Sunday, June 30, 2013

Book Review: Changing Lanes

By Miriam Plotinsky

In my more fantastical moments, I dream of letting my carefully ordered and over-scheduled life go a bit. Maybe my kids don’t have to go to bed at seven-thirty every night. Maybe I could try to eat that German chocolate cake I bake that everyone tells me is the best they’ve ever tasted with abandon instead of counting the calories going into my body. Maybe I should take a walk in the summer breeze rather than cleaning out the pile of bills on the kitchen counter. But taking risks or just plain chilling out can be scary. That’s why Kathleen Long’s Changing Lanes is such an appealing book. It speaks to any control freak (ahem, often female, sorry for gender stereotyping) who longs to slacken the reins of her life a bit.

Advice columnist Abby Halladay literally loses everything that makes her life familiar in one day. First, her boss fires her because her column lacks edge. Then, her new house in Paris, New Jersey is found to be unlivable when an inspection reveals extensive termite damage. Finally, Abby’s fiancé, Fred, calls to reveal that he has run away to Paris (France, not New Jersey) to think about things, and he’ll be incommunicado for a month. Rather than wallow in despair, Abby proves to be fairly resilient as she begins driving a family cab to pick up fares, finds a way to get the house fixed, and more importantly, begins seriously reevaluating her life and goals with the help of her childhood friends and her parents.

Changing Lanes moves quickly, and the characters make the book. In particular, Abby’s parents are hilarious, an eccentric pair with a collection of white lies that keep their marriage both realistic and functional. Abby herself is completely believable as she questions her life and her place in the world, and Abby’s childhood buddy Mick is man enough for anyone, the perfect mix of hunky, mysterious and kind. The strength of the characters combined with the smooth flow of the plot and the small-town antics that pass for normalcy in Paris all result in a joyful read.

Too many people are geared to aim for perfection, constantly spinning their wheels and getting nowhere that really matters. Through Abby’s courageous journey, Changing Lanes teaches us to reexamine the lives that we have so purposefully orchestrated and question whether we are truly enjoying the things that matter the most, like family and friends, rather than pouring too much effort into work and whatever image of our lives we have decided is appropriate. After reading about such an inspiring journey, I’m going to go sign up for those guitar lessons I’ve been meaning to take for years. Maybe I can live a little dangerously after all.

Thanks to Media Connect for the book in exchange for an honest review.

You might also enjoy:

Friday, June 28, 2013

1000 Follower Giveaway!!!


**Giveaway is now closed. Winners will be announced later this week.**

Yes, we now have 1000 followers! We are so thankful for your loyalty, participation, enthusiasm, and everything else you've done to make us what we are today. Whether you've been here since the beginning or just joined recently, we love you!

Therefore, as promised, we are having a giveaway. We have lots of books to share with some lucky readers!

Just answer the following question to be entered:
What do you see in the future for chick lit? 

Rules for this giveaway:
2. You have until July 16th at midnight EST to enter
3. Leave us an e-mail address or another way to reach you. (Entries without contact information will not count.)
4. Only ONE entry per person.
5. You MUST be a follower of our blog to enter. Please let us know how you follow us and what name you use in order to qualify. (It's not too late to follow us, so please do so if you haven't already.)

Don't forget to follow our sister blog, Book Mama. As soon as she reaches 100 followers, we'll be pairing with her on another giveaway!

Good luck!

Book Review: Save The Date

By Becky Gulc

‘Family weddings can be hell.

...and, marooned in Italy for her cousin's nuptials, Ailsa can be forgiven for thinking that this one is worse than most. With the bride and groom at loggerheads and the guests in uproar, it is a million miles away from the rest and relaxation she'd been hoping for.

And then suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, she comes face-to-face with Nick, the man she walked out on just a few months earlier.

How can Ailsa help get the wedding back on track when she and Nick can't stop arguing? But if they do, she might remember why she fell in love with him in the first place - and then there really would be trouble.' (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon UK.)

Save The Date was an easy choice for a recent holiday; I love the cover, perfect for a summer release and I looked forward to being transported to Italy through this story. I’ve heard very good things about Allie’s other books but hadn’t read any of them personally so was looking forward to reading this author’s work. I’m not huge fan of stories focussing on weddings so that was my only initial doubt as to whether I’d like this book.

I thought this was an excellent fun summer read; it’s a very funny book with laugh out loud moments. These funny moments mostly concern Arthur the dog who is drawn to Ailsa as soon as she arrives at her (very posh) hotel much to her initial dismay but with some very funny and touching consequences. The dog is such a great character, I can see why if Allie’s friend owns a dog like this that she’d just have to feature him in a book, he should have a book all of his own!

Ailsa is a very likeable character; she’s a strong but warm woman who is slowly coming to terms with the end of her marriage to Nick. Yes, of course it’s very convenient that Nick turns up at the hotel where the wedding is taking place when he never met Ailsa’s family but I loved it when he did arrive, he’s also a great character and there was excellent chemistry and anticipation between the pair.

The supporting characters were also very strong with an array of typical and quirky family members. There was a great plot regarding possible attempts to sabotage the wedding which was executed really well and comically throughout whilst maintaining suspense as to whether the wedding would ever actually happen. Also because it wasn’t Ailsa getting married herself, any concerns I had about the book being all about the wedding were unfounded. I thought it was a well-balanced book between the Ailsa/Nick aspects of the book and her cousin’s wedding, and it was drawn together well.

The location was idyllic and I felt like I was staying at this amazing hotel in Tuscany as well, making it a perfect sunlounger read. I was impressed by Allie’s style of writing, it came across as very modern and witty and I felt that it stood out because of this. A perfect read for summer!

Thanks to Random House UK for the book in exchange for an honest review. This review is part of their book tour for Save the Date. (Click the picture to see details.)

More by Allie Spencer:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Around the world with Kitty a book giveaway

Introduction by Kathryn Hamilton

Happy summer everyone! Summer is often a time for traveling and, in this spirit, author Kitty Pilgrim joins us today at CLC to celebrate her sophomore novel and play a little travel themed "This or That." (Which is also helping to lead us into July's theme...) Kitty is a true woman of the world. In her 24 years as a correspondent for CNN, she traveled to numerous countries. Her outstanding work covering issues of politics and economics in these varied regions garnered her well-deserved recognition and accolades in the form of an Overseas Press Club Award, a Peabody Award, and an Emmy. Kitty has also anchored two of her own shows on CNN. With a background like that, it is no wonder that her first novel (The Explorer's Code) was widely praised for its intelligent writing and intriguing story line. Kitty has a style that is fresh for the Chick Lit genre, as she incorporates her knowledge of world issues into her writing and creates strong female characters who defy stereotypes. Her latest novel The Stolen Chalice is unlikely to disappoint and we look forward to reading more from this fascinating author.

Kitty has FIVE copies of The Stolen Chalice for some lucky readers anywhere in the world.

You can learn more about Kitty through her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Plane or Train?
Train. I like to watch the landscape go by. It is so timeless, and the pace is from another era. Think of all the great train mysteries: Murder on the Orient Express, 4:50 From Paddington. (both Agatha Christie) Also every Bond movie has a wonderful train fight scene. Thrilling.

Hotel or Bed and Breakfast?
Hotel. I love the sweep of a marble lobby, a handsome bellboy and the romance of meeting someone in the bar for a champagne cocktail, dressed in a chiffon gown.

Cruise or All inclusive resort?
Cruise. Preferably trans Atlantic. I go on the Queen Mary 2 at least twice a year from New York to England. Last year I spent 6 months on one kind of ship or another through the Greek Islands, Turkey and Italy.

Country or City?
City. I live in New York and could never give it up. Paris, London, Rome. Istanbul. Shanghai. What can compare? However I find myself on expedition quite often – is an archaeological dig considered the “country”?

Eat, Pray, Love or Under the Tuscan Sun?
Eat Pray Love – although I adored both. But I am highly unlikely to spend that much time fixing up a house. I’m more the type to go to roaming from place to place absorbing new cultures.

In a group or by yourself?
By Myself. Some of my greatest moments of peace are contemplating new places solo. Also I live in New York, sometimes a little solitude is needed.

Island or Mainland?
Island.  Some of my favorite places : Malta, England, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos. I spend my summers in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and much of the winter in the Bahamas Exhuma chain.

US or International?
International The US is home. When I travel I want to experience new cultures, talk to new people and explore. Most of my work as a journalist was on international topics.

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

How to win The Stolen Chalice:
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:
1.Please tell us: What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?
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.

Worldwide. Giveaway ends July 2nd at midnight EST.

Chick Lit is Not Dead is also doing a giveaway of The Stolen Chalice. (US/Canada. Ends 6/30.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meet the artist behind our logo!

We've added a very important person to our team. This is because he created the image you see to the right of our posts. He's not only a great artist, but he's also very friendly and fun to chat with. We wanted to give you an opportunity to get to know him better. If you're an author or publisher and are looking for a book cover designer, Ben Stanford is your man! Don't hesitate to contact him (get in touch with us and we'll connect you or send him a quick message through Twitter).

Ben Stanford is an expat Canadian living in Paris, France with his wife and son. When he’s not freelancing on web and design projects, he works as a communications consultant for international organizations based in Paris. He has a fine arts degree with a concentration in communications from the University of Ottawa. Ben created the new illustration and logo for us and would love to work on book cover designs with aspiring authors. Check out his work on Pinterest and You can also find him on Twitter.

Which chick lit novel would you redesign the cover for and what would you do for the design?
While I’m no expert in the genre, I think the benchmark book cover to redesign would be The Devil Wears Prada. I like both the original book cover and the film poster, but it would be fun to reimagine it as a Penguin Classic akin to The Divine Comedy. I can imagine an oil painting depicting Dante’s nine circles of hell as different departments at Runway Magazine. I think I may have just assigned myself a summer project!

Aside from this I did some illustration work to promote my friend Sabrina Zollo (Author of Why I love my Gay Boyfriend) and I would love to design the cover of her second novel.

How has Paris been treating you? What's one difference between where you lived in Canada and where you live now?
My wife and I have been living in Paris for almost four years now, and it can be a bit of a love-hate relationship with the city. We moved here from Vancouver, Canada and the lifestyle is very different. We’re both avid snowboarders and the lack of access to nature can be an issue. Otherwise it’s a fantastic city to live in. We have since had a son here and its turning out to be a great city for young families. We’ve made some great friends and we really feel like we’re part of the community in our quartier in Paris’ 9th arrondissement.

What is your favorite book of all time?
I love Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. It’s a strange tale of his experience as a POW in World War Two during the firebombing of Dresden. It’s a mix of his memoirs surrounding the actual writing of the book, a social commentary about war in general and a science fiction piece full of time travel and extra-terrestrials. I went to Dresden a few years ago to see the actual location where he was being held. Some event promoters had organized a rave near the site. So it goes…

What is an item on your bucket list that you'd like to accomplish within the next five years?
I’d like to draw and write about my experiences in Paris that both dispel some of the myths of the city and highlight some of its lesser known features. I can tell you it’s not quite a romantic experience when you’re biking alongside scooters and cars through Place Charles de Gaulle on your daily commute.

What book would you like to see as a movie and who would you cast in the lead role(s)?
While I don’t think it will happen any time soon, I’d like to see David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day adapted as a film. This is one of the first books I read after moving to France and a lot of his observations in part “deux” really hit close to home. As for casting, I could see Michael Cera playing the lead role.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Graphic novels! I was a comic book junkie as a kid and this led to my interest in illustration. While I still do pick up the odd super hero graphic novel, I really appreciate the work of artists like Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Guy Delisle (Burma Chronicles) who address more serious issues in a visual medium. Graphic novels are taken very seriously in France. There’s a great series that I love by the French duo Dupuy and Berberian called Boboland. It’s a collection of short stories about Parisian hipsters (BoBo’s - Bourgeois Bohemian) that manages to tackle social issues like neighborhood gentrification and cultural globalization.

Book Review & Giveaway: The Tao of Martha

By Amy Bromberg

**Giveaway is now closed**

Jen’s still a little rough around the edges. Suffice it to say, she’s no Martha Stewart. And that is exactly why Jen is going to Martha up and live her life according to the advice of America’s overachieving older sister—the woman who turns lemons into lavender-infused lemonade.

By immersing herself in Martha’s media empire, Jen will embark on a yearlong quest to take herself, her house, her husband (and maybe even her pets) to the next level—from closet organization to craft making, from party planning to kitchen prep.

Maybe Jen can go four days without giving herself food poisoning if she follows Martha’s dictates on proper storage....Maybe she can grow closer to her girlfriends by taking up their boring-ass hobbies like knitting and sewing.…Maybe she can finally rid her workout clothes of meatball stains by using Martha’s laundry tips.… Maybe she can create a more meaningful anniversary celebration than just getting drunk in the pool with her husband....again. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll discover that the key to happiness does, in fact, lie in Martha’s perfectly arranged cupboards and artfully displayed charcuterie platters.

Or maybe not.
(Summary courtesy of Goodreads.)

Ever since I read Pretty in Plaid, I've been a diehard Jen Lancaster fan. Of course, right afterward I read her previous memoirs. I don't think any author makes me crack up like Jen does. I've had the pleasure of meeting her at a couple of signings, but last year at BEA topped them all. Besides seeing her and Jennifer Weiner do a panel together at Bryant Park, I actually chatted with her for 20 minutes that night at the Penguin Bash. I had to keep telling myself "she's only a person Amy, stay cool."  

I think this may be my favorite memoir by Jen Lancaster thus far. As always there's Lancaster's wit, but this time there's some seriousness too. She's grown up quite a bit since Bitter is the New Black, that's for sure. Perhaps more people can relate because Jen deals with a couple of heavy "adult" issues. I've never been very into Oprah or Martha, but if I had to choose one, it would definitely be Martha. I totally agree with Jen that Oprah is all about feelings, while Martha is about doing. I've read my share of self-help books and barely any of them are about physically doing things.

It's a big coincidence but since last week I've had this huge desire to start cooking and baking (I'm the laziest person when it comes to the kitchen). I made French Toast Strata with raspberries. When I first told my husband this he said "I'll believe it when I see it." Well, I went shopping for the ingredients, actually cleaned our and organized our kitchen cupboard and successfully made this delicious dish. And you know what? I had a fun time doing it. Even though all of Jen's "Martha projects" weren't a success, I do believe she enjoyed herself and learned something through each of them. Isn't that what life is all about?

I cannot recommend Jen Lancaster enough. If you're looking for a book to make you laugh out loud, then look no further than The Tao of Martha. But seriously, you have to read all of her other memoirs as well, as well as her two fiction novels. I promise they won't disappoint.

Earlier this month Jen was on The Today Show. The crew actually filmed in her house during one of her Martha Stewart projects.

Thanks to Penguin for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have THREE copies for some lucky US readers!

How to win:
Please tell us the most domestic thing you do, whether it's folding laundry or making couch pillows...anything goes!

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win.

US only. Giveaway ends July 1st at midnight EST.

More by Jen Lancaster:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Girl talk with Gemma a book giveaway

Introduction by 
Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

The last time Gemma Burgess visited with us was in early 2011 to chat about her novel, A Girl Like You. Since that time, she and I have stayed in contact. I have enjoyed hearing what she has been up to, between having her first child and writing a new series about 20-somethings living in New York. The first novel of that series, Brooklyn Girls, will be hitting shelves next week! In honor of this, and her previous novel, we are doing a very girly "This or That." Think of it like a slumber party when you're looking through the latest fashion magazines with your BFFs.

Gemma Burgess has been all over the place. She currently lives in New York City with her Irish husband and their baby who was born in Switzerland. Prior to this, she was born in Australia, grew up in Hong Kong, went to a French International school and was a copywriter in advertising in London. Her new series, Brooklyn Girls, is about a group of friends in their early 20s. When life is so fun, but so hard. When you’re usually crying, broke, hungry, lost, heartbroken and a little drunk. When you figure out not just what you want in life, but how you’re going to get it. The first novel is like the title track of an album, as it is named for the series. Gemma has FIVE signed copies for some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada! If you've been wishing to read her previous novels but couldn't find them in the US, both The Dating Detox and A Girl Like You will be available on Kindle starting in mid-July!

You can find Gemma at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Manicure or pedicure?
Pedicure. I can handle bare nails, cut super-short and buffed. But I NEED nice toenails. It's like having clean teeth: I don't feel right without them. I like Essie Sugar Daddy or OPI Black Onyx.

Heels or flats?
I adore heels, but I wear flats. I wore very high dark red Miu Miu heels to get married, then changed into silver sequined Converses for the reception. That pretty much sums me up.

Dangly earrings or posts?
Neither. I am the most boring jewelry person in the world. I only wear engagement and wedding rings.

Retail or thrift?
I loved thrift as a teenager - a pair of hobnailed boots two sizes too big that I wore constantly for years stands out in my memory, and a very nasty army coat that my mother only got off my back by - literally - cutting it off when I was watching TV one day... but these days, retail. Usually online.

Casual or dressy?
Both. Either. All. Everything. I love clothes. I am a girly girl. I am just as happy in the perfect pair of denim shorts as I am in a killer dress.

Makeup or natural look?
Makeup to look natural. I *love* make-up (see: girly girl) and even write about it for magazines sometimes. Current obsessions are NARS Tinted Moisturizer and Edward Bess bronzer. I am constantly searching for the perfect blonde eyebrow pencil.

Hair down or ponytail?
Down the day I wash and blow-dry it, ponytail the day after. I also like messing around with French rolls and chignons but I have a feeling I don't do a great job a lot of the time.

Cosmopolitan or Glamour?
Glamour though I'm more of an Allure, Vogue, Vanity Fair and NYLON girl at heart.

Thanks to Gemma for visiting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

How to win Brooklyn Girls:
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:
1.Please tell us: What do you love most about being a girl? (If you're a guy, what is the most girlish trait you possess?)
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 June 30th at midnight EST.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Driving the Saudis

By Jami Deise

Someone once told me – maybe it was my mom, maybe it was a girlfriend – that a good way to test the character of a guy you’re dating was to see how he treats the waiter. A person who is kind and considerate to those in a position of subservience, the theory goes, is a genuinely good person.

Driving the Saudis will have you thinking about how you treat people who are in service to you, be they Dunkin’ Donuts counterpeople, the dry cleaner, the newspaper guy, the bus driver, or the Cheesecake Factory waiter. But if you work in the service industry, it will have you feeling very grateful that you’re not a chauffeur – especially one who’s on call 24/7 for nearly two months to some of the richest, most entitled people in the world. It will also have you contemplating questions of geopolitics and energy supply.

Author Jayne Amelia Larson is what they call in Hollywood a “hyphenate” – she’s an actress hyphen writer hyphen producer. Unfortunately for Larson, despite the fact that she holds degrees from Ivy League universities, all these hyphens just means that there are many more job opportunities that fail to materialize. When a friend suggests that, rather than waitressing or working as a barista, she take employment as a chauffeur (lots of opportunities to meet A-list celebrities and movie executives), Larson jumps at the chance.

Unfortunately, the job is long hours at low pay, and all the driving saps Larson’s creative energy. But then she learns of an amazing opportunity: Members of the Saudi Arabian royal family are coming for an extended visit to Los Angeles, and they need drivers. The hours will be long, the passengers demanding, but the Saudis are huge tippers. Larson hears stories of $20,000 bonuses and more. She signs up, and after a grueling interview process that includes harassment over whether or not she’s Jewish, she’s hired. She’s the only female driver out of 40 other chauffeurs.

The Saudis don’t travel lightly, arriving with furniture, rugs, and millions in cash to fund their shopping and plastic surgery. The Saudi princesses, while Muslim, are freed from their obligation to wear burquas while in the U.S., while their devout female servants continue to cover up completely. The huge family is split up into several luxurious hotels across Beverly Hills, with the men always staying in separate locales away from the women.

Larson’s first assignment is the petulant, effeminate royal hairdresser, who is insulted at having been given a female driver in a Crown Vic rather than a limo. After he nearly gives Larson lung cancer by chain-smoking on two hour trips to casinos in the wee hours, Larson invents a husband who is upset that his wife is driving a man. Not surprisingly, the Saudis reassign her.

Like many women, Larson is loathe to say no to any request. As a result, she finds herself tasked with errands such as acquiring 27 bottles of Hair Off. As the other chauffeurs drop like flies, fired for offenses such as looking at someone the wrong way, Larson becomes more and more overworked. She is supposed to be driving 13-year-old Princess Rajiya and her nanny, Malikah, but if she’s not driving those women, she’s at the beck and call of everyone else. She ends up assisting one woman after butt implant surgery and driving all over town to buy as many of a certain bra as possible for another after breast implants.

Larson is treated contemptuously by many of the women and all the male chauffeurs, but even so, she wonders whether the lack of status, as compared to royal Saudi men, causes the dismissive behavior. She also feels sorry for a smart princess who wants to stay and learn in the U.S. but is forced to return to Saudi Arabia to become some man’s third wife. While she’s genuinely fond of Princess Rajiya and the princess’ mother seems to appreciate her, Larson develops a real bond with Malikah and the North African teenagers who serve the young princesses. She is horrified to realize the North African girls sleep seven to a room, on cots, while the Saudis have reserved rooms just for security and for tea service. When she stumbles across the girls’ passports being held in a lock box by the security team, she realizes the girls are, in effect, slaves – and that Americans are complicit.

Still, despite the long hours, the weight loss, and the abuse she takes, Larson sticks it out for the carrot at the end of the stick – that huge bonus. As a people pleaser and believer of meritocracy, she believes that her efforts and accomplishments will be rewarded at the end.

Driving the Saudis isn’t written in a strict linear fashion but more like a series of anecdotes, which allows Larson to emphasize the more outrageous aspects of her employment. She also gave a mini-lecture on U.S.-Saudi relations. For instance, the U.S. State Department was highly involved in the planning of the trip, working closely with the Saudis’ own security team. And the LAPD was involved as well – despite speeding and running red lights, Larson was never pulled over. The Saudis own many of the luxurious hotels in Beverly Hills; I suppose this ownership and the millions of dollars they dropped into the California economy led the police to allow the Saudis to ignore American laws at their convenience. As upsetting as those facts are, I was most disturbed by the tale of the North African teenager who confessed to Larson how she lied at the U.S. embassy, saying that she only works eight hours a day and is free to come and go as she pleases, when neither is true. The embassy staff may have been ignorant, but the U.S. security staff – and perhaps even the State Department -- had to know that these girls were being held against their will. Could someone please let John Kerry know?

Larson is a strong writer who describes people and scenarios in detail while letting the reader decide how to feel about the situation. This ability is probably why my prediction about the end of her employment was more accurate than hers. Still, Larson is victorious in the end. Not only has she written this critically acclaimed book, but according to the book flap, she has also developed a one-woman show around the experience that she has performed all over the country. I hope this success means Larson is now the one being driven around in a limo – I’m sure she’s very kind to everyone who opens her door or serves her coffee.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the book in exchange for an honest review.

You might also enjoy:

Friday, June 21, 2013

What's In The Mail

Melissa A:

Carissima by Rosanna Chiofalo from Kensington

Sweet Nothings by Janis Thomas from Penguin (including a cookie)

And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry won through Chick Lit is Not Dead

Three Months in Florence by Mary Carter from Kensington

Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess from St. Martin's Press

What Women Want by Fanny Blake from St. Martin's Press

The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon  from Sourcebooks


The Widow Waltz by/from Sally Koslow

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline from HarperCollins

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews from Tandem Literary

The Original 1982 by Lori Carson from HarperCollins

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella from Random House

The Guest House by/from Erika Marks

Where the Peacocks Sing by Alison Singh Gee from St. Martin's Press


Where in the OM Am I? by Sara DiVello from BookSparks PR


Emma's Secret by Steena Holmes from BookSparks PR


Hidden by/from Catherine McKenzie


All My Restless Life to Live by Dee DeTarsio from BookSparks PR


The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice from Penguin


My Life in Black and White by Kim Izzo from Hodder & Stoughton 

All I Want is You by Elizabeth Anthony from Hodder & Stoughton 

It's Up to You, New York by Tess Daly from Coronet
The Desperate Wife's Survival Plan by Alison Sherlock from Random House

Gracie by Marie Maxwell from Avon Romance

By Battersea Bridge by Janet Davey from Vintage

Two for Joy by Helen Chandler from Hodder & Stoughton 

Leftovers by Stella Newman from Avon Romance

The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman from Allen and Unwin

Let Love Find You by Johanna Lindsey from Transworld

Book Review: The Bow Wow Club

By Melissa Amster

If you asked me to read a book about widowhood prior to 2006, you would be turned down without a second thought. However, after reading P.S. I Love You (by Cecelia Ahern) that year, I got over my apprehension. Not that I want to be in the shoes of any of the characters who went through this experience, but I was able to cry for them and also cheer them on for coming out stronger in the end. Therefore, I was fully prepared to read The Bow Wow Club by Nicola May, so she can thank Cecelia Ahern for breaking me in to this theme.

Ruby (Matthews) Stevens, the heroine from Working it Out finally has a fulfilling job and the man of her dreams. Then something goes terribly wrong and she's left heartbroken. After a year of tears, moping and practically giving up on life, she's finally ready to get a new start with her life, thanks to the support of her best friend, Fi. A chance encounter with a handsome author, Michael Bell, throws her fragile heart into turmoil. When her grandmotherly neighbor encourages her to volunteer for the Bow Wow Club (Boyfriends of Widows, Wives of Widowers), Ruby encounters some new truths about herself and what it's like to move on after losing a loved one. She just doesn't expect a dark family secret and a completely unexpected love interest to add to her the confusion she's feeling.

Having read Working it Out a while back, it was nice to become reacquainted with Ruby and her friends. I also liked the new characters she introduced. Most of the British slang was similar, so I was able to follow it more easily, knowing what I knew from the first time around. Even if I hadn't read the previous novel, this story could easily stand on its own. There's enough back story from Working it Out to have this novel make sense and not become confusing. I had forgotten about some of the references she mentioned and it didn't bother me when they were brought up.

Through Ruby's thoughts and interactions, Nicola May gives readers and honest look at grief and trying to move on after losing a spouse. She took Ruby on a giant roller coaster of emotions between liking someone new and trying to be loyal to her deceased spouse. There were feelings of guilt and apprehension, as well as dug up memories, comparisons, etc. She'd take two steps forward, only to take five steps back. Even though the story started out sad, there were some humorous moments throughout. I found myself breezing through it and not wanting to put it down.

I had a few concerns though. The first was that there was another novel being written within and the writer was using real names, even though it was supposed to be fictional. That made things confusing at times because I wasn't sure if the writer was really writing fiction or if it was supposed to be an autobiography. All I know is that if my name were used in that book, whether it was positively or negatively, I would have been really upset over the breach of privacy. I also had concerns about a certain dialect being seen as offensive. It didn't personally offend me, but I could see others being offended by it if they are of the nationality being "impersonated." Some parts of the story were too good to be true (of course, I could just be cynical) and other parts were a bit predictable. Finally, I didn't really understand Ruby's role as a volunteer for the Bow Wow Club. I know she helped some people in the club with their problems, but I also felt she needed to be there for therapeutic reasons more than to put cookies on a table. It would have made more sense to just have her join the club as a member and benefit from it in that way, while still being altruistic towards others.

Overall, The Bow Wow Club is a sweet story and has some romantic moments, as well. I enjoyed getting to know Ruby better and hope she'll appear again in more of Nicola's novels. I like Nicola's writing style in general and look forward to reading her other novels soon.

Thanks to Nicola May for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Nicola May:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dream a little dream with Marci a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

**Giveaway is now closed**

What do you do when all your dreams have come true? Go to Disney World, right? (Check.) Travel around Europe by yourself? (Check.) Become a bestselling author? Well, if you're Marci Nault and you've already checked off the first two items on the list, then you might just be on your way to that goal!

Marci Nault is here today to talk about some of the dreams she has made come true for herself, in a "This or That" interview. I asked her some questions based on her list of 101 Dreams and barely even touched upon all the amazing things she has done. If you don't believe me, check the list out for yourself. Have you done anything on this list or do you see one of your personal goals there? Marci has a blog post about each dream she has already accomplished. (Some are linked in her answers below.) I know I can relate to a few items on the list, having done them myself, and am proud to say that I've already completed one of her upcoming items. (Visiting Israel.) She only has 11 more to go, so let's continue to cheer her on toward becoming a bestselling author and having her book made into a movie. (Because she's clearly not going to take credit for the Keanu Reeves time-travel romance flick.)

Marci’s debut novel, The Lake House (Gallery/ Simon & Schuster) was a Chicago Tribune, Cape May Herald, and CBS summer read pick. Originally from Massachusetts, today she can be found figure skating, salsa dancing, hiking and wine tasting around her home in California. Marci is the founder of 101 Dreams Come True, a motivational website that encourages visitors to follow their improbable dreams. Her story about attempting to complete 101 of her biggest dreams has been featured in newspapers and magazines nationwide, and she regularly speaks on the subject on radio stations in both the United States and Canada. She’s also the owner of Elegant Bridal Designs, a couture lingerie, dress, and jewelry store. She can also be found at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Marci is also here to make your dream of winning a book possibly come true....she has FIVE copies of The Lake House to share with some lucky readers in the US and/or Canada!

Les Misérables or Beauty and the BeastLes Misérables
The lighted windows on the dark stage created the scene of Paris at night in the 1800’s. The spotlight hit Eponine dressed as a boy. From this tiny woman came a voice so large and sweet all movement or breath from the audience ceased. As Eponine sang, her passion exploded to the rafters and I could feel her love for a man who didn’t return her feelings.
I’d wanted to see Les Misérables when I was in high school, but my parents couldn’t afford the tickets when it came to Boston. When I made my list of "101 Dreams Come True," I decided it was time. I flew solo to London, went to the Queen’s Theater, and sat eleven rows from the stage. I thought I’d be embarrassed to be alone, but I loved having the experience to myself not having to worry about anything but enjoying the show.

Figure skating or Salsa dancing?
I love to salsa dance. There’s something about following my favorite partner’s lead that allows me to get lost in the music and feel free, but figure skating is my passion. The minute I take my first lap on the ice all the stress melts away, thoughts cease to exist, and it feels like flight. Every practice challenges my mind and body. It forces me to overcome fear, to push beyond what I believe I can do, and though my body aches from the hard work, it makes me younger because each year I get better instead of older.

Sky diving or Scuba diving?
I must admit that I’m still afraid to scuba dive, but when I’m under the water with the sound of my breath going in and out of my regulator, surrounded by bright coral and fish, it’s almost meditative. There’s so much to explore and see, so no matter how afraid, I’ll keep trying to overcome my fear to be able to be a part of this beautiful world.

I loved sky diving, but it was over too fast.

London or Paris?
This one is tough! I love both cities for different reasons, but I have to pick Paris. The Impressionists are my favorite artists, and to spend hours in Musée d’Orsay standing in front of some of the greatest masterpieces on earth is a spiritual experience for me. Plus, Paris has better food than London. Then there’s the architecture, the shopping, the beautiful men who walked me along the Seine at night. The memories are making me long to hop on a plane and return.

Hang gliding or surfing?
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but surfing. I loved hang gliding. Soaring on the wind currents in the Canadian Rockies like a bird was a phenomenal experience, but surfing actually feels a little like flying too. I’m ridiculously horrible at surfing. I fall off my big foam board more than I stand up, but it’s an incredible rush when I catch a wave and feel the ocean race me towards the shore.

Disney World or Sleep in a Palace?
I’ve never had more fun than going to Disney with my family. For an entire week I was a kid again, but with that said, I have to choose sleeping in a palace. Every little girl dreams of being a princess, and for one week I stayed in a room decorated with frescoes in a small village in Italy. I drank wine, ate decadent food, traveled to ancient towns, and met wonderful new friends. The experience actually made it into The Lake House.

Sparkly shoes or beautiful jewelry?
I’m crazy over shoes no matter how much they hurt my feet after a long night of dancing.

Flying an airplane or riding in a race car?
The view is better from an airplane, but the flying was rather boring. The plane does most of the work, and I simply guided it where I wanted to go. The race car had my heart racing, even though I was just a passenger. The G’s that were pulled around corners while other cars were trying to pass made my heart pound. So I have to choose race car.

Thanks to Marci for sharing her dreams with us and her book with our readers.

How to win The Lake House:
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:
1.Please tell us: What is a dream that you made come true for yourself or for someone else?
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 June 25th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Buzzing about the BEA

Introduction by Melissa Amster

If I lived closer to NYC and didn't have the obligations I currently do, I would have been at BEA this past May. However, it wasn't in the cards this year, between using most of my vacation time at work for Disney World and dealing with some allergy issues from one of my kids. Believe me, I was sad about not being able to attend. Especially when I saw all the cool pictures from Amy. Thankfully, I was able to live vicariously through blog posts from Samantha Bailey, Meredith Schorr and some other authors who attended BEA. Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker's account of the event was equally entertaining (if not more) and I enjoyed seeing it through her eyes. I just hope I can see it in person next year and give all these amazing authors a hug. So, without further ado, I give you Jen's version of the BEA.....

What happens when a country mouse heads to the big city?  She evolves into a temporary city slicker, with memories, photos and blisters on her feet to prove it.  BEA (Book Expo America) and Book Buzz NYC 2013 led me from my Indiana home to the city that never sleeps.  Yet what started out as a business trip, with a hint of pleasure on the side, became the experience of a lifetime. 

BEA is the event, of all events, in the book industry.  Publishers, distributers, authors, reporters, and others descend upon the Big Apple for power meetings and sneak peeks into the books and products hitting the market.  I also termed it “Christmas for Book Hoarders.”  Booths are manned by effervescent PR people begging you to take copies of the latest and greatest reads.  It would’ve been rude for me to say no, right?  Yet that 50lb rule about suitcase weight on airlines caused me to evaluate my needs versus wants.  I meandered BEA with my friend, author Cari Kamm.  Once she recovered from me leaping on top of her with endless joy in our shared taxi at 7:20AM, I think the rest of our day went splendidly well.  
Book Buzz NYC 2013 was the brain child of some fabulous women, who wanted to bring authors and readers to mix and mingle at a side event during BEA.  Francine LaSala was the mastermind, creative director, and babysitter who kept the authors in line while prepping for this inaugural event.  Everyone worked hard behind the scenes making this night spectacular for our guests.  The synergy of the evening wouldn’t have happened without blogger, Julie Valerie.  Julie volunteered (she worked for booze and laughs) to stay in NYC one extra day to keep vigil over our book table.  Julie, you are a rock star, and because in private you wouldn’t accept praise for what you did, it’s my honor to karaoke my love for you now.
Hoopla for books is one reason I booked my ticket to New York City.  Add in a dash of BFF time with my sweet pal, Jill, and there were zero reasons to say no to this trek.  What I couldn’t shake while committing to purchasing my plane ticket was the opportunity to spend time with women, in the flesh, that I’ve had relationships with forever and a day.  Talented authors, editors, bloggers and PR whizzes I’ve communicated with via social media and email were finally going to occupy the same living, breathing space as me.  How could I say no to that?
Who is luckier?!?
If you know me (I’m not shy, nor introverted, and have been known to attempt to solve the world’s ills in line at the grocery while talking with strangers.) it won’t shock you that moment I saw Francine LaSala, I attacked her with a voracious, yet loving, bear hug.  During our days together, we constantly finished each other’s sentences, and boisterously interjected the same words into conversations at the same time (think Double Mint Twins).  I emphatically declared to CLC’s own Amy Bromberg, she was so adorable that I wanted to tuck her into my pocket.  Sweet and petite, I think I could’ve snuck her past airport security and brought her home with me.  When I had drinks with Meredith Schorr, it eased my soul like catching up with your little sister after her year away at college.  She’s tough, all heart, and I’m so happy to have her on my side walking the streets of NYC at midnight.  Heather Thurmeier impressed the socks off me with her drive and goals.  I can only hope a sliver of her tenacity rubbed off on me.  She’s that sensational.  Samantha Bailey (affectionately known to me as Sam-I-Am) will neatly tuck into my other pocket Amy isn’t occupying.  She’s a spitfire, and will conquer the world one adventure at a time.  I’m so happy to be a fly on a wall in any room she occupies.   Lucie Simone is a powerhouse in writing and publishing.  I was crazy about her the moment we shared Asparagus dip together, and find her a zentastic, calming force for my manic self.  Eileen Goudge; breathtaking and gracious.  She opened her home this crazy bunch where we cackled way past curfew on my last night in New York.  Her husband, Sandy, sweetly retreated to his “man cave” while we shared a meal prepared by Eileen, drank way too much champagne, and absorbed the views as the sun set over Central Park.  In true Jen Tucker fashion, while peering over the skyscrapers to see the Hudson River, I said, “Hey!  That’s were Captain Sully crashed his plane in the water!  Boiler Up!” yet was glad my comment went unnoticed and quickly recovered with, “Hey look, Broadway!”    
Besides the birth of my children, I’ve never experienced an instant kismet, bond, trust, and devotion the way I did for these talented women.  How could people, without a history together in the flesh, have a comfort with one another that rivaled sisters?  I think Francine captured it best when she said, “We connected first through written words, because as writers that’s how we communicate.   It’s who we are.  We are our words.”  Gosh, she’s so smart, isn’t she?

We're a happy family....
These women are in my life for keeps.  Our plans to work together, and play together, continue to blossom.  Francine’s coordination of Book Buzz NYC 2013 was so superb, that you might see more Book Buzz events in cities near you featuring other incredibly talented authors.  Isn’t that wonderful?  I grew up a little too on this excursion.  I went from hiding in my hotel room worried that New York would eat me alive (remember, I’m the country mouse), to strutting the streets a la John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.  

There was only one caveat.  I do believe I lost cool points when an air vent on 7th Avenue blew my dress into the air, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, minus the sexy aspect.  So if you saw my derriere the evening I strolled to Eileen Goudge’s home, my sincerest apologies.  If you find it on YouTube, that wasn’t me, baby.   

Jen Tucker is the author of the funny and true stories, The Day I Wore My Panties Inside Out and The Day I Lost My Shaker of SaltIn September 2012, she had her children's book, Little Pumpkin published as an e-book. She also blogs monthly for Survival for Blondes. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband, three kids and two dogs. You can find her at TwitterFacebook, her blog and on her website. And in case you missed them. check out her previous Chick Lit Cheerleader posts here.