Monday, November 29, 2010

Winners of the Chantel Simmons book sets

To choose the winners, we assigned a number to each entry and asked Chantel Simmons to pick five numbers at random.
Here's what she had to say:

A huge thank you to Melissa & Melissa for running this contest! I loved reading what trends everyone loves, and especially what they're looking forward to this holiday season. You've inspired me to make hot chocolate tonight while I curl up with a good book in front of the fire (or more accurately, the fireplace channel on my TV).

My randomly selected numbers are:

5, 14, 28, 34, 52

Thanks to everyone for entering. I'd love to hear what you think of my books - feel free to leave me a comment on my blog or Facebook page!

xo
Chantel


Congrats to:
PoCoKat
Michele Weiss
Karen K
Jonita
and
Pia

Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Chantel for the interview and giveaway.

Don't forget to enter our current giveaway to win Alice Eve Cohen's amazing memoir, "What I Thought I Knew". (US/Canada only. Ends Thursday at midnight EST.)

Interview with Alice Eve Cohen and book giveaway



**Giveaway is now closed**

Alice Eve Cohen has done it all...raised a family, taught college courses, written plays and children's television shows, performed solo on stage and written a memoir. "What I Thought I Knew" (reviewed here) won the Elle's Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Nonfiction, it was selected as one of Oprah Magazine’s 25 Best Books of Summer, and has been optioned for a television movie by Lifetime. She holds a BA from Princeton University and an MFA from The New School, and is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. In a nutshell, Alice is amazing! Her memoir is amazing, as well. Today, she stopped by Chick Lit Central on her blog tour and answered some of our questions. Plus, one lucky reader from the US or Canada gets to read "What I Thought I Knew" courtesy of BookSparks PR.

MP: What was the most difficult part of sharing such an intimate part of your life in "What I Thought I Knew"?
AEC: Before the book was published, I was deeply concerned about my family’s response, since it was their story, too. To a certain degree, my fears were warranted. It took my husband almost a year to warm up to the idea of our very intimate family story becoming so public. He and I both worried that the book would be upsetting to my daughter, who is the central character, and who was only eight when it was published. As it turned out, she was very eager to read it, because it was about her, so we talked to her in advance about the events in the book. The book then became an opportunity for us to grow closer as a family.


MA: What inspired you to write about your health/pregnancy situation?
AEC: For years, I was unable to talk about my experience, because of my terribly conflicted feelings about my unexpected and difficult pregnancy. Ultimately, I had to tell the story or I would implode. I also thought that perhaps my tale might bring comfort to readers as they reflected on their own life trials and their best efforts to do what is right.
I hope readers will enjoy the book as an exciting and moving story filled with suspense, surprise twists, vivid characters, and unexpected humor. I’ve been told it’s a page-turner, which delights me. (Spoiler alert—it has a happy ending.) I also hope it invites discussion about the topical issues embedded in the events of the book—including the problems with our country’s health care system.
As this is a memoir, I’ve written as honestly and candidly as I can about my personal odyssey and about the complexities of motherhood. In my story, there were times when I didn’t recognize myself, times that I feared for my daughter’s life and for my own. Somehow, my family, my marriage, my children and I all survived and thrived, despite (and maybe because of) the storm we weathered together.
I imagine that the book will speak to anybody who has been through difficult times—which of course includes just about everyone. Since writing the book, I have felt hugely relieved, and deeply gratified that readers enjoy and relate to it.


MP: How do you like to spend your time when you are not writing?
AEC: Bicycling, jogging, reading, going to plays and movies, hanging out with family and friends.

MA: You had mentioned to me in the past that the Jewish High Holidays have a significant role in “What I Thought I Knew.” Would you care to elaborate on that?
AEC: When I was writing the book, I was surprised to find that the Jewish holidays kept emerging as turning point moments in my odyssey. On Rosh Hashanah, I was sent for an emergency CAT scan for an abdominal tumor…and discovered that I didn’t have a tumor at all; I was six months pregnant. The next week, on Yom Kippur, I was in the office of an abortion doctor, discussing the option of a late term abortion. On Rosh Hashanah, seven years later, after years of being unable to write, I suddenly started writing the book, and I finished the first draft on Rosh Hashanah, one year later. To a surprising degree, questions about Judaism, religion, and faith became central themes in my book.

MA: Have you been contacted by anyone who said that sharing your story helped them in their own situation?
AEC: Yes! I’ve been very gratified to hear from readers who felt that my story helped them understand their own experience, gave them the courage to talk about their situation, or opened up a door that allowed them to think about something in a new way.

MA: You have written for Nickelodeon and PBS in the past. What was the shift like for you between writing for children's shows and writing for an adult audience?
AEC: I’ve always loved writing for both children and for adults, and I continue to do so. My first published book was a middle grade children’s novel, and I’ve written plays and solo shows for both adults and for kids. I’m currently working on a book for kids as well as a new memoir for adults. While the subject matter is generally different for adults and for kids, the basic elements of storytelling are the same. I enjoy working simultaneously on projects for adults and for kids, because they allow me to channel different sides of my imagination and my sense of humor.

MP: You currently teach in New York City. Is that where you grew up? What is your favorite thing about New York?
AEC: I grew up in the suburbs outside of New York City, and never thought I’d end up living in the city. I always loved being outdoors; if anything, I thought I’d end up living in a more rural area. But in college, my artistic goals changed from visual art to theatre, I became more and more involved in theatre, and I learned that NYC was the ideal place to find like-minded theatre artists. Ironically, my favorite thing about New York City is Central Park—the ease with which we city dwellers can immerse ourselves in nature in the middle of this huge metropolis.

MA: How did you get into performing solo theatre?
AEC: After graduating from college, I was immersed in writing, composing, and performing experimental theatre. I co-founded a performance company called Practical Cats, Inc., with a wonderful collaborator—dancer/choreographer Anne Hammel. After creating a number of duets and ensemble works, Anne and I each became interested in solo performance, and in the particular challenges and opportunities it presents. I’ve been teaching solo theater to college students and adult education students at The New School for eleven years. Each year, I am blown away by the depth and originality of my students’ solo works. I’m wearing my producer’s hat right now, planning the upcoming performance of my students’ solo works-in-progress.

MP: I read that you are an advocate for Arts in Education. What resources are available for those looking to get involved and join the crusade?
AEC: I was a teaching artist for twenty years, and I’ve taught and performed in literally hundreds of public schools, in New York City and throughout the country. I’ve also been a consultant and writer for The Center for Arts Education (CAE), which is the largest advocacy organization in the field. If you are interested in getting involved and “joining the crusade,” as you say, go to http://www.cae-nyc.org/ and click on “Advocacy.” If you’re not ready to join the crusade, but you want to enhance the arts-in-education experiences in your child’s school, CAE offers many wonderful resources, including a parent handbook that I created for them, available to parents, for FREE, in nine different languages, at: http://www.cae-nyc.org/resources/cae_publications/parent_guide_pre_k_second_grade
You can also contact your local or state arts agency, find out what local artists and performers work with children and with schools.

Special thanks to Alice Eve Cohen for answering our questions. Also to Crystal Patriarche and Lisa Steinke at BookSparks PR for arranging the interview and providing the book for the giveaway.


How to win "What I Thought I Knew":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: What would you title your autobiography?
2. Please tell us: What is your favorite TV show from your youth?
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 Thursday, December 2nd at midnight EST.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winners of the Cozy Mysteries

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

For "Dying for a Date" by Cindy Sample, the winners are:
2-Heather
45-Bonnie

For "How to Crash a Killer Bash" by Penny Warner, the winners are:
15-Kat
30-ADR

Congrats everyone!

Thanks to all of you who participated. Thanks again to Cindy and Penny for doing this interview and giveaway with us.

There's still another chance to win more books:
"Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck" by Chantel Simmons
US/Canada only
Ends Sunday at midnight EST

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: "What I Thought I Knew"

By Melissa Amster


Imagine being told that you are six months pregnant, after having exposed yourself to X-rays and CAT scans, as well as consumed alcoholic beverages over the past six months during which you didn't know about the pregnancy. For some women, this is a reality. One such woman wrote a memoir about her situation and everything that happened after she found out. This woman is Alice Eve Cohen.

In "What I Thought I Knew," Ms. Cohen writes about the six months leading up to her "diagnosis," during which she thought she had cancer or some other life threatening disease. Her OB/GYN even missed the pregnancy. It wasn't until a CAT scan on the day before Rosh Hashanah that she found out she was carrying a six month old fetus in her misshaped uterus. This was after being told she was infertile, due to a drug her mother took when she was in utero. Being told that she is a high risk pregnancy, her life plays out like a Michael Moore documentary (think "Sicko") as she tries to find a doctor who will help her and also accept the most unpopular insurance plan. I do not want to spoil what happens as a result of her situation, so I will leave things as they are and let you read the rest.

Throughout the book, Ms. Cohen makes lists of the things she does know. The lists help her organize her thoughts about her pregnancy and everything that happens throughout her story. She brings up Judaism a lot, as it is her religion, and tries to tie it into her situation, as well.

I really liked this memoir. I couldn't put it down (other than when I absolutely had to) and felt so absorbed in her story that I would think about it when I wasn't reading it. I appreciated her candid honesty and the way she tried to add humor to help keep her readers at ease. As I was reading, I'd even e-mail her to tell her about something I could relate to and ask her questions about why things were a certain way. I even suggested this for a local Jewish women's book club [I recently joined] to read. However, this book is not just for women or Jewish people. I think everyone should read it at some point in their lives. One would think that women who are expecting their own babies should not read it, but I would have to argue against that. I am currently expecting and this did not scare me about what's to come. I know that each situation is unique and was able to understand and appreciate Ms. Cohen's thoughts and feelings throughout the memoir.

To reiterate, I highly recommend this memoir and I hope everyone will take the time to check it out. It's a quick read and very easy to follow along the entire time. By the end, I felt like I really knew Ms. Cohen and her family the way I know my closest friends. I look forward to reading other memoirs by Ms. Cohen, as I heard she is working on another one.

Come back on Monday to learn more about Alice Eve Cohen and for a chance to win your own copy of "What I Thought I Knew."

Winning Wednesday--November 24th

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!


Happy Thanksgiving to those of you celebrating it. :)

New giveaways:

"Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck" (as a set) by Chantel Simmons
Chick Lit Central
US/Canada only
Ends November 28th at midnight EST

"Dying for a Date" by Cindy Sample or "How to Crash a Killer Bash" by Penny Warner
Chick Lit Central
US/Canada only
Ends tomorrow at midnight EST

Win "Unstoppable in Stilettos" by Lauren Ruotolo from:

* A Nut in a Nutshell
US only
Ends November 29th at 10 pm EST

* Simply Stacie
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes
Ends November 28th at 11:59 pm EST

Gratitude Giveaways

* A Cozy Reader's Corner
Ends November 28th

* Colloquium
Ends November 28th at 11:59 pm PST

Simply Stacie
Ends November 28th at 11:59 pm EST

"The Birthday Party" by Veronica Henry
Cherry Picks
UK/Ireland only
Ends 11/25 at 11 pm GMT

"The Love Goddess' Cooking School" by Melissa Senate
The Debutante Ball
Ends November 27th
http://www.thedebutanteball.com/?p=13220

"A Weekend with Mr. Darcy" by Victoria Connelly and some goodies
Victoria Connelly's website
UK only
Ends December 15th at midnight GMT

"Keeping Time" by Stacey McGlynn
Read it Forward
US only
Ends November 29th

"Life After Yes" by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Chick Lit is Not Dead
Ends Thursday

"Nice to Come Home To" by Rebecca Flowers
Free Book Friday
US/Canada only
Ends tomorrow at midnight EST

Two contests from Jane Porter: "Feels Like the Holidays"
JaneBlog
Kickoff "girlie" contest ends November 28th
Cozy contest ends December 3rd

"Hollywood Ending" by Lucie Simone
The Book Chick
US only
Ends December 6th at midnight EST

"Sundays at Tiffany's" by James Patterson
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes
Ends December 10th at 11:59 pm EST

"Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah
"Like" Kristin Hannah's Facebook Fan page and you're automatically entered!
Ends December 10th

Previously posted (still going on):

Extra Shorty Contest, Technology Twist
Chick Lit Shorties
Ends tonight at 11pm EST

Win an ARC of "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown from:
* Reading Group Guides
US only
Ends December 1st at 12pm EST

* Goodreads
US only
Ends December 1st

$30 Amazon or Chapters.ca Gift Card
Simply Stacie
Ends tomorrow at 11:59 pm EST

$100 Amazon Gift Card
She Scribes
US only
Ends Friday at 11:59pm EST

"Moonlight in Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles
The Book Chick
Ends Friday

"Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (Audio)
A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes
Ends Saturday at 6 pm EST


"What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen
The Book Chick
US/Canada only, No PO Boxes
Ends today

From Melissa Senate (on Facebook): If you read and review (positively OR negatively) "THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL" on Amazon and Goodreads (if you're a member), you will automatically be entered in my contest for one reviewer to win all 10 of my novels and a little gift from Maine.
Ends November 30th

We are thankful too!

With Thanksgiving coming tomorrow, we wanted to take some time to share what makes us the most thankful!

Melissa P:
I'm thankful for many things in my life, but here are some of the things that I am MOST thankful for:
1. I am thankful for my husband. Although we have a substantial age difference, nobody has ever cared for or understood me better. He is an amazing person with a loving and giving heart. He goes out of his way every single day to make sure that I feel special and loved. He is my best friend and I don't know how I would ever survive without him. I am in awe of him daily.
2. I am so lucky to have my parents and my sister living just minutes away. I get to spend quality time with my family on a regular basis and share all of life’s biggest triumphs and challenges with those who know me best.
3. I am thankful for my niece Baylee and my nephews Jayden and Dylan. Not having children of my own, I have the opportunity to watch them grow and to help them navigate their way through the world. I also get to be the fun auntie and watch their baseball games, dance recitals, and school functions. I couldn't be more blessed to have these three amazing children in my life, they fill me with wonder.
4. Two "little people" that fill me with joy every minute of my day are my dogs. My wheaten terrier Brooklyn is sweet natured, snuggly, and a complete mama’s boy. He would do anything to make sure I know I am the love of his life :)
My miniature schnoodle Sookie is energetic, crazy, and surprising. We rescued her a year ago from the "kill list" and I can't imagine her not being part of this world. She immediately attached herself to my hip and hasn't detached since...she is the most vibrant and loving dog.
5. I am thankful for ballet and all forms of dance in general. As soon as I complete a set of pliés, I am already a different person. Dance is my release and without it I would probably be insane. Nothing beats an early morning at the barre and the quiet that surrounds me when I'm there.
6. Books, books, books! I am so grateful that they exist. As a child growing up in Chicago, my family had box season tickets to the bulls. Even at 5 years old I was sitting on the floor of our box with a bag of books, reading. My dad still teases me about that. Instead of watching Michael Jordan score 32 points, I was engrossed in "The Chronicles of Narnia"! I live for the escape from reality!
7. I am thankful for my friends, both near and far. My very best friend Stacey lives in Chicago and although I don't see her nearly as often as I wish, she is never far from my mind or my heart. I have many other close girlfriends that live in Wisconsin, Philly, California, and Virginia/D.C., even Sweden. They all play a different role in my life and shape me as a person in their own way. I love and admire each one and can't imagine not having all of them in my life.
8. I am thankful for music. It is the soundtrack to my life. It makes me dance, sing, dream, reflect, remember...
Music is essential to my daily life and it is how I gauge my memories and how I measure time.
9. I am thankful for my grandfather. He is pretty much the only grandparent I have ever had and I am lucky that it was him. He is battling lung cancer at 81 years old and I am so proud of how gracefully he is dealing with his diagnosis and I pray every day that he is here with us a little longer. Or a lot longer...
He is an inspiring man; he raised 6 kids, taught ballroom dance, and helped raise 10 grandkids and now has 8 great grandchildren.
10. I know I already said I was thankful for my family, but I am thankful specifically for my sister Aimee and my mother Marie. They are my guideposts in this world and I aspire to be as gracious, patient, and beautiful as they are. I literally could not exist without them.

Melissa A:
For some reason, this list seemed hard to write. Melissa P.'s list was so beautiful and eloquent and I hope mine can be a good enough match. :)
1. One is Hashem....First and foremost, I am thankful to Hashem because he is the reason that everything else in my life is possible. I cherish my relationship with Hashem and trust him completely, no matter what happens.
2. My husband, and I could say that what Melissa P. said about her husband goes for mine as well, because it is true! The most important thing is that he always knows how to make me laugh. Sometimes I can't breathe because he said something that was just so hilarious. He's my teammate, as well. I grow more and more in love with him as each day passes.
3. My adorable little boys, who know how to make me smile, even when they're driving me crazy. I love that they are growing and changing, but that they are still my babies.
4. This baby in my belly, that seems to be doing well so far according to the past few ultrasounds. I don't know what the gender is and it really doesn't matter because I'm going to love them anyway. I can't wait to meet them this coming spring (b'shaah tovah).
5. My parents and sister. I may not get to see them as often, but we're still very close and we stay in touch in other ways. I'm excited for the next time they come to visit.
6. My friends, both old and new and the ones I've been reunited with too. I love that each friendship I have is unique and that I have lots of inside jokes with lots of different friends.
7. Where I live, as I love living in Maryland and love being close to DC. I also love my community and couldn't imagine a better place to raise my kids. I also love my house, as cluttered as it tends to get.
8. This group! I started CLC last year and then let things be for a while. I revisited it this year and have watched it grow and thrive. I am fortunate that I've been able to meet some really great authors and read some amazing books as a result. I also love that I have made some great online pals through it. And most of all, I am thankful for Melissa P.'s partnership and all the hard work she has put in. She has some great questions for our interviews and has kept me sane on multiple occasions.
9. Value Village. I have become a shopaholic because of this store, but it's so inexpensive and I've picked up some great stuff for myself and the kids. I've found some CDs I really wanted, maternity clothes, kids' clothing, pajamas, books, toys, etc. I even got a great deal on a single stroller recently. The best are 50% off days, even though it gets insanely crowded. I even got my mom addicted to the store.
10. Entertainment. I love movies, TV, music, Broadway shows and anything related to pop culture. I love to be entertained and look forward to when my favorite shows are on or when a movie I really want to see comes to the theater or DVD. Whether it's Adam Lambert, "Glee" or "In the Heights," I know there's always going to be someone or something that is going to be enjoyable and entertaining.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving (if you are celebrating it)!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Interview with Chantel Simmons and book giveaway



**Giveaway is now closed**

Chantel Simmons lives in Toronto with her husband and cat named Mr. Baz. She is an author, editor (for a digital beauty magazine) and consumer trends tracker (for a local radio station). She also teaches magazine and online writing and editing in the Book & Magazine publishing program at Centennial College. Her two recently published novels are "Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck." Along with telling us a little bit about what makes her tick, she has offered to give away five sets of both books to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.

If you like what you've read here today, become her friend and fan on Facebook or follow her on twitter.


MP: What is your usual writing routine?
CS: I don't really have a time of day routine like some authors, because I really hate rules and I get bored with routines easily, so I worry that if I did decide to write every day from 2-5, for example, I'd suddenly find myself resenting those hours of the day and making excuses why I wasn't able to write. Like deciding that despite the fact that I'm not 82, I must eat dinner at 4 pm and so from 2 pm on I must chop vegetables (does it take 2 hours to make dinner? I don't cook -- see how long it would take me?). Or realizing that my life has been incoplete without seeing every episode of Judge Judy and start watching reruns at 3:30. Instead, I try my best to write every day (whether it's for five hours or five minutes) so that it's a habit. I really treat it like a job, so if I spend the day getting a manicure and going for lunch with my friends, the guilt is so great that I spend the evening writing to make up for it. As for the details, I have two laptops -- one with a large screen and a tiny one with a superlong battery. This way I have no excuses. I can write wherever I feel like it -- at my desk, in bed, at Starbucks -- and whatever suits my mood. I like to listen to my ipod as it blocks everything else out and lets me focus on the story instead of the beeping dishwasher waiting be emptied or the phone ringing.


MP: How did you celebrate when your first book was published?
CS: Stuck in Downward Dog wasn't set to be in stores for another month or so, so it was a complete surprise when a box of finished books showed up at my door. I had to go to the mall after work for a media event for the magazine I was working at, and while I was there, I bumped into my husband. It was kind of crazy -- I live in a city of 2.5 million people so I rarely bump into anyone I know, let alone my husband. I had the first copy I had taken out of the box in my handbag -- I was bringing it home to give him the first signed copy of the book. We sat down on one of those benches in the middle of the mall and I gave him the book. He was so excited for me, and then he took me to our favourite restaurant -- a little French bistro in our neighbourhood and he ordered a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon. We took the bottle home and have it displayed on a shelf with other bottles of wine we've had to drink on special occasions. (I guess it's clear to anyone who's seen the shelf that we like to drink to celebrate!)


MP: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
CS: I like to bake and be crafty -- but only if I can complete the project within an hour or two. If it takes any longer I lose interest...which may be the reason I have unfinished dresses in my closet and even an unfinished cake (that had about 17 million steps) in my freezer as I type this. I also like to get pedicures...so it's probably not a coincidence that I got the idea for the opening scene of Love Struck while getting my toes painted. (Note to self: check with lawyer -- surely I can be writing off my pedicures as book research?)

MP: Have you experienced any significant challenges while writing any of your novels?
CS: When Stuck in Downward Dog came out, people kept asking me if it was based on my life. I felt so worried that everyone thought it was, and that they thought the friends in the book were my friends (which they weren't). Eventually I realized that this is just what we do. We love a true story (isn't that why people loved "A Million Little Pieces" and felt so duped when they found out it wasn't true?). I find myself wondering the same thing when I read any book. So with Love Struck I wasn't worried that just because I was writing about a husband who has an affair, that people would think I was writing about my own life. After all, if my husband had cheated on me, why wouldn't I write a memoir and go on Oprah instead of writing a novel?

MA: Which of your characters can you relate to the most?
CS: When I read this question, my gut response was to say Mara from Stuck in Downward Dog. I mean, Poppy lets her imagination drive herself crazy trying to figure out what her husband's mistress is like, all so she can make herself over to be more like her! I was sitting down to type that yesterday afternoon at my computer, when I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. On the floor I saw something odd and picked it up. It was a broken half a button. Immediately I realized that my husband must have had a woman in the kitchen and that while they were having mad, passionate sex on the counter, the button popped off her shirt and broke when it hit the floor. I put the broken button on countertop so that my husband could see that I knew what was going on and I could take in his guilty reaction when he got home from work.

An hour or so after he got home, the button was gone. Was he trying to hide it? Pretend it never existed? I confronted him as he was doing a Suduko puzzle.
"Did you see the button on the counter?" I asked him.
He shook his head.
"I put it right on the counter, so you could see."
He looked at me with the bemused expression he often gets when I'm talking. "Do you mean the wax from top of the cork from the bottle of wine we had last night?"
"Oh," I said. "Of couse that's what I meant." I mean, it's not like I was jealous. It was greenish-brown. Would he really have an affair with a woman who wore ugly greenish-brown tops?

Okay...so maybe I channelled a bit of my imagination into Poppy.

MA: If you could choose one of your books to be made into a movie, which would it be and who would you cast in the lead roles?
CS: I would love for Love Struck to be made into a movie -- with Kate Hudson as Poppy and Bradley Cooper as Parker.

MP: What was the inspiration behind both of your books?
CS: For Stuck in Downward Dog, I wanted to write a story about a girl who's stuck in a rut in her life - in that time of limbo when you've graduated from university (so you're no longer a student or a child who can rely on Mom & Dad) but not yet feeling like an adult with everything all figured out. I think it's something a lot of people go through in their 20s but no one talks about.

With Love Struck I was curious about the reason why a woman might forgive her husband for having an affair -- and what she would do with that information once she knew. I got to thinking, what if she knew but there was a way that he didn't? So then, could she forgive him if he couldn't remember and she couldn't forget? That's where the lightning got involved.

MA: You're a consumer trends tracker...what is one of the trends that has taken off big time since you started talking about it on the radio?
CS: Fur! My grandmother had all these gorgeous fur coats and stoles, and for years I've wanted to wear them, but I've felt like I couldn't for fear that people would throw eggs or dye-bombs at me. Now, fur is in style, and actually, designers are claiming it's eco-friendly. After all, it's recycling & reusing rather than buying new, disposable garments produced in sweatshops. I'm totally embracing this trend while it lasts.

MA: What are you looking forward to most during the holiday season?
CS: Every year once we're back in Toronto after visiting our families, my husband and I get up super early and go skating on the outdoor rink at City Hall. If you go early enough, the rink is empty, so you get it all to yourself (good for me since I use the term "skating" loosely for my walking-with-skates-on activity) before the tourists get there. Then we take a break and have hot chocolate that we bring in the snowman thermos my husband gave me one year for Christmas.

Special thanks to Chantel for answering our questions, even with lots of deadlines and an upcoming vacation to steal most of her focus recently. We also want to thank her for the sets of books she is giving away through our blog.

How to win "Stuck in Downward Dog" and "Love Struck":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: What is your favorite trend?
2. Please tell us: What are you looking forward to this holiday season?
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, November 28th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Friday Mornings at Nine

By Melissa Amster

Who can resist a story about three friends bonding over coffee and pastries every week and divulging secrets about their lives outside their marriage? I know I couldn't, which is why I knew I had to check out "Friday Mornings at Nine" by Marilyn Brant.

The story starts at a café in a Chicago suburb, where we meet Bridget, Jennifer and Tamara. Each woman is not happy with the state of her home life and is seeking happiness outside of it. They challenge each other to try extramarital affairs in hopes of finding clarity in their lives. Tamara's conquest is an attractive neighbor about 10 years her junior. Jennifer's is an ex-boyfriend, from whom she never received closure. Bridget's is a dentist at the practice where she is a receptionist, as he shares her affection for culinary delicacies. As the women pursue their "interests," other factors begin to complicate their lives (and marriages) and they start seeking clarity.

Since I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, I definitely like that this was the setting for the story. I also like how realistic the conversations were between the friends, as well as their interactions with other people in their lives. It explored their relationships with each other, their husbands, their children and the people that were complicating their lives, so to speak. Ms. Brant allows the reader to feel like they're directly observing each character's life, as if we were all in the same room. She also has terrific use of description, which carries this story along and adds to the realistic feel altogether.

However, the premise bothered me quite a bit. While it's not uncommon for people to have affairs these days (it's all over the media), the story seems to glorify the concept. It made me glad that there were consequences that each character had to face on some level or another, even if nothing actually happened. It saddened me that they were so dissatisfied with their lives that the first thing they would try to do is sleep with someone who wasn't their husband. Maybe that was the tactic Ms. Brant was going for, in hopes of teaching women that affairs aren't the answer to life's problems.

Overall, it was a well written story and had a "Desperate Housewives" feel. Considering that "Desperate Housewives" is one of my favorite shows on television, this is a good thing. I liked that the characters were at least honest with the reader and with themselves, even if they weren't honest with other people in the story all the time. I also liked that there were three different main characters to follow. It gave the story a lot of variety and it was interesting to compare and contrast their lives. I think Ms. Brant speaks for a lot of women and voices what some of them are afraid to say. I look forward to what she will come out with next.

Getting "Cozy" with Cindy Sample and Penny Warner...plus a book giveaway!


Cindy Sample wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew when she grew up. However, she changed her mind in her teen years and decided to write mysteries instead. She worked in the field of real estate and mortgage banking for a while before writing DYING FOR A DATE, which combines bad dates, real estate, a few dead bodies and plenty of giggles. She also writes the popular “Hot Flash” column for the Gold River Community Newspaper and is co-chairing the Left Coast Crime Convention in 2012. Her next Laurel McKay book, DYING FOR A DANCE, will be released in August, 2011 (L&L Dreamspell).


Penny Warner has published over 50 books, including over a dozen party books. Her latest book, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, is the first in a new mystery series featuring event planner, Presley Parker, and set on Treasure Island and Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay Area. Book two, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH, is set at the de Young Museum, and HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE, set at the Winchester Mystery House, comes out March, 2011 (Penguin). Her non-fiction book, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, was nominated for an Agatha Award.

Since Cindy and Penny both write cozy mysteries, we invited them for a joint visit to Chick Lit Central, where they are sharing their "thankful" lists. We enjoyed what they had to say and hope you will too. In addition, they're each offering two copies of their latest books (Cindy's is "Dying for a Date" and Penny's is "How to Crash a Killer Bash") to some lucky readers in the US and Canada. (That's four chances to win a book!)



Cindy Sample:
My list could go on for pages but rather than clog up the blogosphere I’ll list my top five.

*First of all, I am thankful that my two wonderful children have turned into such incredible adults, especially considering the fact that their mother was a traveling executive/single soccer mom. No one ever wanted to trade lunches with my kids! My daughter and son are amazing people and I couldn’t be prouder of them.
*I am grateful that I was born to a woman of character, generosity and enormous love. My mother has been my rock throughout my life and everyone who comes in contact with her has been blessed with her presence.
*I am thankful for the wonderful circle of friends who have supported me in my new career and who have willingly read and re-read my first novel DYING FOR A DATE. I’m also thankful for their intriguing stories which may occasionally show up on the written page.
*I am thankful that my new life as a published author has brought me into contact with so many new friends, mystery fans, budding and well-established authors, who have embraced me and the humor in my first novel with so much enthusiasm.
*I am grateful that Kit Kat is now making their delectable bars in dark chocolate which has helped increase my daily word count.
*I am thankful that I just celebrated my sixtieth birthday and I can still swivel my hips and cha cha to work off all of those calories from # 5.
*And of course, special thanks to Melissa and Melissa for giving me this opportunity to give thanks.


Penny Warner:
Aside from being thankful for the usual things—health, happiness, family, and friends—I’m thankful for my muses. As a writer of cozy mysteries, I’ve been lucky to have a number of muses—goddesses, spirits, or real people—who inspire my creative works. Here’s my list of nine muses I’m thankful for:

#1: Little Lulu. If it weren’t for this little moppet in a red dress, I wouldn’t have learned how to tell a basic story at a very young age. Lulu taught me that every story has a beginning, middle, and end, plus some snowball fights and a love-hate relationship with a guy named Tubby.

#2: Nancy Drew. Duh. By reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I learned about how to write good cliffhangers—and keep readers turning the page, even if you don’t really exist (like Carolyn Keene.)

#3: Agatha Christie. The dame had a knack for churning out over 80 plots, and she made each one seem fresh and original—even if the all characters seemed to be somewhat similar. Her plots ran the gamut from “everyone did it” to “no one did it” to even “the narrator did it.” What an inspiration.

#4: Compromising Positions. The book by Susan Isaacs was a breakthrough in the realm of mystery fiction, because it was the first time a nice suburban housewife with no detecting skills solved a murder and saved the day. And she did it all with humor.
#5: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. P.D. James really got me thinking about how writing mysteries featuring female sleuths was no longer an unsuitable job for a woman like me—and I didn’t even have to be British. But I did want to change my name to Jemima for awhile there.

#6: Julie Smith, Susan Dunlap, Lia Matera. This Cerberusian trio was among the first Bay Area women I discovered in the library who wrote about Bay Area female sleuths—and it was love at first read. One of my favorite Sue Dunlap scenes featured a Banana Slug Festival and the climax taking place in a torrential rain. Talk about setting!

#7: A is for the Alphabet mysteries. Sue Grafton broke even more new ground with her compelling characterization of Kinsey Milhone. I loved the matter-of-fact voice, the clever titles, and the thrilling ride in and around Santa Teresa.
#8: Janet Evanovich. She put in the laugh track with her fresh take on quirky characters—Lula, Grandma Mazur, Cousin Vinnie—and made me wish I lived in the exciting city of Trenton, New Jersey, was a bounty hunter, and had two hot guys fighting over me.

#9: Last but not least—in fact probably the one muse that’s had the most influence on me—is my mother. I used to come home from school every day and see her typing away at the Olympia typewriter, crafting stories, news articles, and other literary works. She’s my true muse, and I’m lucky to have her continued encouragement and inspiration to this day. Thanks, Mom.

Special thanks to Cindy and Penny for sharing their "thankful" lists and for offering the books to give away.

How to win "Dying for a Date" or "How to Crash a Killer Bash":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: Who is your favorite mystery book or TV series character?
2. Please tell us: What is one thing for which you are thankful?
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 Thursday, November 25th (yes, Thanksgiving) at midnight EST.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winners of "Juliet"

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

It picked: 8, 16 and 50

Congrats to: Colleen, Jencey and ADR!!!

Thanks to everyone for participating, to Anne Fortier for the interview and to Lisa Barnes at Random House for facilitating the interview and giveaway.

More interviews and giveaways to come next week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out the details of our 1000 member giveaway.

Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Winning Wednesday--November 17th

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 fun prize package from Jane Porter!
JaneBlog
Ends tomorrow night

"Juliet" by Anne Fortier
Chick Lit Central
US/Canada only
Ends tomorrow at midnight EST

"What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen
Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

Extra Shorty Contest, Technology Twist
Chick Lit Shorties
Ends November 24th at 11pm EST

"The Secrets Sisters Keep" by Abby Drake
Chick Lit is Not Dead
Ends Thursday at 9pm EST

Win an ARC of "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown from:
* Reading Group Guides
US only
Ends December 1st at 12pm EST

* Goodreads
US only
Ends December 1st

$30 Amazon or Chapters.ca Gift Card
Simply Stacie
Ends November 25th at 11:59 pm EST

$100 Amazon Gift Card
She Scribes
US only
Ends November 26th at 11:59pm EST

Previously posted (still going on):

Win "Falling Home" by Karen White from:
* Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

* The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends today

"Moonlight in Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles
The Book Chick
Ends November 26th

Win "Perfection" by Julie Metz from:
*The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends November 22nd

*Bookhounds
US only, no PO Boxes
Ends today

*A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only
Ends November 21st at 6 pm EST.

"Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (Audio)
A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes
Ends November 27th at 6 pm EST


"What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen
The Book Chick
US/Canada only, No PO Boxes
Ends November 24th

From Melissa Senate (on Facebook): If you read and review (positively OR negatively) "THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL" on Amazon and Goodreads (if you're a member), you will automatically be entered in my contest for one reviewer to win all 10 of my novels and a little gift from Maine.
Ends November 30th


"Dating Mr. December" by Phillipa Ashley
Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winners of Jenny Gardiner's books

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

For "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver," it chose number 18. Congrats to Teresa!
For "Slim to None," it chose number 23. Congrats to Karen Massey!

Thanks to everyone for participating!

Thanks again to Jenny Gardiner for the interview and giveaway!

Don't forget to enter our current giveaway...
"Juliet" by Anne Fortier!
US/Canada only
Ends Thursday at midnight EST.

Interview with Anne Fortier and book giveaway



**Giveaway is now closed**

Anne Fortier was born and raised in Denmark, where she also had her first novel published. She also has lectured in universities in Europe and the US, addressing a variety of subjects in Classical literature, European history, and creative writing. (One of the schools was Butler University in Indianapolis, where Melissa A's sister attended college.) Her latest book is "Juliet," which has been published in over 30 countries around the world.

Thanks to Lisa Barnes from Random House, we were given the opportunity to do an interview with Ms. Fortier. Lisa has also offered three copies of "Juliet" to some lucky readers in the US and Canada.

MP: What is your usual writing routine?
AF: I write every morning between 8 and 12 and spend the afternoon responding to emails and taking care of more administrative tasks.

MP: What inspired you to write "Juliet"?
AF: It was during a visit to Siena that I decided to write an historical novel about the feud between the great Sienese families, the Tolomeis and the Salimbenis. Only when Mom and I started digging further into Siena history did we discover that, in fact, this was where the very first version of the Romeo and Juliet-story was set. Obviously, I knew right away I had to write that story.

MP: Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
AF: I was certainly writing fanciful stories from a very early age. Whenever a teacher would task me with writing an essay, I did everything I could to twist it into a work of fiction. When I finally sat down to actually write "a novel", I was 11 years old. I know this because I put the date on the first page. I wrote with a pencil at the time, and in fact wrote more than 100 pages of that story before getting tired of it and beginning something else ... this time on my grandfather`s old typewriter. Ever since it has been my great dream to be a professional novelist, and I am very happy that my dream has now come true.

MA: How did you feel the first time you saw "Juliet" at a bookstore?
AF: It was a wonderful feeling, even if I was very rushed at the time. It was at Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado, on the day the book came out, and we were rushing to make some media interviews, so I didn`t even really get to pause and contemplate the moment.

MA: If "Juliet" were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
AF: I`m not sure about Julie Jacobs; perhaps Anne Hathaway or Scarlet Johansson. The character of Alessandro, however, was always intended for the Italian actor, Raoul Bova. Those who know of his career will hopefully be amused by the little hints of it throughout JULIET, especially regarding the Carabinieri in Nassiriyah. I always saw Sophia Loren as Eva Maria Salimbeni, and I think Andy Garcia would make a fabulous Umberto. As for the 1340 narrative, I think it ought to be cast exclusively with Italian actors, speaking Italian.

MA: Do you have any novels planned for the future?
AF: Absolutely. I`m sure I will never run out of ideas. Right now I am hard at work on the next one; also an adventure, but nothing to do with Shakespeare.

MP: How has living in and traveling to different countries helped to shape you as a writer?
AF: My countryman, Hans Christian Andersen, used to say that "to travel is to live", and in my opinion what makes a writer interesting is that he or she has actually *lived*. I am very concerned about all the young people who go directly from high schjool into a college writing program. It is all very well to improve one`s style, but it is even more important to have something to write about, which other people would actually like to read. I always tell students to go out into the world and sample places, people, emotions ... and to not begin a story until they are bursting with it.

MA: What was your favorite experience lecturing at a university?
AF: I have had so many great experiences, so it`s hard to single out one particular moment. However, one of my favorite classes was an honors class at Butler University, in Indianapolis, where my students put the Roman hero Aeneas on trial for abandoning Queen Dido. That was absolutely hilarious, especially when they cross-examined the goddess Venus. Wonderful students - as a full-time writer I miss those moments.

MA: What is the biggest cultural difference you've noticed between Denmark and the USA?
AF: Obviously, the list is endless, but I would have to say that one of the most important differences is the attitude to one`s own destiny. Americans are much more optimistic, and have much more of a can-do attitude, which I love. Danes will usually be less adventurous, and will always foresee all sorts of problems ... resulting in them not even trying. Keep in mind that the Danes live in a socalled welfare state, where the government makes most decisions for them. It is extremely hard to break out and be different when you don`t have the choices of a free market, and in general, Danes tend to have much lower expectations for life in general. That is why they consistently end up being voted "the happiest people in the world". Nothing could be further from the truth. Distortions like that simply reflect the fact that if you don`t dream big, you also don`t fail big.

MP: What would you consider to be your favorite place in the world?
AF: Wherever my family is.

Special thanks to Anne Fortier for answering our questions and to Lisa Barnes for facilitating the interview and giveaway.


How to win "Juliet":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: To which piece of classical literature do you feel the most connected?
2. Please tell us: What would you be most interested in lecturing about at a university?
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 Thursday, November 18th, at midnight EST.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Book Review: Stuck in Downward Dog

By Melissa Amster

I know very little about yoga and don't have much of an interest in it anyway. However, "Stuck in Downward Dog," by Chantel Simmons, was not just about yoga. So I thought I'd give it a try.

What struck me as the most interesting, initially, was that the story took place in Toronto. I haven't been to Toronto since freshman year of high school, so I don't remember much about it. I liked that it took place here because it gave the story more of a unique feel and also gave me a virtual tour of the city.

"Stuck in Downward Dog" is about Mara, a girl whose boyfriend breaks up with her during what is supposed to be "her year," according to her mom. At age 28, she's stuck with a basement apartment she can't afford and a job she hates (not to mention a terrible boss). She is desperately trying to keep up with her best friends who seem to have it all together. Using them both as inspiration, she devises a list of things she wants to accomplish during the summer. To complicate matters, her sister tries to help her by moving in to her apartment and her best friends seem like they could care less about her attempts to improve her life. This all leads to a crazy dinner party and a chance for Mara to turn her life around in ways she never would have expected.

Aside from the fact that I know too little about yoga to follow the yoga scenes and too little about cosmetic surgery to follow some parts of Mara's job, "Stuck in Downward Dog" was a fun book overall. Mara was very easy to sympathize with, even when she was trying to keep up with her friends' lifestyles. Having an evil boss and two stuck up friends definitely put Mara in the reader's favor throughout the story. I even found myself laughing out loud at certain parts. I really liked her gay best friend, Bradford. He provided the voice of reason and also seemed like a genuine friend, someone Mara definitely needed in her corner. Her mom was a piece of work too with all her specially themed cookies. I wasn't sure if I was going to like where the story was going, but I was happy with how things turned out. I also thought it sent a good message to anyone who's going through a situation similar to what Mara was experiencing.

This was Chantel Simmons' first novel and I feel that she has created a character who is easy to relate to and fun to follow along with. I'd love to see what happens to Mara in the future, should there ever be a sequel. I'm also interested in reading Ms. Simmons' more recent novel, "Love Struck," as the style sounds similar.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Winning Wednesday--November 10th

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:

"Sleeping with Ward Cleaver" and "Slim to None" by Jenny Gardiner
Chick Lit Central
US only
Ends November 14th at midnight EST

"Falling Home" by Karen White
Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

"Moonlight in Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles
The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends November 26th

Win "Perfection" by Julie Metz from:
*The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends November 22nd

*Bookhounds
US only, no PO Boxes
Ends November 17th

"Free to a Good Home" by Eve Marie Mont
Chick Lit is Not Dead
Deadline unknown

"Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks (Audio)
A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only, no PO Boxes
Ends November 27th at 6 pm EST

Previously posted (still going on):

"What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen
The Book Chick
US/Canada only, No PO Boxes
Ends November 24th

"Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" by Marla Martenson
Twirlit
US only
Ends today

From Melissa Senate (on Facebook): If you read and review (positively OR negatively) "THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL" on Amazon and Goodreads (if you're a member), you will automatically be entered in my contest for one reviewer to win all 10 of my novels and a little gift from Maine.
Ends November 30th

Win "Falling Home" by Karen White from:
* The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends November 17th

* Redlady's Reading Room
US/Canada only
Ends November 14th

"Perfection" by Julie Metz
A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only
Ends November 21st at 6 pm EST.

"Dating Mr. December" by Phillipa Ashley
Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jenny Gardiner is thankful...and she has some books to give away!



**Giveaway is now closed**

Jenny Gardiner is the author of the award-winning novel "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver," "Winging It: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who's Determined to Kill Me," "Slim to None," "Over the Falls" (available now on Kindle) and a contributor to the upcoming humorous dog-lovers anthology, "I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship"(NAL/fall 2011). Her work has been found in "Ladies Home Journal," "The Washington Post" and on NPR’s "Day to Day." She likes to say she honed her fiction writing skills while working as a publicist for a US Senator. Other jobs have included: an orthodontic assistant (learning quite readily that she was not cut out for a career in polyester), a waitress (probably her highest-paying job), a TV reporter, a pre-obituary writer, and a photographer (claim to fame: being hired to shoot Prince Charles--with a camera, silly!). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, and a gregarious parrot. In her free time she studies Italian, dreams of traveling to exotic locales, and feels very guilty for rarely attempting to clean the house. Visit her at her website, her blog, on Facebook or on Twitter.

Jenny stopped by Chick Lit Central to share her "thankful" list, as well as one copy each of "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver" and "Slim to None" with some lucky readers in the US.


Jenny Gardiner:
I have to say I am thankful right off the bat for the many things for which I have to be thankful! When the Melissas asked me to compile a list I had so many things to choose from.

*First and foremost I am grateful for my children and my husband, who are the most important thing to me.
*I'm so grateful for the many opportunities I've had as an author--just having books published is such a privilege, and then the wonderful response from readers, the opportunities to reach out and connect with them--all icing on the cake.
*I'm grateful to have the benefit of gaining wisdom with age. Sometimes we can't quite appreciate our lives until we've lived them for a while.
*I'm so thankful for other family members and dear friends and other friends I've made along the way--all of whom have helped to mold me into the person I am now and provided me with life experiences that make me me.
*I also have one very huge thing to be thankful for: On Sunday afternoon I was driving over the bridge on an interstate when a tractor-trailer to my right was driving far too fast to slow down for the car in front of him. I passed the car and two seconds later the truck hit him, jackknifed to the left, rolled across the highway, slamming into the railing of the bridge and instantly bursting into an enormous fireball. It was the most terrifying thing imaginable, watching this wall of fire two stories high. I couldn't imagine as I called 9-1-1 that anyone survived the accident, and was thrilled to learn later that despite the fire taking 2-1/2 hours to be extinguished from the highway and the highway being closed down for 9 hours, not only did no one die, but the three men involved in the accident had only minor injuries. All of the emergency people on the scene were absolutely shocked that no one died, as was I.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my books with your readers!

Special thanks to Jenny for sharing her "thankful" list, as well as two of her books!


How to win "Sleeping with Ward Cleaver" or "Slim to None":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: What was your first job?
2. Please tell us: What is one piece of wisdom you have learned over time that you would like to impart upon others?
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 only. Giveaway ends Sunday, November 14th, at midnight EST.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winner of "The Transformation of Things"

To pick the winner, we assigned a number to each entry and asked Jillian Cantor to pick the winning number. Here was her response:

"Thanks to everyone who entered! I loved reading all your comments! I picked the number 25, since I wrote about things I'm thankful for and Thanksgiving this year falls on the 25th."

Congrats to Karen K!

Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Jillian for her "thankful" list and providing the book to give away.

We have a new giveaway coming tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Book Review: The Transformation of Things

By Melissa Amster


I had been interested in reading "The Transformation of Things" ever since I heard about it from Jillian Cantor and started reading her blog. The story sounded like something Allison Winn Scotch would come up with. Real life with a surreal twist.

Jennifer Leavenworth is the wife of a judge who is indicted for bribery. Soon, her social life begins to crumble as a result and she and her husband try to find their way back to where they started, when they first fell in love. Adding to the mix of confusion and stress in her life are judgmental family members, friends with dark secrets and the strange dreams Jennifer has been having about the private thoughts of those she cares about. As a result, she has an intense personal dream that changes the way she sees life altogether.

As soon as I started reading this novel, I became immediately drawn in to the story by Ms. Cantor's easygoing prose and a character I was able to relate to in several ways (and not only because she was Jewish). As I read on, the story became impossible to put down, as I wanted to know what Jennifer's dreams meant and what was in store for her marriage and the people she was dreaming about. This novel is very engaging overall and it takes the reader on a journey that will make them think about the way they view their own life. It's a story that grabs and doesn't let go after it is finished. I really have no criticisms, as I liked everything about it. All I could say when I was finished was "wow." I don't want to elaborate more as to not spoil anything. I do want to recommend it to anyone who wants something more than just a story about marriage in a wealthy suburb in the 21st century. "The Transformation of Things" definitely goes beyond all boundaries, leaving the reader transformed as much as the characters. And the story does have an Allison Winn Scotch feel to it (which is good because I like her novels), while being original in its own right.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book Review: The Love Goddess' Cooking School

By Melissa Amster


I have to admit that "The Love Goddess' Cooking School" was the first book by Melissa Senate I've read since "See Jane Date" (back in 2002), which I loved. I have her other books but haven't had a chance to read them yet. I don't think anything was keeping me from reading them, but now that I've finished this book, I definitely will be reading more from Ms. Senate.

"The Love Goddess' Cooking School" is about Holly, a woman who loses a serious relationship, gets fired from her job and is kicked out of her apartment within a short period of time. She flies across the country, back to her grandmother's home and cooking school in Maine. Her grandmother passes away shortly afterward, leaving her home and cooking school in Holly's care. However, Holly doesn't know how to cook the way her grandmother did. It doesn't help that her grandmother was a fortune teller, a skill that Holly does not possess, which also set a reputation for her with the townsfolk and Holly's own mother. With the help of some new friends, Holly learns how to navigate the world of cooking, teaching and even love in this heartfelt and romantic story.

This novel flowed beautifully with a strong female voice, sympathetic characters, delicious sounding food (except for sa cordula, of course) and breathtaking descriptions of an island in Maine. I loved everything about it and had a difficult time putting it down. I stayed up last night just so I could finish the rest of it in one sitting. There was a sensitive topic that was tackled during the story, which was hard to read about as a mother. However, Ms. Senate handled it gracefully and made it more comfortable for the reader to handle. (Seeing that she's a mother too, I couldn't even imagine her doing it any other way.) The dialogue was natural and realistic throughout the story and each character was portrayed vividly, making them even more dynamic and interesting.

The only criticism I have is that Ms. Senate's editors weren't careful before letting this go to print. I found some spelling and grammatical errors scattered throughout the story. (If she needs an extra set of eyes in the future, I'd be glad to help.) This did not detract from my enjoyment of a truly wonderful story that I hope everyone gets the chance to read.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Winning Wednesday--November 3rd

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!
"What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen
The Book Chick
US/Canada only, No PO Boxes
Ends November 24th

Also new!
Win "Nanny Returns" and some other fun prizes from Emma and Nicola
Ends Friday at midnight EST.

Sarah Pekkanen is also giving away a copy of "Nanny Returns" on her Facebook page.
Ends sometime on Friday.

"Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker" by Marla Martenson
Twirlit
US only
Ends November 10th

"The Transformation of Things" by Jillian Cantor
Chick Lit Central
US/Canada only
Ends November 8th at 6 pm EST

From Melissa Senate (on Facebook): If you read and review (positively OR negatively) "THE LOVE GODDESS' COOKING SCHOOL" on Amazon and Goodreads (if you're a member), you will automatically be entered in my contest for one reviewer to win all 10 of my novels and a little gift from Maine.
Ends November 30th

"Halloween Fun and Games" Giveaway
Jane Porter
Ends Thursday night

Win "Falling Home" by Karen White from:

* The Book Chick
US/Canada only
Ends November 17th


* Redlady's Reading Room
US/Canada only
Ends November 14th

"The Love Goddess' Cooking School" by Melissa Senate
Readaholic
US Only
Ends November 7th

"Moonlight in Odessa" by Janet Skeslien Charles
The Write Stuff
Ends November 7th

"Perfection" by Julie Metz
A Bookworm's World
US/Canada only
Ends November 21st at 6 pm EST.

"Dating Mr. December" by Phillipa Ashley
Luxury Reading
US/Canada only
Ends November 20th at midnight EST

Previously posted (still going on):

"Safe Haven" by Nicholas Sparks
Readaholic
US/Canada only. No PO Boxes.
Ends today

"The Lies We Told" by Diane Chamberlain
4 the Luv of Sanity
Ends Friday

Oberon Doll's Pram and signed copy of "Mini Shopaholic" by Sophie Kinsella
Silver Cross
UK Only
Ends November 8th at midnight GMT

Congrats to The Book Chick for getting 250 followers to her blog! She's having a special giveaway to celebrate! See her blog for details. (Deadline: Tonight at midnight EST)

Chick Lit is Not Dead invites you to Play Nooky with Liz and Lisa. (Deadline unknown)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Winners of "Simply Irresistible"

To find the winners, we assigned a number to each entry and asked Jill Shalvis to pick the winning numbers.

I used random.org, lol. #54, 14, and 32.

Hello to you all, and thanks so much for participating and commenting! Happy Reading! Best, Jill Shalvis


Congrats to Estrella05azul, Sarah and Jeryl!

Thanks again to everyone for participating and to Jill for the interview and giveaway!

Don't forget to enter our latest giveaway:
"The Transformation of Things" by Jillian Cantor
US/Canada only
Ends November 8th at 6 pm EST

Jillian Cantor is thankful...and she has a book to give away!



**Giveaway is now closed**


Jillian Cantor was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia and now lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids and four cats. She is the author of two young adult novels, as well as her first adult novel, "The Transformation of Things," which is now being sold in book stores. She also has a blog, in which she focuses on being positive and optimistic, even during challenging times.
Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, we've decided to ask Jillian for what she is most thankful. We found her list to be very candid and entertaining and we hope you will agree once you read it too. She also has one signed copy of "The Transformation of Things" to give away to a lucky reader in the US or Canada.

1. My family: I feel so thankful for each one of my family members individually that they each deserve their own spot on this list. (But that also feels like cheating!). I know I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing husband who is also my best friend, two sweet little boys, parents who always encouraged me to follow my dreams, and a sister who subjected me to years of torture as a kid (and thus good writing material now) but who has grown into one of my best friends.
2. The Internet: I live across the country from my extended family and a lot of my friends, so I am always thankful for things like e-mail, Facebook, and Flip video sharing which make it easy to keep in touch.
3. My laptop: Since I’m a writer, this one probably requires no explanation! But I used to only have a desktop, and I didn’t realize how freeing it was to be able to write anywhere, until I got my laptop about six months ago. Also, this makes it a lot easier to get work done/check e-mail while simultaneously doing things like making school lunches and doing laundry.
4. My agent: I am eternally thankful for my agent, Jessica Regel. Writing is such a tenuous and sometimes scary profession, that I am always so thankful to have her in my corner. Also, because she reads endless drafts of my work, replies to my endless e-mails, and always, always is super positive and brilliant in the process. Did I mention she’s awesome?
5. My cats: I’ve got four of them, so go ahead and call me a crazy cat lady! But I get lonely when I go away and don’t have anyone to curl up on my lap at night. Plus, they always keep me entertained with their endless mischief.
6. Books: This should probably also go without saying, but I feel I need to say it anyway. I’m thankful for books that gave me countless hours of entertainment as a child (and adult), and for always inspiring me to want to write.
7. Trader Joe's: I’m obsessed. When my husband and I were discussing cities we might want to move, my requirement was that there must be a Trader Joes nearby. They have the best food, and even their Fearless Flyer is entertaining to read!

Special thanks to Jillian Cantor for sharing her "thankful list" and offering the book for our giveaway.


How to win "The Transformation of Things":
Please comment below with your e-mail address.
(Please note: Entries without an e-mail address will NOT be counted. You can use AT and DOT to avoid spam. Or provide a link to your facebook page if you can receive messages there.)

1. Please tell us: If you had to move to a new town, what store or restaurant (or any other favorite hangout) would be a requirement in order for you to want to live there?
2. Please tell us: What keeps you positive or optimistic during times of stress?
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, November 8th, at 6 pm EST.

Don't forget to check out Jillian Cantors's bucket list at Chick Lit is Not Dead, as well.