Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spotlight and Giveaway: Slightly South of Simple

Today we're celebrating the publication of Kristy Woodson Harvey's third novel, Slightly South of Simple, which is also the start of a new series! In honor of this launch, Kristy has an amazing prize to give away! But first, read all about the novel...

From the next “major voice in Southern fiction” (New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand) comes the first in an all-new series chronicling the journeys of three sisters and their mother—and a secret from their past that has the potential to tear them apart and reshape their very definition of what it means to be a family.

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.



Kristy Woodson Harvey is also the author of Dear Carolina (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2015) and Lies and Other Acts of Love (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2016). Dear Carolina was long-listed for the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize, has been optioned for film and has appeared on numerous “must-read” lists. Lies and Other Acts of Love was a Romantic Times top pick, a Southern Booksellers Okra Pick and was chosen to be a part of the 2017 Trio display, an integration of story, art and song, which will spend the year traveling the country.

She blogs with her mom daily on Design Chic, the inaugural member of Traditional Home’s design blogger hall of fame, about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life and loves connecting with readers at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Domino, Houzz and Our State. She has been seen featured in Readers’ Digest, The Huffington Post, USA Today’s Happy Every After, North Carolina Bookwatch, PopSugar, Glitter Guide and The Sits Girls. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.




Kristy is generously giving away a swag bag with Slightly South of Simple, a KWH beach bag, insulated cup, book light, and coozie!


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 April 30th at midnight EST.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: Lessons from the Prairie

By Jami Deise

The 1970s was a great time to be a girl who loved stories. Not only were the Little House on the Prairie books ubiquitous, but the TV show was the star of every Monday night. Playing “Little House” was a favorite game for my friends and me. We all fought over who got to be Laura. In fact, some of my very first writings were what I now know was fan fiction… a tale called “Light Up the Sky with Firecrackers,” painstakingly written and illustrated on those tablets given to first graders back then. My mom may still have them. (I know she still has the poem I wrote about loving cats and ants.)

This is my long-winded way of saying that when Chick Lit Central was pitched Lessons from the Prairie, written by former Little House child star and current Fox News reporter Melissa Francis, I was game… but wary. For as much as I loved Little House as a grade-schooler, by the time Melissa Francis joined the show, Mary and Laura were all grown up and I was more interested in General Hospital. Furthermore, my political tastes run more toward the Rachel Maddow end of the spectrum.

Still, I was curious about whatever backstage melodrama Francis might have to offer… as well as the inner workings of a brain on Fox News. Coincidentally, the Little House franchise has recently been claimed by conservatives, pointing to its can-do frontier spirit—and disdain for government and politicians—as proof that the best way to help people is to let their neighbors do it. (This outlook is burnished by the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane were outspoken in their opposition to FDR’s New Deal. No one had helped them out on the prairie, so why should the government help those crippled by a national unemployment rate of twenty-five percent?)

While Lessons does offer a glimpse of behind-the-scenes life on the set, I might have gotten more bang from my buck by reading Francis’s first book, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter. Lessons tries to offer a few concrete rules from Francis’s time on the show and her current career, but these are buried in long-winded (albeit interesting) anecdotes from her past. Francis’s recollections about how Michael Landon treated everyone on set equally (except for salaries, of course) devolves into memories of the Sony versus Betamax VCR wars. And while Francis recounts a fairly recent meeting with Little House co-star Melissa Gilbert in which the two reminisced about Landon, there’s no mention whether she debated politics with the grown-up Half-Pint, who’s a well-known Democratic activist and union supporter.

Francis airs some of her dirty laundry—she touches on her mother’s mismanagement of her finances (I suppose she goes into detail in her first book), while acknowledging her mother deserved some kind of compensation for the hours she spent managing Francis’s career. She’s also upfront about her early reporting missteps and the truth about her appearance before the Fox hair and makeup folks have their way with her. I appreciated the tales of her early gumption in going after news jobs—she called up small TV stations, pretended to have already lined up interviews with their rivals, and proposed the “favor” of dropping off her reel while she was in town. That takes chutzpah, something young women fresh out of college—even if that college is Harvard—seem to lack, while their male counterparts have in spades.

Still, the book’s shortcomings left me unable to appreciate the few lessons she detailed. Francis holds a degree in economics from Harvard, yet the book is written at a fifth-grade level. Did her publisher assume that readers attracted to Francis’s story would only comprehend writing at that level, or is this her true voice? Fox declares that while its commentators are unabashed conservatives, its reporters—Francis is on the financial beat—are unbiased. Yet Francis doesn’t try to hide her conservative leanings, even repeating the tired joke about Al Gore inventing the internet. (I find this lie particularly galling—as a financial reporter, Francis should know that Gore rightly took credit only for authoring the legislation that funded DARPAnet’s transition to the internet, not for its creation.) Honestly, I was interested in how Francis developed her political beliefs –she calls herself a Republican as early as her freshman year at Harvard—yet there’s no self-reflection on how she came to believe what she believes.

The behind-the-scenes at Fox News stories are equally sparse. While Francis gushes over Megyn Kelly, she doesn’t seem to have an opinion on Kelly’s revelations in her own book, nor the timing of its release. She mentions that Roger Ailes repeatedly talked about bedding her, but her blasé reaction to his come-ons hints that the women who sued him for sexual harassment just aren’t as strong as she is. She belittles Democrat Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” philosophy, advising young women to choose careers that are flexible with the demands of motherhood. Yet she doesn’t talk at all about how difficult it is for women who have “leaned out” for a few years to resume their careers at the same place they left them, or even to be taken seriously at all once they have pared back to take care of their children.

Despite the book’s shortcomings, there is an authenticity that comes across in Francis’s writing. She doesn’t hold herself up as a model for women who want to balance a high-profile career with demanding (she has three children) motherhood. She’s honest about her weaknesses as a reporter (although she seems unable to see the other side of issues she’s covering). And the overall lesson she imparts—there’s no substitute for hard work—is one she practices as well as preaches.

And lastly, Francis recognizes and appreciates the shining light that is Oprah. As Oprah was one of President Obama’s earliest and most fervent supporters, if Francis can still value her, perhaps she’s not quite as conservative as she leads readers to believe.

Thanks to Weinstein Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

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

Melissa A:
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman from Berkley
Making Waves by Laura Moore from Ballantine
Mrs. Saint and the Defectives by Julie Lawson Timmer from Lake Union
Secrets of the Tulip Sisters by Susan Mallery from HQN Books
How to Change a Life by Stacey Ballis from Berkley (e-book via NetGalley)
The One that Got Away by Melissa Pimentel from St. Martin's Press
It Happens in the Hamptons by Holly Peterson from William Morrow
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances from Kensington (e-book via Edelweiss)

Jami:
Before this is Over by Amanda Hickie from Little, Brown (e-book via NetGalley)

What could be in YOUR mail?

A random assortment of books! (Or e-books, if you live outside the US.) CLC is approaching SEVEN years, so we want to do something to celebrate!




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 May 1st at midnight EST.



Book Review: Kim vs. the Mean Girl

By Melissa Amster

I don't always review YA novels, but when I do, it's because they're written by my favorite chick lit authors. Recently, Meredith Schorr published a YA prequel to her Blogger Girl series. It was fun to see what Kim and Hannah were like in high school.

High school sophomore, Kim Long, is no stranger to the “mean girl” antics of Queen Bee Hannah Marshak. When Hannah steals Kim’s diary and in front of the entire class reads personal (not to mention humiliating) entries Kim wrote about her crush, Jonathan, Kim vows to enact revenge.

Kim and her loyal best friend, Bridget, come up with the perfect plan to put the evil Hannah in her place once and for all. But will their scheming have the desired effect of getting even, or will Hannah emerge more celebrated by her peers than ever?

Kim vs. The Mean Girl can be read as a young adult standalone novel, but it is also a prequel to the popular Blogger Girl adult romantic comedy series and is set in 2000. Told in the duo perspectives of teenage Kim and Hannah, fans of the series will get an inside look into Kim’s early passion for reading, writing (and Jonathan) and find out why Hannah is so darn mean. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

As you can see on the cover, the only thing I didn't like was that it had to end. It reminded me of the Taffy Sinclair books by Betsy Haynes that I read in my preteen years, as well as Caprice Crane's Confessions of a Hater.

I enjoyed reading both Kim and Hannah's perspectives. I found myself laughing out loud at times, as well as cringing. I also enjoyed seeing Kim's friends Bridget and Jonathan as teens, as well as meeting some new characters.

Overall, it's an entertaining story that adults and teens will enjoy.  There were also some good lessons that I took from it. Maybe Meredith can fit in another prequel about Kim and Hannah's college years. (Although I also look forward to a follow-up from Novelista Girl.)

Thanks to Meredith Schorr for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Meredith Schorr:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spotlight: Click. Date. Repeat. Again


Title: Click. Date. Repeat. Again
Series: Click. Date. Repeat. 
Author: K.J. Farnham
Release Date: April 19th, 2017
Genre: women’s fiction
Tour Dates: April 19th – 23rd, 2017



Never in her wildest dreams would Jess Mason ever imagine herself being a part of the online dating hype. Yet here she is smack-dab in the middle of it all. And she’s dated her fair share of online crazies to be a new connoisseur of all the weirdos out in the cyber world. After a slew of bad dates and pussy (cat that is) pictures, Jess knows that she needs to finally commit to something—or someone. And suddenly there he is, a man she can actually imagine herself with.

But when Jess is faced with an undeniable attraction to a handsome, unavailable co-worker, she’s conflicted about continuing her quest for Mr. Right-At-Her-Fingertips. Now, it’s feast or famine—and she’s not willing to starve. She certainly can’t have both–that wouldn’t be right. After all, that’s the “old Jess.” The new Jess is ready to start clicking with someone special and make a real love connection.

**This book is a spinoff of Click. Date. Repeat, so it can be read as a standalone.**

Buy the Book:

AmazonUS | AmazonUK | AmazonAU | AmazonCA





Say Hello to author K.J. Farnham!

Bio:

K. J. Farnham writes contemporary fiction for women and young adults. A former educator who grew up in the Milwaukee area, she now lives in Western Wisconsin with her husband and three children. When not keeping up with her kids, she can usually be found reading or writing. Beach outings, coffee, acoustic music, and road trips are among her favorite things. She currently has several projects in the works!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

It's a Series:

If you haven't checked out the first book in the series, you should!


Title: Click. Date. Repeat.
Series: Click. Date. Repeat.
Author: K.J. Farnham
Release Date: August 21st, 2014
Genre: women’s fiction

Blurb:

These days, finding love online is as commonplace as ordering that coveted sweater. But back in 2003, the whole concept of internet dating was still quite new, with a stigma attached to it that meant those who were willing to test the waters faced a fair amount of skepticism from friends and family.

Such is the case for Chloe Thompson, a restless 20-something tired of the typical dating scene and curious about what she might find inside her parents’ computer. With two serious but failed relationships behind her, Chloe isn’t even entirely sure what she’s looking for. She just knows that whatever it is, she wants to find it.

Chloe’s foray into online dating involves a head-first dive into a world of matches, ice breakers and the occasional offer of dick pics, all while Chloe strives to shake herself of the ex who just refuses to disappear. Will she simultaneously find herself and “the one” online, or will the ever-growing pile of humorous and downright disastrous dates only prove her friends and family right? There’s only one way to find out…

Click. Date. Repeat.

Buy the Book:

AmazonUS | AmazonUK | AmazonAU | AmazonCA

Visit all the stops on the tour:

April 19th

On The Run Book Reviews - Book Excerpt
Amanda's Book Nook for Adults - Book Review
Kelee Morris - Author Spotlight
CLiK Book Blog - Book Review
For the Love of Chick Lit - Book Excerpt

April 20th

Chick Lit Central - Author Spotlight
Jena Books - Book Review
Wild & Sexy Book Blog - Book Review

April 21st

ItaPixie's Book Corner - Book Excerpt
GW Reviews - Book Review
Bookish Lifestyle - Book Review
Judging More than Just the Cover - Author Interview

April 22nd

Book Lover in Florida - Book Excerpt
Sylv.Net - Author Spotlight
Romance Rendezvous Book Blog - Book Review

April 23rd

Kristin's Novel Cafe - Author Spotlight
Second Run Reviews - Author Spotlight
Ramblings From Beneath The Sheets - Book Excerpt
Lindsay's Book Blog - Book Review


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: The Night the Lights Went Out



By Jami Deise

Most of my reader friends and I are just as hooked on serialized TV series as we are on our favorite books. I’ve participated in several blog hops in which we’ve discussed the ups and downs of loving shows about zombies, hot hospital doctors, shady politicians, and grown-up triplets. So when southern women’s fiction author Karen White’s latest book, The Night the Lights Went Out, was pitched as Desperate Housewives meets Revenge, naturally I was game.

I’ll be honest: There are some significant problems with this book, mainly its reliance on too many coincidences, an uneven tone, an obvious villain, and too many flashbacks. However, I enjoyed the book so much, I looked past its faults even while I was categorizing them.

Like the title implies, Night takes place in Georgia – specifically, Sweet Apple, Georgia, a sprawling Atlanta suburb where farms and forests are being bulldozed for neighborhoods and shopping malls. It’s not quite paving paradise to put up a parking lot, but it’s close. Ninety-three-year old Sugar Prescott isn’t happy about all these changes, but what choice does she have? As developers sniff around what’s left of her farm, she’s forced to rent out her guest cottage to newly divorced Merilee Talbot Dunlap and her two children. But she’s not going to be forced to like it, or Merilee. Just because she’s a landlord doesn’t mean she’s a friend.

Merilee is so vulnerable, readers have to root for her. Her husband Michael left her for their children’s math teacher, forcing Merilee not only to move out of her marital home, but to find a new school for their children – the private Windwood Academy, where all the moms are thin, spend their days doing yoga, and drive enormous SUVs. This clique should turn their backs on Merilee, but surprisingly, queen bee Heather Blackford takes the woman under her wing. While Merilee navigates PTA politics, she and Sugar bond about their pasts: Merilee feels responsible for her younger brother’s drowning when she was a teenager, and Sugar shares tale after tale of her Perils of Pauline past. This section of the book, which feels like Desperate Housewives meets Driving Miss Daisy, slows down the book enormously and is responsible for its problems with tone.

Once Sugar’s tales of woe are done, the book concentrates on Merilee’s relationships with the PTA women, and that’s when the book hits its stride. Even though I knew what was coming and why, and even though the coincidences piled up, I read along eagerly. While the writer wasn’t brave enough to pull off the final twist I was hoping for, the climax is nothing less than solid, campy fun. And yes, it happens during a power outage.

I wish White had had a stronger editor for Night, but I suppose when you’ve written as many books as she has, you get a pass. Nevertheless, perhaps it’s time to update the lyrics to Vicki Lawrence’s most famous song. That back woods southern lawyer isn’t the only one you shouldn’t trust your soul to.

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

More by Karen White:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Uncle Bud

When Chick Lit Cheerleader Jen Tucker came to us to tell us her beloved uncle passed away, we thought she should give him a tribute he'd be proud of. She did us proud too!

My Favorite of Uncles

I’d never attended a graveside military funeral before. I’m not foreign to burying loved ones, that’s a part of living. Aunts, uncles, friends, my mother-in-law, my best friend’s son—I’ve said farewell to many. Yet this was different. My favorite of uncles.

Crazy handsome Marine!
Not that I’m biased or anything… 
Uncle Bud is my dad’s younger brother. Thick as thieves as kids, close friends as adults. When my father was eight-years-old, his mother died. In the years following, he and his two brothers were shuffled between family members. His widowed father finding solace in alcohol. My dad spent time with his ever loving yet childless aunt and uncle. His older and younger brothers shifting into other homes as well. When the three Herrick boys were reunited, they spent days playing, and nights sharing a full-sized bed. They loved one another. They missed one another.

Uncle Bud, Virgil if you check his birth certificate, joined the Marines and served during the Vietnam war. Electronics fascinated him and became his field of interest. When he returned home he opened a repair shop in Michigan and settled into family life in Michigan.

Jarts in the grassy field behind my Aunt Lauretta’s home, Thanksgiving pig-outs, and summers at the lake flooded my mind as our procession wound through the military graves. I closed my eyes, and reflected on Uncle Bud as the bells tolled noon at the cemetery.

Present Arms. Uncle Bud, remember when you tried to convince me the Tootsie Roll man existed? And when I excitedly went to find what he’d left behind, it was not candy but puppy poo by the backdoor on the linoleum?

Rifle Volley. Remember when you paid $100 to dance with me at my wedding? You whispered how proud you were of me and reinforced the well-known truth that Mike “married up.” We laughed. You tried not to step on my toes. Next in line, waiting to dance with me, was Grandpa Herrick wearing his little red chapeau. Was he first to greet you at the pearly gates? Maybe your mom?

Taps. Remember the summers when you and Aunt Penny lived on the lake? When Joyce (Uncle Bud’s daughter) and I were pee-you-pants scared to jump off the high dive? You told us to close our eyes, count to three, then jump. You gave us a big old shove off the end when we reached, “two” and plunged into the frigid water. Not cool.

Uncle Bud with his children, Joyce and Robert,
and two of this three grandchildren.

American flag presented to my aunt. Remember when we flew out to watch Purdue play in the Rose Bowl in 2000? I’m not sure what was funnier during our time in Studio City, California. How much Aunt Barb hated seeing “Castaway” or your visceral reaction to seeing the giant meatballs at Buca di Peppo for the first time. It’s a tossup to this day.

Chaplain spoke. Remember how just three weeks ago you were at my house? Mom and Aunt Barb played marathon Scrabble games while you bonded with Ryan over his crazy Skittles socks. Do you know he’s wearing them today? Just for you? Why didn’t you tell us you felt bad that weekend? That you had heartburn, which was truly an aftereffect of a heart attack? I wish you would’ve said something. Anything.

Gracie nuzzled into my wool coat, crying. Remember when you dressed up as Santa during the 1970’s family Christmas gatherings? You tossed baby powder into your beard and filled out the roomy, red-velvet jacket with pillows. A black trash bag containing gifts slung over your shoulder. You told my five-year-old self it wasn’t you. You almost had me fooled. Almost.

It’s so hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? To someone who means so much to you; to others. Yet it’s a part of this life we live. Just as eating potato salad and swapping memories are afterwards. The reuniting of loved ones and introductions with strangers aplenty. The feeling like your loved one is going to walk in the room at any minute and this is all just a dream; a bad joke. Is that just me?

Thank you for letting me share this with you all. It’s a little deep compared to what I usually write, I know. Yet if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a plethora of times, CLC is one big family I’m proud to be a part of. So, it was about time you all met Uncle Bud. What a guy, right?


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.