Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Winners of "The Stuff that Never Happened"

To find the winners, I assigned everyone numbers by the order in which the entries came in and used the Custom Random Number Generator. It chose 13 and 54.

Congrats to Heather and Bailey (the bookworm)!!!

Thanks again to Maddie Dawson for participating in this interview and providing the books for the giveaway. Thanks to Melissa P. for an excellent job on her second solo interview (and she has more solo interviews to come in September).

Be sure to enter our current giveaway for "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" by Marla Martenson! US only. Ends Thursday at midnight EST.

Book Review and special treat: Georgia's Kitchen


By Melissa Amster

“Georgia’s Kitchen” (by Jenny Nelson) was on my “must-read” list this summer. I had only heard good things and lots of hype, so I had to check it out for myself.

In this novel, Georgia has an amazing career ahead of her, banking on a potential good review from a very tough food critic. She’s also engaged to an entertainment lawyer. Anyone would think she had it made. Then the review turns out to be worse than she expected and things go south with her fiancée. With nothing left to lose, she reconnects with her former boss in Italy and gets a summer job at a new restaurant. Although things start off shaky, soon she is able to regain her reputation that was marred by the review and she’s handed another tough career decision.

With “Georgia’s Kitchen,” Jenny Nelson spins a charming tale that, combined with delicious sounding food, is enough to reel in any chick lit or cooking aficionado. I think this story has all the makings of what great chick lit is meant to be and could easily be optioned for a feature-length film. Her use of description really allows the reader to feel like they’re standing right next to Georgia the entire time, seeing everything that she sees. In that respect, I could practically taste the food as she was describing it and it made me want to go out for a nice Italian meal when I was finished. Georgia was very easy to relate to. (For me personally, we're close in age and we both have frizzy hair.) She's down-to-earth and knows what she wants out of life. She doesn't let bad situations become setbacks, nor does she wallow in self-pity (at least not for too long). The other characters were vivid and had some interesting personalities. I enjoyed reading Georgia’s interactions with each of them. Her two best friends were especially funny and sounded like women that I would enjoy getting to know better.

The one thing I feel Ms. Nelson could have done to enhance this novel is to add more spice. Given what the back cover says, we all know that Georgia meets a hot Italian guy during her stay in Florence. At one point, she even claims that she had “incredible sex” with him. All I could tell was that they kissed and he touched her a few times. I was waiting for some hot “romantic” scenes that would leave me blushing and lightheaded in the same way Sue Margolis, Marian Keyes and Jennifer Weiner have written such scenes in their books. I’m hoping that over time, Ms. Nelson won’t hold back on such “spice” in her novels.

Overall, this was a fun and entertaining story and it even had some twists I did not expect. I know it’s challenging to write a novel on concepts that have been used before (woman’s life falls apart and she escapes to another country or town to find herself). However, I feel Ms. Nelson did a nice job portraying this concept and also taking on new angles. If you’re looking for good chick lit, you’ve come to the right place.

And as an extra special treat, Jenny Nelson wanted to share one of her favorite recipes for a nice summer meal:

I’m on a lemon zest kick. Lately I’ve been adding it to all my pasta and grain salads, sprinkling it on fish and chicken, even adding it to soup! This pasta salad is easy and delicious, perfect for dinner on a warm late-summer night. If you love zest as much as I do, feel free to bump it up a notch for even more lemony goodness!

Lemon Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

12 ounces penne pasta
2 cups small cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped green onions

Preparation
Whisk oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and lemon peel in small bowl to blend. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Cook penne in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Rinse pasta with cold water to cool quickly and drain again. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add tomatoes, bell peppers, feta cheese, and green onions. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe from Epicurious.com

Monday, August 30, 2010

Winner of "She's Gone Country"

To find the winner, I assigned everyone numbers by the order in which the entries came in and used the Custom Random Number Generator. It chose #55.

Congrats to Carole Fiore!

Thanks again to Jane Porter for her lovely answers to my questions and to Crystal Patriarche of BookSparks PR for facilitating this interview and providing the book for the giveaway.

Here's another chance to win this book! The Book Chick has a copy of "She's Gone Country" to give away. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 15th)

Other giveaways going on:
Last chance to enter to win "The Stuff that Never Happened" by Maddie Dawson. US/Canada only. Ends TONIGHT at 6 pm EST.

Win "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" by Marla Martenson! US only. Ends Thursday at midnight EST.

Interview with Marla Martenson and book giveaway




**Giveaway is now closed**


Marla Martenson is a professional matchmaker and the author of a few books about dating and relationships, her latest being "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker." Having personally been on both sides of the matchmaking spectrum (being responsible for a marriage and also being initially set up with my husband), I am definitely looking forward to reading her memoir about this same topic. Marla Martenson is very personable and fun to chat with and Melissa P. and I enjoyed working on this interview with her. We hope you will enjoy getting to know her, as well. She has some great advice for "all the single ladies" (and men) out there. She has also offered to give away two copies of "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" to some lucky US readers.

MP: What is your usual writing routine?
MM: I don't really have a set routine. I generally like to write in the mid mornings or early afternoon though because by 6:00 my energy level has dropped considerably. I am now writing the sequel to Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker and since it is
a memoir, I write a lot of it based on things that are happening in my life as I go, so sometimes I have to wait a few weeks to get some more material.
For example, tonight I am going to a concert of my favorite band, Thriving Ivory, so that story will be added in for sure.

MP: What do you like to do when you are not writing or matchmaking?
MM: I love hiking, working out, reading, traveling, going to lectures and spiritual centers, making videos, drinking vanilla soy lattes and keeping up with my foreign languages that I speak.

MP: Are all of the dating stories in your books true or do you add/change many of the details to make them fictional?
MM: Most of the stories are true, although I did change or combine the details on some, and of course I changed the names.

MP: When can we expect to see a sequel to "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" in stores?
MM: The sequel to "Diary of a Beverly Hill Matchmaker" will most likely be in stores in the fall of 2011.

MP: Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you get yourself through it?
MM:I do sometimes experience writer's block. When that happens I step away from the project and do something else. Sometimes I take a week off from writing and come back to it fresh.

MA: Did any of the people mentioned in your book recognize themselves and then comment to you about it?
MM: One guy did recognize himself in a certain story, but he sort of didn't want
to admit it was him, so after reading the book he told me, "I hope I am not in the book." It was a small bit, but made him look quite shallow. It was just too good not to include.

MA: What is your favorite piece of advice to give to single women? Does it differ from what you would say to men?
MM: I like to tell single women to live their best lives and get out and do things that make them happy and improve themselves. Some women make man hunting a top priority like job hunting or something. It is a lot of pressure and there can be a lot of disappointment. If a woman is out there enjoying life and improving herself with exercise, learning new things and travel, she will sparkle and become so darn interesting and magnetic, that she will attract the right guy automatically.
I would tell men to open up their horizons a little bit. Men are so darn visual that they often discount a woman who is five pounds too heavy or has the wrong hair color. it can be very limiting.

MA: How do you feel whenever a match you've made results in a wedding?
MM: I feel so thrilled when a couple gets engaged or emails me to let me know they got married! it makes all of the hard work worthwhile.

MA: What was the first match you made before going professional?
MM: I don't think I ever matched anyone before I got into the business. I could barely match myself. I was hopeless, always picking the bad boy.

MA: I read on your website that you met your husband in Mexico City. How exactly did you meet and how did you know he was the one?
MM: I actually met my husband in Los Angeles. He grew up in Mexico City and we did get married in Mexico City. We were introduced through a mutual friend who is the manager of our apartment building. Adolfo actually started introducing me as his girlfriend after dating for only three weeks. He also gave me a key to his apartment and started using the word "we" a lot, so I knew he was serious.

Special thanks to Marla Martenson for doing this interview with us and providing the books for the giveaway.

Thanks always to Melissa P. for contributing some great questions to this interview, as well as all the others she has worked on.



How to win "Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Have you ever tried to play matchmaker?
OR
2. Please tell us: Have you ever been set up with someone for a relationship?
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

US residents only. Giveaway ends Thursday, September 2nd, at midnight EST.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Blogger Book Review: Fragile

By Laura Rachel Fox


Lisa Unger’s "Fragile" is an emotional roller coaster. Through a myriad of unique characters Unger explores the sometimes strained relationships between family members as well as the relationships between members of a suburban community. When a girl goes missing in The Hollows, the town is not only faced with the task of finding the troubled teen, but many of the townspeople are forced to deal with their memories of a similar case from their past. What follows is a haunting mystery and an exploration of the characters’ psyches and motivations.

One of the most compelling relationships is that of Maggie and her immediate family. Maggie’s position as “town shrink” puts her in an interesting place to help in the search for the missing girl. It also informs her relationship with her teen son and her husband, Chief of Police Jones Cooper. As readers, we are treated to the inner thoughts and feelings of each and every character that Unger has crafted. This provides for an interesting view of the events and tragedies that have shaped and will shape this town and its residents.

Among the residents are a host of well-rounded characters. From the struggling teenager, to the unyielding headmistress, to the exterminator, to the abusive father, each has an important role to play in the unfolding of events. Each has a life all his/her own. Each has a place in their community. Some forced into roles, some trying to redeem themselves, others compelled by their own nature, and still others unable to escape the hold a community like this can have.

Throughout the fast-paced mystery, Unger disperses descriptive details to create a real place. A place with homes, schools, parks. A place many would love to call home. The Hollows is a place of refuge from the big city, a place where parents come to raise their children with time honored values and in the safety of a close community. Unfortunately, we learn that even a town with a rich history of family values is not impervious to the degradation of society. We learn alongside the characters that no place is safe from the depravity of human nature and the cruelty of the real world.

I was overwhelmed by the level of emotional investment I felt in these characters: every individual a real person, with honest thoughts and sentiments. The community that Unger created in The Hollows is a beautiful place, full of memories, connections, fear, and solace. At the conclusion of the novel, I was impressed with the overall theme that we are all a part of something, connected and unable to be isolated. As Lisa Unger so beautifully put it, our lives are all “woven together in one great tapestry—the past, the present, the future—colors and textures mingling and entwined.”

Laura Rachel Fox is a wife, mother, and aspiring author who is biding her time in Fort Worth, TX. She received her BS in English Education from Williams Baptist College (AR) in 2004 and has spent the following years slowly trying to break into the world of writing. You can read more of her wandering thoughts on her blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

If the shoe fits…. Her books will “wear” it!

By Tiffany Schlarman

In July, I had the opportunity to review an ARC of “Last Night at Chateau Marmont” by Lauren Weisberger. The book was wonderful and, as expected, the cover had a killer pair of shoes that fit the book perfectly!

Lauren Weisberger seems to have a knack for fitting the perfect shoe to her novels. In “The Devil Wears Prada,” Lauren matches a simple red stiletto, whose heel is a pitchfork. The shoe is stylish, hot, sexy and RED! Everything about it screams “devilish, beware”. Once you finish reading the book, you can’t imagine a better shoe for the cover. The same principle follows suit for “Everyone Worth Knowing,” which pairs itself with a sexy party heel suitable for events of glamour and for “Chasing Harry Winston,” which pairs itself with a white fur heel adorned with three large diamonds. It is classic, expensive and intriguing.

It seems that Lauren completely understands her fans and readers. Aside from the shoes, fashion, events and every day life the stories hold, each of her books have a quality that makes them uniquely Lauren, but also differ in regards to the story line. This keeps the reader intrigued and unsure of what to expect next from her. From the moment I picked up “The Devil Wears Prada” I have been a fan of Lauren Weisberger's. Each novel is new and exciting to me. I am never sure what to expect next, but I do know I will always find an awesome shoe on the cover with a story to match! That’s pretty much enough for this reading-writing-shopping-shoe fanatic.

I hope to soon meet Lauren on tour, but until then I’ll just have to focus on the shoes and spreading the word about her newest novel, “Last Night at Chateau Marmont” which was a wonderful read! I highly recommend it to chick-lit readers and Lauren’s fans. Just as I am unable to pick a single favorite pair of shoes, I cannot pick a single favorite book from Lauren. It’s part of what makes her a great author and a favorite of mine to read!

Tiffany Schlarman is an avid reader with a specific love for chick-lit! She reviews almost every genre and enjoys writing and blogging. One of her favorite things about these two activities is sharing her love of books with others. She is a mother of two and loves to spend time with her kids and husband! She also works a full time job. The rest unfolds as it happens....

Her blog can be found here.

One Lovely Blog Award


This is our first award and we're thrilled to have been chosen! A BIG thank you goes out to Book Loving Mommy for awarding us with it! So we now get to send it on to 15 blogs that are new to us!

Here are the rules if you receive this award:

If you get this lovely award please thank the person that gave it to you and link back to them then send it on to 15 (new to you) lovely bloggers!

Here are our picks, in no particular order (since this is the first opportunity we've had to bestow such an award, there may be some people we've been following for the past few months):

1. The Book Chick
2. Write Meg!
3. Number One Novels
4. The Write Stuff
5. Luxury Reading
6. Stiletto Storytime
7. Simply Stacie
8. Planet Books
9. Chick Lit Reviews
10. Books with a Cup of Coffee
11. Booking Mama
12. So Many Books, So Little Time
13. Readaholic
14. Confessions of a Bookaholic
15. Jenn's Bookshelves

Interview with Maddie Dawson and book giveaway

By Melissa Patafio

**Giveaway is now closed**


Maddie Dawson is making her debut on the chick-lit scene with her compelling book “The Stuff That Never Happened” (which was published on August 3rd). She grew up in the south with relatives that she describes as “outrageous storytellers” and really, what better environment to breed an eventual future storyteller? She held various careers in her life but soon realized that writing was her calling. Maddie currently resides in Connecticut where she spends part of every day writing on her screened-in back porch overlooking a willow tree, rose bushes, and a family of cardinals.

I recently had the good fortune of interviewing Maddie, who immediately won me over with her openness and honesty. I am sure she will do the same for all of you and I hope you will enjoy getting to know her just as much as I did! She also offered to give away two copies of "The Stuff..." to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.


1. How long did it take you to finish writing “The Stuff That Never Happened”?
It took me about 18 months to write this book once I really buckled down and got serious about it. Of course, for the first few months, I was walking around with Annabelle’s voice in my head, as she explained and explained what her life was like, while I simply took notes. But then, once I started writing and figuring out the story, it all came rather fast.

2. What was the journey to publishing like for you?
I was so fortunate to have an editor who immediately loved the book and gave it her full support. I’ll never forget the evening that I got her voice mail two weeks after I’d handed in the manuscript. I was riding home on the train and checked my messages—and there was her voice screaming, “I love love love LOVE this book!” (Truly one of the great moments of life.) Unfortunately, however, before the book was published, she moved to another publishing house. But then fortunately, (isn’t this like one of those yay-boo stories?) her wonderful assistant shepherded the book through all the shoals and narrows of publication and publicity, and stood by my side every step of the way. Publishing is a harrowing adventure, but I’ve been so lucky that the entire staff at Crown has given me lots of help and support every step of the way. Really, I couldn’t have asked for better friends!

3. You grew up in the south and you currently live in Connecticut, how did you end up there and would you ever move back to the south?
I grew up in Northern Florida, which is more like Georgia than anything that comes to mind when you hear the word “Florida.” (No palm trees, mai tais or retirees.) When I was a teenager, my parents divorced, and we moved to Southern California where I spent most of my truly formative, trouble-making years. I got married young, and my husband and I moved to New Haven so that he could attend Yale grad school. Soon after that, our marriage ended and he left Connecticut…but I have never managed to make my getaway, either back to Santa Barbara OR back to Florida. I miss both of those places every single winter, but I seem to have put down roots here and am stuck here like quicksand.

4. Do you have a specific writing routine?
I write every day—but not all in one fell swoop. I like to dabble a little bit in the morning, then come back to my book in the afternoon—and then, in a habit I would LOVE to break, I get a full second wind at about 10:30 at night. If I’m not careful, it’s 2 or 3 in the morning before I quite know what has happened. I love the way time just disappears when I’m really writing—how five hours can feel like five minutes. But if I could truly manage myself better, I’d be a strictly daytime writer and would wrap up my work at a reasonable hour and then do other things for the rest of the day and evening. I seem to be stuck with a brain that likes the late nights best!

5. If “The Stuff That Never Happened” were made into a movie, who do you see playing Annabelle, Grant, and Jeremiah?
Hmmm, I was just having this conversation with a friend yesterday. We decided that Richard Gere should play Jeremiah, with Gary Oldman playing Grant…and perhaps Annette Bening or Laura Linney being Annabelle.

6. Did you experience any challenges while writing “The Stuff”?
Actually…the book presented lots of challenges. (Don’t they all?) One of the main ones was taking a character who is flawed and who makes mistakes and having her be someone the readers would still love. It’s always hard to present a fully three-dimensional person who steps off the page and yet does hurtful things to other people—and still make her sympathetic. Grant was also a challenge. I loved his character, but I was mad with him for his coldness toward Annabelle. And it wasn’t until I was probably three-quarters through the book that I realized that he wasn’t a cold person; he was simply furious with his wife and expressing it the only way he knew how, by withdrawing from her. It was also a challenge—but lots of fun—to write the book in two parts—the chapters from the 1970s when they fall in love, and the chapters in 2005, when they fall out.

7. Who are some authors that have inspired you?
I love so many authors. I’m inspired by Alice Munro and Anne Lamott. I love Lorrie Moore and Laurie Colwin, Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Sue Miller, and Mark Haddon, among many others.

8. What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
I love cooking and gardening and reading…and getting together with my friends. One thing that is hard for me about the writing life is that it’s a solitary life. When you’re deep in a book, you have to sequester yourself for whole hours of the day, for MONTHS. It turns out that books don’t get written if you only devote an hour or so to them every now and then, or only when you happen to feel inspired. (I’ve had to learn this the hard way!) So when I’m not currently in a novel I’m wild for social life—lunch, long walks, phone conversations, facebook.

9. You posted a bit of the back-story of how the novel came about on CarolineLeavittville, have you seen the “once-loved” man since that day on the train?
I haven’t seen him since that day. It’s a funny thing about that kind of thing. I believe that we run into the people we truly need to see, and after all those years, it was important that he and I have some sort of closure talk, one that we couldn’t have had earlier perhaps. But then once that had happened—well, there’s simply no place we have in each other’s lives anymore. It was as though we released each other permanently that day.

10. What is your favorite type of music?
I love the rock music that I grew up with in the 60s and 70s, and also lots of classical music. I love folk music and soft jazz. Can’t stand loud, jangly music these days—while I’m writing I listen to alto flutes through my headphones, or else music that has lyrics that helps me illustrate the characters I’m writing. I made myself a soundtrack while I was writing “The Stuff That Never Happened,” and whenever I sat down to write, I’d play some of the songs, just to get me in the mood.

Special thanks to Maddie for answering all my questions and for offering the books for the giveaway.


How to win "The Stuff that Never Happened":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Who was/is your first love?
OR
2. Please tell us: Who was the "one who got away?"
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Monday, August 30th at 6:00 pm EST.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Winning Wednesday--August 25th

I will only be posting giveaways on this blog from now on. If you have a giveaway that ends before Wednesday of a given week, please feel free to post it at Chick Lit Central on Facebook. You're also welcome to contact me about any giveaways you would like to have listed. (Chick Lit only, please, unless it is for a gift card or book related device.)
Finally, I am no longer going to seek out contests to post. If they happen to show up in my Facebook or Twitter news feed or on my blog reader, I'll be sure to post them. If you think I won't see your contest, please send it to me so I can include it in this blog.
Thank you!


New giveaways:

Brand new! Win a copy of "Sweet Valley Confidential" from Stiletto Storytime! US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 1st at midnight EST)

Another new one! Betty Confidential has a fabulous prize package of chick lit books! (Deadline: September 3rd)

We have one copy of "She's Gone Country" by Jane Porter to give away. US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 29th at midnight EST)

More opportunities to win "She's Gone Country":
Chick Lit is Not Dead: 5 copies to give away (Deadline: Today...so hurry up before it closes!)

A Bookworm's World: 3 copies to give away. US/Canada only, no PO boxes. (Deadline: September 18th at 6 pm EST)

Win "How to Tell a Woman by her Handbag" by Kathryn Eisman from Chick Lit is Not Dead. (Deadline: Tomorrow)

Win "A Desirable Residence" by Madeleine Wickham from Chick Lit Reviews. (Deadline: September 4th)

Wow! Women on Writing has your chance to win "Good-bye to All That" by Margo Candela. (Deadline: Unknown)

Brittany Roshelle is giving away a Bulletproof Mascara" prize pack! US only. (Deadline: August 29th in the evening)

This one is huge! Catherine McKenzie has your chance to win 32 Authors and 64 Books! (Deadline: August 31st)

A Nut in a Nutshell has "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger to give to one lucky reader. US Only. (Deadline: August 29th at 10 pm EST)

Win a copy of "What we Have" by Amy Boesky from Luxury Reading. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 3rd at midnight EST)

Win "Hometown Girl" by Michele Ashman Bell from Linda Weaver Clarke. (Deadline unknown)

Need more money to spend on books? How does a $50 Visa Gift Card sound? Michele Ashman Bell has one to give away to a lucky winner! (Deadline: August 31st)

Stay tuned for our interview with Maddie Dawson, where she's giving away two copies of "The Stuff that Never Happened."

Previously posted (still going on):

Win a copy of "Georgia's Kitchen" from The Book Chick. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 8th at midnight EST)

Not getting the books you want? This might help. Win a $20 Amazon gift card from Simply Stacie. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

Confessions of a Bookaholic is giving away
"Life After Yes" by Aidan Donnelley Rowley.
(Deadline: August 31st at 12 pm EST)

Win "Sand in My Eyes" by Christine Lemmon from Books and Needlepoint US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 31st)

A Bookworm's World has your chance to win Fragile by Lisa Unger. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 5th at 6 pm EST)

Jane Porter is having a photo contest for a chance to win a fabulous prize package! (Deadline: September 30th)

Two more chances to win "She's Gone Country" by Jane Porter:

*Romance Author Buzz (Deadline: September 30th)

*Simply Stacie
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes. (Deadline: August 27th at 11:59 pm EST.)

Win "Waxed" by Robert Rave from A Novel Menagerie. US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 31st)

Win "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger from Simply Stacie. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

The Book Chick is giving away "Tuesday Tells it Slant" by Holly Christine. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 1st at midnight EST)

Win lunch in your hometown with Jen Lancaster and Stacey Ballis! See the blog post for details. US only. (Deadline: September 6th at 11:59pm CST)

I Want a New Book, Every Month has "Bad Girls" by Rebecca Chance up for grabs. UK only. (Deadline: Unknown)

Win "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger from A Cozy Reader's Corner. US Street addresses only. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

A Bookworm's World has three AUDIO copies of "Backseat Saints" by Joshilyn Jackson. US/Canada, no PO boxes. (Deadline: September 4th at 6 pm EST)

SheKnows has your chance to win "Love in Mid Air" by Kim Wright. US and Canada only. (Deadline: August 27th)

Enter to win a copy of "Winging It" by Jenny Gardiner" from Books on the House. US/Canada only. (Deadline unknown)

Allie Larkin is hosting a photo contest for a chance to win a $50 iTunes gift card!: "Stay" on Vacation. (Deadline: End of summer)

Interview with Jane Porter and book giveaway!


**Giveaway is now closed**

As you may know already, I am a fan of Jane Porter's chick lit novels. She writes in such a way that all her characters are easy to relate to, no matter how different they may be from the reader. I think I especially liked "Mrs. Perfect" because just like "Something Blue" by Emily Giffin, it takes a character that readers were expected to dislike in one book and gives a fresh outlook to her personality and turns her into someone with whom the reader can sympathize. In "She's Gone Country," Ms. Porter takes a well-liked character who originally came from "Odd Mom Out" and gives her a story of her own. I've been looking forward to reading this novel since the time I finished "Easy on the Eyes" last summer. And now that it's available at your local bookstore, Crystal from BookSparks PR has given you all a chance to not only get to know Ms. Porter better, but also win one copy of "She's Gone Country." I hope you will take the time to check out her previous novels, if you haven't already, as well as enter to win what looks to be another fabulous novel!

1. How did you first break into the writing scene after receiving your Masters? What challenges did you face?
I’ve been writing since I was in kindergarten! I wrote my first story at five and my first picture book in 2nd grade and my first novel in 4th grade. Now, none of them were published but I was very serious about my writing from a young age.

Although I’ve had poetry and non-fiction pieces published in national magazines, it took me nearly 15 years of incredibly hard work, and 13 rejected manuscripts, before I finally sold to Harlequin Mill& Boon in London in 2000. Since then I’ve written 31books (none of the rejects have ever seen the light of day ) and am about to start another.

Did my Masters in Writing help me sell? Mmmm, no. Did it teach me about the craft of writing? Yes. The bottom line is that I am a commercial fiction writer and I had to learn not just how to write a beautiful passage or honest emotion, but I had to figure out how the market, the genres, the industry pet peeves as well as how to write page turners. The secret to selling is writing really compelling stories. Books that keep a reader up late at night. And I don’t think that kind of thing can be taught in a classroom but rather a writer develops his or her writing chops through lots and lots of practice.

2. Which authors do you admire most?
I admire every author because writing is such hard work. And for commercial fiction writers who have to write on deadline, its exhausting and demanding, so I’m just a huge fan of writers in general.

But writers I like to read? There are tons—Marian Keyes, Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, JR Ward, and on and on and on.

3. Do you have any plans to continue with the group of women that started from "Odd Mom Out" or perhaps revisit some of them in future novels?
I think they’re done for now! I have loved these women, too, so it’s not easy to say that but I’m developing a women’s fiction trilogy using sisters/ connected characters that I think my readers would enjoy.

4. Which of your characters was the easiest to write about? Most difficult?
Marta in Odd Mom Out was my favorite. I loved her spirit and that she was so independent and so determined to be herself. I admire women who don’t feel like they have to fit in, or play a game. Hardest? Tiana from Easy On The Eyes because Tiana was so banged up from grief and loss that it was tough to get close to her. She really had a shell around her to protect her from more pain. But the two people that really mattered to her, and could always reach her, were her friends Marta (Odd Mom Out) and Shey (She’s Gone Country).

5. "Flirting with Forty" was made into a movie on Lifetime. Which of your books would you like to see on the big screen? Who would you cast in the main roles?
You know, I would probably rather see my books made into cable movies than movies for the big screen. There are so many negatives that go with big pictures, especially pictures aimed at the female audience, that I loathe how women’s entertainment gets a bum rap if it doesn’t make tons of money. So really, I’d rather work with a company like Lifetime or Oxygen that develop film projects for women, without apology.

Fortunately right now I have two things out there in various stages of development—Odd Mom/Mrs Perfect being developed into a tv series. The TV pilot has just been written and will be shopped later this Fall. And then She’s Gone Country is getting treatment to be turned into a screenplay and I’ve seen the outline and love it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next though.

6. Most of your books have taken place in the west coast up until now, which makes sense since you're from that area. Did you do research on the lifestyle in Texas while writing "She's Gone Country?"
I don’t think a lot of my readers know my connection to Texas, or my love of ranchers and cowboys. I’m a country girl at heart. I love the West. I love cowboys. And I love country western music. One of my best friends growing up was a rancher’s daughter and she showed animals at the county fair and wore cowboy boots and tight Wranglers and drove a big truck with lots of shiny chrome. And my mother’s father was a rugged Texan who had three Black Angus cattle ranches. He actually died on one of our ranches during a round up, and we still have the ranch in the family today. I think once you have that affinity with the land and a certain lifestyle, it just stays with you. Researching and writing "She’s Gone Country" was probably one of the best things I’ve done for myself in years. It really brought me home and reminded me that truly the simple things are best.


7. What was the RWA conference like for you?
It’s always an amazing five days-- intense, hectic, exciting, and sometimes plain overwhelming, but I have to say, this year’s conf in Orlando was one of my favorites as I didn’t attend last year's since Mac had just been born. I really loved seeing all my friends and meeting with my readers, agent, editors, and publicists. It’s quite a rush.

8. Your husband teaches surfing and you mentioned that you've surfed in the past. What is the funniest or most embarrassing surfing experience you've ever had?
Probably the most embarrassing thing happened in the first year Ty and I were dating. We were out on the North Shore and he was still teaching me to surf and I literally lost my entire bikini top. It was just gone. I was far off shore and there was no way to go scrounge up something so Ty stripped off his rashguard and let me wear it. It was white and totally see through but it let me stay in the water to catch a few more waves.

9. You have traveled a lot in the past but now make your home in Seattle and Hawaii. Is there any other place you would love to live someday, even if just for a year?
Ty and I talk a lot about living other places and he’d love to live in Bali, while I’d love Ireland. Or Italy. Or Greece. I love to travel and we’re actually going to Egypt this spring with my boys. Can’t wait!

10. Since your book is about "going country," what is your favorite country song or country music singer/group?
Faith Hill is probably at the top of my list but I created a whole country playmix to listen to while writing this book and there are so many great country artists on there—Trace Adkins, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Tina McBride, Sugarland, and so many more!

Special thanks to Jane Porter for her lovely answers to my questions and for allowing us all to get to know her better. I also appreciate that she took the time out of her busy schedule to write more than just a sentence or two per question.

Extra special thanks to Crystal Patriarche from BookSparks PR for facilitating this interview and providing the book for the giveaway.



How to win "She's Gone Country":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Who are your favorite country singers or what is your favorite country song?
OR
2. Please tell us: In which way(s) have you gone country?
3. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
4. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Sunday, August 29th, at midnight EST.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Winners of "Girl in a Spin"

For this giveaway, I assigned each entry a number and asked Clodagh Murphy to pick the winners.

"Hello and a big thank you to everyone who entered to win 'Girl in a Spin'. I enjoyed reading all your lovely comments, and your interest is greatly appreciated. The numbers I have chosen at random are: 5, 23 and 34.

Congratulations to the winners, and I hope you enjoy the book!

Thanks again to the two Melissas for the interview and for hosting the giveaway."

Clodagh x


Congrats to Ruthie, Carol Wong and Carole Spring!

Thanks again to everyone for participating, to Clodagh for answering our questions and providing the books for the giveaway and to Melissa P. for all her hard work with this interview as well as some upcoming interviews.

No new giveaways to enter at the moment, but stay tuned for interviews with Jane Porter and Maddie Dawson this week, along with giveaways of their books!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review: Moonlight in Odessa

By Melissa Amster

"Moonlight in Odessa" was one of those books that I was hesitant to pick up at first because I wasn't sure that a book about the Ukraine would interest me. Then I remembered that it won the Melissa Nathan award for Comedy Romance and that piqued my interest. When I finally picked it up and gave it a chance, I found that it was nearly impossible to put down!

In "Moonlight...," Janet Skeslien Charles introduces us to Daria, a young woman living in Odessa, Ukraine with her grandmother and working as a secretary because engineering jobs (for which she obtained a degree) were scarce and even more impossible for women to obtain. Her boss' first demand is that she sleep with him, leading to a lot of interesting scenarios and some crazy decisions on Daria's end. To supplement her income, she moonlights as an English translator for a matchmaking company that pairs American men with Ukrainian women. Soon she realizes what America has to offer in comparison with Odessa and gives in when presented with the opportunity to enjoy the American dream. However, the opportunity comes with a few challenges and more decisions that she is forced to face.

I really enjoyed "Moonlight in Odessa." Daria was very easy for me to relate to, not only because she was Jewish, but because she was down-to-earth and non-pretentious. She spoke her mind and displayed her tough side, but also allowed me to see her vulnerabilities. I liked that Ms. Charles fit in some history lessons without interrupting the flow of the story. It was interesting how she painted America and Odessa as contrasts of one another. Her characters were very colorful and interesting and I love how Daria interacted with them, allowing me to see their relationships take a natural course throughout the novel.

The one thing that threw me off a bit was that I was expecting more of a laugh-out-loud comedic approach, but most of the story was a bit dark in nature. There were some times when I did burst out laughing, but not as often as in novels that I pegged as overly humorous. This could be due to the fact that comedy overseas is different than comedy in the US. (I don't get the humor in most British shows, so that could be a cultural difference.) It could also be that Ms. Charles intended it as more of a dark comedy with some subtle humor. I guess everyone's interpretation of humor is different. I know she mentioned a few times that Odessa was the humor capital of the world, but I didn't get the jokes that were being made.

Overall, I thought this was an excellent piece of literary fiction and it reminded me of a cross between novels from Jennifer Weiner and Marian Keyes. I hope Ms. Charles will continue to produce such fantastic work in the future and I know I'll be the first to read it when she does!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Winners of "Welcome to My Life"

To pick the winners, I assigned each entry to a number and then asked Micheline McAllister to pick two random numbers in the specified range I gave her. She chose 4 and 44.

Congrats to...
Laura Rachel Fox, whose favorite animated film is "Beauty and the Beast"
and
Jerrica Knight-Catania, whose favorite animated film is "The Princess and the Frog"

Thanks to everyone for participating with your comments, Micheline for participating in this interview and offering the books to give away and Melissa P. for doing a fantastic job on her first solo interview!

There's another book up for grabs right now, open to anyone regardless of location:
"Girl in a Spin" by Clodagh Murphy.
Giveaway closes Monday at 6 pm EST.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Interview with Clodagh Murphy and book giveaway!



**Giveaway is now closed**

Clodagh Murphy was raised in Dublin with her two brothers and two sisters. She didn't like attending school, but then had fun spending a few years living in London in her twenties. She's now living in Dublin again and is the author of "The Disengagement Ring" and "Girl in a Spin." Melissa P. and I got to ask her a few questions and enjoyed reading her answers. She has a great sense of humor and we hope you will enjoy learning more about her, as well. In addition, she has offered to send out three signed copies of "Girl in a Spin" anywhere in the world.

MP: “Girl in a Spin” is about a girl with a not so ideal past in a relationship with a politician, what inspired you to write a political romantic comedy?
CM: I had a bit of a crush on Alastair Campbell, and I loved his book "The Blair Years", about his time as Tony Blair's spin doctor, so that's what initially sparked it off. I find the whole business of spin fascinating, and I thought the basic premise of a politician, his spin doctor and a girl who's a bit of a loose canon had a lot of potential for comedy. On the one hand you have Richard, a politician whose public image is very carefully managed and who never does or says anything that isn't thoroughly thought out; and on the other hand you have Jenny, who is quite naïve in ways and doesn't know how to be anything other than herself. She can wreak havoc in Richard's world without meaning to, just by being who she is and I thought I could have a lot of fun with that.

MP: Do you have a specific place where you go to write?
CM: I do most of my writing at my desk in my apartment, but I'm actually more productive when I'm away from home, and I'd love to be able to go away somewhere to write. It's easier to concentrate when I'm not surrounded by my day-to-day life. I also find travelling inspiring, and I have lots of ideas when I'm rolling along on a train or bus, watching the world go by. Daydreaming is an important part of the writing process for me.

MP: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
CM: I still have a day job, so I go to work. In my free time I like to hang out with family and friends, go to the movies or theatre, read, watch TV - all the usual things. I adore eating out and do it far too much. Travelling is a big passion, and I do it as much as I can. I have such itchy feet, I think I must have been a nomad in a former life.

MA: How did you come up with the titles of your books?
CM: I try to come up with something snappy and witty that encapsulates the story and also sets the tone of the book. "The Disengagement Ring" is about a girl whose family team up to try and break up her engagement, so I think the title sums it up pretty well. Finding the title for "Girl in a Spin" was a longer process and more of a joint decision between me and my editor. It was originally called "Spinning Jenny", but my publishers didn't feel that was the right title, so after a lot of brainstorming, we eventually we came up with "Girl in a Spin".

MA: If "Girl in a Spin" were made into a movie, who would you cast in the main roles?
CM: I'm always a bit reluctant to answer these kinds of questions because one of the beauties of books is that readers can have their own images of the characters, and I don't want to impose mine on them. However, since you ask, I'd have to cast Richard Armitage as Dev because he's who I always saw as Dev while I was writing it. Rupert Penry-Jones would be good as Richard, I think. Jenny would be more difficult to cast. Carey Mulligan would be lovely and she has the right vibe, but she'd have to dye her hair platinum blonde – and shrink. She's much too tall for Jenny. You can tell I've hardly thought about this at all, can't you? Would you like to know what I'll be wearing on the red carpet?

MA: Although you live in Dublin and are well known amongst the Irish chick lit crowd, do you plan to make yourself more well-known to readers in North America?
CM: I'd love to! Unfortunately, though, I don't have a U.S. book deal so far. Hopefully that will change in the future. But I'm told chick lit is having a hard time at the moment in the U.S.

MP: What is your favorite thing about living in Dublin?
CM: There are lots of things I love about it, but my favourite thing about living here is that my family all live here too and I'm within easy reach of them.

MA: Are you friends with other Irish chick lit authors (Cecelia Ahern, Marian Keyes, Claudia Carroll)?
CM: I'm friends with quite a few on Twitter and Facebook. Claire Allan is a 'real life' friend. We first met in an online writing group, but I've met her in real life since then.

MA: Have you ever used your own dating experiences in your stories?
CM: No, I don't write misery lit! Seriously, though, I might use small details and fragments of things, but nothing substantial.

MA: What is the most unusual activity you have participated in over the past few years?
CM: I attended a virtual Christmas party a couple of years ago in my online writing group. It was really good fun – and no worrying about what to wear or how to get home! Is that unusual? Maybe people go to virtual parties all the time now, but it was unusual for me.

Special thanks to Clodagh for taking the time to answer our questions and offering the books to give away.

Thanks always to Melissa P. for her fun and thought-inspiring questions.



How to win "Girl in a Spin":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: What is the most unusual activity you have participated in recently?
2. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
3. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
4. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

Giveaway ends Monday, August 23rd at 6:00 pm EST.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Winning Wednesday--August 18th

I will only be posting giveaways on this blog from now on. If you have a giveaway that ends before Wednesday of a given week, please feel free to post it at Chick Lit Central on Facebook. You're also welcome to contact me about any giveaways you would like to have listed. (Chick Lit only, please, unless it is for a gift card or book related device.)
Finally, I am no longer going to seek out contests to post. If they happen to show up in my Facebook or Twitter news feed or on my blog reader, I'll be sure to post them. If you think I won't see your contest, please send it to me so I can include it.
Thank you!


New giveaways:

Brand new! Win a copy of "Georgia's Kitchen" from The Book Chick. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 8th at midnight EST)

We're giving away two signed copies of "Welcome to My Life" by Micheline McAllister. US/Canada only. (Deadline: Friday at 8 am EST)

Not getting the books you want? This might help. Win a $20 Amazon gift card from Simply Stacie. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

Confessions of a Bookaholic is giving away
"Life After Yes" by Aidan Donnelley Rowley.
(Deadline: August 31st at 12 pm EST)

Nominate your favorite books in different categories for a chance to win different books each day from Chick Lit Plus. Keep coming back each day to see the latest nomination categories and giveaways! (Deadline: August 23rd)

Win "Sand in My Eyes" by Christine Lemmon from Books and Needlepoint US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 31st)

Win an audio book of "The Island" by Elin Hilderbrand from Bookhounds. US/Canada only, no PO Boxes. (Deadline: August 25th)

A Bookworm's World has your chance to win Fragile by Lisa Unger. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 5th at 6 pm EST)

Manic Mommy is giving away three new books in the Amazing Hot Chocolate Grace Book Giveaway. US/Canada only. (Deadline unknown)

Jane Porter is having a photo contest for a chance to win a fabulous prize package! (Deadline: September 10th)

Three chances to win "She's Gone Country" by Jane Porter:
*Romance Author Buzz (Deadline: September 30th)

*Books with a Cup of Coffee US/Canada only, no PO Boxes. (Deadline: Tomorrow)

*Simply Stacie
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes. (Deadline: August 27th at 11:59 pm EST.)

Read it Forward has two books for you to win:
*"Fragile" by Lisa Unger
*"The Stuff that Never Happened" by Maddie Dawson
(Deadline: Friday)

Win "Trust" by Kate Veitch from Diary of an Eccentric. (Deadline: August 22nd at 11:59 pm EST)

Kristina Riggle has a fun photo contest for a chance to win "The Life You've Imagined." (Deadline: August 24th, end of day)

Win "A Desirable Residence" by Madeleine Wickham from Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog. Make sure you use the form that is on their page, instead of the comment section. US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 21st at 2 am EST).

Readaholic has your chance to win "Simply from Scratch" by Alicia Bessette. US Only. (Deadline: Friday)

Chick Lit is Not Dead is giving away "Waxed" by Robert Rave. (Deadline: Tomorrow)

You can also win "Waxed" from A Novel Menagerie. US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 31st)

Win "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger from Simply Stacie. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

Sophie Kinsella is giving away advance copies of her new book, "Mini-Shopaholic".
Winners will receive their own copy of the book (prior to publication) in a "Keep Calm and Carry on" shopping bag signed by Sophie. (Deadline: Tomorrow at midnight BST)

Stay tuned for our interview with Clodagh Murphy and a chance to win a signed copy of "Girl in a Spin!"

Previously posted (still going on):
"The Book Chick" is giving away "Tuesday Tells it Slant" by Holly Christine. US/Canada only. (Deadline: September 1st at midnight EST)

Win lunch in your hometown with Jen Lancaster and Stacey Ballis! See the blog post for details. US only. (Deadline: September 6th at 11:59pm CST)

I Want a New Book, Every Month has "Bad Girls" by Rebecca Chance up for grabs. UK only. (Deadline: Unknown)

Win "Her Fearful Symmetry" by Audrey Niffenegger from A Cozy Reader's Corner. US Street addresses only. (Deadline: August 28th at 11:59 pm EST)

Isabel Wolff is judging the Extra Shorty Contest from Chick Lit Shorties. (Deadline: Tomorrow at midnight EST)

Readaholic has your chance to win "Mercury in Retrograde" by Paula Froelich. US/Canada only. (Deadline: August 21st)

A Bookworm's World has three AUDIO copies of "Backseat Saints" by Joshilyn Jackson. US/Canada, no PO boxes. (Deadline: September 4th at 6 pm EST)

SheKnows has your chance to win "Love in Mid Air" by Kim Wright. US and Canada only. (Deadline: August 27th)

Win "Fragile" by Lisa Unger from Bless Their Hearts Mom. US/Canada only. (Deadline: Tomorrow at midnight EST)

Booking Mama also has a chance for you to win "Fragile". US/Canada only. (Deadline: Tonight at 11:59 p.m. EST)

Along the Way is giving away "She's Gone Country" (Deadline: August 25th) and "Hearts on a String" (Deadline: August 21st)
Both are for US/Canada only and no P.O. Boxes.

Enter to win a copy of "Winging It" by Jenny Gardiner" from Books on the House. US/Canada only. (Deadline unknown)

Allie Larkin is hosting a photo contest for a chance to win a $50 iTunes gift card!: "Stay" on Vacation. (Deadline: End of summer)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Winners of "Perfect Blend"

To find the winner, I assigned everyone numbers by the order in which the entries came in and used the Custom Random Number Generator.

The winners are:
2: Monica
8: Jonita
15: Sarah
18: Colleen
31: Christy
58: Pia


Congrats!!!

Thanks to everyone for participating. I hope you will check out "Perfect Blend," along with all of Sue Margolis' other novels.

Thanks again to Sharon Propson from Random House for providing the books for the giveaway.

Don't forget to enter for your chance to win "Welcome to My Life" by Micheline McAllister!. Open to US/Canada residents only. Ends Friday at 8 am EST.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Winners of "The Cougar Club"

For this giveaway, I assigned a number to each entry and then had Susan McBride pick the winners. Here's what she had to say:

"Yay to the wonderful peeps who entered to win "The Cougar Club!" I so enjoyed reading the comments about longest friendships and celeb Cougar crushes! As for drawing numbers, how about these:

4 - because it's always been my lucky number
10 - because October's my birth month
46 - because that's how old I'll be turning when October rolls around!"


Congrats to Heather, Sarah and Tiffany!

Thanks again to all who participated, Susan for the interview and giveaway and Melissa P. for her help with the questions.

Please enter these other giveaways:
Win one of six copies of "Perfect Blend" by Sue Margolis. US/Canada only. Ends tomorrow at 6 pm EST.

Win a signed copy of "Welcome to My Life" by Micheline McAllister. US/Canada only. Ends Friday at 8 am EST.

Interview with Micheline McAllister and book giveaway

By Melissa Patafio



**Giveaway is now closed**

Micheline McAllister is the author of two novels: “Welcome to My Life” and “Love You, Love Your Work, Let’s Do Lunch”. Micheline grew up on the east coast and studied musical theater at university. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she is a writer and an animation artist. She is also known as Stephanie Olivieri in some professional circles. I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview Micheline to find out a little bit more about her as well as her writing. In addition, she is giving away two signed copies of "Welcome to My Life” to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.

1. How long did it take to get your first book “Welcome to My Life” published?
I entered into a contest through a print on demand publisher so it didn't take that long. Looking for a bigger more traditional publisher is proving to take a lot longer.


2. Do you always know how a story will end when you start a novel or does it change throughout the process?
No I never do. I am one of those writers that other writers hate, because I just go with it and see where the characters take me. They usually take me on their own journey once I get going, and it does change a lot during the process. That said, I do have a general idea where I want them to go when I start.

3. You grew up on the east coast and now live in L.A., what do you miss the most about the east?
This is a question with many answers, but I miss the weather the most. I am not a 'hot weather' kind of gal.

4. How did you celebrate when your first book was released?
I don't think that I did anything more than go out to dinner as I as busy working on a film that week. I know that is so uneventful and I would love to say I had a fabulous Hollywood release party, but it was more boring than that. Maybe next time.

5. You studied musical theater in college; do you ever participate in local productions in L.A.?
No I haven't done any acting since I started working in animation. Sometimes I go to a show and think 'I could play that role', but otherwise, it is in the past.


6. Where do you get the most writing done? Home, coffee shop?
I work both at home and in coffee shops, and carry a writing pad with me everywhere I go.


7. You have said that your heart is in New York, what is your favorite thing about New York and do you go back to visit often?
New York is my favorite thing about New York and if you have been there you would know what that means. It is just the craziness of the city, the fashion, the stores, walking down 5th avenue, the Upper West Side, the buildings, the noise, everything and sadly I don't get to visit that often.


8. Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie and why?
I think my second novel, Love You, Love Your Work, Let's Do Lunch would be great as a film. It is just written in a way that I believe would translate into film pretty easily and is a straight up situation comedy. I see either Drew Barrymore or Kate Winslet as the lead! My first book, Welcome to My Life could be a TV series and there have been talks with studios, but nothing yet.


9. You are currently working on your fourth novel, are you having any challenges with it and can we expect to see it in stores any time soon?
I have completed my third and fourth novels and haven't had any real challenges with the writing part. I am looking for a new agent and then we will be looking for the right publisher together. I don't have a release date for either.

10. On your blog you recently wrote a blog about how much you love Joan Holloway (Harris) from AMC’s “Mad Men”, what is it that you love about her?
I love the way the character is written and I believe she is a strong woman living in a time where a woman's role in the workplace was a lot different than it is today and from an artist's point of view. I just love her look and the way they style her. I also love that a curvy woman is called beautiful and is a sex symbol on that show instead of the normally anorexic types that reign in television today.

Special thanks to Micheline for a great interview and for offering to give away copies of her first book.



How to win “Welcome to My Life”:
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite animated movie?
2. Follow this blog and post a comment saying you are a follower (if you already follow, that's fine too).
3. Post this contest on Facebook or Twitter or in your blog, and leave a comment saying where you've posted it.
4. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends Friday, August 20th at 8:00 am EST.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Guest Blogger Book Review: The Beach House

Guest Blogger Jencey Gortney reviewed "The Beach House" by Jane Green:


"The Beach House" is the story of Nan Powell who owns a house in Nantucket after having to sell a lot of the property. She has had to sell because of the debt left by her husband. One day she meets with her financial person and he tells her she is still has financial problems. So Nan decides to rent out rooms in her house to boarders for the summer. The hope is that it would bring enough money to help her get by.

The other characters in the book are the boarders that end up at her house. She has a son Michael who is in desperate need of a change. He comes back and helps his mom with the boarders. Next there is Daff who is recovering from a divorce and ends up bringing her daughter to the island. Then there is Daniel who is dealing with his own crisis of identity. A surprise guest also makes an appearance that affects everyone at the house.

I have not read many of Jane Green's books. The only other book I have read is "Bookends." I was interested in reading more of her books and so "The Beach House" became the next choice. I liked the book. I liked how Jane brought together people from different walks of life to this beach house in Nantucket. Through the experience they were united in helping Nan. Jane gives the book a family sort of feel to it. I look forward to her next book.



Jencey Gortney has loved reading ever since she was little. More recently, she has developed a love for Chick Lit. She is a teaching assistant in her everyday life. She lives in the Atlanta, Georgia area. She started writing a year ago and has started working on her first novel.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: Simply from Scratch


By Melissa Amster

When I first heard about the premise of "Simply from Scratch," I thought it was going to be another "Good Grief" (by Lolly Winston). It focuses on a young widow who befriends a young girl and they bake together. "Good Grief" is also about a young widow who bakes a lot and befriends a young girl. However, that's where the similarities end. For starters, Sophie (the widow from "Good Grief") is skilled at baking and decides to open a bakery. Zell (the widow from "Simply from Scratch"), on the other hand, has never used her oven, as her husband was the cook. Also, the young girl in "Good Grief" had a crazy and inattentive mother. The young girl in "Simply..." has a loving, single father who worries he's not doing a good enough job.

Alicia Bessette weaves an intricate web of interesting characters and story lines in her debut novel. She handles grief in such a touching and honest way that the reader is able to easily sympathize with Zell. There are so many things I love about this story. First is the small town of Wippamunk, MA, where this takes place. She paints such a descriptive picture that I felt like I actually went there for a visit instead of just reading about it. Think Punxsutawney, PA, like in "Groundhog Day" and you'll get the feel of Wippamunk too. Then there is the way she changes the focus from Zell to EJ (the last guy to see her husband alive) and then to past e-mails from Nick (her husband). There's also the way she twists in a real event that only happened a few years ago and allows the reader to see what effects the devastation of the event had on ordinary people. Finally, there are the baking experiments that just leave me laughing and mortified for Zell at the same time.

The character of Zell has so many interesting layers. I found out new things about her at every turn of the page. She has an interesting job as a medical illustrator and talks to her dog in "pirate-speak." She also wears her husband's apron all the time and plays "Gladys Knight and the Pips" albums throughout the novel. Aside from Zell, there is so much depth to each character in the story and it is interesting to see her interact with them.

The two things that could have been different are that some story lines felt open-ended and it got a bit sappy at times. (I almost expected to hear the music that plays at the end of "Full House" during the sappy moments.) The former could have been due to the fact that the story was about getting closure on her husband's death and nothing else really mattered as long as that was accomplished. However, I would have liked some answers that I didn't really receive. As for the sappiness, it's hard not to get sappy when it comes to a serious subject, especially if it involves death of a loved one.

Overall, Ms. Bessette did an amazing job with a topic that some people (including myself) are afraid to approach or fathom. She kept the story interesting from beginning to end, especially after drawing me in right away. I highly recommend this novel and I look forward to reading whatever she comes out with in the future.

Winner of "The Tapestry of Love"

To pick the winner, I assigned each entry to a number and then asked Melissa Patafio to pick a random number in the specified range I gave her. She chose 32.


Congrats to ChristyJan, whose favorite quote is:

"You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are." ~ Alice

Thanks again to everyone for participating, Rosy for taking the time to interview with us and sending me the book to give away and Melissa P. for her terrific questions.

Please enter the other giveaways we have going on:
Three signed copies of "The Cougar Club" by Susan McBride.
Ends August 16th at 6 pm EST.

Six copies of "Perfect Blend" by Sue Margolis. US/Canada only. Ends August 17th at 6pm EST.

Getting to know...us!

Melissa P. and I wanted to take some time out of our hectic lifestyles to tell you more about ourselves. We give you the chance to learn more about authors, but what do you know about us?

First of all, we have quite a few things in common (aside from our first names, our obvious love for chick lit and same tastes in books):
*Same first initial of our maiden name (hers is Smoot and mine is Silverman).
*Same model house growing up (just two doors and one number away).
*We both took theater classes in high school (we attended the same high school for a short period of time).
*We both love “Coyote Ugly” and "Ugly Betty."
*We both have sisters (hers is older, mine is younger). I'm one year younger than her sister and she's one year older than mine.
*We both had dogs when we were growing up (she has dogs now too).
*We've both been married for 6 years (and our husbands are good cooks, but hers is a professional chef).

We decided to share five things about ourselves as individuals, as well.


Melissa A.:
1. I am Modern Orthodox Jewish. I keep a Kosher home and observe Shabbos and holidays. For more insight, check out this post I wrote on my personal blog.
2. I love Broadway musicals and have no interest in politics. However, I traded in living by Times Square to living by Capitol Hill and as Glinda says in "Wicked": "I couldn't be happier!"
3. I have a huge crush on Adam Lambert. It goes beyond any crush I've had an a celebrity in the past, including Michael J. Fox, Patrick Swayze, Joey McIntyre or David Duchovny.
4. I haven't set foot in an IHOP in 14 years because I worked there during a summer break from college and the working conditions were so horrible that I have a personal boycott now.
5.I took improv comedy classes from Comedy Sportz.

To learn even more about me, check out my personal blog!


Melissa P.:
1. I am part (and not just 1/64th!) Native American (Muscogee Creek).
2. I am obsessed with any candy that is gummy and sour, especially sour gummy lifesavers!
3. I live in Arizona but I despise lying out in the sun, it’s boring and not to mention dangerous.
4. I have a serious passion for all things dance, especially ballet and hip hop.
5. I am currently co-authoring my first novel (chick lit of course) and it’s taking entirely too long to finish. :)

You're welcome to visit my personal blog, as well!

Now that you have gotten to know us better, give us a chance to learn more about you too! If you haven't yet visited the "Getting to Know You" discussion on Chick Lit Central, please stop by and answer some fun questions!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interview with Susan McBride and book giveaway!


Susan McBride has recently joined the chick lit scene with "The Cougar Club" (reviewed here). She has previously written mystery and young adult novels about debutantes, such as "Blue Blood." Along with writing about "cougars," Susan has become an accidental "cougar," having caught the eye and heart of a man 9 years younger and getting married to him in 2008.

Melissa P. and I have something in common with Susan too. We all grew up in the midwest (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana for her, Illinois for us). Susan also spent some time in the south and east before heading back to the midwest and calling St. Louis her home for the past 15 years. We had the opportunity to interview this dynamic woman about her book and herself and found out some fun and interesting things. She has also offered to give away three signed copies of "The Cougar Club" to some lucky readers.

MP: "The Cougar Club" is your first women's fiction novel and your second, "Little Black Dress," is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011. Do you plan to continue writing women's fiction?

SM: Most definitely! After COUGAR came out, I signed with HarperCollins for two more women’s fiction books, including LITTLE BLACK DRESS. So I’ve got one more to do after I turn in LBD, and I’m very excited about that. I’ve always wanted to write women’s fic, and it’s so exciting that I’m actually doing it!

MP: Did you experience any challenges while writing "The Cougar Club"?
SM: THE COUGAR CLUB was challenging in several respects. For one, I married a guy who’s nine years younger. When people hear that, they think the book must be autobiographical (actually, my real Cougar sister thought it was about her!). While my own situation of being an “accidental” Cougar inspired the novel, there’s none of my life in there. The fun of writing fiction is making things up. Although tiny bits and pieces of my experiences—or experiences of family and friends—might work their way into one of my novels, pretty much 99% of everything comes from my imagination. I did have trouble with the first draft being too superficial and more about the whole Cougar phenomenon. I wanted the book to be funny but about real-life changes as we grow older. So what it means to be over forty in our society and what happens if you fall in love with a younger guy (or end up alone, pursuing another kind of passion entirely). So I revised the entire book, re-doing whole chapters completely, and I’m very happy with how THE COUGAR CLUB turned out. It’s truly about the deep friendship of three 45-year-old women—Kat, Carla, and Elise—and what they’re going through on a lot of different fronts, not just in their love lives. Any woman over forty, or any woman for that matter, will find something relatable in these three ladies’ stories.

MP: After waiting almost a decade for your first book to be published, how did you celebrate when the day finally arrived and all of your hard work was rewarded?
SM: Yep, it was a long time coming! I wrote a manuscript each year after my college graduation, and it wasn’t until the eleventh book that I signed a contract with a small press after winning a contest they sponsored (with the prize being publication). It was a wonderful day getting that call, saying, “You’ve won, and we’ll be putting out your book.” I’m sure I jumped up and down and blabbed to everyone I know. I remember selling, like, 150 books at my first-ever signing (at a Barnes & Noble that no longer exists!). I felt equally thrilled when I signed my first contract with HarperCollins for my mysteries…and each contract I’ve signed since. It still seems crazy and wonderful to think I’m doing what I love for a living. Yes, it took a long time to even get where I am (and I still have so many goals ahead of me); but it was worth it.

MP: If you weren't a writer then what would you be doing?
SM: I can’t imagine not writing! It’s so much a part of me.

MP: What inspired you to to write the Debutante Dropout Mysteries?
SM: The inspiration behind that series was being a sorority pledge in the 1980s at the University of Texas with a bunch of Dallas debutantes. They would practice their curtsies in study hall and gab about their new BMWs that Daddy bought them “just because” or their recent trip via private plane to their house in the Caymans. I wasn’t a debutante, so I felt out of place. I had a ball writing about Andy Kendricks, who was raised in chi-chi Highland Park by her Chanel-wearing mother and who refused to debut. It’s fun even now when people discover those books and tell me they chuckled all the way through the series.

A little known fact: the first of my Deb Dropout Mysteries, BLUE BLOOD, was initially called STABBED IN THE BACK and then DEATH AND THE DEBUTANTE DROPOUT. I wrote it a handful of years before it sold to HarperCollins because I loved chick lit novels and I loved mysteries. So I combined the two when it wasn’t really popular to do it. But once Bridget Jones’ Diary hit big and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books became so popular, the doors opened for chick lit mysteries. BLUE BLOOD was one of the forerunners of that trend, and some booksellers didn’t know where to shelve it. So it was often placed in both the Romance and Mystery sections, which I found rather cool.

MA: If "The Cougar Club" were made into a movie, who would play Kat, Carla and Elise?
SM:I’ve actually thought about that! How about Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, and Lisa Kudrow from “Friends”? I think they’d be perfect! Just don’t ask me which actress should play which character. I haven’t figured that out yet. ;-)

MA: What is your favorite thing about living in St. Louis?
SM: I’ve been in the Lou for 15 years now, and my roots are buried in the dirt. My mom grew up in St. Louis, and my grandparents lived here so we’d visit a lot. I moved around every few years when I was a kid (my dad worked for IBM = I’ve Been Moved), and I’m very happy to stay put. My husband is from here, and we love it. St. Louis is a city with a small-town feel.

MA: Are you still close with your best friends from high school? If so, how has your friendship changed or evolved over time?
SM: I’m really not close with anyone from high school. I envy women who’ve had lifelong friendships (like the characters in THE COUGAR CLUB). I’ve made some great friends here in St. Louis, and I have other friends that I met through my books or online that live far away. It’s so amazing having that support system. It’s very much like family. I don’t think all friendships are meant to last forever. But when you find good friends who “get” you and who stick by you, you want them to be around as long as possible!


MA: You have mentioned that you are older than your husband. Are there generational differences that come in to play that you both have found humorous (such as misunderstanding, jokes between you, etc.)?
SM: We’re only 9 years apart so there isn’t really a generation gap (in my mind, that’s more like when you’re 20 years apart). Ed’s very smart and aware. His dad is a professor, and his mom was a teacher. So there aren’t many things I bring up in conversation that make him go, “Huh?” The main thing is that he shares my sense of humor, and we crack each other up all the time. We like a lot of the same movies and have very similar interests. The main thing that happens to remind me that he’s younger is how often he gets carded! About half the time we go out to eat, he’s asked for ID when he orders a beer. He’s 36 but he has such a baby face! I can’t wait ‘til he goes gray, that’s for sure.

MA: What is your favorite media portrayal of "cougars?" (Specific TV show, movie, etc.)
SM: Wow, it’s scary that nothing leaps out at me. Maybe I don’t watch enough TV or see enough movies! I think most Hollywood portrayals of older women and younger men use the stereotypical Cougar, like Samantha in “Sex & the City.” In real life, there are more cases where it’s incidental that women over forty end up with younger guys (like me!). I know with my generation of females, it’s less of a big deal to go out with someone younger, and younger guys are definitely more interested in older women. I don’t think Hollywood has caught up to that yet. I do know they nearly changed the name of “Cougar Town” because of the negative image connected to the C-word these days. I’m very glad they decided to keep it. Maybe Courteney Cox, playing a mid-forties woman who’s single and dating younger men will make people realize that’s just part of life now. Age isn’t as important as a lot of other qualities, like compassion, honesty, loyalty, and trust (just to name a few!).

If anyone wants to email Susan McBride or find out more about her books, they can visit her website or find her on Facebook.

Special thanks to Susan for a lovely interview and a great book that she has offered to give away.

Thanks always to Melissa P., whom I know will enjoy "The Cougar Club" as much as I did.




**Giveaway is closed**

How to win "The Cougar Club":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted.)

For additional entries (each as a separate comment including your e-mail address, as well):
1. Please tell us: Which celebrity crush of yours would make you into a "cougar"?
OR
2. Please tell us: What is your longest friendship?
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5. Join Chick Lit Central on Facebook. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)

Giveaway ends Monday, August 16th, at 6 pm EST.