Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winners of "For Internal Use Only" and "A Hundred Summers"

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry (from only the entries with contact info; one per person for A Hundred Summers) and asked random.org to choose FOUR numbers (two for each book)

Congrats to:

Winners of For Internal Use Only:

12 - Allie Smith
86-Suzy M (SuzyQ4PR)



Winners of A Hundred Summers:

9 - Jessica (walkingcorpse11)
33 - Hailey (fishiegirl22)



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 talking about what you don't leave home without and/or who your favorite Oscar nominees were.

Thanks to Cari Kamm for visiting with us and sharing her book with our winners. Thanks to Penguin for sharing A Hundred Summers with our winners.


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

Ella Griffin sells us on her writing...plus a book giveaway

Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

**Giveaway is now closed**

In 1997, I spent four whirlwind days in the southern half of Ireland.  (Truly not enough time!)  The visit was only supposed to last three days, however on our way to the boat that was going to take us to England, our rental car got a flat.  "Too bad" my traveling companion and I said with grins on our faces. "Looks like we'll have to spend another day here." This all took place during spring break my junior year in college.

I bring this up because today's guest, Irish author Ella Griffin joins us to talk about writing and her new book, The Heart Whisperer (reviewed here). Though it hasn't been until fairly recent that I learned of Ella's work, I still feel a connection to her as once upon a time, before she was a writer, she worked in Advertising - my area of study during college.  As you might imagine, once I learned this I was eager to learn more about her.

Though she loved writing ads, she still had a desire to write books.  It was eventually her husband who gave her the confidence to follow her dreams of becoming a writer.

Before I turn this post over to Ella, I want to share her philosophy, which is part of her good reads author page information:

My philosophy is inspired by the parking machine in Dundrum shopping centre. 'Change Is Possible'. 

Not only do I appreciate this philosophy from the view point of a former aspiring advertising person, but always from the point of view of a dreamer.

Thanks to Orion Books, we have FIVE copies of The Heart Whisperer for some lucky readers anywhere in the world.
You can find Ella at her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

What types of things inspire your creative process?
It can be anything. A stranger’s profile. A snippet of conversation. A half heard song. I usually get inspired when I’m doing other things. Swimming, walking, driving. It’s maddening! Sometimes, I have to pull off the motorway and put on my hazards so I can jot them down in my phone.

Even when I was very small, I had a compulsion to describe everything around me - I see the world through a sort of perpetual waterfall of words. When I think of the right one it feels like slotting a the right piece into a jigsaw. I am addicted to that feeling.

Great books and films inspires me but nothing is as thrilling as watching two people talk and wondering about their lives, their love affairs, their families.

The inspiration for The Heart Whisperer came from a picture I saw on Facebook – a friend’s friend’s girlfriend. This girl had a tangle of coppery hair and freckles and a contagious, face-splitting grin but there was something about her eyes - something hurt and hidden.

I knew I’d never find out what it was so I had to make it up. I took her face and gave her a dark history. A beautiful, successful mother who had died when she was only six in an accident that was her fault.


In what ways is advertising writing similar to writing a novel? In what ways is it different?
Writing ads is fun. It’s exciting and exhilarating but it’s all over so quickly. The ideas come in a rush. You can make someone laugh with an ad. You can charm them. And sometimes you can touch them but it’s only for a moment or two.

Writing a book is a long, slow burn. You have to create a whole world and there are times when you wonder if it’s ever going to come together. But a novel gives you a chance to really move someone.

I had a tweet from someone who’d read Postcards from the Heart last week. One of my characters gets cancer and this woman was a cancer survivor. She wrote to say how much she related to the story. That was huge for me.

Which do you prefer to use to write - a word processing program or pen and paper? Why is this one your preference?
My handwriting is appalling. I have what I call my ‘postcard writing’ and if I write longhand I start with that but, after a page or two, it all degenerates into a scrawl.

For my first book I used ‘Word’ and I had a massive box filled with pages of character backstory. I threw it out at Christmas. It think it weighed slightly more than Victoria Beckham.

But I wrote The Heart Whisperer using an amazing programme called ‘Scriverner’. I’m addicted to it now. It’s intuitive and fluid and it has a fabulous interactive corkboard function.

I spend a lot of time pushing virtual cards around that board, trying to get the tension in the plot just right or fiddling with the balance between humour and sadness.

I couldn’t live without it.

What was your greatest apprehension about attempting to write a novel?
I had a whole wardrobe of colour coded apprehensions. I wheeled a different one out for every stage!

I was afraid that I’d never finish it. When I did finish it, I was afraid that nobody would read it. When it was published, I was afraid that everybody I knew would read it and hate it.

I’m good at apprehensions!

Do you consider yourself a celebrity? Why or why not?
God no! For obvious reasons. I’m not one.

Have you ever been approached by a fan when you were just out and about during a normal day? If so, tell us about that experience. If not, what do you think it might be like if you were?
I was in a book shop a few weeks ago and a girl in her twenties came over and asked me to sign The Heart Whisperer. She was very excited. But sadly, she was not as excited as I was!

Describe where you live in one sentence:
I live between the Wicklow mountains and the Irish sea with an English man and a Scottish deerhound.

Special thanks to Ella Griffin for visiting with us and Orion for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win The Heart Whisperer:
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: Do you consider authors to be celebrities?
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.


Giveaway ends March 6th at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: The Heart Whisperer

By Miriam Plotinsky

Adults tend to know that children, as a coping mechanism, find ways to explain the world that are far from accurate when they don’t understand what’s happened. However, people don’t always realize that children can carry these mistaken impressions into maturity if nobody bothers to correct them. Ella Griffin’s The Heart Whisperer shares the stories of siblings Claire and Nick, who have never recovered from their mother’s drowning accident twenty-seven years before. Full of emotion, tragedy, and occasional doses of humor, the book is a compelling tale that gradually reveals itself, bit by bit, as the mystery around a woman’s death comes to light.

Claire, once a successful actress, has all but given up on her career and settles on working as an extra to pay the bills. She spends most of her time with her best friend, Ray Devine, who shares Claire’s ambivalence for life. Years before, Ray’s band was famous, but he is now resigned to writing jingles and leads a life of general hedonism and debauchery. Together, their dysfunction is at its peak, but Claire decides on her thirty-third birthday that she can no longer go on living so carelessly. She gives herself a year to turn things around, but her biggest demon, namely her mother, keeps haunting Claire. Claire blames herself for her mother’s drowning even though she was only six when the incident occurred, and her child’s perspective also clouded her clarity surrounding the event.

In the meantime, her brother Nick is trying to escape his past. In the aftermath of his mother’s death and his father’s sudden withdrawal from life, Nick had to take care of Claire and became an adult very quickly. As a result, he is obsessed with getting far away from reminders of his childhood, including Claire. He marries the seemingly-perfect Kelly, an American who is both beautiful and ridiculously organized, and Nick himself is a couples coach with a burgeoning business. However, as much as Nick wants to sidestep his troubled history, he continues to stumble across obstacles that painfully remind him of just how hard his earlier years were.

With vulnerable and relatable characters, Griffin aptly draws us into the story, keeping the reader in suspense about what exactly occurred when Claire and Nick’s mother drowned until the plot has progressed significantly. Claire still has the appealing innocence of a child in many ways, which makes it easier to see her as the six year-old who watched her mother disappear into the water and never return. As for Nick, we feel his pain as he struggles with denying his roots and with the rejection of his physically present but mentally absent father.

Griffin demonstrates a truth that we all recognize: trauma incurred in childhood never fully repairs itself in adulthood. Children hold onto their hurts, and recovering from serious tragedy imposed upon them so early in life is a process that requires tremendous courage. The Heart Whisperer chronicles its characters as they learn to listen to the past and not shove it out of the way in an effort to manage deep wounds. It’s a gripping and realistic portrayal of raw human feeling.

Thanks to Orion for the book in exchange for an honest review. They're giving away some copies at Ella Griffin's interview. (Open worldwide!)

Miriam Plotinsky is an English and creative writing teacher. She lives in the DC/Metro area with her husband and three kids, who occasionally give her the time she needs to write and eat sushi.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Author Events: From the mouths of authors

Emily Giffin in Bethesda, MD, 2012
Introduction by Tracey Meyers

I attended my first book event in May, 2008.  Though enjoyable, I can't say it was the best book event experience I've ever had.  Most of the evening was great, however, when it was my turn to finally meet the author and get my book signed, I wasn't greeted with the same cheerfulness and openness others before me had been.  This behavior wasn't consistent, but I do know I wasn't the only one who got treated the same way.

Since that experience, I have had many more good experiences vs. bad ones.  Take the event I went to for Rachel Bertsche when her book, MWF Seeking BFF come out.  As you will see from this post, I had a great time!  Or, when I attended CLC's Go-To-Gay Wade Rouse's writing retreat last May.  Though not an "official" book event, I still view the experience of meeting Wade like I do a book event - there he was with a captive audience not only teaching us about staying true to our voice, but also giving us the opportunity to learn more about him and his books.

After a handful of wonderful author meetings, I got slammed in the face once again with a bad one.  It was my third bad experience with this author (what can I say, I'm an eternal optimist!), but a much needed wake-up call.  As I left the event, I got to thinking:  Am I expecting to much as an attendee?  I mean, I get that authors are meeting many, many, MANY fans, but is that a reason to nice to some and "blah" to others?  Why did one author have me smiling when I left and another made me wish I never attended the event in the first place?  That's when an idea was born!

With the help of Melissa A., I reached out to authors and readers to get their thoughts on book events - the good, the bad... and possibly the ugly.

Today, we give the authors a chance to speak about their experiences and thoughts on the topic:

"There are all kinds of author events, and some of them are wonderful, and some are not, but the one thing that helps them all be more wonderful for me personally, is turning a book signing into a reader event. How do I do this? I post on my event page, FB, or send out emails and invite my readers to join me at the event, and not just at the actual store signing, but for a coffee chat or cocktail either before or after. Why do this? I find that its really difficult to talk to readers in a store setting, so I'm hosting more and more pre or post event get-togethers where my readers and I can sit down, relax, and visit. It's my way of making every event feel like special, like a true event, and so even if the bookstore turn out is small, I always get a 'feel good' from my book signing. I always get to hang out with my readers and discover them as real people, and vice versa, because I don't like selling a book to women. I like building relationships with them. Creating a community. It connects me back to others, something that's important for me as a writer and a woman.
- Jane Porter

"I love doing events. Writing is such a solitary profession, getting out and meeting readers, discovering how my books have impacted them, makes me happier than anything else - it is truly the most validating part of the job."
- Jane Green

"Author events are a great but often humbling experience. It's so nice to connect with readers and potential readers. On the other hand, you're (at I) am always worried that no one is going to show up! Then I feel bad for me, but also for the bookseller who put effort into your appearance. Another challenge, particularly if you are doing a presentation rather than just a signing, is "performing". I'm not sure why, but I always feel like I need to be a stand-up comedian at these events. That simply reading from my work is not sufficient. And sometimes that works (people laugh!) and sometimes it doesn't (stoney silence). Every audience is different, but it's hard to tailor your material (not being a professional stand-up comedian). I talk for a living in my day job (I'm a lawyer), but it's always different when you're talking about yourself and your work."
- Catherine McKenzie


Jennifer Weiner in Washington, DC, 2012


"Events are some of the best times an author can have. They can also be the worst. Lucky for us, the ones that are the worst are almost never the fault of the attendees. Badly organized events can send us into a tailspin, but it is our readers that pull us back up.

A few things that attendees can do to make things easier on us...know that we want to meet everyone. That means that we really need you to be respectful of everyone's time. A book signing is not the place for telling us your life story, your idea for a book, or that hilarious thing that happened to you that one time. We want everyone to have their moment, so please be aware of the other people around you. We are usually happy to take pics. Please be prepared with whomever is snapping the shot, and please limit it to one...this is not a photo shoot, and while we want you to have your memories, ten takes to make sure your chin doesn't look funny or just handing your phone to the stranger in line behind you who has no idea how to work it is a little annoying.

It is so sweet of you to bring us gifts, but please be aware that it is very unlikely that we will actually eat anything home-cooked handed to us by a stranger. It is just the state of the world we live in, and between allergies and food restrictions etc. please know that we so appreciate the effort, but we just can't really take risks.

Most importantly, what you can do is come and bring friends. For every event we have that is standing room only, we have one that is just us, four family members, and one random person in the bookstore who just wanted to sit down. We all are nervous about attendance at every event, so please please come whenever you can, because you are the reason for our life's work and nothing makes us happier than an opportunity to tell you so in person.
- Stacey Ballis


"I went to a book signing recently where four authors read for 20-30 minutes each. Oh. My. God. I hope I didn't snore or drool.

Authors are not necessarily social people (we sit in empty rooms in front of a computer in complete solitude for hours on end), so book signings can be excruciating for us. Many authors simply read because they don't know what else to do. But that's not a good idea - people don't like being read to. I know I don't. Read a little so your audience gets a feel for your style and your voice, but no more than five or six minutes or they will be yawning and eyeing the exit.

Instead, tell a personal story. Give them a glimpse as to who you are and what inspired you to write the story. People will buy your book if they like you. 

And unless you're J.K. Rowling, don't be disappointed if your audience is small. If you touch one person you've been successful"
- Samantha Hoffman


I find book signings to be one of the most rewarding parts about being an author. Most authors spend the majority of their time at their laptops - writing their manuscripts and partaking in social media. Online promotion is wonderful - you have the whole world at your fingertips - but author events allow you to meet your readers and just as importantly meet booksellers.

"I enjoyed my events for MONARCH BEACH and will be returning to the same bookstores for the release of MARKET STREET. I feel the booksellers are a little invested in my books and it will be great to see them. Doing author events is like growing the circle of people that care about your book and it is a privilege to be invited to do them.
 - Anita Hughes


Jodi Picoult in Washington, DC (same place as Jennifer Weiner), 2012

"I don't do a lot of author events any more since I'm publishing most of my work digitally. But one of the reasons I don't make a huge effort to do it regardless is because doing public appearances were expensive and didn't yield enough results in sales to make it worthwhile anyhow. It made far more sense to spend that time working on writing rather than on promoting. Which is a constant internal debate with which authors contend: time promoting versus time writing (or being with family even!). It's very hard to calibrate how well promotions affect sales, and when I was doing promo with books from New York houses, it really seemed so infinitesimally small that it just was hard to justify--i.e. you're spending more on travel expenses to do appearances than you are in actual number of books sold. Of course it's even harder to quantify how word of mouth can potentially spread by doing appearances, but honestly, I've been doing this long enough now that I truly believe much of the word of mouth that is generated by books is generated by buzz from within a publishing house when they decide to pull out all the stops to promote a book. In that case (and if they're paying, which is so rare), it can be worth it to take the time to promote like that.

But take for instance, my first novel, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, which came out in mass market paperback. Because it won the American Title contest, I was stuck with the lousy royalty rate that Dorchester was willing to offer, which I think ended up being about 25 cents/book. Now, imagine how much money you'll be earning when you go to a book signing at Barnes and Noble and sell 30 books (and that is a GOOD night). Not enough for a cup of coffee. And you won't see that from your publisher for a LONG time (in my case never! since they went bankrupt, owing many of us lots of money we'll never see). I say all this, but it's lovely to be at an author event and find readers who love your book and really enjoy reading what you write. Though truly, it's easier to find them online these days...
- Jenny Gardiner


 "The Bloggess" -  Jenny Lawson
(Chicago, IL, 2012)

When all said and done, I do enjoy book events.  Not only have I gotten a chance to meet a variety of interesting authors and hear them speak in-depth about their books, but also to chat with a variety of people while waiting for the events to begin.  (I truly love how they bring together people from all corners of a given area.)

Reading what the above authors had to say about book events truly sheds a new light on these events for me and gives me a new respect for what authors do.

Stay tuned next week for the second part of this look at author events.  We'll be getting feedback from fans who will be sharing their book event experiences -the good, bad ... and, of course, possibly ugly.

Book Review: Saving Each Other

By Cindy Roesel

A mother is told her 14 year-old daughter has only four, maybe six years to live because she has become inflicted with a mysterious disease. What does that mother do? If she’s Victoria Jackson, “Goodwill Ambassador” for billion-dollar Infomercial make-up Giant, Guthy-Renker she takes on the medical establishment. In addition, Victoria Jackson uses her business savvy to set up a Charitable Foundation to focus much needed medical attention and research on this little known disease called Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disease (NMO) which is known for causing blindness, life-threatening seizures and fatal auto-immune paralysis.

SAVING EACH OTHER is a love story between mother, Victoria Jackson and daughter, Ali Guthy. Early on when symptoms begins to surface, NMO masks itself as a form of MS which throws doctors off, but with Victoria positioned as “The Finder” and husband, Bill Guthy, “The Funder” no stone will be left unturned to find a cure for Ali's disease.

Early on in the process, Ali makes a decision to “be kept in the dark,” not to know anything about her disease, including the name. All she’s aware of is the fact she has to take steroids and faces very painful occasional episodes. Ali and her father are very close and he’s the introvert of the family. Then there’s her mom who pretends “everything is okay” with her make-up face on. In many ways, she’s carrying the weight of the family.

SAVING EACH OTHER alternates between Victoria’s and Ali’s viewpoints. It keeps the narrative moving along and the reader’s attention. It’s interesting to find out whether Ali thinks “ignorance is bliss,” or perhaps “knowledge is power” in the end.

For more information about NMO or to join in the fight against this rare disease. Find out how at Guthy Jackson Charitable Foundation's website.

Thanks to FSB Associates for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why can't we be Allie Larkin?!? Plus, a book giveaway...

***Giveaway is now closed***

Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

I always have a fondness for Allie Larkin. After all she was my first interview ever at CLC. Then we got to chat again for International Chick Lit Month last year, when she talked about the music behind her previous novel, Stay. Today, she's here to celebrate the publication of her second novel (of what I hope will be many, many more), Why Can't I Be You (reviewed here).

Aside from being a wonderful writer, she's also an Eco-Geek. Naturally (or nature-ally, in this case), she loves hiking, camping, and all things outdoors. She lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, a German Shepherd named Stella (sadly, Argo passed away in December), and a three-legged cat.

Sit down with a cup of Joe (since Joe is the name of the dog in Stay, that works even better here) and find out some background behind her latest novel, what's on her playlist, and the movie she'd choose for the best picture Oscar. Then enter to win Why Can't I Be You, as Penguin has FIVE copies to share with some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

You can find Allie at her website, blog, Facebook and Twitter. Come on by....don't be shy!

How was your experience writing Why Can't I Be You different from writing Stay?
Stay was a book I wrote in moments stolen from the rest of my life. There was no deadline. Outside of a few close friends and my writing group no one even knew the book existed until I was finally ready to start the submission process. WCIBY was my life while I was writing it. I had a deadline and I had to dive in. There are benefits to both. I have some nostalgic feelings over the idea of writing without pressure or expectations, but the pressure and the deadlines surrounding WCIBY forced me to be brave with my writing in a new way. I didn’t have time to be anything other than brave.

If Jenny (from WCIBY) and Van (from Stay) were to ever meet, do you think they'd become friends?
That’s an interesting thought. Jenny and Van have some similar struggles. They’re both trying to figure out how they fit in the world. I don’t think they’d dislike each other, but they exist so separately in my head. Even though they have the Rochester connection, I can’t picture them knowing each other. It hurts my brain when I try.

Who is your favorite of Jessie's friends and why?
I hit a wall with this book a few months into the process. I was so stuck that I actually considered giving up. And just when I’d made peace with the idea of not writing this story, a scene with Robbie and Jenny popped into my head, fully formed. I feel like Robbie almost wrote himself. I could see him clearly when everyone else was still a bit fuzzy, and his character made me fall in love with the other characters. Robbie brought so much joy to the process of writing this book.

I know I asked you to cast Stay in the past, but now I'd love to hear your casting choices for Why Can't I Be You, as it would be a great movie!
Thank you! I always try to avoid revealing my casting choices. Maybe you’ll picture yourself in Jenny’s shoes, and maybe Heather reminds you of the girl who sat in front of you in homeroom. That’s one of the best parts of reading, and this early in the life of the book I don’t want to squelch that process. Your vision of Myra is just as important as my vision of Myra.

You live in Rochester like Jenny does, but you sent her to Seattle. What meaning does Seattle have in your life?
One of my dearest friends lives in Seattle, and I visit whenever I have the chance. Her love of the city is so inspiring. She takes me on great hikes and knows all the best little shops. When I toured for STAY, I did an event at Third Place Books. My husband came along and we tacked on a little extra time to go exploring. We went kayaking on Lake Union, walked the beach at Carkeek Park, hiked in Snoqualmie Pass, and even spent a few nights at Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls. I love the landscape and the spirit of the area, and it felt like the right fit for the story. I’m going back to Third Place for an event in March, and I’m so excited about it.

Did you agree with the choices for Best Picture Oscar nominees this year? If not, which movie do you think should have been nominated instead? (And which one(s) shouldn't have been nominated at all?).
I am a huge fan of Matthew Quick, so, of course, I think Silver Linings Playbook should win all the awards.

In Why Can't I Be You, music is focused on a lot. What is the latest must-have song on your playlist?
Right now I can’t get "Landlocked" by Chris Pureka out of my head, and I’m not complaining in the least. It’s a beautiful, layered song.

Since your novel is about friendship, tell us your top three favorite things about your BFF.
She’s truly a good person who always strives to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easiest thing. She’s fiercely smart and gives excellent advice. She’s the funniest person I know, and her perspective makes my life brighter.

Thanks to Allie for chatting with us and to Penguin for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win Why Can't I Be You:
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: Have you ever been mistaken for someone else OR mistaken someone for a person you know?
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/Canada only. Giveaway ends March 3rd at midnight EST.

Chick Lit is Not Dead is also doing a giveaway for this book. (US/Canada only. Ends Sunday.)


Book Review: Why Can't I Be You

By Melissa Amster

There have been times where someone has told me that I have a twin who lives in their hometown. Or they went to school with someone who looks exactly like me. I have yet to meet these "twins," but I always find the concept of doppelgangers intriguing. Just recently, I almost fell over in shock when I watched a video featuring a few authors and discovered that the one I've been connecting with online for the last year or so looked a LOT like me on video. I wouldn't mind being a published author like she is, but I wouldn't go as far as Jenny Shaw does in Why Can't I Be You, Allie Larkin's second novel.

Jenny Shaw is fed up with her life. She grew up as the only child of an abusive alcoholic mother, leaving her anti-social as a result. Her boyfriend dumps her right before she's about to leave for Seattle to go to a conference for a job she doesn't like so much anymore. So who could blame her when she decides to take on another woman's life? When she arrives in Seattle, a woman seems to think she's Jessie Morgan, a classmate who disappeared right after graduation. Soon everyone else in this woman's circle of friends thinks the same. Jenny finds that playing along allows her to have friends, escape her real life, and even find romance. When new information about Jessie's past rises to the surface, Jenny has to decide what kind of life she really wants for herself.

I need to first say that there was nothing I didn't like about this novel. Just like with Allie's previous novel, Stay, I was instantly drawn in and couldn't put it down. (Unless I had to because real life was beckoning.) I found Jenny to be easy to relate to, even though our lives were moving in opposite directions. I knew what it was like to not fit in when I was in high school, thus eliminating any reason to go to my class reunion. When she meets this group of people who had this tight friendship in high school and beyond, I even found myself feeling jealous of that. Allie depicts the characters so well that I feel like I'm sitting with Jenny, watching Myra, Heather, Robbie and Fish interact. I could totally see myself being friends with Myra, she seemed that real and genuine.

Not only does Allie create an interesting back story for Jenny, which explains why she makes the choices she does at this stage in the game, but she also adds a lot of intrigue about the elusive Jessie Morgan. We're trying to fill in the blanks at the same time Jenny is, all while she's trying to take on Jessie's identity. There's the feel of an "amnesia" novel, where someone loses their memory and is trying to figure out who they are. Except Jenny is totally aware that she's playing a role and she's trying to get as much information as possible in order to seem convincing. There's some information volunteering from the others that comes off as a bit forced at times, but it didn't bother me as the same thing would happen during an "amnesia" novel anyway.

The story moves at a quick pace and doesn't become dull at any point in time. It's a clever concept with which Allie took off running. Towards the end, I wasn't sure where the story would end up because I felt there was so much to tell and very little space with which to tell it. However, Allie left me ultimately satisfied with an ending that was realistic but not a downer. It was worth the (almost) three year wait since Stay came out. I highly recommend this novel and wish Allie lots of success with it.

The Hollywood geek in me just HAS to cast this novel as a movie. It would be so much fun to watch on the big screen with a group of girl friends.
Jenny: Emily Blunt
Myra: Zooey Deschanel
Robbie: Andy Samberg
Heather: Amanda Seyfried
Fish: John Krasinski

Thanks to Penguin for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. They're giving away some books at Allie's interview. (US/Canada only.)


Monday, February 25, 2013

Winner of "The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs"

To find our winner, we assigned a number to each entry (from only the entries with contact info) and asked random.org to choose one numbers. It chose 92.

Congrats to Krystal Lynn!

Here is a message from Dana Bate:
Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, and congratulations to the winner! And, of course, a million thanks to Chick Lit Central for the opportunity to connect with readers. With so many wonderful books to choose from these days, it can be hard for a debut author like me to break through, so I truly appreciate sites like CLC that allow me to link up with like-minded readers. For those who didn't win this time around, I hope you'll consider giving my book a try at some point! xoxoxo

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 the food you like from where you live/grew up.

Thanks to Dana for a lovely (and mouth-watering) chat and BookSparks PR for sharing the book with our winner.

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


Books of the Week: February 25th

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: Please see our current review policy for more information about the Books of the Week feature. We now have a Book Shelf page, and it will eventually be replacing Books of the Week.

Thank you.


The Crone Club
By. S. V. Peddle

When Cass attends a reunion of her old class-mates, she has no idea that her life is about to change forever. She only accepted the invitation in the faint hope of seeing her old best friend George again and finally discovering why she vanished so completely on the last day of school. Unfortunately, George doesn't turn up and as Cass waits in vain, she soon wishes that she'd stayed away too, especially when her other friends start boasting about all the interesting things they've done over the years. With increasing shame, Cass realises that her adult life has been a dull one; forty years of wasted talent and unhappy marriage to an abusive husband, without a single achievement, or interesting experience to talk about. Feeling insecure in the company of her old friends, she prays that no-one will ask her what happened to the old Cass, that promising musician, who left school so full of energy and ambition in the '60s.

But when Cass finds out why George disappeared so mysteriously all those years ago, it makes her angry enough to walk out on her husband and boring old life for ever, to start a challenging new life with the friends she had known in her schooldays, a time when life was still exciting and her dreams were fresh. Now reunited, Cass and her friends form themselves into the Crone Club, in which each of them pledges to recover her forgotten youthful dreams and aspirations, and then turn them into a reality. Nothing is going to stop these women having fun and not a single one of them has any intention of 'acting her age.'


The Crone Club is $2.99 for Kindle.

S. V. Peddle can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Numbers Game
By Frances Vidakovic

What’s a girl to do when she’s had twelve lovers and the love of her life has only bedded two? Serena Adams, sexy makeup artist to the stars, is certain that her life is perfect – great job, devoted man and the silent promise of a ring on her finger. So when her boyfriend Markie attempts to shatter it by leaving her due to their “numbers” issue she is determined to do anything to keep him.
No longer able to cope with Serena’s impressive sexual history (twelve one-night stands versus his two longstanding ex-lays) Markie sees splitting up as the only solution. Serena however is hell bent on not letting the Insignificant Past interfere with the All-Important Now. Hence her sure-fire plan to bring the inequality back to status quo.

Break up. Just for three months. So Markie can go off and have the ten extra quickie flings he so desires while Serena enjoys an access-all-areas pass into the pants of any two ex-lovers (if she can find them!). And so begins their three-month adventure back into the single world where the game of sex provides a very different set of rules for men and women. Once the three months is up, Serena and Markie are free to return to the loving, stable security of their long-term relationship. But will they make it back? That is the magic question..
.

The Numbers Game is $2.99 for Kindle.

Frances Vidakovic can be found on Facebook.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Out of the Mouth of Babes
By Sarah Pearce

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes takes a light-hearted peek beneath the seemingly smooth surface of Amy’s life - A housewife with a delightful nuclear family, comfortable home, pleasant daily routine, cordial circle of friends. An altogether composed existence - or so it may seem.

From the moment Amy casually mentions to best friend, Becky, that she fancies a bit of excitement in her life, trouble is inevitable. If her attempts to spice up her sex life with husband, Ben, don’t land her in enough hot water, problems just seem to snowball from there. With the unexpected arrival of several individuals from her past - some more welcome than others, the discovery of one or two secrets she’d rather not know about and the everyday trials of bringing up two young children, Amy finds herself frequently in need of a glass of wine - or three.


Out of the Mouth of Babes is $2.99 for Kindle.

Sarah Pearce can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Book Review & Giveaway: The Love of My (Other) Life

***Giveaway is now closed***

By Michelle Drodge

What worlds would you move to be with your soulmate?

Painter Tessa Barnum is struggling. Her husband left, she's broke, about to be evicted and has made some serious missteps in her career.

When scruffy Brian Tennyson explodes into her life, claiming to be from an alternate universe, Tessa thinks he's a crazy vagabond - albeit one with mysterious and undeniable appeal.

Then he informs her that in his world, they're married.

Tessa's universe is turned upside down as the truth of love and loss, victory and humiliation, and second chances comes back to her. She has to choose love over logic to reach that state of anticipation where miracles unfold.

The secret to her own life was always in her heart.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.ca)

If you want a quick, light read, this book is for you.

A brilliant physicist named Brian earned his PhD at 17 and meets a student named Tessa and ends up marrying her. She later becomes a concert cello player and they marry. However, she dies from an illness which leaves Brian with a broken heart. Because of this, Brian takes great measures to visit a parallel universe with his own decoherence device, but when he gets there, he finds the Tessa he loved was not the same girl. She was a divorced, starving artist who was about to be evicted from her apartment.

Still, he decides to try and convince parallel Tessa that the tales of an alternate universe are true. Even though this Tessa is a bit more rough around the edges than the Tessa he knew, he is still clinging to any bit of her he can get.

I really enjoyed reading The Love of My (Other) Life, but what I kept wondering was ‘what really happened with David?’ Although the story isn’t about that, I just felt like it was a question that was always about to be answered but wasn’t.

Of course, my favourite part was how Traci L. Slatton decided to end the book, it was a bit of a twist and made me happy to read. I look forward to seeing more from Traci in the future!

Thanks to SMPR for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have TWO e-books to share with some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

Michelle Drodge is 27 and lives in a small town north of Toronto in Canada with her husband and three year-old daughter. She works at a pharmaceutical distribution company during the day, but moonlights as an aspiring writer after her daughter goes to sleep. One day she hopes to see her own book on the shelf alongside her favourite Chick Lit authors!

Note from Chick Lit Central: While the story doesn't sound like erotica, the cover of the book looks too controversial to post on our blog. We didn't feel comfortable posting it for that reason and chose to use the author photo, instead. The publicist respected our wishes in this regard. The author even wrote an article for Huffington Post about this very issue.

How to win The Love of My Other Life:
In lieu of this cover issue and the article from Traci L. Slatton, please tell us if you have ever judged a book by its cover. (One entry per person.) Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

Giveaway ends March 3rd at midnight EST.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

What's in the mail...plus a giveaway

**Giveaway is now closed**

Melissa A and Amy:

Three Good Things by Wendy Francis from Simon and Schuster




What could be in YOUR mail...

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams!

Start loading up your beach bags...[a little less than] 100 days 'til Beatriz Williams' new novel hits shelves! However, if you live in the US, you could have your hands on this book a lot earlier than that!

Thanks to Penguin, we have TWO copies for some lucky US readers!

Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancĂ©, now recently married—an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily's friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction...and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

How to win: Since the Oscars are this Sunday (yay!!!), please tell us one of your favorite nominees from any category. (If you're entering this giveaway after the Oscar winners have been announced, let us know which win you're happiest about.)

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

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




Winners of "Fast Forward"


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

Congrats to....

1-Kat (k_duncan21)
10-Monique

UPDATE: One of the winners discovered she already has the book and asked me to choose someone else. Random.org picked 16. Congrats to Shamara Catama!

Here is a message from Juliet Madison:
Congratulations to the winners of Fast Forward! And thanks to everyone who checked out my interview and left a comment, I hope you all had a memorable Valentine's Day. If you didn't win, don't worry, you can still enter my grand prize giveaway for a $50 Amazon gift card or a $25 Amazon gift card by commenting on any of the blogs I'm visiting during February. You can see the schedule here. And if you choose to grab a copy of Fast Forward you can also go into the draw for another $25 gift card by forwarding me your receipt! I love giving away prizes :)

I'd also like to thank Chick Lit Central for hosting me on their fantastic blog, it was fun! Happy reading everyone :)


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 your Valentine's Day memories.

Thanks to Juliet for visiting with us and to Harlequin AU for sharing her book with our winners. Even if you didn't win, I highly recommend adding this to your Kindle. It's only $2.99! I'm loving it so far! More info to come when I review it. (Melissa A.)

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

Book Review: The Girl, the Gold Tooth and Everything

By Jami Deise

There’s something about life in the suburbs – the cookie-cutter lawns, the playground politics, the ultra-competitive parenting – that can lead a woman who has left behind a career and a commute and an identity to forget who she was before homework, soccer practice and gossipy neighbors took over her life.

For Mina Clark, heroine of Francine LaSala’s The Girl, The Gold Tooth, and Everything, it goes deeper than that. It’s not that Mina can’t remember what life was like when she wore a suit and heels to the office five days week, it’s that Mina really can’t remember – she has amnesia, and even her husband, Jack, and three-year-old daughter, Emma, are mysteries to her.

What caused Mina’s amnesia? Everyone seems to know but her. Unfortunately, her therapist has advised Mina and everyone in her life that Mina will need to remember on her own, otherwise the trauma could overwhelm her. So that leaves Mina forced to navigate her upscale neighborhood, Easton Estates, without the usual touch points most people take for granted – including knowing who’s friend or who’s foe. To make matters worse, Mina’s amnesia has left her jobless and at the mercy of creditors who hound her day and night.

And the cause of Mina’s amnesia isn’t the only question in her mind. Why is her husband Jack rarely around, and what is the true nature of his job? Why is their basement door always locked and her car always in the shop? Mina’s neighbor, 80-year-old Esther, seems happy to provide babysitting and advice. But when Mina makes an effort to expand her life and reaches out to the neighborhood wild-child mom, Harriet, Esther’s disapproval radiates.

Then one day Mina notices an older Russian man watching her and Emma in the neighborhood park. And an amazing thing happens when he approaches Mina and talks to her in Russian – Mina answers, speaking Russian herself! It seems Mina’s secrets may go further than she ever imagined.

The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything is a roller coaster of a book. Author LaSala takes the reader up the long, high hill by describing her suburban setting and its usual cast of characters with detail and precision. Then she lets the car go flying into the madness of mysterious Russians, bizarre dental spas and characters who may or may not be real. LaSala is a strong, confident writer, and even with all the hills, drops and curves, she never loses track of who Mina is and what she’s searching to discover. As the mysteries grow deeper and the momentum builds, the book becomes impossible to put down, building up to a nail-biting climax that brings together past and present in a life-threatening confrontation.

LaSala’s writing reminded me a lot of Susan Isaacs, whose Compromising Positions is the grandmother of the sex and murder in suburbia category. The best mysteries, however, are a jigsaw puzzle in which each clue plays a vital role, leading to a unifying whole, and I believe this is where LaSala falls short. As much as I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed that some tantalizing set-ups led to rather ho-hum payoffs. And while the ultimate villain was a genius solution that worked very well in LaSala’s overpriced suburban-neighborhood milieu and today’s economic realities, it wasn’t woven in with Mina’s overall dilemma. It’s never a good sign when a writer can remove half her plot points and still end up with the same beginning and ending. A well-crafted mystery is like a poorly constructed Jenga tower – removing any block should cause the entire structure to crumble. Further, Mina’s nemesis had two separate and distinct motivations – a big mystery no-no.

Since mystery is arguably the most difficult genre in which to write, these flaws are understandable and easily overlooked in the context of the enjoyable ride that LaSala provides. The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything is a wonderful escape from the science projects that are due tomorrow, the carpools that have fallen apart in the last minute, and the mysteriously disappearing soccer cleats. The details of suburban parenthood may be mundane, but as LaSala points out, we are lucky to remember them.

Thanks to Francine LaSala  for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The beauty of Cari Kamm...plus a book giveaway!

Interview by Amy Bromberg

**Giveaway is now closed**

Today we welcome back Cari Kamm and her brand new novel For Internal Use Only, which came out on Valentine's Day. Cari Kamm has worked in the beauty industry for over a decade, building brands, working behind the scenes, and even selling her own skin care line. She has a master’s in clinical nutrition from New York University. Kamm currently works in corporate social media management with clients in the beauty, fashion, and restaurant industries. Living in New York City with her mutt Schmutz, Kamm loves finding inspiration in the most unexpected places, being a novelist, and convincing her fiancĂ© that ordering takeout and making dinner reservations are equal to cooking.


Thanks to Cari, we have TWO copies of For Internal Use Only (winners get to choose if they want an e-copy or hard copy) to some lucky readers anywhere in the US and/or Canada.
 
You can find Cari at her website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a storyteller or that person that loved to entertain and make my friends and family laugh. It’s a characteristic I get from my father. I was twenty-eight years old and craving inspiration at a specific point in my life. Here I was in New York City living and loving everything, even a shadow. But, something was missing in my life. So… I researched various hobbies from cooking (high burn risk), painting (too messy), volunteer opportunities, and even new career paths. I ended up taking a creative writing class with Mediabistro and it changed my life. During the class, I had no intention of writing a novel. I was more involved with the class because it challenged me, made me insecure, and sparked my spirit. The workshop assignments got me writing in class and at home. Five years and two books later... I’m still hitting the keys!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
After creating a detailed outline and character sketch, I begin writing and never stop to go back and read until the manuscript is done. I can’t edit and write at the same time.

Tell us five places you would most want to travel to.
I love to travel! I think growing up in a small town in West Virginia (population 3,500) and then moving to New York City with access to JFK International Airport and Penn Station, created the extreme need to be spontaneous and take advantage of the opportunities. I’ve conquered Italy and have stamped my passport with beautiful memories from Buenos Aires, Iceland and Paris. I’m heading to Moscow for my birthday on February 14th! I need to add Greece, the Maldives, Ireland, China and Indonesia. Also, I’ve always wanted to take a train from the East coast to the West coast and stopover in random cities!

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
After creating the outline of the story, discovering where the characters actually took me. It’s amazing to me that I am reading a story they helped me create.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a marine biologist. All the unknowns in the ocean, the colors, the life. One major problem ... I’m terrified of the ocean! I won’t go in deeper than my knees.

What advice can you give to aspiring writers out there?
You grow more from criticism than you do from compliments. Never forget that you have the courage to be the writer you want to be and live the life you’ve always dreamed of. I’m amazed each day how much power we truly have inside ourselves to make things happen.

What are 4 things you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?
1 – Rosebud Salve
2 – Sunglasses
3 – Moleskine notebook & pen
4 – My attitude

What’s next for you?
In November 2012, I participated in National Novel Writing month and completed my third novel. It’s my first romance novel and takes place in Costa Rica. I hope to release it later this year. To learn more, please check out www.carikamm.com.

Thanks to Cari for visiting us and sharing her book with our readers!

How to win For Internal Use Only:
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 ONE thing you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?
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/Canada only. Giveaway ends February 27th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Winners of Chick Lit Cheerleader prizes!

To find our winners, we assigned a number to each entry (from only the entries with contact info) and asked Jen Tucker to choose TWO numbers. (I'm throwing the "win once per week" rule out for this one since the prize is a bit unique and Jen is not an automated number generator....or is she?!?)

"Here goes… numbers 1 and 10. I’m a January 10th baby!"

The winner of Mr. Wonderful and a copy of The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt is our first entrant...Marlene, who will be showing him a NY style night on the town!

The winner of The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt in their choice of format is Mary Preston! This book will be visiting the land down under!

Since Jen is such a huge fan of The Price is Right, we have to say "COME ON DOWN!"


Here is a message from Jen:
Hi CLC friends! Thank you to everyone willing to give Mr. Wonderful a shot at love for the rest of his little plastic life. Congratulations to the winners! To the person receiving Mr. Wonderful, I want you to be good to him. Love him. Treat him like a king. He is fond of gyros, Bon Jovi concerts, and half caf-decafs after a quick mani/pedi. I pass him on to you with nothing but sincere gladness in my heart. Please remind him from time-to-time I will always love him. And for the winner who was *THAT CLOSE* to getting your hands on the loveable lug, I’ll be sending you a copy of my new memoir, The Day I Lost My Shaker of Salt. On behalf of Mr. Wonderful, we graciously thank you all for being a part of the CLC community!

XOXO,
Jen


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 your cheesy pick-up line stories!

Thanks to Jen for sharing the prizes with our winners. Giving up Mr. Wonderful was the hardest thing she ever had to do, but she will feel SO much better knowing he's in a good home.

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

Guest Book Review: Gone Girl

By Jonita Fex

I can admit right off the hop that Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not the kind of book that I usually read. I'm more of a women's fiction kind of gal. I love books about women and their families and their marriages and their jobs and about how they take control of their own destiny, but so many people were reading and raving about Gone Girl that I figured that I had to give it a try. If it didn't work for me I could just put it down, right?

The only problem that I had with Gone Girl was that once I picked it up it was impossible for me to put it down. The story sucked me in right from the beginning, even though it was the opposite from what I normally read in so many ways! Gone Girl tells the story of a marriage gone horribly awry. It is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Nick wakes up in the morning to find Amy cooking pancakes in the kitchen. Even though there is something off about Nick and Amy's interaction that morning, Nick heads off to work at the bar that he owns with his sister Go. When a nosy neighbor calls Nick to let him know that their front door is wide open Nick returns home to discover that his wife is missing.

Unfortunately for Nick, the husband is always the primary suspect when a wife disappears. Since the alibi that Nick has is flimsy at best, the police focus their investigation on Nick and his possible involvement in the disappearance of his wife. As the suspicion surrounding Nick reaches a fever pitch we get to know Amy, a high-strung Type A personality and the inspiration for the Amazing Amy children's books, through her journal entries.

As we gather additional information about what happened that day we find that there may be more to the story than the evidence is leading everyone to believe. But one big question remains: where is Amy Dunne?

I found it interesting that I didn't really like any of the characters in Gone Girl. As the story unravels, bit by bit, I find that there are many things about both of our main characters that made them distinctly unlikable. If I look back on my previous reviews I find that I generally enjoy a story more if the main character is likable. If I relate to him or her in some way I finish the book feeling that I have spent time with a good friend. If I don't find any of the characters particularly likable I have a hard time liking the book as a whole. I can appreciate the book, but that's different. Gone Girl taught me that I can dislike characters but still enjoy a book. I was engrossed while reading this, turning pages frantically trying to find out what happened next, but I did not like our main characters. At all. It was a kind of revelation for me.

The writing is spot-on in Gone Girl. It is sharp and witty and edgy. That's part of what drew me into these pages so quickly. Gillian Flynn floored me when she revealed the twist in the plot. My mouth literally hung open. It was brilliant! It was so much more interesting for me not knowing ahead of time what the twist was, so I won't ruin it for anyone reading this who has not yet read the book but wants to.

Gone Girl is one of those books that you won't quickly forget. Sometimes I read a book and two weeks later I can't really remember that much about the plot. This isn't one of those books. Reading Gone Girl reminded me that sometimes it's important for me to read books that fall outside of my usual comfort zone because I never know what I may discover! My copy was my own and not a review copy. A huge thanks to Melissa A. and the ladies at Chick Lit Central for inviting me to visit today!

Melissa A. is reviewing Gone Girl over at The Book Chick, as part of a book review exchange. Check out what she has to say about it!

Jonita Fex is a wife and a mother of three amazingly unique (and busy!) boys! She lives close to Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada and she blogs about books over at http://book-chic.blogspot.ca. When she's not working at her job in wind power or cleaning up one of the many messes that her boys have made, she loves reading in the bathtub, catching up on the latest season of Walking Dead or relaxing with a glass of wine and some Reese Peanut Butter Cups.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dana Bate is the icing on the chick lit cupcake...plus a book giveaway

Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

I first met Dana Bate a year and a half ago at an event in Georgetown. She sparkled with personality and was telling me about the novel she had in progress. It sounded delicious (literally, since it was about food) and I knew I would have to read it as soon as it was published. We exchanged contact info and stayed in touch regarding her upcoming publication.

Well, the time has finally arrived and I am honored to feature Dana at Chick Lit Central!  She's not only a great writer, as you can see from my review of her debut novel, The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, but she's also a lot of fun to interview. She doesn't just give one sentence answers. This interview was practically a novel in itself!

Even though "Foodie" month at CLC isn't until March, Dana is here today to talk about food (what else were you expecting?!?) and share some fun information about her books. I'm also excited to share that she has her own "bun in the oven," waiting to make an appearance in March! That kid is going to grow up with some amazing culinary experiences! She currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, where she cooks in her spare time!

Thanks to BookSparks PR, we have one copy of The Girls' Guide... for a lucky US reader. (Have no fear, UK readers....it's only £1.99 for Kindle!)

You can find Dana at her website and on Facebook and Twitter.

First off, tell us about your awesome debut novel, The Girl's Guide to Love and Supper Clubs, and what inspired you to write it…
The book is about a twenty-six-year old woman named Hannah Sugarman who is having a quarter-life crisis. On paper, she seems to have it all: impressive job, brilliant boyfriend, famous intellectual parents. But all Hannah cares about is cooking, and unfortunately, no one takes her passion seriously. So when her relationship falls apart, she decides to start an underground supper club out of her new landlord's town house – a secret venture that is both wildly successful and highly problematic, given that it isn’t exactly legal. Suffice it to say, not everything goes as planned.

The idea came to me after I’d quit my job and moved to London with my husband for a few months while he worked on a project there. I had been toying with various ideas for a novel, when one morning I came across an article online about a woman called MsMarmitelover who hosted a secret supper club out of her London flat. Total strangers would come from all over and pay to eat her food, even though the whole operation wasn’t technically legal. I thought the idea sounded really fun – and risky – and that sort of became the launching pad for my novel.


How is your main character, Hannah, similar to and/or different from you?
Both Hannah and I love to cook – although Hannah is no doubt more skilled than I am! But like her, I follow tons of food blogs and own an unreasonable number of cookbooks and love whipping up new recipes in my kitchen. Before I met my husband, I was also a little incompetent when it came to relationships, so I suppose that’s a quality we share as well.

That said, Hannah and I are very different in many ways. When I want to do something, I usually just do it – whether that’s becoming a broadcast journalist after majoring in science, or writing romantic comedies after working in financial news. Hannah prevaricates and lets her parents’ wishes paralyze her. That isn’t to say I’m a huge risk taker. I’m pretty conservative about most things. But I’m not as risk averse as Hannah. I’d also like to think I have better judgment than Hannah does in certain situations…


What did you do to celebrate having your novel published?
I know this will shock – shock! – your readers, but my celebration involved food. My husband and I went to one of our favorite restaurants (a place in Philadelphia owned by Marc Vetri called Osteria), and we stuffed our faces with vegetable antipasti, rye bucatini with pheasant sausage ragu, and other delicious dishes. YUM.


If your novel were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Oooooh, that’s a tough one! I’m really bad at this kind of thing, since I made up all of the characters in my head, but maybe Emma Stone as Hannah, Chris O’Dowd as Blake, Ian Somerhalder as Jacob, and someone like Chace Crawford as Adam.


There are some elements of Judaism in your novel and you are also Jewish. What is your favorite Jewish holiday and what is your favorite food to go along with that holiday?
Another tough question! I think I’d have to say Rosh Hashanah. I love the idea of a new year and starting afresh – and I adore the combination of apples and honey. I also could eat challah until I passed out, and there is a kosher bakery near us that makes the most unbelievable round challah during the high holidays. It’s almost like cake. I could seriously eat an entire loaf by myself (not that I ever have…ahem…). I love lots of Jewish foods – brisket, latkes, Hamantaschen – but that challah is positively heavenly.


Since you have lived in Washington DC up until recently, and based your novel there, tell us your favorite things about living in the nation's capital.
I loved the monuments and the free museums and the cherry blossoms, but you know what I loved most of all? The people. Most of the people I met and befriended in DC were smart and passionate and full of life. Whether they were in Washington to work on education policy or international affairs, they were there to make a difference. Even when friends’ opinions or politics differed from my own, I found myself saying, “At least they have opinions!” You don’t find many apathetic people in Washington, and the spirit of the city is infectious.


Hannah makes some themed supper club meals, and one is based on food from where she grew up (in Philadelphia). This starts a conversation about popular food items in other cities. If Hannah were to make a meal based on popular Washington DC restaurants/food items, what would be included?
Washington is such a transient city that it doesn’t have many “signature” city dishes, in the way that Philadelphia has the cheesesteak and Chicago has deep-dish pizza. A lot of the dishes are regional in nature (Maryland crab cakes, etc). But DC does have the half-smoke, which is similar to a hot dog but bigger and spicier and is usually served with chili on top. It also has the “jumbo slice” – a massive slice of greasy pizza, usually served to drunk people after the bars close – but most Washingtonians would eschew the jumbo slice. Oh, and Senate bean soup, which is served in the Senate’s basement cafeteria.

So, with that said…Hannah might make something like mini half-smokes as appetizers (think pigs in a blanket, but with homemade sausage and puffed pastry and a spicy “chili” dipping sauce), a salad involving crab (maybe with finely diced apples and chives), Old Bay-dusted scallops over “Senate bean” ragout, and then for dessert…maybe blueberry buckwheat cake with maple ice cream. I know that last one probably raised some eyebrows, but Market Lunch at Eastern Market on the Hill makes amazing blueberry buckwheat pancakes (“blue bucks”) for breakfast, and people go crazy for them.


Now that you're married and can look back on this and laugh, what is the strangest or craziest date you have ever been on?
Oh, boy. A few dates could vie for that distinction. But the one that sticks out in my mind is a brunch date with a private equity guy, where he pressured me into ordering a “salmon and tuna omelet” off the specials board. I didn’t want to order it (Eggy salmon and tuna? No, thanks!), but he insisted and basically ordered it for me. The omelet was pretty bad, and when the bill came, I also discovered it was ludicrously expensive (at the time, I was making pennies as a journalist). When I divided the bill total in half and threw in my share, my date – who’d spent all brunch bragging about his cushy and lucrative job – pointed out that, in fact, my omelet cost x-times as much as his French toast and therefore I owed more than him. And then, as if I didn’t hear him the first time, he repeated himself and took me through the bill line by line, calculating my share down to the penny. I paid the “mathematically appropriate” amount, but let’s just say that was both our first and last date.

Thanks to Dana for visiting with us and to BookSparks PR for sharing her book with our readers.

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US only. Giveaway ends February 24th at midnight EST.