Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: Love, Accidentally

By Melissa Amster

Ilsa is a veterinarian who comes across an injured dog and his attractive owner, Grif. Before she knows it, she and Grif can’t get enough of each other. However, there’s one obstacle standing in the way of their happiness...Grif’s ex-girlfriend.

I thought Sarah Pekkanen’s short story, “Love, Accidentally” was a nice treat at the end of a long and busy month. It was a sweet and romantic story that reminded me of all the excitement I felt in the beginning of my relationship with my husband. The conversations felt very natural and it was easy to be swept into the story instantly. The characters and scenery were easy to visualize, as well.

Although I know it was a short story, I still wish it had been longer and perhaps included Grif’s ex-girlfriend, Elise's point of view (like how Liz and Lisa did it in “The D Word”). She was in "All is Bright," even though "Love, Accidentally" isn't really a sequel. Most of the book was chapters from Ms. Pekkanen’s other books. She had plenty of room to write more, if she had room to fill so much space.

Overall, it was a lovely, feel-good read. A nice treat for those waiting for “These Girls” to be published. And at 99 cents for Kindle, it’s just a mouse-click away!

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What's in the mail today?

Amy:

From Molly Shapiro:



e-book:

From Mandy Baggot:



Becky:

From Pan Macmillan:



Won this from a Facebook competition:

"Bad Sisters" (audio book)


Won from a Christmas Facebook competition:






Cindy:

From WhitegatePR:




Won from Samantha March:




e-book:




Melissa A:

e-books:

Free deals on Amazon:













This one is 99 cents now.

Before we start a new year....

Lindsay Frucci was here recently to share her memoir, "The Pig and Me" as a giveaway along with our review. Today she's back to share a reflection that has become a ritual for her. We thought it would be great food for thought before starting a new year.

Mindful Gratitude

About a year ago I decided I needed to be more mindfully grateful. I have a whole lot to be grateful for, but it's easy to lose sight of that fact when shlogging through the daily grind. So I started taking the time, just before I fell asleep, to review the things I was grateful for on that particular day. Some nights it was easy, others a lot more difficult. But no matter how tough a day it had seemed at the time, there was always - and I mean always - something I would discover I was grateful for: making it to an appointment on time, finding that perfectly ripe avocado, the delicious moment when the bra comes off and the sweats go on, the first sip of wine at the end of a long day. After reminding myself of the little things I was grateful for, I'd list the Big Stuff: a husband who has faced a terminal illness and is healthy, two happy, gainfully employed and self-supporting sons, my own good health, friends.

This little ritual has become a habit and I often drift off in the middle of my Big Stuff list. I sleep better, dream happier and wake with a much more positive attitude. And in times of crisis, this can be a life-saver.


One thing on my grateful list tonight will be the long walk in the chill - but not yet cold – afternoon that my pound-puppy, Zoe and I took today. We wandered through our favorite neighborhood of stately brownstones standing side-by-side on tree-lined streets, checking out the latest additions of holiday wreaths and green fir garland. As we started down a small side street, I happened to glance up and see a pair of deep brown eyes in a gorgeous, golden face intently watching a mom pushing her twins in their stroller. I snapped his picture and added being in the right place at the right time to tonight’s list.

See you next year! :) Have a good one and be safe if you're partying for New Year's Eve.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Molly Shapiro shares a "heart" warming recipe, as well as her debut novel!

**Giveaway is now closed**


We are excited to have with us today Molly Shapiro, and her debut novel "Point, Click, Love," which was just released on December 20th.  Molly grew up in Kansas City, Missouri.  She graduated from Brown University with a bachelor's in semiotics, and in addition studied creative writing, pottery and film making.  After studying abroad in Rome, she returned to the states and started working at a New York City film production company.  After graduating from Columbia University's creative writing program, Molly wrote "Eternal City," a book of short stores, which won the Willa Cather Fiction Prize.  Molly lives in Kansas City with her two children.

 
To learn more about Molly, visit her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

 Thanks to Random House, we have FIVE e-books of "Point, Click, Love" for some lucky readers anywhere in the world!


I love these heart-shaped raspberry-filled cookies because they’re both pretty and delicious. They’re perfect for the holidays and are popular with kids and adults alike. The recipe comes from my mom, who’s an amazing cook and taught me everything I know. In fact, whenever I make one of her recipes, I end up calling her 17 times during the process, just to make sure it turns out exactly like hers. And the great thing about my mom is that she never gets annoyed when I call, or at least she doesn’t let on that she is!

I was inspired to write Point, Click, Love because of my own divorce and experience with online dating. I wanted to write something that really tackled all the craziness of love and relationships in the digital age. So I wrote about texting and Twitter and tawdry celebrity Web sites—all of those fun things that have become such an integral part of our daily lives.

The book’s four female characters cover the gamut—from happily divorced to miserably married to achingly single. There’s something for the divorcee who’s secretly looking for love online, the wife who’s tired of competing with Facebook for her husband’s attention, and the never-been-married professional who’s given up on men and wants to find a sperm donor on the Internet.

I hope you like the book—and the cookies! Happy Holidays!


Heart Cookies
Cream ⅔ cup shortening and ¾ cup granulated sugar. Add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat well. Sift together 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1½ teaspoons baking powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Add 4 teaspoons milk. Divide dough in half and chill for 1 hour. On a surface lightly sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, roll the dough to ⅛-inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes. Cool. Spread half of cookies with raspberry jam. Make an icing by whisking together 1 cup powdered sugar with 3 tablespoons half and half. Drizzle icing over the remaining cookies and press them on top of the raspberry cookies to make a little sandwich.

Special thanks to Molly for sharing her recipe and to Random House for sharing Molly's debut novel!

How to win "Point, Click, Love":
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 or blog if you can receive messages there.)

 
Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: Since this is our last giveaway before 2012, what are you doing to ring in the new year?
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. Edit settings if you don't want to receive a lot of messages at your e-mail account. Please read our posting guidelines, as well. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.


Giveaway ends January 4th at midnight EST.

Book Review: Sleeping with Paris

By Amy Bromberg

Do you remember the jingle "Calgon Take Me Away?" Well, "Sleeping with Paris" does exactly that. It makes you want to pour yourself a glass of wine (or eat some delicious chocolate), dive into the book, and leave your cares and worries behind.

Charlotte Summers is on cloud nine. She and Jeff, her fiancé, are about to leave for Paris and start a new adventure together. She’s going to start studying at the prestigious Sorbonne University in France, which will lead her to a teaching job. Then her world comes shattering down while visiting Jeff’s office. She sees his online dating profile and another woman chatting with him. What’s a girl to do, when’s she’s days away from leaving for the City of Love and her whole world falls apart?

Charlotte does move to Paris, and starts a blog on how to date like a man in the City of Love, just like Samantha does in "Sex and the City." However, after a while, she starts to feel this is not what she really wants.

I haven’t read a chick lit novel in a while that was this romantic and entertaining. Talk about a steamy combination of sex, with the ultimate dessert after, chocolate. I connected with Charlotte through Juliette’s use of words and emotions. I felt as if I was Charlotte’s best friend, experiencing with her the Parisian cafes, pastries, bars and all the wonders of Paris.

It must have been very comforting to meet some single girls, especially one on the first night, being alone in a foreign city and all. In addition these girls also dealt with boyfriends who have cheated on them. Who better than girlfriends to help take your sorrows away after dealing with a broken heart?

Because Charlotte has had a string of bad luck in the relationship department, it made me think it was a little far-fetched for her to agree to a marriage proposal in the first place, not even a year into the relationship with her cheating fiancé. Also, the stories in her blog would have been a little more realistic if they were a bit more tamed. But hey this is fiction, and why not let the imagination run wild?!?

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartwarming, fun, juicy and magical read. And at only 99 cents for Kindle, you can't go wrong!

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winners of "Hollywood Ending"

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry and had random.org pick two numbers. It chose 9 and 19.

Congrats to Stephanie (haefner919) and Erica!

Here is a message from Lucie Simone:
Congratulations to the winners of "Hollywood Ending!" I hope you enjoy it! And a huge thank you to Chick Lit Central for hosting the giveaway! Without blogs and forums like this dedicated to discovering and promoting Chick Lit, the life of the Chick Lit author would be a lonely one indeed. I love having the opportunity to mingle with other Chick Lit fans and share book recommendations. It is the ultimate girls' hang out!

Thanks!
Lucie


Reminder: If you have won a book, you have about 48 hours to claim it by sending your contact information. (You will be e-mailed if you have won, as well.) After that time, a new winner will be picked.

Thanks to everyone for participating and to Lucie for sharing her recipe and book.

Stop by and enter our current giveaways:

"Destined to Fail" by Samantha March (e-book)
Ends 1/3 at midnight EST


"The Bungalow" by Sarah Jio
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

"The Pub Across the Pond" by Mary Carter
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

Winners of "Sleeping with Paris"

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry and had random.org pick three numbers. It chose 55, 58 and 70. 

Congrats to jeff7salter, Linda Kish and StereoQueenBee!

Here is a message from Juliette Sobanet:
Congratulations to the winners of my debut novel, "Sleeping with Paris!" I hope you’ll find a little bit of Paris, romance, and chocolate in the pages of my book. Thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway. I appreciate your interest in my book more than you know, and I really enjoyed reading about all of your favorite chocolate treats! I’d also like to send a special thanks to the wonderful women of Chick Lit Central for having me on their fabulous site. As for me, I’m off to fuel my edits with some delicious chocolate truffles left over from the holidays. Bon appétit and happy reading!

Reminder: If you have won a book, you have about 48 hours to claim it by sending your contact information. (You will be e-mailed if you have won, as well.) After that time, a new winner will be picked.

Thanks to everyone for participating and to Juliette for sharing her recipe and book.

Don't miss out on our current giveaways:

"Destined to Fail" by Samantha March (e-book)
Ends 1/3 at midnight EST


"The Bungalow" by Sarah Jio
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

"The Pub Across the Pond" by Mary Carter
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

Winners of "An Autumn Crush" prize package

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry and had random.org pick two numbers. It chose 46 and 97.

Congrats to Anjana and Faith!

Here is a message from Milly Johnson:
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who took part in the competition and congratulations to the winners. "An Autumn Crush" is my sixth book. I’ve just finished the seventh book and have started on the eighth – there’s no rest for the wicked it seems . Thanks also to Chick Lit Central for hosting the competition – blog sites do an incredible job to advertise our books and bring us new readers.
Happy New Year to you all.


 Reminder: If you have won a book, you have about 48 hours to claim it by sending your contact information. (You will be e-mailed if you have won, as well.) After that time, a new winner will be picked.

Thanks to everyone for participating and sharing your crush stories with us and to Milly for sharing her recipe and her book packages.

 There's still time to enter our current giveaways:

"Destined to Fail" by Samantha March (e-book)
Ends 1/3 at midnight EST


"The Bungalow" by Sarah Jio
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

"The Pub Across the Pond" by Mary Carter
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

Winner of "One Perfect Night"

To find our winner, we assigned a number to each entry and had random.org pick one number. It chose 4.

Congrats to Jeryl!

Here is a message from Rachael Johns:
Congrats to Jeryl on winning a copy of my debut novel ONE PERFECT NIGHT! It's an exciting and daunting time releasing a book - especially your first - but one of the best things so far has been interacting with readers and potential readers. The girls at Chick Lit Central have been so kind to have me here and I hope you enjoy reading ONE PERFECT NIGHT!! Look forward to meeting you all again on the fabulous Chick Lit Central.

Reminder: If you have won a book, you have about 48 hours to claim it by sending your contact information. (You will be e-mailed if you have won, as well.) After that time, a new winner will be picked.

Thanks to everyone for participating and to Rachael for sharing her recipe and e-book.

Check out our current giveaways:

"Destined to Fail" by Samantha March (e-book)
Ends 1/3 at midnight EST


"The Bungalow" by Sarah Jio
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST

"The Pub Across the Pond" by Mary Carter
US/Canada only
Ends 1/2 at midnight EST


Blogs of the week

Our recent feature is "Blogs of the Week." Each week, we feature a reader blog (which has to be sent to us) and an author blog (which can either be sent to us, or we'll pick one at random). Please check out the blogs we are sharing. We're sure the bloggers would love some friendly comments on their posts or a follow.

To have your blog featured for a future shout out, please e-mail us. The blogs can be anything: personal, book themed or something else you're interested in that you write about (movies, fashion, pets, career, etc.)


Important--LAST CHANCE to send us your blogs!: We are going to be phasing out this feature as we move along in 2012. Therefore, we will only be taking blog submissions until December 31st. Any blogs received after that date will not be featured. Anything we receive before that date will be featured starting in February, as we have been accommodating blogs on a first come, first serve basis. Thank you!

Reader:

FranceRants

This blog is dedicated to the rantings, observations, musings, and potentially misguided fantasies of France. She usually posts twice a month, on Monday mornings. The Fork-In-The-Head Logo on her blog is actually her self portrait, which says it all. Inspired and drawn in the late 1990's, it exemplified her feelings about many situations and is still applicable to her today (but don't even think of using it, because it's copyrighted).  She recently wrote about her obsession with Jen Lancaster and how she handled a live interaction with her. You can find her on Twitter.

Author:

Janice Horton

Janice lives in Scotland and writes contemporary romantic novels with a Scottish setting. She also writes lifestyle articles. Her writing is inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her remote country cottage. Her first novel When We First Love (now out of print) was published traditionally in paperback. Her more recent novels, "Bagpipes & Bullshot" and "Reaching for the Stars" are available as e-books. As well as a regular blogger, she is an active member on several writer forums and you can also find her on Twitter and Facebook. She's also an Associated Author and Editor of The Review Chair at the interactive reader/writer website loveahappyending.com

Janice would love to hear your views and comments on her blog posts and would welcome you as a Follower - she almost always follows back. This blog is usually updated on a Friday and she likes to discuss lots of writer ideas from plotting and researching to the highs and lows of the writing process itself. She also likes to discuss books of all genres and to showcase other writer’s work - so if you are an author and you’d like to feature on her blog please contact her.

Monkeying around with Samantha March, plus a book giveaway


Introduction by Gail Allison

**Giveaway is now closed**

Samantha March fell in love with books at a young age, and that passion has followed her all through life. She lives in Des Moines, Iowa where she is already hard at work on her second novel. A tireless reader, writer, and blogger, you can check out her blog, Chick Lit Plus. She also blogs at her author page about becoming a writer, and all the joys and challenges associated with it. Samantha lives with her boyfriend, and is an avid Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs fan. We’re so excited to be giving away TWO e-books of her first novel, "Destined to Fail," to some lucky readers anywhere in the world. Thanks so much for sharing with us, Samantha!!

Want to learn more about what makes Samantha tick? Visit her at Facebook and Twitter.


About "Destined to Fail":
Jasmine Jones is ready to begin her new life as a college student, and is ecstatic to have best friend Abby by her side. But weeks into their new college life, Abby drops the bomb- she is pregnant, and dropping out of college. Jasmine can’t handle the fact that Abby is wasting her opportunity to get an education, and going back to her cheating, abusive boyfriend. She struggles to move on from her friendship with Abby, but befriends two new girls at college. Everything seems back on track for Jasmine- great new friendships and roommates, a strong relationship with boyfriend Nate, and excelling at her college courses. But Jasmine’s newfound happiness is shattered when her pregnancy test comes out positive. Does she have to drop out of college now and become a young mother? Will Nate stay with her? How can she afford a child? Jasmine’s life has been filled with obstacles and challenges along the way- from a missing father, sexual and physical abuse, and addictions that tore her family apart. With this latest setback, Jasmine fears her life will always be a struggle. Destined to Fail is one woman’s story about overcoming adversity in life, about taking the negatives and finding a positive, and about never giving up hope.

When Melissa informed me what the theme was for December, I was instantly worried. Recipe? Cooking? Baking? I’m sad to say these are foreign concepts in my house. I somehow missed all my mother’s baking genes, and actually had to throw away the last set of brownies I attempted to make. Phooey. But, one recipe that I do love (to eat) and at one time attempted to help make is monkey bread. First, the name always makes me laugh. Second, it wasn’t too difficult to coat little pieces of biscuits and arrange them around a tube pan. Third, it tastes delicious! Especially when coming right from the oven all warm and gooey. Current status: drooling. Here is the recipe that I have used:


• 3 (12 ounce) packages refrigerated biscuit dough
• 1 cup white sugar
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1/2 cup margarine
• 1 cup packed brown sugar

The one I helped make did have walnuts in it, but since I am not a fan of them, I didn’t include them on here. There are also recipes that have raisins in them, which I am curious to try sometime. And here are the directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease one 9 or 10 inch tube/Bundt® pan.
2. Mix white sugar and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Cut biscuits into quarters. Shake 6 to 8 biscuit pieces in the sugar cinnamon mix. Arrange pieces in the bottom of the prepared pan. Continue until all biscuits are coated and placed in pan.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the margarine with the brown sugar over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute. Pour over the biscuits.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 35 minutes. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a plate. Do not cut! The bread just pulls apart.


The first time I tried monkey bread, I was smitten. I also ask for this around the holidays now, but need an adult to supervise me in the kitchen...it’s dangerous when I’m on my own! I would love to hear if you try this recipe or have your own version.


Happy Holidays everyone!

Thanks to Samantha for sharing her tasty looking recipe and debut novel with everyone here at CLC!

How to win "Destined to Fail":
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 or blog if you can receive messages there.)

Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: What is a failure or struggle that you have overcome in your life? (Or, what do you feel you are "destined" to do?)
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. Edit settings if you don't want to receive a lot of messages at your e-mail account. Please read our posting guidelinesas well. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.

Giveaway ends January 3rd at midnight EST.

Book Review: Growing Up Beautiful

By Gail Allison

What teenaged female hasn’t dreamed about being ‘discovered’ and becoming an international supermodel? Heck, there are entire TV series based on this dream! "Growing Up Beautiful" by Lori Jones walks us through the ups and downs of three 16-year-old girls who come from very different backgrounds, but all end up in the same situation: modeling in Milan for a summer.

Joanne leaves behind an ultra-conservative, ultra-controlling family. She’s never made a move without first consulting her parents, and when she gets the chance to go to Milan for the summer, her parents make it clear that this is not what people of their social status do. Joanne chooses to push back (as much as she knows how to), and makes a deal with her parents that allows her to go try her hand at doing something on her own for the first time.

Star leaves behind a less than attractive family life: she’s working all day as a waitress to support a mother who drinks to excess. She makes it clear to anyone who will listen that she’s in it for the money. Her point of view can be a little off-putting, but try to imagine yourself in that situation. Selling out for a generous paycheck might just be the best thing for her, in her opinion.

Casey is an all-American girl, whose naïveté becomes more and more apparent as she tries to make a name for herself in the cutthroat world of modeling. She struggles with finding friends, keeping the pounds off, and remembering who she is through the daily grind.

Following these three young ladies through their adventures in and around Milan, I found their characters to be a little bit stereotypical. I could guess fairly easily what their reaction could be to situations as they occurred. That being said, the novel certainly didn't pull punches. Not everything was sunshine and roses for these young ladies, and it certainly outlined some pitfalls of the life that they were living in Milan. For me, though, it was still a fun ride. I’m a huge fan of America’s Next Top Model, and although there wasn’t the direct competition that we see in the program in this book, it was certainly a part of their daily life, as implied through conversations with Marcella (the booker) and the head of the agency that the girls were working for about various jobs that they had gone on.

The author Lori Jones actually worked as a model from 1981-1997, so she’s not just making this up as she goes along. It lends an air of credibility and of detail to the novel, especially considering she modeled for five years (from 1982-1987) in Milan, Germany, and Spain, much like the protagonists in her novel.

If you’re looking for a fluffy escape from reality, and if you enjoy America’s Next Top Model as much as I do, you’ll probably enjoy "Growing Up Beautiful." Bonus: it’s only $2.99 on Kindle. Strike a pose and pick it up today!

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: Best Kept Secret

By Amy Bromberg

"Best Kept Secret," by Amy Hatvany, was one of my favorite books of 2011. After reading the synopsis, I wasn’t sure if this was something I would like, as I lean more towards lighter reads. But after hearing and reading such rave reviews, I knew I had to read it. All I can say is I’m so glad I did.

Amy Hatvany has a magnificent ability to get inside a character’s persona, which is exactly what she does with Cadence, the main character. We first meet Cadence as a happily married woman, a successful journalist and a mother to her little boy Charlie, who she loves more than life itself. Then things start to change, including going through a divorce and leaving her full time job to start freelancing, so she can take care of Charlie. What started off as having a couple glasses of wine a day, to take the edge off and help her sleep, turns into Cadence drinking all the time. Cadence ends up admitting herself into rehab and must deal with all of it’s aftermaths.

Even though the book does not surround the topic of divorce, I do have to say that I can indirectly relate, as my parents got divorced when I was nine years old. Even though my mother was not an alcoholic, I can see my mom in Cadence’s character. It’s unbearable having to cope with all that happens before and after a divorce, especially when there’s a child involved.

I felt as if I was actually side by side with the characters, and could really experience and feel their emotions. It felt as if I was struggling right along with Cadence. Amy does a fantastic job portraying the world of alcoholism, and how it takes over the addict’s life, their choices and actions. They don’t realize that they are actually addicted until it’s too late. I admire how Cadence realizes that only we, ourselves, not other things or other people, can change our lives. She turns into an extraordinary strong individual.

I have already started sharing this book with my friends and family. I can see this story being on the big screen and taking home almost all of the Oscars. It’s such a powerful and heart-warming read. If you are like me you will not be able to put the book down.

Sarah Jio bakes sweet looking scones and we have her latest book to give away!

**Giveaway is now closed**

There's no stopping Sarah Jio! She has three kids (including a baby born this past year), an amazing debut novel and another one out now that's sure to be another hit, as well as two more on the way (books, not babies). And she still has time to bake yummy scones for the holidays and share her recipe with all of us! She was here in May to share "The Violets of March," which has only received praise since its release. Her incredible storytelling talent is shown off once again in "The Bungalow," which was published today and reviewed right here at CLC! Even better, we have FIVE copies for some lucky readers in the US and Canada, courtesy of Penguin Books!

Visit Sarah on Facebook, Twitter and her website. You can also check out her health and fitness blog on Glamour.com.

Watch the book trailer for "The Bungalow," which has some great pictures and captures the essence of the story:


"The Bungalow," out on 12/27 from Penguin (Plume) is my second novel, and the story came to me so vividly it almost (quite literally) smacked me over the head. I remember the moment I had the idea to write it. I turned to my husband one night after the kids were in bed and said, “The Bungalow!” He looked at me and said, “what?” I nodded. “The title for my next novel,” I told him. (He’s used to me blabbering on about book titles, plots, and random ideas by now!) The story of Anne Calloway, a young woman from Seattle who joined the Army Nurse Corps and went on the adventure of her life to Bora Bora during World War II, captivated me as I wrote it, and I hope it will have the same effect on readers. I’m a true romantic at heart and was inspired to write this novel, in part, because of an old wartime journal kept by a great uncle who was stationed in the South Pacific islands during the war, and also in memory of my honeymoon in Tahiti. This book was a joy to write, and I hope readers will enjoy curling up with the book—and maybe a scone—this winter.


Easy Apricot Scones
I’m a health nut and usually bake things with “healthy” ingredients (flax seeds, whole wheat flour, you know). But these scones? They’re pure comfort. I make them every now and then—especially during the holidays when I can enjoy one for breakfast with a cup of coffee by the Christmas tree, or as a snack during a late-night gift-wrapping spree. They’re easy to make, and they hit the spot.

(Makes 8 scones)


Ingredients:

1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup orange juice
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder (I know, it sounds like a lot, but you need it!)
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk + 2 tablespoons + 3 tables spoons (the final three tablespoons are for brushing)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Soak the dried apricots in the orange juice (they should all be covered); set aside for about 5 minutes. Mix dry ingredients with a whisk. Mix egg, 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons milk. Drain the apricots and add to milk mixture. Cut the butter into the flour mixture, either using a food processor, or with a fork or pastry tool (I forgot what they’re called!), and mix until the dough looks like course meal. Create a well in the dry mixture and add the wet to the dry, mixing until just combined. If the dough looks too dry, add one or two more tablespoons of milk. Form the dough into a ball, then press down into a circle on a cutting board (dough should be about 2.5 inch thick). Take a sharp knife and cut into 8 wedges. Transfer each wedge to a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (watch them toward the end (as all oven temps vary…you don’t want the centers too get too dry or the tops too brown).

Special thanks to Sarah for coming back to CLC for the second time in less than a year (and sharing a yummy looking recipe, no less) and to Penguin Books for sharing Sarah's book with our readers.

How to win "The Bungalow":
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 or blog if you can receive messages there.)

Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite period of history?
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. Edit settings if you don't want to receive a lot of messages at your e-mail account. Please read our posting guidelinesas well. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.


US/Canada only. Giveaway ends January 2nd at midnight EST.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Put on your yarmulke...Amy and Melissa A are here to celebrate Hanukkah!

Since we've asked the authors visiting in December to share recipes and holiday memories, we've decided to do the same amongst ourselves. Amy and Melissa A are here today to talk about Hanukkah and share a yummy latke recipe!



Amy:
Here is a pic of my husband and me taken while celebrating Hanukkah with my family. Being with family really completes Hanukkah for me.


Melissa A:
The thing that makes Hanukkah really come alive for me is the most is latkes. I associate the smell of frying potatoes with Hanukkah. Sure, that smell will linger for days on furniture, clothes, etc. However, it is so warm and delicious that it doesn't bother me a bit! When I was growing up, and even into my adult years, my dad was well-known for making latkes for us, extended family and our friends. There was one night that he made them for me and some friends at midnight after we got home from a late movie. Over the years, we've also had many latke parties with him standing over the frying pan the entire time so that we wouldn't run out of the tasty treat. Nowadays, my husband is the chief latke maker. His latkes look and taste different, but are delicious, as well. We haven't had latkes for Hanukkah this year, but we plan to before the last day. I think when I take that first delectable bite of steaming potatoes and onions, Hanukkah will really give off  its true "feel" for me.


Crispy Potato Latkes (courtesy of Aish.com)


Ingredients:
6 potatoes
1 small onion
4 eggs
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper (optional)


Instructions:
Grate potatoes in food processor on your favorite blade, I favor the shredder as pieces are a bit bigger and latkes come out crispier. Squeeze out the liquid through a colander. Add the rest of ingredients. Mix well.
In a deep pot or deep frying pan, heat oil very thoroughly. Drop batter by spoonful and fry until golden on both sides. Pat with paper towel to absorb the oil.
Serve warm with applesauce or sour cream, if desired. Just plain is great too.


Preparation time: 12 minutes
Cooking time: 18 to 24 minutes
Serves 8


(Melissa A: My husband uses this recipe and they come out fantastic!)

Mary Carter helps Christmas last another day with her delicious drink...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Gail Allison

**Giveaway is now closed**

We are so excited to have Mary Carter sharing with us today (and not just because her holiday recipe is for a delicious-sounding martini!). This accomplished author is the third Mary in her family (and the second Mary Patricia), and she has certainly inherited the gift of storytelling through the family lines. She claims that her mother (a feisty redhead and the first Mary Patricia) is one of the best storytellers that she knows. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, as well as the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, Mary is currently working on yet another novel! "The Pub Across the Pond" is her fifth novel, in addition to two novellas. You can check out her updates at her website.

Thanks to Kensington Books, we have one copy of "The Pub Across the Pond" to share with a lucky reader in the US or Canada.


Synopsis of "The Pub Across the Pond":
In Mary Carter’s newest novel of women’s fiction, THE PUB ACROSS THE POND, the author of MY SISTER'S VOICE and SUNNYSIDE BLUES invites readers to come on an exhilarating journey to Ireland, as one woman learns about luck, love, and finding the courage to listen to her heart.


Carlene Rivers is many things, but lucky isn’t usually one of them. At thirty, she’s living a stifling existence in Cleveland and starting to resent her many responsibilities. Then one day, Carlene buys a raffle ticket. The prize: a pub on the west coast of Ireland. Carlene is stunned when she wins. Everyone else is stunned when she actually goes. Arriving in Ballybeog, Carlene is smitten by the place and its people. The pub has challenges—from meddling neighbors to “colorful” regulars—but there are compensations galore. Like the freedom to sing, joke, and tell stories, and in doing so, find her own voice. And in her flirtation with the pub’s charming, reckless former owner, the freedom to follow her impulses and see just how lucky life can be...

Holiday Girls’ Night
By Mary Carter


I love throwing little parties and the holidays are a perfect excuse. Last year I found a recipe online for a Candy Cane Martini and after a little tweaking, I made it for a girls’ night I threw at my place. It was a huge hit! You don’t have to make it with an official martini glass, but if you have one, with a little dressing, it looks spectacular. Rim the edge of the glass with lime, then coat the glass with sugar. In a strainer mix the vodka, pepper schnapps, and cranberry juice. Strain into the glass. If you want to get fancy, add a splash of champagne or orange Cointreau. Hang a small candy cane over the side along with a wedge of lime, and in a few easy steps you have a holiday hit! For any non-drinkers in the crowd, you can make it non-alcoholic with seltzer, lime, and cranberry juice.

I decided to share this drink recipe because anyone who saw my previous attempts at making Gingerbread Houses will quickly ascertain that I should stick to mixology. But even more so, I picked a cocktail in homage my latest novel, The Pub Across the Pond, in which an American woman wins a pub in Ireland. Although the little pub is used to their own ways of doing things, my heroine, Carlene Rivers, brings in a few ideas of her own. And although she doesn’t exactly serve up Candy Cane Martinis, if there’s ever a sequel, I can certainly see a few of the regulars grudgingly giving it a try. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and cheers—or slanté—as they say in Ireland.


Candy Cane Martini

Vodka 1.5 ounces
Peppermint Schnapps – 1 or 2 teaspoons
Cranberry juice—can add as little or much as you want—either just to give it color, or more for someone who wants less alcohol
Small candy cane
Sugar
Lime
Optional ingredients: Splash of champagne or orange Cointreau


Special thanks to Mary for sharing this delicious sounding drink recipe and to Kensington Books for sharing "The Pub Across the Pond" with one of our readers.


How to win "The Pub Across the Pond":
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 or blog if you can receive messages there.)

Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: What is your "must-have" item for a party (holiday or any other kind)?
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. Edit settings if you don't want to receive a lot of messages at your e-mail account. Please read our posting guidelines, as well. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.



US/Canada only. Giveaway ends January 2nd at midnight EST.

Book Review: The Brenda Diaries

By Melissa Amster

Move over, Bridget Jones! There's a new diary writer in town, in the form of a 23 year-old cynic who lives in L.A. and does temp work for her so-called career. Check out what she has to say in "The Brenda Diaries."

Brenda spends her days volleying between various temp assignments, whether it's tutoring a vapid teenager, assisting an accountant who gives her TMI about his personal life or handling the demands of a rude lawyer, just to name a few. Her best friend is dating an old man and mooching off Brenda's hospitality and her boyfriend is only interesting when it comes to having pizza and a movie. We see all this and other sordid confessions through her diary, as well as an assortment of tweets.

I admire Brenda's dry, sarcastic wit throughout the story. She's definitely a tongue-in-cheek piece of work and reminds me of a cross between Janeane Garofalo and Daria (from the MTV series). I was picturing Ellen Page ("Juno") playing her in a movie version of the book though. I like how Margo Candela got into character for this story to the point of posting Brenda's random musings on Facebook and Twitter. The other characters in this story were vivid and humorous, as well to the point of being caricature-like or satirical. Her friend Maya was quite a piece of work, as well. She would claim to have morals, but she didn't exercise them all that well. It was amusing to see what Brenda would end up doing next in her line of temp assignments and I liked groaning along with her when she had to deal with annoying people.

What didn't work for me was first and foremost, my number one pet peeve when it comes to reading a "diary." There was dialogue! Dialogue has no place in a diary, which is a journal account of secret thoughts and confessions. If your character is having a conversation with someone, it should be done outside the bounds of the diary or summarized in the diary instead of written out as direct quotes. I also felt the story ended abruptly, as there was plenty of room for it to go a bit further. Instead, there are a bunch of pages that show tweets from Brenda. I would have rather seen these tweets incorporated into the diary, as they would have been easier to follow in the order of what happened and they could have added more "meat" to some parts. Some of the tweets were not consistent with what was in the diary, as she never actually wrote about the events to begin with. There were other inconsistencies within the diary itself. Finally, there were a lot of errors for a published story and it bordered more on the crass side a bit.

Overall, this was an entertaining and relatively quick read. I've never read any other novels by Ms. Candela, so her writing style was new to me. However, she does know how to get into the head of someone who is fresh out of school and not quite sure what they want to do with their life. I think that while Brenda might not be the best role model for them, she would be a nice ally to have in their corner.

You might also like:

Friday, December 23, 2011

What's in the mail today?

Melissa A:

e-books:


Got these as free deals on Amazon this week:



Still free for now...



Only free for Amazon Prime members now.

Amy:

From Megan Karasch:



It's also only 99 cents for Kindle.

From Marilyn Brant:



e-books:

Got these as free deals on Amazon (check out @amazonkindle #freeonkindle on Twitter for more freebies like these):






No longer free, but still under $5.



Gail:

Got this from Robert Manni:



Got this from Kelley & Hall Book Publicity:



e-book:

Got this from Bridget Straub:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cindy and Gail share their holiday favorites!

Since we've asked the authors visiting in December to share recipes and holiday memories, we've decided to do the same amongst ourselves. Cindy and Gail are here today to talk about their favorite things during the holiday season. Do you share any of their interests?

Cindy:

Favorite winter holiday memories?*I absolutely love the creche (nativity scene). It really captures the meaning of Christmas. I remember while growing up how important our Christmas Eve celebration was. Our family would go to midnight Mass, and when we got home we'd place Baby Jesus in His manger. Then we'd share a small meal and each exchange one present.

*My favorite Christmas memory is taking my two nieces, Courtney and Taylor to NYC for a December weekend. We got a hotel room and did all the Christmas stuff you can do in two days. We went to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall and visited the tree at Rockefeller Center and shopped at all the Holiday stores! It was a blast!


What do you like to do on Christmas morning?
The first thing I like to do on Christmas morning is lie in bed and say a quiet prayer of gratitude and then run into the kitchen for some much needed coffee!

Favorite winter holiday themed movie?I really like "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." It cracks me up because many of us wish so hard that that one day would be so perfect and more often than not, it is anything but.

Favorite winter holiday dessert and TV show?Egg nog rocks and so does "The Charlie Brown Christmas Special."

Gail:

Funniest winter holiday memory?
One winter we were at my grandparents' house for Christmas, and my sisters and I went tobogganing with my Dad on the hill just outside Grandma and Grandpa's house. We were having a great time tobogganing down the near side of the hill, until we looked over the far side of the hill (that went allllllll the way down to the train tracks). Dad said "I bet this side would be GREAT for sledding!" and proceeded to set up and glide down the hill until bailing out almost halfway down. When his howls reached our ears, my sisters and I all remembered what the side of the hill looked like in the summer: cactus plants everywhere. Dad was picking cactus thorns out of his leather mitts and ski pants for quite some time afterwards.

Favorite winter holiday dessert?
Homemade shortbread and oliebollen (Dutch fruit fritters)

Favorite snowy day activity?
Going out to my parents' cabin where the snow is all drifted high, sitting on the sofa in front of the wood stove and warming up with a hot chocolate and a good book after ice fishing out on the lake.

Favorite winter holiday character?
Buddy the Elf (from Elf)

Favorite winter holiday song?
2 favorites: "Six White Boomers" and "The Redneck Days of Christmas" (consisting of: 12-pack of Bud, 11 Wrasslin' tickets, 10 o' Copenhagen, 9 years probation, 8 table dancers, 7 packs of Redman, 6 cans of Spam, 5 flannel shirts, 4 big mud tires, 3 shotgun shells, 2 hunting dogs, and some parts to a Mustang GT).

Lucie Simone makes holiday cooking easy...and she has a book to give away!

**Giveaway is now closed**


Lucie Simone is a single girl living, working and dating in Hollywood. She likes to write about her fantasies and even some of her nightmares (especially date-related ones) to amuse her readers. Her degree is in journalism and television production and she has worked in entertainment and advertising. She loves all her girl and guy friends. Her stories tell the most about who she really is: "A nice girl who sometimes likes to be naughty." She sure has Santa checking his list twice! Lucky for us, she is nice enough to not only share a really easy and yummy sounding recipe, but also TWO paperback copies of her latest novel, "Hollywood Ending" for readers in the US.

You can learn more about Lucie, who is as sweet as her recipe in our opinion, by visiting her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Check out her short holiday story, "Who Needs Mistletoe?," at the Chick Lit Bee.

Synopsis for "Hollywood Ending":
Hollywood Ending is a romantic comedy about life in Hollywood for the not-so-rich-and-famous. Trina Stewart is desperate to find a proper Hollywood job and finally quit teaching ESL, but after ten years in Tinsel Town, things are looking grim. That is, until she sets her sights on sexy new neighbor, Matiu Wulf, a New Zealander of Maori origin who is only in Los Angeles to get some scene design experience to beef up his resume, and then he's headed back home to Auckland. He manages to thwart Trina's advances, but when she falls under the spell of a toothy-grinned thespian, he's desperate to win back her heart. But when Hollywood gets in the way, these two soon discover that life in Tinsel Town isn't all red carpets, after parties and celebrity gossip. In fact, Hollywood can be a downright bitch!

My Favorite Holiday Recipe
By Lucie Simone


I love to entertain at the holidays and make yummy goodies for my close friends and family. But what I love most is when those delicious recipes are easy! This one is incredibly decadent and ridiculously simple. And another reason I love it? My dad made it for our Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations every year when I was a kid. Please allow me to introduce you to my dad’s Cherry Dump Cake. Trust me, it tastes a lot better than it sounds!




Cherry Dump Cake
2 21 oz cans of cherry pie filling
1 box of white cake mix
1 1/2 sticks of melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 pan with 1/4 of the cake mix. Dump both cans of cherries on top & spread evenly, careful not to break the cherries. Pour the remaining cake mix evenly on top of the cherries. Drizzle the melted butter over the cake mix & top with the chopped pecans. Bake for 45 minutes & voila! Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make it even more decadent.

Enjoy!

How to win "Hollywood Ending":
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 or blog if you can receive messages there.)

Bonus entries (can be listed all in one post):
1. Please tell us: What is your favorite food-related memory from the winter holidays?
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. Edit settings if you don't want to receive a lot of messages at your e-mail account. Please read our posting guidelines, as well. (If you're already a member, let us know that too.)
5. Add a friend to our Facebook group. (Tell us who you added.) Be sure to remind them to edit their settings.

US only. Giveaway ends December 27th at midnight EST.