Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CLC Chicks Celebrating Christmas

It's the most wonderful time of the year....and four of the ladies from CLC are here to tell you why!


Favorite holiday from any time of the year: 
I think we're probably a bit pants in the UK for really celebrating anything other than Christmas! So I'll choose Christmas!

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday?
The only one I really have is frantic baking the day before Christmas eve! I love baking and always decide to make lots of different things and take them home and give some to family with their presents. It's stressful but fun!

Favorite memory from this holiday:
It probably has to be when I still believed in Father Christmas, I remember the snowy footprints, the fake ho ho ho's when you're pretending to be asleep and the amazing feeling when my older brothers told me Santa had been (i'll ignore the times they told me he wasn't real...), finding a pillowcase full of presents outside my bedroom door (with the obligatory orange at the bottom and can of pineapple juice, very random thinking back!). It's always been equally enjoyable when there's been a child in the family to keep up this pretence with :)

Favorite song related to or from this holiday:
Boney M, "Mary's Boy Child."

Favorite movie about or including this holiday:
I love Christmas films but I'd say Love Actually, if I had to pick one, it's just the perfect Christmas film. I watch it every year and it chokes me up every time and makes me feel all warm inside and completely gets me in the Christmas spirit. I love all the different stories. Each time I watch it I really hope Sarah and Karl get it together, somehow it never happens! (maybe one day there will be a sequel and I'll get my wish!). This would be closely followed by Serendipity or Elf.

Favorite food to eat during this holiday:
My mum's vol au vents.

What you like most about this holiday:
My company always closes down for Christmas so I always get at least a week off work and it's just lovely knowing that there is this week where everyone is off and enjoying the time with family, it almost feels like a never ending holiday, well it feels like that at the time anyway which is nice!


My son's first Christmas
Favorite holiday from any time of the year: 

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday?
For the past several years, we have gone to Christmas Eve mass with my husband's father and brothers, and then had dinner at a local diner.

Favorite memory from this holiday: 
My younger brother and I were never that close, but he usually spent the night on my floor so we'd wake up Christmas morning together.

Favorite song related to or from this holiday: 
Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Favorite movie about or including this holiday: 
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Favorite food to eat during this holiday: 
I make a Cookies and Creme fudge only around Christmas that is to die for.

What you like most about this holiday: 
Getting together with family and friends.


Favorite holiday from any time of the year: 

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday? 
Every Christmas season I re-read Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel.

Favorite memory from this holiday: 
Every Christmas morning, when everyone slowly trickles over to Mom and Dad's house, opens up our stockings, and we all just sit around together drinking coffee and enjoying each others company. I don't remember a particular Christmas morning that stands out, but it's definitely my favorite memory when I think of the Christmas season.

Favorite song related to or from this holiday: 
"Six White Boomers" by Rolf Harris. It never feels like the Christmas season until I hear this song on the radio for some reason.

Favorite movie about or including this holiday: 
Either the original Grinch cartoon, or Elf. Both are definite favorites, and get re-watched every year.

Favorite food to eat during this holiday: would have to be oliebollen (literally translates as "oil balls"): a Dutch treat that my mom makes every year (either at Christmas or New Year's...or both if we're especially nice!). It's basically fried dough balls with pieces of apple and raisins in them, served with powdered sugar.

What you like most about this holiday: 
The time that I get to spend with my family. It seems like the whole year we're all racing our separate ways even though we all live fairly close to each other. For me, Christmas is about the time that we get to spend together, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.


Favorite holiday from any time of the year: 
Christmas (when I was a child, not so much as an adult)

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday? 
I still send Holiday cards

Favorite memory from this holiday: 
The year I received a two-wheel blue bicycle with a basket. It was beautiful. I shined it regularly as if it were a car.

Favorite song related to or from this holiday: 
"The Christmas Song" written by Mel Torme & Bob Wells, 1946
"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ... kids from one to ninety-two... "
Everyone can sing it and I love the back story. It was written during a blistering hot summer day in Beverly Hills.

Favorite movie about or including this holiday: 
It's A Wonderful Life and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Favorite food to eat during this holiday: 
Egg nog, candy canes and gingerbread.

What you like most about this holiday: 
The yummy smell of food cooking, the television showing the parade following by the Lion's football game. Everyone too full and perhaps a bit tipsy, but all together safe and sound.

The bicycle I got for Christmas when I was six.

Book Review: Perfect Timing

By Amy Bromberg

I need to start by saying that I 100% devoured Beautiful Disaster, Laura Spinella’s debut novel. That being said, I have been waiting impatiently for book number two. I’ve become friends with Laura on Facebook and Twitter and she’s so sweet. When I saw her Facebook post revealing the cover for Perfect Timing, I messaged her right away saying PLEASE SEND ME A COPY!!!! I’m glad to report that, as I suspected, the book did not disappoint.

What’s a Jersey Girl to do when she moves to Catswallow, Alabama? Isabel Lang finds the answer in an unlikely bond with the musically gifted Aidan Roycroft. The two share everything from a first kiss to startling family secrets. But when Aidan is accused of a violent crime, the two flee to Las Vegas where Isabel’s future comes tumbling down.

Seven years later, the past is buried, including any relationship with Aidan. Isabel is busy running a radio station and closing in on commitment with Nate Potter, a guy who defines ideal. Life seems cozy until new station management demands a sudden-death ratings grabber, putting everyone’s future on the line. What should be a simple solution leads to a stunning revelation as Isabel is forced to call on the past and the only rock star she knows. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Of course I was looking forward to a romance and a love story. If you haven’t read Beautiful Disaster, then I suggest you do. This way you will know that Laura has a talent for portraying beautiful love stories. We find one between Aidan and Isabel in Perfect Timing. But what makes this one stand out, among many others us readers come across, is that it’s real. We’re not talking about a crush, a fling or “boy meets girl and they live happily ever after.” It’s a friendship that starts in childhood, one that grows into adolescence and into adulthood, and at a certain point in time a relationship blooms. Both of them go through many obstacles. But in the end we see that love conquers all. But don’t let me mislead you. We’re not talking all champagne and roses. This story is packed with family secrets, betrayal, a compelling dialogue and twists and turns. There was one particular one that I didn’t see coming that made me say WOW.

The only thing I wish Laura included was where in New Jersey Isabel lived before she moved to Alabama. I was curious about this right when I saw this mentioned in the synopsis, as I am a Jersey girl myself.

If you're looking for a book where you can escape from your daily worries, to-do lists and and just life in general, then I highly suggest you pick up a copy of this book.

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

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's a blissful holiday with Mary Kay a giveaway

Mary Kay Andrews is the author of the New York Times bestselling Ladies' Night, Spring Fever, and Summer Rental, (all from St. Martin's Press), as well as Savannah Breeze, Hissy Fit and Little Bitty Lies (all HarperPerennial). This past October, she published a new holiday novella, Christmas Bliss (reviewed here), that is perfect for our theme this month!

A native of St. Petersburg, Florida (and a diplomate of the Maas Bros. Department Store School of Charm), she started her professional journalism career in Savannah, Georgia, where she covered the real-life murder trials which were the basis of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

As a lifelong ""junker"" the author claims to know the location of every promising thrift store, flea market and junkpile in the southeastern United States, plus many parts of Ohio.

She has a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia (go Dawgs!), and is a frequent lecturer and writing teacher at workshops and book festivals.

Married for more than 36 years to her high school sweetheart, Tom, she is the mother of two grown children and she divides her time between a restored 1926 Craftsman bungalow in Atlanta and a rambling old beach house on Tybee Island Georgia. (Bio adapted from Amazon.)

We're glad to have Mary Kay here, as a lot of our readers love her books. She's also getting us into the holiday spirit today! And thanks to Tandem Literary, we have a copy of Christmas Bliss, along with bookmarks, recipe cards, and an ornament for a lucky US reader!

Visit Mary Kay at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Favorite holiday from any time of the year: Christmas!

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday?
I love decorating our home with the vintage Christmas ornaments I’ve collected from estate sales and antique shops over the years. My collections include snowmen, Santa figurines, elves and glass Shiny-Brite ornaments.

Favorite memory from this holiday: 
Our first year as a married couple, which came less than a month after our wedding. We were starting new lives in Savannah, spending the holiday away from our families for the first time, but making our own, new traditions.

Favorite song related to or from this holiday: 
Christmas, Baby Please Come Home, by Darlene Love.

Favorite movie about or including this holiday:
White Christmas

Favorite food to eat during this holiday: 
 My neighbor’s homemade fudge, which she faithfully gifts us with every year. I have to hide it from my son if I want to have any.

What do you like most about this holiday? 
Spending time with close friends and family, reminiscing about good times and creating new traditions.

Thanks to Mary Kay for visiting with us and to Tandem Literary for sharing her novella with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Want another chance to win? Visit Chick Lit is Not Dead. (US only. Ends 12/1.)

Guest Book Review: Christmas Bliss

By Allie Smith

In the novella Christmas Bliss, Mary Kay Andrews revisits her fans’ favorite characters from her bestselling book, Savannah Blues. That novel’s success spawned the follow-up books, Savannah Breeze and Blue Christmas. The heroines of these funny tales are Weezie and Bebe, best friends who would do anything for each other – and have! Weezie is now engaged to her delicious Chef Daniel and their Christmas Eve wedding is fast approaching. She is feeling the stress of Christmas and wedding planning, which is exacerbated by her growing concerns for her pregnant best friend and her dad, whose health is failing. Daniel’s away on a month long job in New York City, working for a gorgeous and sexy restaurateur. With less than a week to go until the wedding, what’s a frazzled bride to do? Jump on a plane to New York, of course.

Bebe has her own set of problems. She’s eight months pregnant with her boyfriend Harry’s baby and getting more uncomfortable by the day. Harry wants to get married, Bebe does not - and she has a secret. Turns out her second husband never filed divorce papers, so she’s still legally married to a man who she believes is incarcerated. Not so fast, Bebe. Seems her “ex-husband” is out on parole and nowhere to be found. Baby daddy Harry’s a deep sea fisherman who’s been gone a lot, which often causes the mom- to-be unnecessary stress. Bebe’s rising blood pressure makes everyone wonder if she could end up having a Christmas baby.

I’m a huge fan of Ms. Andrews and I’ve read all her books, so of course I was familiar with the characters. I’m happy to report that the author does a sufficient and seamless job of introducing everyone with just enough background that you’ll have no problem enjoying the story. In short, you don’t have to read the other books to understand what’s happening (although I highly recommend you do, because they’re fabulous). This book is a sweet read, filled with vivid descriptions of food, clothes and interiors that are the hallmark of an Andrews’s novel. I got so lost in the blissful Christmas worlds of New York City and Savannah that it was disconcerting when I would look up and see my pumpkins and the fall leaves on the ground.

Weezie and Bebe haven’t lost their pizazz. They’re so funny and real that their dialogue just hums along as if you were a part of the conversation. My one complaint about this book is that they’re not together enough, since both ladies are preoccupied with their own problems in separate cities. That being said, the scenes and storylines they share with their respective partners more than makes up for it. As a reader, I was delighted to read about healthy relationships, which added to the feel good theme of the Christmas story. Each lady, after conquering her own set of bah-humbug issues, experiences Christmas bliss. The book made me smile.

This is a great gift for a friend who is an antique lover or an HGTV addict. Weezie owns and operates an antique store and the book is loaded with Junker tidbits and interior decorating ideas. The food descriptions will make you drool and the wedding details will spark the envy of any bride. But most of all it’s a story about the bliss we experience from true friendship.

Thanks to Tandem Literary for the book in exchange for an honest review. They're doing a giveaway along with Mary Kay's interview.

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

More by Mary Kay Andrews:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: Lies You Wanted to Hear

By Jami Deise

The landmark movie Kramer vs. Kramer came out during Christmas 1979, when I was 12. (I can’t imagine today’s 12-year-olds being interested in family dramas, but perhaps we were more sophisticated back then, or there were just fewer films to choose from.) If you’re not familiar with the film, Meryl Streep abandons her husband (Dustin Hoffman) and son, then returns a year or so later wanting custody. She gets it, but ends up giving the boy back to Hoffman because she was too …. Well, I don’t really remember that part. I do remember sitting in the movie theatre and wondering why a judge would give a child back to a parent who’d abandoned him. In the 1970s, giving custody to a father only happened if the mother could be proven unfit – and the bar for that was very high.

This is the foundation on which author James Whitfield Thomson, in his amazing debut novel, chooses to build. In the 1970s, solid good-guy Matt falls in love with flighty, self-centered Lucy. They marry and have two children, but their mismatch in personalities proves too much to overcome. Convinced that Lucy is an unfit mother – but unable to find a judge or lawyer who’ll agree – how far will Matt go to keep his children safe?

Thomson tells the story from both Matt and Lucy’s points of view. The first part of the book is richly detailed and the pacing relatively slow, as we get to know both characters and watch them fall in love – despite, in Lucy’s case, her inability to get over bad boy ex Griffin. After the children are born and the marriage starts to crack, the tension ratchets up and the pacing quickens as we get closer and closer to the inevitable tragedy.

I believe Thomson’s decision to tell the story from both viewpoints was intended to keep either character from becoming hero or villain. But personally, I saw Lucy as the villain right from the start. Perhaps it’s because Thomson, whose biography mentions he served in Vietnam, was an adult during the time period he writes about, and therefore Lucy’s pot and cigarette smoking and daily drinking were much more accepted behaviors for parents in that era. But I’m a helicopter parent; my son was born the year Dr. Sears’ baby book came out, and we were all told to sleep with our children, breastfeed on demand and wear the baby on a sling. Truthfully, I hated Lucy, and I didn’t think a woman who allowed her alcoholic mother to drive her children around when she was drunk was someone who deserved to retain custody of them. So, for me, Thomson’s decision to show both points of view backfired – the more I got to know Lucy, the more I disliked her.

Lies You Wanted to Hear is a fascinating book, and I highly recommend it. It’s like a more domestic version of Gone Girl; the different time periods notwithstanding. I’d be especially interested in hearing whether other readers share my reaction toward Matt and Lucy, and how that breaks down according to gender and age. Will readers who became parents in the 1970s be sympathetic toward Lucy than those who became parents in the 1990s or later? Check in after you read the book and let us know.

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

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Friday, November 22, 2013

What's in the a giveaway

Melissa A:

Totlandia (Book 4) by Josie Brown from Coliloquy (e-book)

What Happened to My Sister by Elizabeth Flock from Paperback Swap


Buying In by Laura Hemphill, won from Debutante Ball

Twisted Sisters by Jen Lancaster from Penguin (Berkley)


Second Star to the Right by/from Mary Alice Monroe (e-book)


Love...Under Different Skies by Nick Spalding from Coronet
It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning from Corgi
Just for Christmas by Scarlett Bailey from Ebury Publishing 
Take a Look at Me Now by Miranda Dickinson from Avon
The Forever of Ella and Micha by Jessica Sorenson from Little, Brown
How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern from HarperCollins UK
Finding It by Cora Carmack from Ebury Press

What could be in YOUR mail:

The Other Side of the Bridge by Katharine Swartz. She has THREE e-books for some lucky readers anywhere in the world!

Ava Lancet has lost her job, her marriage, and her baby when she discovers she has inherited her grandmother’s dilapidated farmhouse in a tiny village in central Greece. With the kind of emotional impulsiveness that has frustrated her stony-faced husband for years, she decides to move there and recover from life’s sorrows. It only takes a few minutes in her new home to realize just what a dump it is, and how ridiculously rash her decision was. Yet Ava perseveres, and thanks to her grandmother’s legacy, is welcomed into the village... as well as by handsome widower Andreas Lethikos.

When an elderly woman in the village mistakes Ava for her grandmother, telling her, with tears trickling down her face, that she is so sorry, Ava is both touched and intrigued. What is the woman sorry for, and what secrets did her grandmother keep? With the help of a local schoolteacher who is interviewing the remaining Second World War survivors in central Greece, Ava discovers the surprising threads of her grandmother’s life... and they help to weave her own life back together.

In 1942, in Italian and Nazi-occupied Greece, Ava’s grandmother Sophia Paranoussis is fighting to keep her family, and especially her impulsive sister Angelika, safe. When she is approached by a stranger to help with the local Resistance, she longs to refuse, yet a sense of both duty and honor compel her to agree. Frightened and yet with growing courage, Sophia begins to aid twelve British SOEs who have parachuted into Greece to blow up the Gorgopotamos viaduct--and falls in impossible love with one of them.

Spanning three generations and exploring the lives of two very different and yet surprisingly similar women, The Other Side of The Bridge will remind you how a fragile hope can spring from both tragedy and despair. Written by USA Today bestselling author Kate Hewitt, writing as Katharine Swartz.
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

How to win:
Find and share an interesting fact about any holiday that is celebrated in a culture different than your own. Ex: A holiday that is celebrated in another country that is not celebrated where you live or a holiday celebrated by a religion that you do not practice. (Or about a way that a different culture celebrates the same holiday as you. Ex: How Christmas might be celebrated in a different country.)

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.

Worldwide. Giveaway ends November 26th at midnight EST.

Guest Book Review: No One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday

By Michelle Drodge

When I pick up a book to read by an author I’ve never heard of before, I try to keep an open mind, because I am certainly loyal to my favourites. However, as soon as I read the first few pages of Tracy Bloom’s novel, No One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday, I instantly felt as if I’ve been reading her novels for years. The tone was so relaxed and familiar that it made it very difficult to put the book down!

After reuniting at their high school reunion, childhood sweethearts Katy and Matthew ended up in bed together, after many things were left unsaid so many years ago. While sleeping together was a way to close the door on their relationship for Katy, her plan backfired when she found out she was pregnant. Under normal circumstances this could have been a joyous occasion, however Katy was in a relationship with Ben, a boyish teacher ten years her junior.

As first time parents do, Katy and Ben attended the antenatal classes held at their local hospital. But joy quickly turned to shock when fellow classmates turned out to be none other than Matthew and his wife Alison, who were expecting twins after many years of unsuccessful fertility treatments. To top it off, it appeared as if the bundles of joy were due to arrive extremely close together.

I really loved how I could feel the torn emotions of Katy and how she handled her relationships with both Ben and Matthew. I also had a few laughs at the comedic best friend of Ben, aptly named ‘Braindead’. And, with any good book there is the token gay best friend, and Daniel serves not only that purpose, but has an integral part in the book when both Ben and Matthew are not available when Katy goes into labour.
I simply can’t give away how this book ends, because you will be soaking up the words as fast as possible to find out what happens. And although I do prefer less of an abrupt ending, it did answer most questions that I had in my mind. I can’t wait to read Ms. Bloom’s latest novel Single Woman Seeks Revenge.

Thanks to InkWell Management for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Michelle Drodge is 28 and lives in a small town north of Toronto in Canada with her daughter, who is three going on thirteen. She works in Restaurant Development 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!

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

CLC Chicks Celebrating Chanukah....or other holidays

Not everyone at CLC celebrates Christmas, so we wanted to share about some favorite Jewish and non-religious holidays instead. (Don't will hear about Christmas from some of us soon!)


Holidays used to be unqualified fun. I still enjoy them, but there's so much work involved. Cooking, cleaning, hosting's really quite an ordeal.

So I tend to really look forward to the fourth of July. For one thing, there's almost zero work involved. Barbecues are so easy; that's why men are usually the ones behind the grill. I stopped eating hot dogs a few years back, but I eat one a year, super burned, on July 4th. It's heaven. And the seventeen brownies I chase my hot dog with aren't too shabby either.

And of course, it's usually hot, if not searing hot, on July 4th. People are carefree in shorts and flip-flops as they smear sunscreen on their protesting children and chatter about nothing consequential. The only downside is that Independence Day marks the peak of summer and time speeds up afterward, hurtling us toward August and school days. But on that day, in that moment of sunshine, it's a glorious holiday.

Why don't I live in a warm climate? Someone remind me....

Melissa A:

While I enjoy some non-religious holidays (mostly for the candy), I wanted to share about some of my favorite Jewish holidays. (I'll spare you from my rendition of Adam Sandler's Chanukah song that involves chick lit authors.)

Purim celebrates our victory over Haman's evil plot to exterminate us. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. We now celebrate by giving reciprocal gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim), a celebratory meal (se'udat Purim), and public recitation of the Scroll of Esther (kriat ha-megillah), during which we make loud noises when the name "Haman" is said (in order to drown it out). Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

I love that Purim takes place in the spring. It also is close to my younger son's birthday. We celebrated his upsherin (haircutting ceremony on his third birthday) with a costume party. Now that we don't do much for Halloween anymore, Purim is a great excuse to come up with fun costumes. This past year, my husband and I were Sheldon and Amy from The Big Bang Theory. As for mishloach manot, the kids and I put together goody bags for our neighbors and then we deliver them or do exchanges when they deliver packages to us. Some people get really creative with them too, using themes and clever ways to present the treats.

Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, "booth or tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with schach (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves). The sukkah is intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and some people sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav (closed frond of the date palm tree, bound with boughs and branches of the willow and myrtle trees) and etrog (yellow citron). (Description courtesy of Wikipedia.)

I'm all about autumn, and Sukkot is the perfect way to kick off the season...provided the weather cooperates. I love when it's chilly out, but comfortable at the same time. It makes eating soup in the sukkah even more enjoyable. We host holiday meals and barbecues in our sukkah. My husband decorates it to look like a cozy (and somewhat romantic) French bistro. The kids also love helping to decorate it prior to the holiday.

My husband's artsy photo of the inside of our sukkah

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) celebrates our victory over assimilation and the miracle of the small amount of oil that lasted eight days. Lighting the menorah and frying potato latkes are ways to celebrate this miracle. Children usually receive gelt (chocolate coins) and play dreidel (a spinning top with four Hebrew letters). Gifts are usually exchanged, as well.

I really enjoy the warmth of Hanukkah and love lighting the candles with my family, while we sing the blessings together. Seeing all the candles lit together is so beautiful and comforting. I also love the smell and taste of latkes and the feeling of festivity throughout the week.

Fun fact: What we refer to as a menorah is actually called a Hanukkiah. (Hah-noo-kee-ah.) There are menorahs, but they usually have seven candles as opposed to nine.

Amy and I wrote about Hanukkah a while back and I even included a latke recipe.

The first night

Happy holidays (any and all)!

A special holiday for Kristina a book giveaway

Birthdays are holidays, right? If so, then Kristina McMorris is celebrating a holiday with us right now, as today is her birthday! And her latest novel, The Pieces We Keep, will be having a birthday on November 26th!

Kristina McMorris lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and their two sons, bundles of energy who take pride in transforming any cylindrical household object into a weapon.

While gathering her grandmother's biographical info for a self-published family cookbook, Kristina happened across a letter her grandfather mailed to his "sweetheart" during his wartime naval service -- a letter that later inspired Kristina to pen her first novel, a WWII love story titled Letters from Home. Praised by critics as a "sweeping debut" (Publishers Weekly), Letters from Home was published by Kensington Books and Avon/HarperCollins UK in spring 2011. Her second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, was released in spring 2012 to equally high critical acclaim. Most recently, her novella, "The Christmas Collector," appeared in the New York Times and USA Today bestselling anthology A Winter Wonderland.

To date, Kristina's works of fiction have garnered more than twenty national literary awards and even a nomination for the prestigious RITA® Award. A frequent guest speaker and workshop presenter, she holds a B.S. in International Marketing with a language concentration from Pepperdine University. For her diverse accomplishments, she has been named one of Portland's "Forty Under 40" by The Business Journal.

Kristina was first at CLC when Letters from Home was published. (The e-book is currently a #1 bestseller on Amazon, and is available for only $2.99 on all e-readers...only for a limited time though.) We're thrilled to have her back for another visit and to talk about her favorite holiday. She has TWO copies of The Pieces We Keep for some lucky US readers.

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

Check out a trailer for The Pieces We Keep:

Favorite holiday from any time of the year: 
Christmas, without a doubt. I admit, I'm one of those utterly annoying people who starts playing Christmas music the very first day of November!

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday? 
In our house, we host an annual Christmas cookie showdown, in which we strive to decorate the most creative sugar cookie in the family -- but here's the catch: the finished product cannot resemble what the cookie cutter intended. In other words, a rocking horse is transformed into the Grinch, or a candy cane into a bookworm on a fish hook.

Favorite memory from this holiday: 
I still remember the Christmas morning when I was a little girl and found boot prints in a layer of ash in front of our family's fireplace. What greater proof would a child possibly need?

Favorite song related to or from this holiday: 
 "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Whenever I listen to that song and think about the context of WWII servicemen and women -- and even our military today -- spending the holiday far from loved ones, it reminds me of the incredible sacrifices they made, and continue to make, for our country.

Favorite movie about or including this holiday: 
I'd have to name two: Love Actually and It's a Wonderful Life (at the end, Harry's toast to George never fails to make me teary).

Favorite food to eat during this holiday:
Candied yams covered in loads of mini-marshmallows. Yum!

What do you like most about this holiday? 
I love SO much about it: the snow, the scent of hot apple cider, curling up by a fire, our family's memorable traditions, decorating the tree, baking pies and cookies, and listening to my favorite carols. But I especially love the generosity it so often brings out in people (Black Friday madness excluded, that is). :)

Thanks to Kristina for kicking off her birthday at CLC and sharing a present (a.k.a. her book) with our readers!

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

US only. Giveaway ends November 26th at midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Giving Thanks

Introduction by Tracey Meyers

Thanksgiving is a time for counting blessings, and amongst mine is that I have the honor and pleasure of calling Jen, Mike, Ryan, Will, Gracie, Jack and Henry Tucker my friends.

Last fall, on a bit of a whim I randomly decided I wanted to participate in a 5K race that was taking place in West Lafayette, Indiana.  Though I had only (virtually) known Jen Tucker a matter of a few weeks, I e-mailed her about my idea to participate in this particular race and asked if I could spend the night at her home afterward.

Yep, that's right folks! Not only did I ask someone if I could intrude on their life for a night, but I asked someone I hadn't even met before, someone who had never met me, if I could stay in their home for the night.  Jen didn't blink an eye at my request.  With much enthusiasm (and trust - which I'm sure she doesn't always do) she said yes.

From the moment I stepped into their home, the Tucker clan showered me with so much kindness and love.  It was if I was stepping into the home of old friends.

This year on Thanksgiving, as I count my blessings once again, I will be sure to say thanks for the friendship and love CLC's Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker, has shown me over the past year and for our continued friendship.

Giving Thanks

Have you ever wondered what becomes of turkeys pardoned each year by the president? Do they live out their days playing Rook and Canasta at a turkey retirement village? Do they go on the travel circuit, giving sold out, standing turkey only, inspirational speeches on how they cheated death? Some of you might think these freed birds missed an opportunity to serve their country gracing Thanksgiving tables across America. Others might not think twice, and wish their non-flying friend a peaceful, brine wash free life. Wait…did I just say “non-flying?” You know that’s not true, right? I have firsthand knowledge of a turkey in flight! I swear it as truth on a jar of cranberry sauce.

Thanksgiving 2004, we hosted our friends, Pete and Melissa Staffelli, at our home in Indianapolis, Indiana. The four of us have been joined at the hip since we met on our respective honeymoons in 1993. We were assigned to dine at the same table for meals on our cruise; the birth of a beautiful friendship. We’ve spent countless holidays together, watched our children grow to love each other like cousins, vacationed as an ever expanding ensemble and experienced life’s highs and lows supporting one another. Our inside jokes are endless. Our relationship endures.

Pete and Mike appointed themselves The Grand Poobahs of Turkey that year. Actually, it was nice having two culinary whizzes take over the kitchen. Melissa couldn’t make the trip for work related reasons. I was recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery, so it made perfect sense for me to watch the cooking, and Thanksgiving Day Parade, from the sidelines of my couch. Someone needed to provide the boys the play-by-play for the Snoopy balloon, right?

The boys (Pete and Mike concur they remain in the never grow up category), set up Turkey Central in my laundry room. The roaster oven setup to cook the bird to a bubbly perfection, leaving the kitchen for culinary magic to commence. The duo cranked out three choices of dressing, buttery mashed potatoes, beautifully blanched green beans and enough rolls to make the Pillsbury Doughboy giggle. Mike and Pete took turns checking on the bird between whipping up the rest of the menu; basting like clockwork, charting the internal temperature, and analyzing the fowl’s golden brown coloring. Eventually all their plotting and graphing led to the conclusion the turkey was finished. Now came the tricky part: how to get the bird from the roaster.

A Thanksgiving meal with the Staffellis

*The story you’re about to hear is real. The participants are not actors, nor MENSA members.*

From my supine position on the couch, I heard tough negotiations and strategies. I’d witness one of them emerge from the laundry room from time-to-time, rattle around in the kitchen drawers, only to return bird-side to renegotiate the scenario with whatever gadget was the flavor of the moment. With a game plan intact, they got busy. And from the quiet emerged screams and cussing like I hadn’t heard in my lifetime. The turkey had flown and crash landed onto the flowered wool rug.


It turns out Mike and Pete decided to go with the option of stabbing the turkey with serving forks, thinking that was the safest mode of transportation towards the awaiting platter. They were wrong. The forks bent, the turkey crashed back into the roaster. On the second attempt, Mike decided to lift the stainless steel rack holding the turkey from the roaster. He grabbed the metal edges; the turkey shifted and took flight. In a moment of desperation to save it, Pete attempted to catch our airborne bird. All he caught were some painful burns on his hands. We laughed. Pete sobbed. We hatched a new plan for the bird that almost got away and none of our guests where the wiser.

If you know me, there are a few silver linings from this story I want to share with you. I try to find them in the craziness of my reality. First, when a turkey, plus gravity, impacts with the floor, it debones instantly. Take that Bill Nye the Science Guy! Next, cooked turkeys do rinse off quite well. Just don’t add soap. Third, Pete learned sometimes rather than grab on to things out of our control, it’s best to let them fall where they may. A good life lesson, right? And last, but not least, this gave Santa a hint as to what Mike Tucker needed in his stocking that Christmas; little turkey pitchforks.

That, my friends, is the tale about the year the turkey flew. I hope you’ll share your funny stories with us at Chick Lit Central about your holiday mishaps too. We love to gobble them up!

Toasting to a--hopefully--less chaotic Thanksgiving this year!

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.

Book Review: Back to You

By Jami Deise

The afterlife is a popular motif in fiction, on the big or small screen or in books. You can’t throw a gravestone without hitting a boy who sees dead people, or a mom channeling a murdered teenager, or a Long Island housewife giving readings in the supermarket. In the real world, however, telling people you’ve seen a ghost is bound to get you some strange looks, if not a one-way ticket to the funny farm.

That’s one of the reasons why Susy McPhee’s novel, Back to You is so refreshing. When Claudia tells her family that she’s been communicating with her dead fiancé Marius, they don’t ask what the weather is like in heaven – they’re afraid it’s another sign that she is losing her mind. And under McPhee’s deft writing and plotting, the reader doesn’t know, either.

Eight months ago, Marius disappeared in a climbing accident in China. After a first-hand account from his climbing partner, Marius was declared dead; a memorial service was held. Claudia’s been sleepwalking through life ever since, and just recently took a Friday-only volunteer job at a thrift store. Marius is constantly in her thoughts, so much so that when she sees him across the street from the store one snowy night, she assumes he’s a figment of her imagination. But later that same evening, meeting her brother Richard at a pub to celebrate his impending fatherhood, she sees Marius again, and spends an hour or so talking to him. When Richard shows up, Marius is gone...and Richard tells Claudia the bartender said she’d been sitting by herself the whole time. Claudia is ready to believe she imagined the entire conversation...until Marius shows up at their apartment, and they spend the night together.

Is Marius a ghost? Is Claudia losing her mind? Or perhaps she has a brain tumor? Even while she’s enjoying her fiance’s return from the dead, Claudia constantly questions what’s really going on. Her family is convinced she’s hallucinating, or perhaps Marius is some kind of adult version of an imaginary friend. As Claudia begins remembering details of the early, foggy days surrounding Marius’ accident, she has to admit that losing her mind isn’t such a far-fetched option after all.

This is a detailed, descriptive, literary novel with a writing style that perfectly matches its plot. Its slow pacing and attention to detail create a sleepwalking-type state for the reader, a place where dead loved ones come and go, a place that’s comfortable to hide from reality. McPhee’s character work is just as rich: Claudia and Richard’s sibling relationship is multi-dimensional, filled with teasing, inside jokes, and genuine concern. Her parents, who seem a bit overbearing at first, are gradually revealed to be justified in their hovering. McPhee also does a wonderful job slowly revealing who Marius is and the contours of his relationship with Claudia. It is not a coincidence that his accident took place in China.

My only true quibble with the book is the ending, which seems tacked on to elicit a certain emotional response from the reader. With all the careful work McPhee had done with setting and language, it stands out in an artificial way. This may be just my opinion, however, and other readers may find McPhee delivers exactly the ending they need. In any case, this dreamy, “is he or isn’t he” novel is just the type of book to get lost in during these cold, dreary months ahead.

Thanks to Susy McPhee for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting cozy with Cat Lavoie for the a book giveaway

Cat Lavoie is no stranger to CLC, as she visited us last year during
"School Month" to feature her debut novel, Breaking the Rules. She's back this time for "Holiday Month" with a fun escape from the recent cold weather, also known as Zoey and the Moment of Zen.

Cat Lavoie was born in the small town of Jonquière in Québec, Canada. At the age of nineteen, she packed up her things (mostly books) and moved to the big city of Montreal where she currently lives with her tempestuous cat Abbie–who is both adorable and quite possibly evil.

An incurable Anglophile since her university days where she studied English Literature, she can often be found daydreaming about her next trip to London. Cat grew up watching soap operas and legal dramas and–had she not decided to be a claims analyst by day and write chick lit by night–she would have probably become a designer suit-wearing lawyer. Or a character on All My Children (which is what she really wanted to be when she was twelve).

She blogs about the writing life and posts adorable pictures of Abbie over at her website. She can also be found at Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks to Marching Ink, we have THREE e-books of Cat's latest novel, Zoey & the Moment of Zen, to give away to readers anywhere in the world!

Favorite holiday from any time of the year:

What is a tradition you partake in for this holiday? 
Baking Christmas cookies. I love decorating them… and, of course, eating them!

Favorite memory from this holiday:
When I was a kid, I always looked forward to decorating the Christmas tree. I have a lot of fond memories that involve sorting through boxes of ornaments and covering the tree in silver and gold tinsel.

Favorite song related to or from this holiday:
The soundtrack to Love, Actually, especially Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) singing "Christmas Is All Around."

Favorite movie about or including this holiday:
I never get tired of watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Love, Actually.

Favorite food to eat during this holiday:
Ummm… everything! But if I had to pick just one, I'd say milk chocolate peppermint bark. Love that stuff!

What do you like most about this holiday?
I love spending time with family, but I also love lazy days where I can snuggle up with a blanket, my cat, and a warm cup of tea and catch up on some reading.

Thanks to Cat for chatting about holidays with us and Marching Ink for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Worldwide. Giveaway ends November 24th at midnight EST.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Double Feature Review: Books I could never hate

By Melissa Amster

The Hating Game by Talli Roland

When Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy.

After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes.

Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I've been a fan of Talli Roland's writing for quite a while, so I knew it was time to check out the first novel she had ever written and see how it compared with her current novels. I am definitely impressed with her strong introduction to the chick lit genre! The Hating Game was a cute story with a clever concept. Talli offered different character perspectives throughout, bringing them together in an entertaining symphony of thoughts and interactions. There was a great build-up to the main conflict, as well. Although it tied up into a pretty package, it was worth seeing the outcome because Mattie had been through so much to get to that point. The only thing that didn't work so well for me was how poorly produced the show came off. It was hard to believe it would have such a following with a ridiculously bad host. However, I think it was a satirical statement on how reality TV captures its audience. I enjoyed this novel a lot and laughed out loud many times. Of course, I'd love to see it as a movie and have already made casting choices.

Mattie: Michelle Dockery
Adam: Benedict Cumberbatch
Kyle: Michael Fassbender
Nate: Josh Sussman
Jess: Zoe Jarman
Seamus: Russell Brand

Confessions of a Hater by Caprice Crane

Hailey Harper has always felt invisible. Now her dad has a new job and the family is moving to Hollywood. Just what Hailey needs: starting a new high school.

As she's packing, Hailey finds a journal that belonged to her older sister, Noel, who is away at college. Called "How to Be a Hater," it's full of info Hailey can really use. Has Hailey found the Bible of Coolness? Will it help her reinvent herself at her new school? Will her crush notice her? Will she and the other Invisibles dethrone the popular mean girls? After all, they deserve it. Don't they? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I don't normally read Young Adult novels. However, I love Caprice Crane's chick lit novels, so I couldn't pass this one up. She has a knack for the YA genre and it shows in this novel! While it's basically Mean Girls meets Freaks and Geeks with social media included, Caprice tosses in some game changers and surprises, making me laugh along the way, as well as sympathize with Hailey. I lived vicariously through her in some ways, as it seems she still had it pretty easy, even with the crap she dealt with from the mean girls. (I was a bit jealous of her sometimes!) I think Caprice made a lot of good points about mean girl behavior, that all teenage girls should be required to read it. (It would be such fun required reading though!) Of course, if it were made into a movie, the Modern Family girls Ariel Winter and Sarah Hyland would play Hailey and Noel, respectively. You could probably get teens from Pretty Little Liars and Glee to fill in the other parts. While I would read another YA novel if Caprice wrote it, I still hope she'll write more chick lit in the future as well!

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

More by Talli Roland:

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Guest Book Review: Life in Plan B

By Sara Steven

Haley Simpson is a sales associate for her best friend Alex’s clothing boutique. Although she has her own aspirations of someday creating a fashion shoe line, sealing the deal and landing clients will have to do, for now. She never anticipated just how far she’d go when falling in lust with a prospective business partner, though. After starting up a secret affair, Haley knows her deception can have damaging effects, not only for her career, but for her close friendship with Alex.

What parallels the drama is a personal anguish for Haley. Every year, she visits her father’s grave- a life cut short because of a drunk driver. Haley and her brother eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (soggy from the jelly, just the way Dad liked them), sit on lawn chairs, and reminisce on the father they had, and the father they lost. She doesn’t have a close relationship with her mother (something I can identify with in my own life) and so you feel a sense of waywardness from Haley, as though you aren’t entirely sure where she’ll end up.

Life in Plan B was a very sweet read. Although I enjoyed the scandalous affair from Haley’s perspective, and took pleasure in following her love triangle after discovering a potential new love interest she met while flying on a plane (spilled food on cashmere may not = love at first sight, but it’s a start) what I enjoyed most was the friendship between Alex and Haley. The dynamics between the two are incredibly funny, heartwarming, and at times tender. It seems only Alex really understands her, and it’s what makes this book so charming. Sure, we want to know who Haley chooses: the proverbial good guy or the not-so-good guy, but we’ll all fall in love with the relationship she has with Alex. Good friendships can be very hard to come by.

Thanks to Jennifer Vessells for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Sara Steven is a wife and stay-at-home mother of two rambunctious boys in Bellevue, NE. When she’s not running marathons, or working on her novel, she takes a break and opens up a good book (or turns on her Nook). Find her at her blog.

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