Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: Brooklyn Love

By Tracey Meyers

Every parent has a dream for their child.  I firmly believe this to be a fact even though I don't have any concrete evidence to back the statement up.

With this in mind, not every child shares their parent's dream for their life.  Sometimes their passions, aspirations and what they believe will truly make them happiest in life lie elsewhere.  Sometimes it is difficult to not follow the path your parents want (or expect) you to take.  When this is the case,  you may find yourself walking a tightrope; trying to choose which is more important.  This becomes especially difficult when matters of the heart are involved.

This delicate balance between what our parents want for us and what we want for our life is the central theme of the novel, Brooklyn Love by Yael Levy.  The story follows three Orthodox Jewish girls - Rachel, Leah and Hindy - as they navigate the often choppy waters of dating and growing up.  While they try to stay true to the values and beliefs they were taught by their parents and community and fulfill the dreams their parents have for them they also struggle with wanting to find their own individuality and create the path in which they envision their life traveling. 

Personally, I am not a stranger to this struggle.  I have not always followed the path that those closest to me felt I should have taken, however in my heart I knew it was a road I needed to travel.  That is one of the things that drew me to this story.  The other things that drew me to this story was that it was told through the eyes of three Orthodox Jewish girl - excuse me, women.  Though I'm not Orthodox, I am Jewish and have friends who are Orthodox.  I thought it would be interesting to see how this background would add to the characters and how the author would incorporate Orthodox practices into the plot.

It didn't take me long to get drawn in to the dilemma of these three women.  Maybe part of that had to do with my own personal connection to the story line and background of the characters; however, I like to believe that there is more to it than just that.  The three main characters of this book are very likable and have special and unique qualities that make their stories interesting.

Another theme that become apparent from the start is the question of how important is passion for something, or someone, when it comes to leading a fulfilling life?  It's a question I've discussed with my friends regarding the many facets of life.

Yael did an excellent job of explaining various Orthodox traditions without overwhelming the reader with mass quantities of detail that might frustrate them or make them want to put the book down.

Most importantly, I found myself taking a vested interest in these characters' well being, as if they were my own personal  friends.  Hopefully, one day they will be your own personal friends, too!

Thanks to F+W Media for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Susan Isaacs is really a book giveaway

**Giveaway is now closed**

Whenever Jennifer Weiner does a book signing and someone asks her who her favorite author is, she immediately answers with Susan Isaacs. She speaks so highly of her and given that we think so highly of Jennifer, we just HAD to meet the author she admires. So we were honored when we received the opportunity to do an interview with Susan! And you know what? She's not only an eloquent "speaker" (or writer in this case), but she also has a great sense of humor!

After graduating from Queens College, Brooklyn born Susan Isaacs took a job working for Seventeen magazine, giving advice on how to write letters to boys. That led her to write political speeches in her spare time, while also raising young children. Eventually, she wrote her first mystery, Compromising Positions. Before she knew it, her novel was chosen the Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, auctioned for paperback, sold to the movies, translated into thirty languages, and became a bestseller. It inspired her to keep writing and yada yada yada...all her novels have become New York Times bestsellers, two of them being produced as movies.

Susan is a proud wife, mother and grandmother. She lives on Long Island with her husband, Elkan Abramowitz. Her latest novel, Goldberg Variations, was published in early October. Thanks to Laura Rossi and Tandem Literary, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers! (Now you get to see for yourself why Jennifer Weiner loves her so much...)

Susan can be found at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?
Essentially, a character came into my head and said, “I need you to tell them my story.” She did add “please,” so I was obliged to do it. At that time, I was reading more mysteries than was probably healthy. Perhaps I became deranged, but at some point I said to myself, “I can do this.”

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Getting paid, getting recognition for doing not only what I love, but what comes naturally. I was the kind of kid who could sit alone in a room and tell herself stories and be pretty content. So to be able to do this is an adult and have people call it art? Priceless!

There was one moment that was so splendid it seemed more out of a grandiose fantasy than life. I was in London on a UK book tour, on my way to a chat show, and the phone rang in my hotel room. “Madam,” a voice said Britishly, “your car from the BBC is waiting.”

When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
I wanted to be a cowgirl. I lived in Brooklyn. I suppose that’s proof enough that I was never overly fond of dealing with reality.

If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
On a personal level, my grandma Rosie. She was brave (tossed out an abusive husband in 1912, got a job in a factory, and raise my father on her own. She was a brilliant cook, seamstress, crocheter, and a political junkie par excellence. And she loved me without reservation.

As for any public figure: Winston Churchill, without a doubt. I know I’d be dazzled by his intellectual gifts, but more than that, I’d love to learn what was going on in his mind as he dazzled FDR, and also how an aristocrat came to be able to communicate so brilliantly with ordinary people. Also, how does the child of an alcoholic father and a charming but indifferent mother survive and thrive?

Tell us what male movie star makes you go gaga.
I never go gaga for the stars because, frankly, when they’re not scripted, a lot of them sound dumb. The ones who don’t, like Ben Affleck, don’t do it for me; I’d vote with him, but wouldn’t sleep him. The guys to whom I’m attracted tend to look like offspring of construction workers and gorillas.

If Goldberg Variations were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Jane Fonda or Faye Dunaway for Gloria. Zoe Saldana or Rosario Dawson for Raquel. Armie Hammer or Logan Lerman for Matt. And Ellen Page for Daisy.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
Read. Watch movies and TV--right now I’m especially mad for all those British detective shows. Follow politics: early on, I was a freelance political speechwriter, and I’ve never gotten the electoral bug out of my system. And I adore the traditional pastimes like baking, gardening, and hanging with my grandchildren. Really, I’ve become one of those dreadful grannies I run from, the ones who like you in direct proportion to your enthusiasm for the photos you bamboozle them into looking at.

Who is your greatest love?
My husband. I realize that’s not a particularly clever answer, but it is the truth.

Special thanks to Susan for entertaining us and to Laura Rossi/Tandem Literary for sharing Goldberg Variations with our readers.

How to win Goldberg Variations:
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. Since Susan mentions (on her website) that she loves being a grandmother and since Goldberg Variations is about a grandmother, as well....Please tell us: 
What is a fun memory you have of any of your grandparents?
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, no P.O. Boxes. Giveaway ends December 4th at midnight EST.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Janis Thomas tries "Something New", plus a giveaway

Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

**Giveaway is now closed**

Over the past couple of years, I've made it a priority to try new things. I promised myself to keep an open mind and only dismiss trying something if I ever had a truly strong adverse reaction to the idea from the get-go.  I kept reminding myself, "Everything is a new adventure and at the very least I would have a good story to tell."

After researching Janis Thomas for this interview, I would surely love to hear some of the stories she has to tell; not only of the new things she's tried, but about things she's done in the past.  Not only has Janis written two women's fiction books - Something New (reviewed here) and Sweet Nothings (which is scheduled to be published in July, 2013) - she has also acted in several plays, played in a band with her sister, bartended (something I've always wanted to learn how to do), and written over fifty songs and two children's books (one of which was co-authored by her father).  In addition to writing, this UCLA graduate also has PTA duties to fulfill and channels her inner Ace of Cakes to create inventive desserts.

Janis currently resides in Orange County with her husband, two children and dog Rudy.  Additionally, she is fortunate enough to have her parents, siblings and treasured loved ones nearby.

So today we welcome Janis to CLC, and look forward to all the new things she has to share with us!

You can find Janis on Facebook and Twitter, as well as her website and blog!

Thanks to Penguin Group, we have a copy of Something New to give away to one of our US readers.

Is there a character from one of your books that embodies your personality traits? If so, which one and which traits? If not, would you ever consider creating a character that possessed your personality traits? 
Although my books are fiction, there are always a few of my personality traits that sneak in—whether I mean them to or not! I am a wife and mom, as are my two main characters, and I think there are universal feelings, thoughts, and secret desires that all moms share. Ellen, in SOMETHING NEW, is much like me in that her kids come first. Her love/hate relationship with her cell phone mirrors my own; although my husband just got me a smart phone and I have to admit (begrudgingly) that I’ve sort of fallen in love with it. Ruby, from SWEET NOTHINGS, is a baker by profession. I bake constantly, though only for love, not for money. Ruby is also compulsively organized, which I am not. In fact, if she ever walked into my house, she’d likely have heart failure!

You've acted and played in a band, why did you choose to pursue a writing career instead of pursuing the other two art forms?
I have always enjoyed performing on stage, and singing in a band with my sister was a thrill. But writing was my first love. I have boxes of story beginnings dating back to when I was eight years old! Even when I was on tour with Forbidden Broadway, or playing out in clubs in NYC, I always had a story in the works, and my clipboard and pen were never far from my grasp. I still sing around the house all the time—to the point that my kids cover their ears and beg me to stop! And my sister and I perform at the elementary school, which is fun. But I am a writer first and foremost.

What do you feel is the biggest reason people shy away from pursuing a career in writing?
Writing is not an easy pursuit. It’s funny, because often, when people ask me what I do and I tell them I’m a writer, their reaction is, “Wow! How fun!” And it is! But it’s also very hard work. There are days when you have the urge to throw your computer out the window, or tear out all of your hair because you cannot seem to type a single word. Writing takes discipline and perseverance. A well-crafted story doesn’t just happen. A book takes months, even years, to write. And then months and years to rewrite. And even when you have an amazing product, something you’re sure will be a best-seller, there is no guarantee it will ever hit the presses. It can be very frustrating. But if your dream is to be an author, you should pursue it with everything you have…and keep writing!

The heading of your website is "Chick Lit Grows Up". What does that heading mean to you?
I began reading Chick Lit a couple of years ago, and fell in love with the genre. I voraciously tore through Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, Helen Fielding, to name a few. But a part of me wanted to read about women in my particular phase of life—the “after” the happily ever after. That’s what inspired me to write SOMETHING NEW. Because for 30- and 40-something wives and mothers, the story doesn’t end when we find Mr. Right. In fact, another amazing, complex, and emotional journey is just beginning for us.

In the section of your website titled, "Fun Stuff" you state you're trying something new everyday until the publication of Something New arrives. Of all the new things you tried, which did you find the most enjoyable? Were you surprised that you enjoyed this thing so much? 
Well, now, I haven’t tasted anything quite like Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter in my entire life! But I have to say that seeing a picture of my book on an actual bookshelf in an actual bookstore was overwhelming. I realized that a lifelong dream had come true. I sat in the car with my husband, showing him the picture (on the smartphone he got me, of course) and just cried with joy. Of course, I was also quite proud of myself that I was able to wear six inch heels all day long without breaking my neck!

What is the most interesting dessert you've ever created? 
Wow, that is a tough question! I’ve made a lot of desserts in my time. My Eggnog Mousse Cheesecake, which I make every Christmas, is quite popular with friends and family. It’s a very labor-intensive dessert, but it comes out light and airy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I make individual Lemon Flans with tart lemon sauce that pretty much rock! And there’s my old standby, a Cookies and Cream Cookie Pie which was a Blue Ribbon winner at my neighborhood 4th of July Picnic. (Must be heated with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top!)

What is the most interesting thing you learned from your bartending days? 
 I was fortunate enough to be trained by one of the best mixologists on the East Coast, so I can make a variety of drinks, from scratch. This bartender called it “building a drink.” No premade mixes, only fresh squeezed EVERYTHING! I spent every Friday morning squeezing cases of lemons, limes and grapefruit until the skin on my hands burned and blistered from the acid. But the resulting margaritas would ruin you for life! I also learned that everyone has a story, and a bartender gets to hear each and every one, and the amount of details you gleaned was directly related to how much alcohol the teller of the tale had consumed. Oh, yes, I also learned patience. (I think it would be great if every student of psychology spent a semester behind the bar. Much better than the textbooks!)

My greatest guilty pleasure of all time is: 
I’d like to say lounging on a white-sand beach in the Caribbean, with a pina colada in one hand, a Godiva truffle in the other, and Hugh Jackman applying suntan lotion to my fair skin. But, since I have young children, my greatest guilty pleasure at this point in my life would be to sit on the couch for a whole day and do nothing but clear my TiVo. The Godiva truffle and pina colada are optional!

How to win Something New:
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 something new you recently tried?
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 December 3rd at midnight EST.  

Book Review: Something New

By Melissa Amster

Being a mom of two boys and a girl and living in suburbia, I could instantly relate to Ellen Ivers, the lead character of Something New by Janis Thomas. When I found out that Ellen was going to enter a blog contest, I was even more intrigued to read this novel. Before I knew it, I had breezed through over 300 pages, laughing and grinning the entire way.

Ellen spends her days getting her kids ready for school, performing her regular housewife duties and then chauffeuring them between lessons and sports. She fits in time for a daily run on the treadmill, as well. All she has to look forward to are her book club meetings. At 42, she is feeling burnt out. Then she meets Ben, her cousin's attractive male neighbor and also signs up for a blog contest. Soon, she's finding other ways to renew herself and put her needs ahead of her husband's and kids'. However, that comes with a price and she has to decide if she's willing to see her new image all the way through. Especially when Ben starts taking a fondness the "new" Ellen.

At first, I wasn't sure if I would want to read Something New. It seemed like just another book about another bored wife and mother who wants something outside of her home life. However, I was instantly drawn in by the easygoing writing style and snippets of humor throughout. I kept thinking "Hey, I do that!" or "I know what you mean." It was hard not to sympathize with Ellen. Personally, I've always tried to have something that is just mine because I feel that is SO important in both marriage and motherhood. So I was rooting for Ellen to do the same. It was fun watching her make her little transformations. I also loved reading her blog posts. They inspired me to add more to my personal blog and speak more freely when I do post there. It's so therapeutic to write out our thoughts in that kind of forum. Ellen had the cover of anonymity, as well. I don't have that, but it makes me want to start an anonymous blog so I can be as candid and snarky as I want! I also loved the steamy scenes in the novel. I was reading one during lunch while at work and blushing big time. I had to laugh to pretend I found something funny instead. (It wasn't a problem, since a lot of the book was funny anyway.)

Something New left me with some concerns though. While I know it is fiction, Janis Thomas took some liberties to keep it at that realm. There was a point where the realistic feel unraveled a bit. I don't want to say what happened as to not spoil the story though. However, I can say that if I got as many hits on my blog (either here or my personal one) in one year that Ellen got in one DAY, I'd be in seventh heaven! She just has a general blog that she starts for this contest, voicing the thoughts that other women are afraid to say out loud, but that somehow generates thousands of hits in a single day. We should all be so lucky! Aside from that, I didn't like how hard Ellen was on her husband. He was being an idiot sometimes, but she was just so brutal about it. I get that she's reinventing herself and taking a stand in her life, but she was so quick to get mad and hold grudges. I actually felt bad for her husband, regardless of the stupid things he said. Don't we all say stupid things to our significant others every now and then? Things we would love to take back? Finally, there was an abundance of swearing that I didn't always feel was necessary. I did find it amusing how her cousin would spell out swear words. I could see myself doing that, even though my older son can spell enough to understand what I'm saying.

Janis Thomas is a great new voice in chick lit and reminds me of Jane Porter in some ways. (And if you know my love for Jane Porter, that's HUGE.) I'm glad to hear that she has her second novel coming out in July, 2013. (And there's a cute shoe on the cover of that one, as well.)

Thanks to Penguin for the book in exchange for an honest review. We're doing a giveaway along with Janis' interview. (US only.)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Winners of "Becoming Mrs. Walsh"

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

Congrats to:
26-Maureen (mce1011)
29-Jessica M
78-Erica (wordywon)

Here is a message from Jessica Gordon:
Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. It means so much to me that you took the time to enter the contest. I loved reading all of your answers. Readers are so important and special to an author, without you we couldn't do what we love. Also, many thanks to Chick Lit Central for having such an excellent site. It really is an amazing place for lovers of Chick Lit. They do an incredible job organizing wonderful interviews, reviews, giveaways and more! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things in life, and one of them are my readers. Keep up the reading and happy holidays!

Congratulations to all of the winners! I hope you enjoy
Becoming Mrs. Walsh.


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 the expensive things you own or would like to own. Hopefully, it got you in the mood to read about the posh lifestyle that Shoshana gets introduced to in Becoming Mrs. Walsh.
Thanks to Jessica for a lovely interview and for sharing her book with our winners.

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

Book Review: Friendkeeping

By Amy Bromberg

I don't remember the last time that I read a book about friendship. Um, let's see, that might be because I never have.  It's about time that I did because as Julie Klam says in Friendkeeping, friendship is hard work. This especially applies to many lazy people out there (ME!).

With her inimitable wit and disarming warmth, Julie Klam shares with us her experiences, advice, and insight in Friendkeeping, a candid, hilarious look at some of the most meaningful and enjoyable relationships in our lives: our friendships.

After her bestselling You Had Me at Woof, about relationships with dogs, Klam now turns her attention to human relationships to great effect. She examines everything—from the curious world of online friendship to the intersection of friendship and motherhood. She even explores how to hang on to our friendships in the toughest circumstances: when schadenfreude rears its ugly head or when we don’t like our friend’s mate.

Klam relays a mix of brand-new and time-tested wisdom—she finds that longtime friends really can grow up without growing apart; that communication is key; that friendship is one of life’s great, free sources of happiness; that you’re not a friend, just a doormat, if you don’t get back what you give—and her discoveries range from amusing to deeply important. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

I love how Julie Klam expertly packages into one book (and not a textbook, thank G-d) all of the important lessons and advice she has experienced about friendship. And on top of that, the book is funny! That is because she's hilarious. Julie has a way with wit and words where you can't help but just laugh hysterically...even if the subject matter is serious. The book visits all of the important issues in friendships, being sharing secrets, how to deal with not liking your friend's significant other (awkward!), realizing that it's not always about you, jealousy and that there are times when you have to let a friend "go" because the relationship is just not working out. As I mention above Julie talks about how friendships are hard work, especially when of the friends moves and you are no longer in close proximity. My best friend moved to Maryland a little bit over a year ago. Of course we don't see each other as much. It makes me sad to say that we don't talk as much either. I need to take into account though that she has a baby and he takes up a lot of her time.  I probably knew deep down inside, but after reading this book, I fully realize that I have to step up to the plate and pick up the phone more, email more, and made definite plans to visit her. Friendships are like flowers....they are only beautiful if you tend to them. 

One of my favorite parts of the book is where Julie shares her take on social media (specifically Twitter and Facebook) and how through these platforms she has met such wonderful people. Just like me in the beginning, she was skeptical to join Facebook. Why does someone need to join an online group to meet friends? But then if you remember correctly, everyone was doing it and everyone was telling everyone else that you have to join. It turns out that Julie has met many wonderful people through Facebook and Twittter. It's a vast, never ending space, where you can meet SO many people who have the same interests as you do. I enjoyed reading about the times she met some of her online friends in person. I can definitely relate as I remember it being such a great feeling when I met some book related Twitter friends at Book Expo this past June.

Friendkeeping is an irresistible, honest and hilarious read. If you adore your friends and your friendships are vital parts of your existence, then this is a a book that must go on your list. It's also a great gift to pick up for the upcoming holidays. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Julie Klam's next.

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

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Books of the Week - November 26th

Thanks for checking out Books of the Week! There are nine 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.

Enchanted by Starlight
By Tina L. Hook

Be careful what you wish for...Grace, Skylar and Alina are connected by destiny when an enchanted comet crosses the night sky. As their most secret ambitions ignite, their ordinary lives take a magical detour down a powerful but dangerous path. Grace, emerging from her dejected childhood, develops the power to make men fall in love with her. Skylar leaves her impoverished past behind and pursues the social status she has always longed for. Without dreams of her own, Alina covets the power to unravel other lives and seeks revenge. As they crash into and slip away from each other in a cycle of envy, deception and love lost, these three women are forced to look deeper into their own hearts for the true meaning of enchantment.

Enchanted by Starlight is $0.99 for Kindle.

Tina L. Hook can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Twelve Months
By Steven Manchester

Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full. A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, Twelve Months is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit.

Steven Manchester can be found on Facebook.

Guest Book Review: The Paternity Test

By Leonel Escota

While watching Election night coverage, a statement by ABC Political Commentator Matthew Dowd stuck with me. He said that one of the reasons the Republican Party was not triumphant during the last elections was because “they had Mad Men policies in a Modern Family world.” (He is of course referring to two of the most popular shows on the air) Politics aside, I think it is realistic to say that today’s families are more varied. Gone are the days when there is just one kind - nowadays they come in all kinds, colors, and permutations.

Pat is a textbook writer and his partner, Stu is a pilot. They have just moved from New York City to Pat’s childhood home in Cape Cod. It’s a perfect reboot for their relationship, which had gotten kind of rocky. And then they decide to have a child. And how? By looking for a surrogate mom to carry their baby. They place an ad on a website, and after a search, find a woman: Deborah, originally from Brasil, and with Jewish roots, something that is very important to Stu. It is also important that Stu become the biological father, as a way to continue their Jewish heritage. Deborah is married to Danny, and they have a child of their own, Paula. She agrees to have a baby with Pat and Stu because she wants to share her ability to become a mother with people. We see later on that there is more than meets the eye with these four people. There is so many more layers to the outline of this story.

This could have been a cute having-a-baby lighthearted story, and it would have been fine if it was, but The Paternity Test is much more than that. It is internal, told from Pat’s point of view, and becomes a serious personal tale. Lowenthal has a fine grasp of dialogue and details that makes these two couples three dimensional. These are all flawed characters and the flaws make their navigation with each others' emotions so real and touching. I love the little details he gives his characters. One that made me a smile is when Pat catches Stu putting just-used plates at the bottom of the pile. He asks him why he did that, and Stu answers that he imagines these plates having emotions, and he feels that the unused ones may feel hurt that they are not getting attention. I used to think the same way about my old CDs. I used to play all of them randomly sometimes because I used to think the unplayed ones would feel neglected.

Lowenthal has a gentle gift of surprise. Just when you think the story is turning one way, he will throw you a curve ball that changes the direction of the story. He does this several times so that you will feel emotionally invested in these characters, and the last quarter of the book, particularly, is such a page-turner. It is one of those books where you dread turning the page because you care so much about the characters and you become petrified to see the consequences of their actions. You think you would be taking one person’s side, but then you realize that hey, this one has has a point as well, or this one makes sense, too.

If anything, this book asks questions that really have no answers. What makes a parent? Is wanting to have a family enough of a reason to have one? Does a community define how a person should parent? Like all the variations of families, the answers to these questions differ. This story will make you think, it will make you reflect. There is no better testament to a great book.

Thanks to BookSparks PR for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Leonel Escota is a former New Yorker now living in Sin City. You can read his blog, which is all about entertainment (music, books, movies, theater, etc.)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book Review: Coming Up For Air

By Cindy Roesel

COMING UP FOR AIR is the eighth novel by Patti Callahan Henry. It’s the story of a daughter’s hope for a new future while exploring her mother’s secret past. It’s told in the familiar style of deep Southern Women fiction novelists that will remind readers of Anne Rivers Siddons and Mary Kay Andrews.

Forty-something Ellie Calvin’s life changes when her controlling mother unexpectedly passes away. It gives her pause to closely look at her life and the growing distance in her marriage to husband, Rusty and she realizes their relationship is dying. It’s at this time her ex-boyfriend from high-school Hutch resurfaces who had secretly been working with her mother on a documentary for the Atlanta History Center and now needs Ellie’s help. He’d unknowingly been working with her mother on the project to celebrate Atlanta’s Women of the year during the 1960s. They are shocked to discover a secret diary that reveals her mother’s involvement with the civil rights movement.

Ellie surprises the controlling and manipulative men, including her husband and father who expect her to be at their beck and call while she’s working to sort out her grief and other emotions by leaving Atlanta. For the first time in her life, Ellie decides to take time for herself and isn’t completely happy with what she finds. She leaves her home in Atlanta for the house of her mother’s best friend, Miss Birdie on the coast of Alabama which is known to reveal mysteries and change lives. The more she delves into her mother’s secret past, she discovers a life that is surprisingly like her own.

COMING UP FOR AIR is a beautiful story. Patti Callahan Henry uses her gift as a writer to manipulate words so her main character, Ellie Calvin may also, as a painter, take broad strokes as an artist in order to capture the tranquility of the landscape. Grab a cup of tea or coffee, a few yummy cookies and settle into your favorite comfy chair for a nice relaxing read. Patti Callahan Henry has written just the novel for you.

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

More by Patti Callahan Henry:

Friday, November 23, 2012

What's In The Mail

Melissa A.:

Atomic Summer by Elaine D Walsh (e-book free on Amazon at the time of purchase)

Picture Perfect by Lucie Simone (e-book free on Amazon at the time of purchase)

Totlandia, The Onesies: Book 2 by Josie Brown from Coliloquy


The Middlesteins by Jami Attenburg from Reading with Robin


The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out by/from Jen Tucker

All the Lonely People by/from Jess Riley

Thin Is The New Happy by Valerie Frankel from St. Martin's Press


How We Met by Katy Regan from HarperCollins UK


The Big Bang by Linda Joffee Hull from Tyrus Books

Girls No More by Caryl Rivers from Diversion Books

Book Review: Death is a Relative Thing

By Gail Allison

April Serao is living in infamy. Her husband Sal died six years ago while having sex with her, and now she’s raising three teenaged boys alone. Needless to say, her love life has pretty much all but dried up as she’s become her own urban legend. Men see her and run the other way! April’s mother decides that the two of them are going to see a world-famous psychic together, and he ends up knowing a lot more about April than she’d like to admit. After her reading is over, Sal decides that he’s going to stick around. He needs to right some wrongs down on earth before he can earn his halo in Heaven, and he needs April’s help to do it. In the meantime, Sal is determined to weigh in on April’s blossoming relationship with Jack (a colleague from out of town) and help her through some sticky situations.

This book was part paranormal, part romance, part mystery, and all fun. A quick read, Death is a Relative Thing was super easy to pick up and put down, but the story line definitely kept me hooked. Ms. Patrone’s writing style is very similar to Janet Evanovich. Much like Stephanie Plum, April’s speech is peppered with humor and sarcasm, and she’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind. She is a strong character, who has proven to the world that she can make it on her own, and now she’s ready to have a relationship on her terms. Unfortunately, Sal keeps getting in the way, but that certainly adds to the hilarity.

I do wish Ms. Patrone had written the character of Sal (the dead husband) to be a bit more likeable. He comes across as brash and overbearing, and he never wastes an opportunity to trash-talk April’s new boyfriend, which I found quite irritating. For someone looking for the kind of help that he’s looking for from April, he doesn’t seem very grateful to her for putting her life on hold to assist him in his quest for a halo. I kept thinking to myself if I were April, I’d be tempted to tell Sal where to go and how to get there, with the attitude he keeps bringing to the table.

That being said, if you can get past the “dead husband coming back to Earth to complete tasks to earn his halo” paranormal piece of this novel, you will probably enjoy it. It’s a fun ride, watching romances develop (yup, there’s more than one), and learning about April’s motley crew of friends. All of the characters (not just April’s) are very well developed, to the point that you can anticipate their responses in the witty repartee throughout this book. You really feel like you’re a part of a big, boisterous Italian family when you’re in the middle of this book, and I think that’s why this novel works so well. Ms. Patrone will wrap you in a blanket of family, friends, and fun, and if she has any more April Serao books in the works, I would definitely be interested.

You might also enjoy:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Winners of "Sad Desk Salad"

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

Congrats to:
69-Linda Kish
83-Jeryl M
95-Krystal Lynn

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 answering one of our title themed questions. Such a fun variety of answers.
Thanks to Jessica for chatting with us and HarperCollins for sharing the book with our winners.

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

Josie Brown "kicks" off Thanksgiving, plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

For some reason, I want to put the word "Downtown" before Josie Brown's name. Maybe this has to do with Downtown Julie Brown on MTV back in the 80s. Saying "Downtown Josie Brown" has a similar feel. Or maybe it's because I associate a downtown area of a city with sophistication and coolness (this association comes from the times my parents would take my sister and me to downtown Chicago when we were kids). Josie possesses these qualities, both in personality and the way she writes. Her writing style is smooth and she focuses on modern topics, even incorporating pop culture. I've enjoyed the books I've read of hers and her latest series, Totlandia, is no exception! I just finished and enjoyed book one (see review) and will be reviewing  book two sometime in the coming weeks.

Besides the Totlandia novel series, Josie is also the author of The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook series. Her novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, will soon be a dramatic series on NBC-TV, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. This is Josie's THIRD visit to Chick Lit Central and we'll gladly have her back many more times! She's such a delight! Today, she's here to tell us her secret tricks to enjoying Thanksgiving (or even the winter holiday) food even more!

You can find Josie on Facebook and Twitter, as well as her website and blog! Visit her websites for Totlandia and The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, as well. (When does she sleep?!?)

Thanks to Coliloquy, we have TWO e-books of Totlandia (book two). And that's not honor of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook breaking the top 100 on Amazon (in the romantic suspense category), Josie is giving away THREE e-books of that, as well! Better yet...both giveaways are open WORLDWIDE! In the meantime, Totlandia book one is FREE for Kindle (today only)!

The Best Thanksgiving Recipes All Have Dirty Little Secrets

We all have our dirty little secrets.

You’ll find a lot of them in my new novel series, Totlandia.

The books, which detail the shenanigans of an exclusive moms-and-tots club based in the posh San Francisco neighborhood of Pacific Heights, are filled with the same joy, angst, and insights we’ve all gained on our journeys as parents.

As with all my books, the Totlandia series is about the family dynamic. Or maybe I as I call it “the family dynamite,” since our most explosive events and memories usually occur in the presence of those we love most: our parents or our children; our spouses or significant others.

That said, it’s no wonder I’ve set the key turning points in Totlandia on the dates we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts: anniversaries, birthdays—

And of course, holidays.

As we all know, holidays are important times for both parents and children. These days and events are when our children are exposed to our traditions. They look forward to seeing the relatives who love and dote on them. They anticipate our excitement about them, even if they don’t yet realize that our fun comes from seeing these experiences through their eyes.

My own favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. In the Totlandia series, this day takes place in Book 2, Winter. Besides having my four heroines, their tots, and their husbands break bread together, secrets will be divulged, promises will be made and broken, an affair will exposed—

Oh, and the turkey gets defrosted, just in time.

Just like at your house at Thanksgiving, am I right?

Okay, now it’s time for my own dirty little secret:

I only cook one meal a year, and it’s on Thanksgiving.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “No wonder she likes it so much!”

You betcha.

But let me make this clear: this doesn’t mean I’m starving my family to death, or taking them out to eat all the time. It just means my husband is a much better cook than I am.
(Emphasis on the much. And the better. And the cook.)

Besides, I find that my family appreciates me more because it’s such a special occasion (my cooking, not Thanksgiving, per se). Truth be told, they welcome it! In fact, when I’ve suggested I pick up their birthday meals, too, but they quickly say, “Mom, relax! You do too much already. You know, the manis, the pedis, the spa days…”

I love my kids. They know me so well.

The greatest thing about making just one meal a year is that you’ve got 364 days to plan it, to hone the perfect menu, and to put create the best dishes ever.

And since the Melissas have asked me to be your Thanksgiving go-to gal, I will now divulge my one fail-proof recipe tip. It goes across the board, what dish is involved:

Add liquor.

Let me give you some great examples:

For your turkey: Inject it with vodka. Talk about tender!

For your sweet potatoes: a half-cup of Triple Sec will add a citrus zing!

For your walnut or pecan pie: add four cubes of seventy percent (or more) dark chocolate, and a half cup of Bailey’s. Yummy!

For your pumpkin pie: add a half-cup of Amaretto liquor!

Now, enjoy! Oh and remember: don’t eat and drive.

Thanks to Josie for the fun holiday post and for sharing The Housewife Assassin's Handbook with our readers. Thanks to Coliloquy for sharing Totlandia with our readers, as well!

How to win Totlandia (book two) OR The Housewife Assassin's Handbook:

Tell us a secret trick you have for making Thanksgiving or winter holiday food more interesting and exciting. (One entry per person.) Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.

Giveaway ends November 27th at midnight EST.

Book Review: Totlandia (The Onesies, Book One)

By Melissa Amster

As many of you may know already, I am a mother of three children ages seven and under. So I flock to mom-lit whenever possible. When I found out that Josie Brown was coming out with a new series about motherhood, my ears immediately perked up. Not only is Josie a fantastic writer, but she's also choosing a subject of interest to me. The best part is, with the story being set into four parts, the books are "bite-size" and easy to read in a short period of time between chasing a toddler and trying to keep my older two from ripping each other's hair out.

The Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club is the most exclusive children’s playgroup in all of San Francisco. For the city’s ultra-competitive elite, the club’s ten annual spots are the ultimate parenting prize.

But not everyone is PHM&TC material. The club’s founder, Bettina Connaught Cross, adheres to strict membership rules: Moms only. No single parents or working mothers allowed. Membership is an arduous commitment. And there’s no room in the club for scandal, bad behavior, or imperfection…from tots or their moms.

In a world of power and prestige, no one has more than Bettina. And as every mom in Pacific Heights knows, you simply cannot cross her. But this year’s admissions process is more rigorous than ever, pitting prospective members against each other to prove their mettle.

But four of the six candidates vying for the remaining four slots have a secret that would knock them out of the running. Can these hopeful moms keep up appearances long enough to outlast the competition? Or will their chances—and their private lives—go up in flames?

Friendship. Lies. Seduction. Betrayal. Welcome to Totlandia.
(Shortened synopsis, courtesy of Amazon.)

Totlandia: The Onesies (book one) starts out with a bang....or at least a struggle over a diaper between an adult and a young child, no less! (A bratty one, at that!) Gradually, we are introduced to all the major players in the story:

Lorna is the mother of Dante, the new favorite grandchild of her mother-in-law. Her sister-in-law, Bettina, runs the PHM&TC and is like the evil sorority sister you never want to come up against. (The club really is like a sorority where both the mothers and their children are being judged over every action.)

Jillian, Ally, and Jade (and her ex-husband, Brady) are in the same boat as Lorna, fighting for a spot in the exclusive club, but becoming friends at the same time. However, they all have secrets they hope will not come out or their chances at membership will be ruined. I don't want to spoil all the interesting surprises in store and book one is short enough that you find out each of their secrets by the end.

Josie Brown writes Totlandia with her usual storytelling flair. The dialogue is smooth and flowing. The characters are easy to side with or become angry with, depending on each situation. The scenery is easy to visualize. And we musn't forget all the sex (blushworthy, at that) and scandal that is a staple of a true Josie Brown novel. Totlandia: The Onesies (book one) kept me entertained and on my toes the entire time. It showed that there are mothers who are human and sometimes screw up even with the best intentions at hand. Lorna, Jillian and Ally are very easy to sympathize with. I'm still warming up to Jade. And I'm dying to know who Madame Ovary is. There's only one decision a character makes that I don't agree with so far, but I hope it gets resolved in book two. All in all, it's like a soap opera for mommies. Guilty pleasure, anyone?!? I look forward to reading book two next and will share my thoughts on that one, as well!

Thanks to Coliloquy for the e-book in exchange for an honest review. BOOK ONE is currently FREE for Kindle, but only for today! We'll be giving away e-books of BOOK TWO when Josie visits CLC.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book Review: Because You Have To: A Writing Life

By Jami Deise

November is National Novel Writing Month, during which participating writers are supposed to start and finish a 50,000 word novel. I’m participating – although I’m nowhere near on track for the 50,000 words – and so are several writers, both published and yet-to-be-published, that I’ve met on the Internet. So it’s fitting that during November I read for review Joan Frank’s Because You Have To: A Writing Life.

I’d never heard of Joan Frank before I was offered the opportunity to read her book. According to the blurb on the back cover, Frank writes literary fiction in both short story and novel length. She has published two story collections and three novels in addition to Because You Have To....

Because You Have To... is a tough read. Not because the writing is rough or uneven – on the contrary, Frank is a polished, emotive writer – but because she lays bare to the lie that all it takes is one success for a life to be successful. Instead, Frank vividly illustrates through stories from her own life that a breakthrough has a limited shelf life, that it does not guarantee a career, or even change one’s life.

The book is broken into sections of essays, and while some touch on the craft of writing, most are about how hard it is to write when the headwinds are blowing so hard. Frank takes a series of mindless 9-to-5 jobs so she can “write on the margins,” stealing time at lunch, on the bus, during a lull at the office to scribble down her daily pages. She struggles to publish her first story collection, and when she finally does, nothing changes. She writes her next stories in much the same fashion, and then a novel, which she also struggles to publish. And nothing changes.

For writers, the ultimate brass ring is publication by a major New York house, which leads to placement on the New York Times bestseller list. The smaller, but still acceptable rings are publication from any house, and sales decent enough to lock in a contract for the next few works. Never in these fantasies do we imagine that publication of one book doesn’t easily lead to the next.
As a writer myself, it was excruciating to read how hard Frank worked and continues to work. She wrote through a difficult childhood and while barely supporting herself. Married to another writer, she and her husband still hope that the month runs out before the money does.

Although Frank does devote essays to specific writing topics, including rejection, protecting ideas, and social networking, her own personal roadblocks make up the bulk of the collection. I finished the book wondering whether it was worth it. Certainly, there’s nothing in any of Frank’s essays – even her most disheartening – that suggest she ever seriously considering chucking the writing life for something more financially stable.

However, it made me wonder whether it was worth it for me. Frank has already published five works; I’ve published nothing, despite 12 years of writing in various media. Has it been worth it? Is it worth it to finally publish, only to find oneself in the same spot with the next piece of writing? Why do I keep trying in the face of so much rejection?

The answer, of course, is right there in the title. Frank knew exactly what she was doing when she called these essays Because You Have To...

Thanks to University of Notre Dame Press for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Joan Frank:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Books of the Week - November 19th

Thanks for checking out Books of the Week! There are nine 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.

Full Measure
By Kat Lee

Three women strike up an unlikely friendship, drawn together over a love of books, and end up forming bonds that move well beyond what any of them ever imagined possible. The Desperate Measures Trilogy serves up laughter, romance, cookies, tea - and a whole lot of love.

Aimee: A housewife left in the dust by her philandering husband, with an outdated high school education but a serious talent when it comes to confections...

Elizabeth: An accountant tired of crunching numbers for hundreds of clients with more money than they know what to do with...

Kiki: An exotic dancer who wants nothing more than to get out of the game...

Kat Lee can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
The Reunion
By Elizabeth Aloe

It’s been over a decade since 32 year-old Charlotte Campbell met Trevor Sheldon as a college freshman in San Luis Obispo. After bonding over alternative music, journalism courses, and kisses as DJs for the campus radio station, Charlotte fell deeply in love. Things were perfect until that traumatic night at the station that smashed their budding relationship to pieces. Charlotte never expected she would speak to Trevor again, let alone fifteen years later at a job interview in San Francisco. What's a girl to do when old feelings escape the vault in her heart and rush up to threaten everything she thought she wanted? Suddenly, Charlotte is forced to re-examine her choices and figure out exactly where she wants her life to take her.
Trevor Sheldon fell in love with Charlotte the moment he first laid eyes on her in the studio. As her mentor at KCPR, he was the one who taught her to be a DJ and how to navigate her first quarter of college. It came as no surprise when she taught him how to love someone for the very first time. After she broke up with him and cut him out of her life, Trevor was devastated. Now, she's back and his life is turned upside down. He still loves her but she's off limits. How can Trevor possibly get over Charlotte when he never quite got over her the first time.  As the KCPR reunion approaches, both Charlotte and Trevor must come to terms with their past and figure out where to take their future. Are they still in love with each other or is it just an open door they both need to close forever?

Elizabeth Aloe can be found on Facebook and Twitter.