Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A taste of sweet home Alabama from Beth Albright...plus a book giveaway

It's our last day of "Home and Away" month and we have a special treat for you! If you're a fan of Days of Our Lives, this is even extra special for you, as you'll probably already know our visitor, Beth Albright, from that soap opera!

Born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Beth's roots are firmly planted...no matter where else she has lived in the country. She loves sharing her pride for The University of Alabama (where she got her degree in Journalism) and their famous football champs. Even though she has been on talk radio, hosted a talk show, and played a principal character on Days..., her true passion is for storytelling. With a screenplay and two southern-themed novels under her belt--The Sassy Belles and Wedding Belles--and another on the way this fall (Sleigh Belles), we see a lot more writing happening in her future. She has even written a guest post for us about growing up and living in the south, even though she currently resides in San Francisco with her husband and son (who is a nationally ranked figure skater.)

Thanks to Kaye Publicity, we have TWO sets of The Sassy Belles and Wedding Belles for some lucky US readers!

Visit Beth at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

Songs of the Deep South

They say you write what you know and for me there is no truer statement. I know the Deep South. I have a love for it that pulses deep in my veins. My legacy is thick with my alma mater, the University of Alabama too, as my grandfather was the “voice” of the Crimson Tide in the 1950s. I am a southerner to the bone, though I have lived all over the country.

My Love Affair With Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The South is like nowhere else on Earth. I learned this lesson the hard way; by leaving. I have lived in New York City, Los Angeles, California and nearly everywhere in between. From both coasts, two of the Great Lakes, and the land locked mid-west and even the deserts of Phoenix, I have called them all home over the last 30 years. And I stay in the perpetual suspended state of HOMESICK for Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

When I was 10 years old we moved to Oklahoma. And while I loved it there and made life long friends during my four years there, I was, even then, perpetually homesick, grieving away for my familiar surroundings of the misty liquid sunsets on the Warrior River and the rich history of The University of Alabama campus. Tuscaloosa is a pre-Civil War town, with much of the architecture dating long before the War Between the States. Old antebellum homes still stand watching over the city from one end of it to the other.

The kudzu creeps and crawls over everything standing still. Summers were miserable if you were measuring it by the humidity. With sticky skin and frizzy hair was the way I spent them. But I wouldn't trade them for anything. Slow and happy and sweaty. Red cheeks coming in from long bike rides on half paved /dirt roads roads, slamming screen doors and window unit air conditioners. And beauty pageants, complete with crowns and banners pinned from shoulder to hip across the front of your beaded gown, Tuscaloosa is made up of so many things, even when I’m not there I can see it, feel it, and taste it. So I wanted to be there. Writing was the way I could.

Life was easier in a small town down south. All the neighbors watch out for each other and everyone's kids were like your own. The men are still chivalrous and the women still act like ladies, with make-up done to perfection and a string of pearls. That may be my favorite part—well next to the food!


The Deep South is special. It's unique in all the most perfect ways. I feel I am an authority on this because I have been able to compare it to, well, almost everywhere. I actually left my soap opera, Days of Our Lives in LA as a principle character and drove across the country, pregnant, with morning sickness that lasted all day, to make sure my only baby was born at HOME...Tuscaloosa! In typical Belle fashion, I didn’t pack light either. It took two cars! Halfway there, around El Paso, Texas, my husband actually had the nerve to say, “We really don’t HAVE to go have the baby in Alabama, do we?” I nearly burst into tears and called my mother-- and a divorce lawyer—just as any southern belle in a crisis does! Luckily, I calmed down by the time we crossed The Mighty Mississippi.

And then there’s Alabama football. You have never seen anything like Game-Day in Tuscaloosa! The crowds under the largest tent city on the quad, everyone cooking out, the smell of barbequed pork in the air, the students dressed up in sundresses and bow ties. You KNOW you’re in the south! And when "Sweet Home Alabama" is played over the loud speakers, everyone stops in their tracks and sings along! It’s a priceless feeling.

In Tuscaloosa you can still sit out on a summer's night and talk to your neighbors or on your front porch telling stories on a glider swing while a million lightening bugs glitter in the front yard under a gillion stars. And when someone " has passed" a line of traffic will form on your street of folks with covered dishes. You'll have more pound cake and potato salad than you'll know what to do with! And at least 30 boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts! Everyone who shows up on your doorstep to offer condolences will have a box of the delicious confections!

Tuscaloosa has it's own special brand of Small Town America. It is in the HEART OF DIXIE, being in Alabama. It is a classy place with mostly classy people. And Southern Hospitality seems to have gotten its very definition from here. Every "Hey Y'all," and "fixin' to" is inside my spirit and when I am home it shines a little brighter.


When I come home it's like I never left. I am hugged and kissed and loved. I go out with my friends and see my Mother and eat like I have been starving in a desert. I have. For the SOUTH... and its way.

When it came time to write, of course, I would write about the place I love most, my hometown in the Deep South. My heart is always in Dixie.

Maybe I can always go home, because truth be told, I never really left.


Special thanks to Beth for sharing her southern love with us and to Kaye Publicity for sharing her books with our readers.

How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

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US only. Giveaway ends August 5th at midnight EST.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Home and Away with Brenda Janowitz...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Tracey Meyers

What makes up a happy life?

If I've learned anything over the past couple of years, it's that there is really no clear-cut answer to that question because what makes a happy life is different from person to person....

With a Bachelor of Science in Human Service Studies from Cornell University and a Juris Doctorate from Hofstra Law School, Brenda never lost her flair for all things dramatic and an interest in one day becoming a writer. This dream came true with the publication of Scot on the Rocks in April, 2007. Definitely a big ingredient in her "recipe for a happy life!"

Today, Brenda joins use to share with us some of her insights on being "Home and Away" and to celebrate the publication of her third novel, Recipe for a Happy Lifeby giving away a copy to one lucky reader in the US.

So, without further ado, please welcome Brenda Janowitz!

To learn more about Brenda, visit her website, Facebook and Twitter.


Home:

Favorite room in your house:
The kitchen. The kitchen’s always the heart of every home, and it’s where my family always gathers. Ever notice how during a party everyone seems to make their way to the kitchen?
It’s the room where I’m constantly making special memories—cooking holiday dinners for family, having friends over for dinner, and of course, making casual dinners for my husband and children.

If we were to visit you where you currently live, what would you take us to see first?
After getting you a snack in the kitchen, I’d probably show you my office. It’s where I write, and it’s also where I keep the majority of my books. Usually when I show it to people, they end up browsing my book collection, and, of course, borrowing one.

Did any celebrities (aside from yourself) go to the same school as you?
I went to Cornell University, so there are TONS of famous people who attended. I’ll give you a few of my favorites: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, EB White, and Lauren Weisberger.


Away:

What place is on your travel "bucket list?"
It’s so hard to narrow down! There are so many wonderful places I’d love to visit.
I’ve always wanted to go to Rome, and I’ve never been to Greece, so those two are at the top.

How do you prefer to travel: Plane, train or automobile?
A few years ago, I would have said plane. Definitely a plane, hands down. But now that I have small children, I love traveling by car. I can bring all of the stuff I want, throw it in the trunk, and then just know that I’ve got everything I need.

What is a must-have when you stay at a hotel?
A pair of slippers, a good book, and my laptop.

Special thanks to Brenda for chatting with us and sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

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US only. Giveaway ends August 4th at midnight EST.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Traveling with CLC

As "Home and Away" month draws to a close, Kathryn and Amy are here to talk about their favorite vacations.

Kathryn:

It is difficult to pick a favourite vacation because anytime my family went away, we had lots of fun and created enough memories to last a lifetime. Having said that, our trip out west to British Columbia in 2000 for my cousin’s wedding ranks right near the top, if only because of how breathtakingly beautiful it was out there. We flew into Calgary (Alberta) and then the next day started our drive to BC (I can still vividly remember driving past the large ski jump in Canada Olympic Park where the 1988 winter Olympics were held and hearing “Who Let The Dogs Out” for the first time). We stopped in Banff and the Columbia Ice Fields (surprisingly chilly and windy out on the glacier in August) before making our way to Kamloops (where we watched the first Survivor finale) and then to Whistler (probably more idyllic in the winter with all the snow but still pretty fantastic in the warmer months). One aspect of the trip that really sticks out in my mind is watching the Rockies get closer and closer as we drove west; Canada’s west coast has hands down some of the most glorious scenery (okay, I might be a little biased). If you ever find yourself on the west coast of Canada, you must go to Lake Louise and dip your feet in (I may or may not have squealed like a little girl at the coldness… it’s glacier water people!).

Aside from the sites we saw, the funny moments add even more enjoyment to any vacation, although so many fall into that “you had to be there” column. For instance: “Don’t be squeamish about Squamish.” “Look it’s a giant potato bug!” That second one had me laughing uncontrollably for several minutes; I wish I’d taken a picture. Okay, so it wasn’t really a potato bug, it was a dome type thing that looked like one. For so many reasons this trip is a favourite of mine, and my family, and I hope that we will be able to make it back out to BC soon.




Amy:

I have to say that my favorite vacation thus far was the Southern Caribbean cruise we went on with my family in June 2010. We left from Puerto Rico, and went to Curacao, St. Thomas, Aruba and Dominica. This was both my husband's and my first cruise and it definitely won't be our last. My three favorite ports were Curacao, Aruba and St. Thomas.

The main attraction we visited in Curacao was The Hope of Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in the Americas. Definitely check it out regardless of your religious beliefs, as it is beautiful.

I can't explain how beautiful the Aruba beaches are, but I hope the picture below does it justice. The ocean is the most turquoise I've ever seen out of all the Southern beaches I've visited. The water doesn't get cold. I swear we could have stayed in the water for hours. That wouldn't have been a good idea because we would have gotten fried. Pink sands...

We were supposed to do on an extraordinary snorkel excursion but of course it rained almost the entire day. However we did walk through the cute town, which has many shops, cafes and restaurants.


Curacao

Aruba

Book Review: Beautiful Day

By Amy Bromberg

A girl's wedding day is one of the most important and special days in her life. She wants everything to be perfect, beautiful and for all of her loved ones to be with her. I know I felt this way. Of course one of the most important people involved would be her mother. But what if her mother passed away and left a notebook with specific instructions on how her wedding day should pan out? This is the story behind Elin Hilderbrand's latest novel, Beautiful Day.

A summer wedding stirs up trouble on both sides of the family in this new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.

The Carmichaels and Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride's late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter's future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event--but in reality, things are far from perfect.

While the couple-to-be are quite happy, their loved ones find their own lives crumbling. In the days leading up to the wedding, love will be questioned, scandals will arise, and hearts will be broken and healed. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

You know most weddings are filled with some form of drama, right? Right. Well this is definitely the case for Jenna and Stuart's wedding, but the drama doesn't come from them. In the final days leading up to the wedding, the reader is introduced to and immersed into the lives of the bride's sister (who is also the maid of honor), the bride's father, the groom's parents and a few additional characters whose lives are spinning out of control and scandals that they're involved with are all coming to the surface.

As always, Elin writes her novels with such detailed description and beauty. The characters are extremely well developed and relatable. As the pages turn, the reader gets to dig deeper and deeper into the layers of each character. I really enjoyed how the story was written from various points of view, which flowed beautifully I might add.

One of the many things I look forward to every summer is an Elin Hilderbrand novel. All of her novels take place in Nantucket (where she lives) and she comes out with one every summer. I've wanted to go to Nantucket since the first one I read. Somehow with each book she brings out the beauty of the island, without repeating anything from the previous novel. With Hilderbrand's wonderful way with words the island seems like a work of art.

To say this would make an excellent beach read is an understatement. You'll definitely want to sit back either on your beach towel, lounge chair at the pool or on your blanket at the park and dive into another Nantucket masterpiece from Ms. Hilderbrand.

Thanks to Reagan Arthur Books for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Elin Hilderbrand:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Book Review: Dramaville

By Sara Steven

Dramaville is an autobiography told from the perspective of Andrea Lewis. Lewis had spent nearly two decades in a perpetual state of turmoil and chaos, raised in an emotionally and physically abusive household that had taught her no real way to deal with life and the roller coaster ride it may take us on from time to time. For most of her life, all she wanted was happiness, yet her dysfunctional upbringing was a hindrance and a crutch.

The journey Lewis takes us on is painful at times. There’s no holding back as she recalls experiences with rape, abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction. She seeks out a way to feel whole and complete through failed relationships, and sinks even further into depression when her closest brother dies suddenly. I got the feeling she was always trying to run away from something, moving frequently from place to place, never staying at one job for very long. I quickly discovered that for all her running, she was trying to get away from the one person she’d never be able to escape from: herself.

Filled with humor and reflection, and a lot of trial and error, Dramaville shows us that it doesn’t matter what our background is, or where we’ve come from. There is always a way to better our lives. Through counseling and writing, Lewis learns how to heal and to better herself, sharing her story with the rest of us who may need some guidance amidst our own struggles.

Thanks to Andrea Lewis 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, July 26, 2013

Book Review: The Widow Waltz

By Jami Deise

Since our bra-burning days, married women have been instructed to keep their own bank accounts and make sure they know every detail of their household’s financial status. But studies show that many women do not. Too busy dealing with the day-to-day crises involved with raising children, working, and running a household, they leave the bill-paying, 401K investments, and health insurance premiums to their spouse. This is a decision that can blow up in a woman’s face, as it leaves her extremely vulnerable in the event of divorce or her spouse’s death.

In fiction, of course, the consequences of such actions are always extreme, and for Georgia -- "The Widow Waltz" -- her ignorance chickens come home to roost soon after the sudden death of her husband, attorney Ben Silver. Ben and Georgia lived an extremely privileged life in New York City, with a Central Park apartment, a beach home in the Hamptons, expensive cars, a staff, and enough money to fully support their adult daughters, Nicola and Louisa. After Ben drops dead while training for the New York City marathon, Georgia learns that he had drained their bank accounts and mortgaged their properties to the hilt. Where did all the money go, and what secrets was Ben hiding? Georgia slowly puts her life back together while reluctantly piecing together the few clues that Ben left. At the same time, Nicola and Louisa (Luey) deal with their grief by going to clubs and sleeping till noon.

The Widow Waltz, written by Sally Koslow, is a slow and heavy-feeling book; reading it mirrors the “moving through molasses” process of grief. Koslow spends a lot of time in scenes explaining characters, giving back story and description that slow the book down even further. She alternates between the points-of-view of Georgia and her daughters. Georgia’s point-of-view is first person, present tense, and her chapters are much longer than her daughters’, which are written in third person past tense. Nicola and Luey are very similar characters, and I had trouble remember who was who. The voices of all three are similar as well, and the use of past and present tense seemed more like a gimmick than a genuine attempt to establish unique individuals. Georgia herself, while certainly a sympathetic protagonist due to her situation, is passive through most of the book, which elicits pity rather than empathy. The title is a play upon Georgia’s last name; she kept her maiden name, an authorial decision I found puzzling due to the character’s sole identity as wife and mother.

Other characters include Georgia’s brother, jeweler Stephan; Stephan’s partner and Georgia’s best friend, art dealer Daniel; Georgia’s elderly mother Camille; and various love interests, who help Georgia and her daughters expand their lives beyond the grief and mystery of Ben’s death.

By the last third of the book, the story does get interesting, as Koslow finally puts in motion everything she has set up in previous chapters. The ending, while emotionally satisfying, still left me puzzled. The math just didn’t add up.

Last year, I reviewed a book with a similar plot – Wellesley Wives. Both books deal with rich families who suddenly go broke when their patriarch dies, and they both featuring rotating points-of-view of the mother and grown daughters. While The Widow Waltz has rich settings and description, Wellesley Wives is the more enjoyable of the two books. But both books do stress the message: No matter how much money your husband makes, women need to be fully involved with all financial decisions. It’s a lesson well heeded even when it comes in the fictional form.

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

More by Sally Koslow:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home and Away with Liane Moriarty...plus a book giveaway

Introduction by Melissa Amster

It's not often that I think of a book years after I last read it, but Liane Moriarty had that effect on me with What Alice Forgot, which I read back in 201l, when we first featured her at CLC. Since then, I've made sure to get my hands on everything else she has written before and after that amazing novel. This time around, it is The Husband's Secret, which is powerful and intense, and makes you think about life circumstances in a whole new way. I know this one will be sticking with me for a while, as well. (See my review for more information.) Besides being blown away by Easter taking place in autumn where Liane lives (she's in Australia), I enjoyed getting to know more about her home life and travel adventures this time around.

Some lucky US readers can also get a glimpse of everyday life Down Under if they win one of FIVE copies of The Husband's Secret, thanks to Amy Einhorn Books.

You can learn more about Liane by visiting her website and on Facebook.

Home:

Favorite room in your house:
I guess it would have to be my bathroom because of my habit of reading in the bath. I adore long hot bubble baths with a book. If I have a bath in the middle of the day (and I find many excuses for this princess-like indulgence eg. I’m cold, I have a slight headache, I’ve been working very hard, the children have been driving me crazy etc etc) I can open the shutters in my bathroom and lie in the bath and see the sky, and, depending on the time of the year, the pale purple blossoms of our jacaranda tree.

What is your neighborhood like?
It’s a very green, leafy suburban area with lots of young families. We can walk around the block to our local shops and see mothers pushing prams and kids on bikes and scooters. I love the sense of local community. I always remember a day when my little boy fell over at the park and grazed his knee. On our way home we did some shopping and everywhere we went we displayed his injury. He scored a chocolate frog at the fruit and veg shop, a sticker at the chemist, a toy car at the newsagent, a marshmallow at the coffee shop and stamp on his hand at the butcher.

Tell us one feature that would be a must-have for the house of your dreams.
No mortgage.

Away:

What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you while traveling?
Mmm. I guess it’s sort of funny in retrospect to remember the time I got very sick on a camping trip in Turkey, and the doctor and I passed a phrase book back and forth, before he gravely stubbed out his cigarette and diagnosed me with asthma.

What is the first thing you like to do when you reach your destination?
Lie on the bed and read my book. This drives my husband to distraction. “YOU READ THE WHOLE WAY HERE! YOU COULD BE READING YOUR BOOK AT HOME!”

(Note from CLC: A girl after our own heart!)
 
Where did you go for your last holiday?
We went interstate to Tasmania. It’s the little island at the bottom tip of Australia. The Easter Bunny came to our hotel room. The children were delirious. Chocolate-smeared little faces.

Special thanks to Liane for another lovely visit and to Amy Einhorn Books for sharing The Husband's Secret with our readers.

How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

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US only. Giveaway ends July 30th at midnight EST.

Book Review: The Husband's Secret

By Melissa Amster

In my Facebook newsfeed, I usually come across these articles that I probably shouldn't open, but end up reading anyway out of morbid curiosity. They're usually about horrible parents who get arrested for abusing or killing their children for ridiculous reasons. Once I've seen those articles, they bother me throughout the day as I try to comprehend why anyone would do that to an innocent child. Just like with those articles, I can imagine it being difficult to have a letter in front of me with instructions to not open it until an undeterminable date. Cecelia is faced with this dilemma in The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty. Should she open the letter now and deal with what is written on the pages, or should she preserve her ignorance and keep it sealed, as instructed? Knowing that her husband is perturbed by her finding the letter gives her the answer she's been looking for.

Cecelia's typical suburban housewife life is about to be changed in ways she never imagined. The letter she finds from her husband, John-Paul, tells her not to open it until his death. When she calls him about it, he laughs it off but then ends his business trip early in an effort to make sure she doesn't open it. What is he hiding? The secret inside will affect not only Cecelia's life but also the lives of those around her.

Tess has moved herself and her son back to her mother's home after a betrayal from her husband and cousin/best friend. She reunites with an old flame, but doesn't know about some secrets he has buried in the past.

Rachel is still grieving her daughter's death and becoming even more depressed after finding out that her son and daughter-in-law will be moving overseas with her only grandchild. When a way to get closure for her daughter's death falls into her hands, she knows she has to do something about it.

With the help of the mysterious note, these three women will be brought together in ways they never expected.

I was blown away by The Husband's Secret (both the novel and the actual secret). Liane Moriarty's writing is spot-on and she made me feel the emotions each character was harboring, whether or not I could even relate to what they were going through. I felt like I was sitting with each of them and having tea. The story was a lot darker than I was expecting, but still very captivating, with lots of moral dilemmas and gray areas that I could see Jodi Picoult having a field day with. There was a choice Liane made for one of her characters that I was not pleased with initially, but was glad that the outcome wasn't as horrendous as it could have been. I might have never forgiven her otherwise! I also didn't understand how the secret really impacted Tess, but maybe I missed something. I felt like she was just there in the background, dealing with her own drama.

Liane uses a lot of details which makes for easy visualizations but doesn't take away from the story at all. (Just how I like it!) Overall, the story was powerful and intense and will definitely make readers think long after the last page is turned. It is definitely worthy for book club material!

Thanks to Amy Einhorn Books for the book in exchange for an honest review. They're doing a giveaway with Liane's interview.

More by Liane Moriarty:




Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Chick Lit Cheerleader: Heartbreaking Hotel

Introduction by Melissa Amster

When you go away, even if it's a quick weekend getaway, you want things to be perfect. However, sometimes this is not the case. Take, for instance, a van that barely holds seven people and all their luggage making for some uncomfortable seating situations (gotta love those rental car companies). Or in our Chick Lit Cheerleader, Jen Tucker's case, the disaster that befalls her and her husband on their wedding night and leads to a crazy...um...curse. (Fliss from Sophie Kinsella's Wedding Night would have loved this story.)

Without further ado, here's Jen's latest story...

Twenty years ago today, I walked down the candlelit aisle of St. John’s Episcopal Church on the tender yet strong arm of my daddy.  After lovingly exchanging promises and rings, then sealing the deal with a kiss, I walked that same carpeted path excitedly holding onto my husband, Mike.  A beautiful day surrounded by the ones we loved most, and those gone before us witnessing in spirit.  Later, toasts and well-wishes poured in, cake was smashed into faces (I didn’t start it), and the dance floor was packed with electric sliders rocking the night away. 
*Everyone—Y.M.C.A.!  It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.!*
After leaving the reception, we paid a visit to Harry’s Chocolate Shop, the popular campus bar near Purdue University where Mike poured drinks for a living, to join our friends’ after party already in progress.  Cocktails, shots, beers—you name it—began piling up on the bar with our names on them.  Gifts from friends and strangers alike.  Mike and I had an hour’s drive ahead of us to our waiting hotel in Indianapolis; a place to crash for a few hours before our 6:00 AM flight to our honeymoon cruise.  We took inventory of the collection of intoxicants before us, looked at each other, and slipped out of the bar without saying goodbye.  Don’t worry; I’m sure someone put our beverages to good use.
     “We have a reservation for Tucker,” Mike informed the front desk clerk of the Hyatt hotel on the grounds of the Indianapolis Airport.  She smiled, pecked away at her keyboard for a moment, then grabbed some papers and disappeared.  She didn’t come back.  I looked over at Mike, who was just shaking his head; enraged.  “Jen, they sold our BLEEP-ing room!”
     In total disagreement, I calmly replied, “Baby, there’s no way that they sold our room.  It’s paid for.  I’m sure she’ll be right back with keys.”
     Mike shook his head in disgust.  “I’m telling you.  They sold our room!” 
I still wasn’t buying it.  Who gives away a room to someone else that’s already paid for?  Not reserved mind you, paid in full by Mike’s parents complete with champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.  It was 2:30 in the morning, and all I wanted was a pillow and those strawberries!
     Twenty minutes passed as we reclined on the lobby sofas.  Still no room, no pillow, nor strawberries.  Mike had had it.  He walked up to the desk, frustrated and said, “Hello!  We’re still out here waiting!”
     The night clerk returned.  “I’m sorry Mr. Tucker, but we sold your room.”
     “I knew it,” Mike seethed. 
     “I’m really sorry.  I’ve been on the phone calling all the area hotels trying to find you a room…”
     “And?” Mike interrupted. 
     “Everyone’s sold out.”
     Oh this was not good.  Not good at all.  I decided to step back and let Mr. Happy Pants deal with this interesting, honeymoon night snafu.  Again, give me a pillow and my chocolates, and I’m cool with crashing on your couch, ma’am.
     “You mean to tell me there isn’t one room, in this entire hotel that is unoccupied!?”
     She thought a moment.  “Well, I do have an executive suite with a couch and full bathroom.”
     “Okay, good!’ Mike compliantly said, ‘Now we’re getting somewhere!  Does it have a couch that folds out into a bed or something?”
     She paused.  “No, but I’d be happy to send you up a rollaway.”
     With pursed lips, Mike gave me the look that he wanted my approval.  I shrugged my shoulders and nodded.  “I guess we have no choice,” he said, drumming his fingertips on the countertop.
     By 3:30 AM, Mike was lying on the couch and I was on the rollaway placed beside it in our executive suite.  We’d popped open the champagne, and were passing it back and forth enjoying liberal gulps straight out of the bottle.  Our presence was required at the airline gate in an hour, so sleeping wasn’t an option.  We were so exhausted that nothing else to pass the time was even up for discussion, if you catch my drift.  “You know, one day we’ll laugh about this,” I said finishing off the last juicy strawberry.
     “It’s the first of many stories we’ll laugh about later; even with our children, Baby” Mike said, holding my hand in the dimly lit room. 
     He was right.
     What started out as a honeymoon joke, became a trend of no hanky-panky on our anniversary.  Isn’t that sad?  We spent our first anniversary delayed in the Reno, Nevada airport until the wee hours of the morning.  Our second anniversary, Mike worked until midnight and I was sawing logs by the time he arrived home.  The best event of all that’s kept us from monkey business on our anniversary was the birth of our first son, Wil.  He arrived into the world on July 24, 1996.  Although I moaned and complained to my doctor that he was on a strict delivery timeline, the moment Wil was placed into my arms, there was no one else in the world I’d rather share this joyous day with.

So on this day, as I celebrate twenty years of for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health with my soul mate, my hope and prayer for us is to continue to remain united as the speed bumps of life come our way.  Like the time you shrunk my DKNY outfit to the size of Baby Gap clearance items.  Mike, I think we’ve done a bang-up job so far.  Wil, my *gulp* seventeen-year-old young man, may you continue to shine in the midst of life’s curveballs.  I’m not always sure I’m doing a good job as your mom.  You’re our first baby, which means you continue to be our parental clinical trial.  Thank you for forgiveness when I screw up, bless you for cooking on Tuesday nights, and my heart swoons when you tower over me, hugging me tightly.  There’s no one else I’d rather bake Mickey Mouse birthday cakes for, on this day, than you.  I love you both.


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: Time Flies

By Amy Bromberg

Years ago, Melanie followed her husband, Kurt, from the New England beach town where their two young sons were thriving to the suburbs of Atlanta. She’s carved out a life as a successful metal sculptor, but when Kurt leaves her for another woman, having the tools to cut up their marriage bed is small consolation. She’s old enough to know that high school reunions are often a big disappointment, but when her best friend makes her buy a ticket and an old flame gets in touch to see if she’ll be going, she fantasizes that returning to her past might help her find her future...until her highway driving phobia resurfaces and threatens to hold her back from the adventure of a lifetime. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Claire Cook's novels are always fun, lighthearted and charming. That's exactly what the reader gets with  Time Flies. I loved the friendship between Melanie and her best friend BJ. Even though they don't see each other often, you can tell how close they are. And when they are, in fact, together it's like no time has passed. The two of them are hilarious. I felt like I was in the car with them on their way to their high school reunion laughing my you-know-what off during their conversations. I wish I had a friend like BJ growing up. She comes across as rough around the edges telling it like it is. She will always have Melanie's back. I also got a sense of "women rule." It was like Thelma and Louise.

Unfortunately I've never been to any of my high school reunions, so I can't relate to that aspect. However I can definitely see myself being hesitant to go because I'd find myself comparing. I'd definitely be more on the stressed side, as opposed to excited.

The only part of the book that I didn't connect with is the occupational language in regards to welding. I'm thinking that's because I don't know anything about it, however I wish it grabbed more of my attention.

Time Flies reminds us that we can't look to our past to try to determine our future. What happened in the past is, in fact, in the past. Being in the present and enjoying what you have now is what counts. Also having friends beside you, especially during rough times, always makes such a difference. I have to remind myself to not take my friends for granted and reach out to them more.

This is a great book to have with you while lying on the beach, lounging at the pool or in your backyard with a chilled glass of wine or a cocktail of your choice.

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

More by Claire Cook:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home and Away with Kathleen Kole...plus a book giveaway

Introduction and interview by Tracey Meyers

I "virtually" met Kathleen Kole in April 2012 just a few months into working for Chick Lit Central.  I had messaged her via Facebook after seeing an answer to one of our group questions.

From the start I could sense her kindness and warmth.  I was new to world of Chick Lit and found Kathleen to be a wonderful ambassador of sorts.  Though I don't have constant contact with Kathleen I have found all my interactions with her to be the same as the first one I had.  So, when I had the opportunity to interview her as part of a Chick Lit Plus blog tour I leaped on the opportunity.

Though my interactions with her via Facebook have taught me a lot about Kathleen, preparing for this interview has taken that knowledge one step further.  Being a storyteller is not something new for Katlhleen.  She started this profession back in grade school when she would spend summers afternoons out on the swing-set in her childhood backyard, creating tales to entertain her neighborhood friends. Nowadays, she spends her time creating stories for us to enjoy. To her credit, she has four novels including the recently published Tales from the Laundry Pile.

Currently, Kathleen resides in Canada with her husband, son and their dog.

We are so fortunate that Kathleen has agree to stop by Chick Lit Central to visit with us today and to celebrate, she is giving THREE lucky US readers a copy of her new novel, Tales from the Laundry Pile.

You can find Kathleen at her website and Facebook.

Thank you to Chick Lit Plus for coordinating this interview, as part of their blog tour.

Home:

What was it about where you currently live that made you choose it to be your home?
When I was in my early twenties, I had the good fortune to vacation with friends here in the beautiful Okanagan Valley. It was my first time in the area and I knew, from then on, that I would one day call it home.
Thankfully, my husband was in total agreement and eleven years ago we moved our young family and never looked back.
Now, we step outside our door and are greeted by breathtaking mountains and lakes. We can hop in the car and take a short drive a number of award winning vineyards. We’re blessed with moderate/cool temperatures in the winter and hot, blue sky summers.
We’ve met friendly people and made dear friends.
I am always grateful.

You're home alone, what do you do?
I’m rarely ever alone. Even if there are no humans around, my dog is in residence. I think, if it happened that I was alone in the house, I’d revel in the solitude. I know that sounds rather dullsville, but truly, the idea of being in the house with no one else, no one watching (as dog’s are prone to do), I’d just relax, pour a glass of chilled white wine and embrace the utter aloneness.

Which room in your home best expresses who you are? Describe the room and the qualities that make it "you".
I would have to say my office. It’s the one room in the house that is just mine, so I felt free to make it girly; without apology to the men in my family. (Did I mention I’m the only female in the house, including the dog?)
My office is painted a soft lavender, has flowers and candles and inspirational pieces of art. I have two large bookshelves filled to capacity with not just my books, but trinkets, mementos and the like. There’s no questioning, when you enter the room, that a woman is in residence.


Away:

What is your packing routine when you are getting ready for a trip? Do you pack in advance or do you put off packing until the last minute?
Lists are my friend, so I usually start making my list of what must be remembered to bring along about a week in advance. As for the physical act of packing, my husband does that part. We have a great partnership where I gather the items we need to take along and he gets everything into the cases, neat and tidy. We usually get everything handled the day before, quick and simple.

Describe your fantasy getaway:
I’ve never been to the UK, so that’s a goal/fantasy getaway I look forward to making a reality in the not-so-distant-future. It sounds like heaven to be able to take at least a month and travel throughout England with my husband, meander into Scotland, take the Chunnel across to Paris. Bliss.

Fly or Road Trip? Why?
Well, clearly, if I’m to get to the UK, it would have to be fly. Not going to swim, that’s for sure! ha!
Otherwise, I do love road trips; especially when I’m in good company.

Thanks so much for having me on your site and being so kind as to participate in the blog tour!


How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

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US only. Giveaway ends July 28th midnight EST.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Home and Away with CLC!

Since we're doing "Home and Away" Q&A's with our visiting authors this month, we wanted to share some of our own thoughts and experiences with you. This week, Becky, Gail and the Melissas answer some questions and next week, Amy and Kathryn will be sharing posts about some vacation experiences.

Becky:

Home:

Favorite place you liked to hang out at when you were a kid?
In my early teens I used to spend Saturdays with my best friend Helen either hanging around at McDonalds (I had a major crush on someone a few years older than me at school who worked there) or the local DIY store, we used to sit in the conservatories outside and have a natter! Bit bizarre looking back but there wasn't a great deal to do from what I remember!

Did any celebrities go to the same school as you?
No but I'm quite proud to say David Hockney lives in my hometown by the sea (I've seen him a couple of times). I went to an exhibition of his last year and saw a 27-foot long picture of the road my secondary school was on, you could just about see my old school behind the trees.

School is on the left


Tell us one feature that would be a must-have for the house of your dreams?
A swimming pool, no excuses for being embarrassed or lazy if it's in your own home! Let's hope I have a lucky lottery ticket for tonight...

Away:

Have you ever been on a cruise or to an all inclusive resort? If so, what was your experience like? If not, which would you rather do?
I've been on lots of all inclusive holidays in the Caribbean and Europe and I do enjoy them every couple of years for a proper relaxing not doing much holiday, but it's nice to mix it up and get out and about seeing places you're visiting too, you can be reluctant to go far if you get things for 'free' in your hotel. The best one I've stayed at was in Cuba, amazing.

What is a must-have when you stay at a hotel?
Tea and coffee making facilities, I will open every cupboard' 'til I find them and if I don't find them I'm not a happy bunny! Even if it's not 'proper' milk I still have to have a cup of tea when I arrive somewhere to settle in, if there are biscuits even better, preferably cookies. If somewhere has hot chocolate even better, it would get an excellent review from me!

Where is the farthest location you've ever traveled to?
Los Angeles and I don't think I could ever tire of going there! I'm ok with flying but I have to say I feel so more relaxed when the plane is over land rather than the Atlantic!

Gail:

Home:

Favorite local restaurant?
There’s a little Italian place that we found years ago called PiccoLino. It is absolutely delicious. Everything is homemade, the wine is always fantastic, and the owner remembers everyone who has ever come into his restaurant. (Proof? We went back there for my birthday in June. We hadn’t been there in two years. The owner came over and gave us hugs and asked where we’d been for so long.)

What is your neighborhood like?
I love my neighbourhood. It’s in the suburbs, and not near any huge roads, so it's quiet. It has tons of paths, and at least 3 parks within easy walking distance. There are so many looping roads that it’s super easy to map out different routes if you want to go for a walk or run, and it’s very well kept up.

Do you do any gardening?
I attempt to garden. My mom is an avid gardener and I think I kind of missed out on the gene that makes people love gardening, but I have a nice sized vegetable garden and my front yard is a rock garden, with numerous roses (bush and climbing, pink and white). My relationship with the veggie garden is amicable. I'll weed them and water them as best I can, and in return I'll get garden-fresh veggies all summer and into the fall (yum!). My relationship with the roses is love/hate. I love them when I’m far away and admiring them, but when I have to get in there and prune them I end up so scratched up that it looks like I’ve spent a weekend wrestling feral cats. Those roses are a terror but they're so pretty that I can't get rid of them.

Away:

What place is on your travel "bucket list?"
My ultimate travel goal would be to go on an Antarctic cruise. I think it would be so cool (pun not intended) to see penguins in their natural habitats, and to be on a boat that’s drifting past icebergs and seals. The traveller in me is intrigued by the remoteness of the location and being able to go where so few people have gone, and the scientist in me is fascinated by this ecosystem that appears completely barren and unable to sustain life, but is actually teeming with wildlife.

Where is the farthest location you've ever traveled to?
I think either Panama or Colombia. My husband and I went on a Caribbean cruise about five years ago, and it was amazing. We had ports in Grand Cayman, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico, and we did excursions at every one of them. It was unbelievable. There was so much to see and do (Rain forest tours! Swimming with stingrays! A private beach with our own coral reef for snorkeling! Rum factory!) It was also very nice to have a tan right before Christmas when we got home to the snow.

During which season do you prefer to travel?
I’m from Alberta, Canada, and our winters get cold. Very cold. My husband and I definitely try to get away during the winter to break up the chilly monotony of the cold, gray days. During the summer, I’m more than content to hang out in my backyard, putter in the garden, and enjoy a tall, frosty margarita…er…lemonade on the deck.

Melissa A:

Home:

Favorite place you liked to hang out at when you were a kid?
There was a park practically in my backyard. It was close enough that my mom could see us while she was making dinner. My sister and I would go there all the time to play on the big wooden play set (that is no longer there) and the swinging horses (also no longer there). We even named the horses. As I got older, I'd take my dog for walks by that park and let him go on the slide.

Favorite room in your house?
Now that our kitchen has been remodeled, I love it. It's spacious, stylish and cozy at the same time. I spend most of my time in there between meals, working on my laptop, cooking, etc.



What is your neighborhood like?
I live in a suburban neighborhood that is also a heavily populated Jewish community. There are several synagogues within walking distance, along with a Kosher grocery store and pizza place nearby. I have been here almost four years and love it. It's near DC but also far enough to feel truly suburban. There's even an upscale downtown area for the suburb where I live. There's a strong feeling of community, especially during Shabbat. In any case, I usually run into people I know whenever I'm out and about in the nearby vicinity.


Away:

**The links are for posts from my personal blog. Check them out if you have time!**

What place is on your travel "bucket list?"
Hawaii

Where did you go for your last vacation?
Disney World

What is a must-have when you stay at a hotel?
A pool! When you travel with kids, it's a necessity! We were "forced" into a staycation last summer when we lost power and the best thing was that there was a pool at the hotel. As a result, my older son now gets excited whenever there's a storm with the potential to knock out power. Gotta love priorities!

Melissa P:

Home:

Favorite room in your house?
This is easy but only because my living room and kitchen are pretty open to one another. I love putting on music and cooking or my new thing is sitting in my favorite chair in the living room and learning to play the guitar. I watch YouTube videos and I'm actually picking it up! Right now I'm learning "she is love" by parachute.

One feature you'd have to have in your dream house?
A completely "wired" home. I need music all the time. It makes me happy. Having a system that can play in multiple rooms as well as outside would be a dream for me.

Do you garden?
I don't. Not in the traditional sense for two reasons. I own a condo and I live in Arizona where the heat gets ridiculous in the summer, so it's not easy. If I could have my ideal garden I'd plant pink peonies and hibiscus (my two favorite flowers) as well as peppers, basil, cucumbers, green beans, eggplant, and zucchini.

Away:

In front of the Lilly Pulitzer store on Nantucket
Where did you go for your last vacation?
My last "real" vacation was to the east coast last October. We rented a house in Rhode Island on the water and also spent the 10 days traveling through New York and Connecticut. It was fall and the foliage was beautiful. Definitely a trip I would do over.

What is your must-have outfit for traveling?
I always take a pair of leggings with black riding boots and multiple shirts/sweaters that I can wear with them. It's comfortable and chic and can go from day to night if I need it to.

During which season do you prefer to travel?
I prefer the fall. I do like to go to California to cool off for at least a weekend or two in the summer, but for my big vacation of the year, I like to wait until after Labor Day. It gives me a chance to get out of the STILL 100+ degree temps and its also a lot less crowded. I'm a sucker for the changing leaves as well, so I usually end up somewhere back east on these trips.


Roam around the world with Sharisse Coulter...plus a book giveaway

Today we have Sharisse Coulter here to talk about life on the road and some of her favorite places and experiences. Not only is she an author, but she also does photography and videography. Her bio from her website says it better than we could, so we're including it below. She also has THREE e-books of her debut novel, Rock My World to share with some lucky readers worldwide! (But if you can't wait, it's only 99 cents for Kindle!)

Sharisse Coulter, originally from Lake Tahoe, started with a smidge of college in Paris (not Texas), a dash in Australia and, voilĂ ! A master’s degree in Anthropology framed and placed lovingly on a shelf, never to be dusted off again. Instead, she took the clear path to success, marrying a musician, becoming his manager and touring the country playing gigs, taking photos, and making music videos. Finally, she had a son (and subsequent identity crisis), which fueled the completion of her first novel, Rock My World. Now at work on her second and third novels, she’s concurrently embarking on A Novel Music Tour: a five month, 55 city national music/book tour while perfecting the art of Lego and enjoying her addiction to reading novels on her iPhone. It’s a wonderful life for an insatiable wanderluster.

Even though she's all over the place, you can find her at her website, Facebook and Twitter.

So, what's the book all about?

Jenna Jax-Anders hit rock bottom in high school, or so she thought. From rock star heiress to knocked-up has been, she turned it all around, marrying the punk rock baby daddy love of her life. The perfect Hollywood fairytale. Until the day she walked in on him kissing her best friend.

As she struggles to find herself and redefine the world around her, she faces the challenges of raising her over-achieving teenage daughter, the heartbreak of losing her best friend (backstabbing aside), and emerging from the shadows of two famous last names to find her own identity. Oh, there’s also the tiny issue of her husband’s record label, backed by an anonymous mogul whose morally ambiguous creative direction may ruin them all. But she doesn’t know about that yet.

"The essence of a compelling page-turner...real, and satisfying to the end." - Josie Brown, author of the Housewife Assassin and Totlandia series


No Place Like Roam by Sharisse Coulter

“Where do you live?” is the question everyone asks. My answer: Everywhere, USA.

Living on a tour bus challenges the traditional ideas of home and away. Since my home of the past six months is on wheels, I’m always, technically, home. But as the country passes by the IMAX sized windshield, we’re always saying goodbye to one place while looking toward the next. As an author/photographer and manager for my musician husband, I’m frequently on the go. In fact, more of my adult life has been spent traveling than settled and, even with our four year-old, we have found a way to make a life on the road.

Every night I sleep in my own bed, take showers in my bathroom, cook in my kitchen, make coffee (lots of coffee) and work at my desk. Sounds like home, right? But right outside my door, the temperature changes daily. From the perfect San Diego weather to the Southwest desert, to the snow-capped mountains to the depths of the Grand Canyon, to the swampy Louisiana bayous and tropical Miami heat, we changed climates nearly daily in our first month on the road. Fashion tip: layer! It’s the only way to adapt. But for all the scenic and cultural differences, one thing remained constant: people are people.

Everywhere we go, my husband performs his original acoustic music and I sign books. We end up at all sorts of different venues, from bars and listening rooms to bookstores and cafes. We even do house concerts. And the thing that has stood out most is that people are lovely and welcoming. They are always excited to share their hometowns with us—making delicious food, offering tourist tips and directions, helping to keep us out of the bad parts of town and uncovering hidden gems for us to discover. The other thing they have in common is a distrust of that next city or state over. “Oh people here are great,” they say, “but look out for those people. They’re a little…off.” “Oh, really?” we say. But then we chuckle, because, for all their misgivings, we are inevitably met with the same grace and hospitality in that next place as we were by them, whom someone else had previously warned us about.

So after these many months on the road we are often asked to pick a favorite. I hate that question. There is no way to choose just one. I loved the Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls. I loved Macy’s Coffee in Flagstaff. I loved the beignets in New Orleans, the Spanish moss in the bayous, meeting new friends while waiting to go on TV in Birmingham, watching the sunset in Miami, seeing the Capitol for the first time, having the best steak ever on a date with my husband in New York, and especially hearing a stranger read aloud from my book at a nearby table in St Louis.

There are a million things we love about being on tour, taking our home, away. And at the end of this crazy adventure I know one thing for sure: we will keep every one of these far away places and the people in them with us wherever we end up calling “home.”



Thanks to Sharisse for taking us along on her adventures and sharing her book with our readers.  


How to win: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. If you have questions on how to use it, e-mail us.

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Worldwide. Giveaway ends July 28th at midnight EST.