Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ringing in the New Year with Candace Cameron Bure...plus a book giveaway!

Ending the year on a high note, we're thrilled to feature Candace Cameron Bure and her book, Balancing it All, which comes out tomorrow!

If you don't already know this, Full House is one of my all-time favorite TV shows. It never fails to make me smile and even elicits tears from time to time. I got my kids hooked on it, as well. Given that D.J. and I were closest in age and both had younger sisters, I could relate to her the most. (Although I never got as lucky as she did to have a hot boyfriend like Steve when I was in high school.) Oddly enough, I got to see Bob Saget perform live in The Drowsy Chaperone back in 2007. Now I have been given the honor of being able to interview Candace at CLC. What's next? Please say it's that I get to meet John Stamos in person....

Anyway, I can also relate to Candace now, in real life, as we are both married to the loves of our lives, have two sons and a daughter, and are strong in our individual faiths (and do philanthropic work to go along with those faiths). And like Candace, I constantly get asked how I "do it all." ("It all" in my case is balancing family, work, blogging, religious practices and also finding time for friends, my favorite TV shows, and--obviously--reading.) I sometimes ask the same of myself and am still seeking that balance, which is why I look forward to reading Balancing it All.

Working since the age of 5, Candace has been in the "balancing" act for the vast majority of her life, and while there is no miracle formula or step-by-step method, there are lessons to be learned; lesson's that come to life in Candace's story. Candace delivers her story from the very beginning and her start in commercials, to her years on Full House, complete with funny anecdotes and stories involving cast mates and friends, to now adding her demanding roles of wife and mother of three while returning to the Hollywood spotlight. She recently starred in Let it Snow on the Hallmark channel.

Following the birth of her children, Candace took a self-imposed hiatus from television and film to devote all of her time to her family and children. Candace balances her busy career, a healthy and active lifestyle, and raising her three beautiful children-taking them to and from school , preparing a healthy home-cooked dinners, participating in school activities, and keeping up with after-school sports schedules--all without the aid of a nanny or housekeeper! Her philanthropic spirit has given support to the Skip1.org, Compassion International, Sheraton House, and Children's Hunger Fund. She also serves as the National Ambassador for National House of Hope and continues to travel the country speaking at various churches and women's conferences sharing her Christian faith.

You can find Candace at her website, Facebook and Twitter. Check out a video about Balancing it All, as well! Thanks to Anderson Group Public Relations, we have a copy of Balancing it All for a lucky US reader!

Since your book is about finding balance in life, what are your thoughts on the concepts from I Don’t Know How She Does It?
How she does it all isn't necessarily how you'll do it all, because each of our lives look different. I believe we are all blessed with individual gifts and talents along with our own unique families, situations and circumstances. So what you need to balance in your life may look pretty amazing to one women, while you may wondering how another does it with her life. Understanding that we only need to balance and "do everything" with what we've already been given is enough. No one falls short if they aren't balancing as much as the next woman.

Actresses writing books (both fiction and non-fiction) seems to be a trend these days. What motivated you to write a non-fiction book? And if you were to ever write a fiction book, what would it be about?
Is it a trend? Maybe because actors seem to be good storytellers! I wanted to write non-fiction so I could use examples in my own life that may help the person reading it. I enjoy reading most when I'm learning something new. I like books that give me a fresh perspective on living life as a working woman, a mom, and a wife and particularly, giving me insight into the areas of life that are more challenging.
I can't imagine ever writing a fiction book, but if I did, it would be a romantic comedy I'd make into a movie! (I think that's called a script! LOL!)

In one sentence, please share some advice for women trying to find balance in their lives.
Establish your top three life priorities and keep them in that order, so when push comes to shove, you know what needs done and what needs to take a backseat.

If you could have any actress play you in the movie of your life, who would it be and why?
Drew Barrymore. I just love her and she seems as upbeat, happy and as positive as I am! And she's not afraid to be goofy.

I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask this question: What is YOUR favorite episode of Full House?
After 26 years…. I forgot!

What is the best feedback you’ve ever received from a fan of yours?
That in one way or another I inspired them to know Jesus Christ.

What was the greatest reward and biggest challenge of being an actress during your pre-teen and teen years?
The biggest challenge was going through puberty in front of millions of people on TV. It wasn't as glamorous or as comfortable as you'd think. The greatest reward was when you heard from other girls who related to you and you (unknowingly) helped them through it.

What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory?
At home in sweats with my hubby and kids- letting them stay up all night long if they could. We'd eat a long dinner, play board games and always watch the ball drop on TV.

Thanks to Anderson Group Public Relations for coordinating this interview and sharing Candace's book with our readers.

~Introduction and interview by Melissa Amster

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 January 5th at midnight EST.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Favorites

We each chose up to four of our favorite books from 2013 to feature here. We can definitely tell you that it was very hard to choose. So many great novels written this year. Can't wait to see what's in store for 2014!


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I have never read a book like Me Before You. It's an amazing story all around. I can't explain it but I've never thought I can experience such emotions from a novel. I know this might sound odd, but it's the most wonderful heartbreaking story I've ever read.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler (Reviewed here)
Never in a million years would I have thought Calling me Home was Julie's debut. If someone handed me the book without a finalized cover or no author information, I would definitely have thought that Julie had written a few previous novels. It was extremely refreshing to read a fiction story that covers race issues.

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany (Reviewed here)
I love how Amy Hatvany writes about women's relationships with each other. Her stories are always mixed with heart wrenching emotions...some sad and some happy. As I said in my review "Amy has an extraordinary way of capturing her audience and really grasping the souls of each character."

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams (Reviewed here)
Because Overseas, Beatriz's debut, blew me away, it wasn't surprising that A Hundred Summers did too. It's filled with romance, drama and a little bit of mystery. Because the story goes back and forth between two time periods, it's almost as if I was being pulled through a time portal. What makes this book even more special was that I had the pleasure of seeing Beatriz again (already met her last spring) in June. She's just wonderful.

Melissa A:

The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs by Dana Bate (Reviewed here)
Outstanding debut novel; a treat for all foodies and anyone who likes a creative chick lit story. The fact that it takes place in DC helped to seal the deal, as well.

Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr (Reviewed here)
Meredith shows how she totally gets what it's like to be a book blogger and attaches a story to it that's easy to fall in love with! The characters are so much fun and Kimberly is easy to root for!

Keep Calm and Carry a Big Drink  by Kim Gruenenfelder
Sometimes I just need ultimate perfection in a chick lit novel and this one has it all: Girlfriends, gay best friends, travel to exotic places, romance....and cake!

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Café by Mary Simses (Reviewed here)
Beautifully descriptive and a wonderful story about love and family. Perfect story to cozy up to on a cold day or bring to the beach in the summer.

Melissa P:

My favorite was Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand. I always love her books and this one was no different. She draws you in and makes you feel as though you really know the characters and you live the story. I especially loved how she made it seem as though the mother of the bride, who is deceased, was as much alive as the rest of the characters.


Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster (Reviewed here)
The relatable characters and made the story believable. Clever twists and turns in the story with a great overall message.

May I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee (Reviewed here)
To quote my review of the book, "Reading Cyndi's story was like having coffee with a friend discussing some deeply intimate thoughts about our bodies and exploring why we feel the way we do." And it gave me so many ideas to ponder not only at that moment, but also at a later date, as well. Lastly, this memoir is written in an interesting structure that keeps the mind engaged.


Frisky Business by Clodagh Murphy (Reviewed here)
This was a laugh-out-loud book with intrigue and friskiness throughout, it was a book I didn't want to put down. It was my introduction to an author I'll be keeping an eye out for in future.

The Valentine's Card by Juliet Ashton
A fantastic debut novel. As a reader you are instantly drawn into Orla, the main character's heartache when her boyfriend dies and the unfolding story which questions whether Orla ever knew him at all. So cleverly written, some great twists, very moving and had me gripped throughout.


Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster
Pure hilarity, with interesting, complex characters and a situation that maybe some of us wish we could be in. I loved this book!

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews (Reviewed here)
I devoured this book. The characters were interesting, and the descriptions were so well illustrated that I felt like I was right there the whole way through.

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax (Reviewed here)
I was hesitant to start this one, but I found that not only did it suck me in and make me want to read ALL of Wendy Wax's other books, but it made me want to start watching Downton Abbey as well. An excellent book.


Helen Wan’s compelling debut novel The Partner Track (reviewed here), a first person look at the daily slights endured by a brilliant, hard-working (and single without children) Asian-American female lawyer.

The Promise of Stardust, Priscille Sibley’s novel about a neurosurgeon torn between his brain-dead wife’s desire not to be kept alive by machines, and the fetus she carries.

These are two completely different stories, but they both take current, somewhat controversial issues – do minorities need help getting ahead in the corporate world? Does a brain-dead woman’s desire to die outweigh her child’s right to life? -- and use them to create captivating characters who have no easy answers.


About A Girl by Lindsey Kelk
Fantastically funny and a breath of fresh air. Her characters are relateable and the story is well written. She has become one of my favourite new authors.


Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding
It reminded me of what chick lit is supposed to be: hilarious, but also witty and incisively intelligent. In a lot of ways, Helen Fielding is the matriarch of the genre, and she still does it better than anyone else.

The Heart Whisperer by Ella Griffin (Reviewed here)
Full of emotion, tragedy, and occasional doses of humor, the book is a compelling tale that gradually reveals itself, bit by bit, as the mystery around a woman’s death comes to light.


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
It's an unique romance I can't imagine not reading and everyone I hope everyone gets the opportunity to experience.

The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd
A widow deals with her grief by purchasing a brownstone and dabbling into the private lives of the tenants she personally selects. It's been called a "literary peep show."

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I fell in love with reading after being introduced to Charles Dickens, Great Expectations. The Goldfinch is being called Dickensian in scope, and having read it, I concur. It's broader than your average chick-lit, but certainly contains all the elements of a great story; a vast landscape, interesting, memorable characters, intrigue, suspenseful storyline. But the best part is, at it's core, it's about how art can ultimately right all wrongs, rise above all evils. Art offers hope.

Guest Book Review: A Thousand Years of Johnny Von

By Sara Steven

Estella isn’t looking for love. In fact, she’s had her fill. Still recovering from a devastating break-up with a man she refers to as the “International Playboy”, all Estella wants to do is walk her beloved dog, Moochie, and the other pooches who encompass her dog walking business. Sure, she lives in Los Angeles, and could have the occasional run-in with a famous ne'er do well, but it’s not her style. She’ll leave the celebrity-ogling to her friend, Mandy. Mandy is desperately attempting to attend the same church service as Mark Wahlberg, for Pete’s sake! No, Estella is content. She’s 33, never been married, but there are worse things in life, right?

Then Estella is dive-bombed by a deranged hawk one day, while on her daily walk through the Hollywood Hills. She’s convinced it’s a sign. How many people get attacked by hawks? She is even more convinced when the incident brings her to Johnny Von’s doorstep. Who knew he lived in the very neighborhood she walks the pampered pooches in? For Estella, it’s love at first sight, and it has nothing to do with his famous background or his latest blockbuster. He’s a bonafide celebrity, but she senses a down-to-earth mentality about him, a closeted introvert, just like herself. This becomes the catalyst for getting closer to Johnny Von, signing up as a volunteer for the contractors working in his home. She walks the dogs as much as possible in his neighborhood so she’ll get a sneak peek at him, and Estella attends a big Hollywood party with her celeb stalker friend, Mandy. Johnny Von will be there. Estella’s not obsessed; she’s merely entranced. Two very different things, and when Johnny Von begins to reciprocate the attention? It’s nothing short of destiny!

Edith M. Cortese has written a clever book from start to finish. Mixed into the story line are snippets of Estella’s dreamworld; she and Johnny Von the Priest, fighting for their love in the 1500’s, or she and Johnny Von the Fly Boy, daring the unfriendly skies in the 1940’s. Those stories are just an example of how far Estella’s imagination will take her as she places herself at random times in history, always with her leading man, Johnny Von. It’s at the Hollywood party where Estella learns a very valuable lesson (I think the Rolling Stones said it best): “You can’t always get what you want- but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.”

If you treasure dogs, adventure, and love to be in love, join the pack. Read A Thousand Years of Johnny Von.

Thanks to Author Marketing Experts 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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Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: MWF Seeking BFF

By Tracey Meyers

No one will ever be able to replace my BFF.  I'm not even going to pretend that someone would be able to.  My BFF is one of the precious gems in my life.  However, there is one problem - we live 500+ miles away from one another.  Though e-mail allows us to keep up-to-date with one another, all with the quick click of the send button (that typically takes place many times on any given day), I can't call her up to see if she wants to go for a mani/pedi or come over to watch The Mindy Project or How I Met Your Mother (two of our favorite TV shows) with me on the spur of the moment.

In February 2012, I came across a blog review of MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.  As I read the review I found myself think about my BFF and how I felt the need to make new friends.  Not to long after reading the review of the book, my BFF told me about a author event with Rachel being held in a nearby suburb, so I attended.  This event made me even more eager to read Rachel's book. However, life got in the way and it wasn't until recently that I was able sit down it.

One of the things that I appreciate most about this memoir is that Rachel not only had the courage to publicly admit the struggles she was having with making friends and finding her place in a new city, but that she also worked to find a solution to this problem in a creative and fun ways.  Furthermore, she also didn't give up. I also liked how she set goals - such as going on 52 friend dates - for her search rather than just flying by the seat of her pants, per se. (This is similar to how I approach such endeavors too, so I greatly appreciate the way she does things.)

As with many others, this book gave me the kick in the pants to start my own search for new friends and also gave me some ideas on how to approach this journey.  Also, it made me feel less awkward trying to pick up females for friendship - like the time I asked this person I casually chatted with at the train depot every morning if she'd like to meet up for coffee sometime.

Even if you aren't in the market for new friends, I truly recommend this book as a way to experience such an age old journey in a new way.  Furthermore, it really makes you think of the friendships you already have established and allows you to appreciate them even that much more.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Double Feature Review: Juliet Madison's novellas

By Melissa Amster

I really enjoyed Juliet Madison's debut novel, Fast Forward, earlier this year. It had a surreal aspect, but she played it out so well that it might as well have been the real deal. I was thrilled when she came out with some novellas to tide over her readers until her new series comes out in 2014. If you're looking for some entertaining and quick reads, definitely check them out!

I Dream of Johnny

Getting three wishes isn't all it's cracked up to be when an unfortunate spelling error in Mandy's high-tech magic lamp changes her wish for a Greek God to a Geek God. His fashion IQ is in the negatives, he’s clingier than cling wrap, and he has a penchant for breaking into song at inappropriate moments. Before Mandy can request a replacement wish, she has to put up with him for twenty four hours, and the timing couldn’t be worse — it's her friend’s wedding day, her ex will be there, and the God of Geeks insists on coming along for the ride! (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

I Dream of Johnny was very cute and funny from start to finish. I found myself laughing out loud quite often. There were some fun and unexpected twists that kept me on my toes. There was even a moral to the story that is definitely important to keep in mind. The only (very minor) setback was that the geek was too much like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He even did the door knocking the same. Still, he had his own personality outside of that aspect. Very enjoyable story!

My "dream" movie cast:
Mandy: Brie Larson
Jonathan: Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Starstruck in Seattle

Aspiring actress Anna Hilford might only have a small role in a leading television drama, but she longs to be dreamboat Karl Drake’s leading lady. Sick of being loveless and overlooked, Anna seeks the help of intuitive love coach, Lulu, from LuluTheLoveAngel.com to give her the courage and determination to follow her destiny.

But fate has different ideas, Lulu has undisclosed power, and Anna is about to realise that life happens while you’re busy making plans…
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Starstruck in Seattle was a nice escape for someone like me, who fantasizes about their actor crushes. It was a sweet story, but there were some elements of predictability. Still, I kept second-guessing my predictions when she threw in a new twist. The fantasy element was enjoyable, but I also felt like things were able to tie together too neatly as a result. It was a very satisfying love story, overall.

Going to the "stars":
Anna: Anna Faris
Karl: Chris Messina (If he can play a hot doctor on TV, then he can totally play an actor playing a hot doctor...)
Charlie: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Lulu: Jean Louisa Kelly

Thanks to Escape Publishing for the books in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Guest Book Review: All the Lonely People

By Sara Steven

Don’t want to spend the holidays with your jerky relatives? There’s a simple solution. Get yourself a new family. That’s the premise behind Jess Riley’s All The Lonely People.

Jaime Collins lost her mother to cancer. You’d think an event like that would bring people closer together, but it’s driven a wedge between Jaime and her siblings. A fight at the dinner table with her cantankerous older brother propels Jaime to do the unthinkable: put an ad out on Craigslist.

“WANTED: a whole new family to share the holidays with. Please have a good heart and be a thoughtful, polite person. No sociopaths, no pedophiles, no fans of the Kardashians. We're not weirdos, I promise. I love old Steve Martin movies, new Steve Martin banjo tunes, Indian food, and reruns of Bob Ross painting happy little trees. So if you're looking for something other than the typical family dysfunction this Christmas, drop us a line.”

She gets more than she’d bargained for.

I don’t often finish a book as quickly as I finished this one. From start to finish, it was not only cleverly written, but insanely funny. I had a really difficult time putting it down! I was laughing my butt off when Jaime meets her adopted family for the first time, and the quick wit she shares with her husband Erik reminded me a lot of the banter my husband and I have with one another. It’s also clear that Jaime has a lot of healing to do when it comes to her mother’s death, and she is learning to forgive as best she can, while coping with loss. What I appreciated most, though, is the realism behind this book.. I know, it sounds silly to invent a new family to share the holidays with, but Riley makes you feel as though it’s totally doable, and it made me want to put out my own ad! There’s always room in your life for quirky friendships. Not only that, but we’ve all dealt with loss. The grieving process is difficult, and Jaime gets through by using her wit and humor as a tool.

If you’re looking for a book that will keep you laughing, and may elicit a tear or two (there are quite a few touching moments) give this one a try. Like Jaime, you’ll get way more than you bargained for.

Thanks to Jess Riley 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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Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

Bridget Jones—one of the most beloved characters in modern literature (v.g.)—is back! In Helen Fielding's wildly funny, hotly anticipated new novel, Bridget faces a few rather pressing questions:
  • What do you do when your girlfriend’s sixtieth birthday party is the same day as your boyfriend’s thirtieth?
  • Is it better to die of Botox or die of loneliness because you’re so wrinkly?
  • Is it wrong to lie about your age when online dating?
  • Is it morally wrong to have a blow-dry when one of your children has head lice?
  • Is it normal to be too vain to put on your reading glasses when checking your toy boy for head lice?
  • Does the Dalai Lama actually tweet or is it his assistant?
  • Is it normal to get fewer followers the more you tweet?
  • Is technology now the fifth element? Or is that wood?
  • If you put lip plumper on your hands do you get plump hands?
  • Is sleeping with someone after two dates and six weeks of texting the same as getting married after two meetings and six months of letter writing in Jane Austen’s day?
Pondering these and other modern dilemmas, Bridget Jones stumbles through the challenges of loss, single motherhood, tweeting, texting, technology, and rediscovering her sexuality in—Warning! Bad, outdated phrase approaching!—middle age. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Becky Gulc:

I was beyond excited to receive the latest novel by Helen Fielding about the much loved Bridget Jones for review. I remember picking up my mum’s copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary during one of the long summers when as a student I did very little, so I didn’t need much of an excuse to sit in the garden and devour this book which I did I think in one afternoon. I loved it. I loved Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, loved the films and I have done my own little tours of the locations used for filming in London several times and not that long ago with the film’s soundtrack going round my head. Bridget never really went away for me, I’ve watched the films so many times. So as a big fan who noticed mixed reviews, what did I make of this latest installment?

Firstly, well it was impossible with all the hype to avoid finding out that (SPOILER ALERT!) Mark Darcy had died before I started reading this, so that wasn’t a surprise. I initially felt this was a bad move but as I started to read the book I almost couldn’t imagine a Bridget novel where everything was hunky dory at home so actually this made sense and the grief around this loss is apparent throughout so Mark’s certainly still present in many respects.

I loved this novel, I loved Bridget’s company once again and could just see Bridget being a fantastic mum and slowly dipping her toes into the world of modern-day dating and modern-day technology. I found it to be very true to the first two novels in terms of style (which I was happy about) and true to Bridget’s character we grew to love. Many names will ring a bell in this novel, even Daniel Cleaver features and I didn’t see that coming or necessarily ‘get’ his reasons for still being in contact with Bridget but I soon changed my mind and it all started to make sense, and to be honest, I would have felt robbed if he wasn’t in it!

The novel is VERY funny in places especially around the things that can happen when you start delving into the world of online dating, Bridget becoming annoyed when some dresses she’s buying online don’t ‘wink’ back at her was just one example that had me laughing out loud. It’s also very moving throughout, I loved the relationship she has with her children. Without wanting to give anything away I also liked the fact that as a reader I felt comfortable Bridget was looking after herself in this novel, maybe she did learn her lesson with Daniel all those years ago and can now spot a wrong ‘un? Yet nothing runs smoothly still and it was an enjoyable adventure to go on to see where Bridget ends up...can she find love again after the Mark Darcy? If you want to find out, I really recommend this book, she’s older, wiser, but still the same slightly ditzy Bridget we all love. Hope to see this one as a film too.

Thanks to Random House UK for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Melissa Amster:

Just as Becky did, I also found out the spoiler before the book was even in my hands. Given how many books I've read these past few years (and still continue to read) on the topic, it didn't keep me from checking out Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. Maybe P.S. I Love You, Good Grief and all the others with this theme were preparation for what was to come. And you know what? It didn't keep me from liking, no, LOVING this novel! It was like revisiting Bridget when she was a 30-something singleton with short skirts and bad habits. Bridget hasn't changed much, except she's about 15 years older...and a mother of young children. (I could definitely relate on both matters.) And she's learning to navigate the choppy waters of social media a.k.a. Twitter. I still find Twitter confusing, so I'm proud of her for braving it!

Like the diary that started it all, this novel was also laugh-out-loud hilarious and even snarky at times. It was a very sweet story, as well. I liked that Bridget was flawed. She really was a complete mess at times. It makes me feel better when there are days I just can't get it together. Bridget is just so human that you forget you're reading a book sometimes. I also kept forgetting she was in her early 50s. She still had the personality of a woman in her mid-30s. Not that I can really judge age, but she reminded me so much of myself at my current age. So either I've matured or she hasn't. You decide!

The only thing that didn't work so well for me was that it was in diary format at all. My biggest pet peeve is dialogue in diaries. This didn't just have dialogue, but also physical actions. It's a diary! Don't talk about how you're cooking spaghetti as you're writing or that you've just fallen down on a patch of ice. Diaries are meant to be reflective. Unless Bridget was carrying her diary everywhere she went at all times of the day, this just didn't make sense. (If it was inside an electronic device, that may have worked, but she didn't have much of a grasp on technology to begin with.) It would have been preferable if action and dialogue carried the story along and the diary was something she wrote in at the end of the day to get something off her chest.

All diary issues aside, I will reiterate once again that I LOVED this novel and even rushed out to buy a copy for my BFF. During the time I was reading it, I was also having marathons of The Mindy Project. I could see Mindy and Bridget getting along well with their flaws, anxieties, dating issues, humor, and lots of pop culture references. It was very entertaining and I'm sad that it had to end at all. It wrapped up a bit neatly, but that's what I wanted for Bridget anyway. And there are still a lot of fun surprises to keep you on your toes. While I'm sure I'd enjoy this as a movie, I don't know that I'd want to hear Renee Zellweger let one rip, so to speak.

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

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Friday, December 20, 2013

What's in the mail

Melissa A:

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kirsten Chen from Amazon Publishing

The Opposite of Maybe by/from Maddie Dawson

A Mother Dimension by/from Mink Elliot (e-book)

The Memory of Lost Senses by Judith Kinghorn from Penguin

The Longest Date by Cindy Chupack from Penguin


The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston from St. Martin's Press


Exodus by Deborah Feldman from Blue River Press (Penguin).
Melissa A. got this too.

Guest Book Review: Younger, Thinner, Blonder

By Sara Steven

Guilty pleasures of mine: hot celebrity news, and reality-based television. I don’t own up to it, but if you bring me an US Weekly to read while I’ve got Survivor on the boob tube, I’d be one happy lady.

Younger, Thinner, Blonder, by Sue Watson, combines everything I secretly love into one hilariously-written book! It’s the story of Tanya Travis, a 40-something hot celebrity host of her own scandalous talk show (think Jerry Springer) who is suddenly booted to the curb and replaced by her much younger, hotter assistant. Apparently, Tanya isn’t as hot as she thought she was, although she has millions of hits on a recent YouTube video (posted by the conniving ex-assistant) showcasing the dimpled cellulite on her butt, and thighs. There’s no one to trust in Tinseltown, not even her sub-par rocker musician boyfriend. He’s constantly in the tabloids, accused of Lothario-like behavior. The only person she can trust is her rough around the edges agent, who recommends that Tanya save her career by way of a Survivor-like reality television show, Celebrity Spa Trek, created for Z-list celebrities.

Z list? Since when is Tanya on the Z-list?

Celebrity Spa Trek isn’t what she imagined it would be. Where’s the spa? Where are the mud baths, the showers, a bed? Tanya isn’t used to roughing it, and no amount of hand sanitizer (which she is addicted to) will save her. Being borderline OCD, clean-freak Tanya will have to survive the elements, and the surliness of her co-stars. They don’t take her seriously, but really, Tanya doesn’t take herself seriously, either.

Hey, I may not have much in common with Tanya, but reading about her plight fulfilled that celebrity kick I appreciate so much. Even better: you discover that Tanya is a real person, somewhere beneath the expensive moisturizer and make-up. There’s nothing better than character evolvement, and you get that in spades.

I highly recommend Younger, Thinner, Blonder, but I would be remiss if I didn’t give you fair warning: the first few chapters are there to ease you in, but the rest are unstoppable! You won’t be able to put it down!

Thanks to Sue Watson 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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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mink Elliott takes us down memory lane...plus a book giveaway

We're excited to feature Mink Elliott today, as she recently published a novel about time travel. (And you know how much I LOVE novels about time travel! Well, at least the chick lit ones.) Better yet, this novel takes place in the 90s! (My favorite decade for all things pop culture related.)

What I can tell you right off the bat is that Mink likes to talk. Her bio on her website is as long as her interview. Not that it's a bad thing...just a lot to narrow down into one paragraph. I will share, however, that she was born in the UK, grew up in Australia, moved back to the UK for a while and now lives in Australia again with her husband and two young children. Her novels are inspired by being a mother and are aptly titled: The Pissed Off Parents Club, Just Another Manic Mum-Day, and her latest, A Mother Dimenson. This time around, she has written about a nostalgia-mad, day-dreaming 44-year-old mum-of-three who is forced to travel back in time. A freak electrical storm transports her back to 1996 where she finds herself young again, slim again and once again able to go to the loo by herself without being followed by kids constantly making unreasonable demands on her time! Armed with little more than the optimism of youth, the benefit of hindsight, a taut-again tummy and just the one chin, she sets out to discover what might have happened if she’d only done things a little bit differently. And why some things really are best left in the past...

We have a chance for THREE lucky readers anywhere in the world to get their hands on an e-copy!

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

What did you do to celebrate when your first book was published?
By the time my first book, The Pissed-Off Parents Club, came out in January 2010, I was heavily (and when I say ‘heavily’, I mean gi-normously) pregnant with my second child and had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. So I celebrated with a quick, eyes-closed injection of insulin into my fleshy upper thigh and a low-fat, diet yogurt before retiring to bed early! Not exactly ticker-tape parades, champagne and roses, I know – but what are you going to do?

What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Writer’s block? What’s that? HA! I know it well. The only way to deal with it is to write through it, though. Just keep burbling on and something will come up that you can use to get to the next bit of action or dialogue. Make writer’s block work for you, if you can – treat it like literary stepping stones and hop, skip and jump your way over it until you get inspired again to write some (hopefully) good stuff. Remember, you can always axe the invariably rubbish passages later - just make sure you keep on writing. Either that or give it a rest for the day and retire early to the couch for a restorative TV-watching session. No, seriously – sometimes when you focus on something else, you’ll stumble upon some good ideas lurking about on the periphery. These slippery little blighters can sometimes only be seen out of the corner of your eye, so do something else, let your mind loosen up. And don’t forget the chocs!

Characters really make the story for us. What THREE words would best describe the heroine of A Mother Dimension and what about her called out to you to write her story?
Every. Mother. I. Know. Oops, sorry – that’s four words, isn’t it?! And you put the word ‘three’ in caps and everything! Sorry, but it’s true! I believe that Kate O’Reilly is Everymum to an extent, in that she tries so hard to do the right thing by her kids all the time, putting herself and her needs last on the list (if, indeed, they ever make the list) and every now and again, when it all gets too much and life as a wife and mother in her 40s exhausts her and threatens to completely overwhelm her, she gets all wistful, wonders whatever happened to the girl she used to be and reminisces about the good old days. She’s forever taking trips down memory lane to a time when she could race off to a big night out at a moment’s notice – and be able to make it through the next morning’s hangover with ease, needing only a pizza and a vatful of Diet Coke for sustenance. Ah, the good old days – when she was financially independent, the music was great, her social circle was wider and her waist was much, much thinner. It’s a favourite hobby among the mums I know – harking back to the joys of kid-less, single life, when time was on your side (instead of on your back) and old boyfriends seemed so witty and suave and handsome...but what if our memories play tricks on us? What if being young and free isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? And why can’t we accept – or embrace, even – getting older? What if the chaos and clutter of family life and being un certain age, as the French so diplomatically put it, are the best times of your life? Or what if the best is yet to come? And what would you change about your life if you could turn back time and do it all again? Despite her wonderful friends and family telling her she’s missing the here and now by daydreaming about the past all the time, Kate just doesn’t get it. And so, imagining that her sentiments are universal and that squillions of mums out there have a similar problem (including myself on the odd occasion!), I thought it might be fun to force Kate back in time and give her that second chance she so madly desired. Someone amazing once pithily said that the past is history, the future’s a mystery and today is the greatest gift of all, which is why it’s called the present. Or something like that, anyway. And I suppose I thought the only way a die-hard, chronic nostalgic like Kate could ever come round to that way of thinking, would be if she came face-to-face with her past and saw for herself that it wasn’t as fantastic as her rose coloured glasses make out and that her present is actually rather marvellous - even if she does have an arse the size of Cuba now.

If A Mother Dimension were made into a movie, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Why do you ask? Has Richard Curtis been talking to you? Tina Fey? And why oh why won’t they ever take my calls?!?! Just messing. Now, let’s see...Because Kate is English, I would probably cast an English woman to play her – someone like Fay Ripley or Jessica Stevenson with fab comic chops, a family herself and round about the same age. Mind you, Tina Fey or Amy Poehler would be great, too. I picture Sacha Baron Cohen as tall, clumsy IT-wizz, Seamus, Kate’s once-uber-nerdy husband and I think Simon Pegg (Shaun of The Dead, Paul) would be brilliant as Archie. Remember that woman who played Alan Rickman’s super-sexy secretary in Love, Actually? I just looked her up and her name’s Heike Makatsch. I think I’d have her play Medea, the feminist magazine editor who knocks all the fellas off their feet, because she’s so smart and gorgeous (but mainly because she’s so gorgeous). For Georgia, Kate’s best mate since forever, I think Beatrice Dalle would be perfect and as for Tom, the sleazy but strangely attractive T ‘n’ A magazine editor, I’d pick Paul Rudd! He’d be genius at playing the morally-confused love of Kate’s life. Do you know him? Is he any good at English accents?

What is the funniest thing either of your kids have done recently?
It’s not so much what they do, more what they say that makes me laugh. Eventually. After my acute embarrassment has subsided. Like, the other night, my nearly-four-year-old son, Maxi, had a raging temperature, red, weepy eyes and a horrible, hopelessly unproductive cough, so I took him to Emergency at the local children’s hospital. Now before you cry over-reactive, over-protective silly mum, I must tell you that Maxi has a history of having a minor sniffle one minute, screaming pneumonia the next – he goes from 0 to 60 in seconds, honestly – and it’s always better to be safe than sorry when you’re dealing with kids, right? (Although, it has to be said that yes, I can also be an over-reactive, over-protective mum, too from time to time). So anyway, there we are at 11pm on a Tuesday night, sitting in Emergency surrounded by really sick kids trying to sleep on the unbelievably uncomfortable plastic seats. I’m trying to calm Maxi down (because, of course, he’s so excited to be out and about with loads of other kids now, he hasn’t coughed once and all traces of those red, rheumy eyes have all but vanished). I’m rocking and shooshing him gently as he sits on my lap and I can’t help but think how gorgeous he is and what a lovely kid he is and thank God he’s not bleeding everywhere or really, really sick, so I snuggle up to him, cheek to cheek, drinking in his deliciousness. All is quiet and I close my eyes, to really help me be in the moment, when suddenly, Maxi’s little heliummy voice pipes up and he squeals with delight as he turns round to look at me accusingly and loudly announce:
‘Mummy! You have a scratchy beard like Daddy!’
And that’s when I started singing Jingle Bells extra-loud and making a mental note to buy myself extensive laser hair removal treatments for Christmas.

Since your novel takes place in 1996, what is your favourite song, movie and TV show from that year?
Song: I can’t narrow it down to just one! But Blur and Oasis feature quite a bit in A Mother Dimension, so can I say "The Universal" by Blur and "Champagne Supernova" by Oasis? They may have been released on albums in 1995, but really came into their own in 1996 for me. Oh, and "Time Passes" off the Stanley Road album by Paul Weller.
Movie: The Cable Guy
TV show: This Life (achingly cool British drama about hyper-cool lawyers in their 20s sharing a house, getting into all manner of cool scrapes – hugely popular in the UK and rating several mentions in A Mother Dimension, too).

What is your favorite month and why?
November. Because autumn’s at its peak and the heavy, cosy smell of woodsmoke fills the air. The brown, red and gold leaves have fallen, carpeting the ground in a joyous medley of crackling colour and Christmas is just around the corner (no point in starting a new diet/exercise regime now – brilliant! License to scoff!). Chunky jumpers come into their own (or even better, polo necked-ponchos) and coats, gloves and boots become de rigeur once again, beautifully covering all that excess poundage you promise yourself you’ll lose come Jan 1 next year (but probably won’t even start to seriously think about until at least mid-March).

What is one item you can’t live without?
My family. Not strictly an ‘item’ as such, and they drive me mad a lot of the time, but I simply wouldn’t survive without them. Period.

Thanks to Mink for sharing her thoughts with us and her book with our readers!

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

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 December 23rd at midnight EST.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Top 3 of '13

Introduction by Melissa Amster

Jen Tucker has been our Chick Lit Cheerleader for a whole year, which is something to cheer about in itself! And guess what?!? She'll be back next year with all new material (another 12 months worth) for you to enjoy! In the meantime, she's here to tell us the books she enjoyed this past year. She and I even have a favorite book in common from 2013. (If you've been paying attention this year, you'll know exactly which one I'm talking about.) Without any further ado, I turn you over to Jen's care. Make sure to take notes....she might quiz you later!

A FEW of my favorite things (books in this case)

When Melissa asked me to share with you my favorite book released in 2013, I just couldn’t do it. I enjoyed so many reads this year (new releases and new-to-me). Narrowing it down to one title wasn’t in the cards. It would be like crowning my favorite chocolate. No can do, my friends. Melissa, the sweetie pie we all know and love, gave me a reprieve. Isn’t she the best? Chick Lit lovers, I present to you....Jen’s Favorite Three of 2013!

Adventures with Max and Louise by Ellyn Oaksmith
Undercover, restaurant food critic, Molly Gallagher went under the knife and awoke to—how shall I put this—brand new, lovely lady lumps she didn’t request. Once able to blend into the woodwork, Molly is now garnering attention she isn’t accustomed to receiving. Molly also starts hearing unsolicited advice from two sources she isn’t sure she wants meddling in her life as her internal battle for sanity ensues due to their presence. A witty tale, that’s knee slapping funny, with plenty of romantic entanglements you’ll enjoy.

Stardust Summer by Lauren Clark
This book is a departure from the hilariously spirited novels Lauren has graced us with in the past, and I’m thrilled she dipped her toes into new waters. Grace returns home upon the death of her father and spends time with the stepmother she’s found difficulty connecting with through the years. The pain of family dynamics, and personal struggle, leaves a vulnerable Grace searching for peace in her life. Lauren masterfully connects you with raw emotions, the peace that stems from forgiveness, and doesn’t disappoint. It left a mark upon my heart.

Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr
Mean girls everywhere be on your toes. That high school stuff you pulled will come back to haunt you. Kimberly Long, creator of the hit chick lit blog, "Pastel is the New Black," juggles her popular blog with work at a Manhattan law office. Sorting out her love life duels with overwhelming anxiety when her high school nemesis’ debut novel lands in Kimberly’s lap for review. What to do? Pages filled with laughs, and a few eyeball pops, including a rendition of "Penny Lane" that’ll make you spit your coffee in hysterics.

I can’t wait to hear about the books you held near and dear in 2013. Whether newly released, or new to you, it can be difficult to choose just a handful, can’t it? There are many more I swooned over. I know you’ll add even more to my ever patient pile to be read in the coming year.

Warmest wishes from the CLC family to yours this holiday season. May the books be ever in your favor!

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 and Giveaway: Totlandia, the Onesies (Book Four)

By Melissa Amster

Time to bring out the sunscreen, your favorite bathing suit and some beach reads. Don't forget some ice cold lemonade because it's HOT outside! At least, it's sizzling in Pacific Heights where tensions are heating up for Jade, Lorna, Ally, Jillian and, of course, Bettina. They're back in Totlandia, the Onesies (Book IV: Summer).

As summer sizzles in Totlandia, emotions boil over for the newest members of Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club, whose trust in each other is sorely tempted by Bettina and her club politics.

When Jillian's vindictive joke backfires, she learns the true meaning of forgiveness.

Jade’s betrayal puts her in a dangerous downward spiral with no bottom in sight—until she finds friendship and redemption where she least expects it.

Lorna faces the biggest trial in her marriage, and makes an important decision that may end it for good.

While Ally may regret the choices she made to get accepted in the club, her exile puts new opportunities in her path, thanks to Brady and his ceaseless desire to win her over—with Barry's help, who is playing his own little game with the Top Moms Committee.

But it's Bettina who suffers the ultimate punishment—one that changes her life, and the livelihood of the club, forever. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Let me tell you, the fourth book in this scandalous series was eagerly awaited and long overdue. Yes...we had to wait for winter to read about summer! Even so, it's nice to live vicariously through someone toasting in the sun while we're freezing our toes off! I missed the ladies of the Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club, so it was like catching up on a TV series after it came back from hiatus. I just wish there was something at the beginning to tell me where we last left off. Josie Brown does a good enough job bringing in snippets from the previous books in the series, but I still felt like some things were foggy. A recap would have helped.

I enjoyed seeing what the women were up to this time around. Would there be more backstabbing and betrayal? Would anyone get the happy ending they deserved...or receive a hearty helping of karma? Book Four was just as funny and entertaining as the previous three, with perfect levels of snarkiness and irony. I enjoyed the revenge fantasies, as well. Some were down right delicious! It was nice seeing the characters get what was coming to them, either good or bad, depending on their role in the story. I would have liked to see a certain character in particular get more of what was coming to them, but maybe that will happen in "The Twosies."

While Josie is great at writing a steamy romantic scene that requires a "cigarette" after reading it, some parts of this novel bordered on Fifty Shades of Grey levels of erotic. Maybe I'm a prude, but it felt like a bit too much for me. I just wish there had been a warning about it. I know there was some scenes leading up to it from Book Three, but they didn't seem as "in your face" as they were this time around. I'm just glad my kids weren't reading over my shoulder or I would have had some explaining to do. Just know that you're in for a wild ride!

Overall, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this series, as it definitely filled the place in my life that was abandoned by Desperate Housewives and 90210. I am excited to share that Coliloquy has one e-book set of all four books to share with a lucky reader anywhere in the world. (I also want to thank them for sharing this series with me!)

How to win:
Since PHM&TC is like a high school clique, tell us about a time you saw an adult acting like a kid (of any age).

One entry per person.

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

Worldwide. Giveaway ends December 23rd at midnight EST.

More by Josie Brown: