks and ducked out before you knew a “paying it forward” act hit you. I’ve had that moment. I knew exactly what it would be like to have a face-to-face with Grammy winning rocker, Seal (my boyfriend in our one-sided relationship). I would be eloquent, charming, and so delightfully bubbly he’d have no choice but make me one of his posse. Then it happened. I stood toe-to-toe with him in Siegfried and Roy’s "Secret Garden" at The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, and was a complete oaf. Magically, every line I’d rehearsed became lost in translation. Instead, my opener was. “I really like your music.” Yes. You heard me correctly. What a moment in time for us both.

I always think of myself as the nerdy girl with lipstick streaks on her teeth. The one who drives her kids to school while wearing mismatched pajamas. Last but not least, the woman with swagger who transformed from country mouse into city slicker last summer while strutting her stuff down the streets of New York City during Book Expo America, only to have her dress blow up around her ears Marylin Monroe style as she strode over an air vent, during rush hour, on jam-packed sidewalks. My finest moment you could probably find on YouTube, unfortunately.

When I have the opportunity to meet gracious readers, I often wonder if they know it’s truly my honor to spend time with them because the girl I described above is whom they’re hanging out with. Full of imperfections, carefree and giggly while full of angst for her father battling cancer, and often wonders why no one in her home can change the empty toilet paper roll. Your kindness and sincerity brings me joy, and at times even to tears. When you ask about Gracie’s mad love for Matt Lauer, or if Jack, my television watching golden retriever, is enjoying the new season of Mad Men, I feel like we’re kindred. You could spend time reading anything you choose, and the girl who never lacks for a one-liner finds it hard to express what that means to her.

With Amy in 2013
Social media brings us together like never before. I can’t thank Mark Zuckerberg enough for providing a vehicle through which I’ve met lovers and composers of books. Without him, I would’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with some of the greatest ladies of Chick Lit Central. Tracey Meyers and I had a fantastic slumber party (We really did sleep. According to my BFF, Nancy, I’m somewhat Amish due in part to my 8:00PM bedtime.). I tried to put Amy Bromberg in my pocket and take her back to Indiana while at Book Buzz NYC 2013; she’s adorable. Recently, I laughed over burgers and fries with Melissa Amster and her sweet family. I think we ate the restaurant out of sweet potato and shoestring French fries. This time, I tried to put her children in my pocket and take them with me. No luck. These women work tirelessly to give lovers of all things chick lit an environment where we can gather together, create lasting relationships, and bond over the genre we can’t get enough of.

Trying to fit Melissa A's daughter in my pocket!
I’m still unpacking from a weekend at The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, in Dayton, Ohio. It’s my opportunity, every two years, to meet new friends while seeing ones who are golden. Where else in the world could I have sat next to the screen writer for Home Improvement and Bosom Buddies, while a legend whose book was brought to the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron was on my other side? Our biggest topics of conversation revolved around if any of us had brought a flask to the session to share, and how both native New Yorkers, with me, the Midwestern girl betwixt them, created the most interesting sandwich cookie. Although I was my effervescent self, the nerdy girl who can’t seem to get that lipstick on straight was having a moment where she couldn’t believe of all the seats in the joint, she happened to pick that one. Just as I bond with readers who “get” being a married-single parent, or loving a child with special needs, the three of us got to the core of what puts us on the same playing field; being human beings just trying to make it through another day. It sounds simple, right? Yet it’s true.

With PHIL DONAHUE at EBWW this month!
I encourage you to say hello to authors and bloggers when you have an opportunity. Connect with other readers and attend functions where some of your favorite people will be attending or speaking. And no matter how your heart might race, or if the words may not come like you rehearsed, smile and say hello. Authors write because that’s how we connect and communicate; it’s who we are. Yet readers complete the circuit when we shake hands, or even hug, and we find those words of common ground.

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: The Girl Who Came Home

By Amy Bromberg

Inspired by true events, The Girl Who Came Home is the poignant story of a group of Irish emigrants aboard RMS Titanic—a seamless blend of fact and fiction that explores the tragedy’s impact and its lasting repercussions on survivors and their descendants.

Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.

Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Like many others I loved the movie Titanic. What’s nice here is that, in a way, the story with Maggie mimics that of Rose, where it takes place on the Titanic. And then like Rose’s granddaughter, Grace’s story plays out in a time more in the present. What’s unique here is that Grace goes through a similar emotional experience, one that makes her retreat and shut out all that went on in her life prior to another heartbreaking event.

You really can tell that Ms. Gaynor conducted an in-depth amount of research for this novel. She brought her interest in the Titanic to life in the pages of a book. She took a story we’ve heard countless times and gave us a new perspective, one that was authentic and engrossing. She also brought the characters to life, with wonderful use of imagery and description. I felt like I was there with Grace and Maggie experiencing all of the things that they went through.

The only negative aspect I experienced was that it was slow for me in the beginning, but then all of a sudden it picked up and I couldn’t put it down.

If you’re a historical fiction fan, and/or interested in a romantic story about survival, love and self-discovery, then definitely take a chance with The Girl Who Came Home.

Thanks to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Time Traveler's Boyfriend

Today, we are featuring The Time Traveler's Boyfriend by Annabelle Costa. Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we have one e-book for a lucky reader in the US or Canada!

Claudia’s geeky boyfriend Adam has just invented a time machine.

No, really—he has. She doesn't believe it either until Adam provides her with definitive proof that he does, in fact, have a functioning time travel device sitting in the living room of his Manhattan brownstone.

But instead of getting ready to accept the Nobel Prize, Adam has very different plans for his groundbreaking invention. He wants Claudia to use the machine to travel back in time and stop the accident that landed him in a wheelchair over a decade ago, and prevent the trajectory of events that he believes ruined his life.

When Claudia reluctantly agrees to become the first human time traveler, she knows she’s making a big gamble. If she succeeds, she could have the happy ending with commitment-phobic Adam that she’s always dreamed of. But if she fails, it could mean the end of the universe as she knows it. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Check out an excerpt from the book here!

Annabelle Costa is a teacher who writes in her free time. She enjoys the wounded hero genre, involving male love interests with physical disabilities, who don’t follow the typical Hollywood perception of sexy.

Visit Annabelle at her blog.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sharing this book with our readers!

How to win:
Please tell us: If you could go back in time to change one thing in your life, where would you go and what would you do?

One entry per person.

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

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends April 27th at midnight EST.

Annabelle Costa’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 31st:  Book Marks the Spot
Wednesday, April 2nd:  Bound by Words
Thursday, April 3rd:  Luxury Reading
Monday, April 7th:  Reading Reality
Wednesday, April 9th:  Time 2 Read
Thursday, April 10th:  A Chick Who Reads
Monday, April 14th:  The Written World
Tuesday, April 15th:  The Reader’s Hollow
Tuesday, April 15th:  Simply Stacie
Wednesday, April 16th:  Cupcake’s Book Cupboard
Thursday, April 17th:  Bibliotica
Monday, April 21st:  Stuck in Books
Tuesday, April 22nd:  Chick Lit Central 
Wednesday, April 23rd:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Thursday, April 24th:  Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, April 24th:  Melody & Words
Monday, April 28th:  Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, May 2nd:  Peeking Between the Pages

Visit TLC Book Tours on Facebook

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


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


Pretty in Ink by Lindsey Palmer from Kensington


The Breakup Doctor by/from Phoebe Fox

Carole Matthews is at home with chick 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.