Sunday, September 30, 2012

Book Review: A Perfect Home

By Jami Deise

One of the most enduring themes in literature is of the magnificent house or estate that hides the decay of the family who lives in it. With the current obsession with HGTV, designer homes and interior design magazines, it’s a lesson that’s worth repeating in every generation: A beautiful house is worthless unless equal care is given to its inhabitants. In her debut novel “A Perfect Home,” English artist Kitty Glanville gives us a heroine as trapped in her home as Henrik Ibsen’s Nora was in her doll’s house. That “A Doll’s House” was written in 1879 and “A Perfect Home” in 2012, it begs the question of just how far roles played by husbands and wives have evolved. Perhaps not as much as society gives itself credit.

Claire’s life seems so perfect, it’s no wonder “Idyllic Home” magazine wants to do a feature on her. Living in a restored farmhouse in the English countryside, Claire runs her own vintage textiles business – a Martha Stewart without the cooking – while she looks after her three children. Her husband, William, is an accountant who works long hours to support the family, then comes home to work on one more home project. His latest brainstorm: a summerhouse in the backyard. From the outside, everything looks flawless. But William treats Claire as little more than a servant, constantly belittling her for their two-year-old’s hand prints and other ways she falls short.

As Claire’s home is photographed for the Christmas issue of “Idyllic Home,” Claire quickly develops intense feelings for the photographer, Stefan. And Stefan doesn’t go away once the shoot is over.

Will Claire stay with her husband? Leave him for Stefan? Will William see Claire as more than just a maid?

From her very first paragraph – the description of a beautiful butterfly that flies away before Claire can catch it – Glanville does an excellent job establishing setting, character and plot, as well as foreshadowing events. Claire is an extraordinarily sympathetic protagonist, so even as she embarks on a relationship with Stefan with very little guilt, it is easy to root for her. She is a wonderful mother, a creative business owner and a tireless home maker. William’s dismissive treatment of her is infuriating.

The novel reads like a marriage of “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Unfaithful.” Claire’s instant infatuation with Stefan turns her into a 16-year-old girl, constantly checking her email and text messages. This sudden obsession made me wonder if Claire’s feelings were less about the handsome photographer and more about finally having someone – anyone – pay attention to her again. Back story shows William as a man who pretended to be interested in Claire’s pursuits and hobbies until their engagement. Then he dropped all pretense, let his mother take over wedding plans, directed Claire to take a job she didn’t want, and eventually painted her into a corner. Glanville does a nice job of contrasting how Claire’s relationship with William limits her, to the way love with the right person awakens Claire’s mother, Elizabeth.

Even though Claire does not sense it, Glanville gives the novel a feeling of foreboding. Things can and will blow up in Claire’s face. Most readers will be able to figure out how it will happen; that does not lessen the emotional impact of when it does.

I did have two issues with the book. One, I thought the character of William and his mother were too one dimensional and stereotypical. The unappreciative husband and overly critical mother-in-law are archetypes that readers see again and again. True, William’s obsession over his house does give his attitude toward Claire a modern spin, but he’s a character straight from the ‘50s....the 1850s. And his mother is so horrible, she doesn’t even deserve her own name.

My second issue is with the book’s ending. Not to give it away, but I felt that Glanville had done an excellent job moving Claire and the plot in a forward direction, and the ending felt like a cop out. I would have preferred things to be as they had seemed and for Claire to continue in that direction. Other readers may wholeheartedly disagree, but that’s a hallmark of literature – people will and should come to different conclusions.

One conclusion that everyone should agree with is that a house is not more important than the people who live in it. Another lesson that can be inferred from “A Perfect Home” is that a person who does not value herself will not be valued by others. While the characters in the novel may seem old-fashioned, the themes in “A Perfect Home” are timeless.

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

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Friday, September 28, 2012

What's in the Mail

Melissa A:

"The Truth About Love and Lightning" by Susan McBride from the author

"Dancing at the Shame Prom" by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter from Seal Press

"How We Met" by Katy Regan from HarperCollins UK

"The Shoestring Club" by Sarah Webb from Pan Macmillan

"Bouquet Toss" by/from Melissa Brown

Free from Amazon (at time of purchase):

"Do or Di" by Eileen Cook

"Under the Covers" by Rita Herron

"A Deal with the Devil" by Abby Matisse

"The Undiscovered Novelist" by Sarah Bridgeton

"Free Gift with Purchase" by Jackie Pilossoph


"The Shortest Way Home" by Juliette Fay from FSB Associates


"The Unfinished Garden" by Barbara Claypole White from Harlequin


"The Twelve Days to Christmas" by/from Michele Gorman

"An Altered Ending" by/from Megan Trennett

"Pursuing the Times" by/from Lauren Baratz-Logsted 

"Trinity" by/from Patrick Fox

"Something New" by Malena Lott  from Pure PR


"No Quest for the Wicked" by Shanna Swendson from Net Galley (e-book)

"A Wedding in Great Neck" by Yona Zeldis McDonough from Penguin


"From Notting Hill With Love Actually" by Ali McNamara from Sourcebooks


"A Very Accidental Love Story" by Claudia Carroll from HarperCollins UK

"The Perfect Present" by Karen Swan from Pan Macmillan


"Wellesley Wives" by Suzy Duffy from Writer's Coffee Shop Publishing House

"Because You Have to: A Writing Life" by Joan Frank from the University of Notre Dame Press

"Enchanted by Starlight," by Tina L. Hook from SparkPoint Studio

"The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything" by/from Francine LaSala (e-book)

"Driving the Saudis," by Jayne Amelia Larson from Simon and Schuster


"In the Pink" by Susan McBride from HaperCollins

"Dramaville" by Andrea Lewis

"Here I Go Again" by Jen Lancaster from Penguin Group USA

Book Review: What More Could You Wish For

By Cindy Roesel

Put a big fat chocolate cupcake lit up with candles on the cover of Samantha Hoffman’s first novel, WHAT MORE COULD YOU WISH FOR, and you know you’ve captured my attention. Now let’s read what’s between these pages, shall we.

Libby Carson has a wonderful life. She has a lovely family, great friends, her seamstress business is doing well, a guy who is kind and reliable and blah, blah, blah. She’s days away from turning fifty and surprise (!!!), her boyfriend proposes. For any other girl that might be a good thing, but Libby has been down that aisle twice before and it isn’t in her plans to say “I do” to any dude again. Suddenly steady guy turns into pushy guy just as she reconnects with another guy from way back in high-school. In fact, long lost guy just happens to be her old long lost flame. This raises Miss Libby Carson’s mid-life crisis to defcon five. She thought everything was neat and tidy in her nice little world. Guess not and now she has a few things to think about.

When you take a second look at the cover of WHAT MORE COULD YOU WISH FOR, all those candles on that cupcake are really a metaphor for Libby’s life. They’re crowded and stuffed on the top of all that sweet icing. Everything is pretty, but it’s mostly packaging. Let’s face it, all those burning candles could do some damage, and I only count twenty-five. Inside, Libby has lots of issues coming to the forefront that she must confront. Libby has a wonderful personality, but it’s time she stands up for herself and figures out what she wants. Unfortunately, she has to suffer a loss to wake up and take control. Fortunately, however, Libby is the kind of character you’ll want to rally around when the going gets tough.

Everybody reading Libby’s story is going to have her back, and at the same time, hoping Samantha Hoffman has another novel in the works, after reading WHAT MORE COULD YOU WISH FOR.

You can find Samantha Hoffman’s debut novel on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Winners of "Dumped"

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry (from only the entries with contact info) and asked to choose two numbers.

Congrats to:
2-Elizabeth Seckman
51-Becky Williams

UPDATE (10/15/12): Apologies for falling behind on this, but we just realized that one of the winners never replied to claim their prize. We asked to choose another winner and they came up with 7.

Congrats to RoadWarriorMomma!

Here is a message from Maryjane Fahey and Caryn Beth Rosenthal:
Thanks for all the submissions to "DUMPED" and enjoy your copies!

Bottom line: Take care of yourSELF. It ain't just about WHO you want, but WHAT you want. Opens up all the possibilities...and soon we promise you, you will get your mojo back!!!!

Thanks to Chick Lit Central for supporting us and letting us share our publishing story – we hope it helps you first time authors out there to keep on keeping on!

Like us on our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and mostly, RESPECT yourself! We have Madonna on our minds....


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 telling us about how you get over rejection.
Thanks to Maryjane and Caryn Beth for telling us how to get published and Sellers Publishing for sharing "Dumped" with our winners!

Check out our latest giveaways and also enter ones from other blogs and websites on our giveaways page.

Books of the Week - September 27th

Thanks for checking out our newest feature...Books of the Week! There are seven of us and we can't keep up with the many review requests we receive, even though we'd love to read everything sent our way. Therefore, we have decided to give some books their time in the spotlight and introduce you to them through this new blog feature. We will be featuring two books a week. We hope you will take the time to check these books out. (Click the titles to find them on Amazon.) If you read them and want to write a guest blogger review for us, please e-mail us and we'll be glad to work with you!

Authors: We will let you know whether or not we'll be able to review your book upon your request, and hope you'll be interested in this feature as an alternative.

The latest news: Books of the Week will be moving to Mondays at 11 am EST, starting October 1st. Watch for it at this new day and time!

"Finding Out"
By Sheryn MacMunn

Getting dumped on the sidewalk by her live-in boyfriend of seven years and finding he nearly emptied their savings account is the first of Sheila Davenport’s problems. At 36, Sheila thought her life was on track. Now she’s saddled with a mortgage that is about to skyrocket, a psychotic boss, and she has to train someone who just doesn’t care about the rules. Life no longer makes sense.Her friends advise her to date immediately. But Sheila’s trying to figure out what went wrong and how she got to this place. Since Prince Charming has ruined Sheila’s life, who can save her now? Help comes unexpectedly from her 86-year old neighbor who has had her own share of life’s ups and downs. After each get together, Sheila finds the strength to put the pieces of her life together while fighting not to lose her head.

"Finding Out" is $2.99 for Kindle.

Sheryn MacMunn can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

"The Cheat Sheet"
By Aaron Goldfarb

From the author behind the How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide comes this collection of eleven short stories about the sexes, sex, and sexiness in New York, including:

"The Ambiguous Woman" -- A man struggles to figure out exactly what a woman is thinking while on a date with her.

"The Boyfriend Trials" -- A fed-up thirty-year-old woman has a most interesting methodology in searching for the perfect partner.

"Comedic Romance" -- Love in real life never happens like it does in Hollywood rom-coms.

"He Proposed"
-- The day a woman gets proposed to is the most exciting day of her life. And, she can't wait to tell you all about it.

"Ain't Nothing Like a New York Romance"
-- There can't possibly be a better place to fall in love than New York City. Can there?

Aaron Goldfarb can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

A lesson from Jeanne Martinet and a book giveaway

**Giveaway is now closed**

Today we welcome author Jeanne Martinet and her first novel, "Etiquette for the End of the World." Jeanne Martinet is the author of seven other books, including widely acclaimed "The Art of Mingling"--which has sold more than 150,000 copies in the U.S. alone. Her books have been published in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Poland. Jeanne has been featured in such publications as: The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post. Martinet has shared her humor and mingling know-how on hundreds of TV and radio shows, including "The Today Show," "The CBS Early Show," NPR's "Morning Edition" and WNYC's "The Leonard Lopate Show."

Thanks to Astral Road, we have THREE paperback galleys of "Etiquette for the End of the World" to give away to some lucky readers in the US.

Visit Jeanne at her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

From Non-fiction to Fiction: How Novel-writing Snuck up on Me
By Jeanne Martinet

"Etiquette for the End of the World" is my first novel, and nobody is more surprised than I am that I ending up writing it.

Over the years, I have written, almost exclusively, humorous non-fiction on the subject of social mores and etiquette (including one extremely successful book, "The Art of Mingling," published by St. Martin’s). But somehow no matter how many copies I sold, people would say to me, “Okay that’s fine, but when are you going to write a novel?” Having edited many novels throughout my publishing career—from brilliant ones to bad ones—my answer was always, “A novel? Not me! Not on your life. It’s too hard, and too risky.”

However, I did publish a book in 2001 ("Truer Than True Romance") that was a departure from my usual non-fiction; it was a spoof on the corny love comics of the 50s and 60s. While it was not, at least from a financial standpoint, a success, it turned out to be the most fun I ever had writing. I remember laughing out loud alone in my apartment while I was working on it and thinking to myself, “Oh, this is why people love writing so much. I get it!”

So about two years ago, after the publication of "Life is Friends," a book in which I said pretty much everything I had left to say about the art of socializing, I decided I really wanted to try my hand again at a straight humor book. I longed to once more feel that “following your bliss” feeling I had felt when I was writing "Truer Than True Romance." That’s when I began what was supposed to be a very dark spoof on a self-help guide, an Emily Post-esque rule book for people living in the aftermath of global destruction. The working title was "Etiquette for the End of the World."  It contained chapters like, “Boundaries in the Bunker” and “Cannibalism: Yes or No?” I envisioned elegant ladies on the cover, all dressed up and sitting around a table with a silver tea service, except they would all be wearing gas masks.

For this project--partly for inspiration, and partly just as a way to procrastinate--I started researching different apocalyptic theories, especially the ones centered around the Mayan calendar date of December 21, 2012. (Procrastination, as most of us know, can be a fertile arena as long as you don’t let guilt derail you). I became completely fascinated with how drawn so many people seemed to be to the idea of an Armageddon or “end-times” of some kind, and I started seeing the idea of “end of the world” as a metaphor for personal crises. That’s when the persona I was using for the “author” of the guide, Tess Eliot, began to evolve, to take up more space in my imagination, and soon—with a little push from my agent—it became apparent I was really headed towards writing a novel. Almost against my will, to tell the truth. (Eventually, the original advice-book spoof I had started was folded into my novel.)

But fiction was not that far a stretch. Whether it was a self-help book or my “Citiquette” newspaper column, what I always enjoyed most was the painting of the scenes and anecdotes I would use to illustrate my advice. These scenes were often exaggerated or pieced together from several actual incidents, or even totally fabricated. (I mean, I may be “Miss Mingle,” but nobody can go to that many parties.) Always, my first mission was to entertain people with funny stories. So I felt I was already writing fiction, in a way.

That’s not to say it did not take me another year and a half to figure out how to fully develop characters, to properly pace, to sustain the plot, etc. I now have even more respect for novelists than I did before. And I am now, once again, a beginner, starting over in a whole new genre. I have my fingers and toes crossed that people will like "Etiquette..." Because writing novels is certainly what I would like to do from now on.

Special thanks to Jeanne for a new perspective on writing and Astral Road for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win "Etiquette for the End of the World":
Tell us an etiquette lesson you'd like to teach to children or teenagers. (One entry per person.) Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.

US only. Giveaway ends October 2nd at midnight EST.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Winners of "Picture Perfect" and "Yours Truly"

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry (from only the entries with contact info, one per person for "Yours Truly") and asked to choose FIVE numbers (3 for YT, 2 for PP).

Congrats to:

Winners of "Picture Perfect":
29-Linda Kish

Winners of "Yours Truly":
15-Cyndee Thomas
17-Jeryl M.
18-Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Here is a message from Lucie Simone:
I am so thrilled to bring "Picture Perfect" to my fellow Chick Lit Central fans! For an independent author, having friends like the ladies of Chick Lit Central is so important, and I just love being able to share my passion for all things Chick Lit with CLC's followers. I can always count on Chick Lit Central to introduce me to the best in Women's Fiction and Chick Lit, and I am honored to be counted among them. Congrats to the winners, and thanks for your enthusiasm!


Here is a message from Kirsty Greenwood:
Hello! Thank you so much for entering the "Yours Truly" giveaway and super well done to the winners. I really hope the book brings a smile to your face. Huge thanks to Chick Lit Central for not only giving "Yours Truly" such a wonderful review but for generously hosting this giveaway.
Cheers Guys!

Kirsty Greenwood

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 telling us about yearbook messages and back to school aspirations!
Thanks to Lucie for a wonderful guest post and sharing her book with our winners and Chick Lit Plus for including us in their blog tour.
Thanks to Kirsty for the opportunity to review "Yours Truly" and sharing it with our winners.

Check out our latest giveaways and also enter ones from other blogs and websites on our giveaways page.

Back to school with Amy and the Melissas

Since it's "Back to School" month at CLC, we're talking about our favorite school moments and other thoughts on the topic. This week, Amy and the Melissas are here to share the lessons they learned.


Extracurricular activities:
My predominant extracurricular activity growing up was dancing. I started taking ballet in first grade and by the time I was in 8th grade I was also doing jazz and point. For one semester in 10th grade I played tennis and also volleyball.

Did you go to summer school? If so, for what class?
The summer before my junior year in college I took bio/anatomy crash course. All I can say is that it was a killer.

Did you ever study abroad? If so, where?
Unfortunately I never studied abroad but if I could turn back time and I would have definitely done so in Spain and Italy. I took Spanish in HS and college so I would have loved to live in a Spanish culture for a little while.

Favorite TV show about school:
One of my favorite TV shows about school is Saved by the Bell. This show was the bomb!

Favorite sport to watch or play:
I wasn't into sports but I do have to say that I loved dodgeball. It was the only time I got excited during gym class.

Melissa A:

Extracurricular activities:
I was involved in speech team (a.k.a. Forensics) throughout high school. I loved going to tournaments, even though I was better at flirting than I was in my event. :) I also was involved with theater, but mostly behind the scenes.

My hair looks about the same now!
Favorite yearbook photo:
My senior yearbook photo. I had my hair and makeup done professionally and tried out three different outfits. I liked the one with the vest over all black clothing.

Favorite TV show about school:
Saved by the Bell. I know it was super cheesy, but I just loved it anyway. No one can do drug addiction PSA episodes the way SBTB did it with Jessie and her caffeine pill overdose.

I also love Degrassi High. That show was classic and I'd race home from school every day to catch the episodes just as they were about to come on. It was so honest and real.

Oddly enough, both shows have "Wake up in the morning" in/as the first line of their theme songs.

Proudest achievement during my academic career:
Receiving the Len Gustin Theater Service award during junior year. I didn't get into any plays (aside from one freshman year), but I assistant directed a couple and helped behind the scenes on others. It was so gratifying to get this award and be recognized for my hard work!

Interesting fact about my high school:
The Madonna Bar Mitzvah boy went to my HS. I knew him too. I'd drive him home from speech team practice and we'd sing along with the Joseph... soundtrack. I also remember him listening to my Little Mermaid watch all the time because it played "Under the Sea." He was always really nice and I loved that he embraced who he was and didn't hide from it. People respected him for it!

Melissa P:

Best year of school and why:
My best year of school was also the most difficult. It was my senior year of high school. I moved to Scottsdale from Chicago just before school started and I was terrified. The first day I made multiple friends that I still consider close friends to this day. Although it was hard to leave the life I knew for so long, it felt like a year long vacation filled with shopping, pool parties, dates, football games, dances, and road trips. I wouldn't change it for anything because it was like a test run for the following year when I would be going off to college and starting over again. I realized a lot about myself and my character and that I could make new friends easily while still keeping the old. Now I have friends from all walks of life that I consider near and dear and I don't think that will ever change. Almost anywhere I go in the country (and some parts of the world) I have a friend there. Melissa A. is a perfect example, we grew up on the same block in Chicago :)

Extracurricular activities:
I participated in many different activities. In grade school I played tennis, soccer, and softball. I also was in ice skating, dance, gymnastics and brownies. In high school I narrowed it down to dance, track, and drama club (I even student directed a play). I was also in an improv group at my high school in Chicago and we went around to all of the freshmen and sophomore classes to teach them about safe driving through different comedic skits. In Arizona, I was on the very first girls soccer team at my school. I played tennis into my early twenties, but most of the year its too hot to play in arizona! I also kept dancing through college and I still do ballet now.

Favorite required reading book:
This is easy. "The Great Gatsby." It's still one of my favorite books to this day. I have always said (as Melissa A. knows) that I was born in the wrong era. I should have been a young adult in the roaring twenties! I'm obsessed with the clothes, the parties and the way women took on the world in a way they never had before and really pushed the limits.

Did you date anyone?
I did. I dated a few guys in Chicago, one seriously, until I moved to Arizona. After I moved, I went on a lot of dates! The benefits of being the new girl from a big city in a small town!

Favorite annual event:
Homecoming. The game and the dance that followed. My boyfriend in Chicago was one of the star football players and every year after the game (it was more fun when we won!) we would get a huge group of the football players and cheerleaders and Pom Pom dancers and go to one of the senior football players houses and have a pool party. Then the night of the dance we would all rent hotel rooms and have a big after-party! Hopefully my parents aren't reading this! I am definitely one of those annoying girls that thought high school was so much fun!

My 17th birthday

Sarah Jio is head of the class and has a book to give away!

Introduction by
Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

Sarah Jio is now the second author named Sarah to visit Chick Lit Central for a third time. (Actually, she's now the second author to visit this many times in general.) Not only is this her third time here, but she also has a third novel out in two years and is a mom of three boys. She's overall proof that good things come in threes! We're thrilled to have her back, and on her pub day no less, as "Blackberry Winter" is a hauntingly beautiful and emotional novel that was difficult to put down. She's also a genuinely nice person and we've enjoyed getting to know her over the past couple of years. And we're even more excited to learn that she has a fourth novel coming out next spring! Sarah is a writing powerhouse and has been since her debut with "The Violets of March." We know her next novel, "The Last Camellia" will not be her last!

She's here to chat about school with us and thanks to Penguin, we have THREE (notice a trend here) copies of "Blackberry Winter" for some lucky US readers!

You can find Sarah on Facebook, Twitter and her website.

Favorite subject: 
Growing up, I always enjoyed anything related to writing and books (big surprise, right?!). In the first grade, I wrote a book called "A Tugboat Dream" as a class project, and it won a "Young Author" award. I remember being so proud and excited about this as a six year-old, and I think it has something to do with my grown-up career!

Favorite elementary school memory: 
Definitely fourth grade, in Mr. Raymond's class, when he'd read us stories after recess. We'd all sit around on the floor eating red licorice (he was a cool teacher who let us have treats) while he read books like "James and the Giant Peach" aloud. It was magical.

Interesting fact about your high school: 
I went to a private high school, which was very small and so the students were like family. I got interested in debate, and competed in several forensic events, which was really fun and, I think, helped me make the case to my parents that my 11:00 PM curfew was so unfair. :)

Fictional school you'd love to attend (i.e. "Sweet Valley High"): 
Oh goodness, I don't know. I suppose I always thought it would be pretty cool to hang out in the 90210 zip code, but thank goodness I stayed down to earth and real in 98370 (that would be good ol' Poulsbo, Washington)!

Favorite movie about school: 
Hmm, probably "The Breakfast Club" or "Pretty in Pink"—love Molly Ringwald. I was born in 1978, so she always seemed so very cool and grown-up to me.

What did you buy/bring for lunch every day? 
Such a fun question! I had very mature (and somewhat odd) tastes for a child. While other kids would bring PB&J, I requested that my mom pack soups in thermoses. I especially loved Chicken Gumbo. I also went through a phase of eating pickle-and-cheese sandwiches every day for three years straight.

Did you take a foreign language class? If so, what? Do you still speak that language? 
I took French in the 8th grade, and missed out on traveling to Paris with the class (still wish I had been able to go), and then took it again in college. I also took Spanish in high school. Sadly, I am not very fluent in either, but I do have the embarrassing knack of mixing the two languages together, which was very embarrassingly obvious when I attempted to order a meal at a café in France and somehow used the word "dinero." Oops!

Favorite school play that you saw or participated in: 
I acted in a murder mystery in high school, and I got to play the murderer (a sweet-seeing secretary named Betty, if I'm remembering correctly—it's been a while!). I don't remember anything about the plot, but I do remember wearing a 1940's pink suit with a ruffled collar and uttering the word "pomegranate" several times. Hmm, there could be a novel in here somewhere.

Special thanks to Sarah for visiting us again and Penguin for sharing "Blackberry Winter" with our readers.

How to win "Blackberry Winter":

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: Which fictional school would you like to attend (from books, TV shows, movies, etc.)?
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. Follow us on Twitter and/or Pinterest.
6. 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 October 2nd at midnight EST.

For another chance to win, visit Chick Lit is Not Dead by 10/2. (US/Canada)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Take a survey to enter a book giveaway!

**Giveaway is now closed**

"Single Mother on the Verge" by Maria Roberts (Penguin UK, 2009) will soon be released independently in the US and Canada, but the author would like to know how to make it more adaptable to this side of the ocean. Therefore, she has put together a survey. If you live in the US or Canada and take this survey by October 5th, please comment below and you could be entered to win one of TWO copies of "Single Mother on the Verge."

Check out the blog and visit Maria Roberts on Twitter.

Maria is twenty-nine years old. She is a single mother and lives on a public housing development in Manchester, England. She's also a chronic day-dreamer. One day she'd like to marry a beautiful man with a huge income to look after her and Jack, her nine-year-old son.

The only problem is that her current boyfriend, Rhodri, a chickpea-loving vegan eco-warrior, has turned his back on career ladders. Neither does he believe in monogamy. And so Maria finds herself unexpectedly juggling one, two, three lovers . . .

When Damien, Jack's abusive father, who threatened more times than Maria cares to remember to kill her makes an unwelcome reappearance, she gets a wake-up call. Will Maria find a wonderful father figure for Jack by the time she turns thirty?

A surprisingly humorous memoir with heartbreaking and unexpected moments, Single Mother on the Verge is a seductive and extremely touching read.

How to win "Single Mother on the Verge": Please take the survey and post a comment telling us you did. Include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.

US/Canada only. Giveaway ends October 5th at noon EST.

Guest Blogger Book Review: I Have Iraq in My Shoe

By Allie Smith

"I have Iraq in My Shoe" by Gretchen Berg is one of the coolest memoirs I’ve read in a while. Girlfriend is BRAVE and she can write! I was enthralled from the first page and couldn’t put the book down.

Gretchen Berg was a soon-to-be out of work copy writer, with a passion for designer shoes and world travel along with the obnoxious credit card bills to prove it. In the middle of a recession, her job search proved futile and things were not looking so good. By chance, an old friend suggested she come work for him, teaching English to adults in foreign countries. He was full of promises of a tax-free high salary, free housing and the opportunity for lots of travel…the only thing he didn’t offer was designer shoes. Problem solved, right? Before you can say Manolo Blahnik, Gretchen was on a plane to Iraq. Yes, Iraq.

This story personally resonated with me. Years ago when I was a young twenty-something, footloose and fancy-free girl, also with a large credit card bill, I was in a similar situation. I also was given a unique opportunity, mine being to live in Puerto Rico, with free housing and a salary much greater than I would have earned back home. At the time, everyone in my life thought I was cah-ray-zee….and I probably was, because I didn’t speak Spanish and knew not a soul. While reading Gretchen’s book, I couldn’t help speculating (while laughing) how my peeps would’ve reacted to my saying, “Hey, I’m going to move to Iraq for a couple of years.” From personal experience I can attest that life in a foreign land may sound exciting, but it’s often not easy.

So Gretchen signed a legal employment contract to move to Iraq. This was not a military job. She was not escorted to that country. She booked a ticket and got on a plane by herself. Gretchen is a smart, good-looking, very independent, single, white female who moved to a war-stricken, conservative Muslim country all alone. Cojones I tell you!

I absolutely adored Gretchen’s journey. Her tales of packing and trying to dodge and negotiate variable extra luggage charges were frustrating, but funny for the reader. There were also many other complications, when Gretchen found herself trying to assimilate to a living situation for which she was less than prepared. She had to deal with loneliness, homesickness, boredom, extreme heat exacerbated by an oppressive dress code, Diet Coke withdrawal, and ironically, good old American corporate politics.

Gretchen was placed at a campus in Northern Iraq, thankfully far from Bagdad. (Presumably it was much safer). Gretchen soon fell in love with her new hometown of Erbil, despite her less than ideal living conditions. By far, her biggest obstacle was enduring the highly discriminatory, insulting and archaic societal views of woman that exist in Iraq. Remember, this is a thirty-something woman who’d been living on her own for years. “I am woman hear me roar!” Not in Iraq, where she constantly heard, “Woman can’t be trusted.” That was the nicest thing she heard. I cannot, for decorum’s sake, tell you some of the other things she was told.

Things weren’t all bad. She did find some expatriates to commiserate with, while attending progressive dinners and enjoying cocktails. She also really enjoyed teaching and was humbled by the good humor of her students, many of whom were desperately trying for a better life while living in a land that had experienced war and hardships for decades. Most of her students had been brought up by a single mother, because their fathers had been killed in the horrific anti-insurgent campaigns against the Kurdish people, during the late 1980s. She was also surprised by the respect and gratitude her students showed her. Yes, even the men.

Gretchen’s experience in Iraq was cut short when she was laid off, which is never fun. But after a year’s time, Gretchen was ready to go home. She gained a lifetime of memories and wisdom and paid off her credit card debt – go girl! She also traveled to nine countries and got to add some awesome shoes to her collection. Her experience was invaluable, and gave her lots of material for a funny, touching and inspiring memoir.

Allie Smith, a former CPA who five years into her career decided that she hated working with numbers and willingly gave it all up to be a stay-at-home mom, lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and four children. In between carpool, play dates and refereeing the kids, she loves to read and write. The mother of a child with autism, she is currently working on a memoir of their journey.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Friends Forever

By Jami Deise

If Chick Lit has godmothers, they would surely be Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel. Long time inhabitants of the best seller lists, their novels center around women and relationships. While their writing generally lacks humor, their female heroines and their efforts to find balance in love, work and family blazed the trail for today’s funny, young, enterprising women who populate the chick lit genre.

When I was given the chance to read and review “Friends Forever,” Danielle Steel’s latest best-selling offering (as of this writing, it’s been on the New York Times hardcover best seller list for the past six weeks), I jumped at it. Not only was I interested in the novel’s subject matter – five kids who remain best friends from the first day of kindergarten till the book ends – but I was anxious to see what made Steel so successful. To be honest, after reading the book, I am still wondering.

“Friends Forever” follows Billy (the athlete), Gabby (the beauty queen), Izzy (the nurturer), Sean (the policeman), and Andy (the brain) from their first meeting in the kindergarten play kitchen till the novel’s end 18 years later. The book also features both parents of all children involved, along with a few siblings and various other characters who go in and out of the protagonists’ lives. The book itself is only 308 pages. Ten main characters, 18 years and 308 pages. The book, by necessity, is shallow, only skimming over the surface of the characters’ stories, telling not showing. The kids themselves never break free from the early labels that are bestowed upon them. We are never shown why they are friends, or how they manage to maintain the friendships, especially during the middle grades when male/female friendships usually die. As the years pass, there are joys, but these are mostly overshadowed by tragedies. Yet because we never get to know the protagonists as much more than their labels, these tragedies do not pack the emotional punch that they should.

Steel’s writing style is simplistic; I don’t think she used a single semi-colon in the entire novel. This makes the book a very quick read, but it also accentuates its weaknesses.

There is another book here, lurking underneath the shallow surface, and that is a book on how addiction, reckless behavior and laissez-faire parenting combine for tragic results. If she had wanted to, Steel could have really dug into the stories of those characters who became trapped in these destructive cycles. But with so many years and characters to cover, any in-depth treatment of a particular character or plot point is not possible.

With a long string of bestsellers behind her, I hope that “Friends Forever” is a rare misstep from a well-known and beloved author.

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

(Top left-US cover; Bottom right-UK cover)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Your Writing Reboot!

By Lucille Howe

So, you’ve decided to write? Only, now you’ve also decided the front room could do with a quick Hoover, then the mantelpiece could do with a dusting and, ‘hmm, are those Kit-Kats still in the cupboard?’ The blank page is where all the fun happens, so here are FIVE ways to beat your block:

1. Spontaneously set your Smart Phone alarm and write for THREE minutes. Yep, just three minutes. Knowing you only have to commit to that short a period will allow you to freestyle. I like closing my MacBook and grabbing some old school pen and paper for this one…something about the physicality of writing helps me get stuck in.

2. Scribble FOUR feelings on scraps of paper. Try, LUST, ENVY, LOVE and GUILT for starters. Fold ‘em up and place in a cup. Write a couple of paragraphs introducing a character entering a party. High drama stakes! Only, write this guy/gal as the personification of the feeling you pull from the pile. It’s a fun way into characterisation.

3. Pimp a simile! Cold as ice, high as a kite, as good as gold…what if they were as cold as an assassin, as high as a teenage truant, as good as a fry-up on a hangover? Love this one for encouraging the writer to draw on modern, cultural references.

4. Are you mad for the Mona Lisa? Bonkers for Banksy? Wild for Warhol? Google Image your favourite work of art then write a paragraph on the story behind the picture. What has happened just before the image has captured? What went down between the people in it? Where is it set? What happened next?

5. Don’t try and mask how you’re feeling. If you’re distracted…bored…irritated…excited…is there a part of the piece you are working on that would be crazy-good if you channelled your ‘right now’ into your work?

Lucille Howe writes for Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Conde Nast Traveller and her debut novel – BONDI BLONDE – is available now on Amazon.

Lucille first became a published writer in 1991 in
Premiere film magazine and has since contributed to most major magazines and newspapers, from The Mirror to Marie Claire. In 2001, she relocated to Australia where she worked as Features Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine. She then returned to the UK in 2006 to work as commissioning editor for Grazia and editor of the in-flight travel magazine, JetAway (for airlines). When she's not writing advertorials for the Australian tourist board, Lucille runs creative writing workshops for Channel 4 Television, as well as hosting in-house events as a presenter.  You can find her at her website and on Twitter.

Book Review: I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag

By Amy Bromberg

When I first found out about "I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag," and saw that it was written by an event planner, I knew I had to read it. Part of my major in college was events and meeting planning and when I learned that Jennifer Gilbert is a famous event planner, it became a definite must-read. Until I started reading it, and read some reviews, I had no idea it was going to be such an intense piece of writing. It definitely is one of the best memoirs I've ever read.

At 22 years old, just a year out of college and ready to face the world, Jennifer Gilbert was brutally attacked by a man who stabbed her repeatedly with a screwdriver. He had followed her from the subway to her friend's apartment and tried to kill her right outside her friend's apartment door. Jennifer did survive, but because she didn’t want this traumatic event to define her, she locked it away deep down inside and threw away the key, determined never to speak of it again.

She launched her career as a New York City event planner, eventually opening her own event planning company called Save The Date. She buried herself in her work and was constantly designing and planning parties, weddings and events, immersing herself in other people’s joyous events. She convinced herself that she would never feel any kind of joy and happiness again. Yet it was these festive events that made her realize the time had come to face her demons, stop hiding and come back to life.

Personally, I cannot imagine going through such a tragic and horrific event like what Jennifer did. Several times during her description of the attack, I had to put the book down because I started to cry. When I think about the sad and scary times and events in my life, nothing compares to what Jennifer went through. Her descriptive writing is so powerful it felt as if I right by her side, trembling and crying out for help.

Right from the beginning Jennifer is more than unequivocally open and honest about how the attack affected her and all those around her, including her family, friends and employees. She shares her journey of recovery, sometimes moving forwards and sometimes moving backwards, rebuilding herself from the inside out. It is crystal clear that Jennifer is a fighter and a survivor.

A predominant message that I received from Jennifer’s story is that when we lessen, dismiss and sweep under the rug, negative emotions and events that one experiences – destruction of oneself will arise. Jennifer ended up hiding, and burying deep down, the physical and emotional evidence of her attack. It took her many years of emotional healing to finally go outside without layers and layers of clothing hiding her scars. A perfect example would be going to the beach and not 100% covering up her bathing suit.

I read this book in less than two days and was 100% inspired by Ms. Gilbert’s drive and dedication to learn to love herself again, and let go of the walls she built around herself. This love blossomed to one for her husband and three beautiful children. Jennifer’s recovery has brought to the forefront of my mind that it is possible (while also quite painful) to walk through the most incredible and horrific fears, live to tell them, and even rise above them to become that much more of a stronger person.

I promise you will find yourself laughing and crying through out the book, be they both tears of joy and sorrow. This is an excellent book club pick, which all human beings can relate to, even if they have never experienced such a tragic event.

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